Which sex is the default?

This small topic has taken up a surprising amount of my mental energy over the past few months. It all started when I sat in on a history class called “Women in Sickness and in Health,” which focuses on gender perceptions throughout western history. The first day of class covered the topic of a “default sex.”

In humans, science suggests, it is default to be female. Add testosterone to a person and they begin to show male secondary sex characteristics (deeper voices, facial hair, extra muscles, etc.). Add a Y chromosome to an embryo and you get a male. Though the norm is two, females can have any number of X chromosomes (see “trisomy X”) without ever showing any sign of being male. But so long as someone has a Y chromosome, that person is transformed into something different. 

As a biology major, I was well familiar with these facts. But I wasn’t aware that some people interpreted these results as being sexist. The history class asked, “Can’t we also say that being male is a lack of having two X chromosomes? Or a lack of estrogen? Why are women the ones who are ‘missing’ something? Missing a penis, missing testosterone, missing a Y chromosome, always ‘missing,’ always ‘lesser.'” 

As I mention in the last section, this answer is complicated but mostly “no.” But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about “defaults.” Why does equating “female” with “default” mean that they are inferior? In fact, I’m used to the exact opposite: … More Which sex is the default?

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

In 1985, the popularity of the show He-Man and its toy line prompted the creation of a spin-off called She-Ra: Princess of Power, which was meant to appeal to a female audience. The show ran for two seasons, and then went on to become a meme.

This year, a reboot of the show, called She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (I know, the titles are confusingly similar), premiered on Netflix. I checked it out because everyone online was going crazy over the ship Catadora, and I of course had my New Year’s resolution to try new things whenever someone says “I recommend it.” Was it as good as everyone said it was?

Well, to put it simply, this was the first full show I’ve ever binged. … More She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Is sexism in high fantasy “just being realistic?”

My friends and I play Dungeons and Dragons, and we all normally play characters of our own gender. I barely remember what the situation was, but a situation once arose during a D&D session where my character wanted to do something, and another player said that the NPC wouldn’t allow it because I was a woman and the middle ages were sexist. 

I was completely taken aback. We weren’t including plague, infant mortality, or suicide in our campaign — in fact, there wasn’t even any gore, sex, or curse words unless the players specified it. The DM was PG at its finest. We were obviously including medieval elements that made things fun, like swords and tyrant kings, but omitting things that would make it less fun, like weight limits and bestiality. So why would sexism be built in to the world?  … More Is sexism in high fantasy “just being realistic?”

Creativity Inc. by Amy Wallace with Ed Catmull (2014)

I hate anyone who tries to tell other writers how to write, who pretends to know the exact elements that a story “must” have. Anyone who thinks that there is a clear formula or clear method of creating a story is diluted.

Creativity Inc. was recommended to me by a good friend years ago, but I only got around to reading it this holiday season because of my New Year’s resolution to read and watch things that people recommended to me (as opposed to putting it off for weeks, months, or years). And hey, the title was about unleashing creativity, not work-shopping a story. How bad could it be?

It was phenomenal.  … More Creativity Inc. by Amy Wallace with Ed Catmull (2014)

Rhetorical Analysis of a Comment, Written in the Style of High School English Timed Write

It’s been a long time since I’ve written in the style of a timed writing from high school English class, and I’m not entirely sure what compelled me to return to this format. Either way, here I am, writing a rhetorical analysis on the one comment I received in all my months of writing for … More Rhetorical Analysis of a Comment, Written in the Style of High School English Timed Write

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

Originally published 2/27/2016. Lead image via Wikipedia. 5 STARS You may have heard the phrase “Brave New World” before. It’s from Shakespeare. And a character in Brave New World doesn’t just happen to say it; he actually quotes Shakespeare all the time. This was, once again, a book I was required to read in English class (though … More Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis (2017)

Casually combining chocolate and dragons, as children’s books should.

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart follows the story of a young dragon named Aventurine who is turned into a human by a “food mage” who tricks her into drinking cursed hot chocolate. Once a human, her dragon family no longer recognizes her so she has to join human society and get an apprenticeship, which she chooses to do at a “chocolate house.”

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book to kids and even teens, but I’m not too certain if it holds up for adults.  … More The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis (2017)