I’m not one for superhero movies or for action movies in general. I find them boring, shallow and so unnecessarily gendered that they never keep my attention. They cater to the male gaze, they’re full of hyper-masculinity, and the few female characters in them tend to be superficially developed. I never really expected to change my mind on the topic. But then the new Wonder Woman movie came out, and I heard so many great thing about it, that I actually found myself getting excited to see it. Over on The Attic, our Feminism Editor Amy wrote an article on her experience seeing the film, sharing all the great things about it, and I convinced myself that it was going to be great.
It was. Everything I’d heard (and everything Amy said) was true – Diana, Wonder Woman herself, was a nicely developed character: recognizable and relatable as a person; the film catered to the female gaze; the dialogue was mostly intelligent; it had funny moments and sad moments; it gave importance to feeling, etc. etc. Basically, it had everything that I should have liked. Yet, I found myself sitting there stone faced through most of the film. I objectively appreciated most of the things about the film, but emotionally, I wasn’t moved, and subconsciously, I found myself getting angry.
I’ve let myself stew for a couple of hours, and I’ve decided that I’m sad that this supposedly great, feminist, breakthrough film is still at the hands of the cultural trifecta of greatness that defines the West… and well, that the film wasn’t as flawlessly feminist as it could have been (even if that was always going to be the case).
I'm back! I spent this weekend attending family events celebrating a branch of A's family. The main event was yesterday and brought around 150 (out of 250 invitees) together. It was quite possibly the single largest gathering I've ever taken part in and definitely the largest family reunion I've seen. My grandparents threw big family reunions together to celebrate my grandpa's 70th birthday in 1998 and their 50th wedding anniversary in 2002, but even those maybe only brought 20-25 people together. This was something else entirely.
(Keep Reading for pictures of the closest thing you'll get to me frolicking in the countryside. Also me being sentimental.)
Things have been quiet here lately, and that's because for the past six months, I've been developing a new website with seven of my favorite ladies. Open to covering anything by or concerning women, The Attic on Eight is dedicated to Literature, Culture, Food, Drink, Home, Family, Feminism, Politics, Fashion, and Beauty. We have an advice column, a love for cocktails, coffee, political rants, and a tendency to read a lot, so you're sure to find a post that speaks to you. The website means to have one eye on feminism at all times and is a very important outlet for all of us. I'm proud to have helped launch this project and I feel very lucky to have done so with my very dear friends.
The Attic on Eighth has been running for a couple of weeks now, with almost fifty posts in its archive already, and very soon, we will be opening up to contributions. So please keep an eye out for us, as we keep an eye out for you. We want to feature all kinds of different women and cover all kinds of different material, so I hope we can work together in the future.
Though I've been quiet over the past few months, this doesn't mean that I will be giving up this blog. Most of my literature and culture related pieces will now be posted over there, and some of my baking pieces have been moved as well. (You may have noticed my Roxane Gay piece and my coffee-infused chocolate crinkle cookies are already on the Attic.) I hope to continue sharing more personal and travel pieces on here.
Thank you for sticking with me over all these years, here and on tumblr, and I hope to see you come along on this new journey as well!!
I picked up E.M. Delafield's Consequences when I was last in London. The Persephone blurb on the shelf promised a story about a young woman who failed to conform to expectations at the end of the Victorian period, and that alone was enough for me to pick the book off the shelf. Domesticity and femininity are my bread and butter, and there was no way I was passing that up.
Baking's my favorite thing to do at the moment, and as I've been feeling under the weather the last two weeks or so, I've been craving a lot of citrus lately. I wanted something that was actually sour rather than just slightly-lemon flavored and sweet, so when I found Deb Perelman's adaptable "lemon yogurt anything" 2008 Smitten Kitchen recipe, I got really excited. I made the cake last Thursday, and I was pleasantly surprised with just how sour my take on the cake turned out to be after I upped the lemon quantities! Deb also made the cake with blueberries, and I stayed away because they would be too sweet (though I normally love blueberries!) and settled on mixed berries instead. Thankfully, I found a pack of frozen cranberries, raspberries, mulberries, and blueberries that /weren't/ sweetened, and they were perfect. (I actually prefer cooking with frozen berries because 1) they're more accessible in Switzerland, and 2) they don't break apart as easily when mixed into batter.)
Extra plus to this cake: it's made with yogurt and olive oil, so even my "I won't touch anything with butter" mother who hates when I bake because she has no sweet tooth... actually loved this cake and asked me to never bake anything else again.
My take on the recipe is below the cut. I loved it so much that when I came down with another but different bout of the flu this week, I made the cake again.
I've been lugging The Charlotte Perkins Gilman Reader around the last few weeks, and it's amazing. I've also been reading the Oxford Classics collection of her short stories, but all the best ones are in the Reader.
I already rambled a bit about discovering Gilman (here) , but seriously I have a lot of feelings on the topic. I like to think we pick up the things we do when it's right time for us to do so, but I am a bit sad that I didn't discover Gilman sooner. That being said, this /is/ the right time for me. I want to use her writing in my MA work, and this is also the time for me to start thinking of putting PhD proposals together. So, meant to be? Maybe.
In any case, Gilman's fantastic. I've also been reading her Women and Economics and, though it's quite racist, it's an interesting look into her (obviously very first wave) feminism. She applies a lot of it to her short stories (thankfully, without references to "savages" on every other page) and I feel it comes across more strongly in her fiction. Her theory hasn't aged well, but her fiction has. I mean one short story I read had a woman who marries late because she got a PhD and spent time in academia (in 1911!), another had a woman who runs away from home to become a doctor. Most of them have women helping women and setting up lives without men. It's all inspiring and forward for the era, and I absolutely love reading them. Mostly, I love feeling really excited over literature again!
Here's to hoping the rest of the short stories in the Oxford collection that I haven't read yet prove to be as great!
This week's been quite the long one with quite a few little blue spirals, so I think it's time to make another list of little things that have made me happy over the last few days:
This post can now be found, modified, at The Attic on Eighth.
I've had In Other Words sitting on my dresser since April. Having loved Jhumpa Lahiri's work ever since we studied The Namesake in high school, I picked up the book the second I saw it... Why I didn't read it before now is beyond me, but I'm glad that I've finally done so.
My favorite thing about Lahiri's writing is that she understands the cultural split that defines my life. Born to Indian parents from Calcutta and raised in the US, she is open about feeling alienated from every culture she's belonged to. This makes its way into most of her writing, and I have always been grateful for it. My cultural alienation has different origins –– Turkish mother, American father, French education –– but it is very much the same. I don't feel fully at home in any of my childhood cultures, and that feeling is alienating in a way that never goes away. You grow up and create your own culture, but you always feel your lack of roots. Lahiri fights this in In Other Words by discussing how she's adopted a third language, a third culture, and that spoke to me even more, making me think of how I've tried to make my home in a fourth, in Switzerland.
Personal feeling aside, In Other Words is a fascinating, moving read on Lahiri's journey through the Italian language. In a series of essays, it follows her from her first trip to Italy to her decision to relocate and willingly step away from the English language in order to connect to a tongue she chooses and loves. Though decidedly different from her fiction and written in another language, it still reads in her marked voice –– fluidly and personally. I read the book in three short sittings and felt rejuvenated after doing so. I've been a bit down this week, and reading an effortless but powerful book made a difference.
You can find a few passages that spoke to me in my tumblr tag for the book, here. Though I've read The Namesake and Lahiri's two short story collections many times, I still haven't gotten to reading The Lowland. I think that's going to change very soon...
This has been a somewhat odd, transitional week. Classes haven't started yet, but I started working for the semester (though I haven't had any students). Friends are around, but one's been stuck at home with back pain, and I came down with a stomach bug. I felt like embracing Valentine's Day for the first time, but A's been in England all week. It's suddenly warm out, but I've been sneezing a lot.
As a result, I haven't been the most productive. I wanted to get a decent amount of thesis reading done before classes start on Monday, but I celebrated Galentine's instead on Tuesday and then got sick, and reading theory isn't great when you're constantly queazy. I'm trying to not beat myself up over it, but I also feel like I've had enough down time and am ready to get back to business. Yet, I haven't really been having down time, either. I've been thinking about all I've read in the last week... and I've been re-reading one of my main authors' novels. I just haven't been reading the texts I set out for this week.
Productivity blues are weird to deal with, though. Unless we're writing or getting through lots of reading material, it can feel, as academics, that we're not producing much. Yet, so much of our work happens in our heads. Thinking is producing, and so often we forget that that too is something valuable. I need time to mull things over, to make sense of what I've read and to allow connections to be made as I process things after I'm immediately done with them. So I'm trying now to part with the "must! be! productive!" mindset where I get upset over the lack of concrete material. Lack of time to think and process last year helped lead to the Great Burn Out of 2016, and that's not a place I'd like to go back to.
I talked about this with my supervisor a couple of months back, and clearly, this is something that persists. So how do you deal with it? How do you squash the stubborn guilt?
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I'm Olivia, a twenty-six year old grad student studying in Switzerland. This is where I share my thoughts on the academic journey, culture, travels, baking, and my daily life abroad. Read More.