quotes · Quotes · Theories

The Problem With Gender

The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be, rather than recognising how we are.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, ‘We Should All Be Feminists’

So, I took this gender test to understand how I measure up on the gender scale. This is how the test is explained:

‘Drawing on the work of Dr. Sandra Lipsitz Bem, this test classifies your personality as masculine or feminine. Though gender stereotyping is controversial, it is important to note that Bem’s work has been tested in several countries and has repeatedly been shown to have high levels of validity and test-retest reliability. The test exclusively tests for immanent conceptions of gender (meaning that it doesn’t theorize about whether gender roles are biological, cultural, or both). Consequently, the test has been used both by feminists as an instrument of cultural criticism and by gender traditionalists who seek to confirm that gender roles are natural and heritable.’

According to the test, I am:

gender test

53% masculine (average) and 31% feminine (low). It measures traits on a scale (strongly disagree/disagree/neutral/agree/strongly agree). Traits include: individualistic, yielding, ambitious, polite, mild, ambitious, analytical, willing to take a stand, compassionate, etc. It’s so strange considering most of these traits are attributable to both men and women or more accurately: to human beings. We all contain these traits, the degree to which we possess these traits differs from one individual to another individual and I don’t believe that the determining factor is our gender.

I don’t know about you but many of us have felt the societal and cultural pressures to act in a certain way that is described to be as feminine from our elders. Being a tomboy growing up and completely lacking any social skills whatsoever, I really struggled with this. I was neither polite, friendly, warm but more so wacky, nerdy and, to put it plainly, perhaps a dash of weird too. I longed for heroine’s in books that I could relate to and thanks to YA Fantasy and general fantasy fiction, I now do. I do still feel out of place when I’m in a group that consists of women because you’re expected to bend to the will of societal norms which do not come naturally to me. Ironically, these same traits that we love in real life are the ones we despise in literature e.g. Sansa Stark (whom, by the way, I absolutely love). Having said that, I do feel society, and I too, has progressed in a way that allows me to be myself a little more confidently. We are seeing women in traditionally ‘masculine’ roles and vice versa. It’s a gradual process that will take a long time, but we are getting there in some ways.

I wanted to find out what ideologies we’re passing on to the next generation so I asked my 8-year-old cousin sister what she believes is the role of the woman and man and this is what she had to say:

(For women)

What they should do: ‘They must be kind, wear makeup, be happy, be beautiful, look pretty because a girl always has to look pretty. Be friends with other people who are lonely.’

What they do: ‘They are quiet, do the housework, take care of little brothers and sisters, do the vacuuming. They cook a lot to make sure their family are eating.’

On career: ‘They should have jobs. Maybe they could work at a hair salon. They should get paid the same as men because it should be fair and equal, they cook a lot to make sure family is eating.’

(For men):

What they should do: ‘They should be a bit quiet because they shout a lot. Girls should relax, and boys should work because its normally the opposite. Girls should ‘change the tables around.’

What they do: ‘They’re noisy and girls aren’t. They play football a lot, PS4 and games on their phone a lot.’

On career: ‘He should work at a bike store or a tools shop. Girls could too but girls don’t know much about gadgets. Men should provide because men get a lot of money.’

Notice the differences? We have a long way to go.

 

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Book Reviews · Literature

The Other Boleyn Girl Book Review

Genre: Historical novel

Setting: 16th century England during Henry VIII’s reign

Pages: 661

Goodreads rating: 4.04

My rating: 4.3

Story: When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realises just how much she is a pawn in her family’s ambitious plots as the king’s interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king and take fate into her own hands.

A rich and compelling novel of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue, The Other Boleyn Girl introduces a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most exciting and glamourous court in Europe and survived by following her heart.

 Other_Boleyn_Girl

Let me just start by saying that I LOVED THIS BOOK! I know a book is good when I either can’t stop turning the pages or take my sweet time to read it because I do not want it to end. In this case, it was the latter. This was the first novel I read on the Plantagenets’ and being a huge lover of historical fiction and deeply intrigued by the enigmatic Anne Boleyn, its certainly made me want to read more about the Tudors. What better way to start than with Anne Boleyn, the most controversial of Henry VIII’s wives.

The story is told from the perspective of Mary Boleyn, the ‘forgotten sister.’ I didn’t know of Mary’s existence before this book nor know much of George’s other than being tried and executed for incest. Mary, at the start, is naïve, innocent and a pawn in the family’s ambitions and finishes by seizing and taking her happiness in her own hands whilst remaining pragmatic. It’s hard to not like her. Yes, even when she takes the king as her lover whilst remaining sympathetic and devoted in her heart to Queen Katherine. Ambition is the underlying motive of the courtiers and you cannot say Mary did not try to argue for her loyalty to Queen Katherine. Although, I do feel that if she was truly loyal she would have prevented herself from falling for the king (the least you can do).

Viewed from Mary’s lens we get to view Anne in a more intimate light. I’ve read online about how Anne is usually presented in either one of the two extremes. As I don’t know if I have seen a more balanced portrayal, I don’t have a framework to work with e.g. fanbases dedicated online to Anne Boleyn. Did I like Anne? No. Did I sympathise with her? No, not until the very end where you cannot help but sympathise with her and the mental torture she must have undergone. I mean, execution… really? If he can annul and exile Queen Katherine, why could he not do the same for Anne? The reason given was that Henry could not stand for Anne’s hatred if she were to be kept alive. I guess, that’s the price you pay for dogged ambition and ruthlessness. I sense karma at work. I feel bad for even saying this, to be honest. But you cannot deny the pain and suffering she inflicted on Queen Katherine whom I really admired for her dignity. When you assist in putting idea’s in a king’s head that divine law and king are one, you open the country to a reign of tyranny. And if you are not the king, do not expect that you will not suffer from that tyranny yourself. Anne failed to see the consequences of her actions.

I was near to delighted laughter because Katherine of Aragon was speaking out for the women of the country, for the good wives who should not be put aside just because their husbands had taken a fancy to another, for the women who walked the hard road between kitchen, bedroom, church and childbirth. For the women who deserved more than their husband’s whim.”

What I did admire about Anne was her unwillingness to put up with Henry’s crap because why should she? Perhaps, the way she went about it was not the most effective in the late stages of their marriage. He was no longer young to hold the energy required to deal with Anne’s temper. I was disappointed that Anne changed tack and decided to be more patient and tolerant with his ways. It was almost shredding whatever bit of self-respect she had left.

Anne Boleyn is portrayed as ruthless, manipulative, ambitious and determined. It seems ludicrous that Anne employed all the energy and charm she had to become Queen and in the end, it rested on her ability to provide a male heir. To lay your life on chance is highly risky for the prize of Queenship that she realised, once she became Queen, didn’t even make her happy.

Every bit of rumour and speculation surrounding Anne was thrown in good measure and that includes witchcraft and incest. It’s alluded to as a certainty in the novel which I don’t think was the right thing to do, a mere allusion would have sufficed for the sake of accuracy. I wonder what Henry would think if he were alive knowing that out of all his children, Elizabeth (A WOMAN) was actually the most successful of his children and probably one of the greatest monarchs England has ever had.

And don’t get me started on Jane Seymour. I know she’s presented as pure and good and a sympathiser of Queen Katherine. She may have been the opposite of Anne in terms of personality but she sure as hell did pretty much the same thing if we look at facts alone.

One thing I wish was included or at least alluded to was George Boleyn’s speech prior to his execution. As to George himself, he wrestles with, albeit weakly, following family ambitions and his own happiness. He’s presented in a more sympathetic light and I actually really liked his character and wished Gregory hadn’t presented the incest as a near certainty which the film did not follow (thank God!). Nonetheless, Mary is by far my favourite Boleyn. She’s perhaps the sanest of the three… and in the family. She’s the Sansa Stark of her siblings. But I have to admit, if the story rested solely on Mary it wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting. When you read a book on the Boleyn’s, you want to read about THE Anne Boleyn!

natalie-portman-anne-boleyn-the-other-boleyn-girl.jpg

Other than that, I loved the way this was written. The language and dialogue was easy to follow and contained some heavy foreshadowing which I enjoyed.

What I learned from this book is that do not lay important things e.g. your LIFE, on chance. Think about the long-term consequences of your actions, adopt better methods than throwing tantrums by reading the person whom you’re experiencing difficulties with. What you do, comes back to you. When you try to create a new world, and give someone the tools to do it, don’t forget you’ve handed over the tools and thus you are no longer exempt from being damaged by the tools. Overall, I really enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl which you can purchase here. I have now added The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter to my Goodread’s bookshelf.

“She did not want George to know how deep this canker of ambition had spread inside her. She did not want him to know that she was not his beloved little sister any more but a woman who had learned to throw everything, even her mortal soul, into the battle to become queen.”

That’s enough from me now, thank you for reading and let me know your opinion on the Boleyns! You can check out my other reviews (Into The Water, The Impossible Fortress) here.

feminism

The New Sexy by Emilia Clarke

My life has been shaped by a true sense of equality; it was never an overt “for crying out loud Emilia is just as capable as her brother!” it was simply etched into every action, choice, and behaviour of my family.

It was a recognised matter of fact that I, as a woman, was no different to my brother. Just as my mum was no different from my father in their careers, therefore I was raised in an equal earning, equally managed household that showed me anything a man could do, a woman could and should do too.

So I grew up with a voice, but it was not a shared voice of a generation, and it was only much later I realised what an incredible, feminist, start to life I had been given.

In the last few months we have all witnessed a major shift in the way women are collectively making their voices heard. The Women’s March on 21 January gathered more than five million people throughout the world – giving us all the lead to see what we can do to make this a change that’s here to stay.

Now I don’t know about you, but there are days where I feel like a guilty feminist. What am I actually doing every day to stand up for women’s rights? My personal experiences, and my understanding of the bigger issues of inequality, aren’t enough. What can I take part in, against hate and oppression, to ensure that the women’s movement continues, and strengthens and grows?

– ADVERTISEMENT –

And so guest editing the All Women Everywhere edition of The Huffington Post UK is not a task I take lightly.

As my best friend would put it, I am a girl-boss, and I am in an industry where if I speak out against inequality I have a platform, and might be lucky enough to have a chance of being heard. The roles I’ve played have given me an insight into what it feels like to be a woman who stands up to inequality and hate, and stands out as a feminist.

That aside, it hasn’t stopped me from walking away from situations and people who have assumed I am weak because I’m a woman; it has forced me to stand by my actions and be ok with the consequences.

Do I get treated equally at work? Not always. Does every woman? No, and the statistics back that up. Do I get asked questions at press junkets by men and women alike, specifically because they will get headline grabbing responses coming from a young woman? Yes.

If you’ve watched Game of Thrones then, spoiler, you will have seen me in the nude. There are plenty of ways in which people want me to respond to questions about this fact. And plenty of reasons why I do not feel the need to justify myself.

I believe we all have the opportunity to stand up as women in our ordinary everyday lives. I believe that we all have the power to replace hate with justice, open-heartedness and kindness.

This doesn’t have to be a seismic change that we all have to learn. I believe we, as humans, (gender aside for a moment) have the opportunity to combat hate because of the way we behave towards one another. Not just during seminal moments, but during our everyday, ordinary ones too.

I believe we can start with kindness.

Kindness. I know, It’s a pretty un-cool word isn’t it? But its results are cool. They are immediate and they are real. One act of kindness can take your day from bearable to enjoyable in a heartbeat. Because being kind is showing someone that they are seen and heard, and that they do indeed matter. And that’s sexy.

For example, having the confidence to look someone in the eye, and speak to them as an equal, regardless of their gender, race or sexuality – that is kind. It is a small gesture towards showing that person that they are acknowledged. Imagine, just for a moment, that we all strive to be kinder to one another on a small, day by day, sincere level, wouldn’t that actually feel really incredible?

I believe that one woman’s success, is every woman’s gain. I believe that it is every woman’s choice to be able to live her life how she sees fit… that all of us are girl-bosses and the power of the girl-boss is that we care a bit more about those around us.

Little small acts of kindness can add up to a big movement. On this International Women’s Day I am not proposing a big idea, I will leave that to the leaders and politicians; instead I propose that each and every one of us start to re-energise our kindness gene, give it power and share it with each other, with our sisters and brothers.

As I read recently, kindness is sexy, it’s good for us, it makes us feel happy and valued. Positive action starts with small individual deeds that accumulate over time and become a movement… a movement toward a more equal society where kindness anchors our feet to the ground while giving us the momentum to keep chipping away together.

With my voice, I hope the feminist mind set my family instilled in me becomes the new normal, and boys and girls are raised to know they are equal.

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Thanks for reading. I know this is something different but I read this a few weeks ago on HuffPost and I was struck by Emilia’s simple message of kindness. Not just the big acts of kindness but being kind in your every day life through your interaction with others. I didn’t know much about Emilia before other than that she came across as very bubbly and positive. To read about her motivations and the reason behind how she is put a new light on her for me. I don’t know about you but I struggle with being kind every day. One thing that does help me, when I do employ conscientiousness, is focusing on the fact that they may not be aware of how they’re coming across or they might be having a bad day because I know this can prevent me sometimes from being kind. Or to use a better word: empathy. Put myself in the others shoes and that usually helps. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did.

Literature

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words! All you have to do is answers the following three questions:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I saw this at Kristin Kraves Books. Be sure to check her out, she is fast becoming one of my favourite bloggers!

Currently reading:

 

I’m currently reading Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence. I’ve read about 68% of this book. Normally I love to read on paperback but I found this on iBooks for free (as most classics are) (paperback is still better). I’m half enjoying and half exasperated by this book because all the characters are thoroughly unlikeable. Except, perhaps, for Clara Dawes who seems much more mature than the rest of the characters. The other characters need to get it together. There is so much hypocrisy that the characters are unaware of, raging about things that they themselves do.

Finished Reading:

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. I finished reading this last Sunday. I won’t say much as I’ll be publishing a review this weekend. All I can say is that I absolutely loved it. This was the first fictional novel I read on The Tudors and what a way to start: with the enigmatic and divisive Anne Boleyn. I can’t wait to read Gregory’s other books now. If you know any good fictional books on Elizabeth I do get recommending!

Reading Next:

Next up to read is Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I’ve read about 50 or so pages already before book club announced that we would be reading The Other Boleyn Girl. From what I read, it was okay so far. The author hits home some hard truths or his truths in the earlier pages which I don’t necessarily think true. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book as there is a highly intriguing, perhaps a little bit of a crackpot, character that I want to know more about and will definitely take me on an adventure. I’m interested to know why there’s a an aura of danger surrounding certain characters.

And that’s it for now. I’ll be posting the review for The Other Boleyn Girl this weekend so make sure to check it out!

Sophia Ismaa

 

 

 

quotes · Theories

Aurelius In The Right – Our Opinions Are Not Facts

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

– Marcus Aurelius

This is one of my all-time favourite quotes.

You can’t tell me what to think! But we can debate accuracy and some things WILL seem more accurate. We cannot always find the truth but it’s nonetheless a lot of fun to seek the truth and the truth that is the most applicable and the best and most beautiful of all: LOGICAL.

Sophia Ismaa

Literature · quotes · Theories

We All Think We’re Dumbo

“I found myself remembering the day in kindergarten when the teachers showed us Dumbo: a Disney movie about a puny, weird-looking circus elephant that everyone made fun of. As the story unfolded, I realized to my amazement that all the kids in the class, even the bullies, the ones who despised and tormented the weak and the ugly, were rooting against Dumbo’s tormentors. Over and over they laughed and cheered, both when Dumbo succeeded and when bad things happened to the bullies. But they’re you, I thought to myself. How did they not know? They didn’t know. It was astounding, an astounding truth. Everyone thought they were Dumbo.”

-Elif Batuman, The Idiot

 

I remember reading this passage on social media. It struck me as to how true it is. We all think we’re the hero and those who have wronged us the bullies. I can’t say I don’t find myself doing this because I’m sure most of us do, at least once in our life.

Why is it that we do not see others as Dumbo? Or why is it that we are far more sympathetic to characters on screen than in real life? I think it’s because when we watch a film, we are granted access to that persons story, their thoughts and feelings. And when we’re granted such a large part of that, it makes it easier to feel empathy because the character will have experienced something we have ourselves. Whereas, in real life we are not always granted such a huge access to others minds and feelings, sometimes not even our own friends let alone strangers. Neither do we always have the time because like it or not we are living our own life first and foremost and not other people’s lives. It takes a lot of time, effort, energy and strength to invest in others and find out how they’re doing or what they’ve experienced from childhood to now. I think if we could do this and be more open about our own selves, then we’d be able to see others as Dumbo too and not just our own self.

P.s. I need to get a copy of this book someday.

 

Sophia Ismaa

Literature

Reread, Rewrite and Burn

Hello, everyone!

So, I’ve seen this circulating on WordPress and it looks like a lot of fun, so I thought I’d do it too. I nominate anyone interested… no, wait, I nominate every one of my followers! I apologise in advance for my poor positioning of the pictures, if you know how I can fix this then do let me know, thanks.

The Rules are:

  • Randomly choose three books for each group (I’m foraying into my Read list on Goodreads)
  • Choose which book to reread/rewrite/burn
  • Repeat rounds up to however many you’d like to do

Round One:

eaatbp

dp

Reread:

It has to be All the Bright Places. I would reread this book as many, many times as I could if I didn’t have over 900 books to be read remaining on my Goodreads shelf. I borrowed this book from the library at first and then I loved it so much and wanted to share it, so I went down to my local Waterstones and purchased a copy for my sister (and me). If I had to go on holiday and could only bring books that I’ve read before, this would definitely be one of the books. It’s won a permanent place in my own library. Finch is one of the few male characters I can relate to and he is going to stay forever with me. And Violet is just wonderful and lovely. This is a fantastic exploration of mental health in teenagers (bi-polar and PTSD) and even contains links and who to contact if you or a relative is experiencing mental health issues.

Rewrite:

Dark Places. No way in hell am I going to burn this. Gillian Flynn is one of my all-time favourite authors who knows how to write realistic and layered female characters. I will read whatever she writes. Libby is no charming heroine, she’s more the American version of Lisbeth Salander with very few, if any, morals. Pragmatic to the core though. Not very likeable to be honest but I liked her anyway. Her cynical mind and Lyle’s open-mindedness together make a great team to find out the actual facts concerning the deaths of Libby’s mother and sisters. I know everyone loves Gone Girl but for me but it kind of waned in the second half whereas Dark Places was more consistent in terms of pacing. I’m not sure how I would rewrite it though, perhaps I would add a backstory for Lyle because I really liked him.

Burn:

I actually liked Ella Enchanted! I don’t want to burn it but next to the other books, it doesn’t hold a candle unfortunately. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. Maybe, if I was 11 I would have probably swapped this with Dark Places because magic, optimism and adventure breathes on every page and it’s an excellent book for our young dreamers.

Round Two:

belovedtfafftmc


Reread:

Things Fall Apart. I read this book for English Literature in college and the language style was not particularly easy for me to read. So, you’re probably wondering why it’s not in the rewrite pile? Well, regardless of the way it was written I remember doing comprehension, essay questions and debating during class and I really enjoyed it because there were so many talking points, there was so much to debate. Pre-and post-colonial life in Nigeria was interesting to read about especially since I could bring in knowledge from other subjects as I was also studying British Raj in History and in book form you get to explore it from a Nigerian perspective. There were things I did not agree with regarding Nigerian customs and British Colonialism, both infuriated me. I think if I reread it now with a more mature and learned mind, I would be able to form a more refined and better-informed perspective.

Rewrite:

Beloved. This book had me questioning my intelligence and my reading ability because I was completely lost as to what was going on! Once I watched the film, I realised that I completely missed the point of what was going on and to be honest I didn’t really care much. I think it was written in a rather jumbled up manner and I would have liked some cohesion and further digging into the minds of the characters. Having said that, there were some intriguing and important points as to how slave mothers had to relinquish their maternal instincts and desires and I think that is one of the heart-breaking aspects of the slave trade. I can’t imagine what a haunting thing it was and while I condemn infanticide, I sympathised with Sethe and admired that she refused to conform no matter how practical it might have been.

Burn:

Far From the Madding Crowd. Yes, I know, Bathsheba is coooool. BUT, this is still your run-of-the-mill, traditional, dull AS romantic novel. There was nothing new or interesting to say. Not much to debate about or discuss, really. Just… meh. But, I don’t know, if you like classic romance novels, this might be for you. I’m not much of a romantic but this is definitely popular amongst those who love classical romance.

Round Three:

othello  tmtmora.jpg

Reread:

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Er, no question about it. Now that I know what happened and the twist that came at the end that I did not expect at all, I don’t think I could gather what I had just read… I had to reread it over and over again just to make sure. My mind went NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO :OOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! I mean, really? You’re really doing this? Way to subvert the tropes! And good. The shock factor alone is enough to secure a reread because I know if I reread this time, I will analyse it even more. I mean, Agatha Christie is one of my favourite authors and she became a favourite after having only read one book of hers which was And There Were None and she hardly disappoints.

Rewrite:

Othello. Yes, I would like a rewrite of Othello. Nothing really wrong with it but I’d love to see a modern retelling, by George R.R. Martin of course, although I’m guessing everyone would die at the end and maybe this time Iago should fittingly receive one in the manner of Littlefinger, *smiley face, smiley face. * I, also, studied this in college right after Things Fall Apart and Othello is by far my favourite work of Shakespeare. This really explores the depths of insecurity and envy and how easily it can be fed on and the horrific effects of it. Envy is the deadliest sin in my humble opinion. I would love to read Hamlet and Macbeth one day but again a modern retelling instead as for the layman like me, Shakespeare can be quite difficult to read.

Burn:

The Moonstone. I read the Woman In White first and I absolutely loved it despite the big reveal being underwhelming to a more modern standard, it didn’t serve the quite shock factor that it would have back then. So, I went into The Moonstone with huge expectations which was stupid, but I doubt I would have been impressed anyway if I didn’t have any expectations. The romance was incredibly dull and the characters unlikeable and overall, I just remember finishing it and being wistful of the precious time I lost on it. I can’t remember what it was about much, to be honest, the moonstone goes missing or is stolen and then everyone becomes implicated. Something like that anyway.


And that’s it. I invite you all to do the challenge and tag me if you’ve also chosen a few of the same books I have done here.

You know what, I’m going to tag a few fellow bookworms:

AwesomeBooksToday

Books, Books and More Books!

Aquibview

420 ways to reach the sun

Additionally, I’m currently reading The Other Boleyn Girl, Sons and Lovers and I’ve read 2/10th of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And it’s 2/10th because I had to read My Cousin Rachel and The Other Boleyn Girl for book club. Anyway, that’s all for now. See you next time!

Sophia Ismaa