Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sibylle: A Manifesto

I started this blog on November 18, 2008, almost a year ago. So far, I've let my tastes speak for me but I think perhaps it's time I come out into the open. You won't find any picture of me but I think self-definition is important.

I'm a humanist. I'll take Wikipedia's definition because it's the broadest, strangely enough: "Twenty-first century Humanism tends to strongly endorse human rights, including reproductive rights, gender equality, social justice, and the separation of church and state." I'm an agnostic atheist ("the view of those who do not claim to know of the existence of any deity, but do not believe in any.") I tell people I'm an agnostic so they leave me alone.

Therefore I'm a feminist. "Women are not born, they're made." Hence my argument about why we still need feminism today: because a toddler doesn't care if the toy is pink or blue, because dolls are for everybody and cars for everybody. Society imposes its vision of gender differences from cradle to grave. I'm against that. It all goes against self-determination, and this for me is everything. The right to be whomever you are. Since we're talking about feminism, I might as well add right now: for me, getting married is admitting that you need state recognition for your love. I don't need the state to recognize my love for anybody or recognize my right to live or do whatever with whomever. I don't need marriage. On a practical side, divorces are too expensive, and I believe people should stay together if they feel they want to, not because they have to. In short, I don't believe in marriage.
I don't believe in having children either. I can be passionate about a lot of things and people but becoming a mother is beyond me. I refuse this. It's slavery: work for no pay, and actually it's expensive. I don't want my life to revolve around one person, I don't need this sense of purpose. My purpose in life, as far as I'm concerned, is to be happy and be the person I am.
I believe in open relationships, in catching moments of happiness whenever, I believe in being open and true and honest.

The reason I love Harry Potter so much is because it gave me, as Time magazine puts it, "social, moral and political inspiration". You can change what you think isn't right. There's an alternative to doing nothing and stare at the world. Take action. And the reason why I love Hermione is because she's the perfect example of this: "Get all the education you can, but then, do something. Don't just stand there, make it happen." (Lee Iacocca) Education is important because it gives you your weapons to be the change you want for the world. That's why I want to teach.

Sentimentality saddens me. It's terrible and yet so many people indulge in it. I avoid sentimentality at all costs. When I tell people I'm working on Jane Austen, I can see they think I'm on their side - the side of the people who think Jane Austen is sentimental, somebody who writes for women (oh dear), places marriage at the center of things (oh dear) and loves romantic things (oh dear). She's not any of these things. She's witty and would mock so many people's idea of her today. I don't read her for escapism, I read her before her writings are not neat, because Elizabeth fell in love with Darcy when she saw how grandiose Pemberley was, because Brandon fell for Marianne because he reminded her of his childhood sweetheart, because Tilney fell for Catherine because it was obvious she liked him. I love Jane because none of her marriages work. I love Jane because she laughs at people swooning over wet shirts, I love Jane because she's daring. I love Jane because she's funny. I love Jane because she's on the side of justice and because her wittiest characters always win. I love Jane because she would laugh at Twilight, and yet she's one of Stephenie Meyer's favourite writers (another one who hasn't read the same books I did, obviously). She would laugh at people relaxing on a Sunday night while watching a period drama. She hinted at things they don't pay attention to: people died from a cold, poverty was everywhere and could happen overnight, women were trapped and went from father to husband. I love Jane for all these reasons, not because I want to live in early 19th century (oh dear) and swoon each time I reread Pride and Prejudice because it's genteel.

I don't think anything was "better back then" or worse, "simpler". I love a lot of black and white movies (the idea of "classic" is disturbing, like there's the canon and then the rest, we can do better than that, come on) because the stories are great, not because they're glamorous. Love Crazy is the story of a couple having fun, The Shop Around the Corner is the story of two people who fall for each other because they really have things in common, mainly literature.

I don't think television is not as good as cinema. Television is just as good. Gilmore Girls for me is the story of women who are a lot like me, who reference works of fiction all the time because they know how much they influence their lives. It's the story of a woman who raised a daughter alone, of independent women who are exceptional because they are interesting for themselves, not because being paired up makes them interesting.

I'm passionate about good food. However, I don't like chocolate, coffee or most teas. Now that I'm at it, I don't drink alcohol, I don't smoke and I don't do drugs. Chocolate, tea and alcohol taste awful. Coffee smells incredible but tastes awful. Cigarettes smell awful. I'm not into destroying myself, I love life. Good food is high on my list of priorities.

I think most of all I believe in wit. Because there are so many funny details in life to miss out on these moments of fun. I'm looking for laughter in almost everything I do. Laughter and honesty, even bluntness. Because "people who are shocked need to be shocked more often" (Mae West said that, hear hear). Wit is hard to achieve because it raises you above a situation and makes you an observer, even if you're involved. I believe witty people are the best because they're subversive in the best way.

And this is Sibylle in a nutshell! I don't believe in changing for anybody. I know who I am. No excuses, no apologies, no regrets (that's Brian Kinney in Queer as Folk) - to me that means one has to be the best person they can the first time around and then, I say, it's take it or leave it.