Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Nerd List - March 2015

It’s Easter this week. I hope you’re all in chocolate-eating mode right now.

Before I start:


Beware the woes of matric.

(I’ve also started applying to universities and I’m pretty sure the number of existential crises that have occurred this month outweigh those I’ve been through in my entire life combined.)


Books I’ve Read:
Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (Goodreads)
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (Goodreads)
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Goodreads | my review)

Book of the month

Tess of the D’Urbervilles broke my heart. I’ve never felt so betrayed in my entire life. Obviously, though, it’s incredible.

Character of the month

I read Equal Rites after my friend read my rant on feminism and decided that I needed some soul food in the form of a short children’s book that’s actually not a children’s book, but an in depth, wildly hilarious commentary on society. Granny was specifically phenomenal, and if I could advocate a fictional speaker for women’s rights, I’d probably choose her.

Quote of the month

“She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don't apply to you.”


Fangirl moment of the month

I may or may not have gone to see One Direction the night before writing my music exam. I also may or may not have screamed louder than the twelve-year-old next to me when they came on. It may or may not have been slightly embarrassing. (Just kidding – I really didn’t care.)

Facepalm moment of the month

See above. If I hadn’t been so busy trying to get my oh-so-cool sister to sing along with me to every single song then I would’ve felt guilty for not being ashamed.

Please note: never will we ever speak of this again.


Album of the month

The sound of my tears hitting the ground because I maxed out my iTunes allowance.

(Also All Time Low’s Future Hearts is being released painfully slowly.)

Song of the month

Lyric of the month

“Wisdom’s a gift, but you’d trade it for youth
Age is an honour – it’s still not the truth.”

- Vampire Weekend, Step

'The Rosie Project' by Graeme Simsion

Date finished: 27 March 2015

Series: Don Tillman, no. 1

Rating: 3/5

I’ve delayed reviewing The Rosie Project a bit because, every time I think about it I have a different overwhelming emotion. Despite my having enjoyed the book, by the end I felt uncomfortable and eager to turn the last few pages to get it over with. A couple of hours after I finished reading through the final pages of Don’s (really anticlimactic) Wife Project questionnaire that was included as a sort of appendix, I had an overwhelming desire to read the next book in the series. But then some little voice in my head jumped out and screamed, “Why? Whywhywhy?!” and I honestly couldn’t give a valid answer.

So I’ve finally come to terms with my feelings. Yes, I really enjoyed reading The Rosie Project. It was humorous and ridiculous and easy to read at most times. But I couldn’t get past a few things that kept jumping out of the pages and sitting in my ears to whine at high pitches until I closed the book and did something to forget about them. And even then they’d find a way into my brain and hop around until I acknowledged them, before they burst into flames and gave me a bit of a headache.

Don Tillman is smart and funny and attractive and he can’t help his feelings for a woman with whom he is totally incompatible, Rosie. And Rosie is artsy and beautiful and impulsive. They’re the perfect match, especially since Don is a geneticist and he’s intent on helping Rosie find her real father through DNA testing that sends them on a journey across the world.

It’s cute. Really, it is. Geneticist who’s totally unaware of the application of Coulomb’s Law in terms of human attraction falls for his polar opposite. But it’s unoriginal, and as much as Simsion tries to write Don’s story in a fresh and humorous way, it’s difficult to shake the underlying feeling that you know exactly what’s going to happen before you’re even twenty pages into the book.

Additionally, Don’s narrative voice sounded distinctly familiar right from the opening sentence, and it didn’t take very long to uncover the character of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory hiding right below the surface. Maybe Sheldon finally succeeded in cloning himself – we’ll never know. Quite simply, Don is a typical nerd who is not a typical nerd. He’s undoubtedly attractive and horribly smart, but it stunned me that even after doing extensive research on autism, he didn’t pick up on the fact that he himself is obviously autistic on some or other level. Honestly, this little detail goes against Don’s entire analytical and critical personality, and once you begin to question it, his character starts falling apart.

I’ve dwelled quite a bit on the negatives (and there’s still so much more I have to say…) but I’ll stop now to say that The Rosie Project is really a nice read. It’s cute, funny and romantic, and I suppose other people will find it easy to overlook the clich├ęs and fall in love with it. Personally, I think it should’ve been a movie instead.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The War On Feminism


Thank you.

I see your discomfort at having to read yet another blog about the importance of feminism in today’s society. Calm yourself. Just take a deep breath, and throw out any expectations of what you think you’re going to read on here. Throw out all your angst. Just let it go for, like, ten minutes. Then I promise you’ll be able to re-palm your pitchforks and torches and continue to chase me out of the city.

I’m not writing this blog because I need to rant about men. I’m not writing this blog because I need to rant about women. And I am most certainly, most assuredly NOT writing this blog simply because I am a privileged white young woman, who has grown up in a home without any form of abuse. It is because I am privileged that I am able to write this blog, and I fully acknowledge that. I also fully acknowledge that it is because of my high standard of education that I am able to have an opinion on feminism, and furthermore be able to write about it in a public space.

It will be impossible for me to portray a perspective on this topic with which I am not familiar, which is why I am making it clear now, before I start, that this is purely my own opinion, as influenced as it is by my background, my class, my education, and even my race.

All this aside, I feel the need to share why I believe it is not only necessary, but crucial, that women in positions of power embrace feminism. And by “women in positions of power”, I mean all women who, like me, have had the benefit of a good education on their side, and possess enough intellect, independence and integrity to fight for the rights of those women who do not possess these things as a result of their sex.

I’ve noticed that a lot of teenage girls reject the word “feminism” with a standard reaction that involves rolling their eyes, tilting back their heads and breathing a long, loud, exasperated sigh. Honestly, if I took offence at every time a teenage girl did this around me, I’d have a psychologist’s bill that I could roll from here to Congo… right onto the doorstep of a woman who’d been raped, beaten and verbally abused from the age of five for no other reason than because she is a woman.

Look, girls, I know that you get a lot of lectures on what it means to be feminist, and how important it is to be a feminist and fight for equal pay in the work place etc. etc. and so on and so forth to infinity and beyond, but I still don’t think you really know what a feminist is, or why it’s so important. So let’s try sort that issue out first.

FEMINISM (noun): the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.

HANG ON. PAUSE. Take note of that word I so kindly put in bold print for you. “EQUAL”. So, like, exactly the same. That’s it. Feminists fight for equality.

If your idea of feminism looks like this:

then you are wrong. This is misandry – totally different discussion for a totally different day.

And if your idea of feminism looks like this:

then you need to re-examine the definition up there. Because feminists fight for equal rights. At the moment, feminism is so not even nearly focused on addressing the issues of sexes holding open doors for each other. Honestly? Do you really believe arguing with a male because they did/didn't hold open a door for you is the biggest problem we're facing right now? And this brings me onto my next point…

Feminism is not about you.

(Bolded, italicized and underlined for your convenience. Interpret that as you will.)

That’s right. Chances are, if you are reading this blog right now, you are educated enough to be able to read and understand what I am writing. Chances are, this blog hasn’t been censored in your country because it evokes ideas that are considered “dangerous”. Chances are, you’re actually able to read this blog because you both have time to waste on the internet, and a device on which to read it. That means, at this present moment in time, feminism does not apply to you.

Well, feminism shouldn’t aim to empower you alone. YET. Let’s go back to the definition once more: feminism has the aim of giving women equal social, political and all other rights to those of men. So, surely, when you’re looking at fixing a damaged social situation in which one sex is placed below the other, you start with the most pressing problems.

Let’s think about it logically: What enables you to become an activist for women’s rights? Education. What enables you to fight for a job amongst male candidates? Education. What enables you to gain enough independence to see the difference in the way in which men and women are treated? Education. And, most importantly, what will give you the opportunity to seize a chance at independence, to create your own identity as a woman, and to fight against misogynists for your rights in the workplace, in your home and in society? EDUCATION.

(And then building onto this would be to combat the issues that interfere with a woman's education, including health, governmental restrictions, poverty… but we won't go into that because I will go on forever.)

So, realistically, (going right back to the beginning here) as a woman (or man! You guys are invited, too) who has the benefits of a good education on your side, you should be embracing feminism so that you can aid other, less privileged women in their quest for equality. (Here are some statistics to motivate you. And even more.) This all comes down to empathy and action. We need to empathize with women who are in much more drastic situations than we are, and then we need to do something about it. (This is what we can do. Or be creative and launch your own activist campaign.) Only then, once we have educated and empowered as many women as possible, can we focus on the other - undeniably important - issues such as equal pay in the workplace (and there are so, so, so many more). Even “free the nipple” or whatever those radicals are going on about.

You’ve got to build your army before charging into a war, don’t you?

(And while we're empowering other women, we can work on destroying the gender stereotype by changing the way we act. The way that we portray feminism is ultimately either going to gain a whole lot of support for the movement from both men and women - which is essential to its success, honestly - or ruin it.)

There are so many more issues we can address about feminism, but what's important to remember at this point is that you do not have to define yourself as a "feminist" - especially if you disagree with what some people who identify with that label do in their fight for equality (I, for one, don't agree with the "All Women" notions that tend to over-generalise in their aim to defeat stereotypes). What's important is that we fight together for a cause that will bring about global change, and that we work towards a place of greater equality for the sexes, where everybody will be able to enjoy the same rights and privileges. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

A History of Loneliness by John Boyne

Date finished: 1 February 2015

Rating: 5*

Lately I’ve been trying to refrain from giving lots of books five-star ratings, because I feel like every time a really incredible book comes around that actually changed the way I see the world and made me question my humanity, I’ll be comparing it to other books that didn’t entirely live up to that standard, but that I also rated five stars anyway. A History of Loneliness falls into that first category, although I feel like if I were to model my requirements for a five-star rating after this book, there would be very, very few that even came close to being considered worthy of four stars.

I fell in love with John Boyne after reading The Boy In The Striped Pajamas when I was twelve. Granted, at twelve I was far more concerned with changing my wardrobe from pretty pink to black and bored – seventh grade was a dark time for me – than taking note of beautiful writing and meaningful character development, so when I noticed a John Boyne novel lying on our family bookshelf, I grabbed it out of pure curiosity and just a bit of nostalgia. Of course, upon further inspection, I noticed that the novel dealt with two of my favourite topics of conversation at the moment: the controversy surrounding the Catholic Church, and Ireland.

Father Odran Yates arrived at Cloniff Seminary in the 1970s, when priests were still highly respected and priesthood was considered a perfectly reasonable profession for young men. Forty years later, he struggles to keep a firm hold on his faith as he sees his colleagues arrested, tried, and even jailed for crimes he never imagined the Catholic Church would be associated with. Finally, he begins to confront the demons that have shattered Ireland’s faith when family matters dredge up the past.

There are few novels that have intrigued me as much as A History of Loneliness. I found Boyne’s commentary on the scandals caused by Father Odran Yates’s colleagues, although almost vague and concealed, extremely valid and interesting. Furthermore, I loved the ideas he put forth surrounding the role of a bystander in a crime, and how one can be just as guilty as the perpetrator if one witnesses an incident and does nothing to stop it.

The story Boyne weaves is intimate, scandalous and deeply meaningful. It is an absolute must-read – both for its subject matter and simply because it is so well-written. A magnificent novel.