Banning 13 Reasons Why Isn’t The Answer

I think at this point we are all familiar with 13 Reasons Why  and the controversy surrounding the Netflix series. I know, I know. It’s been talked to death. But let’s talk about it for Mental Health Week anyway.

If you’re not familiar with the controversy, let me fill you in.

The Netflix adaptation of Jay Asher’s novel young adult novel 13 Reasons Why has been receiving both praise and criticism. The story depicts the life of a group of teenagers after the death by suicide of a girl named Hannah Baker. Hannah leaves tapes behind describing the thirteen reasons she had for dying.

While mental health advocates and professionals believe that talking about mental illness and suicide is important, they also believe that the makers of the series did not handle this sensitive material correctly. Not only so, but the makers seem often to actively go against media guidelines for talking about suicide.

Read more…

Why People With Anxiety Make Hella Great Friends

Anxiety is a natural response to certain situations. Social anxiety is an evolutionary response. Belonging to, and being accepted by, a group was the difference between death and survival. Humans are social beings meant to be part of a community.

People who have anxiety disorders have natural anxiety on a large-scale. It doesn’t shut off. While there are not a whole ton of things that make having anxiety great, there are a few things that it teaches us.

I know that it can be hard to have friends with anxiety. There are a lot of little things and limitations you have to be aware of and sensitive to, and it can be frustrating. But anxiety can teach those who suffer from it and can give them different perspectives. One of those things is how to be a good friend.

Sure, people with anxiety have all different types of personalities and character traits. But in general, our anxiety makes us alert to certain things and these can benefit those who are around us.

So, this Mental Health Week, here are 14 awesome things that make people with anxiety great friends to have.

Read more…

Know Someone With Anxiety? Here are Six (Mildly Snarky) Dos and Don’ts

Hey y’all! It’s Mental Health Week! Let’s #GETLOUD for mental health.

Anxiety. Mental illness. Heavy topic, huh? It doesn’t have to be. Important topic? Absolutely.

I know that mental health and mental illnesses have been getting more mainstream coverage and acceptance of late (which is good), but it’s not enough. It’s something that we still need to work hard at to normalize. This is something that is okay to talk about. It’s important to talk about. 1 in 5 Canadians have or will suffer from a mental illness in their life. That’s 20% of the population, guys.

Although there are a lot of us out there, mental illness can be incredibly isolating. But, knowledge is power, yo! Educate yourself. Know someone with anxiety? (You probably do, whether you know it or not). Here are some (a little snarky) dos and don’ts.

Read more…

Confessions of a Murderino: How I Became Interested in MURDERERS (i.e. True Crime)

 I haven’t been doing a ton of reading in the last couple of weeks. I haven’t been doing anything particularly constructive though, either. What I have been doing though, is binge listening to tons of podcasts.

Now, I’m not saying that listening to podcasts isn’t constructive. There’s a ton of great shit out there, man. It’s just that usually when people listen to stuff like podcasts or audiobooks or whatever, they are doing something else.

Maybe they’re on the bus, or driving, or walking, or cleaning, or cooking, or literally anything else. But me? I’m usually just curled up on the couch with earbuds in and eyes closed.

Read more…

Library Assistant Life

For the last two, almost three, years I’ve worked in a public library.

I started at the bottom, as what we call a clerk—i.e. someone who shelves books—and have been working my way up.

I’ve been very lucky so far in my library career. I started off at quite a small branch in a kind, tight-knit community. The staff emulated this. They have always been so friendly, welcoming, and eager to teach. Through their guidance and support, I’ve been able to learn so much. Read more…

Reflecting on 2016

This is a tad overdue. However, 2016 was a landmark year for me in many ways. Reflecting on this, here are the main things that stand out about my year.

I kept my New Year’s Resolution

In 2016, in a very non-Beth fashion, I stuck to my guns and lost 40 pounds. I started off with weight watchers, then took things into my own hands. I completely changed my diet and my physical routine. Temporary diets don’t work. You have to make a lifestyle change. One that works for you! For me, “Everything in moderation” did not work… It definitely helped me to get started, but after that, until I got a handle on things, I needed to cut certain things out entirely. Eventually, I didn’t even miss them! Now I have treats every now and then but know that if I let myself, I could easily end up right back where I started.

I went on some amazing trips

In February/March, I went to Mexico with my family! We stayed at a resort on the Mayan Riviera and had an amazing time. I did a lot of relaxing and eating, but we went on a couple of day trips, too. Not only that, but the food was great!

For Thanksgiving, I traveled with my family to Alberta to visit extended family. It was so nice. For ten days we stayed with my grandmother hanging out and exploring Edmonton.

On the first weekend in November I went on a road trip to Boston with three friends! We all piled into my car and made the eleven hour trek to see needtobreathe and Mat Kearney in concert. It was amazing.

I made (and reconnected with) some great friends

Over the last few years, I had become somewhat of a hermit. I rarely left my house when I wasn’t working, always holed up with a book or on the internet. I would text my few friends sometimes, but I would never really make an effort to see them. The person I spoke to the most was my then-boyfriend. He lived in another province and we didn’t get to see each other a lot.

It’s one thing if you’re a hermit and you’re happy. But I was a hermit, and I was not happy. I thought it was just me being an introvert, but really, it was me giving in to my social anxiety.

The fall of 2015 was rough. My boyfriend and I split up and my beloved fur baby died. When all that happened, I realized how important friends really were–because I needed them but had let them all slip away. I became determined to never be in that place again.

Throughout 2016, I constantly made myself go out of my comfort zone. Not only did I make myself make and stick to social plans, I also made myself go places I didn’t know anyone, or only knew one or two people. It was hella scary, y’all.

I started hanging out with my friends, and started making new ones. I reconnected with someone I knew from years ago, and from there started going to her church on Saturdays. Turns out that a bunch of people I used to know went there! It was so great seeing them. I made it a regular thing and started building friendships.

The most meaningful friendship I made was with a red-headed gem named Maggie. We just clicked. One day after church I asked her if she was free and wanted to hang out. After that, we were almost inseparable for the summer. But there was a catch. She was engaged. To an American. And was moving to Oregon at the end of the summer. That was a huge bummer, but I had the best summer of my life. Maggie is in Oregon now, but we still talk basically everyday! I’m so glad that I met her. Even with her a million miles away, we’re still close.

It was really hard for me to not give into my anxiety, and it’s still hard. But I’m not going to let it control me. I have friends, dammit! Anxiety, you can go to hell.

I moved out

I’m a strong, independent woman, y’all! I’m out in the medium-sized city making my own way! This was a huge thing for me on many levels. First, it’s obviously a big thing for anyone when you leave home, and so it was for me, too. It was also clearly the right time. I was finally making (barely) enough money to afford living on my own. Not only that, but a girl I knew happened to be looking for a place, too. Together we found the perfect spot for us and have lived there (mostly) happily since. It’s given me independence, pride, and a lifestyle I love. I absolutely adore the neighbourhood I live in. It’s the cutest. I love living in the city. Everything is so close. There’s always something to do and someone to do it with.

I landed a job that I love

It’s been quite the journey since university. I’ve been working in the library system in my city for almost three years, and I’ve finally landed a job that I’m not super over-qualified for. Not only do I love the job, but I love the place I work, too. I work in a small community library. It’s such an important hub for the people who live here, and it’s a privilege to serve them! The staff is such a treat, too. Each and every staff member is a joy to work with. There’s not even one person that I don’t get along with. It’s such a great place to work. I could go on and on. It’s a dream. I count my lucky stars everyday.

I learned a lot about myself

2016 was a transition year for me. There was so much change. And that was a good thing. I needed that. I made a lot of mistakes but I learned from each and every one.

Onto 2017

A month into this year, and things are looking pretty good. I’ve been reading amazing books, getting to know amazing people, and enjoying amazing opportunities. One such opportunity is contributing to Book Riot! Writing and books are both my true loves. I’m really excited I’ve join the Book Riot community. If you’re interested, check out my contributor page and the posts I’ve written so far!

How Reading Made Me a Feminist (Or Realize I Kinda Already Was One)

I’m a twenty-five-year-old woman, and I consider being a feminist a large part of my identity. Ten years ago, that wasn’t the case. Hell, five years that wasn’t the case.

Growing up, I fell victim to the narrative that many people do—feminism was an ugly word used to describe man-hating, overly sensitive, “politically-correct” (as if this were a bad thing), crazy people.

I believed that feminism sought to destroy the nuclear family, force women from the home, and spread anger and bitterness. I was ignorant to the real meaning of feminism and what it sought to do.

Privileged and sheltered, I grew up mostly ignorant to the fact that women are treated differently and that this is a problem. Was sexism was even a thing anymore? Surely that was over. It’s the twenty-first century after all. Oh, little me.

I have always been a huge book nerd. Since I was small, I have rarely been found without a book. I have always seen the value in women’s writing and narratives, and I was naïve and self-centered enough to think that other people saw things the way I did.

Later, while selecting the subject of my undergrad thesis, I realized something. When left to my own devices, I read almost exclusively female authors. I seemed mostly interested in women’s stories and struggles. Overtime, I also found myself vicariously experiencing the oppression of women through those stories.

As I chose my topic and began my research, these thoughts became more concrete. I decided to write about Edith Wharton and her novel The House of Mirth. The goal of my thesis was to highlight parts of the novel that coincided with the feminine literary tradition of American Sentimentalism. This tradition describes fiction written by women and for women, with female relationships and domestic life at the forefront.

During Wharton’s time, the Sentimental tradition was viewed as “trashy” by the great American writers (i.e. some white dudes). Instead, those writers were part of the school of Realism. Wharton, too, was part of this school. However, I argued that she also made use of feminine tradition, and that feminine did not mean lesser.

As I researched Wharton and her work, I became increasingly interested in the plight of women. For one, it was—and is—much harder to be taken seriously in your field when it is dominated by men.

Furthermore, as I dug deeper into the novel, I found many parts of the main character’s story standing out. One of the novel’s main themes is the woman as a beautiful ornament to be consumed. The importance this theme held for Wharton was made clear as I learned the book’s original title: A Moment’s Ornament.

The journey of reading Wharton and writing my thesis solidified many feminists beliefs in me—but I still didn’t know what to call them.

I, like many young people (I assume), learned that feminism was actually an okay thing when Emma Watson made her speech about gender equality at the UN. That same year Beyoncé performed at the VMAs in front of a large sign reading “FEMINIST.” Feminism was becoming “cool” and more accessible (and consumable, but that’s another story for another day).

As I had already been forming these beliefs and contemplating these issues, I was particularly receptive to Watson’s message. I eagerly and proudly began labeling myself a feminist. After a while, however, I was not content to leave it at that.

My feminism became especially real to me when I learned the term rape culture. I first read about it when prominent universities in my city were in local and national newspapers for the horrendous behaviour of some of their students. I was shocked and appalled. The more I looked into rape culture, the more I realized that while yes, I should most definitely be appalled, I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s a huge, widespread problem.

This is how author Emilie Buckwold defines rape culture (emphasis mine):

[Rape culture is] a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm . . . In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable . . . However . . . much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.

The idea of rape culture enraged me, and rightly so. That anger became a driving force behind much my reading. I continue to educate myself on these issues daily. I write things like this and sometimes post them on my blog.

Reading has expanded my mind, grown my empathy and compassion, and given me a peek into experiences I may not have otherwise seen. With an open mind and a critical eye, I think reading has made me a better person.

And a feminist.

Jessica Valenti’s Sex Object: A Memoir … And Me

Eight months or so ago, I discovered the work of prominent feminist writer and activist, Jessica Valenti. She’s been doing great work for several years (which, apparently, I’ve been oblivious to), including writing and co-writing six books and founding the website Feministing. After reading some of her stuff, I began eagerly anticipating the spring release of her memoir, Sex Object.

When Sex Object first came on my radar, I began frequently checking the library listings until I was able to put a hold on it. When it came in for me, it was crisp, shiny, and new in its protective plastic sleeve. I wanted to eat it.

The moment I got home, book in hand, I cracked it open and began to read. I devoured it.

Valenti’s writing is raw and unflinching. She draws you in and forces you to see the realities she presents. You can’t look away.

In Sex Object, Valenti presents essay after essay detailing her, often horrific, experiences. From a young age, there was a piece of her identity that was thrust upon her: sex object. She did nothing to garner this attention, but it was given nonetheless.

A high school teacher once told me that identity is half what we tell ourselves and half what we tell other people about ourselves. But the missing piece he didn’t mention—the piece that holds so much weight, especially in the minds of young women and girls—is the stories that other people tell us about ourselves.

Valenti explores this with grueling honesty as she brings us back and forth in her timeline, detailing the ways this has affected her life and continues to do so—in countless and different forms.

When I reached around the halfway point, I knew this wasn’t a book I could just finish and forget about. It wasn’t a book that I could return to the library and never really look at again. So, naturally, mid-read, I went out and bought myself a copy.

Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t a perfect book. However, it is an honest and important read. Stories like Valenti’s are key pieces in the broader conversation that we all need to be having about sexism, objectification, and harassment. I may have read some fair critiques of Sex Obect, but none of them take away from its value.

One such critique is the seemingly haphazard array of stories throughout Sex Object. The transitions between chapters and sections are often quite jarring. You go from one horrific tale to the beginning of a seemingly innocuous anecdote several years later, and so on and so forth.

I don’t find this a detracting factor. I think this pattern of storytelling embodies what Sex Object is all about. It is jarring and uncomfortable to suddenly find yourself the center of unwanted, sometimes aggressive, sexual behaviour and attention.

While reading Sex Object, I found that I don’t share much of Valenti’s personal experience. I didn’t grow up in a large city. I didn’t use public transit (and still don’t). I grew up in an upper-middle class family, in a small, insular community. I wasn’t exposed to the same things Valenti was as she grew up and matured as a woman. If I experienced such objectification, it was always rare, and almost always treated with a laugh. It was never to such an extreme that I felt more than a little uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, however, things have changed. I’m still not in anywhere near the same circumstances as Valenti, but I now find myself relating to her stories more than ever.

Over the last nine months, I’ve dropped four dress sizes. For the most part, I am proud of myself and feel good and healthy. However, when summer came, I was awash with attention I’d previously rarely received.

When I changed to a summery wardrobe, I wore dresses that exposed (gasp!) my legs, and tops that exposed (gasp!) my shoulders, and things with waistlines that were (gasp!) fitted. And men have noticed. And they have been vocal about it. This is insulting and uncomfortable on so many levels.

I first noticed it at work. Customers gawking at me as I walk by. Male customers repeatedly seeking my help with things they don’t actually need help with. Older men calling me “sweetheart” and plying me with “harmless” flirtatious conversation where they hadn’t before.

This doesn’t just happen at work.

I’ve recently moved into the city and have taken to going for walks regularly. It never occurred to me that an afternoon stroll alone (or even with another girl) might be an occasionally uncomfortable experience. But it is.

I’m a library assistant. Before that, I worked in retail. Smiling at strangers is second nature to me. I do it without even thinking. However, on my walks, I’ve now started to think about it. And stop myself. Just look straight ahead, I tell myself when I pass people on the street.

I know that not everyone is a creep, but at this point I’ve had too many men leer at me in response. I don’t want to see it. I try not to. I try not hear the honks or shouts or whistles as cars drive by.

These incidents may not all happen in rapid succession, but they happen at least once a day. I had been so proud of my weight loss. But now, some days, I feel worse than ever. Outfits that had previously made me feel pretty give me pause. What kind of attention do I want to receive today? I have to scold myself.

If I let thoughts of these men decide what I’m going to wear or do, I’m just giving them more power. And honestly, that’s what they’re after. They seem to think that their thoughts and desires—and the expression of such—are more important than my comfort or safety. They don’t see me as a person.

But I am a person. I am a person with thoughts, feelings, and my own identity. We all are. I wish there was a magic wand I could wave to change this about the world. But, sadly, there isn’t. All we can do is keep our heads up, not accept this as “normal,” and keep talking about it. This kind of attention is not a compliment. It’s harassment.

Valenti’s purpose in Sex Object is an important one. She will not brush off these things. She will not pretend that they don’t happen. She will not for one moment accept that they are in any way okay. Instead, she details her experiences and shows how not okaythey are, how horrible they are. She shows us that these are not one-offs. They are not harmless. These comments and actions are expressions of the deep-seated beliefs that society holds about women. They are a symptom of a greater problem. These attitudes lead to real violence against women.

While my daughter lives in a world that knows what happens to women is wrong, it has also accepted this wrongness as inevitable.

Although I am not a re-reader, I can see myself reading Sex Object again. It made me think about and reflect upon issues that I had previously not personally experienced. Its raw, unflinching, brutal honesty made me shudder at the realities women and girls face, every day. We, like Valenti, need to keep talking about this and stop brushing it aside. We need to stand up, reject this dehumanization, and not consider it “normal” or “inevitable.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to take my cue from Valenti. Society may try to make us out to be sex objects, but let us refuse to accept it.

Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti
Hardcover, 205 pages
Published June 7th, 2016 by Dey Street Books
Goodreads | Indigo

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Changes

                Photo via Unsplash

My dear friends of the blogosphere,

There has been something I have been struggling with for a while: blogging. If you’ve stuck around this far, thank you. But I’m sure you’ve noticed the distinct lack of posts over the last few months. When I have posted, there has been little to no discussion or reviews of books. 

 

I’ve been in a perpetual reading slump for months, and, instead of forcing anything, I’ve decided to embrace it. There are so many new and exciting things going on in my life right now that it hasn’t been difficult to fill the time.  

During this time, I’ve been trying new things (both out of necessity and choice), and these have led to many new interests.

Because of this, I’ve come to a somewhat difficult, but fun (for me, anyway), decision: Fuelled by Fiction is going to get a makeover. 


While the book-blogging world has been a blast, I’ve decided to diverge from that route. That’s not to say that I will be leaving the book blogging world altogether, but that Fuelled by Fiction will begin inhabiting other worlds as well.


In order to encompass all my passions, interests, and experiences, I’ve decided to shift to from being exclusively a book blog to a lifestyle blog. This way I can comfortably discuss my newbie kitchen adventures, the pressures of working part time and on a budget, how losing weight has effected my life and my budget, my love for my city, and myriad other topics. Right now, these are the things that I want to talk about. These are things that make me want to write. These are things that are taking up the majority of my time and my brain space. But, again, fear not: books will certainly not be leaving my radar.


I hope that you will join me as I make this change and chronicle my adventures in this new stage of life.


The nitty gritty

I will be slowly rolling out this change across the blog over the next month or so. Furthermore, for now I have no plans to change the name of the blog, but should that change, I’ll certainly keep you updated. Again, I hope you stick around and join me for the ride!

When Adulting is Fun and Exciting… But then Reality Sets In

 
I don’t know if you recall, but in a previous post I mentioned that I was moving. Said move occurred two weeks ago.
This is not just any move. This is the move. The I’m-getting-my-shit-together-and-finally-moving-out-of-my-parents-house move.
At first I was hella nervous, packing my things away, wondering how it was possible for one twenty-something to have accumulated so much crap. I was scared that I would end up not getting on with my roommate, that my bedroom would be too small, that the unknown would jump out and eat me, etc. etc.

 For the most part, things have been going great. I love the apartment. It’s fairly spacious and in a killer location. I love how close I am to restaurants, parks, cafés, you name it. I can’t get over the fact that people actually deliver food to my apartment. Where I live. (Context, I used to live in the middle of nowhere).
I’ve been loving organizing everything, moving furniture around, adding cute knickknacks to make it feel like home. I’ve been loving taking daily walks around my new neighbourhood and getting to know the area. I may not love cooking, but there is definitely something to be said for having your own kitchen.
But now that things are settling down and the novelty is wearing off a bit (but only a bit), I’ve paused and looked at, ahem, my bank account. Moving is expensive.
As I watched my accounts plummet further each day, I did what I always do when problems arise: I took to the internet.
I came across a personal finance blog called The Financial Diet. I spent over an hour scrolling through their posts and reading them. It’s a surprisingly fun blog considering the topic, really; they have a lot of really good tips and interesting personal anecdotes. One thing that they can’t seem to stress enough is the importance of a budget.
Now, I know that budgets are important and all. I get it. I’ve given them a go in the past. I would get really excited about being productive and smart, making charts and lists, keeping track of all my spending, etc. But by the one-month mark, I’d always peter out. I’m pretty terrible sometimes when it comes to follow-through. Now though, not following through is kind of not an option.
I knew that I needed a budget, but I knew it would be super hard work sticking to it. Then I came across a post on TFD that mentioned the use of personal finance apps. I was more surprised by this than I should have been (there are apps for everything these days).
One that they mentioned in particular is the app Mint. You link your accounts up to the app and it keeps track of everything for you. It shows you what you have coming in, what you’re spending, and where you’re spending it. It categorizes your transactions for you and everything!
I only just downloaded Mint the other day, but I’m hoping that it will give me some insight into my spending habits. I know that many of the purchases I’ve made during the move have been necessary, but I also know that a lot of them weren’t. For example, just because I live three minutes away from a shop that sells killer gelato doesn’t mean I need to buy one every time I walk by.
For the next few weeks, I’m going to try to be more mindful of where my money is going, and Mint should help (and I’m lazy and broke so I need all the help I can get). It gives me a breakdown of the places I spend my money and totals it for each category. Hopefully this will keep me accountable!
 
It’s so easy to justify that $5 latté when you think of it as a solitary experience. But when you realize you’ve had that same “solitary” experience three or four times already that week, not to mention the week before, it adds up more than I’d care to think. Maybe with Mint I’ll be able to guilt myself into making coffee at home more! As far as dreams go, that’s a pretty obtainable one, right?
I’m obviously still going to drink lattés (what am I, a robot?), but I’ve got some adulting to do, and it ain’t cheap. I’ve got to get real when it comes to the dolla dolla bills y’all, and stop throwing money around like I actually have it. I’ve got grown-up bills now, and, unfortunately, no one else is gonna pay ‘em.
Are you experiencing any similar adulting woes? Have any advice?