All-in-all Under the Dome exceeded my expectations. Stephen King’s usual techniques that often draw affectionate eye rolls from fans were kept to a minimum in this book. All though there is a definite good vs. evil theme and characters for the most part fall clearly on one side or the other, it seems less like lazy story telling and more like a subtle disconcerting suggestion that when the safe structures of law and societal organization are removed, there’s no telling what we’re capable of.

Warning, a few spoilers ahead!

When a clear dome made of an unidentified, indestructible substance descends over the small town of Castle Rock Chester Mills it Under the Domedoesn’t take long for the more unstable town members to go all Lord of the Flies. Big Jim, the town selectman who acts like a terrifying combination of everyone you associate with the Bush administration, makes a well-measured but violent grab at power. He collects followers who too want power but lack the brains to coerce citizens into giving up their rights in the name of safety. Set loose with guns and makeshift police badges, these men act out their privilege in ways previously only loosely held in check by law, including graphic acts of rape and sexual assault. Women in particular are the most at risk when privilege is set loose in this macrocosm, but as the book develops it becomes clear that women are the ones who have experience with being victims and they know how to fight it.

While the main character is a likeable war-hero turned fry cook (who admittedly is not a reproduction of Stephen King himself, he didn’t even have glasses, I take it back) it’s the female characters that drive the story. Julia, a reporter and head of the town newspaper, fights for freedom of press and expression when everyone else has given up and is ready to let Big Jim lead them. The struggle for power under the dome is just as much about the control of information as it is about violence. Records are kept, DIY printing presses are run, and I dusted off my CP Style Guide with a proud tear in my eye. As a side note, after finishing the book I realized we were never subjected to lengthy discussions of Julia’s long-flowing hair, swelling breasts, or tiny waist. Like many other of King’s female characters, Julia is a compelling and flawed character not a prop. Can I get an AMEN?

*Ahem* Anyway, we do get a fair selection of women-as-mothers, an archetype King always loves and sometimes crosses the line into sentimentally when writing about. We need only think of Wendy in The Shining or Elizabeth in The Dark Half wringing their hands over the psychotic men attacking them and their children. But King gives mothers a bit more flexibility in this book. The tragic story of a poor, drug addicted mother and her baby remind us that motherhood is not easy and doesn’t come with the veneer of a suburban home and white picket fence. The mothers in this story will protect their children at all costs, and by using this fierce instinct unlikely women (and some men) become heroes.

Finishing this book left me with the desire for more big, brave political novels that make me question where I’ll stand if a dome falls over my town.

We’ve got five weeks or whatever left until the G8 starts. Shut the f–k up on this issue…If you push it, there’ll be more backlash. This is now a political football. This is not about women’s health in this country. –Senator Nancy Ruth (via cbc.ca)

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Ok, no I’m totally going to say something. Psych!
So, there are many problems with telling the citizens you represent to shut the fuck up. The best part is this is a direct quote from Sentor Ruth’s website:

My passion lies within a myriad of issues concerning women’s rights, poverty, politics and economics.

Yes, passion indeed. Now the senate is not elected, the Governor General appointments them (so, uh, Michaëlle how did this one sneak in?) but I don’t think we can blame the senate for this insanity. Canada has actually had a lot of cool, profanity-free senators. Roméo Dallaire! Muriel McQueen Fergusson! Some progressive bad-asses. No, I think we sit the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of the capital-c Conservatives (of which Sen. Ruth is a member). I can say empirically this government has been the worst for Canadian women ever. Let’s take a small sampling what the government’s been up to lately:

  • The appointed minister of the Status of Women Canada, Helena Guergis and her also elected husband compete as a husband-and-wife team for the worst politician ever.
  • The new minister (same as the old minister- really, she’s the minister that came before Guergis) Bev Oda cuts funding to 14 not-for-profit women’s groups
  • At the G8 summit, the government will disclose that it will not fund abortions in its child and maternal health-care initiative for developing countries.

And this has just been in the last month or so. That’s a lot of self-righteous privileged sexism to pack into such a short period of time. I’ve said it before, this government undermines the human rights women have worked so hard in this country to gain, and if we continue to elect this party the next time you ask for a basic human right you might just get told to shut the fuck up.

From the website:

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science.

From Wikipedia:

Augusta Ada Byron, was an English writer chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognized as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine; as such she is often regarded as the world’s first computer programmer.

That’s right, the world’s first programmer! Odd how she doesn’t make appearances in textbooks, hmmm?

This day is about recognizing women in science and technology, and while my science background is mostly limited to reading Stephen Hawking’s accessible picture books, I love the hope and innovation science brings to the world.

I would like to introduce an awesome and Canadian scientist who petitioned to enter into the McGill medial program before women could enter. She was denied entry and Maude Abbott eventually graduated with honours from Bishop’s College in Montreal, which was apparently a little less stodgy than old McGill. She had a  fabulous career and ended up as Assistant Curator of the Medical Museum of McGill University in the summer of 1898. I’d like to think she got a chance to give everyone who wouldn’t let her in as an undergrad a good stink eye.

Thanks to Collections Canada for the history!

Seriously guys, this is a bad ass list. Other long lists see this list coming and cross to the other side of the street.

Some highlights:

  • Barbara Kingsolver The Lacuna
  • Andrea Levy The Long Song
  • Hilary Mantel Wolf Hall (yes, I know she’s a questionable character but this was a really really long and also good book)
  • **Sarah Waters The Little Stranger**

I have left subtle clues indicating which one I want to win.

So, you expect  jewelry commercials to be kind of lame. As you may recall from an earlier post, I generally hate them. They try to sell you overpriced, ethically sketchy, tacky rocks. And these companies have a lot invested in the idea that the womenz are CRAZY for diamonds. For no specific reason diamonds are all we want and these shiny rocks will make us love the men who offer them to us forever. We are simple creatures.

But this monstrosity you are about to see (or may have already been subjected to) takes the lameness to a whole new level. Behold, Kay Jewelers’ newest marketing campaign:

Dear god, where to begin? This video includes:

  1. A grown woman afraid of thunder
  2. A man telling a woman in a low, creepy tone: “I’m here, and I always will be”
  3. A voice-over encouraging men to “surround her with the strength of your love” while providing the visual of strapping a woman to you with a gigantic metal-looking ribbon
  4. A woman uttering the Twilight-worthy phrase “Don’t let go- ever”

Uh, so I think we can say a man designed this ad. For most women watching this all sorts of alarm bells are going off. This generic-looking guy is either a stalker, serial killer or rapist and you are stuck in what appears to be an isolated cabin alone with him.

In all seriousness, the signs of over-protectiveness and possessiveness this guy is displaying are often warning signs of abusers but are presented in popular culture “romantic” traits women should be flattered by. Suggesting that this approach to relationships is ideal not only normalizes and minimizes all sorts of sexist behaviour but dismisses the very real issues of stalking and emotional abuse that women struggle with every day.

Yeah, no Kay jewelry for me. I’ll take a non-stalkerish necklace from Etsy, please.

Happy Birthday Roe v. Wade! This year I’m going to try a different approach. I spent a lot of time in the past arguing, fighting and ending up in angry tears trying battle “pro-lifers” and I had to step away from the whole thing for a while because it was turning me into a bitter constantly pissed-off person (I mean, more so than is typical for a feminist!).

But reproductive choice is a fight that needs fighting and none of us can afford to stick our head in the sand. So I propose starting this year we decide to fight on our terms. There will be no more arguments about whether foetuses can suck their thumbs or if embryos have a sense of humour. Being pro-choice is sticking up for women and not about arguing with foetus-obsessed crazy people.

So here we go. Here is my action plan to be an effective and sane pro-choice feminist:

  • Use creative and interesting ways to counter anti-choice propaganda.
  • Be careful not to let the language of reproductive choice be controlled by those who oppose it. If someone is going to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term they are not “pro-life” they are anti-choice.
  • Always support the reproductive choices women in my life make, even if I disagree with them.
  • Remember how lucky I am to live in a country and in a time where I do have a choice.

Any other ideas? How do you fight the good fight?

In 2010 Jane will:

  1. Finally get her driver’s license. I still hate cars but asking for rides when you’re 26 starts to feel ridiculous.
  2. Leave the continent at least once.
  3. Buy some awesome luggage just because.
  4. Start kicking boxing again.

Totally do-able. Hold me to it, internets!

Happy holidays all, see you in the new year!

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