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Linkspam of February 2013

So January 2013 has passed us by and we’re already into the second month of 2013 – where does all the time go?  This post is a collection of some of the very cool things I read in January (well before this post was finished).

Michael Taylor at The Australian Independent Media Network writes, “Do some research and you’ll find it’s OK not to be black enough“:

Aborigines face the unending task of resisting attempts, on the one hand to cut them off from their heritage, and on the other to bury them within it as a thing of the past.  This statement is indicative of the struggles that Indigenous Australians face in the constructions of their own Aboriginality.

This was never more evident than during the Andrew Bolt case where:

. . . in two famous columns in 2009 he took a swipe at “political” or “professional” or “official” Aborigines who could pass for white but chose to identify as black for personal or political gain, to win prizes and places reserved for real, black Aborigines and to borrow “other people’s glories”.

More recently, Tony Abbott reignited a similar argument when he foolishly described Western Australian Liberal MP Ken Wyatt as “not a man of culture”. Ken Wyatt is an Indigenous Australian.

I would have hoped that both incidences found their way into the dustbins of history, but they haven’t. Bolt’s comments, in particular, have entrenched themselves into our vernacular. Never before have I had the displeasure of hearing so many degrading comments aimed at our Aboriginal brothers and sisters as I have since the Bolt case. “He’s too white to be an Aborigine”, “She’s white but calls herself an Aborigine”, or the ultimate insult “He’s only a half-caste” are common speak.

Cristy at In Hanoi writes, “Transgressive breastfeeding and the rules of the public sphere“:

What I think it is interesting is that Sharwood is very clear that this is not about the so-called “male gaze.” He is not offended because he views these breastfeeding breasts as sexual objects. In fact, as he proudly states several times in the opening paragraphs to his ‘article,’ he loves ogling at sexualised breasts. They are great. (Phwoar yeah, bring it on baby.) No, it would appear that the issue is precisely the opposite; these breastfeeding breasts that are apparently being thrust in his face (or, as he charmingly describes, flopped on to the dinner table) are not available to the male gaze. They are private breasts and shouldn’t be out in public.
It was here for me that this whole debate took on a disturbing level of clarity. You see, according to Sharwood (and his ilk), mothering is an ‘intimate’ and ‘private’ activity that should not be taking place in the public sphere. If somehow it does stray into that public sphere then it really ought to be careful not to become “a public spectacle.” This means that if for some reason a mother of young children does have to leave the house (which, by implication, is a transgresssive act in itself), then she should take every measure to ensure that her ‘private, intimate’ work of mothering young children does not take up public space, because it does not belong.

In response to claims that men are unable to restrain themselves from committing rape if they see women in skimpy clothing, members of law enforcement agencies around the country have called for men to blindfold themselves when they are in places where they might encounter a female wearing a tank top or a short skirt.

“For years, we have been told that men don’t understand how to respond to the sight of a woman wearing, say, gym clothes – that as far as they are concerned, if they can see the outline of her body, then that’s an invitation to sex that they are simply unable to refuse,” said one police chief. “If that’s true, then we have no choice. We want women to be safe, and there is apparently no way for some men to reasonably restrain their own behavior once they catch a glimpse of cleavage, so all men will have to cover their eyes while working out, going to bars or clubs, or relaxing at the beach.”

Michal Shmulovich at The Times of Israel writes, “A transgender wedding, for the first time in Israel“:

For the first time, a man and a transgender woman were married under a huppa in Israel this week. The couple, a blonde-bombshell and her husband, whose identity was not revealed, walked down the aisle to the cheers and tears of their friends and family, and with a Channel 2 television crew in tow.

But the man under the huppa, her husband, was different; married with three children prior to their relationship, he came through for her, she said.

N.K. Jemisin writes, “Gamefail bluescreen“:

Anyway, one of the things I’ve always loved about this series was that it was kind of equal-opportunity sexy. I don’t object to a sexual element in art or fiction or entertainment, if you haven’t guessed that from my writing. What I object to is the way that sexual element is usually women’s (often unrealistic) bodies or parts thereof, or women’s suffering, and that these pieces of women are so often present solely as men’s wank-material. I welcome sexy women when they’re presented as whole people in their own right who are uninterested in (or defiant of) the men gazing at them, or when they’re appealing to the female gaze instead of the male. There have been some scantily-clad women along the way in the DMCs, but that kind of worked because a) in a lot of cases those women acknowledged the oversexualization of their appearance in a tongue-in-cheek way, and b) the hero was often almost as scantily clad. And besides the fact that the DMC women had motivations and interesting stories of their own, there was a lot more sexual tension between the hero and his evil twin brother than there was with any of the ladies. (Yeah, I know, but it’s true.) And female gamers noticed.* I have no idea of the demographics of this series’s audience, but anecdotally I know a lot of ladies who love them some DMC. When a game like this is done right, nearly everyone gets to have fun.

But recently I decided to try engaging with the game’s very thin plot, despite its tiresome “chosen one” trope and the utter lack of relevant stakes for my character. I’ve been playing as a Redguard — that’s the black people, though they have straight hair** and pretty much the same morphological features as the other races — a foreigner in a land caught up in a civil war. All the NPCs are obsessed with the war and its two factions, but my character has no background, no family, no reason for even being in Skyrim other than plot convenience, so I haven’t bothered to side with either faction and for the most part don’t care what they do as long as they don’t get in my way. It doesn’t help that one side consists of paternalistic colonizers who’ve happily wiped out the indigenous culture and are trying to suppress the (subsequent) local religion, while the other side are ethnic supremacists. Also it turns out that my character is the embodiment of an ancient Nord legend — Nords being one of several flavors of white people in the game, this one clearly meant to reference ancient Scandinavian peoples — which, since my character’s not a Nord, apparently means she’s got “the heart of a Nord”. Yay, my black person gets to be an honorary white person. I’m all aflutter.

PZ Myers at Pharyngula writes, “The con game“:

And here’s why equality is important: those meetings are essential stepping stones in career advancement. In my very first year as a grad student, I was trained and groomed to present my work at local meetings. Heck, when I was an undergraduate and had made it clear that I planned to pursue a research career, my professors took me to regional meetings. We all knew that this was how preliminary work was disseminated, that this was how you made connections with peers and leaders in the field, that this was how you linked your face and name in the community as a whole with a body of work.

And that’s absolutely why we have to do a better job of opening doors for everyone at these events. It’s the faces in the audience at the convention that will someday be leading the movement. It’s those faces that will go home afterwards and share the stories and get more people interested. And if we don’t make opportunities for participation by everyone, we will be limiting our growth.

Libby Anne at Love Joy Feminism writes, “More Chores for Men = Less Sex?” critiquing the media coverage of an academic study.

Robin Marty at RH Reality Check writes, “They Are Coming for Your Birth Control: Radio Host Claims Your Womb is Full of Tiny Dead Baby Corpses”  (really nothing more needs to be said on that article).

Ben C Jenkins writes an awesome piece at Daily Life, “Why you should pity the homophobes“:

Because Christ almighty it must be frightening to be homophobic. I have my own issues with anxiety, so I can sympathise with the persistent and inexplicable sense of impending doom that must plague these people. But even with this insight, I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to hold a worldview in which the gays are forever lurking in a corner, waiting for the opportunity to explode our traditional way of life in a cloud of glitter and amyl before snaffling away our kids like the Pied Piper and marching them over some kind of horrible gay cliff. Being dogged by such thoughts must be utterly exhausting.

If I truly believed in a world so fragile and a force so malignant – a force that is, crucially, becoming less stigmatised, gaining more support, approaching some kind of ‘normalisation’ – then I doubt very much that I’d have the fortitude to get out of bed in the morning, save for the driving force to paint my beliefs on a sandwich board, hit the main-street every day and grab people by the shoulders shouting ‘Don’t you see?! Why am I the only one who sees!?’.

Seanan McGuire writes, “Micro-aggression, sexism, and cover art: some thoughts“:

When I go to the bookstore, half-naked women greet me in literally every section except for cozy mysteries. There are elegant half-naked women on action novels, waiting to be ravaged. There are misty, wistful half-naked women on YA novels, ready to embark on romantic adventures, probably while drowning. There are lots of half-naked women on science fiction and fantasy, many of them happy to show me their posteriors. And this doesn’t even touch on the comic book store, where there are so many half-naked women that I barely even notice them anymore. Once I stopped expecting puberty to give me a figure like Dazzler or Illyana Rasputin, I just tuned all the thrusting hips and pointy boobs out, like the white noise that they were.

I don’t actually know very many women who go “Oh, oh, I gotta get me a book with a naked chick on the cover.” I do know a lot of women who are uncomfortable with those naked chicks, and who try to avoid reading books with naked chicks on them in public. I had a few people get angry on my behalf when the cover of Discount Armageddon was released, before they realized that I had petitioned for that image, and that it was an intentional send-up of certain cheesecake conventions. And without speaking for any other authors, I am the only one I know of who actually said to her publisher, “Hey, you know what would be awesome? If my smart, strong, savvy, heavily-armed protagonist was in a miniskirt.” (DAW took this in stride, by the way, which was hysterical when you consider that my one cover request for the Toby books was “Can she be wearing clothes?”)

So it seems likely that the intended audience for the half-naked women is largely male. Okay. As a bisexual woman, I like looking at pretty girls, and I don’t see anything wrong with men liking to look at pretty girls. When I sit on the train, I should see dozens of men reading books with half-naked women on them, right? Because they’re trained to the male gaze, so they should attract it, right?

The single most common critique I received of the cover for Discount Armageddon was from male readers saying they could not read the physical book in public. And while I think anyone should be able to read anything they want to without feeling ashamed, this critique does raise a question about who the half-naked women are actually for, if guys don’t want to be associated with them.

Ashley Gork at Medill Reports Chicago writes, “Bisexual men more anxious, depressed“:

Oboza’s story does not stand alone. Research suggests that bisexual men are much more likely to experience depression and anxiety than their gay and straight counterparts. According to Eric Schrimshaw of Columbia University, this suffering comes from a high level of concealment and a lack of disclosure. The Columbia study showed that almost 38 percent of the bisexual participants said that they never told anyone about their sexual identity and 80 percent said they keep their sexual relationships with men to themselves.

Although this concealment may shield bisexual men from the types of discrimination and rejection often experienced by open gays, it can also leave many men without a language or a community with whom they can discuss their feelings, Schrimshaw suggested.

Shellity at There should be a sign writes, “The Applicant“:

Australia’s anti-discrimination laws exist so that you, I and everyone else can have a fair crack at getting a job for which we’re qualified. They generally state that certain things cannot provide the basis for whether an employer offers you a job or not. Things like gender, beliefs, race, marital status or disability. For example, if you’re a single, gay Lithuanian Muslim with an amputated arm and you apply for a job as an accountant, your potential employer is legally obliged to give you the same consideration for the job as they do for a divorced, straight, Scottish atheist with a third nipple.

Except if the employer is a religious organisation. Then the government thinks it’s special.

A.J. Walkley and Lauren Michelle Kinsey at HuffPost Gay Voices [still] write, “Bi the Bi: Does ‘Bisexual’ Imply That There Are Only Two Genders?“:

The idea that bisexuals are attracted to only two genders is an incredibly common stereotype of all bisexuals. Many people assume that the “bi” aspect of the word “bisexuality” implies a gender binary, and that those who identify as bisexual are only attracted to males and females. Though there are definitely bisexual individuals who are only attracted to cisgender people with male and female gender identities, there are also bisexuals who are attracted to people who are transgender, intersex, genderqueer and more; this assumed definition of “bisexual” leaves out those of us who are attracted to gender-nonconforming people — those who fall outside the “male” and “female” ends of an incredibly wide gender spectrum. Last summer I actually wrote a blog post about this issue in which I explained that, according to the definition of bisexuality put forth in the 1990 “Bisexual Manifesto,” bisexuality does not “assume that there are only two genders.” On the contrary, the binary implied in the word “bisexual” pertains to our ability to be attracted both to individuals who are the “same” as us and to those are “different” from us — meaning we have the capacity to be attracted to people all across the gender and sexuality spectra.

Ben C Jenkins writes at The Vine, “The Anatomy of Outrage“:

It’s also worth pointing out that no one has the right to go through life behaving like an unthinking dipshit without being called on their unthinking dipshititude. More than that, it’s possible to be offended by something and object to it without claiming that your rights have been infringed. The overwhelming majority of people do so.

While we’re here, the phrase ‘taking offence’ is more than a little misleading because it suggests that offence is something you chose to take, like it’s the last Tim Tam or a mistress. Setting aside the kind of people who lay in wait, complaint-scribbling pens at the ready, being offended is something you very rarely have an agency in, it’s something that happens to you.

And that’s why when people complain that these flare-ups are indicate an odious culture of over-sensitivity, it’s more than a little galling and not really their call to make.

It’s worth noting that these protestations of persecution almost always come from people in a position of power – whether cultural or economic, which means that the people who are most likely to tell someone to take an offensive joke in the spirit intended are statistically the sorts of people least likely to find themselves on the receiving-end of such a barb.

‘It’s just a joke’ does absolutely nothing to absolve you of responsibility. It’s a cowardly response to the accusation that you’ve behaved in a cruel or unthinking way. No one likes being called either of those things, and for some reason people have it in their heads that a joke can’t be cruel or unthinking – far better to be called ‘edgy’ or ‘totally un-pc’.

Laurie Penny writes at NewStateman, “Take Back The Net: it’s time to end the culture of online misogyny*Trigger warning for online harassment and hate speech*:

The idea that this sort of hatespeech is at all normal needs to end now. The internet is public space, real space; it’s increasingly where we interact socially, do our work, organise our lives and engage with politics, and violence online is real violence. The hatred of women in public spaces online is reaching epidemic levels and it’s time to end the pretence that it’s either acceptable or inevitable.

The most common reaction, the one those of us who experience this type of abuse get most frequently, is: suck it up. Grow a thick skin. “Don’t feed the trolls” – as if feeding them were the problem. The Telegraph’s Cristina Odone was amongst many commentators to imply that Mary Beard should have done just that rather than speaking out this week. “Come on, Mary,” wrote Odone. “Women in public arenas get a lot of flak – they always have. A woman who sticks her head above the parapet. . . . is asking for brickbats.”

Asking for it. By daring to be a woman to be in public life, Mary Beard was asking to be abused and harassed and frightened, and so is any person who dares to express herself whilst in possession of a pair of tits.

 

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Being queer and (not) donating blood

I can’t donate blood because I am married (and have sex with) a man who has sex with men (mostly a man, but sometimes other men).  Regardless of how safe our sex lives are, regardless of all the rules we have in place to keep us disease free, we can’t donate blood.  My husband, because he has sex with men (mostly his husband), and me because I have sex with my husband.

But that’s where the scrutiny stops.  My other husband (the straight one) and my girlfriend can all go and donate blood, because they aren’t having sex with someone who is male who has sex with other men.  The scrutiny stops one jump beyond even those the disease vectors don’t.  I’m unable to find the classic HIV ad that was screened in Australia (on YouTube at least) which asked if you knew who your partner’s previous sexual partners were, and were you safe from HIV.

My tribe practices safe sex.  We have strict rules, which include regular STI testing, to keep ourselves free from diseases and to protect each other.  We trust each other and practice full disclosure, so it feels like a bit of a slap in the face when the Red Cross doesn’t do the same.  I do get that 65% of new diagnoses of HIV are from men who sleep with men (2009), and if you take the ultraconservative number of queer people in Australia to be 5% of the total population, then that’s slightly more than one in every 1000 gay men who are diagnosed with HIV – odds that those who rely on blood transfusions don’t want to have to face.  Therefore banning (deferring as it tends to be put) men who have sex with men from donating blood is easier than well all of the other options.

But to tell men who have sex with men that if they remain male-sex free for 12 months then they can donate blood is… well… rude.  “Hello men who have sex with men, I know that you enjoy it, may be in a long-term, monogamous relationship with that man that you’re having sex with, but we treat all queer men the same, so when you’re next celibate for 12 months then we’ll think about letting you back in our club.  In the mean time, go on and do that thing which is risky and leads to us rejecting your blood.”

Of course, the other problem with the whole thing is that if my husband was not bisexual and we were still openly polyamorous, I could go and have risky sex every weekend with whoever I wanted, and donate blood.  The Red Cross’s rules are based on statistics and not actual behaviour.  Because more men who have sex with men are diagnosed with HIV than any other group, all those queer men who are in monogamous relationships or who practice safe sex are discriminated against, as are their female partners (if they have them).  All heterosexual individuals who engage in risky sex don’t have to worry about being banned from donating blood (should they want to).

There has to be a better way of dealing with this.  Of capturing information about STI status from existing STI tests, of asking questions about relationship status, and asking questions about the type of sex engaged in by those who wish to donate blood.  Perhaps instead of being squeamish about asking questions or providing answers to such things, we should be more open about STI status, sexual history and relationship status, especially when it comes to essential supplies.

 

UPDATE:  I’ve just been alerted to this great story of a man being turned away from donating blood in the US because he “appeared” gay.  The story also has more on the banning of queer men from blood donation.

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