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Hello and Happy International Women´s Day! To celebrate, this blog will feature various articles and reports about Womens´s struggles for justice and equality, for respect and freedom. Enjoy and become aware!

Firstly, it is time for us as a society to not be friends with rapist.

Buzzfeed has a collection of animated depictions of society´s most beloved couples, where such characters as Marge Simpson and Wonderwoman are vitims of Domestic Abuse. Chilling and powerful. Serious Trigger Warning!

How US Politics contribute to the the epidemic portions of gendered violence in Mexico.

The Aftermatch of the Rwandan genocide, from the Rwandan´s womens perspective.

The horrific situation when millions of women worldwide are denied abortions.


The dangers women face when religious beliefs dominate hospitals.

One brave Afghan woman´s film about rape.

Two takes on Jared Leto´s role in “Dallas Buyers Club”.

What does the recent election in Honduras mean for the countires women?

A factsheet about the almost forgotten Comfort Women.

Amnesty Internationals campaign for Reproductive rights and justice.

Seeking justice for the thousands of murdered Indigenous Canadian women.

A factsheet of Chinese activist Cao Shunli.

Black women and the burden of HIV.

15 facts on sex, pregnancy and violence.

In Nepal, widespread gender discrimination has lead to a crisis in sexual and reproductive rights.

(In Swedish, use google translations). Poor women don´t get access to women´s clinics.

(In Swedish, use google tranlsation). Same situation in Burkina Faso.

(In Finnish, use google translation). Everyone must have the right to decide themselves what their genderidentification is.

Take Action! Sign this petition to prevent a new law in Mocambique which gives rapist the right to marry their victims instead of facing jail.

Take Action! Help a Guatemalan mother find justice for her daughter, who was brutally raped and killed.


In China, single motherhood and having children outside of weddinglock are the final taboo.

A crisis for women´s sexual rights in Poland.


In China, a activist protesting child rape was made homeless by the authorities.

India´s period problem.

How landgrabs in Kenya hurt the Sengwer women (an Indeginous people in Kenya).

There is still hope for Arab feminism!

The scars of the Iraq war lead to depression and drug abuse in Iraqi women.

Breaking the silence of Domestic abuse in the palestian communities.

Israel admitted to forced birth controll and sterilazation of Ethiopian women refugees.

Breaking the silence on violence against Indeginous women, adolescents and children.


Peru will reopen the cause of forced sterilizations, subjected to thousands of Indeginous women.

Top five issues which is killing of Native Americans.

A mother was charged with fellony since she heloed her daughter to get access to an illegal abortion pills online.


19 things women writers are sick of hearing.

Some articles on the Woody Allen controversy: An former lawyer who worked on many child molestian causes explains of how despite not being convicted, it doesn´t mean Allen isn´t guilty. Another piece shows the 1993 papers from the trial, showing he infact wasn´t found completely innocent. Vanity Fair spells out 10 facts about the cause. And finally, a piece on how bizarre it is that Mia Farrow is always accused of brainwashing and Woody Allen isn´t.

One-third of European women suffer from either sexual or physical abuse.

Take Care/ Maaretta

Hi everyone!

Febuary Is Black History Month in the US. To celebrate its last days, here´s some links to check out!

Here´s a good collection of Important, early black feminist.


Top ten black inventors you should know.

A map where slavery still exists.

The myth of the black superwoman, revisited.

Also, sadly, Harold Ramis died today at the age of 69. Rest In Piece, Mr. Ramis.

“Father always spoke Finnish!” – Elina about her deceased father

This is a post to celebrate “The Day of the Finnish Swede”, a day for all Swedes of Finnish Descent and Finns who happen to live in Sweden.

Despite being a good 2-10 percent of Sweden´s population, Finns aren´t much represented in Swedish Media. Only a few Swedish movies feature a character of Finnish roots, and when it comes to the ever growing literature which is penned by immigrants or second-generation immigrants, people of Finnish descent are even less present. Susanna Alakoski and Eija Hetekivi Olsson, both Swedes of Finnish descent, have won awards and been best-sellers, but the fact that they write about Finns hasn´t really been acknowledge by the Swedish critics. Therefore it is a delight that the film “Elina – As If I Didn´t Exist” (2002) not only exists, but is a touching tale of courage and a enchanting, and completely underrated, cinematic gem. It is directed by Klaus Härö, who has also directed “The Best of Mothers”, another work of bright cinematic display.

Original Swedish Movie Poster For "Elina"

Original Swedish Movie Poster For “Elina”

“Elina” centers on a young 9-year old girl who lives in a rural area of Sweden in the year 1952. Both of Elina´s parents were Finnish immigrants, her mother being a single parent after the death of the father. After recovering from tuberculoses, Elina must return to school after a year of absence. Being a year academically behind her age peers Elina must reenter the school into the same class as her sister, Irma. The teacher of Irma´s class is the strict disciplinarian Tora Holm, who is both loved and feared in the small town Elina lives in. While at times generous, Tora is also frightening in her determination. Since it is strongly prohibited in the Swedish schools of the Era, Elinas mother warns her to never, ever speak Finnish outside of her home.

However when in school, Elina decides to help a fellow Finnish speaking classmate, Anton, since he, being of Finnish descent and newly arrived to Sweden and the school, doesn´t speak any Swedish. Elina speaks Finnish to help Anton come to grip with new the language. Unfortunately The teacher, Tora Holm, overhears them speak Finnish and without caring to know the context of the situation, decides this means Anton doesn´t get any lunch (a penalty for speaking Finnish). Elina tries to explain that Anton is at a disadvantage. Furthermore she points out that she also shouldn´t be allowed to have lunch since both of them spoke Finnish. These statements are dismissed by Tora. At lunch Elina, to protest the unfairness of the teachers actions, gives her entire meal to Anton. This starts a chain of verbal abuse Elina receives from her teacher. Elina becomes bullied, since she refuses to tolerate the discrimination she and Anton faces.

Elina and Tora Holm

Elina and Tora Holm

Despite “Elina” being a childrens film, it doesn´t shy away from showing how openly hostile people could be to Finns at the time, as well as to the poor. Since the death of her father, Elinas mother struggles to feed her three children and maintain a meager existence in a richer Swedish community in which they find themselves. The poverty Elinas family faces are constantly mocked by Tora. Tora also refers to the ability to speak Finnish as a sole reason to being poverty stricken, and even states that it´s “so hard to teach these finnsavages”. Today in Sweden Finnish is recognized under law as a minority language (as are the Sami language, Mäenkieli, Romani Chib, Yiddish, and Sign language). This status, as now conferred by Swedish law, means that every Swede of Finnish descent has a right to have access to their mother tongue, or a right to learn Finnish.

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Chinese Poster for “Elina”

While it is of great importance that minority mother tongues, and the cultures which circulate around them, have found respect (at least in theory) in the Swedish State, it´s also crucial that films such as “Elina” show that discrimination and oppression have also been a part of the Finnish-Swede experience. On another note, the Sami in Sweden faced harsher discrimination and still continue today to be erased in Scandinavian society.

Elina as a protagonist is a fantastic, inspirational character. She is strong, fierce and believes in justice. She is brave enough to do this even when literally everyone else is against her, even her family. She feels pride in being Finnish and her sense of belonging and self-respect give her strength to avoid the shame in being different from the other Swedish children.

Elina´s family

Elina´s family

Also, Elina is also shown as having a substantial and binding connection with her father, which the movie implies to have been the person who has nurtured, and inspired, her sense of justice and concern for rights. The Finnish father, in “Elina”, gets to be portrayed as a kind, loving parent, which may not seem to be an important detail, however a commonplace, as well as unfortunate, stereotype of Finnish men in Swedish society, is that they are often drunken and violent hooligans who are commonly brutish and unremittedly uncivilized. In Contrast to this simplistic and one-sided stereotype, Elina´s father is a positive, nuanced portrayal of Finnish men. Granting a space for Finnish men to be allowed more three-dimensional roles in Swedish media without recourse to this overly represented stereotype is important to not only recognize the value of minorities in a society, but also to recognize the importance of the Finn to the history and development of Sweden.

“Elina – As if I didn´t exist” is a powerful film about discrimination and bullying. It´s a film that speaks of a personal history of the Finnish immigrants, but also speaks of the universal will to fight for what’s right.

So for The Day of the Finnish-Swedes, go have a sauna, munch on some Karelian pies and watch “Elina – As if I Didn´t exist”!

Swedish/Finnish Flag

Swedish/Finnish Flag

Today is Martin Luther King Day!In honor of this day when we celebrate this great man, it should be reminded that the struggle wasn’t easy for Dr. King. In fact, the FBI tried to blackmail Dr. King into killing himself.

4 ways Martin Luther King was even more radical than one first thought. For instance, he denounced the Vietnam War and supported reproductive rights.

Go read and listen to Dr. Kings’ Nobel Peace Prize speech here.

The Great Angela Davis on Martin Luther King.

Scot Nakagawa over at Colorlines: “My debt to Dr. King”.

Take Care/ Maaretta

Langston Hughes (b. 1902-1967) is one of those writers that don’t need an introduction. Mr. Hughes was the author of several plays, dozens of poems, two biographies as well as a slew of other writing projects. Rarely has there been a writer who could deliver such strong wisdom, wit and a sense for justice in his prose. His short stories and poems speak of the nuances and horrors of racial hatred and discrimination. Hughes’ description of a sole black student in the poem “Theme For English B” captures the alienation that’s been magnified by race, and his poem “Madam and her Madam” (where a hard working black maid calls out the white woman she works for after the latter claims there is no barriers between them) speaks of the utter obviousness and destructive naivety whites embodies in a white privileged society. Langston Hughes work spoke of hope and tried to often empower the oppressed in his poems, such as in his poem “Democracy”. In his most famous short story collection, “The Ways of White Folks”, Hughes tells stories of segregation from the point of view of both whites and blacks, the ongoing theme as the title suggest being the ways whites oppress in era of Jim Crow.

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

One of his most powerful short prose pieces is “Poor Little Black Fellow”, which tells the story of Arnold who at a young age becomes an orphan and is adopted by a white rich couple. Arnolds is black and his lost parents were servants. Arnold, or Arnie as everyone calls him, grows up realizing he is not allowed to do nearly anything. Throughout his childhood and youth Arnie experiences being denied the same rights as the white children. He doesn’t get to join the scouts; he doesn’t get to play with the other children and is not invited to any parties. The Church, which his adoptive parents attend, use him as a symbol of “Christian charity”. Everyone in the story displays a superficial tone of exaggerated niceness to Arnie since they know he can’t be a part of anything. Their kindness is patronizing, not really helping with Arnie´s problems as a toxic bearer of blackness in a world of hidden white oppressions. Indeed, Mr. Hughes shows in this story that kindness can in times be worse than maliciousness. By being nice, the whites are able to deny Arnie any forms of equality or rights. Arnie knows in a way that the kindness is fake, a way to rationalize the racism he faces, but is powerless to say anything. Being extra nice to Arnie does nothing but put Arnie down, since he is not treated as a normal kid. Even worse he is used by his adoptive white parents and their friends and neighbors to make them feel better about themselves, while contributing and continuing the dehumanizing segregation and its hidden ideology.

"Painting Of Black Child" by Maria Saldarriaga, painted on porcelain

“Painting Of Black Child” by Maria Saldarriaga, painted on porcelain

But once Arnie starts to reach adulthood, Arnie and his adoptive parents take a trip to France. There Arnie starts to become immersed in political activism and social milieu (notably “party’s”). He begins a journey where meeting people for the first time gives him the feeling that the kindness he receives isn’t patronizing and degrading, but actually based on him as a person. He even falls in love with a white French girl and plans to marry her.

"Slow Dance", by Brandy Kayzakian-Rowe

“Slow Dance”, by Brandy Kayzakian-Rowe

He wants to stay in France, where he is treated equally and not shut down by faux-kindness. However, when he tells his parents about this plan, the white rich couple for the first time quit being “extra nice” and show their true colors to Arnie.

"Langston Hughes", a painting from the Brooklyn Art Project

“Langston Hughes”, a painting from the Brooklyn Art Project

Hughes uses France as a strong contrast to the US; while one country features segregation, the other provides hope and rights. Many black intellectuals in fact did move to France before and after the civil rights movement, such as James Baldwin and Richard Wright. While France did offer more rights to people of color at the time, the French did their share of also the separation and exotic-fication of blacks in their society.

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The black French writer Frantz Fanon spoke of how, in his opinion, the French didn’t fully allow for blacks to be black in their own way nor did they fully understand what it was like to be “imprisoned in ones skin color”. Indeed, the French had a subtle, but emphatically problematic way of viewing Africa and Africans, believing them to be the “pure emotional ones”. Blacks were categorized at times as all African and there were cases where whites would tell blacks to behave “more African”. Mr. Fanon wrote an entire book on the account of racism in France, most notable the book “Black skin, White Mask”, where he deals with the psychological aspects in racism. Also, the time Hughes is describing in his story is the same time when Algeria was still colonized by France. So while the basic truth Hughes describes in his story ( that France offered some basic rights for the black Americans while the US still lived in the mind set of Jim Crow) this does erase certain more troublesome aspects of the French racial mindset from that time as well. None the less, Mr. Hughes uses this contrast between the two countries (France is more of metaphorical country in Hughes story than the real France detailed by Mr. Fanon) in a clever way to also show the difference between patronizing and humanizing.

Frantz Fanon

Frantz Fanon

“Poor Little Black Fellow” is a great literary document of the 1930’s. It is also a great example of how racism is more and more insidious than the explicit and obvious malicious and cruel actions engendered in the prejudiced social world. It’s also denial, which Arnie´s adoptive parents are guilty of. Prejudice and hatred take different shapes. Just because one is acting nice it most certainly doesn’t mean the actions are not harmful. This niceness, as described by Mr. Hughes, can be a way to exercise ones privilege and of looking down. Making someone less of a person is exposed in a grammar of oppression regardless of ones tone or being “polite” about it. This story is the perfect example of this, and should therefore be read by everybody who thinks everything will be okay if we are just nice to each other. If only it was so easy, but true kindness comes in the form of true equal rights, opportunity and freedom, as Langston Hughes illustrates.

Feel good music is great. Who can argue with that? So, here´s a few good empowerment songs for those who feel a little moody, or need some inspiraion to keep fighting the good fight.

“Shove” by the all-female rock band L7 is a classic. The lyrics deal with issues such as sexual harashment och objectification as well as having to put up with horrible landlords. But thankfully Donita Sparks, the lead singer of this band, is able to deliver a powerful come-back to those trying to hold women (and men who at times face these similar problems) back!

Aretha Franklin´s cover of Otis Reddings “Respect” is perhaps one of the greatest covers of all time. Ms. Franklin voice is full of pure energy, confidence and Warmth. In this song Franklin asks for some respect from her partner, bringing the political to the personal (and making it sexy to boot!). Just a perfect performance. Watch below the 1967 version below:

Despite some unfortunate recent events, there is no denying that James Browns song “Say it outload (I´m black and I´m proud)” is extremely powerful in it´s use of audience participation and just straight forward, honest, true and greatly empowering message.

Greydon Square is a rapper who specilizes in atheist themes in his music. His verses are sharp, engaging and at times funny. His songs also deal with being a proud atheist. Many songs are in ways empowering for atheist, but one of my favorites is “Judge Me”. But by all means, check out more of his stuff!. Listen to the song below, but unfortunately the music video is a little outdated (just concentrate on the lyrics!):

And finally, Joan Baez´s cover of Bob Dylans song “It ain´t me, babe”. Because sometimes in order to be strong one must just tell another off.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Happy New Year, Dear readers!

I have been off since I got two upcoming exams on Tuesday and Monday the 13th. But After that is done, I will try to be vack kicking!

This Month I will try to keep up my short story series and start a trilogy on problematic elements in “The Simpsons”. Despite how awesome the show has been, there has also been downfalls.

Best Regards, Maaretta

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“The Letter” (1976) by Fernando Botero

Kreetta Onkeli (born in 1970 in Jyväskylä) is a Finnish writer who won several awards and has been a bit of a critical darling. This year she won the Finladia Junior Prize (one of the major literary prizes in Finland for young adult/children’s books) and also received the “Kalevi Jänti” award for her debut novel, “Iloinen Talo” (“A Happy House”). Her work has encompassed narrative satire, biographical novels, shorter essays as well as opinion journalism.

Onkeli’s  debut novel, “Iloinen Talo” (1996), was based on her childhood memories and chronicles the life of two young girls living with an alcoholic mother and the occasional foster family. In Finnish the title plays on the ironic and inclines to the double entendre. The novel is anything but happy and the context of the word “happy” in its “double sense” alludes to prostitution (prostitutes are sometimes referred to as Ilotyttö, “Happygirl”). Ironic tittles are a favorite trope of Ms. Onkelis; her fifth work “Beige: Eroottinen Kesä Helsingisä”(2005), in English “Beige: An Erotic Summer in Helsinki”) does take place in Helsinki, but it is anything but erotic.

Kreetta Onkeli at the Finlandia Prize Ceremony

Kreetta Onkeli at the Finlandia Prize Ceremony

“Beige” focuses on the protagonist Vappu, an overweight girl who is painfully insecure. She is a complete outcast, being nearly completely friendless. Her homelife, mirroring her disconnection with humanity,  is composed solely of a oblivious father with whom she has no real connection. Onkeli starts her novel describing the depth of this disconnection with Vappu declaring the sun “was not a friend. It laughed at my figure, my pale and clumsy body.” Musing about a previous and unseen scene in the narrative Vappu reflects on being unable to find a swimming suit and whether the reality was a purposeful forgetting to hide her shape from others. Attempting to get into the building she lives in, at the end of this dire contemplation, her landlady denies she recognizes her and refuses her admittance to the building claiming she doesn’t know anything “that fat”. Already on the first two pages Ms. Onkeli establishes two of the most important themes in “Beige”: Vappu’s immobilizing belief that her “undesirability” justifies her rejection by others and how others around her define and magnify this self-doubt through their commonplace cruelty.

onkeli

Vappu lives in a small town, where she develops a habit of escaping into daydreaming mixed in with her awakening sexuality. Vappu deeply desires sexual intimacy, but, due to the compounding of her unfortunate circumstances and the mental state this creates, is unable to. She invents an imaginative boyfriend, which she then goes onto graphically describe having imaginative sex with. She tells people around her she has a boyfriend, even if no one believes her. As times goes on, Vappu turns  18, which means she is no longer a minor. Her father takes advantage of this fact and sends her off to live in Helsinki so he can have more time with his new girlfriend. Vappu’s father informs his daughter that in Helsinki she will find a guy quite easily. Using the details of language Onkeli lets the reader know that Vappu is aware of her father’s true motivations but Vappu cannot but help to embrace a hope of finding love and sex in Helsinki. Onkeli masterfully indicates each of her characters motivation while showing how the crux of the human relationships revolving around Vappu is far from the ideal and is founded on a grim combination of the malicious, deceit and hope . It works perfectly for setting up the main conflict in the book as well as getting the reader to sympathize with Vappu.

Ms.Onkeili's first novel

Ms.Onkeili’s first novel

However nothing goes as Vappu hoped. She is ridiculed and mocked at work. When the few episodes of kindness are expressed to Vappu, her reaction is based on the rejections she has endured and she becomes too frozen to respond. Her time in Helsinki becomes a spiral into the paranoid about herself, and even the exposure of being outdoors becomes saturated with the feeling of shame for Vappu. A continual monologue is channeled through those around Vappu detailing how she resembles a man and how she should exercise to counter all of the faults which she has. Pushed by this continual stream of chatter about her defects Vappu begins to lose control of her situation and dwells more and more within her sexual daydreaming, which begins to take a violent turn.

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“Benefit Supervisor Sleeping” (1995) by Lucien Freud

The usage of people daydreaming to escape their reality is a common theme in fiction. Such as the short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber, where a bored man has regular daydreams and fantasies as a means of escapism. The man is timid in life, but fearless in his daydreams, much like Vappu who, though remaining a virgin throughout “Beige”,  has constant sex with every man she meets in her daydreamed life. Other literary examples are the Finnish writer Joel Lehtonens “Rakastunut Rampa” (1922, “A Lame in Love”) where a poverty-stricken hunchback fantasizes about being a ladykiller while in real life he faces prejudice and hatred. This theme also appears in a Moomin novel, “Moominpappa at Sea” (1965) by Tove Jansson . In the novel Moominmamma, who can barely stand having to leave Moominvalley, paints a garden similar to the one in Moominvalley as a wall mural, which, motivated by her extreme homesickness, she finds she enter. Onkeli takes this classic theme and does an incredible twist to it. She uses it to describe female sexual frustration, a nearly unrecognized subject in literature. She also makes the subject modern by making the person who faces constant rejection from society an overweight person. An acerbated problem of the contemporary era as consumerist culture endeavors to create a model of the “attractive women” more and more out of reach to the normal human.

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Painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (he used plus-sized women almost exclusively)

Kreetta Onkeli illustrates a world where Vappu is constantly being punished for being overweight. People shun her, laugh at her and ignore her. She is mistreated because she doesn’t fit a norm and standard others expect her to. Onkeli goes into detail regarding the shame that is placed on Vappu, how Vappu internalizes this monologue into herself (and how she only “sees” through this horrible model), and how this sends her into a horrible spiral of impossible resolutions. She slowly loses grips on reality. As time passes, her self-hatred overwhelms her, as it must in this skewed image of self, ending in tragedy.

That this novelette is not translated is unbelievable. It has a great main character while dealing with intense, current and timely issues. This narrative erupts to the surface of our real experience as it speaks of a society which ridicules people who don’t have the perfect body, a society which openly despises people outside of the norm. Vappu represents women who are not considered beautiful or desirable in the narrow perimeters which are aggressively set by a culture of consumption and image. Vappu’s narrative exposes a world where women are constantly judged on the altar of advertising media normativity for their body. Vappu is laid bare in the story as the excluded and ultimate other, as her father’s girlfriend states, “a different type of women”. Vappu becomes sexually frustrated since society does not allow her to be sexual, to be a desirable woman. She is not allowed to be a whole person, a person whose sexuality is equal to others.

“Beige” is a perfect depiction of how women are stripped of their sexual positions and possibilities and how this is founded on the obliteration of even the most meager right to exist as their own persons established on their own considerations of being.

kreetta+onkeli+jyväskylän+kirjamessut+2010

A more relaxed Kreetta Onkeli

“Beige: An Erotic Summer in Helsinki” is a real gem that should be much, much more known. It speaks of people who face a new and terrible form of alienation. It should be translated; it is a crime that it is only available in Finnish.

“I think most human beings go through some sort of depression in their life. And if they don’t, I think that’s weird” – Kirsten Dunst

Yu Dafu (郁达夫) was born in Fuyang (a country-level city under jurisdiction of Hangzhou, which in turn is the provincial capital of Zhejiang, an eastern coastal province in China) in 1896. He died in 1945, probably executed by the Japanese during the final moments of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Yu Dafu lived his yearly childhood years in poverty. However, he was able to study due to receiving several scholarships from the government of the time. Mr. Yu studied at several Universities, for instance the Hangchow University, which he only studied at for a short time since he was expelled for participating in a student strike. He then moved to Japan, where he met several Chinese intellectuals. Together they founded the “Creation Society”, which promoted modern literature. Around this time he also started publishing his earliest works in Japan; in 1921 he published the short story “Sinking” (“Chenlun”, 沉淪), his most famous work.

Yu Dafu

Yu Dafu

“Sinking” was mandatory reading for a university class I took last term. When discussing it, the class was fairly divided; many accused the story for depicting an egotistical person who does nothing. One woman in my class however stated: “This man seemed fairly isolated and hasn’t received any affection, any love from anyone. I think this character could have used some therapy”. Her thoughts reflect exactly the take this review will have of the protagonist in “Sinking” and what the story, arguable, describes: A man with severe emotional difficulties due to an unbalanced society.

The protagonist in “Sinking” is never named. He remains just simply an anonymous “He”. However his back story has many similarities to that of Yu Dafu, such as his father dying at the age of three and living in poverty as a child. It has been stated that Yu’s short stories and poems often reflect his emotions and are influenced by his experiences in life. However, this is a little questionable as a major theme in “Sinking”, found as well as his other works, is the feeling of being alienated from women, while the author in actuality was married three times with three different women. On the other hand similarity to Mr. Yu can be found in the stories protagonist is pursuing a study course in Japan and this is the environment which we explore with him. “Sinking” begins with the protagonist lost in a field of alienation triggered by the deep well of “lonesome” which engulfs his person. So begins a story tightly focused on the main characters feelings and moods which unmoored by the feelings of disconnection cause the mental state of the protagonist to uncontrollably (and drastically) undulate over the short span of the narratives unfolding.

One of the very first covers for "Sinking" (Unfortunately sexist)

One of the very first covers for “Sinking” (Unfortunately sexist)

Depression has only recently become a topic which our society can openly confront and discuss. And even if a new openness has been conceded to the subject within Western cultures, it is still one which finds an “uncomfortableness” in the normal conversations of the public and one which finds some stigma lurking in the background. In the midst of this silence and awkward speech, however are to be found some wonderful and insightful works of fiction that depict depression. The most famous example within this “genre” for the Western Reader is Sylvia Plath’s magnus opus, “The Bell Jar” and interestingly, Yu Dafu’s young, lonesome “He” shares similar traits with Esther, the protagonist of “The Bell Jar”.

bell-jar

“Sinking” is, frankly, another great literary depiction of depression and the whirlpool of desperate emotions it entails.

Both Esther and “He” find it impossible to enjoy literature. In the “The Bell Jar” Esther describes with great alarm to her psychiatrist and her mother that she “no longer reads books”. The protagonist of “Sinking” is described as picking up books, reading “out of sequence”, deceitfully deciding to himself that it would be a pity to just gulp down a book, and abandoning the text . Yu describes the fragmented thoughts engendered by this depression: “Everytime he closed a book, he made up similar excuses for himself. The real reason was that he had already grown a little tired of it”. Both start irregular sleeping habits, such as Esther describing that she “no longer sleeps”. “He” from “Sinking” starts to over sleep, also developing irregular eating habits: “Without bothering with lunch, he slept until four o´clock”. Other than that, the main character in “Sinking” has also a habit of crying spontaneously as well as has mood swings. “He” is prone to self-pity, a common trait of depression in men.

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Naturally one can’t claim this story purposefully wants to solely illustrate a person with depression due to its simultaneous political agenda, however the text openly states that the character suffers from “melancholia” and arguable depression is the terrible and tumultuous state which Yu Dafu is hoping to explore.

Chinese symbol for "hopelessness"

Chinese symbol for “hopelessness”

Yu Dafu was a known critic of society and was known for highlighting government incompetence. During the 1920s, Chinese intellectuals (especially the ones who participated in the May Fourth Movement) believed that in order to improve Society one had to begin by looking, not at the State, but at the individual. To tone up the “I”, so to speak. “Sinking” is purposefully about a man who is not feeling well due to society. Similar to Esther’s depression in “The Bell Jar” being primarily triggered and horribly engendered by the rampant sexism in the American society, Yu’s protagonists depression is caused and sustained by the unstable economical and political situations in China, the alienation and racism he faces in Japan, and a Society which stoutly refuses to recognize its own problems placing it on the individual instead.

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Critics have often pointed out that “Sinking” is highly nationalistic, which of course resonates differently today then what it did back in 1921. Personally, this inclination in the text bothers me little since it was mostly expressed as a sense of wanting to be just seen as equally good as others (Yu Dafu as we find in “He” is a Stranger in a foreign land)*. In Sinking, the protagonist laments: “Isn’t the scenery in China as beautiful? Aren’t the girls in China as pretty?”. “He” does wallow about in fantasies of revenge and violence, which is assuredly unnerving to the reader, but the statements and questions do strike a sort of truth regarding “He’s” chaotic, alienated mental state and the veiled hostile abandonment a society and State imposes on the “outsider”. The Japanese students who “He” continually encounters in the milieu of his study treat him coldly and venture into the adjacent terrain of alienating indifference and covert intimidation to which “He” naturally reacts to with insecurity and anger. It can be said for all that when engulfed in a shadow of forces beyond control and sense even the sanest of us respond with insecurity, confusion and resentment. Using the Plight of “He” Yu Dafu endeavors, along with this question of the inhumanity of person to person, to lay a ground to motivate China to reform and improve itself. To look at the how the State may encourage and nurture the individual and consider a Society formed at the best intersections of Personnel and Political, the individual and the Nation/State.

Yu Dafu was also fairly shocking for his time with his frank dealing with sexuality. Indeed, “Sinking” makes frequent references and depictions of the protagonist masturbating. This works as a way to demystify self-pleasuring, but also a way to portray the protagonist’s alienation. He is insecure and uncertain of himself and barely can find the courage to approach women (or any person, really). He is friendless and unable to bond with another human being. The masturbation scenes are not for shock value, but an honest way for the author to speak of his protagonists’ feelings of guilt and his hopeless earning for love.

Other works by Mr. Yu

Other works by Mr. Yu

The story also is interesting in how openly the protagonist is, in his own way, a little bit too romantic for his own good. He even considers suicide since, as he puts it: “And what would life be without love?”.

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Not much happens in “Sinking”, Yu just lets the story of a sad man’s life unfold. “Sinking” is a tale about emotions, deep unhappiness and despair. No doubt the story will speak to anyone who has ever felt lonely or hopeless at some point in their life. It is a raw, honest and painfully candid tale with timeless themes.

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*As a person of Finnish descent, I can relate strongly to the insecurity of being in another countries “Shadow”. In fact I have asked similar questions to myself as “He”. Here’s a music video recorded by a Finnish Band about living in Swedens shadow (My apologies for the title, it was written in the fifties). No English, just Swedish and Finnish sorry.

Hi Everyone!

I know it has been too long since my latest post. Things haven’t been as they should be. As for now, I will continue my series of Short Stories. Now that Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize, short stories will no doubt have a higher status in our society now! The next review will be of the short story “Sinking” by Yu Dafu. I am also working on a rebiew of a science fiction short story. So hope people will toon in! The review will be inside of seven days.

I will also try and review more films and cartoons. I have long planed a series of “Simpsons”. Book reviews will be in order!

Now to some links.

The Fantasy and Science Fiction Author Jennifer Armintrout has been recapping the “Fifty Shades”-trilogy at her blog, with the ongoing theme of discussing th abusive relationship the novels have romanticized. The recaps are highly funny and insightful, check all of the recaps here.

I am a HUGE fan of the website “Fangs for the Fantasy”. I highly recommend for anyone to check out it out; it’s a site where the two bloggers, Renee and Sparky, analyze Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror media from a social justice perspective. For a starter, here’s a few articles to start with:

The problem with Queenie, a character on the show “American Horror Story: Coven”.


The Over-Sexualization of women in The “Dresden Files” novels.

An old, but interesting article on the characters Lafayette and Jesus from “True Blood”.

On depictions of Nubity.

And finally, race on “The Walking Dead”.

Best Wishes/ Maaretta

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