Bonus Story: More Small Talk

on June 8, 2008 in Other Tales

Monday, Calendula 5th (early evening)

“Look what I made!” Oru said proudly as she returned to the room she shared with the kobold, Shiel. Shiel looked up from her stone carving, putting aside the magnifying loupe she used for the detail work to see what her roommate was holding.

It was a necklace made of twisted iron links, with a heavy metal pendant that had an opening like a keyhole in the center. Shiel or Oru would have said the pendant was heart-shaped, but humans and most other races would have likened it more to a four-leaf clover.

“Is that what I think it is?” Shiel asked, her pointed nose crinkling in disgust.

“Yes,” Oru said. “For Moeli. I think I’ve just about got him to agree to ask me to go to the dance on Wednesday. I’m going to wear it for him then.”

“You’re going to put an iron chain around your neck?” Shiel asked. “Voluntarily?”

“Well, it’s an ironworking class,” she said. “It’s not like I had golden chains just sitting around gathering dust.”

“Are bonds of gold really any better than ones of iron?”

“I don’t know why I bother arguing with you. You’re just never going to be happy with anything, are you?” Oru said. She hopped up onto her little bed and set the weighty necklace down on her pillow. “I suppose kobolen don’t wear chains for their lovers?”

“I’m not sure if ‘lover’ is the word to use for somebody who puts you in chains.”

“Oh, for crying… nobody’s ‘put me’ in chains, it’s a harmless little tradition,” Oru said. “It’s just symbolic. Like humans wearing rings on their fingers… what’s that even supposed to mean, anyway? Your neck is important. You couldn’t breathe, or eat, or speak without it. You couldn’t live. What can a finger do?”

“Quite a lot,” Shiel said, turning her attention back to her newest figures.

She had roughed out two dozen kobold warriors with their vests unmistakably open in the front, marking them as female. Even more shocking than the mere fact of female soldiers would be, they had hair growing unshaved out of the tops of their heads.

Her own pate was covered with stubble, as she’d quit shaving it a few days before.

Baldness was more common among all of the goblin races than it was among humans, in both sexes. For those who had hair, it grew only on the top of the head, and was thick and bristly.

Among goblins and hobgoblins, it was considered a desirable trait among women, and they took the time to style it as they could. Oru had taken to wearing hers in three horn-like ponytails that weren’t quite long enough or flexible enough to actually fall over. She secured the ends of them with flower bows. As these accessories normally came in pairs, she mixed individual ones from three different pairs at a time.

The effect was singular, to say the least.

Kobolds, on the other hand, practiced an aesthetic of conformity. All heads were kept smooth. A man who could be assumed to be occupied with more important business than his appearance might get some head stubble in the course of a week… and indeed, that look was considered ruggedly handsome by some… but women who could not keep up their smoothness risked creating a scandal.

Shiel’s little stone soldiers each sported a spiky mohawk of hair, curved over onto one side to cover all but the tip of their left ear.

Oru turned on her little TV and began flipping through channels, but she couldn’t resist trying to score a point.

“Well, at least I got a grade for my chain necklace,” Oru said. “You’re spending hours and hours on those little toys, and what have you got to show for it?”

“Sixteen silver,” Shiel said. At Oru’s confusion, she clarified. “Not for these ones. These are for me. I’ve sold off my extra figures, though, and I’ve already taken custom orders for more.”

“To who?” Oru asked. “That bossy little bunny across the hall?”

“I’m not comfortable with you using that kind of epithet.”

“What, ‘bunny’?” Oru asked. “It isn’t mean. It’s just, they dig in the sides of hills, and are kind of cute and funny and harmless.”

“Well, no, it’s not for her, anyway,” Shiel said. “That loudmouth already has her guhul lamu making an army for her.”

“Oh, ‘bunny’ is insensitive but that you have no problem with?”

“That’s different,” Shiel said. “To get back to the point, Hazel told a horribly skewed account of our battle at a party and suddenly a bunch of human males are interested in it.”

“You know, it seems like everybody else gets invited to parties but we don’t,” Oru said. “Unless you count a bunch of people sitting around eating pizza, which I don’t. I mean a good, proper party, with people outside our dorm.”

“Didn’t you say Moeli asked you to a dance?”

“Not the same thing,” Oru said. “Do you think if we hung out more with the girls on the other floors, that we’d get invited to more parties?”

“I really couldn’t say,” Shiel said. “Do you mind? I’m trying to put some texture here.” She was using a tiny awl to create grooves, transforming what might otherwise have been mistaken for an odd sort of hat into something more recognizable as hair.

“Sorry,” Oru said. She lapsed into silence for all of about two seconds before she spoke again. “You know, you really should get that Steff to help you with the fine stuff. I bet he’d… she’d… um, what do you think is less offensive to call them?”

“I really think Steff prefers ‘she’,” Shiel said. “But I haven’t decided if my support for the right of individuals to determine their own identity trumps my outrage at the appropriation of a woman’s struggles by a beneficiary of male privilege.”

Oru tore her eyes away from the black-and-white images within her TV and looked incredulously at Shiel, who returned her gaze unblinkingly.

“Are you freaking kidding me?” Oru asked finally.

“A little bit,” Shiel said, smiling.

“Don’t make me throw my love chain at you,” Oru said. “You know, when I first saw her—Steff, I mean—I thought she was brilliant. ‘Look ma, no tits.’ I thought the other races were starting to catch on.”

“I don’t really like the sort of thinking that says breastlessness is the superior state just because it’s ours,” Shiel said, putting her figures aside and swinging her legs around on the chair so that she was facing Oru.

“No? You wear open vests sometimes,” Oru said.

“Well, I like to think I can be proud of who I am without suggesting I’m superior,” Shiel said.

“Isn’t that exactly what you said you hated about that Dee?” Oru asked.

“First, I didn’t say ‘hate’,” Shiel said. “‘Hate’ is too strong a word to be used on an individual person. What I said was that she’s an overprivileged twit who thinks everyone’s inferior to her.”

“Right, but if you don’t think you’re superior, then what exactly are you being proud of?” Oru asked. “Being the same?”

“Not the same,” Shiel said. “But equivalent. Of similar value. I’m proud to be kobold. She can be proud to be a low elf. Every race has things to be proud of, as far as I’m concerned.”

“Even dwarves?” Oru asked.

Shiel turned back to her carvings without a word.

“What exactly did Dee say that pissed you off?” Oru asked after a while.

“Stop putting words in my mouth,” Shiel said. “I didn’t say I was ‘pissed off.'”

“Then what did she say that made you calmly and rationally label her a twit?”

“All I asked was what she thought of the proposition that the only truly equal sexual relationships are lesbian,” Shiel asked. “Since she comes from a culture where such relationships are common, I thought she might have some insight on the subject.”

“And?”

“She said, ‘I have never met a woman who is precisely my equal’,” Shiel said.

“And that’s when you decided that she’s a twit?”

“That’s when I realized she’s a twit,” Shiel said.

“Are you even a lesbian?”

“No.”

“Then why do you care about propositioning them?”

“It’s a sentiment I’ve encountered in my survey of feminist thought,” Shiel said. “Because equality does not exist between men and women, it’s impossible for them to enter into an equal relationship with each other. That’s before you even get into the nature of heterosexual intercourse.”

“Oh yeah? And what’s it like, after?” Oru asked.

“Heterosexual intercourse is by its nature violent, penetrative. It involves one living being infringing on the sovereign boundaries of another.”

“I don’t know,” Oru said. “some of the things that Puddy’s shouted about have sounded pretty violent and penetrative to me.”

“Well, that isn’t really indicative of true womanly love,” Shiel said. “By its very nature, sex between two women is nurturing and reciprocal.”

“That sounds an awful lot like my Uncle Nado,” Oru said.

“He’s nurturing and reciprocal?” Shiel asked, confused.

“No,” Oru said. “But when he wants to complain about the humans up the road doing something, he’ll say, ‘No goblin would act like that,’ and when somebody points out one who does, he goes, ‘No true goblin.’ Anyway, what about two men?”

“What about them?”

“Why can’t they be all nurturing and reciprocal?” Oru asked.

“Because they’re still taking on the role of aggressor and victim,” Shiel said. “Active and passive, attacker and defender.”

“What if they take turns?”

“That isn’t the same.”

“Or if they just rub their things together?”

“Look, I didn’t say this was my theory,” Shiel said. “I’m not even sure I’m getting it all right. I’m certainly not defending it.”

“Not very well,” Oru said.

“I just wanted to know what Dee thought about it.”

“And she told you,” Oru said. “What’s the problem?”

“She said that no woman’s her equal.”

“Okay, but… how are you equal to her?” Oru asked.

“What do you mean?” Shiel asked. “I’m free, aren’t I? How am I not her equal?”

“You’re free to chisel at little rocks for spending money,” Oru said. “Isn’t she like a princess or something?”

“You think she’s better than me?” Shiel asked.

“I think she’s more equal than you,” Oru said. “And I think if the three of us were found in a room over a human body, they’d kill her first and me last. How’s that equal?”

“You’re talking about bourgeois social constructs and rank prejudice,” Shiel said. “Those things hardly come to bear here.”

“So, how are a man and a woman not equal, if we ignore… those things?” Oru said.

“You know, never mind,” Shiel said, turning back to her work once more. “I should have known better than to try to discuss anything important with…”

Oru’s pillow hit her in the back of the head. Her arm jerked forward in surprise, and her awl broke off the hair of the figurine she was holding.

“Hey!” Shiel said. She got to her feet, turning to see Oru thumbing her ear at her.

“I don’t see why you call Dee a twit for acting superior when you have acted like you’re better than me since we arrived,” Oru said. “Just because I don’t spend twenty hours a day gazing about feminism, or because I want a boyfriend, or I wear makeup…”

“You wear makeup?” Shiel asked.

Not the point!” Oru shrieked. “I’m tired of being treated like I’m stupid because I like being a girl!”

“I… I don’t know what to say,” Shiel said. “That’s certainly not what I meant to imply.”

“You know what Dee does when she actually is being a twit? She apologizes,” Oru said.

“I’m sorry,” Shiel said. “I didn’t mean to suggest you were stupid, or… less than me.”

“Well… you did,” Oru said. She was breathing hard, her wide nostrils flaring. She put a hand on her stomach, which was churning. She couldn’t remember the last time anybody had made her angry enough to yell. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. “But it’s okay. You know better now. It’s okay.”

Feeling dizzy, she sat down on her bed.

“Are you okay?”

“Hmm?” Oru asked. She nodded. “Mmm hmmm.”

Shiel waited until Oru had caught her breath and calmed down a bit before she said anything else.

“Seriously, though, are you really wearing makeup?”

“Not right now,” Oru said. “I never do when I’m going to be forging. But I’ve been experimenting with blush and eyeshadow, and a little lip liner.”

“Um, don’t take this the wrong way… but… we don’t really have lips,” Shiel said.

“Yeah, I tried drawing some.”


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13 Responses to “Bonus Story: More Small Talk”

  1. pedestrian says:

    “But I haven’t decided if my support for the right of individuals to determine their own identity trumps my outrage at the appropriation of a woman’s struggles by a beneficiary of male privilege.”

    As I read that Shiel’s voice became that of my wife’s. I could hear her orating along those terms.

    Testify sister, testify!

    Current score: 0
  2. Lunchbox says:

    And this is why feminism irks me… It was a fight for equality, turned into rampant misinformation, and a need to no longer create an equal scale, but rather to tip the scale in favor of women.
    People are people.
    Also, I just watched this documentary on transgendered children. I realized just how fucking much I hate the term “gender dysphoria,” as if being between genders or feeling more masculine or feminine than your sex hasn’t been around as long as people themselves. Look at Aboriginal (edit: I guess americans call us Native Americans) people, the two-spirited were reveled as a wealth of insight because they were capable of seeing from the eyes of men and women.

    Current score: 2
    • MackSffrs says:

      That’s certainly an… interesting… insight you have into the type of transgender lifestyle preference Steff has.
      While I’ve seen similar documentaries and read articles as well concerning “the right of individuals to determine their own identity,” there is something to be said for the very significant impact that “appropriation” has on what one can call “woman’s rights” and their development.
      It’s the major reason I think why there is not more wide spread integration between woman’s rights groups, as Shiel intoned, and LGT, I mean LGBT organizations.

      Current score: 1
    • Athena says:

      Gender dysphoria has nothing to do with how long it has or hasn’t been around 0_o It’s the technical term for a feeling of… well, frankly, dysphoria (“a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life”)… regarding the fact that one’s gender does not match one’s body.

      Not every trans, intersex or genderfluid person experiences gender/body dysphoria, but saying you hate the word because… I’m not even entirely clear on what reason exactly you hate it, honestly. Because trans/intersex/genderfluid people exists before now? That’s all I can work out, and it seems like you should hate every diagnosis out there if that’s the case. At any rate, saying you hate it for reasons like that seems a bit like it’s invalidating trans people who suffer from it. And it is suffering if you need to try not to think too hard about having boobs because it gives you panic attacks.

      Current score: 2
  3. Arakano says:

    Yeah… Shiel, while being right in fighting many things, is still kinda obnoxious about other things… transphobia is not cool, nor is hypocrisy, nor femme-shaming or what you want to call it. To name a few.

    Current score: 5
  4. Pamela says:

    People will always judge other people for something. When I became a mother, a friend of mine felt sorry for me. She felt that I was entering into forced slavery. Because I wanted to breastfeed and take on a variety of other somewhat common motherly responsibilities, she was appalled that I would sacrifice my personage for someone else.

    On the other hand, when I found that I could not breastfeed without risking my health and was not equipped to be a stay-at-home mom, other acquaintances were of the opinion that I was not a loving mother.

    All of those acquaintances as well as the aforementioned friend felt my husband was worthless because he wanted to be a stay-at-home father instead of providing for my child and me. It’s a hypocritical world.

    Current score: 3
  5. Athena says:

    Feminism is no different from any other equality-seeking movement, in that every one of them eventually starts going too far in the other direction. People just don’t know when to draw the line, when to stop, and because we can’t remove ourselves from the context of what was we have no way to end the constant battle. Racism/sexism/etc can never entirely disappear, so neither will the knee-jerk reactions against it… or the unfair accusations.

    Such movements also have a tendency to forget that equal does not mean same. Neither man nor woman is superior overall, but we sure as hell aren’t identical either. The problem with sexism lies in taking the tendencies too far (from “women tend to be better at multitasking” to “men can’t multitask at all”) or assuming that every individual is a perfect representation of the tendencies of their gender (and thus failing to recognise a man who is actually good at multitasking, or a woman who is not). Failing to acknowledge that differences exist at all, however, is just as bad, as is attacking anyone who brings them up.

    Again, not just feminism but any such movement. For instance, I went to a high school fairly evenly split between the NZ European students and the Maori/Islander ones. I can tell you there really are distinct cultural differences and tendencies between the two groups, merely making observations and not considering either side of the issue worse or better in any way, just different. However, actually saying these things out loud would almost certainly have me labelled as racist and stereotyping by a large number of people, despite the fact that I am not actually guilty of either accusation.

    Unfortunately, as I said, when can never truly remove ourselves from the context of the past, so I highly doubt we will ever be free of these issues. Neither side will ever die, so it will never stop being about the sides.

    Current score: 1
    • Athena says:

      I… kind of wish I could go back and retroactively delete this now that I’m more educated 😛 Though I still agree with most of it so I suppose I really just need to clarify that most feminism isn’t taking it too far, but there definitely exist plenty of radical feminists who are. Shiel would be one of them, on top of being trans-exclusionary. I’m also no longer quite so… hopeless about the matter.

      Appropriation might be very problematic, but a trans woman isn’t “appropriating” women’s struggles. If they pass well enough they will genuinely get the butt end of woman’s struggles, and face trans struggles on top of it. They may at times benefit from male privilege too, but to accuse them of appropriation for the mere fact of their gender identity is really a bit much.

      Current score: 1
  6. tordirycgoyust says:

    Offence is an emotion indicating that you are not being regarded as having the status you deserve. Experiments have shown that people prefer being treated with respect regardless of differences in status.

    Basically, everyone has reason to be offended. Some people have it worse and we should focus on low hanging fruit if we want to actually accomplish any change. People like being consistent and so our actions reflect our words. Don’t be a dick.

    Current score: 0
  7. nobody says:

    One problem I have with showing respect for others is that every time that I have only had two outcomes from my attempts.
    1. They fail to show me any respect in return.
    2. They do or say something disrespectful to one of my friends.

    The result is that after grade 6 I decided to withhold respect until it has been earned.
    Earning my respect simply requires me meeting the person and not ending in one of the 2 above outcomes.
    Not a single person has succeeded at earning my respect.
    The few times I have met someone from an equal rights group (ex. feminists) they prove to not comprehend the definition of “equal.”
    A few specificly feminist examples have complained over my lack of chivalry, after stating that the behavior chivalry includes is demeaning.
    My favorite is when one tried to hit me with no reason and yelled at me calling me an idiot when I gave her my standard warning about my retaliation if she tried again. Simply that if she hits me that I would hit back. She seemed to think no male could legally hit a female under any circumstance, and had to be informed of basic self defence laws that wouldn’t heve even required my warning considering the several witnesses to prove my story if she had tried again.
    My rules on retaliation are simple.
    1) Give one clear and specific warning prior to retaliation unless threatened with a weapon.
    2) No touching an attackers weapon in case of police involvement – unless video or witnesses can prove self defense.
    3) Have at least one witness/record of the warning.
    4) Avoid any lethal actions possible, when reasonable(no risk to a bystander’s wellbeing)
    *note that no rule provides biased treatment by gender, race, sexuality, religion, etc.

    Current score: 0
    • Kat says:

      What you just said sounds like you’re being extremely disrespectful from the first moment. If you show people disrespect because you don’t think they deserve respect then…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t show you any respect either since you’re clearly a small minded person.
      I have met a lot of people worthy of respect and people usually respect me, as well. I simply show that I expect people to be respectful and trustworthy when I am respectful and trustworthy. Betraying such expectations is against one’s nature in most cases. But if I went ahead and looked down on another person from the moment we first meet? Personally I would simply ignore such a person or, if such a person treats my friends that way, go ahead and confront them with that impossible behaviour.
      If you interpret that as being disrespectful then you do not understand the meaning of respect – and not just the word but the underlying emotion.
      Of course some people react aggressively to such a person. And self defence is only a viable option when your mental or physical health is in danger and there is no other way to resolve the situation. If the person has been provoced by the suppposed victim self defense is usually not something one can legally claim with much chance of success.

      Current score: 2
      • Nocker says:

        I think you’ve kind of got it backwards. Respect isn’t a custom, its like honor, it must earned and maintained through action. You can be given a base amount of manners, but nobody has an inalienable right to respect as they do life or liberty.

        Current score: 0
  8. undertheteacup says:

    This whole conversation makes my heart sing. Both because Shiel is open to changing her mind and isn’t 100% entrenched in the latest thing she’s read, and because Oru stands up to her and can obviously keep up while adding her own wry insights.

    Current score: 3