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MWhere I’ll be:M

Birch Bay Public Market

Friday, May 10 through the end of summer, Cathy and I will be selling her hand-made soaps, lotions, and toiletries, along with my photography, note cards, calenders, books, etc.

Come see us!

Across the street from the C Shop

4825 Alderson Road, Birch Bay, Washington 98230

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I had an automated blogroll here, powered by Google Reader, but Google, in its near-infinite lack of wisdom, killed Google Reader. Prior to this murder, all I had to do to put a blog on my blogroll (or to take it off) was to place it in a Reader folder called, appropriately enough, "blogroll" (or, of course, to remove it). I use The Old Reader now for following blogs, but it seems to have no way to something similar regarding the blogroll. If you know of a way to do this, please let me know.

Supergirl, Supercrip, and the Power of the Mundane

I got a strange email this morning.

It seems that one of my scenes caused some discomfort for one of my readers. I won’t say what book it’s in, and I won’t even name the characters, because it’s a bit spoilerish, but the scene is this:

  • Girl, seated
  • Boy, crouched on his heels in front of her, his hands on her knees
  • Boy: “I’m really sorry, but I [spoiler] your [spoiler] on my [spoiler].”
  • Girl punches Boy in the mouth hard enough to knock him back on his butt
  • Girl punches Boy in the face again, knocking him to his hands and knees
  • Girl kicks Boy two or three times and runs away

Don’t worry about poor Girl and Boy. They get back together, and there’s a serious hint of some happily-ever-after by the end of the book (or at least mostly happy for some good long stretches of ever after). That’s not what bothered my reader. What bothered my reader is that Girl was not described, prior to this, as being overly large, or overly powerful, or overly aggressive, or overly something that would make it possible for her to beat up Boy. In fact, this is the first and only scene in the book that remotely resembles violence.

It just can’t be that a girl who is just a girl is able to beat up a boy. Not even if he is in a precarious posture to begin with. Not even if she takes him totally by surprise. Not even if karate lessons in her distant past have been hinted at. No, she has to be Supergirl.

Let me digress a moment.

I spent eleven years in a wheelchair, and although I no longer use it, there’s not really much doubt that I will end up back in it before I’m done. I personally know at least two dozen people who use wheelchairs on a daily basis, people who get up in the morning, get showered and shaved and dressed, eat breakfast, sometimes even make the breakfast, get off to school or work, stop at the grocery store on the way home, take the dog to the park, go out back and play catch with the kids, and top it all off with some one-on-one with the POSSLQ (just google it). People, in short, who live life.

Until, that is, the press gets hold of it. Then, suddenly, everything changes. Now it’s the story of this poor person, confined to a wheelchair (DO NOT GET ME STARTED! I can’t begin to tell you how much I despise that phrase. In the first place, you are not confined to it – you are liberated by it. In the second place, unless it involves chains, handcuffs, or duct tape, no one is confined to a wheelchair. Not even Stephen Hawking is confined to a wheelchair. Or wheelchair-bound. Society only wishes they were bound into them, because it would make them so much easier to deal with.) (Deep breath. Do not get me started. More deep breathing.) Anyway, now it’s the story of this wheelchair-bound person who somehow manages to cope anyway. Adore him! Adulate her! All hail the Supercrip!

Next time you read one of those mealy human-interest stories in your newspaper about the double amputee who walks his dog every day, or the woman with CP who runs the local house-painting company, or the paraplegic art teacher who throws bowls on a potter’s wheel, ask yourself how remarkable it is that a man walks his dog every day, or that a woman runs a business, or that an art teacher throws bowls on a potter’s wheel.

They’re not Supercrip. They’re just people, living their lives.

Robert Heinlein had a tendency to make his female characters into Supergirl.

From Peewee to Jack to Friday, female characters in Heinlein’s work are not just bigger than life, but bigger than all the other girls and women around them. This has caused some to claim that he was misogynistic, because he was afraid to let a girl be a girl, or to let a woman be a woman. I don’t know whether he was or not, because all I have to judge on is his fiction, and that’s not the sort of judgment I want to make based on fiction, but I would like to point out that if Heinlein was a misogynist because his women were Supergirl, then he must also have been a misanthrope, because all of his males are Superboy, too. I mean, come on – Kip was normal?

There is no drama in having Supergirl or Superboy or Supercrip do super things. That’s like finding it marvelous that an airplane flies. Isn’t it supposed to fly? The drama, the turmoil, the power of fiction comes, not from the super, but from the mundane. From the boy just like you, or the girl just like you, or the person who is you in every way, doing the right thing when it hurts, or when it costs too much, or when everybody around you is going to say it was the wrong thing, and only you will ever know the difference.

Sometimes the girl gets to be the truck.

Sometimes she has to be the bug. And that’s okay. It is no more bothersome that she was able to beat him up without being Supergirl than it is that he got beat up without being Superwimp.

Life’s tough. Buck up.

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