17/83 = 50/50?

I am sharing Anne Thériault’s opinion piece from this past July because I have been sensed a disturbance in the force (not a great metaphor, I realize. I don’t even like that franchise).

**Spoilers for Seasons 5 of Once Upon a Time and Grimm**

Maybe I’ve been reading too much of The Greek Myths by Robert Graves, wherein he interprets the majority of ancient Greek myths as documenting a shift from matriarchy to patriarchy, but it seems like women are losing ground in my two favorite shows.

I was frustrated when season four of OUaT revealed the sorcerer was Merlin. A show that had been wonderfully gynocentric was now revealing that the most powerful force for light magic we have yet seen is male.

It was the Charmed baby all over again. (The most powerful witches of all time until they are dethroned by their first-born son. Blargh)

I spent the summer being rather frustrated with how the fourth season ended.

The first half of the fifth season was a pleasant surprise, ultimately. Arthur was not the infallible sacred king. Merlin was out-magicked by a women. The relationships between Belle and Merida and Merida, Mulan, and Ruby were the stuff of girl power fantasies.

There were still troubling undercurrents. The introduction of Nimue as the first Dark One increased the association of feminine with “dark” magic and masculine with “light” magic. Both Robert Carlyle and Colin O’Donahue have portrayed their Dark One personae as having more burlesque flamboyancy than their mortal selves. And let’s not forget that Rumplestiltskin was a spinner and Hook had a penchant for “guyliner” and statement necklaces before either of them ever became attached to the dagger.

Plus, the manipulation of Zelena’s pregnant body by Emma and the weird custody-settlement-through-threats plan that Robin and Regina offered were both pretty creepy.

I have seen a similar pattern of power shifting from women to men in Grimm. Unlike OUaT, Grimm has always been male-centered, though I would argue it has had a stronger feminist sensibility than is immediately obvious. Still, this fall’s run of episodes seemed to be shifting what power women had back into the hands of men. Juliet with her stronger-than-average hexenbiest powers has been “dead.” Trubel was largely absent and when she did return she was beaten bloody. Agent Chavez was killed. Adalind has been without powers and has stated that she does not want them to come back. And in a scene where the Nick, Hank, and Wu approached Rosalee and Monroe for a wesen consultation, Rosalee turns to Monroe and suggests “There’s probably something in one of your books.” Monroe’s books?! They’re in the Rosalee’s tea shop where she has shelves of reference texts as well as an intimate knowledge of their contents. Despite this it is Monroe who delivers the science lesson on the Rat King.

On top of all this is the reintroduction of Meisner who appears to be the leader of the secret organization that has been employing Chavez and Trubel. Unlike Chavez or Truble, we have never seen Meisner at a disadvantage when in a fight.

At this point you are probably wondering what my point is. I know I am.

I suppose what I am asking is: why are women’s agency and autonomy subject to entropy? Is it so difficult to sustain a dynamic of equality over a prolonged period of time? Based on the arguments presented by Thériault, the answer to that second question is probably “yes”.

So I ask you, dear readers-that-probably-only-exist in my head. What do we do about it?

Self-Lore

I wrote this in April. I’m just now posting it because of reasons. Please forgive my ersatz footnotes. I’m still fiddling.

Whilst riding the bus this morning, I was reading The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown. One of the topics she brings up is the idea of Authentic Living. Mentioning authenticity in the vicinity of a folklorist is a bit like throwing an apple in the midst of Thetis and Peleus’s wedding feast: discord is likely to ensue. I don’t object to Brown’s use of the word in this context, but it did get me thinking about what it is I really want to study. Authenticity may be an ephemeral concept, but I can certainly identify with the idea of holding things back to avoid letting anyone know one’s true self.. This blog is so sparse because I have worried that my humor isn’t original enough, my academic arguments aren’t well-researched enough, and that anything I post about my writing process or my philosophy and politics would put me on some blacklist for future/current employment or friendships. Every time I think about composing a new post, whether here or on Folklore Horse (folklorehorse.tumblr.com), I question whether it matches the tone/persona/brand I am trying to create.Today is a step towards being brave and blogging authentically.

What this has to do with what I study: thinking about psychology and folklore, I had an epiphany. What I want to study is Self-Lore. The interposing of oneself into folk inheritance, might be one way of defining it. Perhaps it’s the study of psychology through the lens of narrative. Perhaps it is precisely what the disciplines of folklore, reception studies, anthropology, literature, and psychology already are, but I have never felt totally comfortable claiming membership in any of those. And perhaps that is also part of Self-Lore: the groups the individual accepts, and feels comfortable accepting, as their folk.

This is an idea in progress, but I hope to develop it in future work and more-frequent blog posts.

Yes, I said “whilst.”

It’s probably nothing like that. At least, nobody has started a ten-year war over it. That I know of.

The footnotes are clearly a rip-off of http://www.gotmedieval.com

Also, I’m more a craft-planner than a craft-doer, and William refuses to help.

Maybe my so-called epiphany is your “duh,” but I’m excited about it.

I am, however, the founding member of the un-secret society “Narwhals and Sprinkles.” Ask me about it in the comments.

Dress and Coding

A week ago I was in Red Cloud, NE for the “Folklore and Literature Think Tank,” about which Sara Cleto wrote an excellent post. While there, I learned about “Disney Bound.” For those who don’t know, Disney Bound is the practice of dressing in street clothes in a way that evokes a Disney character, song, movie, ride, etc. Leslie A Kay is the big name in this practice, but other people are taking it on as well.

This is one of those phenomena that proves how blurry the boundaries between mass culture, pop culture, and folk culture are. I love the way Disney Bounders use their wardrobes as a kind of code. One has to be fairly familiar with the movies (or rides or what-have-you) to understand the references and jokes being made. This kind of dress is also interesting for combining practicality and fantasy: the clothes can be worn comfortably around an amusement park, bought in department stores, and recycled into your daily wardrobe, while at the same time, the wearer is adding another layer of ritual and audience participation into the experience of the corporate Disney.

I have not worked with dress in my scholarship before, but my attention has been caught and the idea of ethnography on this is very appealing.

Until I buy my season pass, I will just keep making outfit sets of my favorite cultural artifacts.