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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Busting Five Vegan Myths - A Follow-Up

Remember when I said yesterday, that Busting Five Vegan Myths was too short an article? Yeah well, I noticed today that it was reprinted in Hindustan Times after it first appeared in Washington Post on 18th April. Looking up the original article, I saw that quite a few bits had been chopped from the article in the reprinted version. I also realised that Carol J. Adams, the author of the article, is the author of The Sexual Politics of Meat as well, which has been on my to-read list for quite some time. After the article, Adams further engaged with readers in a question-answer session about veganism at the Washington Post on 20th April. Reading through both the expanded version of the article and the Q-&-A, I got the impression that while Adams was promoting veganism in the end, her arguments, relying heavily on the same old health-benefits and the evils-of-factory-farming spiel, were lacking in the clarity of an any-nonconsensual-use-of-sentient-beings-is-exploitation-as-well-as-slavery approach. For example, in response to this question:
Carol, although I'm an omnivore and could only give up meat if someone held a gun to my head, I can understand the ethical reasons for being a vegetarian. However, I could never give up milk, eggs, cheese, ice cream--especially cheese! It doesn't harm a chicken to take her eggs, nor does it kill a cow/goat/sheep/yak to be milked. So why vegan?
She said:
[…] what do you think happens to the chicken after she is done laying her eggs? She becomes chicken soup. What happens to the cows after they have been depleted and can barely walk to the slaughterhouse? They become hamburger. Chickens and cows are used twice by the animal agriculture industry--in sexual servitude, producing what I have called "feminized protein" --eggs and milk--in incredibly horrendous conditions. Cows are both pregnant and lactating at the same time; veal calves are the byproduct of the dairy industry. Male chicks are thrown into the garbage within 24 hours of birth because they can't be used to get more eggs. Chickens are crowded into cages; debeaked, unable to move, much less to stretch their wings.
So, why vegan? I don't want to benefit from such cruelty; we don't need dairy; and I don't want to determine my diet by selfishness. […]

Again:
You write that being a vegan is about "one simple ideal: trying to do the least harm possible." While I can understand if not particularly agree with meat and leather doing harm, I fail to see how eggs, milk, honey, wool, etc. do harm to humans or animals. Can you please elaborate?

Adams
[…] the harvesting of these foods is not without consequences of the animals they are "harvested from." Bees often die in the collection of honey, the wool industry has been found to be very cruel […]

In response to all the queries along the lines of why not just vegetarian, Adams responded with the fact that all nonhumans, even when being exploited for dairy or eggs, end up being murdered, and she doesn’t believe in killing animals. The only other thing she said regarding nonhumans exploited for dairy, eggs etc.:
[…] Chickens and cows are used twice by the animal agriculture industry--in sexual servitude, producing what I have called "feminized protein" --eggs and milk--in incredibly horrendous conditions. […] For female animals, their exploitation is doubled. […]

Now, I am still interested in hearing what she has to say in her books about the intersectionality of patriarchal values and animal exploitation, but her not directly addressing why it is wrong to exploit nonhumans even if we don’t torture or murder them afterward didn’t exactly build my faith in her grasp of the concept of exploitation and servitude or in her ability to assess them. She, finally, comes across as a writer who, with a mix of welfarism and rights, has some new and interesting things to say and some familiar and exhausting old tropes of questioning the treatment instead of use.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Gasp! An Article on Veganism That Didn’t Make Me Headdesk?!

I unfolded my copy of the Hindustan Times today to see an article entitled Busting Five Vegan Myths. After getting over my knee-jerk reaction of not again! I realized that it’s fairly researched and actually does its job of dispelling myths about veganism rather than perpetuating them. Sample this:
Try veganism for a day and see what happens. Is it so difficult to substitute marinara sauce for meat sauce? To get a pizza loaded with veggies instead of cheese and meat? To fix a big salad and add beans to it instead of turkey? Turns out that vegan produce is readily available in India and the chances of having a fresh produce is highly possible, if you are determined to go for vegan choices.
Sure, the article is too short and leaves a lot to be desired, but for Hindustan Times, which has previously produced gems like this and this, publishing an article not incompatible with abolitionist philosophy is hopefully a start.

ETA: I saw that the article is written by Carol J. Adams, a vegan and author of The Sexual Politics of Meat, which, I think, explains the fact that the article sounded like it was written by someone who knew what ze was talking about. More on Adams in this follow-up post.

Let’s Try This Again

Let’s see, the last time I posted… was in November. Okaaaay. Before that… August. Before that… One post in July. One in June. Two in May. And I started this blog in April. Let’s just pretend for a moment that I actually have readers who care about any of this and keep talking. So, I’m clearly having some trouble with my writing here. Now, there’s been stuff going on in my life and there’s been the good ol’ writer’s block, and I’m working through all that, but mainly why I haven’t been able to write much is because I’ve been learning. And what I’ve learnt is that there is a shitload of stuff I need to… learn.

When I started this blog I was angry, I was opinionated, I had been reading anti-oppression theories for about a year and felt I had gained a pretty good handle on identifying what was wrong with the world. Well, I still get angry, I’m still opinionated, I still read anti-oppression stuff, but I no longer feel that I have a pretty good handle on pointing out the many, many issues that are wrong with the world and solving them. Maybe a pinkie hold. But definitely not a good, strong grasp. To be frank, I just don’t think I’m ready to comment on stuff I know nothing about. I now look at some of the things I’ve posted and I cringe because that is exactly what I did there. So, I thought, and I decided, that I would go out, get to know people, do things, experience life, and grow up some; because I have read about the world, a lot, and I’ve thought about the world, a lot, but I haven’t experienced the world much. It’s been mostly theories for me, and I need some practical experience to form and express informed opinions about things. And so, I haven’t been feeling comfortable sharing my thoughts with the world and been avoiding blogging.

I’m still a feminist, I’m still a vegan abolitionist, and I will still post about anti-oppression, it’s just that I will be much more uncertain about my opinions and I will keep them to myself to a greater extent than I did before, and more importantly, I will admit it to myself when I have no idea what I’m talking about. And while I’m learning, I’d like to make my blogging experience a more positive one by talking more about creative stuff. I’ve been reading a lot of fiction, I’ve started exploring music and I’ve started experimenting with food. Let’s focus on them for now and hope it works out this time!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Happy Diwali? Yeah, Right!

Yesterday was Diwali [1]. Quite apart from the fact that I think Diwali is a festival belonging to patriarchal religions with oppressive concepts, I dislike the main Diwali Day. I don’t like it because of the firecrackers [2]. Quite apart from the fact that they wreak havoc [3] on the environment, quite apart from the fact that the noise and smoke makes Diwali a harrowing experience for sick people and people with respiratory disabilities, quite apart from the fact that the majority of fireworks in India are made using child labour; I hate the firecrackers for what they do to nonhuman animals.


Yesterday evening, Chinie was frantically walking around the house, hiding beneath the sofa, hiding beneath my legs and trying to seek comfort from each of our family members in turn. Several buildings away, one of my friends’ dogs, Romeo and Bagheera, weren’t very relaxed either. Romeo hadn’t eaten anything since the day before and was shivering under the bed. Bagheera was coping, comparatively, a little better than Romeo. Along the streets, the usual packs of stray dogs were nowhere to be found. A little searching revealed that they were all holed beneath cars, behind bushes and in gutters, peeping out and trying to understand what the hell was going on. In a nearby tree, a panicky sparrow was trying to carry her two children to safety while scared out of her skin herself, not realising that they had already died due to shock. Hungry owls were forced back into shelters wondering why the time zone had changed abruptly. All this was due to crackers, several popping each second and three to four bursting with huge bangs each minute.


I am going to focus on Chinie, for now, because she was the one I spent the evening with. Let’s see a few pictures:


Chinie, under our sofa.

Warm and cosy in there Chinie?

Chinie, starting at the bang of a cracker.

Chinie, hiding beneath my legs.

Having an interesting experience, aren’t you Chinie?

Maybe you won’t be able to make out the fear and anxiety in her eyes because you don’t know her as well as I do. To discern terror, you need to observe body language as well, which a picture alone cannot express. To truly feel her pain; you’ll need to see her trembling; see her hiding behind our parents, starting at every sound, eyes darting from the doors to the windows; see her constantly tensed body, restless panting and pricked up ears; see her tail between her legs and not eating; refusing to go out, refusing to go out to relieve herself…


It is morning. The smoke is still there but the crackers have died out. You can still hear an occasional pop but the sound feels faded, not jarring like last night. Chinie has recovered quite a bit, though she still jumps at particularly loud bangs. She hasn’t slept much. My father puts on her leash and moves towards the door, he feels a tug and looks back. Chinie hasn’t moved. She is sitting firmly on her haunches with her feet dug in. My father tugs. He calls. I push her. Chinie doesn’t budge. It is necessary for her to relieve herself; she hasn’t done it since last afternoon. He finally ends up picking her and carrying her out. My father is Chinie’s favourite person amongst us and she never agrees to go out with anybody else when he is in the house. Walking with him is her favourite activity, and here she is staunchly denying a real treat. My father comes back with her and tells me he had to carry her all the way and when he finally set her down, she pooped quickly and, without even peeing, dragged him back home as fast as she could.


It is afternoon. I go out with Chinie. There is a rich carpet of fireworks’ remains and wrappers lining the streets, bits of half burnt paper and flash powder, cardboard casings and shells, everywhere… I shorten Chinie’s leash to make sure she does not touch the stuff with her mouth. She sniffs around.


Over at my friend’s place, Romeo still hasn’t eaten. He didn’t eat anything yesterday. Bagheera is traumatised as well.


There is the body of a crow on the ground. One side of hir face and wings is burnt. Ze had probably flown into an aerial firework at night. Along the way, there are two more bodies of birds under trees. A firework must have flown into the trees.


A dog peeps out from behind the bins where ze had been hiding. Ze tentatively moves out and looks around. Ze is hungry. The dog’s eyes fall on a half-eaten sweet lying a few paces away. Ze goes to it and sniffs. Ze begins to eat it and soon devours it. Unnoticed by the dog the sweet was lying amongst spent fireworks. It was coated on one side with flash powder. The dog soon throws up. Hir stomach starts aching after a while. Ze lies there twitching and moaning [4].


Chinie is on her way to recovering from all this. After all, she’s survived four Diwalis already. She’ll have to face it again, next year. Thanks to you.




[1] For those of you who don’t know what Diwali is, here’s some info:

http://tinyurl.com/yjyc9bj

http://tinyurl.com/24k2vxq

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diwali



[2] Firecrackers and fireworks are a traditional part of Diwali celebrations across the country.



[3] Oh boy, the havoc they wreak! I ventured out of my house late last night, to have a look around, and found a thick, thick layer of black stuff enveloping me. It was smog and it was thicker than winter fog at its peak. Here are some pictures I found of three cities across India.

Chennai

Gurgaon

Pune

A small NDTV video

That’s right! That stuff, people, is not winter fog but smog caused by Diwali fireworks!


[4] Here’s some more information about how crackers affect nonhumans. I don’t find any of the articles satisfactory enough but they are the best I could locate.

http://tinyurl.com/37ummo9

http://tinyurl.com/3xssnfk

http://tinyurl.com/22qamcb


Some info on fireworks poisoning:

http://vetmedicine.about.com/od/doghealthfaqs/qt/Firework-Toxicity.htm

http://www.doctordog.com/dogbook/dogpoison.html

http://www.pinoypetfinder.com/forum/index.php?topic=9758.0

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Black and White Characters or Three Things I Don’t Like About Boudica

S’up my pretties? Today is an extremely beautiful day,* I’ve spent it jabbing away at my keyboard all glassy-eyed and I’ve finished Boudica: The Secrets of the Druids. It turned out to be a nice book but contained nothing that awesome to get too excited about. Good enough for your 12-year-old niece or nephew interested in an introduction to Celtic life but not worth it if ze is looking for characterisations and plots with some depth to them. Apart from its setting and the fragments that included references to Celtic customs, the book wasn’t really much different from your average children’s adventure novel.

Daddy dearest
Boudica was a typical fiery tomboy with a mentor in her father and a mother who, of course, was not a mentor and didn’t understand her at all. I really don’t like this trope of girls aspiring to be like their fathers and dismissing their mothers in order to assert their individuality and difference. This is once again placing the masculine above the feminine, and making women’s struggles and achievements invisible unless they are accomplished in the “men’s sphere”. Why, oh, why can’t we have some mentoring mothers for warrior wannabe girls who are not necessarily warriors themselves but understand? Whose achievements are presented as examples worth aiming for even if they are not related to tasks considered masculine? Why does the father always have to be the ideal to be aspired towards if you are to be considered exceptional? What I mean is basically this except that instead of just lineage it’s the legacy to be upheld that comes from the father. Or this (just put dad in the “original hero’s” place).

Cartimandua rules, Boudica drools, or a whole tribe vilified
The only thing I dislike more than cardboard characterisation is cardboard characterisation of villains. I have a particular weakness for well-done characters with shades of grey in them, you see. Umbridge? Check. Bellatrix? Check. Snape? Check. Draco? Check. Scarlett O’Hara? Check. Wicked Witch of the West? Check. Mogget? Check. Becky Sharp? Check. Heath Ledger’s Joker? Check. Edmund? Check. Dracula? Check. Gollum? Check. And much as I hate to admit it, I once thought Anakin Skywalker was one of the most poetically (and prettily) tragic heroes of all time. These are all well-done morally ambiguous characters (with the possible exception of Skywalker, really Lucas, what the hell were you thinking?) with complex personalities. Cartimandua, the queen of the Brigantes tribe in Celtic Britain, is one highly interesting person from history who could’ve made an awesome morally ambiguous character. I view her as a great leader struggling to keep her position and secure her tribe’s future when both could be snatched away from her any second. She kept her head and all her tribe’s land while Boudica was lapping poison after getting her butt kicked by the Romans. And what does Caroline Corby do with her? She turns her into a malicious old nasty. Corby’s Cartimandua is very unpleasant to Boudica. Because a traitor like her must be cruel to children not her own. Because by making her as unpleasant as possible Corby doesn’t have to put much effort into making her a negative character. Because everyone must sympathise with the protagonists and hate the antagonists with the fury of a thousand suns. Because subtly nuanced characters don’t seem to exist in Corby’s world.

This happens even with Cartimandua’s daughter, Bridgette. Bridgette’s bratty, spoiled-but-whiny-and-weak, snooty act could shame any high school cheerleader from Hollywood. That’s a convenient way of making sure the reader doesn’t feel sorry for her when later

**Spoiler**

she is held at sword point by Boudica.

**Spoiler**

Like mother, like daughter. Both nasty. Both deserve what they get and a lot of contempt in addition.

And you know what? It gets better. It’s not just the mother and daughter, nastiness runs in the whole damn tribe! Boudica stays with the Brigantes for one entire year and never makes any friends that she’ll miss- except Culann. And guess what? He feels like an outcast among the Brigantes, doesn’t identify as a Brigantian and

**Spoiler**

ends up leaving them to search for his true tribe.

**Spoiler **

Way to go by the path of subtle Ms. Corby! Hendra, the woman who looks after Boudica while she stays with the Brigantes doesn’t come across as any worse than her mother, indeed, she feels better in two respects: she lets Boudica hang out with her friend and she tries to cover for her whenever she gets in any trouble with Cartimandua. The one or two Brigantians who get a teensy cameo feel normal enough. So why is the tribe presented as so despicable? Is it simply because it is the “traitor” tribe led by Cartimandua that refused to join the rebellion? That’s not realistic characterisation, that’s good ol’ dehumanising and depersonalising the enemy rearing its ugly head again, and Corby doesn’t even do that properly- Hendra seems likeable enough to me. I wonder why Boudica turns her nose up at her... Oh right she’s “the enemy”.

I don’t have any problem with Corby writing Boudica as the heroine and presenting her defiance of Cartimandua as the side to be rooted for. What I do have a problem with is putting Cartimandua forward as a two-dimensional spawn of evil without any motives worth serious consideration. Maybe I’m looking for depth of characterisation in the wrong place, after all, this is a children’s novel where a lot less character development hasn’t hindered many a book from becoming a good deal more popular than Boudica. I read Gone With the Wind for the first time when I was thirteen and what I instantly loved about it was that Scarlett was far from perfect, all of the characters were, and they were allowed to be so, without a thunderbolt from Zeus striking them down or an angel descending upon them and bearing them to Candyland. I really think so many children desire a lot more from their characters than they’re given credit for that it’s highly offensive to consider dynamic characters above their comprehension and needs. And in a book like Boudica it doesn’t have to necessarily add truckloads of pages, it can be done with a few small nudges here and there. For example, in this exchange, to show Cartimandua had legitimate convictions even if our protagonists disagreed with them, “venom” could have been replaced by “firmness”:
“Jodoc, [Boudica’s father] give this message to your king and Caradoc [rebel leader]. No Brigantian blood will be spilt to save the southern tribes. Do you understand?” Boudica was surprised by the venom in [Cartimandua’s] voice.
Calling her venomous makes Cartimandua an unreasonably vicious person, acting out of her own personal prejudices, instead of a capable leader making her decision. Oh well, at least someone gets the awesome in Cartimandua.

Yeah I’m very sceptical

**Spoiler**

Near the end, Boudica holds Bridgette with one hand while pressing a sword in Bridgette’s back with the other. Then she uses this to blackmail Cartimandua and Cartimandua complies. A twelve-year-old is holding another twelve-year-old with a sword poking in the captive’s back in a place full of warriors and nobody can do anything? Really? Really? No one can sneak up behind Boudica and grab her quickly? Remember, her sword is pointing at Bridgette’s back which wouldn’t make it fatal to drag Boudica away. The sword’s not across Bridgette’s throat, in which case it would be a load more complicated. Oh wait! I forgot! Boudica is Medusa come back to life! Carry on. Carry on. *Hurries away before Boudusa can glance her way with the soulfully burning eyes of burning doom.*

**Spoiler**


* At least it was when I began this piece. Now it’s turned back into the 100 C Delhi summer I know (and detest).

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Nice Surprise!

So, you know, there I am walking down the street in Nehru Place, and there is this thing dangling tantalisingly in front of me like a banana on that tree just across the fence you can’t climb (spiky). A big thing. But let me first tell you about Nehru Place. Need some computer hardware? Your place. Need some dirt cheap track pants? Your place. Want to stop for a snack? You got it. Want the latest software? It’s there. ‘All pirated,’ pipes someone in the background. Ah, yes. That. That it is. But that is not why I am waddling (trust me, I do waddle) around the place. I am there to claim warranty on my keyboard. How I end up instead in front of a second-hand bookstall, I cannot say, except that a couple of flights of stairs and the Sun are involved. So, there I am salivating and there is my mother beside me with her eyebrows raised and an expression that has ‘Seriously?’ written all over it. The thing is, I have spent about 7-10,000 rupees on books these past few months. I glance around tentatively, and lo! there is a second bookstall in a corner. ‘Just looking,’ say I, with a puppy dog glance, and promptly walk over to the first stall. The books are in a fairly decent condition and the stall has several YA fantasy titles beckoning to me mercilessly.

Books: *emanate Evil Allure*
Me: La la can’t see you! There is Twilight! I will look at Twilight.
Books: *slowly increase emanation*
Me: *sneaks glance* No! Look at Eddy! Concentrate on the sparklies!
Books: *concentrate*
Me: You. Can’t. Break. Me.
Books: Can’t we?
Me: Ye- Wait! What’s that?
Mother: *facepalm*
Me: Ooooo…. Bluuueeee….
Me: Me. Want.
Books: >: D

The blue book is Boudica: The Secrets of the Druid from Caroline Corby’s Before They Were Famous series. Now, I’ve always been fascinated by Boudica and don’t own a single piece of literature featuring her. So this seems like a good time to start. The synopsis on the back cover says:
Before they were famous...meet Boudica, one day to be England’s warrior queen, in this new series about the early lives of some of history’s most charismatic figures. In Ancient Britain, a tribesman’s daughter is in trouble. The Romans have invaded, her father has been accused of murder and she doesn’t know who to trust. When a mysterious druid appears in her village, she knows she must enter his murky world if she is to bring honour to her tribe and one day become Boudica, warrior queen.
Boudica! Ancient Britain! Tribes to bring glory to! A girl! And it mentions ‘warrior’ and ‘queen’ twice! I am sold! The only thing left is the price. ‘Well?’ I ask. ‘50,’ replies the stall owner. Squee! That’s like 1 dollar! And the book is in a pretty neat state! ‘All these are 50,’ continues the stall owner, pointing to a stack of YA fantasies. Imagine a rabbit bouncing up and down, and then imagine a rabbit emitting pressure cooker whistles while bouncing. Now imagine a woman whose daughter has turned into the bouncing and whistling rabbit while standing right beside her. In a crowded market square. Where people stare. I’m sure you’ll understand if my mother hisses, ‘let’s check out the other stall, dear,’ and firmly grabbing my elbow, marches me towards the bookstall in the corner.

Well, the other bookstall doesn’t have any titles of interest to me. And they are in a not-so-good condition. But the owner is quite a well-read man. It’s highly unusual for me to find people trying to sell books who actually know what’s in them. So we chat for some minutes. Mainly about trying to find any book I want that he may have. We don’t succeed. And then, my father joins us. I use that as an opportunity to sneak back to the first stall. Boudica is still there. Waiting. ‘Like anything?’ asks my father, coming up. ‘Oh, you are so not getting her anymore books!’ exclaims my mother. My father shares my enthusiasm for dirt cheap books. My mother doesn’t (at the moment), cheap or not. Lately, I have been reading more and more when I should be out in the open air, exercising. Or when I should be getting a move on with my studies. Or when I should be spending more time with my baby sister who happens to be a dog. ‘Oh, come on, Mamma, pweez?’ I try the puppy dog eyes again. After much glaring and eye-locking on both our parts that is a lot like the run-up to a Western shootout, my mother retreats into the background, scowling.

I turn back. ‘This one,’ say I, holding up Boudica. ‘Anything else?’ asks my father. Hmmm… the books I ask for make the stall owner screw his face as though I want grilled slugs, but the ones he has look interesting enough. Peering, I spot a George R. R. Martin near the bottom. ‘George R. R. Martin!’ I squeal, ‘Gotta have that! Have heard great things about him!’ The owner pulls it out for me. It is The Ice Dragon. I think it is one of the books from his A Song of Ice and Fire series. ‘Got any more of this series?’ I ask. ‘Nope, just this one.’ Then my eye falls on the name of Madeleine L’Engle. ‘Madeleine L’Engle! Gimme that!’ You see Madeleine L’Engle is on The List. The List is a seemingly never-ending project of mine in which I research books and then add the ones I want to my list of books I’ve got to read (and own, but don’t tell my mother that; she is already frantic with all the books I already own taking over the house). So, out pops the Madeleine L’Engle, with the title of A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Ah no, the third book. ‘Got A Wrinkle in Time?’ I ask. ‘Nope.’ ‘Any more of this series?’ ‘Nope.’ Well, I’ll take what I can get. By this time the stall owner has formed an idea of the kind of books I might like. So he starts handing them over. And I start lapping them up. First he pops up Sammy Keys and the Curse of Moustache Mary. ‘I will get back to that,’ I say, so he moves on to The Treasures Of Weatherby by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. ‘Ooooooo, a girl flying, Peter Pan style! This is going to be awesome and contain fairies and murderous mermaids and pirates! Writing poetry!’ The bookstall owner stands looking at me with a bemused expression. ‘Er… I’ll take it.’ Next he flips out May Bird and the Ever After by Jodi Lynn Anderson. ‘Wow! Lot’s of green! And teal! A forest, girl, cat! I want this awesomosity! Got the next one in the series?’ ‘Uh, no.’ We move back to Sammy Keys and the Curse of Moustache Mary by Wendelin Van Draanen. I read the synopsis. Woman walking with a pig? Wild West? Moustachioed Grandma? In the Wild West? Awesome! I am so on board!

So, that evening I get home with my mother (still scowling), my six awesome books and no keyboard (it has been sent back to the company). Some light children’s fantasies are exactly what I need just now. And I think I’m gonna post my thoughts as I read them, post whether they turn out as awesome as I hope they are, post if I find anything problematic and supporting oppression in them,* post about what I like, about what I don’t like. So, I run over to get started!

*I understand that these books are the products of a highly speciesist culture and contain standard non-vegan stuff. So I’m going to ignore those bits unless something particularly misotheric (misothery is the hatred of nonhuman animals) grabs my attention.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Fantasy is a Waste of Time." Sounds Familier? Does to me!

I’ve often heard people regard fantasy as frivolous entertainment, not quite good enough to spend too much of your time and money on, not quite in the same league as the ‘serious’ and ‘worthy’ classics, biographies and the books on history, science, politics, religion, philosophy, travel etc.   Now, fantasy being the fire that warms my soul and the ice that cools my brow, I wasn’t quite delighted with that.

I am going to quote Terry Brooks for a short and really accurate response to this kind of thinking:
People who view fantasy as second rate or childish are usually people who don’t read or understand it. I like to tell them that good fantasy is social commentary combined with good storytelling - Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, the Oz stories and so many others. Sure, the stories take place in an imaginary world. But those worlds mirror our own and tell us things about ourselves that need to be said and understood. I also like to tell them how often other forms of literature use fantasy as the bedrock of their own stories. Fantasy transcends its own form in wider scope than any other type of writing.
Fantasy has its roots in mythology and folklore and one example of hypocrisy that really gets me going is that people will willingly worship mythological characters (even though they are the patriarchal products of patriarchal cultures which shows that we are living in a patriarchy, but let’s not digress), cite them as examples of good and evil, consider the study of ancient texts to be scholarly; but the same characters, situations and creatures in modern fantasy would be labelled ‘mere entertainment’ by them. Yes, fantasy is mere entertainment and then so much more.

Fantasy is a medium for speculating about different possibilities (what if?), the themes of which can range from history, science, politics, religion, philosophy, travel to simply stretching your creativity and imagination as far as they can go in the boundless universe fantasy offers; fantasy can explore ways of looking at and considering different forms of societies as material for anthropological speculation; and this is all united by a thread of universal emotions and experiences underlined by the unique malleability of magic; of knowing no normal rules apply; of knowing anything can happen and will happen. Fantasy is freedom for me; writing and reading it feels like flying. To be able to experience things impossible in real life, imagine things impossible in real life… Every bit of fantasy literature can be just as intricate as a sculptor’s work, just as expressive as a painting, just as moving as music, just as sharp as a writer’s words, just as sad as poetry, just as gay as dance, just as entrancing as an actor on stage and just as much of an art form. Fantasy doesn’t have much of a practical use; it is often disconnected from real life and leads to a world that does not exist; it can be said to be mere entertainment; simple aesthetic pleasure for the senses. But then, that is exactly what art is: speculation and expression.