Five Ways You Offend Women by Insulting the Fifty Shades Series

Anyone who reads my blog is familiar with my love-to-hate affection for the Fifty Shades of Grey series. After all, I’ve captioned it here, here, here, and I once showed you my homemade Pin the Penis on Christian Grey game. There are many things wrong with this series, but quite frankly, that’s a topic that’s been exhausted, by individuals willing to take it a lot more seriously than I. In fact, while researching for this blog post, I found this one, which makes a lot of great points and this one, which makes me giggle.

Reba: “Everything makes you giggle, Belle.”

I do have a pretty low threshold.

So, don’t misunderstand my point here. I am not defending the series, as a whole. It’s just that in reading all of the thought-provoking and giggle-inducing critiques, I’ve come across a few criticisms that insult women all on their own. For instance:

Women who read Fifty Shades of Grey are unintelligent.

Zetus lapetus, is this book badly written. The characters are abhorrent, the dialogue is beyond a reasonable suspension of disbelief, and it is just so redundant. I don’t care that Anastasia says “double crap.” I just said “zetus lapetus.” I care that she says it 88 fucking times. It’s just… unreadable, but you know what? That’s just me. I read books about pushy special ops alpha males and werewolf love stories and that one about the sexy alien king. One of the most well-read women I’ve ever met has a soft spot for hobbit slash fanfiction. Does that make either of us any less intelligent? If your answer is yes, kiss my ass, because I also devour at least 10 articles a day on everything from current events to the issues facing prison libraries.

If your argument against Fifty Shades of Grey is that intelligent women can’t read poorly written smut, you are one of the reasons reading is not a more popular hobby. Some people don’t watch American Idol or Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Some people had to Google “most popular reality show” to make that point. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to turn down their brain to relax. Not everyone considers reading a chore all the time. There are two kinds of librarians: literature snobs and those who hate literature snobs. I am the latter. I am intelligent. Sometimes I read smut.

Ana is only 22.

I’ve seen multiple criticisms of Fifty Shades of Grey fixate on the age of the heroine. For one, they get it wrong. Ana turned 22 in the third book, Fifty Shades Freed, so actually, the character in the movie is supposed to be 21, until otherwise specified. If you’re gonna bitch about something, do it accurately.

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When I was 21 years old, I lost my baby to a nearly second trimester miscarriage. Six months after that, I helped my best friend bury her infant daughter. That year, I accepted over $20,000 in student loans, graduated college, made the decision to enter graduate school, and chose to leave my ex-husband. Perhaps it wasn’t the typical middle-class American 22-year-old experience, but I was unequivocally an adult. By 22 I had bought a car, moved several times, paid my bills, taken out more in student loans than I could possibly earn in a year, and made major decisions about my future career path. That is typical. So, how dare you tell me that I wouldn’t have been of sound mind to enter into a sexual relationship of my choosing? If a woman old enough to vote, marry, drink, be tried as an adult, and sign binding contracts wants to sign a pretend contract before consensual sex, it doesn’t matter how much she giggles or how “mousey” she appears. I was 23 when I learned to apply eyeliner from a YouTube video and actually style my damned hair. That’s not what made me an adult. Being both responsible and accountable for my own choices was. Regardless of where things go in the books, Anastasia Steele was both of these when she met Christian Grey. Her age had absolutely no bearing on the situation and it’s disrespectful to young adult women to imply that they are not capable of making their own choices.

Ana is still a virgin.

This article is not the first one to take issue with the fact that Anastasia Steele has never had a sexual experience until she meets Christian Grey. The writer actually suggests that, because Ana has had no genuine interest in a man and doesn’t masturbate, it’s more likely the character is asexual. For one, the lead character in a romance isn’t asexual. That’s not how the genre works. Two, we learn later that Ana has had encounters with the opposite sex and they just haven’t gone anywhere. In regards to masturbation, I do know women who just aren’t interested. A lot of women have trouble reaching orgasm, both by themselves and with a partner. Their bodies just work a bit differently and without an emotional connection, physical stimulation may lack appeal… and that’s okay.

My biggest problem with focusing on this criticism of the series, however, is the assumption that a woman who is not sexually active is asexual or somehow abnormal. Until one year ago (exactly, oddly enough), I not had sex in six years. Furthermore, I’d only kissed five people, ever, and that includes a stranger who pecked me on the cheek on New Year’s Eve. I am not asexual, far from it. I was just never interested in sharing my body with someone with whom I saw no future. I once let a man in a bar kiss me, with tongue, when I’d just met him that night. It makes me uncomfortable even remembering that, because physicality without an emotional connection just doesn’t do it for me. Different women have different needs and it’s just as offensive to shame a woman for not being sexually active as it is to call another a slut.

Fifty Shades of Grey is only popular, because the hero is rich.

While Christian Grey sure wasn’t my dreamboat, I can tell you that when I was treading water in a dating pool of grown men with flat-billed caps and job titles as specific as “n/a,” it wasn’t so far-fetched to think that, perhaps, it would be easier to repair deep-seated emotional scarring than to motivate a man to get his shit together. While I’ll admit that for an America drowning in debt, financial freedom might be it’s own fantasy, I’m still not convinced that the ability to “buy all the planes” is the sole appeal of the Fifty Shades of Grey target audience. This article suggests a somewhat circular logic for the over 30 bracket, in particular: women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey, because women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Finally, a woman with traditional goals (marriage, children, an optional career) can come out and say…

No longer is it only Carrie Bradshaw that gets to talk dirty, but housewives too!

As a librarian, part of my job is analyzing literary trends. This is why I am particularly aware of the rise of the billionaire romance novel. Along with Christian Grey, in the last few years we’ve been introduced to Gideon Cross, Gabriel Emerson, Jesse Ward, and many other laughably wealthy and emotionally damaged heroes. However, long before well-worn copies of Fifty Shades of Grey hit nightstands all over the world, we met the heroes in these series: Rock Chick, KGI, Black Dagger Brotherhood, Psy-Changelings, Immortals After Dark, and The Sookie Stackhouse Novels. Every title listed stars leading men who are borderline abusive and financially set. That describes most contemporary, paranormal, and historical romance. This shit ain’t new. Not only does the insistence that this book simply broke new ground with an abusive megabajillionaire give the title far too much credit, it also implies that all women who enjoy romance are gold digging whores. That’s just not nice.

Note: I was known, at one time, to declare that I’d let a man string me from the ceiling and whip me if he’d pay off my student loans, but I am hardly the standard by which all women should be measured.

Fifty Shades of Grey is responsible for sex injuries.

This article and many, many more suggest that the rise in bedroom play injuries is the fault of Fifty Shades of Grey. Maybe it’s the researcher in me, but…. I call shenanigans. You are an adult. You likely have a smartphone on you at all times, meaning you literally have endless information at your fingertips. If you are stupid enough to purchase a spreader bar and use a trashy novel for a user manual, you are the only one to blame for the spine injurt. Have some faith that the majority of women are intelligent enough to manage a Google search, y’all.

I can say a lot of bad things about Fifty Shades of Grey. A lot of writers can. I mean, two twenty-somethings e-mailing each other? What is this, Amish country? Between Ana’s “inner goddess” and Christian’s “laters baby” this librarian actually fell out of love with reading for a few days. I love when women ask me to suggest titles “like Fifty Shades of Grey,” because it gives me the opportunity to introduce them to much better written erotica. Perhaps I can get them started on Kristen Ashley’s special-ops-saves girl books. Maybe I can send them back in time with one of Karen Marie Moning’s sexy highlanders. I can even show them more plot-light erotica, but with with steamier scenes that don’t read like a child reporting her molestation – “Then he touched me… down there!” You know what I won’t do, though? Insult them.

  • I originally posted this on March 5, 2015.
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The Apathetic Bride

As a child, I was not especially girly. This might come as a shock to my frequent readers, considering Jake and I just recently had an argument as to whether or not glitter can be my second favorite color. Spoiler alert: he’s wrong.

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Perhaps I’m simply overcompensating in adulthood, because when I was little, I was bound and determined to be a tomboy. I “hated” baby dolls, Barbies, dresses, and the color pink, because naturally you couldn’t like Disney princesses and climbing trees. Regardless, I loved my Water Baby, because it didn’t feel like a doll, but a real baby and I wanted my play to be as realistic as possible… which is precisely why I stuck my baby in the microwave to heat up the water, after my mother refused to refill it. While my mothering instincts might have left something to be desired, it wasn’t for lack of interest. Just like most other little girls, I felt that biological drive and genuine desire to be a mom.

I suppose my first romantic fantasy had the same lead as that of every other 90s girl: Jack Dawson. Of course, it took me a bit longer to realize that Cal Hockley was the real hero of Titanic, but all the same… at age 10, I began to dream, innocently (put your dress back on, Rose, you just met this man), of falling in love. Despite this, it would be another six years before I even considered my own wedding, and as an assignment in a marriage and family class, at that. Now, before you go mocking my undergraduate degree of family and consumer science education (or home-ec), I’d like to clarify that this was a budgeting and planning exercise. Weddings just happened to be on topic with the course, as we calculated the cost of catering and venues and attire. While I’m sure this was fun (and a little harmful) for the girls who grew up fantasizing about their dream weddings, for me, it was just… illogical.

Teacher: “You have to include boutonnieres for the men.”
Me: “Why? You can have a wedding without those.”

Even when I planned my first wedding, I just couldn’t muster up the energy to care about this entirely unnecessary party. In hindsight, I’ve considered the possibility that this was simply because I was getting married for all the wrong reasons, and there may be some merit to that. On the day of my wedding, I remember trying to picture my life five years later and thinking that I couldn’t see myself married then… that maybe this was the wrong path… that it was too late to do anything about it. Few believe me when I tell them this, since I didn’t actually say it at the time, so they insist that the only reason I don’t care about my pending party is because I’ve already had a wedding. Y’all, I swear on the Deathly Hallows that the next time someone implies that my second marriage counts less than the one I entered before I could legally drink, Imma cut a bitch.

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Weddings have just never been my thing. On our first date, I told Jake as much… and he was baffled as to why. In every other way, this man is a stereotypical country boy. He loves hunting, fishing, drinking, football, and taxidermy. He has such a thick southern accent, that he sounds like a racist cartoon character. The man’s a downright parody of himself… and he loves weddings, so much so, that he’s attended at least fifteen over the years and has been in half of them. Jake thinks it’s absolutely worth it to spend $9,000 on a party. I’m marrying Katherine Heigl from 27 Dresses and I’m… Sheldon Cooper.

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Hate is a really strong word for how I feel about weddings. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that I don’t mind the idea of looking back on a big celebration to declare my lifelong commitment to Jake, in front of all of our friends and family. It certainly means a lot more at 29 than it did at 19, to me and to the audience. I’d do it just to make Jake happy. It’s just… I want to be a wife, not a bride. I don’t need or really even want all the fuss, especially when the tradition and industry surrounding weddings… kind of sucks.

Weddings and wedding planning are typically very sexist. It takes a lot to tickle my feminist bone, but I resent that I’m supposed to plan this shindig, just because I brought the vagina to the party. I want to go to the caterer, who Jake told me was shocked that I’d “let” him decide the menu without me there to hold his hand, and remind her that it’s 2017. I love Jake’s mom, but I think it’s completely unfair that she and everyone else think my father should pay for an elaborate party that his adult daughter doesn’t really even want. It’s not because it’s my second wedding, either. It’s because I bring in $50,000 a year and I don’t need my father to inventory his livestock so he can pay some man to take me off his hands, because women are such a burden. If we want a party, we can pay for a party.

To be clear, it’s not any one person being sexist. It’s the wedding industry. Societally, we talk sooooo big about female empowerment and some pretend sisterhood where I owe more to a random woman than a random man, because somehow equality (?), but the second a woman gets engaged, all of that goes out the window. I’m criticized for my own traditional relationship and gender role (my boss once joked that I was “gender conforming”), which effect only me, but now it’s not only okay for me to ask my dad to pay a literal dowry, but mandatory. No longer are the sparkle and the glitz and the bright colors grounds for mockery, but celebrated… by the jewelry and bridal stores, who want my money. If I say I want to maintain a certain body image for Jake, I’m doing a disservice to all womankind, but my wedding is in three months, so it’s just assumed I’m on a diet of laxatives and self-loathing, to look good for everyone else. The idea that I’m not allowed to be traditional and feminine (aside from the language), unless it’s wedding season, is utter bullshit… and a marketing ploy.

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Zetus lapetus, are weddings expensive. After my first and only wedding dress shopping trip, last summer, I’ve refused to go on another. I was thrilled when my bridesmaids chose their own dress online and ordered it sight unseen. As for my dress…. well, I’m getting married in three months and I don’t even know what I’m going to wear. I’m not really that concerned about it, either, because I’ve been shopping online and all the dresses look the same. It’s my first communion all over again. For realz, y’all, the only difference I can even see half the time is price. The same white, A-line, floor length, strapless dress, either runs for $800 or $2,300 and no one is going to remember it, either way. In fact, none of the stores even make anything as low key as the lacey, tea length, sleeved dress I had in mind. They’re so well stocked in taffeta and tulle, I’m never sure if I’m looking at bridal gowns or pageant dresses… and I’m not even going to pretend I’ve ever had that much grace and poise.

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I’m sure I’ll order the dress I’ve had my eye on from Etsy in two weeks, and if I don’t… so what? I can find something on Modcloth in the last month if I must. It’s a dress I’ll wear one time and it’s likely I’ll only vaguely remember doing so, because that’s the thing no one tells brides: they’ll be so stressed and wired the day of their wedding, that when it’s all said and done, it’ll be a fog of memory. They’ll have looked forward to the day their entire lives, shed tears of frustration over ridiculous arguments during the planning, spent thousands of dollars on flowers and centerpieces and videography and all those other things I refuse to purchase… and it’ll still be a haze. The only people who’ve ever truly enjoyed a wedding are guests, and so I maintain my apathetic stance: I don’t care and if it’s my day, why can’t I bring my pets?

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To the Women Who Tried to Ruin My Career

At 25 years old, I’d just begun my career as a real librarian, in my current system, when I excitedly accepted a second job at the neighboring library system. Within two months, I was informed that I wasn’t “a good fit” and that I’d worked my last day there. I was never late. No customer ever complained about me. I did everything I was asked… except go to my immediate supervisor’s house for spaghetti with the rest of the team, share Pinterest recipes, and sport an “I’m With Her” t-shirt. That’s right. Instead of valuing diversity in her staff, this woman sought employees who were just like her, a modern day Heather willing to abuse her power to the detriment of the community she served.

In time, I realized that not being “a good fit” was quite flattering and ultimately the best thing for my career, because it allowed me to hone my skills within my own system. Even in that beloved system, however, there once reigned a Regina George… the girl who poured the pigs’ blood in Carrie… a Cersei Lannister, of our very own.  Indeed, this woman was… psychotically vindictive, in the truest sense. She ruined careers when people mispronounced her name. She permanently transferred librarians to branches across the city, with less than 24 hours notice and no explanation. She planted her favorites in positions of power and pulled their strings like the fucking Puppet Master. She even tried to keep my boss at the West Side Library  from hiring me, because I’d had a poor interview for a different job. It was a joyous occasion the day Cersei pissed on the wrong boots and was demoted. It was downright freeing when she and many of her minions retired soon thereafter, to practice augury and gnaw on the bones of kittens.

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I’d like to think these women are the exceptions. The rhetoric these days would have us believe we’re are all far too evolved from a half century of breaking glass ceilings and opening our own pickle jars to still be facing such deliberate workplace sabotage. It remains true, however, that one of a woman’s greatest battles toward professional success is simply… other women. Perhaps this is evolutionary and stems from a time when we each tried to prove ourselves the most valuable gatherer, in an effort to snag the best hunter, but we are long overdue to pull up our big girl panties and crush our baser instincts.

Had the aforementioned Heather and Cersei had their way, I would be… well, I don’t know exactly, because I can’t fathom the goal behind destroying the career of a random 25-year-old fresh out of grad school. Maybe they knew every detail of the devastation that would result from their actions. Maybe the fantasy hadn’t extended that far. All I’ve ever known for sure is that there was something broken inside these women, which required them to tear down another to feel accomplished. Now, years later, I have a simple message for them:

Thank you. Thank you for showing me the worst possible scenario of who I could be as a professional woman. Thank you for inspiring me to be better at a job I hated than you were at a job you treasured like the One Ring. Thank you for the strength it took to build people up, despite the fact that I spent my lunch breaks crying in my office. I could’ve let the wounds of others fester, with the reasoning that I didn’t cause them, but instead, I worked to heal those around me. I could’ve scoffed at the personality traits and communication styles that differ from my own, yet I worked to not only understand, but translate. I will have been a manager for eleven months, to the day, when I step down into my new position as just a librarian, at the East Side Library. I’ll leave the North Side Library in the city, to work in the tiny town of Jackson, under the same library system. I’ll rarely see these people again… and I’ll be leaving them better than I found them. If I’d never cried from the abuse of powerful women, I might never have made a difference in the short time I was one myself and for that, I am thankful.

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I hate my job.

Library page: “You know who’s just a fantastic boss? Belle. She always knows everything that’s going on in the library. She walks around and sees what needs to be done and talks to people. She really is great at her job.”

Ngo, other supervisory librarian: “No, you are really good at this. You have a great balance with the staff.”

Brett, my boss: “You are just doing an awesome job. You’re also the only person who is ever willing to disagree with me and that is so valuable to me.”

It really sucks to be so great at something I hate so much. I am every sports movie cliché I’ve ever seen.

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Center Stage is a sports movie.

20% supervisor and 80% librarian. That’s what I was told the supervisory librarian position would be, when it was created and I applied in November. On Thursday night, I got off at 9:00, stopped by my favorite ice cream place for chocolate frozen yogurt and discovered too late that they’d given me a chocolate and vanilla twist. Jake was staying with me and had long since gone to bed, but came into the living room to find me quietly weeping over frozen yogurt.

Jake: “What’s wrong?”
Me: “Vanilla frozen yogurt doesn’t taste like anything!”
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Jake: “What’s really wrong?”
Me: “I hate my job! I have everything I ever wanted: the job, you, and I even got a cat and I am just so unhappy. I dread going to work. I never thought I would feel this way about being a librarian, but I don’t even get to be a librarian anymore! I spend a minimum of twenty hours a month in meetings and the supervisory librarians just decided we need to have another weekly meeting, between just the three of us! We sit down and have a meeting about something we just talked about in another meeting, even though we haven’t had any time to work on it since said meeting, and if I have to tell one more grown ass adult to do their fucking job, my brain is going to bleed out my ears and they gave me the wrong ice cream!”
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He wants to create an app that translates Crying Girl into English.

I love being a librarian, y’all. I love planning and putting on programs, weeding the collection and ordering replacement materials, helping little old ladies realize they can do this iPad thing, teaching twenty-somethings to make a resume, assisting ex-offenders in their job searches, and giving the rare well-behaved child a sticker. I used to be so excited when my copy of American Libraries came in the mail and now I hardly even look at it, because it’s officially a magazine full of articles about awesome things that I don’t have time to do.

Last week, I e-mailed the third grade teachers at the Catholic school just up the street from the Northside Library, where I work. I wanted to know if they’d like to take part in a pen pal program, with the nursing home I visit monthly. I received a reply immediately, that they’d both love to participate and, together, they had about 40 students. My first thought was one of excitement. The second was that I didn’t know if I had the time to devote to an 80 person pen pal project. I went to college for seven years, took out $150,000 in student loans, and I don’t have time to do the enjoyable parts of my job. I don’t have the time to talk to customers about their favorite books, to sign someone up for summer reading, to consider rearranging the collection, to make book displays, to fill out the checklist for that digital scrapbooking/online dating/adult coloring class I want to do. No. My time has been scheduled for supervisory librarian meetings with our manager, my one-on-one meetings with my direct reports, my one-on-one meetings with Brett, my one-on-one meetings with the other supervisory librarians and now our group meeting with each other; none of which I singularly despise, but rather have a growing resentment toward for taking so much of my time.

Jake: “I’m sorry your job sucks right now.”
Me: “My job sucks all the time. I just don’t talk about it.”

I immediately realized just how true that was. When I started in January, it was natural to be overwhelmed. In about mid-April, I thought I’d started to get the hang of all this manager stuff. I only had Ngo and Brett to consult with and the Supervisory Series training came to an end, freeing up much of my week. I wasn’t yet required to meet monthly with my direct reports, do evaluations, or address workflow and personnel issues, so the bulk of my management responsibilities involved making the page schedule and entering programs into the calendar. 20% supervisor and 80% librarian seemed about right. Then, the reality of my position settled in, along with all of the additional responsibilities. In the last couple of months, I’ve realized that aside from that six to eight week respite, I have hated my job since I started.

I have a more or less private office. I have my own laptop. Brett gives me the go-ahead on most of my ideas, even when they cost money. He solicits and respects my opinion. I love my coworkers, even the ones I have to supervise. I live in the cheapest part of the country and pull in about $50,000 a year, at the start of my career. I am really good at my job… and I hate it. I’m no longer waiting for the dust to settle on this new position. It’s management and if it continues to evolve, it will only become more managerial. I got my MLIS to do a job that should require an MBA. I have skipped over being just a librarian and unless I step down, I will never get that chance. I will forever supervise those I envy, because stepping down could mean that I never get the opportunity to move up again. It could mean that everyone assumes I was reassigned by force, because I failed. It would mean telling my dad that I gave up all the momentum of a management opportunity to be just a librarian.

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Well, so… fucking… what? I am not going to spend the next two and half years crying over frozen yogurt and yearning for all the missed opportunities of being a librarian, to hit some arbitrary number that will look good on a resume, just in case I want to be a manager again. I didn’t work 60 hours a week and go to grad school to hate my job, just because modern society expects intelligent women to hit the corporate ground running. I have amazing momentum with my system. I could manage my own library inside of three years and that’s not what I want. So, after discussing it with Jake, I decided to apply for an open librarian position at the Southeastern Library, in Cherokee. Cherokee is a more rural city inside the same county as the other libraries in the system, with a population of around 10,000, even smaller than Shetland. I could have the small town existence Jake and I imagine and still make $50,000 a year. I can do adult and senior programming and be just a librarian.

Jake: “Babe, I’m totally fine with whatever you wanna do. I couldn’t do what you do… being people’s boss? That would drive me crazy. I just wanna make sure you know that if you leave a management position, you may not be able to get another one.”

This is the point that keeps coming up. It’s a legitimate possibility, despite my conversation with Brett, in which he told me about prominent women in the system stepping down at some point and rising to even higher positions, later in their careers. It’s one thing to work in management for five years and step down to care for children. It’s another to last eight months, before burnout. At this point, however, if I have to choose between never being manager or never being just a librarian, there’s no contest. So, after another meeting, where everyone agreed that we needed more meetings, Brett asked for a moment to discuss why this idea upset me so much. Apparently, it’s not normal to get teary-eyed over meetings.

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Me: “Maybe you’re all exactly right and we do need more meetings. Maybe this is just about me, because every hour I schedule for management duties is another hour that I don’t get to be a librarian. I never got to be just a librarian. At best, I left a substitute teaching job in the day, to be a half time librarian in the evening, and it was exhausting. So, I wanted to tell you that I applied for the librarian position at the Southeastern library, in Cherokee.”

Brett was unbelievably supportive. He told me he’d miss me, because I’m great at my job and everyone else is too intimidated to tell him what they think. He told me he’d give me a fantastic reference and that he understands that I have to pursue what I want for my career.

It’s a hard thing to do, make a decision that will change your whole life. I don’t have to leave the Northside Library, where I have great coworkers and a great boss, where I’m making connections in the community, and working from a semi-private office. I could stay in familiar surroundings, continuing to commute from Shetland… or I could make a change, move to a new library and a new city, for the chance to enjoy my career again.

“It’s a hard thing to leave any deeply routine life, even if you hate it.” – John Steinbeck

I will never be dainty.

Today, as I was doing my makeup at a stoplight, I realized that I was about to put concealer on what was not a skin imperfection, but barbeque sauce.

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As I prayed to get one more red light, so I could finish doing my makeup, I started to think about the role models I grew up with, in media. A child of the 90s, these included Kelly Kapowski, Topanga Lawrence, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Buffy Summers, and even Lizzie McGuire. As the style of the day dictated, each of them had well-coordinated, brightly colored outfits, perfect bubble gum pink lipstick, and intricate hairstyles requiring those tiny rubber bands they use to attach bows to a poodle’s ears.

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These trends may be the stuff of Buzzfeed posts now, but unless it was a defining feature of the episode, such as that time Buffy had grass in her hair, these girls were nothing but coordinated and adorable, regardless of style. Lizzie may have struggled to fit in with the cool crowd, but she did it with perfectly crimped hair.

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As I entered my late teens and early twenties, I longed to be more like Rory Gilmore and Blair Waldorf, with their preppy, tailored jackets, headbands, plaid, and perfectly timed topical references. I wanted to wear subtle makeup, designer prints, and kitten heels while discussing college life.

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I, of course, never mastered any of the above.

I once burned toothpaste into my hair with a straightener.

I regularly wear oversized t-shirts over my work clothes, because I can’t trust myself to drink a cup of coffee without spilling it.

I frequently use the word “shankraped.”

I don’t own white clothes. As much as I’d love to be the girl in a white sundress and strappy sandals, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that it is never going to happen.

I’ve gotten through an entire day, wearing a dress that zipped up the back, before I noticed the zipper under my chin.

I make “that’s what she said” jokes to my Gramma… and then try to explain them.

I’ve notified my loved ones that if they ever find me in a bathtub full of blood, it wasn’t a suicide attempt. I just never mastered shaving my legs.

I’ve done the Sign of the Cross in thanksgiving after realizing my dress was tucked into my panties before the interview.

I walked like a newborn deer for all four of the months I tried to wear heels.

My makeup comes from the drug store.

I don’t trust myself to use a styling wand without taking out an eye.

My punctuality is based on how many green lights I can catch.

I’ve noticed I’m wearing two different shoes, at work… something I’ve been told is unique to extremely pregnant women.

I look at least four sizes larger in plaid or argyle.

I’m far too cheap to buy the pricey, sexy undies.

I will always ruin sweet moments with an inappropriate joke.

Some days, I apply my eyeliner and just go with it, even though I look like a panda bear.

Gail says she can always tell which dressing room I’m in, by following the sounds of crashing.

I’m afraid to go shopping alone, because more than once, I’ve gotten stuck in a top and been unable to get out.

Today, my style most resembles Jess from The New Girl, but at least she’s supposed to be uncoordinated. I mean, sure, she’s never endured the awkwardness of dry humping someone while wearing a skort, but it’s at least a little closer. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I come from a long line of opinionated, boisterous, and often wildly inappropriate women. I buy size 10 shoes, can’t wear button up anything because I’m so broad-chested, and I cuss like a sailor. All of that runs in the family, too. I’ll never be the girl with the perfect hair and makeup, because I like my sleep. I’ll never wear the latest fashions, because I like my money. I’ll always be a little too loud, which is fortunate, because my best friend is getting married and has already refused to give me the microphone at her wedding. I’ll never be the debutante who spends two hours getting ready. Simply put, I will never be dainty… and that’s okay.

new-girl-gif-blog-5

 

 

Surprising Realities of Being a Librarian

I’ve written about my career as a librarian a few times. Most notably, I battled some common misconceptions in my article Shelving the Stereotypes: When I say I’m a Librarian… mentioning such issues as the picture of a conservative, uptight older woman, what exactly it is that I do, and how the Internet is not putting me out of a job. However, even the positive assumption that I spend my days singing on rolling ladders, is pretty far off the mark. I have rarely addressed some of the more sensitive topics, because I love being a librarian and see them as little more than a penance. Recently, however, I’ve noticed some consistencies in the #LibrarianProblems Twitter feed, such as…

… BEHOLD: the sexism.
I’ve touched on this a few times, usually and most recently in my dating rants, but library patrons and people in general can be extraordinarily sexist towards women who work in libraries. In fact, I once stopped by the gas station on my way to work, not even considering the ID badge I had clipped to my dress:

Attendant: “A librarian. Niiiice.

Um, dude. You are at work. What. The. Fuck? Recently, one librarian on Twitter posted several examples of sexist remarks made by patrons, including the following:

5-21-15This fucking happens, y’all. I once had a customer raise his hand for help on the computer, despite being perfectly able-bodied and capable of coming to ask for assistance. When I looked his way, he snapped his fingers and pointed to the computer screen. That doesn’t even touch on the flirting. I am to the point that someone blatantly checking me out no longer phases me. It’s just a weekly occurrence. Yes, I dress nicely for work, in dresses and flats, but they are in no way inappropriate. Nothing is printed on my ass in glitter. Yet, I still get men who ask what I’m doing after work. While the pictured comment would be met with a stern “I’m sorry sir, but that’s completely inappropriate and you need to take your prints and leave,” this one doesn’t warrant such a harsh response. I’m left to awkwardly fumble through a rejection, while hoping I don’t offend him, which by the way, I fail at every time. It’s bad enough to be winked at and called sweetie, but it’s also intensely uncomfortable to have a man hand you his phone number and have to smile at him, because he is still a customer. It’s far worse when a patron asks you to help him in the stacks only to get in your space and tell you how beautiful you are, out of sight and earshot of your coworkers. It’s scary to have a known rapist catch you in his sights, because…

… being a librarian can be dangerous.
None of the above things are exactly specific to librarians. I’ve directly informed patrons that they cannot touch the staff, in general. Yes, “do not touch the staff” is a rule I’ve had to repeat, in part, because The Rapist isn’t just a pet name for one of our customers. It’s not always sexual, though. Libraries are open to the public and accept all kinds, including homeless, the mentally disabled, the mentally unstable, and the addicts. Most of them have their good days, but in every public library, there are regulars who sit and have lively, heated debates… with no one. They carry suspicious parcels. They get arrested on our property and we never learn why.

We take those fines damned seriously.

Sometimes these people get frustrated. Sometimes they get angry. Sometimes they scream at us. Sometimes they grab us. Sometimes they threaten us. Sometimes, walking to our cars is scary. Sometimes, those cars have been vandalized. There are library workers who have had their tires slashed. There are lists of customers who have been banned. Some locations are lucky enough to have security guards, while others are just close with the local police and glad to know in advance when a gunman is loose in the area.

It’s also extraordinarily common for customers to angrily insist that library staff are being racist. Even in the most diverse areas, where 90% of the customers aren’t white, that is still the default for some people, because we represent The Man, and it’s infuriating. I wish I could say “I don’t care that your daughter is black. I care that she just shoved someone out of a chair and called her a bitch.” “No, m’am, I’m sorry, but we can’t tailor more classes to specific racial groups, because ‘Finance for Black People’ is not going to go over well. Please stop screaming. Yes, I would ask a white woman to stop speaking at that volume.” “Sir, you can’t insist the circulation clerks are just being racist when they don’t want to give you their phone number. Please don’t speak to the staff that way.” I can’t, though, at least not in so many words, and I’m just left with another angry customer.

Some days the issues are milder and we just have to inform customers that they cannot ask random customers for their phone numbers, look at porn on the library computers, bathe in the water fountain, carry around jars of urine, but we still have no idea if those patrons are having a good day or a bad day. We don’t know what kind of reaction we’re going to get as we walk up to them with our Codes of Conduct in hand. Even on a good day, though…

… being a librarian can be really gross. 
Once again, we have patrons of all kinds. A good library is a diverse library, because a good librarian can treat anyone with respect. It’s a little harder to make that respect apparent, however, when I scream and throw your materials across the counter as roaches pour out. It’s also more difficult to politely explain that we can’t check in items that are covered in urine.

“I don’t know if maybe a pet got to them or…”
“I don’t have any pets.”

Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew.

“You’re still going to have to pay for these.”
“The were like that when I got them.”
“They’re still damp.”

When people talk about how they love the smell of books, I assume they buy new, because I, most definitely, do not love the smell of library books. Too often, if I notice the smell, it’s because it resembles warm and fetid fecal matter and requires sincere effort to quell my imagination as it conjures images of a patron’s home. It’s not just the books, either. I once walked out the back door to see a teenage boy relieve his bowels on the fence around our trashcan and nearly vomited. That was actually better than the times I’ve had to clean up feces in the public restroom and really quite preferable to the aforementioned pests that can be found in the book drop. Folks, these are smells you cannot unsmell and sights you cannot unsee. Yet, we’re all still here and love our jobs. In fact…

… being a librarian is extremely competitive and not for the reasons you’d think.

 After men who lick my neck at the gym (exaggerating), my least favorite part of dating is explaining that I only work half time as a librarian. I shudder at what goes through a man’s mind, because I’ve heard it spoken out loud more than once. They assume that the reason I can’t find a full time position is that libraries are a thing of the past and eventually I won’t have a job at all. It’s not just them, either. I’ve been asked, by family…

“Do you worry that you won’t have a job in 10 years?”

Short answer: no. Libraries are one of the few remaining free resources equally available to all people and are adapting to accommodate modern needs and wants, with computers and WiFi, tablet rentals, movies, magazines, expensive database subscriptions, and even the occasional equipment collections that include shovels and cake pans. If the community needs it, a good and well-funded library will have it. I, myself, am fortunate enough to work in one that fits that description. The trouble in the job market, though, is that more and more people are going into this field. When I entered the graduate program, we were informed that we were the biggest class in history. The community needs librarians and while there are many retiring, they aren’t doing so quickly enough to leave the openings needed to satisfy all of the new graduates. Ultimately, working half time, at this point, is exactly where I should be in my career. I’m lucky to have a place in my system, as there are people who have been applying for years with no results. In 15 years, while I will have a position, it may be damned near impossible for anyone new to get one… because being a librarian is awesome, despite the challenges we face.

Are we seriously having this conversation in 2015?

Y’all know I’m a librarian. It’s in the URL. It’s in the tagline. I practically introduce myself with it to everyone I ever meet, in person and online, because I am the old guy declaring “What you do, is who you are.”  Maybe it’s because I’m so passionate about my job. Maybe it’s because everyone in my family has that mentality. Whatevs. Just as some people are doctors and proud, nurses and proud, lawyers and proud, I’m a librarian and proud. It took seven years of college and an embarrassingly high amount of student loan debt for me to earn this title, so it feels pretty redundant when I have to ask that people not fucking mock it. 

I get that to other people, who don’t work in the field, it doesn’t sound like the coolest job. Fine. They’re wrong, but fine. Regardless, I’m horrified by the number of men who contact me on online dating sites and openly insult my career.

“So you’re a librarian, huh. I bet that’s tough with the internet now.”
Why, because you Googled free access to Ancestry.com, the entire archive of National Geographic, free e-media downloads, books a 14-year-old boy will actually enjoy and receive credit for in class, a complete resume that will get you an interview, and that news article about your grandmother from 1956? Google is a keyword search. If anything, the ubiquity of Internet access has given me more to do, because most people’s research and fact checking skills suck, because of GOOGLE. Obviously, if I’ve just gone into this field, it’s not dying. Perhaps you should Google that.

“I don’t think I could work in a quiet library all day. I’d get so bored.”
Thanks for calling my job boring, even though I clearly love it enough to include the title in my screen name. By the way, at first glance, “oil” has me on the edge of my seat.

“I didn’t even know there were still librarians.”
“Obsolete.” I think that’s my favorite pet name.

“It takes a master’s degree to do that? Why?”
Please. Inject a little more dismay into that question. Obviously, if it’s required, it’s necessary, and there are respectful ways to ask about my specific duties.

“My dad tells people I have a master’s degree, even though I’m not finished with school yet.”
“I’ll bet he doesn’t tell them what it’s in.”
Dude, did you just tell your date that her dad is secretly ashamed of her? It’s been two years since that date and I’m still at a loss for words beyond “bag of dicks.”


There is a flash flood in my pants, right now.

The responses toward my bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences are just as appalling.

“What’s the technical name for a home-ec teacher? Domicile Engineer? LOL.”

As frustrating as these misunderstandings are, I’m relatively used to them. I’m happy to explain why I needed a master’s degree to be a librarian or sing the praises of family and consumer sciences, when asked politely. I love talking about my work. I’m horrified, however, that anyone thinks it’s okay to talk down to me about my field, especially when I’ve already explained what it entails. Just last week, I was trading messages with a man on Plenty of Fish. I’d told him all about my field, how I had to get my MLIS to work in the position I love, and that I was trying to work my up to full time, because it’s extremely competitive.

“So, are you planning to make a career out of it?”

Um… what? Is this an attention span issue? I just explained that. Also, dude, you just told me you’d be working again “when oil picks up,” so I really think there are more pertinent questions regarding your career than mine. No one would ask a nurse if she was planning to make a career out of it. No one would ask a teacher that.

Karol: “Yes, they would. ‘Are you just doing this until you get married and have kids?'”
Me: “Fine. No one would ask a biologist that. No one would ask an accountant that.”
Karol: “What you mean is that no one would ask a man that.”
Me: “Ew. If that’s the case, then just ew. It’s 2015!”

You know, it’s really something that never crossed my mind. I thought people mocked my career because of a stereotype. Then again, there’s a pretty persistent stereotype among accountants, too, and they require less education than librarians. Sure, they’re assumed to be boring, but even with e-filing options, no one insists they’re redundant. Everyone concludes there must be more to the field than tax time, so why don’t librarians get the same respect? Why, before insulting me, don’t these men think ‘Wow. I’ve clearly got the wrong idea about this’? Well, according to Karol, the reason I’m not taken more seriously is…

Google this: “vagina gif”

It’s a frustrating idea and I sincerely hope Karol is wrong. Could it really be that the reason so many men mock my passion is because I’m female? Are these comments actually an effort to diminish my accomplishments, because I brought my ovaries with me? Is the “sexy librarian” line not only tacky, but actually a 1950s slap on the ass? Are we seriously having this conversation in 2015?

Ultimately, I’m just pleased to have met men who are impressed by my level of education, admire my passion for my career, and are open to learning more about a topic they don’t understand. It has happened, as many times as (if not more than) the above incidences. I can just let the probable sexists continue ranting about how they can only meet gold diggers and be thankful that they’re so transparent.

Still… ew.

 

“We need to get you a man!”: How to Get Throat Punched by a Single Woman

The other night, as I was leaving the library with my coworkers/good friends, Janet heard me badgering Dana about how she needed to get a smartphone so we could properly fangirl over Outlander. What Janet didn’t realize was that Dana and I regularly text message about this series and there’s a major delay, so we’d previously discussed her plans to get a new phone. Because of this, we’d even been looking at them online earlier that evening as I joked about what a disservice she was doing me with her 1999 technology. Really, though, I was just encouraging Dana to take a plunge she’s been planning for months, when Janet jokingly snapped:

“Oh my gosh, Belle, get a boyfriend!”

The good news is, I don’t throat punch my jesting pregnant friends. The bad news is, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this statement and after a while, it’s kind of begun to fill me with rage.

You see, there really is just no good reason to say this to a woman, not even…

… when we love our pets… 
About a year ago, I posted a picture of myself cuddling the dog on Facebook, with the following caption:
Top 5 things I say to my dog, that I can never say to my kids.
1. I will put you on Craigslist!
2. Get off me. I don’t love you that much.
3. No. You don’t need any, Fatty McFatfat.
4. I will skin you and wear you!
5. Shut up. No one cares what you think. You’re adopted! 

Most people just liked the photo or commented that they weren’t surprised, but my cousin decided to declare, on a public forum, “We need to get you a man! You are having way too many conversations with your dog!” I only commented that my dog was much better company than my last date, since Facebook is a public forum, but I did so while seething.

Don’t MAKE me come through this computer!

For starters, to everyone who has ever spoken the above sentence, “we” ain’t gotta do shit. You are not my gal pal. You are not my matchmaker. You can mark we right off of your to-do list, because I got this. 

Furthermore, if getting myself “a man” means I no longer talk to or cuddle my dog, then I’m sorry, but there’s just no room in my life for one. My dog is used to cuddles and ear tugs and Midnight Dance Hour. He wags his tail when he hears my voice, even when I’m threatening to put him on Craigslist. I’m not going to suddenly neglect my pets for dick. If that’s how things work in your world, then I feel sorry for your dog.

… when we love our best friend…
Every person in my life gets one lesbian comment about Gail and I before I commit a federal crime. Fortunately, Gail’s been living with Terry for a couple of years now, so the risk is pretty low these days, but comments like this were rampant in high school. I get it. I wore a lot of overalls back then and our high school was somewhere between Mean Girls and Varsity Blues, but believe it or not, I have heard suggestions since graduation and all I have to say is, them’s fightin’ words.

You know who listened to me fall apart when my ex-husband burned down our house and killed all of our pets… and slept in my car with me the Thanksgiving I drank eight Long Island Ice Teas and finally confessed that my marriage was over… and talked me out of joining the Air Force while I wept over a pizza cookie after failing my graduate portfolio… and has hugged me during every single mommy drama for the last 12 years? Well, I’ll tell you one thing. It sure as hell wasn’t some boy. 

I’m not fond of the “you’re just jealous” tagline, but in this instance it fits. There is no possible reason for someone to suggest that what I have in my friendship with Gail is anything beyond sisterly loyalty, other than a lack of understanding that it is possible to love someone that much when you don’t share a bloodline. In fact, if you’re suggesting that my being attached means no more PJ and Dog days at Gail’s house, then you just don’t understand friendship in general. Most importantly, though, it is not my duty to get a boyfriend to prove my sexuality to anyone.

… when we have cool hobbies…
One of the most common scenarios in which I hear someone declare that a woman “needs a boyfriend” seems to be when they’ve done a damned good job of proving they don’t. Perhaps your single friend taught herself to cross stitch, took up community theater, designed her own cosplay costumes, planned a trip across the world alone, or bought tickets to ComiconMaybe she just crocheted a sweater for the dog on a snow day, while binge watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and making herself sick on Easter candy… ahem. 

Whatever the interest, it seems an excuse to insist it be replaced with… what exactly? Sex? If I’m in a relationship, I won’t have time to crochet because of sex? What, am I dating Christian Grey? Do people in relationships not have individual passions and obsessions and hobbies? Can I not hateread alien erotica while he tinkers with his computer? Must we spend all that time cuddling, fondling, and saying ‘I don’t care, whatever you wanna do”? Y’all, I felt suffocated just typing that.

… when we actually want a boyfriend…
So I’ve shared another disastrous dating attempt. It was the one who tried to sell me weight loss pills… or maybe the one who didn’t technically have a job… or the one who told me he lived in a room and the “homeowner” was present. [Spoiler alert: It was his dad. The homeowner was his dad.] For some reason, I’ve opened up to you and shared some of my laughs and frustrations in the dating world and now you’ve finally come to a conclusion: I need a boyfriend.

Why thank you. Thank you so much for closed captioning my pain.

If you are involved enough in someone’s life to know that they’re tired of being single and actively dating, the “you need a boyfriend” comment is particularly obnoxious. You’re just reaffirming the idea that a woman’s life is incomplete without a man, that there’s not much to enjoy in the meantime, and that she’s in a game of musical chairs and the music is about to stop. Even if you believe these statements, your contribution is redundant at best. It is not helpful. Set her up with a friend. Offer to help her take pictures for her online dating profile. Encourage her hobbies. Don’t tell her how much it’s going to suck to die alone.

… when you have no idea whether or not we actually want a boyfriend…
Believe it or not, there are women who refuse to ruin a perfectly good song by fighting over a chair. My friend and coworker, Carla, is one of them. She’s in her mid-thirties and perfectly content to be single forever. She goes to plays, teaches herself obscure hobbies, and is easily the most well-read person I have ever met. That last one is a feat in my field. Telling her that she needs to find a man is, at best, confusing…

… and at worst, implies that her very complete and satisfying life is less, because she’s doing it solo. I am not Carla. Sometimes I wish I were content to dance alone, but I’m not. That doesn’t mean everyone needs or wants a partner.

… when the clock is ticking…
A woman’s life is incomplete without a man. There’s not much to enjoy in the meantime. She’s in a game of musical chairs and the music is about to stop…

Oh go suck a bag of dicks. My uterus is not riddled with IEDs. There is not an expiration date on living a happy and full life, even if my definition of that changes over time. Perhaps, instead of being presumptive and judgmental, we should all be a little more open to the many different lifestyles people choose. Perhaps, we should be a little less concerned with the wear and tear on someone else’s genitals, because as I said this is not a we situation.

The Top Three Worst and Best Women of Fiction

In the last fifty years or so, we ladies have focused a great deal on female empowerment. I don’t want to call it feminism, because that term seems to mean so many different things to different people. No, the idea to which I refer is something much simpler: women matter and their choices are their own. So, throughout the years, numerous efforts have been made to depict strong women in media. Some of these have been Rant of Rage abhorrent, while others have become the product of my obsessive fangirling: i.e. the only reason Gail could ever tell you who Buffy and Angel were… and Nathan and Haley… and Jamie and Claire…

That girl stuck by my side even after I made her play the Buffy the Vampire Slayer video game… and described in detail my plans for who would be together in my Sims game. There were charts. To be fair, though, she did talk about politics an awful lot for a fifteen-year-old girl. I cannot unhear those National Youth Rights Association tangents.


Pictured: not us

So, not only is it a librarian job requirement to be able to name strong female leads (or pathetic attempts at them), but it’s also a side effect of my media tunnel vision. I present to you, the worst and best women of fiction.

*** Spoiler alert if you’re unfamiliar with any of the titles… duh. ***

THE WORST

Carrie Bradshaw – Sex and the City


She’s horrified that someone doesn’t love her as much as she loves herself.

I graduated in 2006, from a Southern suburban high school. Like any misfit in overalls, a turtleneck, and ribbon-laced combat boots, I found common misfit ground with the three gay guys in my graduating class. At the time, this pretty much required me to have seen every single episode of Sex and the City; therefore, I am fully informed in my loathing of Carrie Bradshaw. Now, don’t misunderstand me, here. I am not anti-Carrie because of her sexual freedoms. In fact, Samantha was probably my favorite of the four characters. No, my issue with Carrie was her absolutely unforgivable selfishness.

Gail and Malik have always defended Carrie in this argument, insisting that her impossible self-absorption was the point. I get it. Real women are flawed. Miranda is a workaholic. Samantha is emotionally unavailable. Charlotte is painfully idealistic. None of these compare, however, with the utterly horrifying extremity of Carrie’s self-absorption. For example, there was the time she…

1. … cheated on her boyfriend, ultimately breaking up with him on her friend’s wedding day.
2. … got angry with her boyfriend for insisting she stop seeing the man with whom she cheated.
3. … threw a tantrum when one of her best friends wouldn’t loan her money after she’d spent years proving she was bad with money.
4. … knowingly slept with a married man, then confronted his now ex-wife for telling people about it, after causing her to fall down the stairs and break a tooth.
5. … became so focused on the materialism and fame of her wedding that she completely ignored the groom’s vocalized discomfort over both.
6. … blamed one of her best friends for her having been left at the alter, despite having ignored the groom’s vocalized discomfort.

These are just the plot points I remember from ten years ago, but they certainly qualify as evidence that Carrie Bradshaw was an absolutely disgusting and offensive portrayal of a woman who chose to forgo the suburban soccer mom path.

Andrea – The Walking Dead


This gif is just so watchable, because she’s tied up and gagged.

One of the best things about the current apocalypse craze is the chance to see some badass heroines. I mean, what woman wouldn’t want her daughter to look up to the brave and selfless Katniss Everdeen? That gal had moxie, y’all. Sadly, however, some of the efforts toward a strong female lead have fallen far short… as with Andrea.

When I first started watching The Walking Dead, I knew little about the fan preferences, such as the fact that the audience violently hated both Lori and Andrea. Just a few episodes in, however, I was confused. Why was everyone so sympathetic to Andrea over her loss? For realz, yo, it’s the zombie apocalypse. Every person in this camp has lost everyone they’ve ever loved in the last thirty days. Rub some sand in your vagina and get on with life.

As the show progressed, it was painfully obvious that the writers wanted Andrea to become the fan favorite she was in the comics… and failed. Instead of holding her own with the men, as guardian of the camp, she accidentally shot a member of her own team, got left behind after the zombie attack, and ended up solely dependent on Michonne for protection, putting her and everyone in their makeshift family in grave danger, because of Andrea’s idiotic decision-making skills. By this point, I can only assume the writers had given up hope on “Team Andrea” t-shirt sales, because they killed her off, despite the fact that her comic book character is currently alive and well. Personally, I don’t think she went painfully enough. I wanted her eaten from the feet up for being such a weak and selfish representation of a woman in crisis.

Robin Scherbatsky – How I Met Your Mother


Stab her. Please stab her now.

Robin, Ted’s obsession in How I Met Your Mother, was originally driven, confident, straight-forward, and disinclined to pursue a traditional family life. She was initially a decent portrayal of a woman who didn’t know exactly what she wanted, but knew exactly what she didn’t want. As the series moved along, however, she quickly became overly brash and masculine, calling to mind the 1990’s ball-busting career woman stereotype, in an ugly gray power suit. You can’t be successful and feminine. You have to burp in public and eat ribs in your sleep.

Despite everything she claimed to want, Robin ended up repeatedly dating Ted, a man who clearly specified that he had completely different goals in life. She met a few men along the way, always ending things for horribly insulting reasons, and eventually ended up dating and even marrying/divorcing one of Ted’s best friends. For realz? You’re breaking up the band, Yoko! In addition to mistreating the people closest to her, we even got to see Robin’s outright abuse of a friend, as she treated her like a hated slave for comic relief.

Ultimately, in a show with only two leading female characters, one of whom was an artistic, sweet, kindergarten teacher, who married her college sweetheart, it was just insulting to women to see the only portrayal of a career-minded single gal as a flighty, self-absorbed, butch, bitch. I won’t even mention the fact that The Mother was just a stand-in for her, making the entire series a complete waste of time, as Ted does eventually end up with her.

THE BEST

Endora – Bewitched


She doesn’t need a man to make her drink.

When I was little, I watched an unhealthy amount of television, particularly during the Nick at Nite Block Party Summer event. I am pretty sure that I was the only eight-year-old who not only watched every single episode of Bewitched, but considered it an absolute favorite. In hindsight, however, I will say that I couldn’t have chosen a better woman to look up to than Endora.

By today’s standards, Endora was independent, diabolical, and unafraid to speak her mind. The fact that her character existed in the 1960’s however, makes her an even more impressive heroine. She was all of the above and she was powerful in a way no other character was, male or female. She was more powerful than Samantha, Aunt Clara, Uncle Arthur, Cousin Serena and even able to go head to head with her own husband. Furthermore, despite the understanding of the time, that a woman essentially becomes her husband’s property, Endora never let go of her insistence that Darren was attempting to quell a natural part of her daughter. She was willing to concede to her daughter’s wishes (mostly), but at no point did she back down and tell Darren that it was acceptable to stifle Samantha. She was relentlessly mischievous and meddlesome, often stealing the show in a time when women weren’t usually able to do so.

Hermione Granger – Harry Potter Series


I’d have totally practiced those spells, in secret.

As a librarian, there are a lot of reasons I despise most of the reading programs implemented in American schools. One of the primary reasons, though, is that I was assigned a 9th-12th grade reading level in the 6th grade and was only allowed to receive credit for books at an 8th grade level and higher. Translation: I could read Harry Potter with the other kids, but I couldn’t get any credit like the other kids. Well, Hermione Granger is absolute proof that there’s more to be had from reading than an improved vocabulary.

I desperately wish I’d read the Harry Potter series in middle school, reading points be damned. Not only was I obsessed with magic, even then, but I’d have benefited a great deal from knowing Hermione Granger. School always came effortlessly to me, pretty much until graduate school and I’ll tell you right now, that doesn’t make you the most popular girl in the 6th grade… especially if you’re willing to announce it to the room in true Hermione Granger style. I have never been willing to deny my intelligence and will, to this day, quote Professor Snape and admit that I am “an insufferable know-it-all.” I mean, it’s pretty much a job requirement now. Not only was Hermione smart, she was also loyal, brave, more than capable of overcoming That Awkward Stage, and she could throw a decent punch. More than anything, though, I needed someone to tell me that it was cool to be smart, as opposed to punishing me for it by not allowing me to read Harry Potter for credit.

Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Gaia Moore – Fearless)


If I try this, I will accidentally stab myself and die.

I was actually pretty torn on this one. I wanted to say Gaia Moore, from Francine Pascal’s Fearless series. She was a seventeen-year-old badass with no fear and an inability to relate to her peers and coupling my inability to relate to my peers with no fear would have been the shit. You, my readers, likely have no idea who that is, though. Instead, I’ve chosen a heroine that was both similarly and equally significant to me: Buffy Summers.

At fifteen, I climbed on the Buffy Bandwagon pretty late in the game, just as the series ended. It started with watching a few episodes before school and quickly morphed into saving my pennies to buy all of the seasons on DVD and constantly quoting it to Gail as she read The Communist Manifesto in our Pre-AP English class.

“Does this sweater make me look fat?”
“No. The fact that you’re fat makes you look fat. That sweater just makes you look purple.”

Buffy Summers was the perfect representation of a woman who could be both feminine and strong. She was a babbler who said the wrong thing a lot, hung out with the misfits, and just really wanted to be normal, despite having a pretty rocky home life. At fifteen, I related to that in a huge way. Not only that, but Buffy never pretended to be less than she was. Not once did that gal hand over a pickle jar that she could damned well open herself. Buffy taught girls to be proud of what they bring to the table and to own it, even if the boys quail. She was also an endlessly selfless character, giving up all hope for a normal life to save people. Furthermore, she was just a generally good friend, daughter, and whatever the hell she was to Giles. Sure, she was kind of a shitty girlfriend, but even that was a lesson that sometimes, love doesn’t go the way you want and life goes on… because Joss Whedon is kind of an asshole.

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Five Ways You Offend Women by Insulting Fifty Shades of Grey

Provocative title, isn’t it? Anyone who reads my blog is familiar with my love-to-hate affection for the Fifty Shades of Grey series. After all, I’ve captioned it here, here, here, and in my last entry I showed you my homemade Pin the Penis on Christian Grey game. There are many things wrong with this series, but quite frankly, that’s a topic that’s been exhausted as of late, by individuals willing to take it a lot more seriously than I. In fact, while researching for this blog post, I found this one, which makes a lot of great points and this one, which makes me giggle.

Reba: “Everything makes you giggle, Belle.”


I do have a pretty low threshold.

So, don’t misunderstand my point here. I am not defending the series, as a whole. It’s just that in reading all of the thought-provoking and giggle-inducing critiques, I’ve come across a few criticisms that insult women all on their own. For instance:

Women who read Fifty Shades of Grey are unintelligent.

Zetus lapetus, is this book badly written. The characters are abhorrent, the dialogue is beyond a reasonable suspension of disbelief, and it is just so redundant. I don’t care that Anastasia says “double crap.” I just said “zetus lapetus.” I care that she says it 88 fucking times. It’s just… unreadable, but you know what? That’s just me. I read books about pushy special ops alpha males and werewolf love stories and that one about the sexy alien king. One of the most well-read women I know has a soft spot for hobbit slash fanfiction. Does that make either of us any less intelligent? If your answer is yes, kiss my ass, because I’m also reading The Teenage Brain, by Frances E. Jensen; and I devour at least 10 articles a day on everything from current events to the issues facing prison libraries.

If your argument against Fifty Shades of Grey is that intelligent women can’t read poorly written smut, you are one of the reasons reading is not a more popular hobby. Some people don’t watch American Idol or Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Some people just Googled “most popular reality show” to make that point. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to turn down their brain to relax. Not everyone considers reading a chore all the time. There are two kinds of librarians: literature snobs and those who hate literature snobs. I am the latter. I am intelligent. Sometimes I read smut.

Ana is only 22.

I’ve seen multiple criticisms of Fifty Shades of Grey fixate on the age of the heroine. For one, they get it wrong. Ana turned 22 in the third book, Fifty Shades Freed, so actually, the character in the movie is supposed to be 21, until otherwise specified. If you’re gonna bitch about something, do it accurately.

fiftydollars

When I was 21 years old, I lost my baby to a nearly second trimester miscarriage. Six months after that, I helped my best friend bury her infant daughter. That year, I accepted over $20,000 in student loans, graduated college, made the decision to enter graduate school, and chose to leave my ex-husband. Perhaps it wasn’t the typical middle-class American 22-year-old experience, but I was unequivocally an adult. By 22 I had bought a car, moved several times, paid my bills, taken out more in student loans than I could possibly earn in a year, and made major decisions about my future career path. That is typical. So, how dare you tell me that I wouldn’t have been of sound mind to enter into a sexual relationship of my choosing? If a woman old enough to vote, marry, drink, be tried as an adult, and sign binding contracts wants to sign a pretend contract before consensual sex, it doesn’t matter how much she giggles or how “mousey” she appears. I was 23 when I learned to apply eyeliner from a YouTube video and actually style my damned hair. That’s not what made me an adult. Being both responsible and accountable for my own choices was. Regardless of where things go in the books (spoiler alert: it ain’t good), Anastasia Steele was both of these when she met Christian Grey. Her age had absolutely no bearing on the situation and it’s disrespectful to young adult women to imply that they are not capable of making their own choices.

Ana is still a virgin.

This article is not the first one to take issue with the fact that Anastasia Steele has never had a sexual experience until she meets Christian Grey. The writer actually suggests that, because Ana has had no genuine interest in a man and doesn’t masturbate, it’s more likely the character is asexual. For one, the lead character in a romance isn’t asexual. That’s not how the genre works. Two, we learn later that Ana has had encounters with the opposite sex and they just haven’t gone anywhere. In regards to masturbation, I do know women who just aren’t interested. A lot of women have trouble reaching orgasm, both by themselves and with a partner. Their bodies just work a bit differently and without an emotional connection, physical stimulation may lack appeal… and that’s okay.

My biggest problem with focusing on this criticism of the series, however, is the assumption that a woman who is not sexually active is asexual or somehow abnormal. I am 27 years old and I have not had sex in five years. Furthermore, I’ve only kissed five people, ever. I am not asexual. I’m just not interested in sharing my body with someone with whom I see no future. I once let a man in a bar kiss me, with tongue, when I’d just met him that night. It makes me uncomfortable even remembering that, because physicality without an emotional connection just doesn’t do it for me. Different women have different needs and it’s just as offensive to shame a woman for not being sexually active as it is to call another a slut.

Fifty Shades of Grey is only popular, because the hero is rich.

While Christian Grey sure isn’t my dreamboat, I can tell you that in the current dating pool of grown men with flat-billed caps and job titles as specific as “n/a,” it’s not so far-fetched to think that, perhaps, it would be easier to repair deep-seated emotional scarring than to motivate a man to get his shit together. Regardless, I’m not convinced that the ability to “buy all the planes” is what appeals to the Fifty Shades of Grey target audience, particularly the over 30 bracket. This article actually suggests a somewhat circular logic: women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey, because women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Finally, a woman with traditional goals (marriage, children, an optional career) can come out and say…

No longer is it only Carrie Bradshaw that gets to talk dirty, but housewives too!

As a librarian, part of my job is analyzing literary trends. This is why I am particularly aware of the rise of the billionaire romance novel. Along with Christian Grey, in the last few years we’ve been introduced to Gideon Cross, Gabriel Emerson, Jesse Ward, and many other laughably wealthy and emotionally damaged heroes. However, long before well-worn copies of Fifty Shades of Grey hit nightstands all over the world, we met the heroes in these series: Rock Chick, KGI, Black Dagger Brotherhood, Psy-Changelings, Immortals After Dark, and The Sookie Stackhouse Novels. Every title listed stars leading men who are borderline abusive and financially set. That describes most contemporary, paranormal, and historical romance. This shit ain’t new. Not only does the insistence that this book simply broke new ground with an abusive megabajillionaire give the title far too much credit, it also implies that all women who enjoy romance are gold digging whores. That’s just not nice.

Note: I have been known to declare that I’d let a man string me from the ceiling and whip me if he’d pay off my student loans, but I am hardly the standard by which all women should be measured.

Fifty Shades of Grey is responsible for sex injuries.

This article and many, many more suggest that the rise in bedroom play injuries is the fault of Fifty Shades of Grey. Maybe it’s the researcher in me, but…. I call bullshit. You are an adult. You likely have a smartphone on you at all times, meaning you literally have endless information at your fingertips. If you are stupid enough to purchase a spreader bar and use a trashy novel for a user manual, you are the only one to blame for the broken spine. Have some faith that the majority of women are intelligent enough to manage a Google search, y’all.

I can say a lot of bad things about Fifty Shades of Grey. A lot of writers can. I mean, two twenty-somethings e-mailing each other? What is this, Amish country? Between Ana’s “inner goddess” and Christian’s “laters baby” this librarian actually fell out of love with reading for a few days. I love when women ask me to suggest titles “like Fifty Shades of Grey,” because it gives me the opportunity to introduce them to much better written erotica. Perhaps I can get them started on Kristen Ashley’s special-ops-saves girl books. Maybe I can send them back in time with one of Karen Marie Moning’s sexy highlanders. I can even show them more plot-light erotica, but with with steamier scenes that don’t read like a child reporting her molestation – “Then he touched me… down there!” You know what I won’t do, though? Insult them.