I’m heading out of town tomorrow morning to visit family and go to my brother’s college graduation. Exciting! My recaps of A Pirate’s Love should continue through the visit, though I’m a little iffy about next Wednesday since I’ll be on my way back then. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to write the recap for that one ahead of time and have it scheduled.
Here’s a bunch of stuff I found interesting the past couple of weeks that I didn’t share yet.
In one reply [George RR Martin] began with what appeared to be a history lesson: “Westeros around 300 AC is nowhere near as diverse as 21st century America, of course….” In another he seemed to give a geography lesson: “Well, Westeros is the fantasy analogue of the British Isles in its world, so it is a long long way from the Asia analogue. There weren’t a lot of Asians in Yorkish England either.”
Of course I’ve been hearing these same excuses since I was a kid. There are no black people in fantasy lands of ladies, horse lords and knights–because there were no black people there. Only there are two really convenient replies. (1) Well, there were no dragons, hobbits or elves either. You made that sh*t up. That’s what fantasy is you know–sh*t we make up. So if you can toss in a talking dragon, you can toss in PoC. Easy peasy. And (2), what has become an increasingly stronger reply, “you don’t know history or geography as well as you think you do.” Turns out, none of these Euro-spaces in our reality were ever racially monolithic. The fantastic site People of Color in European Art History has been destroying this hallowed myth one painting and statue at a time. Oh, and George, that African noblewoman found in Roman-era York might just beg to differ on just who was and was not in that space.
Because Sparta was a small society (at the peak of its power, under Leonidas I, there were just 8,000 male citizens of all ages), by the time youths reached adolescence they had seen all their prospective marriage partners engaged in a variety of activities and dressed in everything from what passed for formal dress in Sparta to nakedness. It is important to stress that they hadn’t just seen them. No Spartan law or custom suggested that women should be silent, while many foreign accounts decried Spartan women’s outspokenness. Boys and youths of the agoge were expected to be still and respectful in the presence of their elders, and girls were, too – but not with each other! No one who has raised or worked with teenagers can truly believe that Spartan youths and maidens played, hunted, swam, rode, sang, and danced side by side from age 7 onwards without talking to – and flirting with! – one another. The bigger question is rather how the Spartan school authorities and parents kept the entire system from getting out of control.
When I sat down with one of my senior professors in Durban, South Africa to talk about my Master’s thesis, he asked me why I wanted to write about women resistance fighters.
“Because women made up twenty percent of the ANC’s militant wing!” I gushed. “Twenty percent! When I found that out I couldn’t believe it. And you know – women have never been part of fighting forces –”
He interrupted me. “Women have always fought,” he said.
“What?” I said.
“Women have always fought,” he said. “Shaka Zulu had an all-female force of fighters. Women have been part of every resistance movement. Women dressed as men and went to war, went to sea, and participated actively in combat for as long as there have been people.”