by Vanessa Tottle
How do you introduce a writer? Gabe wants us all to write something about ourselves, and I told him that was stupid. You get to know your writers by what they write, not by who they’ve been. I don’t choose any book by its author description. I wouldn’t choose a critic by her bio. If you’ve been following here, you know I’m getting my PhD in vertebrate paleontology with a special focus in geochemistry. What does that tell you about my ability to review movies, aside from I’m really annoying to watch Jurassic Park with?
I put a lot of myself into what I write. I think we all do. It’s what this site demands. It’s the one thing that sets us apart from every other film site I have read. We want criticism based on empathy, not judgment. And empathy is not always the easiest thing for me.
I can’t empathize with bullies because I lived in fear for my life in my own house. I can’t empathize with the poor because I never wanted for anything material. I can’t empathize with the wealthy because my family treated us like boxes on an estate checklist, things to forget when not presenting us glimmering at parties between the art and name-dropping the private chef. I can’t empathize with the strong because of their power and I can’t empathize with the weak because they’re so powerless. I’m 25, the child left alive because the one lesson I learned early in life is to remain.
I’m a funny person to take over as creative director, yet I wasn’t asked. I created the job until it was there for me to take. That’s how I know the world. I’m not often a nice person. I try very hard to be, but there’s an inescapable foundation built inside of me – I will always value hardness and isolation as my greatest strengths.
Why do I write about feminism? Because I want it to be OK to be full of edges, to have “unwomanly” traits, to possess instead of need, to be a woman who can be cold and arrogant and difficult like a man because – who cares why? Because I have the right to be.
As I’ve gotten to know the writers here, there appears to be a common thread. We are people who have each bounced off the world in our own way. We keep on coming back because we don’t look at this as a fault in ourselves. We look at this as a fault in the world.
One of the things I take the most pride in is my Portuguese heritage, even though I was exposed to none of it as a child. Perhaps because I was exposed to none of it as a child. I cosplay because it allows me to live out the only cultural heritage I really do know – video games, movies, books. I don’t do cosplay as often as I used to because I’ve found other outlets – climbing, krav maga, belly dancing – but that media heritage was the only resource I had from which to draw strength, and I needed strength because the one lesson I learned early in life is to remain.
I’ve been accused of having an agenda because I write about women on film and I want to see MORE women on film, but what’s an agenda? I’m the only one in class who can turn new cladistics in my head faster than the computer models them, but I’m still asked out by the professor. I can be the best Aerith at the con and my dedication and artistry gets me groped that much faster. I can detour up a V, 5.8 and the most strenuous task is informing male climbers, “No, I don’t need any help,” as I pass them. I don’t go to krav maga to be asked out on dates but because I want to learn, and I don’t belly dance for you to stuff a dollar bill in my clothes.
If I’m to write something about myself, it is this: I was raised in a physically abusive family, from which I was thankfully taken away by a kinder relative. My brother was not removed, in part because he had learned to dole out abuse. Taking him would have put me at risk again. He did not get the psychiatric assistance he needed and he later killed himself. The few things I do in life to cope with this, to try to be human, to do anything other than just remain, are often treated by others as opportunities to sleep with me. Yet by saying no and slapping hands away and informing deans, I’m the one who’s rude. I’m the one “with an agenda.”
Saying there’s a problem with representation in film, or video games, or music, isn’t having an agenda. It’s loving something enough to be honest about it. It’s looking at the things that made me strong and saying, “I can return the favor. I can make them stronger.” Having high expectations of art isn’t hating something. It’s not a fault in me, or Anita Sarkeesian, or Laurie Penny. It’s giving back to the art that shaped us, that gave each of us strength to remain in big, dramatic ways and small, everyday ways.
I’ll repeat that: It’s not an agenda. It’s giving back.
It’s also doing our jobs. For those who can’t handle a few women doing their jobs and having an opinion, then gird your overrated loins because the world’s changing, and I’m just one of many more women looking forward to doing her job.
I created this position – creative director – not to have an agenda, but because this is one of the few places where I feel free of needing one; not because I’m very good at empathy, but because the writers I work with here have no limit of it; not because I always believe the world can be changed, but because these five people relentlessly do:
Staff Writer S.L. Fevre
Editor Eden O’Nuallain
Staff Writer Cleopatra Parnell
Research Lead Amanda Smith
Lead Writer Gabriel Valdez
(And because they’re all hopeless at organizing themselves.)
Thank you and enjoy,
Gabe here: As Creative Director, Vanessa Tottle will be shaping the regular features and overall direction of this site. She will also write Silent All These Years – a feature about women in film – every other Thursday, as well as contribute standalone articles about movies and music videos. In addition to collaborative articles, she has previously written the following on this site.
Silent All These Years – Why Scarlett Johansson Needs to Play Hannibal Lecter
E3 Reactions – Vanessa Tottle’s Top 3
Wednesday Collective – All About Games
Bits & Pieces – Production Design, Curse of the Golden Flower