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23 December 2009 @ 01:10 am
Responses to Lily's Friend/With her own EYSes  
I am trying, and it is desperately hard, not to argue with the readers who’ve been kind enough to send me critiques of “Lily’s Friend/With Her Own Eyes”.

You readers are responding to a fiction. What I WANT to do is to set you straight, to tell you how I, the omniscient author (right?) meant you to read it. To tell you what the right reading is, to persuade you extra-textually.

What I am trying to do instead is to rewrite the FICTION so the characters and plot convey to you what I meant. Or what I wish I’d meant.

And that’s f*** b*** hard!

Especially as what was supposed to be a simple Christmas gift to a twelve-year-old about teen lovelorn angst turns out really to be an epistemological treatise: what do we know from observation, what from hearsay, what from inference, what don’t we know at all, really, but we go around assuming that we do…?

And then we base what we do (and say) on what we think we know. Without distinguishing the sources.

Mary, Lily, Severus, James, Sirius, and the (absolutely absent, in this fic) headmaster, are each absolutely convinced that they know and understand everything that they really need to of “The Werewolf Caper” and its ramifications.

And all are wrong.

I don’t think my niece Tasha will get any of this. From the point of view of her gift, my effort is useless. Tasha likes the Twilight series, after all: she thinks that a well-preserved nonagenarian lusting after a teen (based on her body odor) is ROMANTIC, and that the drug-addict-fixation fostered by vampires on their victims (Bella is entirely willing to die or to make someone else a killer, so long as she gets her next fix of E.’s physical presence) is true LOVE. So we can assume that my primary audience is, shall I say, less insightful than some of my secondary readers.

So really I’m rewriting for the adults; I think Tasha would take it as it stands.

After I finish my rewrites, I look forward with great pleasure to making more individual responses. (I’ve armed myself by rereading Jane Austen’s Emma, totalreadr….)

But I am determined not to prejudice the readers by telling you what I think of the characters. If I work it right, my fiction should convey what I mean.

If I haven’t, my bleatings about what I really meant, doesn’t matter in the slightest.

So I’m reading every comment anyone is generous enough to leave, and I thank you for them, even when I don’t agree.

I reserve to myself the pleasure of ARGUING (or agreeing) with you after I’ve closed the fic. In the meantime, I’m using your criticisms to rewrite. And, as I’ve said, this is desperately hard.

Thanks so much for your input.

More later. (Grins.)


Only one more thing: I am American. And the archetypal American response about a sexual overture from an “inferior” to a “superior” is, I am afraid, still the racial/racist one.

The real one.

The one that happened a few years before my birth, but which every educated American, white or black, who is my age or older, hears echoed in the background.

Emmett Tull. A fourteen-year-old boy. Who was mutilated, tortured, killed, and his body further desecrated, because that child had the absolute, unmitigated gall to whistle at a white woman.


So that’s what is—what must be—in my mind at one endpoint of the intersection of prejudice and sex.

As Olga Broumas talks about what the other endpoint is like: Being targeted for one’s gender.
totalreadr on December 24th, 2009 04:56 am (UTC)
When it comes to reader responses, Terri, you're a class act.

(Now *I* have to reread Emma too! Oh, the horror!)

I'll be leaving soon to visit family, and I won't be back till the 2nd, so I'll have less online time for a while, but I'll keep checking back.

Aaaaand now I'm going to rant at you. Sorry; sensitive subject.

that child had the absolute, unmitigated gall to whistle at a white woman.

This really bothers me. No one deserves to be beaten to death. Emmett Till's murderers should have been put away forever. But wolf whistling is sexual harassment. Don't imply it's nothing.

A wolf whistle is a *threat*. It's about "I can hurt you because I'm a man and you're a woman." It's *not* about "I think you're cute." It's a sexually-charged threat.

Emmett Till's murder was horrible, but it isn't an endpoint.

You might be thinking that Emmett's behavior was "just teenage bravado" -- but that's what teen male bravado *is*: showing off the power of your newly-acquired manhood. If Emmett chose to show off his male power over a white woman, he chose to pit male privilege against white privilege. Neither privilege should exist.

Please don't minimize the harm done by either of them.
oiooo: megan angryoiooo on January 8th, 2011 03:36 pm (UTC)
This really bothers me. No one deserves to be beaten to death. Emmett Till's murderers should have been put away forever. But wolf whistling is sexual harassment. Don't imply it's nothing.

Nice of you to just accept the whitewashed version of events.

God, just shut up. Every time you talk about Emmett Till to justify your own butthurt Nice Guy projecting-onto-Snape bullshit reasons for not getting past high school the more disgusting you and everyone who puts up with you becomes.

You are a straight white man. You have no room to talk about racism or sexism. And it is fucking galling to watch you get on your pedestal just because someone dared to insult your favorite fictional characters. The Death Eaters were a Nazi/KKK stand-in and Severus Snape was only to happy to join them. Fucking deal with it.
terri_testing on January 9th, 2011 05:36 am (UTC)
My very favorite feminist dyke poet
Judy Grahn, quoted from memory, about the tangled, twisted, intersections between racism and misogyny "A Woman is Talking to Death":

We do each other in, that's a fact.

Maybe he once drove taxi and raped a lover of mine, how to tell thes things....

(About the black man the white dyke left to be railroaded for a crime he hadn't committed)

Now I think: maybe he was Josie's baby.

All of our chickens come home to roost.

All of them.

(About the hispanic straight man, twenty-years younger than the narrator, who'd just assaulted a middle-aged white woman--with impunity because she was also a dyke.... and Josie, that dyke's first-ever crush, had been a Hispanic straight girl who'd been forced to drop out of school because of her [shocking!] pregnancy).

I'm perverse, myself; I like the acknowledgment of complexity. More in fact than any facile resolution.

Thanks for posting, and for caring enough to spend thought on this issue.
terri_testing on January 13th, 2011 07:06 am (UTC)
No one deserves to be beaten to death
I am, technically, a woman of color, or of mixed races. Or even white, if history is erased enough.


It all depends on what you count. And on who's counting. I got called squaw, as a kid, and I cried when I was teased for my "Indian eyes". I am registered as a member of the Anishinabe nation. But some European-immigrant-ancestry Americans see me as "white", because I don't trigger their particular racial markers. I'm visibly not "black," and that's what they count. Black or white.

I did trigger racial-minority markers among those with whom I grew up; I don't [usually] those among whom I'm now living. So what am I?

Sometimes I've been the victim of white racism, sometimes the recipient of white prejudice.

Which matters more?

But when I was twelve, I was raped (sexually assaulted) by my white (by any definition) mother.

When I was fourteen, I was threatened with rape by a white male older teen.

when I was nineteen, I was threatened wirh rape by another white male stranger.

When I was twenty-two, I was threatened with rape by three male strangers of assorted races.


The only rape that was actually accomplished on me was by my mother; those other threats I managed to thwart.


And I wanted to punish that actual sexual assault by beating her to death.


No, not by beating.

That was far too removed.

When I was ten, my cat had left a partly-disemboweled mouse at the foot of my bed, and I'd stepped on it.

That was what I imagined as punishment for my sexual assailant (my mother) when I was twelve/thirteen.

Not injuring her with a weapon, that was too distant; not touching her with my hand, that would mean touching her, and polluting me with her evil.


So stomping on the assaailant's (my mother's) body barefoot. Feeling her different organs squish and pop under my feet. Feeling her desruction as intimataly as possible, but not contaminated by touching her with my hands.

Sick, huh? That's what I wanted for my rapist.

For my mom.

No one deserves to be beaten to death?


How easy that is easy to say.


I envy you your lack of imagination. I do, really.

I imagined stomping my mother to death. Barefoot. Literally.

I imagined this repeatedly.

I didn't do it.

But I imagined it.

So now tell me she didn't deserve it.

Do tell.

This really bothers me.

Yes, it does me too.

I think this is the ultimate difference, and the magic of all "ism's"--that the other, the wrong one, can be declared to be someone, something else.

Not a part of one's one belly, or mother, or blood.

How lovely to be able to repudiate something absolutely.

To declare it entirely outside oneself.


Nothing human is alien to me.
totalreadr on January 28th, 2011 12:24 pm (UTC)
Re: No one deserves to be beaten to death
This is under someone's reply to me, but it appears to be directed at me so...

I've imagined such things about people who have hurt me as well.

Would your mother have deserved to have your imaginings come true?

Would my father have deserved mine?

Would my brother have, when he passed on what he learned from my father to someone else? My brother who always protected me as much as he could, who saved my life when I was six?

I still love my brother. I even still love my father.

But I wouldn't tell those my brother hurt that they didn't have a right to imagine killing him slowly. (Nor do I deny he did it. I know he did. When I tried to tell my mother about my father, she didn't believe me so...)

Nor can I quite bring myself to say my father wouldn't have deserved it.

But then that's the point, isn't it? When focused on one's own pain, one can't bring oneself to say that. Not about the specific cause of the pain. (And often, not even about something someone else is insisting "is worse." Saying something else is worse feels like a denial if from yourself or a betrayal if from a friend -- it feels like saying your own pain is not so bad, if something else is worse.)

I can say -- and believe -- that no one deserves to be beaten to death.

I can say:

My brother wouldn't have deserved to be beaten to death. (I wouldn't expect those he hurt to say that, though.)

And I can say:

Mussolini (or Stalin, or even Hitler) did not deserve to be beaten to death.

I cannot say my father...

Maybe some people think that makes me a monster. I think it makes me normal.


But no. No one deserves to be beaten to death. It may strike you as easy to say but I don't just say it, I mean it. Even when I can't say it. And we both know it's not so easy to mean.
terri_testing on January 29th, 2011 07:12 am (UTC)
Re: No one deserves to be beaten to death
Affirming that, even where we can't actually believe it--even where o
ur own pain shrieks otherwise--yeah.

I cannot fault the child that I once was who felt that the desired, appropriate reaction to my abuser was to use my bare feet to bludgeon her to death. To trample her internal organz, savouring how she bled beneath my feet. Not some random victim: Her. That pervert who'd so casually destroyed my trust, my innocence and my sexual response.

And I am glad now that I restrained myself from doing it, from meting out that form of vengeance. I don't argue that she didn't deserve it, but I've glad I never tried so to punish her.

I didn't deserve that.

To become the person who had done that.

And nor, clearly, do you.

That's what the Harry-cruciating-Amycus Carrow apologists miss. The question was never really whether Amycus deserved torture. It was whether Harry deserved to become a torturer.

It's not what they did--your father, my mother, your torn brother, whoever--but what we do, that sculpts us most deeply.

We may never again be innocent; we had that option cruelly torn from us.

But we can still choose to be the good. To be among those who choose what is right over what is easy. Or, even, over justice, in the narrowest and more horrible definition.

Not to inflict undue pain, however our own hurt insists punishment is deserved.

As you said, with such difficulty: no one deserves to be beaten to death. No one.

That's quite an ideal to live up to, take it at its full worth.