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Renay: Hello friends! I’m Renay.
Ana: And I’m Ana.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour: Question Tuesday edition.
[Music: B-3 by Boxcat Games]
Renay: On today’s show, we’re going to give some advice, that hopefully will be okay, give out some recs, and then apparently go deep on some questions for each other. I haven’t been told how we’re gonna go deep I’ve just been told we’re gonna go deep.
Ana: I dunno, we have two ways your question for me can go.
Renay: Deep and deeper?
Ana: Tears or laughter.
Renay: Well, let’s see what we get.
[Music: B-3 by Boxcat Games]
Renay: Our first question is from biblioaesthetica on tumblr: “Hey space friends, I have an advice question! I’m pretty bad at social interactions that are complicated, and have been trying to level up in a certain aspect of conversations: denfense against the mansplainer. Sometimes I chat with a guy and later—much later—I will realize what he said and how is condescending and I knew the thing and I got sidetracked in the convo…but I was with a friend recently and it might be happening a lot and I don’t spot it? How to spot it, please? Thanks, a fan bee.”
Ana: First of all, I would like say that I really like that they signed as a fan bee. That’s tremendous. I love it. Ten space bees out of ten space bees to this signature. As for the question, I do not know.
Renay: Don’t you deal with mansplainers all the time in your job?
Ana: Well no, my work is basically all women.
Renay: Wow, okay. Lucky you.
Ana: So very recently, our company has merged with a larger company and then now I have more male staff. I don’t interact with them a lot, but most of them, I am kind of like, one step above in terms of within the company. I haven’t had an interaction that I would say had this element of mansplaining. But then again, maybe I did and I just didn’t know how to spot it in which case then I am in the very same position as our fan bee.
Renay: My first piece of advice would be to trust yourself more. Women in social situations are often trained to distrust their instincts, to ignore when they feel uncomfortable, are accused of overreaction. So, often, we learn to suppress those feelings. When a man is doing something or saying something to us that is gonna ping us, we’re gonna possibly just not notice it. So step one is to learn to trust yourself and your opinions in all the conversations you have.
Step two is to read about negging. This is where I started. I did a lot of research about how men will neg you in conversations. And it’s just like as part of like Pick-Up culture, it can also be for anything else. So research negging and see how men use like rhetorical tactics in conversations to trap you or back you into a corner verbally.
Third I would say the best bet would be to slow your conversations down. If the conversations are complicated, make sure you’re taking time when you’re responding to get out your full thought and make you’re taking the time to process what’s being said to you.
Like a lot of the time I think that conversations we have a habit of maybe listening to people but not taking in fully what they said and processing it. I know exactly how this feels. You’re having a conversation with a dude, three days later you’re, “Fuck, he was being an asshole and I had this great comeback and I can’t use it now.” I’m there all the time. I have that all the time. You’re not alone. One way around this I found is just to slow everything down and that might make your conversations not as complicated for a while, and it might annoy people around you, but who cares? Take time for you.
Ana: I think I am in a very privileged position where I mostly only interact with women at work and then most of my friends are women. Of course, I have a partner who is a feminist so he doesn’t do that. I haven’t dated in seventeen years thank god.
Renay: A defense against mansplaining is really hard because like if you’re in a social situation? In my experience when I call men out for this they get really physically aggressive. And for me it’s not so much of a problem. I’m five-nine and not a small woman. They can’t as like physically intimidate me as much as they might be able to do it to other women. But like I noticed that when you call men out in real life for mansplaining they get super upset in a very physically aggressive way.
I don’t know if your friends are like this so please be safe, but one defense I’ve found really helpful is that when they do it me, I just like stop the conversation. I just pause it and go, “I just said that,” or “Yes, that’s what I just explained to you, thanks for repeating it for me so I know you understood it.” Or other rhetorical tricks like that that sometimes will throw them off and so it will derail them from further mansplaining.
A last piece of advice: when you’re trying to learn how to like engage with conversations without being treated this way I found that reading advice columns can actually help a little? Because in advice columns you get like ,”My partner’s doing this to me, my husband’s doing this to me, my boyfriend’s doing this to me,” like, if you start reading the advice columns and looking for patterns and behavior, eventually you’ll get better at spotting it.
Also you could read lots of books about gender dynamics and conversation, sexism, feminism, anything you can take in for how women are oppressed or silenced or erased, will help you spot this type of behavior. So it’s just a learning situation where you have to do the research to be able to arm yourself with the tactics and the knowledge to spot what’s going on. Hopefully that helps.
Ana: I think it’s excellent advice. Thank you.
Renay: Biblioaesthetica, I hope that you trust yourself, because you’re super great. Don’t let anybody convince that you’re not great.
Ana: And be safe.
[Music: Classics by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Next up, we got a question from Mark. He asked, “Got any good steampunk recs? I always thought the -punk suffix was nothing more than a pun on cyberpunk.”
So this is a really interesting question and we also got an email about the same episode where we talked about Everfair from Claire. Claire Rousseau is a booktuber and I’m going to read the email that Claire sent us even though it’s a little long. But I really liked her email and I think it’s a great way to like, launch this topic and talk about the socio-political implications of steampunk.
So Claire writes, “Dear Ana & Renay,
I’m so glad you made the point about Steampunk not having a lot of punk in it. I love the aesthetics of steampunk but I get very irritated by how very, very white & middle-class steampunk feels as a literary subgenre. Most novels I’ve seen sold as steampunk are all feisty heroines, mechanical shenanigans and lots of tea, heroes tend to be down-on-their-luck aristocrats and/or academics who are very proper and learned.
All of these things are great but if you have them without having politics or diverse characters, it just feels like a reinforcement of the idea that everything used to be better in the golden era of Queen Vic, when Britain used to own half the world. You can only present that era with rose-tinted glasses by deliberately ignoring how brutal British Imperialism was or how much better things have since gotten for women, people of colour, LGBTQ+ people and other disenfranchised & oppressed groups. Also, none of these stories reflect the lives of people living in povery now or then, it often feels more steamposh than steampunk.”
Listen I really wanted to read the email for that line, right there.
And then she goes on to say, “I don’t mind reading these books from time to time—it’s a mark of my privilege as a middle-class cis-straight white woman that I can ignore all of those things when I want to take a break from the news—but I don’t want the whole genre to be like this, especially not when global politics are looking this scary! I feel that sadly, that’s what the publishing industry would like the steampunk subgenre to be because it’s cute and it sells.
I would recommend Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series (steampunk with zombies, set in the American West). They are grimy and gritty and there is that feel of real danger to them. They also have diverse characters who are mostly blue-collar, working class people, who are living rough in underground tunnels or in their airships.”
Claire shares some opinions with us!
Ana: Yes, I agree with that, too. I don’t have a lot of recommendations for a more diverse world, although I do have a few recommendations that take the technology and makes it central to the plot and in the way that shapes the world and what happens then in terms of how wealth is distributed and how people embrace the technology or not and use it or not. And this is kind of what I mean when I talk about steampunk.
So based on that, based on what Claire said, my recommendations would be Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. There’s a first book in a trilogy, and it’s set in an alternate world where during first world war, and it’s kind of like young YA, but it’s still has a lot of crossover potential for adults and it’s really well done. For those books in terms of what Claire was saying the sexism and women’s liberation movement are probably better represented in that.
Then another one that I really like and it’s probably way out there in terms of whether people think it’s steampunk or not but I think it is…. It’s Howl’s Moving Castle the movie, because it is about oppression and it’s people fighting that. And it diverges so much from the novel which is also amazing, but the movie has these steampunk-ish elements and aesthetics that go deep into the world.
The other one that I would recommend if you are just getting into steampunk…. Maybe it’s the granddaddy novel of that subgenre and that’s The Difference Engine by William Gibson. It’s a very hard book to read, because it’s very hard scifi, I would say, possibly? And it’s like it’s old school? It’s probably worth it if you want to get to know the genre.
And there is also an anthology of short stories called Steampunk that has been edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer and it has tons of really great stories there, too.
So those are my recs. Unfortunately I haven’t read that many steampunks since…in 2010, I went through a phase where I read a lot of it and I think I got fed-up by the fact that it’s mostly aesthetics and sugar-coated world-building without going deep, and I just quit.
Renay: I know there has to be steampunk out there that is anti-colonialist I’m just not looking in the right spaces. But I lost patience for digging through the stuff where it’s just aesthetics. But there’s probably of stuff out there that’s great; if people know any, please tell us because we definitely need recommendations. But I put together a very short list.
My first one would be Larklight and Starcross, by Philip Reeve. Not the third one, because it undoes everything that the first two books do, but I think it does a good job of being steampunk in a society that’s really messed up but the book knows it’s messed up? And knows it’s unfair and unequal so the story fits into the world as it exists while critiquing that fact that it existed that way.
Then another one by Philip Reeve that I remember it sort of dealing with punk issues is Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve, but it’s been so long since I’ve read I can’t be sure that it really digs into the politics and life of people who are marginalized. Mortal Engines is about giant cities that roam around the world eating other cities, so you might wanna give that a shot. I’m not promising that it will deliver like the punk aspect, but I feel like I remember that it did.
Then my next one is Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear. Karen Memory is set in the American West and on the west coast. It stars a bunch of prostitutes fighting against a corrupt government that’s doing not-great things. It’s really good. Elizabeth Bear definitely did her homework on the type of people that lived and worked back then, so it’s got good characters as well and really deals with marginalized communities. And the marginalized communities—those characters are great. They’re active agents in the narrative.
Then my last one would be a manga which is Japanese, which might be a little more toward the like Howl’s Moving Castle end of like the steampunk aesthetics spectrum, but I really think it fits. It’s called Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa and it’s about two brothers. And there’s magic and it’s definitely a steampunk vibe. I’m not very far into it but the volumes that I have read definitely, definitely have that vibe to them.
So those are mine. And I hope that there’s something here that might work for you.
Ana: There’s a good list. Good place to start.
Renay: And also everybody should just read Everfair, too. Read Everfair by Nisi Shawl. It is a good example and I hope it inspires tons of other writers to do the same kind of thing with this subgenre.
Renay: And if you have recs that you think fit this requirement and don’t do all the bad stuff that Claire talked about feel free to hit us up.
[Music: Help by Chuki Beats]
Renay: If you could make a twenty-second phone call to yourself at any point in your life, present or future, when would you call and what you say?
Ana: Right, so this where I said it was going to get super serious because I thought about this so many times before. This is not the first time. And I have only ever thought of one particular moment that I can pinpoint exactly. And I would call myself and say, “Don’t do it. Don’t do it.”
So when I was seventeen I got into a relationship with a high school sweetheart, basically. At that point in time I was very green, very immature, and he was very strong-willed. And I fell in love, and he fell in love, and we had a good six months of a good relationship, and then he turned very dark, very soon, and he became very abusive. Very emotionally abusive, in a way that completely destroyed my sense of self-worth, my sense of my self, basically, and I just…I didn’t have strong opinions because I couldn’t have strong opinions. And basically I spent the next three years with this guy. I moved in with him and it was awful. And then one day I started to realize what was happening and that I was in an abusive relationship and I had to break away from it.
But if you know anything about an abusive relationship, you will know how hard it is for women to break out of it because of all the issues that I mentioned before; self-worth, and just not knowing what to do, basically. And not understanding that you can walk away from something. It’s not gonna make you a lesser person if you are not with that person; that other people can love you, and so on and so forth.
And then there was this one beautiful day. I had been—I had been building the courage to do it and I broke up with him. I broke up with him. And I remember the feeling of freedom. I was wearing a blue dress and I walked away from that apartment. I lived with him in that apartment and it was like three blocks from my mum’s flat and I just walked to my mum’s flat and I was so light on my feet. I was singing. I was so relieved. I felt so happy. I got home a couple of hours later I got a phone call from his mother. And she says, “Why did you break up with him?” Even thinking of it and talking about it my heart is beating so fast right now. “What did you do, why did you break up with him, he just called me, he was in tears.”.
And he was medical student and in Brazil a medical student’s a prestigious thing to be, because if you are a medical student you have money. And if you become a doctor you have money for life. And she called me and she says, “He’s threatening to stop studying because he loves you so much and he can’t bear to be without you and he’s telling me that he’s gonna quit university and just go travel if you don’t come back to him. You have to do something.” And that, that—that moment is when I would like to call myself and say, “Don’t do it,” because what I did was I put the phone down and I went back straight to him and I spent another three years and a half of my life in that relationship. And it became much worse shitshow by the end of it.
That is the moment when I would call myself and say, “You fucking idiot, do not do it. You hang up the phone—do not even answer the phone. You’re also equally abusive because what kind of person does that, why would his mother call me?” But at the same time I feel like I am the person that I am today with the experiences that I have today because that happened to me, I guess. Because after that I had to go into therapy for three years to be able to get a sense of who I was without that person in my life. It was so useful. It was so good for me.
Ana: You asked! [laughter] The other thing that I would tell myself is, “Ana, you doofus, why didn’t you go and do your British Citizenship when your partner did his? Now you are stuck with Brexit.” [hits desk]
Renay: You’re right. You got deep.
Ana: It’s so weird to share all of these things with so many people that are listening to us. Please treat my memories kindly.
Renay: I know that a lot of women listen to us and they know exactly how you feel, especially when you said you know how hard it is to leave.
Ana: It’s so hard and I get so many people saying, “Why don’t you just leave? Why you doesn’t she just leave? Why doesn’t she do anything?” I’m like, “Guys, you have no idea of the power that a man can have over a woman within an abusive relationship.” With people that you wouldn’t think would be in that situation, but only because you don’t understand what it is like to be in that situation.
Renay: I feel like I should apologize for making you dig up that awful memory.
Ana: I have thoughts of this so many times. If you could change anything about your life, what would you change? I would not have gone back. I mean, I should not have stayed the first three and a half years with him, anyway. But that point is so markedly like, I did the thing, I broke it off, and I went back.
Anyway, let’s move on to greener pastures.
[Music: Power by Chuki Beats]
Ana: If you could live in any fantasy world, where would you live?
Renay: This is an impossible question.
Renay: No, it’s really hard! Fantasy worlds often don’t have indoor plumbing.
Ana: Well, it could a futuristic fantasy! Or you can use magic. It could be a world with magic and you can have magical plumbing.
Renay: Magical—that’s where we are right now? I’ve seriously been thinking about this since you gave me this question going, “Holy fuck, what the fuck am I going to say?!”
Ana: It could be a science fiction—when I say fantasy I mean: made-up world.
Renay: Oh, so it could be a—it could also be a science fictional world, huh?
Ana: Yes. Yes. I apologize for not being more thorough.
Renay: Now I’m really torn.
Ana: Ha ha ha.
Renay: I think if I was going to choose a fantasy world to live in, since they’re all often dystopic and awful, I might choose Sunshine just so I could learn more about the world.
Ana: Wow. That was unexpected.
Renay: I mean yeah, there’s deadly monsters and vampires, but then I could go have cinnamon rolls.
Ana: But would you then be one of the people that were different? Or would you be—or would you be a regular human?
Renay: I would totally wanna be different. I wonder if they have 23andme in that world; the DNA test? See if I have some demon blood in me. Alternately if I’m going to choose science fiction I would actually predictably choose a John Scalzi universe. Probably the Old Man’s War universe. Think about how cool that would be. That could great. Is that a boring answer? I don’t know.
Ana: No. Maybe a little bit predictable.
Renay: Oh no, I’ve become predictable! He creates great universes!
Ana: Oh my god, tell me about it. I just read The Collapsing Empire and it’s so good.
Renay: Right? Everybody go read The Collapsing Empire.
Ana: Let me like embody one of the characters: it’s just so fucking good.
Renay: I told everybody that The Collapsing Empire was going to be great and I was right! Everybody I’ve had read it so far is like, “This is great!”
Ana: You were right, as usual.
Renay: So yes, if I had to choose like a fantasy world, fantasy quote-unquote, I would choose Sunshine because it’s a fantasy world, it’s an urban fantasy, so that’s where I would go. But if I had to choose a science fiction world I would go with the Old Man’s War.
Ana: I do not know how I would answer my own question and I’m so glad I don’t have to—
Renay: PS you guys you may see this question again in the future.
Ana: [laughter] Oh, motherfucker.
[Music: Happy Summer Love by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Welcome to the end of Question Tuesday. Thanks to Biblioaesthetica and Mark for sending in questions. We hope we helped a little.
Ana: It’s always a pleasure to get your questions, guys.
Renay: Follow us on twitter at @fangirlpodcast and then send us all bee jokes, references and articles you can find because we love them. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, concerns or comments. You can subscribe to this show via itunes or wherever quality podcasts are acquired.
Ana: This week our music is by Chuki Beats and BoxCat Games. Ira created our excellent show art. Links to their work will be in our show notes as well links to the media we discussed. Susan creates episode transcripts of the show, and you can find all the available transcripts on fangirlhappyhour.com.
Renay: If you wanna ask a question, you can ping us on social media, or use the handy form on fangirlhappyhour.com. In the meantime, remember to drink lots of water, avoid negative self-talk, and contact your reps every single day.
Ana: And always answer the phone call from yourself if it comes from the future.
Renay: Thanks for listening to our show space bees!
Ana: See you next episode!
[Music: Happy Summer Love by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Ana. I’m broken.
Renay: What the hell’s happening? I think I’m broken.
Ana: Maybe you’re hungry.
Renay: Yeah, probably.
Renay: I had a weird visual when you said greener pastures. For some reason I just pictured you riding a cow in my head. I don’t know why. Start over.