I'm writing in English, which is strange in itself since I really love my own language, Finnish, and since I detest the power position that the English language has in global communucation... but I'd get way too many complaints from American friends if I didn't write in a language comprehensible to them.

Feb 25, 2010

Rant about online discussion

What is it that makes discussion boards and comment pages on online newspapers the most stupid, impolite and moronic forums in the world? Do you remember the time when, if you wanted to comment on something in a newspaper, you had to write your comment on paper, give an opinion and defend it smartly, send it off by mail (paying for postage) compete with other opinions that came to the newspaper and, if you got lucky, you got published as one of the about ten comments in the next possible paper? Those were the days. Reading the opinion pages those days you might come to the conclusion that people are smart, thinking beings who can rationally argue for their opinions...

Helsingin Sanomat, Finlands biggest and most influential newspaper, has an online version where for any story you can start a discussion or take part in one. Unfortunately, when you read the news, you'll also see the first comment posted about it. Oh the scary truths these comments reveal you about mankind! I admit that some of these comments can be well argumented and interesting, but that is not the case for most. Almost anything gets published since there is space. And, since you don't have to publish your real name, people don't feel any restraints in expressing their opinions. Interestingly enough, almost any news story can be used to post so called "immigration critique" - perhaps not quite racist opinions (since the people who post these equally hate Russians who really don't differ from the skin colour of Finns), but definitely xenophobic. Apparently the current immigration minister in Finland has become the most hated person on all discussion boards, all for her compassionate and humane opinions on refugees and immigrants to Finland. And lately there's been an interesting discussion going on about whether the city of Helsinki did badly when deciding that once a week every school child will be offered a vegetarian meal. The hate! Those vegetarians get to decide over my child! The common thing in these writings seems to be the hate, hating those who are different from me and needing to publish it for everyone to see - just not with my own name.

This is not only a Finnish problem. Admittedly, the New York Times sported a very sensible opinion- and comment page, so I went to the local paper: the Denver Post. Sure enough, in those opinions you can see the same hallmarks as in the Finnish ones: xenophobia, hate, offensive language (not cursing, mind you, just personally offensive). My favourite was someone worrying about the Mexican immigration - she called it "invasion and colonialism of America".

I really wish newspapers at least would start requiring people to write with their own name. I'm sure that would not completely solve the problem, but at least it might help. It seems to me that more discussion (as in, more space for everyone's comments and more possibilities to engage everyone) does not lead to better solutions anyway...

Feb 23, 2010

Stephenie Meyer and feminism

Need to practice my English spelling again. I mentioned I wanted to start a blog because of a rant on Stephenie Meyer. Here it is.

I actually find the books very entertaining, but that is not my point today. I also don't think they're great literature. Anyone who criticizes them for their literary qualities is free to do so, as long as they keep in mind the genre and don't mix these books with adults books. But there are two pieces of critique that really annoy me. Both are from so-called feminists. I'm not even going to start with how it annoys me that some "group" (not homogeneous, and definitely not organized, I admit) feels they can define the word and leave out lots of "feminisms" that just don't fit in the definitions... digressing, sorry.

The first critique has got to do with the whole series and concerns mainly the fact that the main character, Bella, is always the victim and needs to be rescued by handsome Edward, who is a superhero really. Sure, we've seen this and it can be amusing - but wasn't this discussion over with already in the 1970's? And does that mean that after that time all novels for youth have to count that the girl rescues the boy equal amount of times? Politically correct teen romance? Sounds boring to me. In this case, I think Meyer (independent of her own opinions) is a victim of her scenario: vampires are supposed to be completely superior to humans. But Edwards sister carries Bella in her arms also - did you notice? And clearly this scenario bothers Bella. She says to Edward somewhere how she feels that a relationship should be equal - both saving both. I'm still not saying anything about Meyer's own views, for good reasons as will be pointed out.

So basically, critics say that this scenario is forbidden and that it gives the girls reading it a bad role model. Maybe - but how educational and politically correct does teen literature have to be?

Second critique concerns the pro-life message in the last book. This annoys me even more, for here critics have completely forgotten how a literary critique should be made. Remember Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert? Flaubert had to defend his book in court, because apparently (I never finished it but this is what I'm told) the book contains a scene where Madam Bovary, after having cheated on her husband, looks in the mirror. The book says something like "she was beautiful". The accusation went that Flaubert thereby said that if a woman cheats on her husband she will be beautiful. This is however not what Flaubert thought - it's what Madame Bovary thought. With Meyer the morale is opposite (typical of that time and ours) but the case is similar. Bella would rather die herself than let anybody do abortion - but is Meyer saying this? No, Bella is. She's a pretty self-sacrificing person all the time. Tries to get herself killed for others in every one of the books I think. So obviously that happened with the baby too. Again, Meyer might feel the same - many first novels are partly based on the personality or life of the writer - but we can't know that, and we should definitely not read that as a message in a book - or then we should again only write educational books where the main character is completely politically correct and a great role model for all younge ladies and gentlemen...

I think part of the critique comes from the fact that Meyer turns out to be a mormon and we are known to frown on abortion. However, being a mormon, I know for a fact that the church will be ok with an abortion when the life of the mother is at stake - which it is here. But is raises an interesting question about the status of a mormon writer - which I'll maybe discuss in another entry.

Feb 22, 2010

Today's rant

Poor husband. Since I always have something to rant on, and since he's the closest one, he has to listen to Theory I or Rant-On-Things-I-Really-Hate every day. He must be exhausted. To prove thisread following: I was laughing about a month ago when he wrote on his friends blog "It's cute how you think someone cares" - this seems to be his general thought about blogs. But today I was ranting about the criticism on Stephenie Meyer for some reason, and he said I should write a blog. A question arises: since nobody probably cares, why on earth should I write a blog? To save his ears?

I've thought about writing a blog earlier, mind you, as an immigrant to the United States - not at all a willing immigrant in fact - and as a Finn among Americans. Of course, thinking about it, there are many more things to comment on... Nobody identifies themselves only with their nationality, but there are many more things. So one by one I'll try to write about those Things.

Starting today. Today's Thing: Why write a blog in a world where too many blogs don't have any reason to exist. (Oh, I have no good answer...)