Monday, 27 July 2015

In Defense of Molly Weasley: The Oft Forgotten Heroine of the Potterverse

As a lifelong Potterhead, I've read the entire Harry Potter series several times now, and I love being able to find something new about the characters each time I revisit them. Every time I reread the novels it's like coming home to a set of people who know and love you, and can't wait to make you feel welcome again. But now that the series is over, all the pieces are in place, and there's more time for reflection of the story's major themes and players, I've been bummed to see that Molly Weasley often gets overlooked in the lists of significant actors, and I want to take some time to point out why we all suck for disregarding her contributions.

Molly Weasely is a witch, homemaker, and mother of seven children. She consistently finds a way to provide for them on her husband's meager income plus a little clever magic and she never complains. She loves them fiercely and worries as any mother would. But she's also a fierce warrior who made a significant contribution to the downfall of the Dark Lord that I think gets overlooked too often: She gave Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived, a place he could call home.

It's often very au courant in feminism to discount housewives as not making a significant contribution to the world and I can admit that I am sometimes guilty of that too. But rearing children is important work, and nurturing the hearts and minds of the tiny people who will later grow up to be contributing members of society isn't something to be taken lightly. I think this fact is especially significant in the Potterverse as it is Molly's warmth and love that help ground Harry as he battles his darkest demons, and tries to find his place within a larger magical plot that was set in motion the night his parents died.

In many ways, it is just as much Molly's mothering instincts as Dumbledore's council that sets Harry on the path of redemption as The Chosen One. On that first day boarding the Hogwarts Express on Platform 9 3/4, despite having four boys of her own currently enrolled, Molly makes Harry feel welcome and ushers him through his first solo encounter with magic. Over the years she sends him handmade sweaters catered to his likes and interests, and never forgets a Christmas or birthday. Picking up on the Dursleys' neglect, she invites him over to stay at the Burrow for weeks at a time every year, feeding him and providing for him out of the scant resources available to her own family. She mothers him and loves because she knows that he needs it, sometimes against his wishes. She sacrifices her own sense of safety to make sure that he is safe and cared for. And that doesn't even comes close to the fact that she raised seven children who were loyal and brave, all of whom came back to help him fight Lord Voldemort when the night was darkest. She killed one of his most loyal followers. She lost a son in his war.

Molly Weasley didn't have to give Harry anything, but she gave him everything anyway and lived to be the matriarch of a wide and happy family, safe from the threats that she had faced twice in one lifetime. She gave Harry a mother he could always come home to, and in that way, she's just as important as The Boy Who Lived.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road And The Great Feminism Debate

After all the hoopla, debate, and thinkpieces, I finally saw Mad Max: Fury Road last night and it did not disappoint. The movie was a masterpiece of the senses and totally overwhelmed me with how engaging it was on all fronts. By about 15 minutes in I was at the edge of my seat whispering "this is amazing. This is AMAZING!" to myself. Basically, I loved it. I'm listening to the soundtrack as I type this.

But aside from its prestige, the other reason this film has been generating so much press is because of its overt feminist themes. Early reviews praised it for it's feminism, and MRAs called for a boycott. The director George Miller noted that he hadn't set out to make a feminist film, but things had unfolded that way organically as the story progressed:
"There wasn't a feminist agenda... The thing people were chasing was to be not an object, but the five wives. I needed a warrior. But it couldn't be a man taking five wives from another man. That's an entirely different story. So everything grew out of that."

Additionally, much ado was made of the fact that feminist playwright, Eve Ensler was a consultant on set to talk about her work in the Congo. That in itself gave me reason to doubt the film's growing feminist cred be honest. Eve Ensler does not have the best track record of inclusion and her "work" in the Congo specifically was insensitive and reprehensible.

So what do I think now that I've seen it for myself?

Monday, 1 June 2015

Millennial: (Re)Define Your Line

Screencap from Millennial Podcast

It's the 1st of June. On the 11th, I'll be 25. That's a big deal to me.

Twenty-five has always been my "big number." I'm not sure why, but that was the number I had in my head that signified proper adulthood. It was the age at which I assumed I would emerge, fully formed, as a brilliant, capable and functional member of society, dutifully trekking along the path to my dreams.

But.... I think I'm starting to realize I don't actually know what my dreams are anymore.

Last week, completely by chance, I stumbled upon the link to the new podcast Millennial by Megan Tan. As of right now, there are four episodes available and I swallowed them whole. In a little over an hour, Tan takes you from her graduation to the transition to post grad millennial life, to realizing that her childhood was in fact over, to moving in with her boyfriend, to her job as a waitress, to her decision to start the podcast, to the lethargy of feeling stuck, to the realization that the only way to get stuff done is to got out and do it. 

In episode #2, Living On The Line, Tan discusses the need to find the line that takes you to where you want to be in life and stick to it; but before you can follow your line, you have to define it. That really resonated with me. It made me think of something that I always say when conversations about women "having it all" come up: You get to define what "all" means to you. And then you get to go get it. I have to define my line.

When I started college, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be a fashion and celebrity photographer, routinely published in all the great magazines. I wanted to write and see my words printed on glossy paper and my name in the masthead. I wanted to work in magazines. I was clear on that. It was all I wanted in the world, and while I was in college, I took measurable steps towards achieving it.

Now I'm not so sure.

Working in magazines is still something that I desperately want. When I first got back, I sent out resum├ęs to all the local magazines, I offered to intern for free and I started freelancing. I did everything I could think of to try to jumpstart my glossy paper dreams. But after a couple years of stagnating and realizing that there simply wasn't a huge fashion market in Trinidad, I started to become disillusioned. I started thinking that I'd never have the chance to see my name printed on a masthead, and I started slowly chipping away at my dreams; diminishing my expectations for myself.

Now I'm nearly 25. I'm almost supposed to be a brilliant, dazzling magazine editor for whom the novelty of a masthead has worn off. But I'm not. And I've come to terms with the fact that the plan I thought I had for myself isn't what I'm going to get in this life. But it doesn't mean that my dreams aren't achievable. It just means I have to redefine my line.

Over the last two years I've managed to gather a little following online for my writing and essays on feminism. I'm not amazing and I'm certainly no authority on anything but my own experience, but I know enough to write confidently about the things I care about and have people listen. I've had my work published in a few places that I admire. I was invited to speak at a conference (though sadly I had to turn it down). I've made some strides. Not huge strides. Not amazing strides. But strides that tell me that I'm going somewhere, even if I hadn't yet figured out where that was. After listening to the podcast, I think I know where I'm going now, and I want to redefine my line.

My professional goal is to be a feminist writer and critic. I want to be paid to discuss and dissect pop culture and media from a feminist perspective. I do it here on this blog all the time, and it turns out, I don't suck at it. I want my words to mean something and I want to use them to help effect change. Maybe someday I'll write a book. Who knows?

My line is writing. As much as I love photography and plan to continue shooting, writing is what I truly feel compelled to do. So now that I've defined my line, I can make a plan. This month I'm going to make it a priority to start pitching and to get paid for publishing at least one piece. I'm going to submit to publications where I think my voice would be a good fit. And I'm going to apply to the Buzzfeed Writer's Fellowship. I'm going to start taking measurable steps to get to where I want to be.

I think I've found my line.