The Badass Female Project: Tesseract Edition

Meg Murry is an early (1962!) female sci-fi heroine of children’s literature: Madeline L’Engle’s  A Wrinkle in Time is a true classic. I remember reading this book as a kid and really loving it, but I didn’t remember it as science fiction. Yet it clearly is. To me, that suggests how much it succeeds. And this is science fiction with some actual science— physics and time/space travel, inpsired by Einstein—  not with futuristic weapons and spaceships like so much of what we’re inundated with.

So, Meg: what makes her so compelling, keeping this book in the zeitgeist all this time? Meg is awkward, physically. She has no confidence herself, and she wishes she could fit in (like anyone who was ever a teenage girl). She’s smart but can’t always work the way she’s “supposed” to, she’s angry, she gets in fights (fiery!), she’s impatient.  She’s fiercely loyal to her brother and her father.  And like many other badass females, she ultimately relies on love and integrity to fight the power. She puts herself through what she knows will be difficult circumstances because she knows she is the one who can succeed. She never set out to be a hero, but she sure acts like one. Meg is counseled to rely on her “faults” when she needs them— and that she does, to great effect, rescuing her father and her brother from frightening forces of evil.

Frightening, indeed:

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high score screen

In praise of being a generalist

There’s something undeniably alluring about being highly accomplished at something. Being the best. Being at the top of your field, your game, your performance. But there’s an opportunity cost to this kind of excellence— the time and focus you dedicate to one thing, you are not dedicating to anything else. Can single-minded focus actually undermine your effectiveness? It depends on what you are doing. . .

Let’s think about this through the lens of running for a moment. We are not all 100m sprinters, even though that’s impressive, and you can win cash and medals and huge endorsements and titles like “the fastest man in the world.” But is Usain Bolt, impressive as he is, better at everything than you are? Is he a better human than you are? His speed is truly amazing, but it’s just speed. This is why obstacle course races are cool— you have to be fast, but you also have to be tough, have power, have strength, have skills. Even the crossfit games (as mixed as my feelings are about crossfit) are a good example of testing a broad set of competencies rather than a narrow one.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I am not, shall we say, a highly focused individual. I am curious, a bricoleur, a person who loves to say yes and follow side trails. My grandmother once wrote a poem about my twin sister and me, where she was the arrow and I was the hummingbird. She was a smart lady, my grandmother.  Continue reading

workspaces that work

What helps you be healthy, happy, and productive when you need to be in the zone— whether that’s at your job, in your creative workspace, or somewhere else? Many of us spend a ton of time working at our desks— almost as much overall as we spend in bed, sometimes. And as with sleep, work goes better if we get the environment right.

For me, a big piece is being able to move around. I fidget, shift position, stand, sit, stretch, cross/uncross my legs, squat, sit on the floor, sit in half-lotus on my office chair. . . as I’ve heard Kelly Starrett Say, the best position is the next position. While I’m all about the ergonomics experts who will adjust your mouse and your monitor and whatnot, I think the best solution is generally to avoid spending too much time in one position to begin with. Variations on office furniture that help this? Sitting on something like a ball instead of a chair, a standing/adjustable desk, a treadmill/bike desk, stools/footrests, and my personal favorite— the headset, so you can take calls while moving around.

What else? Continue reading

The Badass Female Project: She volunteers as tribute

Katinss Everdeen: Undeniably a badass. I am mostly interested in the first Hunger Games book— I found they got less interesting as the series continued. I thought the movies were fine (great cast!) but didn’t have anything of value to add to the books. Female author, check! But the movies? Written and directed by dudes. One great thing about The Hunger Games movies is that they allowed a prickly, young, female protaganist who was not treated as a sex symbol to lead. Yes, it’s true of the book, too, but it’s more unusual coming out of the Hollywood hit machine. But I’m a book person, when it comes down to it. So sue me.

Back to Katniss: she is willing to break rules from the get-go. She is quick to judge — and call out— injustice, which in her future world on the brink of rebellion, is everywhere. She has useful and subversive skills (archery? Neat. Foraging? Maybe even neater). She is undaunted by fear, perhaps to a fault. She isn’t ever cowed by authority (especially that which is taken, not earned). She also views herself as a protector and a provider, stepping into danger without thinking twice when she wants to help family or friends.  Even before she is pushed (or did she jump?) into the center of a major situation, she is subversive, slipping out of the allowed bounderies to hunt because food is scarce, and trading in the black market. She’s not concerned about acting like a “girl”, either— she’s willing to be the stronger and more skilled one, unlike a traditional female sidekick. She’s not submissive, she doesn’t need rescuing, and she (spoiler alert) doesn’t have to die for that sin. It’s a low bar, but clearing it isn’t all that common. Continue reading

yellow safety first sign

How to keep yourself safe

  1. Stop worrying so much about being safe.

Life isn’t safe. Excellence isn’t safe. Innovation isn’t safe. Fun isn’t safe. And truly, what’s “safe” for the short-term is often not so over time. Staying at home and watching TV is safe, but it boredom and inactivity are perilous in their own ways. Staying in a job that you don’t love is safe, but burnout and lack of interest are real dangers.

It’s OK to get dirty, to get a few bruises, to get lost. These are often some of our most memorable and transformative experiences. Sure, there are limits. Common sense things— wear a helmet, tell someone where you’re going. But for pete’s sake, go! When I go to my krav maga class, I don’t take hard hits to the head, but I get hit. I get bruises. This is a good thing— it lets me know that I don’t need to shut down and freak out if I get a little roughed up. Because in life, you WILL get roughed up, even if you’re  careful. Continue reading

glass door of "Alias Investigations"

The badass female project: Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones: she has the surface-level badass bonafides: leather jacket, attitude, drinking problem, super strength (!?).  But Jessica’s rightousness is buried a little deeper—and her exploits throughout the series poke relentlessly at the question of what it means to be a hero.

So what was I doing watching Jessica Jones in the first place? I’m not really a comic book person. I like me some great graphic novels, but the superhero stuff hasn’t ever really been my thing. When I first saw ads for the Luke Cage TV show, I thought it said “luge cake” and I was excited about that. But Netflix thought I might like Jessica Jones, so I gave it a shot. (Aside: I did read some of the Jessica Jones comics when I got interested in this project, but they’re more Marvel-y than the TV show, and I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole— not today, anyway). My first impression was that the first episode drew heavily on Lisbeth Salander for inspiraiton, so I was ready to like it. And I did.

So, what is Jessica’s deal? Continue reading