Novel Analysis: The V Girl by Mya Robarts

Novel Analysis: The V Girl by Mya Robarts

The beauty of books, come from their ability to reflect the times—once printed, they become a time capsule reflecting popular trends, common fears, and collective sentiments.

The V Girl is one such book and when I read it, I am put under the impression that fictional dystopia has evolved. It has evolved from George Orwell’s “1984”, where government surveillance invades the lives of ordinary citizens and from Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, where the rapid advancement of technology is not all gold, to a dystopian future propagating from the rape culture that is woven into our societies and taught to us from a young age.

When someone is raped, some people say, “Well, maybe they shouldn’t have been walking outside so late at night”, “Why didn’t they just keep their legs closed?”, “You’re a man, and therefore, you can’t technically get raped.”

Yes, this book explores a dystopian future stemming from rape culture, but it also challenges other modern problems, such as sexism against both genders as well as the double standards that exist in today’s world.

Below, I will explore the major themes that are brought up in this novel.
Sexual Assault and its Impact
In the setting of this novel, sexual assault is everywhere and on every one’s mind. Underneath the calm is a very real fear that you or someone you know is going to get sexually assaulted. Feeling powerless, people will do everything they can to prevent it from happening to themselves, whether it is by always surrounding themselves with people, moving around in populated areas, carrying weapons with you, making yourself a less desirable target by losing your virginity before the “recruitment” event, or getting married to be exempt from “recruitment”. This is reflective of a sentiment still existing today, that it is the victims fault that they were raped and not the person who rapes. The “recruitment” event stems from the political divide of an America of the future, where Americans are fighting against each other and pledging allegiance to one of two sides, the Patriots or the Nationals. Victims of war are either recruited as front-line soldiers or as sex slaves, regardless of gender.

In the novel, a friend of the female protagonist is brutally gang-raped by soldiers of the opposition after being caught on a rebel-organized raid of supplies. Laying in the hospital bed, and surround by people who care and are deeply concerned for him, it is clear that rape doesn’t just affect the victim—it affects everyone around them.
After the shock settles down, he realizes that he would never be able to have kids, and that he would be seen as an invalid, having to rely on a colostomy bag after the incident.
He says: “I just want to die.”

This is a powerful moment in the book, because it makes it jarringly emphasizes the fact that men can be the victims of rape, and that it can have huge emotional impacts on not only them, but the people around them.

In other moments of this book, moments involving sexual assault trigger that fear hiding below the surface, which manifests in Lila, at times, as pure and uncontrollable rage. Physically unable to do anything about the situation everyone is in, she resorts to screaming insults that would normally be considered verbal emotional abuse. The words are not savory and they are not pleasant to read, but it is impossible to deny the naturalness of them. When fear and rage are repressed together, the moment they do come out can yield ugly results.
Battling of Extremes
This novel also explores competing extremes, namely: being sexually conservative versus being sexually liberal, science versus religion, and sexual touch versus human touch.
In the town of Starville, where the bulk of this novel takes place, the citizens are very conservative, often in an extreme and twisted way. Virginity is prized by soldiers looking to “recruit” and the loss of virginity on the night of marriage is celebrated publicly as hymen blood on a white copulation sheet is displayed for all to see. People who have sex before marriage are slut-shamed and due to the sexually aggressive undertones of the war, being raped during the recruitment ceremony is more acceptable than having sex with someone on your own volition before marriage.

As someone says in the novel: “If you married me, you’d see how important waiting for the right person is and … they only want you because you are [a virgin] … they’ll lose interest after you… when you [lose it] … If you were to get raped during recruitment, people would be understanding of that.

This ultra-conservatism seems to be a side-effect of the war. Religion is imposed and compliance is coerced by the threat of murder or rape. In a way, this paves the road for the adoption, or appearance of, of such beliefs. Science and technology are banned from use of citizens, possession of even an e-reader is illegal. This purpose of this restriction is implied as keeping the enemy side subordinate and powerless. After all, knowledge is a form of power.
Bringing Double Standards and Sexist Myths to Light
This is a recurring theme in the book and they are often challenged by putting the protagonist in situations where they exist for the opposite gender: that men can fear rape; and can be sexually objectified, may feel uncomfortable by this attention, and feel pressure to pretend that it doesn’t—to uphold a certain version of the masculinity concept.

The concept of masculinity is displayed in two forms. In one, it includes the ability to intimidate, to be sexually aggressive, to be strong, and to be emotionless. In the other, it is shown as the ability to protect yourself and those close to you from harms and face your fears with courage. This novel does a good job of showing that masculinity shouldn’t be confused with aggressiveness; and nor should femininity be described as dependence and innocence.
Wartime sexual violence
One of the things that Mya Robarts does well, is demonstrate the sexual violence that comes as a side effect of war. She does this through parallelism and alluding to the past.
During times of war, these is a condition of lawlessness—where, only a hierarchy exists. In this environment, respect for human rights is corroded and a drive to gain a sense of power, however small or large, is stoked. In a famous motto from the American troops of World War II, it states that, “copulation without conversation is not fraternization.” Compared to falling in love with or forming relationships with the enemy, rape was considered the lesser of two evils… and it also had benefits to the sides committing it; for conquered peoples could, through intimidation, be made to serve the winning side in more ways than through hard labour. The recruitment ceremonies of the novel draw parallels to the forced prostitution of Chinese and Korean women by the Japanese during WWII. Those who were recruited from the enemy side, were made front-line soldiers (basically, cannon fodder) or sex slaves to provide an additional “perk” to the soldiers fighting for the conquering side. Sexual violence has been used in wars to gain a sense of power, and to demonstrate authority over a weaker group. It is a way to humiliate them (through the rape of men, women, and children) and to extend the reach of their destruction—beyond physical injuries—to damage the psyches and emotional capacity of the victims and their society.

——

In this novel, the major characters of interest are Lila (the female protagonist), her sister Azalea, her brother Olmo, her father Ethan Valez, Rey, Tristan and Aleksey.

This story revolves around Lila, who being a virgin, wants to lose her virginity to someone she trusts before she gets it taken away from her during the “recruitment ceremony”. Her desperation to lose it on her own terms can be seen as naïve, but the point of her stubbornness is in her fight to decide for herself what happens to her own body. In this way, parallel to her fight for control over her own body, this is a fight for human rights as well.

Azalea, the younger sister of Lila, is seen to have a very mature mindset for someone her age. Lila describes her as someone who has “grown up too fast.” Accepting the turmoil around her, she knows that the best way she can help those around her, is to be strong; as such, she is often seen acting as Lila’s reality check and uses her bitter humour to lighten up the atmosphere around them. Though younger than Lila, she also adopts the role of protective figure for her older sister, especially in the scene when Rey and Aleksey are pressuring her into deciding which of the two she is romantically interested in in tones threatening judgement if her decision isn’t in either’s favour—the possessive nature of their argument over her suggests that they don’t see Lila’s agency and freedom over what she does with her own body as more important than deciding who owns her. In this situation, Azalea’s support for her sister is clearest; by angrily intervening, she strengthens her sister’s voice.

Olmo, Lila’s younger brother, can be seen as a sort of “tenderness relief” (similar to comic relief in overly-serious situations). Suffering from a rare form of fibrosis that interferes with his ability to develop normally, you would think that the child would be bitter about his situation in life. However, amidst all the grimness and negative feelings created by the war and the looming recruitment day, Olmo brings a naivety and gentleness that brings comfort to those around him. He’s caring, sweet, and nonjudgmental; he even takes the initiative to befriend Aleksey when everyone else is distrusting and wary of the Accord cop. Although his understanding of war is not developed, he has the uncanny ability to trust fully, to be non-judgemental, and to be non-discriminatory, showing a beautiful side of human nature that juxtaposes the darker side of human nature brought out by the war.

Ethan (Dr. Valez), Lila’s father is another important character in this book because of his role in empowering Lila. As her father, Ethan’s ability to influence her is what fosters the strengthening of Lila’s resolve, whether it is in his insistence that Lila and her siblings learn the sciences or his support in Lila’s decision to lose her virginity. He has opposing views to Lila’s godfather, Baron, on what is proper and not proper for Lila to do. This is seen in a verbal spar between the two of them about what they think is best for Lila. Ethan’s support for her becomes clear when he stands up for Lila’s decision, by telling Baron, “As a father, I would prefer that she didn’t marry a man who values [her intact hymen] more than Lila’s distinct personality. Any guy should consider himself lucky if a girl as noble as my Lila accepts his proposal.” The first sentence reveals his belief that women are worth more than their purity. The second sentence reveals his undying support for the actions and decisions of his daughter, something that brings Lila to the verge of tears.

In the novel, there is only one person revealed to be homosexual, that is, Tristan. He is an Accord Cop who works alongside Aleksey. Hints at his homosexuality include his mentioning to Lila, his fear of being raped. He has a strong sense of righteousness, but there are times when the fear of repercussions prevents him from acting upon it. Knowing this, Lila angrily challenges his devotion to righteousness and expresses doubt in his ability to protect those who need it when the time comes. That time does come, and he does take a stand for the victims of the recruitment ceremony. Unfortunately, his worst fear comes into being; he was all alone and without support of any kind. I think his actions in the novel bring forth a glimmer of hope, that there will always be people willing to fight for and with those who seek righteousness. It was through his self-sacrifice that the misdeeds of the soldiers were made clear to the rest of the world; things weren’t as pretty and civilized as they had filmed it to be and actions were taken against those who violated the rights of civilians.

Rey is a long-time friend of Lila and, arguably, her best friend. Rey is the first person Lila seeks for losing her virginity. At first glance, he seems like a kind and morally strong man. At second glance, he is a sexist hypocrite, chastising Lila for her decision and trying to control her sexual liberty by affixing value to her as a woman by her desire to take charge of her own sexuality. Upon my third and final glance, more of an analysis now, I notice that there is something below that sexism. There is jealousy and insecurity. He is jealous because he knows that Lila is attracted to someone else. Loving Lila, he is scared that if she has sex with this other man, then she wouldn’t want him, which is why he attempts to coerce her into marrying her before having voluntary sex.

Now, in comes Lila’s love interest, Aleksey, or General Fürst. He is an Accord cop, part of the team that maintains order and fairness between the two warring sides of America. Following this character, we find out that under this “shield of masculinity”, is someone sensitive. He is someone who, despite being surround by sex and being the object of sexual attraction due to his large stature, is longing something else—what he calls, “human touch”. “Human touch” is rare in this warring time period and culture where consent is expected but never genuine; and where fear of rape and murder dominate the citizens lives and mold their morals for them. This is where his relationship with Lila is very important. Aleksey’s and Lila’s relationship marks the beginning of a mutual molding of each others’ definition of being human and of sexual awakening, respectively.

—-

To end off, this is a book that I would recommend to all due to the culture we live in and my appreciation of the author’s fearlessness when talking about heavy and modern topics.

No Choice but to Listen to Their Own Music

No Choice but to Listen to Their Own Music

Smiling became complicated… When was is appropriate, when was it creepy? What if they don’t smile back? Then… I’d feel bad.

Talking to strangers became complicated… What if they don’t want to talk at all? I’d just be bothering them. What if they think I want something from them? I don’t. What if it irritates them?

What’s holding us back?

Humans have been described as social creatures, but, all of a sudden protecting the ego has become a priority. With the rise of technology, there are new ways to market yourselves; and appearances mean a lot. First impressions don’t just exist in real life and in resumes anymore; they exist online, too–a new frontier where appearance perfection requires new skills: humble bragging, conveying authenticity in connection garnering, hiding flaws, and emphasizing “goodness”. We live in a time when people both judge and are scared of being judged. So, they find ways to minimize shame. Maybe it is by investing less effort, and maybe it is by investing less emotion.

 

It is all about “me” and how I think others perceive me, whether it is true or not. I monitor my actions to minimize judgement and incorrect assumptions, while creating an image that portrays me as the type of person I want people to see me as.

And slowly, it becomes a part of my truth. Some coincidences lead me to believe that I’m not alone. More coincidences lead me to believe that this is just the society that we live in. The power of fear is heavy and enticing; it pressures me into believing this is reality and sweetly tells me that, accepting this as reality will make things easier for me.

It tells me that life will hurt less. It tells me that the pain of embarrassment can be avoided. It tells me, I have my own music, and I don’t need others to enjoy it.

Mencius, a famous Chinese Confucian philosopher of the Warring States Period, had the following exchange with a King of the State of Qi:

Mencius: “When it comes to enjoying music alone versus enjoying music with other people, which is happier?”「獨樂樂,與人樂樂,孰樂?」
King: “Surely, enjoying music alone is not as good as enjoying it with others.” 「不若與人。」
Mencius: “Then, when it comes to enjoying music with a few people versus with many people, which is happier?”「與少樂樂,與眾樂樂,孰樂?」
King: “Surely, enjoying music with many people is more enjoyable than with few people.” 「不若與眾。」

Enjoyment of music is meant to be shared with people who also enjoy it. But fear tells me, “What if people don’t like my music, think it is silly, would rather be somewhere else, think I’m lame?” I’m not actually talking about music right now, but about this fear of judgement. However, I know that this fear is actually my ego talking to me, like a narcissistic parent telling me to be perfect, not to fail, not to be an embarrassment, and that survival in this world depends on how your appearances compare with another candidate. I discovered the narcissist that lives within.

Looking around on the bus, my eyes pass from person to person. Earbuds are in, eye contact is avoided. Appearances. Don’t get hurt. Don’t give the wrong impression. Creepy? Do these people have these thoughts too? Do they know about their resident narcissist?

Knowing mine, I aim to weaken its voice, because by giving it power, I become a fearful of failing.

It tries to scare me away from learning foreign languages, telling me that any mistake I make will invoke judgement and painful embarrassment. But learning from mistakes helps you learn better, and willingness to make mistakes provides more opportunities to practice.

It tries to scare me away from chasing my dreams, using the availability heuristic to tell me that failure is likely due to the lack of examples of success in that field. But every successful profession had to start somewhere.


 

Music is everywhere; they are in the people who surround us. Maybe in order to dissolve the illusion of silent judgement, we need to take out our earbuds more and notice those who want to share their music. Maybe in order to dissolve this illusion, we need to notice the people who want to hear our music and give them an earbud.

 

Information has Gotten Cheap

Information has Gotten Cheap

When you log onto Facebook, what do you see? I see a lot of shared links, videos, and photos of good times. I also see this:

“You will never believe what they found in ____!”

and… “What this man finds inside the ____ will shock you!”

and… “Here are the reasons why you are still _____.”

There is a term for articles titled this way; its called clickbait. I’m sure you are no stranger to them either.

Usually, when we encounter it, it seems no more than just annoying articles that may or may not be as interesting as they claim to be in the headlines. Scroll on.

But, there is something else going on in the world. News outlets are losing their viewership. And newspapers are losing relevancy. Some compensate for the lack of sales with increased prices–some go out of business.

News is often covered by blog articles or heated statuses on Facebook. But there are so many of them, you don’t know which one you should go to for details… so you look at all of them. Occasionally, you’ll find a new tidbit of information to add onto the knowledge you have about something. But other times, you’ll find articles with conflicting beliefs; “Why you should do strength training,” and “Why you should stay away from strength training.” It becomes hard to figure out what is opinion and what is backed by research.

Why? Because information has gotten cheap.

When you see clickbait, the websites are not looking to teach you something new, but they are competing with others for clicks. The more visitors, the more money you can bring in through advertisements.

With so many people owning mobile devices, it becomes much more easier to scroll through the news right away, than to go to the newsstand or grocery store to pick up a physical copy, or wait for the newspaper to thud against your door.

People are looking towards writing jobs so that they can earn some money on the side… but so are millions of other people. Because anyone can start a blog. Anyone can write something interesting to at least one other person. What started off as “I’m a good writer, so people will read my stuff” becomes, “What can I write about that will get me more viewers? Something controversial? Should I exaggerate some things? Lie a little?” because there are so many people fighting for your audience.

Now, it is easier than ever to learn about the topic of your choosing. This, in itself, is a blessing. But I think it misleads a lot of people (especially millennials like myself) into thinking that doing a side job of blogging will bring in some nice cash when they’d actually be hard pressed. Because simply writing interesting stuff is not enough. You have to think outside of the box, look into the lost “arts”.

Rather than follow the swarm of humans bustling towards a common opportunity, try looking for the path not taken, or at least, less trampled. There’ll be more scenery for you to enjoy and you might just find something special–something that, with your abilities, you can turn into something valuable.

This message is more of a message to myself than to anyone in particular, but maybe it will offer you some inspiration. Because by going along with the flow of a huge tsunami, you’ll find that once it crashes, there isn’t much to see. It’s like in those massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG); eventually, everyone knows the secret location to a treasure trove–then it gets gutted of its valuables.

So rather than doing things just because many other people have found success in them (ex. university students over-saturating the medicine/dentistry markets, people writing books about popular but unoriginal ideas, and aiming to be the next Instagram girl scouted to be a model), I think it’s better to look around more carefully. With critical and innovative thinking, you will be able to find out what this world needs or would like.

What could I create to help people suffering from poor mental health?

What product or service can I create to counter the effects of a market that makes a profit off of pointing out physical flaws in women and romantic/financial insecurities in men?

How can I address the problem of ever-growing landfills by making recycling easy enough to prevent it?

These are all questions that currently do not have answers, because everyone is chasing the same “tried-and-true” opportunities. I’m going to start thinking… and I hope you do too! Because this world, in truth, still has major problems and more to come with the way things are going now.

3 Day Quote Challenge: Day 3

Here is my quote for today:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” -Sally Berger

Personal thoughts:

Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to do something a little “extra”; something that you know would take some time to complete… time you’d rather spend doing something enjoyable or relaxing. If it has to be done anyway, or if it is something that you really wish to get done, it would be a good idea to harvest that willpower and get at least part of it done. Because if you were to put it off until tomorrow, you’d still have to do the whole thing. But, if you do a part of it today, there is that much less of it left to do by tomorrow!

So go make that scheduled post to free up time tomorrow if you have the extra time today. Go pack your work/school stuff tonight before you go to bed. Go pay that credit card bill early (maybe, even, overpay it a little to give yourself some leeway). There are so many things you can do today, to make tomorrow easier. It’ll add up!

Nominations:

If you’ve got an inspiring quote, I encourage you to take part in this 3-day quote challenge! Let’s spread the inspiration! 😀

-Tiffany

3 Day Quote Challenge: Day 2

Here is my quote for today:

“Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday.” – Steve Jobs

Personal thoughts:

I agree with this quote. It’s okay to think about past events and see what you can learn from them, but spending time wishing something didn’t happen or wishing that you could have done something different uses up precious mental energy and time that you could be using on the present… or preparing for the future!

I have a daily planner. Sometimes, I don’t get everything I want done, done. But instead of kicking myself for it, I look at the list, and learn from it; I get better at predicting how long something would take the next time I do it. Therefore, with each day, I get better at optimizing my use of time to get the things I want done, done!

 

Nominations:

It says to nominate people to partake in the challenge but I don’t want to put anyone on the spot! I encourage anyone who comes across this quote to share an inspiring quote of their own!

-Tiffany

3 Day Quote Challenge: Day 1

Thank you for the Quote Challenge, Vikram! Sorry I’m a little late. 😉

This challenge entails providing a quote and nominating 3 other people to participate–for three consecutive days! It’s a way to encourage connecting with other bloggers and share inspiration at the same time!

Here is my quote for today:

“Go the extra mile. It’s never crowded.” – Unknown

Personal thoughts:

I though that this quote was pretty cute. It’s true though. With an increasing scale of hard dedicated work, there are less and less people as the rungs get climbed. With less and less people surrounding you, there is more leg room, less intake of recently exhaled air, more elbow room, less pushing and shoving, and–last but not least–a better ability to stand out.

In a crowd of a million people who are at the same place as you, it can be hard to stand out. But when you work on improving yourself and stay focused on achieving your goals step-by-step, you end up in a smaller crowd… and smaller yet.

Nominations:

It says to nominate people to partake in the challenge but I don’t want to put anyone on the spot! I encourage anyone who comes across this quote to share an inspiring quote of their own!

-Tiffany

Small Wins | Intro to New Category

Small Wins | Intro to New Category

This week was pretty hectic for me, but I’m glad to say that the worst is over.

I’ve decided to start up a new category of posts called “small wins”, where I will be posting about small battles I have overcome or gold nuggets of blessings that come to be.

Sometimes, when you are swamped with things to do, it can feel like you aren’t getting anything done, or that you have fallen behind and need to catch up.

Sometimes, you may even get mad at yourself for not being productive enough, efficient enough, or determined enough. These thoughts can really bring you down, as I have experienced. Every time I rise up above the mass of broken armor and blood, I realize the importance of remembering the small wins. They remind you that all your brain power and physical efforts were not for naught and they provide you with encouragement too.

“See how you were able to succeed in ____? You are capable. What’s next on your to-tackle list? You can do that too!”

Some days, I go through the whole day thinking that I haven’t done anything productive but it wasn’t until I started recording them, that I realized it wasn’t the case.

Let’s all remember the small wins!

Well, we’re not getting any younger!

Daily Prompt: Pick Your Gadget

Pick one:

  • an invisibility helmet
  • a time machine
  • anywhere doors

Personally, I would pick “anywhere doors” for numerous reasons:

  1. It saves on commute time. Who wouldn’t want to transport to school/work/Hawaii/etc.? The hours in a day are precious.
  2. I never have to deal with traffic or transit delays.
  3. Whenever I have to study for a long period of time, I like to have a change of scenery every couple hours. Imagine being able to transport to a coffee shop, library, or study area just by carrying your things with you through the “anywhere door”.
  4. I can avoid sweltering weather or frigid snowstorms but still get to where I want to go. Not a hair plastered to my forehead nor a hair out of place.
  5. I can visit family and friends instantly.
  6. I would only be one second older than I was at the previous location.
  7. Can transport to a different washroom if one is full.
  8. Can transport to a washroom when food poisoning strikes.
  9. Can transport into stores and steal things… just kidding. Just being able to transport to a store, shop, and transport back would be excellent.
  10. Can butt in front of people in line-ups… just kidding. If the line-up is long, I’d just transport to a different time-zone where the breakfast/lunch/supper time rush is not in effect.
  11. Can travel longs distances and not experience jet lag.
  12. Can save the gas and/or transit pass money.

Why wouldn’t I choose an “invisibility machine”?

  1. We all know that they are unreliable. In the snow or sand, people can see your footprints.
  2. Maybe people can even hear your breathing?
  3. Maybe someone will run into you or sit on you.
  4. Maybe, you’ll be listening in on a conversation and one of them suddenly heads in your direction without warning. They might not see you, but they’ll probably hear the scuffling of your shoes or the “shit” murmured under your breath.

Why wouldn’t I choose a “time machine”?

  1. Changing an event in the past for the better wouldn’t necessarily result in a better future outcome. Maybe, you choose to go back in time to avoid an argument. What if after the argument, amendments would have been made and a greater understanding of each other was forged… and therefore a stronger relationship created? You would have deleted that from your future.
  2. Where you are now is the result of countless actions and random happenings. Changing one might change a future outcome, but it will change countless others as well. Not only that, the chance that the most optimal outcome would come to be, is low.
  3. You’d still be the same age you were before you teleported, so the time periods that you can teleport to are limited to a few years before and a few years after the present time… unless you wanted to travel back in time to visit some historical happenings or attain a new identity.

 

Hope this post was able to bring a smile to your face!

-Tiffany

MOTD | December 6, 2015

It’s easy to fall into the habit of looking for something to love–something to keep you going when the momentum of excitement starts to wane–be it in a situation, job, task, or relationship. The thing about looking for these qualities, is that things change; humans change; circumstances change.

“It is important to look not for something to love, but to look with love.”

Maybe, it is the difference between:

“Well, at least […]. There’s that, I guess.”

…and …

“Yes, I love this […]. I haven’t forgotten. :)”


Maybe, that is all it takes to keep the exhilarating momentum of newness from fading. Qualities and features can change, but your perspective doesn’t have to.


 

Disclaimer: Of course, this doesn’t apply to things that make you absolutely miserable or harm you.