Why You Need to Listen to Halsey (Like, Right Now)

Halsey

Halsey is pretty new to the music industry- her first album, an EP titled Room 93, just came out in 2014. But she’s taking the world by a storm- within just the past year, she’s performed at the huge music festival South by Southwest and toured with massively popular bands like The Kooks and Imagine Dragons.

I won’t hesitate to admit that I can be… just a teeny bit of an elitist about pop. “It’s factory made music!” “There’s no heart to it!” “There’s nothing artistic about it!” I don’t really mean to. I’m just… not really into pop.

But there are a handful of pop artists I do like- Marina and the Diamonds, Echosmith, some of Taylor Swift’s newer, less country stuff- and Halsey is at the top of that list. Let me tell you why.

So, Halsey is an indie/ electronic pop singer and songwriter. Her music is totally beautiful- it’s whimsical and pretty, but has a dark and gritty layer to it, too. She writes her own songs and does an amazing job at it, if I do say so myself.

She’s honest and heartfelt, something that I feel is missing from a lot of pop. She knows what she’s singing about, and she owns it.

She sings because she cares about it, not because she’s a particularly good singer (she is, but apparently she doesn’t think so herself). In one interview, she said

Yeah, I mean, I write all my own music—I’m a writer at heart. I’m not actually even a very good singer. I’m not. I’m okay with admitting that because some of the best musicians in history weren’t great singers: Patti Smith, Bob Dylan. I loved a guy named Conor Oberst who’s in a band called Bright Eyes. He can’t sing. Love him. And it’s cool because it’s almost like the most liberating thing ever. This is a side note, but I can go up on stage and not have to worry about if I sing good because I already kinda can’t. I don’t have to worry about hitting runs and being ridiculous. For me it’s about emotion.

She’s a breath of fresh air for pop music.

Also, she has the coolest hair!!!

HalseyHairColors

But if that’s not enough to persuade you, there’s more.

Because Halsey is an outspoken bisexual, biracial, and bipolar feminist! Remember what I was saying about her being a breath of fresh air for pop? Because Halsey is what a lot of girls need these days- a positive role model. Someone who speaks out about homophobia, racism, mental health, and so much more.

Like, seriously. So much more. Just skim through her Twitter and you’ll see.

HalseyBodyPositivityHalseyRacism

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HalseyPositivity

In one interview where she was discussing being bipolar, she explained

They’re like, ‘I want to be with someone who is like crazy.’ Well, guess what? It’s not all painting at four o’clock in the morning and road trips and great things. Sometimes it’s throwing things and, like, getting hurt and having to pick someone up from the police station at two o’clock in the morning. My biggest fear has always been being that woman.

Like, I cannot express how great of a role model Halsey is for girls.

I kind of just embraced the things about me that were a little odd. The thing about having bipolar disorder, for me, is that I’m really empathetic. I feel everything around me so much. I feel when I walk past a homeless person, and I feel when my friend breaks up with someone, or I feel when my mom and my dad get into a fight and my mom’s crying over dishes in the sink. I used to say to her all the time, like, ‘I hate this. I want to be naïve. I want to be worried about my prom dress. I want to be worried about getting my math homework done. I want to be like everyone else my age,’ and she would say, ‘Would you rather be blissfully ignorant or would you rather be pained and aware?’ That was one of the things that’s kind of followed with me through my whole life. She’s encouraging of what I’m doing because she knows that even if sometimes I might be in pain, I’m aware.

Like, seriously!!! It’s so nice being able to see someone in the media who actually speaks out about these things, and does it honestly.

Another quote, this one discussing the decision whether to cast a man or a woman as her romantic partner when she was filming a music video for one of her songs, Ghost.

The content of the video was me being a little oppositional actually. We were in a meeting talking about just doing a higher budget version of the original and someone said “alright well, we’ll cast a guy” and I think I kinda snapped. I wasn’t planning to, honestly, it wasn’t some political move, I just kinda went “why would you assume that you’d cast me a guy”.

That general assumption that a guy should be cast, like, that the video was about a hetero-normative plotline, just made me angry and made me realize how important it is to do something that people aren’t expecting. Like, I’m a bisexual woman so I’m interested in relationships with both men and women and I know how important it is to showcase that.

Such!!! A!!! Great!!! Role!!! Model!!! A pop artist spreading a positive, girl power driven message!

And she doesn’t let the power get to her head, either- in this interview, she explains that she recognizes that she makes mistakes, and she’d rather have kids look up to her ideals than idolize her.

I don’t insist that any of my ideas or opinions are the perfect form, but I’ve kind of accepted the fact that I’m a role model for a lot of different types. I’m mixed race—my dad is black and my mom is white—and I’m very pale. Growing up there weren’t a lot of mixed people in the media who were as pale as I was. I always felt like I was too light to identify with anyone else. I now have girls reach out to me all the time and say, ‘I’m mixed race like you and I’m just as white as you are. Thank you for being that for me.’ Or, you know, someone reaches out with a mental illness or someone reaches out who is, you know, a feminist. I just like to be the in-between role model—the one I didn’t have growing up. At the same time, if I’m going to be a role model, I would rather kids idolize my intention to do good and my intention to be myself and my intention to be different rather than my actions. I think my intentions are more admirable than my actions.

So, I mean, if this hasn’t persuaded you to listen to her, I hope it’s at least showed you how amazing she is. I mean, I get it if you don’t like her music but she’s seriously so cool and it’s amazing that girls have someone like her to look up to.

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We Don’t Need More Strong Female Characters

Feminism has been calling for “more strong female characters” for a long time now, but this tends to cause a lot of confusion- what exactly does “strong” mean in this context?

Shrug2

The dictionary defines strong as “having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks.”

But… being strong doesn’t really make a feminist character, does it?

Feminism, especially third wave feminism (which found its roots in the individualism of the punk rock movement), calls for women to be whatever they want to be, instead of what society tells them to be. If you want to be a traditional stay at home mom? That’s fine. If you want to be a self supporting career woman? That’s fine too. If you want to be tough and independent and totally slay in you high heels and lipstick? That’s fine too. You don’t have to be one thing or the other, and there’s nothing inherently strong in acting in ways that society deems masculine.

RiotGrrl

Because this is another thing that feminism points out- our culture places higher value on things that are deemed to be masculine. From occupations (being a doctor is traditionally a male dominated job, while being a nurse is more “feminine”) to clothes (it’s fine for a girl to wear men’s clothes like jeans and boots, but not culturally acceptable for a guy to wear dresses and heels), whatever people have deemed as feminine is therefore also considered to be weaker or demeaning.

But here’s the real kicker: liking girly things- whether you’re a girl or a guy- doesn’t make you any weaker of a person.

DosAndDontsFeminism

So this brings me to the point that I’ve been trying to get too: being strong in the sense of physical strength (a trait deemed masculine, although there’s really nothing masculine-or feminine- about it) doesn’t make a character feminist. Hating high heels and dresses doesn’t make a character feminist. Punching a couple of people in the face doesn’t make a character feminist.

So… if being strong doesn’t make a character feminist, then why do feminist keep asking for more strong female characters?

Because it’s a misunderstanding. It’s that simple.

A strong female character is not a woman who punches some people in the face and then hooks up with the male protagonist at the end of the story as a prize for his victory over evil or whatever.

LoveInterest

Did you mean: Black Widow in Age of Ultron

A strong female character is a female character who is three dimensional and interesting. She has her own goals (other than supporting another character, usually the male lead). She makes mistakes. She has her own backstory. She isn’t just used as motivation for another character (again, usually a dude). She’s allowed to be just as flawed as the male characters, instead of being expected to be perfect- conventionally beautiful and strong and totally uninteresting.

And she supports other girls, too. There’s absolutely nothing feminist about a woman telling someone that they “hit like a girl” or whatever.

Bland, perfect female characters are not feminist. Flawed, three dimensional female characters are feminist.

Yet people keep misunderstanding this. A good example can be found in animation- this graphic sums it up pretty well.

BodyTypesInAnimation

Men are allowed to be diverse and unique, but women are expected to be pretty and attractive basically all the time. Although body type is only one side of the coin, it’s a good example, one that’s easier to explain than personality.

As the head animator of Frozen (which is hailed as hugely feminist) said,

“Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, because they have to go through these range of emotions, but you have to keep them pretty and they’re very sensitive to — you can get them off a model very quickly. So, having a film with two hero female characters was really tough, and having them both in the scene and look very different if they’re echoing the same expression; that Elsa looking angry looks different from Anna being angry.”

Well, yeah. I can understand why it would be difficult to make two different characters look different when they look exactly the same. Here’s an idea: stop worrying about making the characters pretty. Let them be expressive and unique instead.

This picture of the main characters of Frozen makes a very good example:

FrozenCharacters

Olaf and Sven aside, the differences in body type are pretty clear. Olaf and Hans are very different- Kristoff has a bulkier build, while Hans is tall and slim. But Anna and Elsa are exactly the same, just with different clothes and hair and makeup.

And honestly? The same thing goes for their personalities. Hans is manipulative and cruel, and that all stems from jealousy. Kristoff is awkward and dorky, but he’s also loyal and understanding. They’re both flawed, interesting people. Anna and Elsa? Less so. Anna is clumsy, but only when it’s charming. She’s loyal, and naive, and… that’s about all there is to her character. Elsa is more interesting than her sister- she is flawed. She cares for her sister, but she makes mistakes out of fear. But in the end, Anna is the main character who takes the center stage, while Elsa is more of a plot device.

And just look at this gif comparing the faces of Elsa, Anna, and Rapunzel (from Tangled). Aside from makeup and Anna’s freckles, they have hardly any noticeable differences. They’re… pretty, but in a bland way.

DisneyFaces

Another Disney film, Big Hero 6, provides a very good example of strong, feminist characters. Even though the main character is a guy, there are plenty of women in his life- supporting female characters who are strong and interesting and multi-faceted and very, very feminist.

This lineup of characters displays just how diverse the movie is- even the women.

BigHero6Characters

Honey Lemon is tall and skinny and not very curvy at all. She loves traditionally girly things, but that doesn’t make her any weaker. She’s not very physically strong, but she’s very smart, and cares deeply about her friends. GoGo is shorter and curvier, and prefers more masculine things- she likes car chases, has choppy hair, and acts much less empathetic than Honey Lemon. She’s still caring, but it doesn’t really show- most of the time, she acts pretty rude. The two of them are flawed, and interesting,

So, I’ve been talking about this for a while… now I want to see your thoughts! What do you think makes a feminist character?

Ant Man (Movie Review)

ant man movie 2015

This is a spoiler free review!

Well, I mean, considering that I expected to totally hate this movie, it wasn’t bad. I’m glad that I decided to see it in theaters, instead of waiting for the DVD. But I still definitely wouldn’t say that I loved it for anything, because even if it was an enjoyable two hours or so, it had a massive plot hole. So, basically, I have pretty mixed feelings on this one.

Really

I’m going to rant a little here. But first off, let me say that I absolutely love Marvel. I love the comics, I love the movies, I love the cartoons (except for Agents of SMASH).

FeministRants

But the comics are my favorites, and will be my favorites until the movies start to show some change. Marvel’s comics feature tons of “strong female characters”, and the true meaning of that word, not just the Tauriel who kicks-butt-and-says-little kind of strong female character. Almost all of the women in their comics have diverse views, diverse backgrounds, diverse goals- they’re three dimensional, and have a purpose to their storyline other than being a love interest.

So why are those characters always sidelined in the movies? Natasha Romanoff, a fantastic character, was reduced to a love interest and damsel in distress in Age of Ultron. Shadowcat, the hero of the Days of Future Past storyline in the comics, was relegated to helping Wolverine from a distance, so that he could achieve what was originally one of the biggest opportunities for women in comics. When creating the roster for the movie version of the Avengers, the women were the first to go.

So let me ask again: why are the women of Marvel so often sidelined in the movies?

RhetoricalQuestion

Unfortunately, Ant Man fell into this trap, and it fell pretty deep.

Before the movie even takes place, Janet van Dyne, AKA The Wasp- a HUGELY notable character who, in the comics, was a founding member of the Avengers and even named the team– was killed off. That alone was frustrating, but there’s more.

Janet and Hank Pym (the original Ant Man, who is still alive when the movie takes place), had a daughter, Hope. She had more skill and more motivation than the hero of the movie, Scott Lang, yet for some reason she was relegated to training Scott instead of putting on the suit and saving the day herself.

Now, the movie does have an excuse for this- that her father, Hank, doesn’t want what happened to her mother to happen to her.

But that seems like a pretty feeble excuse to me. If Hope was really as driven as the viewers are led to believe, then why wouldn’t she just take the suit? She’s a better fighter than Scott, she has more skill, and she knows that.

I don’t know. It didn’t make sense to me. But I digress.

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Aside from my… obvious issues with this movie, it was still pretty good. Better than I had expected, at least.

It was different from Marvel’s usual fare- less of an action movie and more of a heist/ spy thing. Most of the plot was spent in preparing for the heist at the end of it. So if you’re not really into super action-y movies, this one might be a good one for you.

It was also more kid friendly than a lot of Marvel movies. There was some bad language (but not nearly as much as, say, Guardians of the Galaxy), and a little bit of action, but other than that, it was pretty family friendly.

And it was funny! Not so much as Guardians of the Galaxy (at least, not in my opinion), but I was laughing most of the way through. There was a pretty memorable fight scene near the end involving Thomas the Tank Engine.

Aaaaaaaah

So, long story short, this movie was… okay. But considering that we could have very easily had a Wasp movie instead of an Ant Man movie, I can’t help but feel a little frustrated.

Just by scanning the Wikipedia list of Avenger members, a significant number of the Avengers have been women. Yet, so far, we have no female led Marvel movies, and the only one slated for the future doesn’t come out until 2018. By then, we’ll have eleven movies led by a white man named Chris (Captain America 1, 2, and 3, Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2, Thor 1, 2, and 3, and Avengers 1, 2, and 3).

So, considering how many fantastic female characters there are in the Marvel universe… why is it that we don’t have a movie about even one of them?

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I dunno. It’s something that really frustrates me- 90% of my favorite characters being constantly sidelined.

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So… sorry, but the more I think about this movie, the less I like it.

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2

2 out of 5 stars

Recommended to: casual Marvel fans and/ or people who won’t be as frustrated about this as I am, anyone looking for a fun way to spend an hour or two

My Favorite LGBT+ Books

The US now has marriage equality- even Texas!!! The fight isn’t over yet- we have a long way to go before we reach true equality. But this is such a huge step, and a cause for celebration!

VictoryDance

So, I’ve decided to compile my top ten books (and comics) starring LGBT+ protagonists to celebrate. There should be something for everyone on this list, whether you like fantasy, contemporary, or anything in between!

Hero

1. Hero by Perry Moore was actually one of the first LGBT+ books I read. It wasn’t really one of the best books that I’ve read, but it stuck with me, because, I mean, even if it’s not perfect, it’s really good. It was partly about the gay protagonist having to grow up with his extremely conservative dad, and partly a really funny parody of superhero stereotypes, so it has a really nice blend of seriousness and comedy.

MiseducationOfCameronPost

2. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth was amaaaaazing and I’m so glad that I finally read it (many thanks to everyone who recommended it to me!). It’s a fantastic contemporary coming-of-age story about a lesbian girl growing up in the Midwest. Also, isn’t the cover just sooo pretty? I’m not usually a fan of covers with photos on them- I prefer artwork, especially the minimalist ones- but this one is really pretty and perfect for the story.

Ash

3. Ash by Malinda Lo is one of my favorite books ever. It’s basically a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, and I loved it, especially considering that LGBT+ fantasy is pretty sparse. Like, I’ve found plenty of good queer contemporary stories, but hardly anything in the way of fantasy??? Anyway. Ash is amazing and 5/5 would recommend!

Otherbound

4. Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis is AMAZING and LET ME TELL YOU WHY. It’s an epic fantasy with tons of people of color- I don’t think any of the main characters are white- and the main character is bisexual (and bisexual characters are ridiculously hard to find. And excellent representation aside, the world was just beautiful, and the way the magic in this world worked was so interesting. So, basically, this is one of my favorite books of all time.

LiesWeTellOurselves

5. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley was another ABSOLUTELY AMAZING book that EVERYONE needs to read RIGHT NOW. Like, if I had to pick a single favorite book, it would probably be this one. It’s a fantastic story that does a really amazing job at discussing race, sexuality, and gender inequality. And the CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT oh my god. Each of the main characters grows so much over the course of the story and just GO READ IT NOW okay?

NotOtherwiseSpecified

6. Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz is another great book. You know how I was mentioning how hard it is to find bisexual characters in books? Well, Not Otherwise Specified is a really good story about growing up, falling in (and out of) love, and never quite feeling like you fit in, starring a very clearly bisexual protagonist.

SimonVsTheHomoSapiensAgenda

7. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is a really cute, fluffy book. It does a really good job of blending serious themes with humor and general cuteness, which is something that I really appreciate in books. Unlike a lot of the other books on this list which are either about characters who are already out (like Not Otherwise Specified) or are unable to come out (like Hero and Cameron Post), Simon is mostly about Simon’s coming out. It’s a really heartfelt, realistic book, and I’d definitely recommend it.

BeautyQueens

8. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray is absolutely glorious. It’s, like, a feminist take on The Lord of the Flies. There are a lot of main characters, but a good amount of them are queer, and they’re all really diverse. It makes a lot of serious points but it manages to be SUPER funny and sarcastic while it does so. If you’re into comedy and/or social justice, I would definitely highly recommend this one.

YoungAvengers

9. The Young Avengers by Kieron Gillen is one of my all time favorite comics. While it admittedly doesn’t have the best plot, it does have really well developed, three dimensional characters, and not one of them is straight! Tommy, Billy, and Miss America are, like, super gay, Noh-Varr, Kid Loki, and Prodigy are bisxual, and Kate is most likely bisexual as well.

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10. The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by Gerard Way and Shaun Simon is another of my favorite comics, and the world in which it takes place was intentionally created to be very, very queer. The main character, The Girl, has no romantic interest, and in the way of side characters, there are quite a few LGBT+ characters, like the runaway robots Red and Blue (in the picture above), the rebel assassin Korse, and the freedom fighter Party Poison.

What are some of your favorite LGBT+ books?

The World of Boxes

When I was younger- around third grade or so- one of the things that people loved to ask me was “Are you a tomboy or a girly girl?” It was just a normal part of third grade that everyone went through. You had to pick a side.

The problem was that I couldn’t pick one.

I’d come from a really sheltered environment. I had attended an independent study school through second grade, and then my family and I made the decision to switch me to public school. The change was… difficult, to put it lightly. Most of my life then was spent with my family. I was mostly taught by my wonderfully feminist mother, and the school I attended twice a week was also very liberal. So when I switched to public schooling in my largely conservative city, it was bizarre and I had no idea what was going on.

Not long earlier, I had been perfectly content catching lizards with my bare hands and experimenting with bizarre fashions (I was preferential to funky sunglasses, overalls, rainboots, and sundresses) and being a general wild child.

One day, I would cover myself in mud and catch bugs, both the pretty ones and the not so pretty ones. The next day, I would throw a rainbow unicorn birthday bash.

But then, all of a sudden, people wanted me to choose one or the other.

I was confused and lost. I wasn’t even ten years old. How was I supposed to know who I wanted to be?

So I kept up my wild lifestyle, determined not to care what other people thought. But it got harder and harder. I became a bit of a loner, not quite fitting in but not an outsider enough to find solace with the other weird kids either.

So I gave up. I decided to try and fit in. I labelled myself as a tomboy, because girly girls were supposedly vapid and stupid and didn’t care about anything but nail polish and frilly pink clothing. I turned away from my love of eclectic clothing, choosing jeans and t-shirts over the dresses that I had used to love because those things were girly and therefore weak. I shunned the company of the girls who had coined themselves as “girly,” and in return, they shunned me.

I forced myself into a box that didn’t really fit because I wanted to belong.

The box was too small, too confining, but it gave me a sense of security in the tumultuous world that is school and society in general.

Over the years, the labels evolved, but the general connotations stayed the same. To be girly in any way was to be weak, and I wanted to be strong, so therefore, I acted “boyish.” I refused to brush my hair, I made rude jokes, I played with bugs and Pokemon cards while turning my love of fashion design and pretty bows into some kind of hideous secret.

All of that was incredibly harmful to me and my self esteem. I buried myself so far away that even today, years later, trying to find myself is nigh impossible. I’m trying, but it’s hard.

Recently, I’m trying to stop hiding. I’ll wear floaty floral skirts with my big black boots. Band t-shirts and grungey jeans with pretty bows in my hair.

I don’t want to care what people think. I don’t want to fit into a box anymore.

But I’ve lived in the box so long that it’s hard to leave.

What I’m trying to get at here is that we need to stop telling little girls (and boys!) that they need to be one thing or the other. It hurts. It forces you to be someone you’re not- because nobody is fully “girly” or fully “boyish,” whatever those words mean.

Imagine crawling into a box when you’re little. It seems to fit just right. But then, as you grow older and get bigger, the box starts to get more and more confining. You don’t leave, though, because people tell you that the box is safe, that you need to pick one box or another, and besides, it’s too late to leave this one for another. So you get bigger, and the box gets smaller, until one day, you’re hunched over, misshapen, because you grew up in a box that was too small for you, and now there’s no going back.

You don’t need to be one thing or the other, so you don’t need to change yourself to be that thing.

Always strive to be yourself, fully and completely. Leave the box before it’s too late.

Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines. It gets easier, I promise. I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t hard, because it is. And it’s a lifelong process.

Try to find who you are, beyond the labels and stereotypes. And in the meantime, stop forcing other people, younger people who look up to you, into boxes of their own.

It’s okay to label yourself by your gender, sexuality, passions, interests, hobbies, or whatever else you choose to label yourself by- but you should not change to fit these labels. The labels should change to fit you.

My Hero Monday: Mary Shelley

MyHeroMonday

Hey guys! I’m participating in My Hero Monday (AKA one of the greatest tags ever) again this month. In the words of its creator,

It [My Hero Monday] celebrates female heroes in our society, and promotes learning about new heroes.

The prompt was to write about a woman who invented something. I decided to do a twist on it and write about Mary Shelley, the “inventor” of science fiction. So let’s get started!

MaryShelley

{Wikipedia} {Biography.com} {Poetry Foundation}

Name: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (née Godwin)

Date of birth: August 30, 1797

School(s): The University of Oxford

When did I first hear about her? In elementary school, when I read the Great Illustrated Classics version of Frankenstein. I honestly don’t remember the story all that well, but I do remember liking it. Anyway, it’s been years since then, but Mary Shelley has always stuck in my head, simply because she pretty much created an entire genre in a time when women were supposed to stay in the kitchen.

Frankenstein

What makes her one of my heroes? Well… I guess I already answered that in the previous question, didn’t I? Mary Shelley wrote in a time when that was a job for the men, and she wrote well. Apparently she wrote so well that people were like “nope, you didn’t write that, it must’ve been your husband, you liar”. Which is admittedly pretty frustrating, especially since men being given credit for women’s accomplishments is something that still happens today- just take a look at the Nobel Prize winners- but still. It really emphasizes Mary Shelley’s talent.

I really ought to read Frankenstein again, to be honest. I doubt that I could manage the GIC version (they’re soooo oversimplified, but they’re good for kids), so maybe even the original.

Anyway.

Mary Shelley was also the second child of a famous feminist philosopher, Mary Wollstonecraft, which is something that greatly impacted her worldview.

Quotes:

MSinvention

Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.

Flove

I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy one, I will indulge the other.

MSfearless

Beware; I am fearless, and therefore powerful.

MSgoodevil

No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.

MSlive

Live, and be happy, and make others so.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Mary Shelley! Who are some of your favorite female inventors?

My Hero Monday February Schedule:

February 2:

Sam @ Bookish Serendipity

Mawa @ All Things Wordy

February 9:

Ana @ Butterflies of the Imagination

Engie @ Musings From Neville’s Navel

February 16:

Bridget @ Stay and Watch the Stars

Cait @ Paper Fury

Isa @ A Doodler’s Freedom