Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Heroine’s Journey

strong woman

Last weekend I attended Norwescon, a local convention for fans of science fiction and fantasy. It was the first time I’d been to something like this, and I had an incredible weekend.

One of the best panels I attended was on “The Heroine’s Journey.” I’ve spent the last several years thinking about stories and story structure, specifically women’s stories, so I was curious to hear what the panelists thought about the heroine’s journey.([ref] I want to make clear that I’m talking about people who are socialized as female in Western culture. I also think there is a need to include queer and trans folks in this discussion. [/ref] [ref] Panelists: Nisi Shawl (M), Susan DeFreitas, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Karen Kincy, Stina Leicht, Cassandra Clarke[/ref] [ref] Why I Hate Strong Female Characters[/ref])

They started with a discussion about the hero’s journey (aka “monomyth”), which has been well documented by Joseph Campbell and others. From there, the discussion went into how the heroine’s journey and experience differed from the hero’s. Here are the primary points I took away:

  • The hero is externally focused.
  • He rises to meet an external challenge or “call to adventure,” through which he proves himself.
  • He returns home at the end of the story, changed and stronger than when he left.

For the heroine, these were the main themes I took away:

  • The heroine is embodied. She has physical experiences that inform who she is (e.g. menstruation, pregnancy). This resonates strongly for me, but what does it mean for people who can’t menstruate/get pregnant (i.e. not limited to but definitely including queer and trans folks)?
  • The heroine knows herself in relation to others. She is often defined bye her relation to others.
  • The heroine is told to hide or suppress her power in order to make others (i.e. men) comfortable and/or to feel powerful (e.g. Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie or Samantha in Bewitched.
  • The heroine’s journey is generally understood to be internal, in opposition to the hero’s. Her challenge, then, is to understand and identify her power, to figure out who she is while in relation to others, and to integrate these concepts into a fully integrated whole.

In addition to these differences, I think the mono myth is problematic. It doesn’t consider that not all people have the same experience. I’m totally curious about finding other stories and structures that represent our diversity and richness as human beings.

Would love to hear your thoughts. How do these concepts resonate with your own experience? What fits? What chafes? What would it mean for a man to take the heroine’s journey? How do trans* and queer people fit with these kinds of narratives? How do socio-economic class, social standing, race, religion, country of origin, etc. challenge and/or support these narratives? What kind of narratives do you think the world is missing and what do we need more of?

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52 Photos: Clouds

moon and clouds

This week’s prompt was clouds. Seattle certainly has plenty of them, but they don’t usually make for dramatic images. So I dug in the archives for you this week:

Mont Blanc peeking out of the clouds, a nice sister to Mt. Rainier:


Clouds resting in a valley in Sapa, Vietnam:

clouds resting

Clouds reflected in the bog, Saranac Lake, NY:

bog clouds sky

And my favorite of this bunch, steam meets sky at Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park:

The land is alive

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52 Photos: Petals

This week’s prompt was petals.

While I probably have thousands of pictures of flowers, I thought I’d take the prompt a little bit further. Here’s a boddhisatva resting on a lotus bloom at the Todai-ji temple in Nara:

boddhisatva on lotus

But I’ll throw a few flowers from various gardens in the mix:

dahlia rise


And some African tulip blooms that I came across while I was in Si Satchanali, Thailand:

african tulip flowers

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A Life on the Techno-Fringe

phone bank

I grew up in a house without a television. When I was a kid, and classmates would learn this tidbit, they would follow up with, “Do you have a phone?”
“Yes, we have a phone. My dad’s a doctor. We have to have a phone,” I would say.
“Then why don’t you have a tv?”
“My mom doesn’t want one,” I’d say.

This is a teensy prologue to the question I often get today: “Why don’t you have a cell phone?”

There’s so much implied in that statement, most of which can be summed by either a) can’t you afford it? or b) what kind of Luddite misanthrope are you?

The other day, a fellow writer I’ve met on Twitter said this:

I responded with:

Mr. Khalifa asked me how I managed to live without one. Which is usually what most people ask. And I’m going to attempt to answer that question.

A couple of years ago I was having this conversation with someone, and they said, “Well, what if something were to happen to J?”
I thought about it, and said, “I’m not a first responder. If something were to happen to her, I hope someone with more training would help her first. I would find out whenever I found out.”

That’s the short answer.

Here’s a longer one. I’m not a spontaneous person. I like making plans. I don’t mind not knowing. I despise the environmental impact. I don’t understand the whole phone contract/plan thing, which just seems like a giant scam. I have a long list of peeves about how people behave when they are using cell phones.

And my girlfriend would remind me to tell you all that I’m not really that cut off. I have had an iPod Touch for the last few years, which allows me to get online whenever there is wi-fi. I’m actually finding free wi-fi is becoming more and more ubiquitous, which is diminishing what minimal desire I might have to get a phone. I can send text messages via google voice if I can get on wi-fi. And trust me, no one ever wants to talk on the phone. Except my mother. And sister.

A couple of weeks ago I made plans to meet up with some friends for tea, and that went off without a hitch. After tea, I planned to meet up with my girlfriend. On the quad at the UW. At peak cherry blossom time. On one of the first warm, sunny days in Seattle. Even though it was packed with people, we did eventually find one another. It would have taken less time if we both had cell phones, but it didn’t end up taking that long in the end.

The only time I ever wish I had a cell phone is when I’m traveling in the country. Trying to connect and meet up with people would be easier if I did have a cell phone. But it’s not impossible to meet up. It’s only the expectation around meeting up that’s changed. Ironically, when I’ve been abroad, if I’d had a phone, it would have been exorbitant to use it. Wi-fi was almost always included in my lodging. Even domestically that’s becoming more common. I was just at delightful set of beach cottages last week that had wi-fi.

Beach dreaming

I’m not holding out or trying not to not have one. I don’t want one. Because when I want something? I just get it. I see how it might reduce a small amount of friction in my life, but for now, the cost just isn’t worth it. I am either in a place where I am available and can connect, or I’m not. I like the structural limit.

But maybe I’ll take Beth Wodzinski’s approach, the next time someone asks me:

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