Monday, January 22, 2018

Non-Fiction Review: The Secret Loves of Geek Girls

I'm gonna try and do a new kind of review for this. Let's see how it turns out.

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls edited by Hope Nicholson

Published: Originally released December 9th, 2015, this expanded edition was released October 18th, 2016 by Dark Horse Books.
Genre: Non-Fiction Anthology
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 278
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The Secret Loves of Geek Girls is a non-fiction anthology mixing prose, comics, and illustrated stories on the lives and loves of an amazing cast of female creators. Featuring work by Margaret Atwood (The Heart Goes Last), Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer), Trina Robbins (Wonder Woman), Marguerite Bennett (Marvel's A-Force), Noelle Stevenson (Nimona), Marjorie Liu (Monstress), Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), and over fifty more creators. It's a compilation of tales told from both sides of the tables: from the fans who love video games, comics, and sci-fi to those that work behind the scenes: creators and industry insiders.

Review: Some of this I really liked, and some I hated. Perils of an anthology, I guess. One of the things I thought was most interesting about this was because a lot of the contributors are Canadian, it goes more into fandom history in Canada, and that's something I don't read about as much, but find very interesting.

Let's talk about things I didn't like first, though, and we'll go one at a time.

First of all is much of "How Fanfiction Made Me Gay" by J. M. Frey, which you can read a version of here. It has been updated for this edition.

Click to enlarge the photos in this tab, or open them in a new tab. The part I would like to point out is:
When we are becoming women we all want, and we all want to be wanted, but we don’t know how to go about getting it.
Yeah, how about no. Ace and aro women and girls exist. This erasal is not cool. Not all girls and women feel desire, sexual or romantic, and not all girls and women want to be desired.

This picture is giant, apologies. Pertinent line:
And through fanfiction I learned about identities like transgendered, genderfluid, and demisexual.
That should have been fixed in editing. This edition was edited and expanded from previous ones. That should have been taken out. Also, demisexual is not a gender thing, so this is kind of just messy in general. This essay has, in fact, been edited. And I want to show how it has been edited.

The previous version:

The expanded edition version:

For those not in the know, a demisexual is someone who only (or mostly) experiences sexual desire toward someone with whom they hold a deep intellectual and emotional attachment, and is in reference to the physical side of attraction. A biromantic is someone who usually experiences and engages in romantic relationships with both men and women (cis or trans), and deals with the emotional side of attraction.
I'm not going to say that the author of this essay can't identify however they want, and use whatever definition they want. The problem is, the author of this essay is stating that these things are true for everyone who identifies with these labels, and that... is a problem.

One, you can be biromantic or bisexual without ever being in a relationship. Relationships do not orientation make. Two, bi does not mean "men and women". It means "two or more". This erases nonbinary people so much, and erases bi people who aren't attracted to men, or who aren't attracted to women, or who aren't attracted to either.

Third... why the "cis or trans" separation? Trans men are men. Trans women are women. (Thanks Luci.)

Next up, Bemused by Roberta Gregory:

This uses an outdated term for a trans person, and misgenders them by using the wrong pronouns. While the context of the panel takes place in the early 80s, the 2016 editing should have removed this, in my opinion.

From "Yes, No, Maybe" by Megan Kearney. Demisexuality is defined as a lack of "sexual or romantic attraction except in the case of a strong emotional connection with a specific partner".

See a little problem here? DemiSEXUALITY is a lack of ROMANTIC attraction?

Yeaaaah, no.

The last essay I will talk about specifically is "Rise of the Late Bloomer" by Hope Nicholson, specifically:

Apologies that this is slightly blurry. The light was going because I live in Canada and it's winter. We'll go piece by piece, though.

I ended up hanging out with gay men, and women who didn't date. I wonder now if these women were like me and were late bloomers, or whether they were just very discreet in their love affairs. Either way, I never heard about their romantic encounters and it made me feel more at ease.

Was I queer? I had lots of crushes on men both real and fictional, but I never felt any similar type of obsession for women, so that seemed unlikely.
As Luci (again) says, same gender attraction is not a requirement for queerness. And attraction does not have to be the same for every gender you're attracted to. Ignoring the "plump" part because wow do I not have the energy to go there, next:
Was I asexual? I hadn't been romantically involved with anyone, but the thought of being without sex for my entire life left me feeling panicked, not relieved.
Romantic involvement is behaviour. Behaviour does not dictate orientation. Romantic anything doesn't dictate sexual orientation. Asexual people can have sex. Some asexual people do have sex. Some asexual people have high sex drives.

These two are my least favourite essays, and "Rise of the Late Bloomer" really shows one of my biggest problems with the anthology, and that is that aromantic people are completely ignored. And I realize people are going to be like "Well, what did you expect from an anthology about love?" and um. Queerplatonic relationships. What it's like to grow up in a world that expects you to feel romantic attraction. Many essays and comics in this anthology aren't necessarily about relationships that are magic and last forever - what about romantic relationships that led a person to realize they're aromantic? Marjorie Liu's "Ghost" is about the after effects of abuse, for instance. There was room.

This story in particular completely ignores the existence of aromantic people, and since this story is by the editor of the anthology, I think that is reflected in the rest of it. There are very few mentions of aromanticism, and they are all fleeting at best. Sometimes, like in "How Fanfiction Made Me Gay", it's glaringly looked over. This is very much an oversight of the anthology. I love that demisexual and ace authors were included, but the lack of aro authors is incredibly disappointing. And "Rise of the Late Bloomer" really makes me think that the editor was not equipped to deal with asexual or aromantic identities in a way that would prevent harm.

I also wish nonbinary people hadn't been erased so much. There's a handful of phrase like "opposite sex" and "men and women" in different stories and anthologies. And I think that not including someone who's nonbinary but also identifies as a girl at times is kind of an oversight. Like demi-girls, or a genderfluid person.

I liked a lot of this. There's stuff from people I like, and the combination of essays and graphic media is awesome. Some of the things included I absolutely loved. Besides the complete lack of aro inclusion, it is mostly pretty diverse. Reading about this kind of history is really interesting, and I see a lot of my own experiences reflected in the fandom stuff. The "guide to online dating" did like nothing for me, to be honest, but other pieces I thought were great.

Again, there was a lot of this I enjoyed. There was enough I enjoyed that it just makes me sad that I really hate that there was so much that I disliked so much, and so much that actually felt harmful or offfensive. I wanted to enjoy this so much more, but then I read it, and it erased my existence and made me feel very excluded. Three out of five for the parts I did like.

Peace and cookies,

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