Thursday, 13 August 2020

Review Time! - Can Everyone Please Calm Down? by Mae Martin



'Can Everyone Please Calm Down?' written in pink neon against a black background, with a neon-ish rainbow on the right-hand side


Title: Can Everyone Please Calm Down?: A Guide To 21st Century Sexuality 


Can Everyone Please Calm Down? book cover
Author: Mae Martin

Genre: Non-Fiction, YA (NA crossover appeal), LGBTQ+, Memoir(-ish)

Amazon: UK - US








A Few Starting Notes:



I received a free review copy of this book via NetGalley, which provides digital copies of books to reviewers as an opportunity to provide a fair and honest review.

This does not affect the content of my review.





A book on sexuality with a focus on fluidity

Dearest nerdlets, this book was calling out to this Sexually Fluid/general Queer girl!

This book is #OwnVoices for general Queerness and label-defying existance, and this review is also #OwnVoices. 😊

Mae Martin uses she/they pronouns.





A quick note on this review itself: 

I've written more in the 'Not So Great Bits' section than in the 'Best Bits' section, but this does NOT mean that there were more cons than pros.

It simply means that I had to go into more detail to explain my personal criticisms of this book, because they're points related to labelling, orientation, and Queer theory.

(I promise I don't get academic - its me. Practicality and clarity are my priorities!)






The Premise:



This is Queer non-fiction, discussing all things Sexuality, and aimed at a Young Adult audience. 

Part guide-to-Queer-life, 'Can Everyone Please Calm Down?' also draws on Mae Martin's own experiences and opinions to give it a memoir-ish feel in places.






The Best Bits:



15-year-old me would have had one of two reactions to this book:


1. Denied everything it said, thrown it across the room, and reinforced the lock on the box in my head that said 'deny your sexuality at all costs.' 

(And then probably cried.)

(In the long-run, though, the seed would've been planted...)


or


2. Cried. A lot. For a variety of reasons. Probably while smiling, because YES.


Either way? 15-year-old me would've benefited, ultimately, by reading this book.

(And cried. Probably.)





I honestly wish my teen self had had access to books like this... 

Books which normalise and accept the myriad and beautiful spectrum of sexuality and gender. 

Books which say that being Queer is a natural part of being you. 





Acceptance is powerful, and I love the way Martin is so chill-casual about accepting everyone.

She's also funny as f**k - non-fiction which can make you smile while talking about serious-a** topics is a rare find!

Plus, the patterned pages were funky and fun too. 😊





The Not-So-Great Bits:



I totally get why Mae Martin feels like the 'born this way' stance over-simplifies the issues.

We deserve respect - whether or not you agree with the 'born this way' stance, we are still people. 

We still deserve respect and equality.




In explaining her issues with 'born this way' (which are valid,) though, she inadvertantly over-simplifies the stance itself.

It can be such a powerful tool in self-acceptance, and the beginning of tolerance in potentially hostile communities. 

'Born this way' does not exclude the existence of Fluidity.

I firmly believe that I was born as... me. And who I am is someone who moves between sexualities.




Likewise, Mae Martin does seem slightly unaware of how liberating the ability to claim a label can be.

Martin uses Queer. Which is fab. 

Everyone should be able to say 'f**k it, you don't get to define me beyond Queer.'

But for some people (me included, when I found out about being Sexually Fluid, thank you Professor Google,) the feeling of being able to describe yourself is empowering af.




Sometimes, like Martin, I use Queer. Just Queer. 

Sometimes I use Sexually Fluid. Sometimes I use specific labels to help me explain how I'm feeling at that moment

So, while writing this, I'm Bisexual with a preference for women, and that helps me to understand myself, and live my truth. My truth changes - that's just the way it is.





The ability to define ourselves - to accept or reject labels, to explain who we are - is the important part here. 

And sometimes Martin loses that perspective - just a little! - in the quest to liberate us from being defined by others.





I also sometimes felt that Asexuality and Aromanticism, and the Ace/Aro-spectrums, were something of an after-thought, and would've liked to have seen more effort to include them.





Content Warnings:



There are references to the sexy-times - this isn't a how-to for Queer sex but it doesn't avoid the fact that sexuality involves, y'know... sexual attraction.

There are brief references to alcohol, being drunk, etc.

There's also references to that sadly unavoidable part of Queer life: prejudice against us. This is handled sparingly - because we are so much more than our pain - but it nevertheless features.

Coming Out is also discussed - though mainly through Martin's lens (i.e. not having to - which made me jealous, I'll admit it.)




The Verdict:



This book made me feel all kinds of things.

Yes, I had a few ideological/philosophical/random-a** quibbles with some of the points Martin took - but they are entirely valid viewpoints. 

Because Queer experience is as diverse as Queer people ourselves - we're a rainbow. And Martin is uber-accepting of that.

'Can Everyone Please Calm Down?' is open and honest and frank and full of love and acceptance.

And I think that that's the most powerful thing there is.








Do you think it's time to move past 'born this way'?
(Keep it civil, please!)
Talk to me! 💖💬







You can follow me on Twitter @CeeDoraReads, on Pinterest, and on Dora Reads @ BlogLovin. For more ways to support me, check out the Support Me page




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6 comments:

  1. Aw, I'm so happy this exists. It's been amazing to see the shifts that have been made in how society thinks about queer people just in my lifetime, but there's so much more change that still needs to happen. This book sounds like a great one that I'd def want to share with my niece and nephew when they get older (along with others hopefully! that address some of the elements of this one that weren't as ideal!).

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    1. I know - if I'd had this book about ten years ago... but thinking back to what the world was like ten years ago, and you can *really* see how much the world has changed! It's nice to remember that things *are* getting better - albeit kicking and screaming!

      Yeah, this is a great book to share with teens - but should def. be one of a range of books. In fairness, Mae Martin never claims that this is comprehensive, and points out that it's based on them and their life.

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  2. I'm really glad I read this post, Cee! I have been having a lot of discussions and inner thoughts surrounding sexuality and gender recently. Being straight and cis-gendered, I do think it is important that I recognize that labels can mean a lot for some people, or some people may choose not to accept labels. Both are valid. I kinda had this moment where I was like: "why do we need labels, why can't we all just love who we want to love and not have to put ourselves into one mold?" In a perfect world without homophobia and without even the need to come out, I guess this makes sense. However due to the fact that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be subjected to oppression, having this sense of a label and a community to be apart of is super important. I'm sure it means a lot to you as well.

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    1. Thanks Em :)

      There's no one-size-fits-all for Queer folks - the important part is that we can define ourselves, or not, as we choose.

      Undoubtedly, if there was less oppression and Allocisheteronormativety (the world is straight-washed,) then more people would be comfortable living without labels. But I think there will always be a place for describing how you ID, if only to understand our own feelings (in a similar way to how describing your emotional state is a healthy way to process your feelings.) Having the language to communicate yourself to the world is powerful.

      Accepting how people ID, though, is uber-important. We all deserve that respect. :) <3

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    2. That's a great way to put it! I never considered that even in a "perfect" world, having a label can be a great way to understand your feelings and emotions. I like how you compared it to describing your emotional state. I've definitely learnt a lot through this post, thanks Cee!

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    3. Ha, as someone who spent a long time not understanding myself, I tend to have a slightly different perspective on this than a lot of people would!

      Aw, you're so sweet Em. Thanks :)

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Comments? I love comments! Talk to me nerdlets!