It’s not often I bother to click on a link tweeted by ABC Religion and Ethics because far too often I find myself suffering serious eye-roll, if not rage. Sometimes they have articles worth reading, today’s effort by Roger Scruton and Phillip Blond (two UK writers) was not one of them.
The article was florid and pretentious, using language and terms that many people would struggle with, but the worst thing is that the article was masquerading as a balanced view on marriage, which instead came across as sexist, gender essentialist and a bit homo, bi and trans* phobic. I suspect that most people would have been put off by the language use, I almost was, and perhaps for my rage levels I should have let myself be – curse my stubbornness.
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).
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.
. . . 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!?’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
Apparently the Vatican still having conniptions about the fact that the rest of the Western world is not listening to them and are continuing to recognise same-sex relationships, granting people who are attracted to those of the same sex rights equivalent to those who are opposite sex attracted. And they just won’t stand for it – in order to let everyone know how unhappy they are, and how absolutely morally abhorrent they consider same-sex attraction to be, they came out and said (mid December 2012):
Monday’s edition of Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican, features a front-page editorial attacking French Catholic magazine Temoignage Chretien (“Christian Witness”) for supporting marriage equality. The editorialclaims that same-sex couples exist in “a different reality” because they are unable to conceive children, and goes on to claim that marriage equality is part of some socialist “utopia”:
Saying that marriage between a woman and a man is equal to that between two homosexuals is, in fact, a denial of the truth that affects one of the basic structures of human society, the family. We cannot base a society on these foundations without then paying a very high price as happened in the past when there was an attempt to achieve total economic and social equality. Why repeat the same mistake and chase after an unattainable utopia? [(emphasis in original) from ThinkProgress]
It’s taken me a while to write this because every time I’ve thought about it, I’ve just struggled to understand where exactly the Vatican thinks it exists, what century they think it is, and why they think that anyone is going to listen to a bunch of old men in frocks who think that same sex relationships, and the ordination of women are worse or equivalent sins to Catholic Priests raping children and and adults.
Happy New Y ear everyone! I hope that 2013 is awesome for you all, that you find happiness, peace, contentment, joy, and all other sorts of positive things this year.
Now here is a collection of posts and other interesting things I’ve found over the last month that I thought I’d share with you.
First up is a Part 1 of a short film “The Silent City” about the end of… we’ll we’re not quite sure. At time of writing there are 5 parts completed, and clearly intent for a 6th and perhaps more. The film makers have used the abandoned spaces of New York (I think) very well, and one of my favourite things about the movie is that it uses a non-white actor as the protagonist. Enjoy
In the rest of this answer, though, I’ll show how the accusation of ‘unnatural’ is only used to protect the power structure as-is: people accept all sorts of things that were once considered unnatural if those things prove to help white heterosexual cis men. Specifically, they accept medical technology, beautifications and body modifications usually used by women (so long as they jibe with the male gaze), and (since it’s become economically beneficial for white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, at least to some extent) women working outside the home and in professional jobs. [emphasis in original]
Any mention of Willow Smith seems to eventually devolve into a discussion of what is “acceptable” black parenting. There’s a myth (heavily fed by the media) that the Smiths are doing something incredibly new and unusual, particularly for black parents. Conversations about their parenting never really touch on the fact that their children are already millionaires in their own right with an even larger inheritance ahead. Willow Smith can shave her head one week and wear an ankle-length wig the next because she’s in an environment where it’s safe for her to explore everything that interests her. There is no need for the Smiths to teach their children the same lessons taught to poor black kids in the inner city, or even those facts of life that middle class black kids in the suburbs might need to learn.
Willow’s situation is unique for a young black girl in America, and the very public nature of her life has a lot to do with the responses to her fashion choices. Those who take issue with lack of boundaries set on her appearance are really reacting to the world in which walking while black can be an invitation for harassment, assault, or death. They live in communities rife with gang violence, police brutality, and institutional racism that would make it impossible for them to have green hair and be gainfully employed. In their minds, the Smiths are allowing Willow to develop habits that could have long-term consequences, and they cannot imagine how these choices could be a good idea.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is fond of repeating this business world double standard among groups of women: “Success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.” So as men gain power, we like them more. As women rise in the ranks, we like them less. Jessica Valenti has proposed that women respond by ditching their “desire to be liked and accepted” altogether. “Women adjust their behavior to be likable and as a result have less power in the world,” she writes. “But the trade-off is undoubtedly worth it. Power and authenticity are worth it.”
If only bitches had it so easy. People may dislike powerful women, but being unlikable won’t necessarily help women get that power in the first place. One 2011 study found that while acting rude and disagreeable helps increase men’s earning potential in the office, the same is not true of women. When it comes to salary negotiation, even nice guys don’t finish last—they, too, are better situated than disagreeable women. So women are counseled to act like ladies when asking for a raise.
Rachel and Tyler Fracassa always did things too soon.
They became inseparable when they were 12 and married at 16. At 18, they had a house in Raytown and another child on the way.
Last year, the couple built a homestead on a 16-acre plot of land in Urich, Mo. The one-room house was enveloped by three pastures, a winding creek and a spring-fed pond.
It was as beautiful as it was secluded, and it embodied the couple’s biggest dream: to live as simply as possible so they could spend lots of time together and, someday, save enough money to take their kids all over the world.
The report, into the media portrayal of LGB audiences, featured interviews with LGB organisations and representatives and comes two years after a 2010 study carried out by the BBC. In two parts, the report also featured the views of around 3,500 people on the BBC’s own independently run audience reaction panel, Pulse.
Doctor Who, Downton Abbey and Holby City were among the shows praised by the report for their inclusion of incidental LGB characters. “Doctor Who quite often has a gay character in it but it isn’t always an issue or the plotline,” said anti-hate crime charity Galop. “It’s just incidental which has been quite nice.”
But there was criticism of another BBC drama, Lip Service, about a group of lesbians living in Glasgow which aired on BBC3. The actors trade union Equity said: “Lip Service is written by a lesbian/bisexual woman. This makes a huge difference.
“However, the episodes were directed by men and the majority of the lesbian characters were played by heterosexual actors and this clearly impacts on the quality and integrity of the representation. Some of it was laughable.”
But my rant is actually not quite about that stuff at all. It’s about history, and this notion that History Is Authentically Sexist. Yes, it is. Sure it is. We all know that. But what do you mean when you say “history?”
History is not a long series of centuries in which men did all the interesting/important things and women stayed home and twiddled their thumbs in between pushing out babies, making soup and dying in childbirth.
History is actually a long series of centuries of men writing down what they thought was important and interesting, and FORGETTING TO WRITE ABOUT WOMEN. It’s also a long series of centuries of women’s work and women’s writing being actively denigrated by men. Writings were destroyed, contributions were downplayed, and women were actively oppressed against, absolutely.
The other day I saw the new character model for Cortana and I was thinking it seemed pretty alright – she looked older, stronger, far less caricatured. If Cortana was always going to be titillating, at least she seemed a more appropriate object of desire: more 25 than 15, more flesh than real doll.
So I got a bit nervous when I saw a lot of negative reactions to Cortana’s new larger boobs. Not because that reaction wasn’t coming from a good place – these were people I respected, reacting against objectification of women and the presentation of unrealistic ideals to young women. But just a couple of weeks earlier I heard they’ve got plans to make the new Lara Croft incarnation deeper, and part of that will be making her boobs smaller. The implication that larger boobs are a liability to well-presented, deep characters makes me nervous because, well, how many stacked women get to have complex stories in popular media? I can think of Joan Holloway and…?
Boob sizes have been neatly separating the mistresses from wives, the sexy/trashy good-times-girls from the arty/pretentious hipsters, the ciphers from the plotlines. Video games have certainly fed the first part of the stereotype, that ‘e-cup women are playthings’, but wouldn’t only giving empathetic roles to C-cup-or-less women just reinforce that? (It’s also implying small-boobed women can’t be objectified because they’re insufficiently sexy. The beauty of this system is no-one wins!) Where are the ‘twist’ video games for this gaming trope, promoted as indulging the players’ desire to objectify women, but surprise! actually gives you that character’s perspective about what it’s like to live with all that objectification? Lara Croft isn’t running towards her goal, she’s running away from you, thousands upon thousands of leering players.
But there’s another point I want to make, because the logic that suggests “Sex is fun, fun is trivial, certain bodies are more sex than others, therefore certain bodies are more trivial than others.”, comes from the same place as that attitude towards media: “Play is fun, fun is trivial, certain media forms are more about play than others, therefore certain media forms are more trivial than others.”
Over at not language but a map, “just shut up” about problematic themes in media (the excerpt below relates to Beauty and the Beast):
The film ended, and my professor flicked the light on. She passed out a handout we’d already received, a list of warning signs for domestic abusers. This list included things like, “Isolates partner from support systems—tries to keep them from family, friends, outside activities.” It included things like, “Attempts to control what partner wears, does, or sees.” It included things like, “Is extremely moody, jumping quickly from being nice to exploding in anger.” It included things like, “Is overly sensitive—gets hurt when not getting their way, takes offense when someone disagrees with them, gets very upset at small inconveniences.” It included things like, “Has unrealistic expectations of partner,” and “Is abusive towards other people,” and “Has ever threatened violence, even if it wasn’t a serious threat,” and, “Gets romantically serious very quickly,” and “Holds partner against their will,” and “Intimidates with threatening body language, punching walls, breaking objects, etc.” The Beast meets almost every criterion on the list, and those he doesn’t meet (“Was abused by a parent,” “Grew up in an abusive home,”) are only unmet in the sense that we have no way to know, from the narrative given to us, whether he meets them or not.
My professor said, “Okay. Now let’s talk about it.”
One of the frustrating things for me about spending a lot of time with women, writing about women’s issues, and interacting with women is that I’m usually read as a woman and have that identity forced on me even though I’m very open about the fact that I’m genderqueer. This isn’t just because of how I look, although obviously that’s a factor; with a lot of images of me circulating on the web, often accompanying my work, it’s inevitable that people are going to make a snap assumption about my gender on the basis of my appearance. Nor is it because of the way I write; writing analysis tools tend to skew masculine when I run my work through them.
It’s because of what I write about. The assumption is that anyone who writes both passionately and sometimes personally about issues that primarily affect women must be a woman, because who else would care, right? And who else would share those experiences (rather than pontificating on them as an outside observer)? Consequently, I end up in this strange doublebind where I am welcomed into ‘women’s spaces’ and forcibly labeled as a woman—as long as it’s convenient, and then suddenly I’m shut out.
Inequality doesn’t just spring up without a context. And women don’t just opt out of hacking and hacker communities because of the tired rhetoric “maths and hacking is boys’ business.”
No, women stay the hell away from hacker-spaces, conferences and tech initiatives because of on-going experiences of misogyny, abuse, threats, put downs, belittlement, harassment, rape.
Last infosec conference I went to – there was six females and over 1000 males in attendance. My female friend roped me into pretending I was her lesbian lover, simply to get a guy to let-the-fuck-go of her hand.
At this point, some of you are thinking, “Well, if DEFCON is so bad for women, women just shouldn’t go. Who cares?”
As KC puts it, “Defcon is also many wonderful things. It is a fantastic environment to learn, network, and connect with friends old and new.” There’s a reason that I attended DEFCON five times before I quit. DEFCON and other hacker conferences are popular for all the reasons that conferences exist at all: learning new things, meeting people in your field, improving your reputation, finding jobs, and making new friends.
I’ll start with the most obvious benefit of attending DEFCON: jobs. Did you know that Twitter is recruiting computer security experts at DEFCON? So are Zynga and the NSA
More people are finally taking notice of the abuse. But there’s still a dearth of discussion on why it’s happening. The culprit isn’t anonymity, often the go-to answer for why the Internet can’t have nice things. Instead, it’s believing in the exceptionality of the Internet—and online gaming—that allows the abuses within, and it is enabled every time someone utters “It’s just a game.”
That phrase is the machine to which oppressive power dynamics are the ghost. How many times have you heard someone say “It’s the Internet; you shouldn’t take that seriously”? This kind of thinking supports the idea you can do anything you want with no consequences, when in all actuality, virtual actions like sexual harassment, stalking, abuse, prejudice in all of its forms—racism, sexism, transphobia, or all of the above—do have consequences.
Let’s start with that distinction between “online” and “the real world.” In the virtual world, there is a clear, aggressively policed distinction dictating the boundaries of both cyberspace and its social practices. In online gaming spaces in particular, this distinction is similar to the difference between “play” and “nonplay.” As child psychologists have long recognized, the act of saying “this is play” makes the real seem unreal, and thus malleable and less threatening. It allows for experimentation and learning, as well as simply finding out who you are. But in online gaming spaces, when combined with a culture of zero accountability and prejudice, it becomes a way of denying the impact of one’s words and actions—putting no limit on how nasty they can be.
There was a time that it gave me a blush of pride to be referred to as “the Spelling Sergeant” or “the Punctuation Police”. I would gleefully tear a syntactic strip out of anybody who fell victim to the perils of poor parallelism or the menace of misplaced modifiers. I railed against atrostrophes and took a red pen to signs posted in staff rooms, bulletin boards and public washrooms. I was, to put it bluntly, really, really annoying.
Four years ago, I was hired in a program that helps disadvantaged adults acquire fundamental literacy skills. To say that it has been an eye-opening experience deeply understates its impact; in fact, it has been mind-opening. And one of the ideas that has fallen into my newly-open mind is that being pedantic about the language skills of perfect strangers is kind of an asshole move.
It’s a tough habit to break, though. Prescriptivists are vocal and ubiquitous, and many of them have found their way into the public education system. Writing can be a powerful form of communication, and grammar snobs tend to be good at it, so the result is that their sneering condescensions become canonized – and cannon-ized – as easy shots against opponents in intellectual debate. The advent of the world wide web, naturally, has elevated this sport to Olympic proportions.
So here we are again, with an amazing collection of writing from Australian and New Zealand feminists from the month of September. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have enjoyed putting it all together. First, a comic from Judy Horacek from her October post (posted on 30 September 2012).
After that beautiful comic, lets start with..
Frances at Corpulent, writes “On Stocky Bodies, and being a fat dancer” in which she describes having two photographers follow her around doing her every day things, and how having the photographers go to her dance class was harder than all the other activities they photographed.
Helen writes at the Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony, “The Recent Unpleasantness“, describing the failure of the mainstream media to comment or cover those Muslims who did condemn the action taken by a few, and the inherent racism in branding an entire group of people for something done by only a few – especially as that doesn’t happen to white people.
The fist criticism conflates two sets of attitudes about taniwha. One can believe in taniwha, or one can respect, or at least tolerate, other people’s belief in taniwha. Personally, I don’t believe in taniwha, or elves, or the Norse gods, or the Christian god, or all sorts of other things, but I can see that other people believe in these entities, and even more than that, that they order their lives by reference to their beliefs. So while I may not believe their belief, I’m prepared to tolerate it, to the extent that it doesn’t cause harm. That’s a fairly standard move in liberal thinking.
steph at 天高皇企鹅远 writes about assumptions people make about China and how she tell those assumptions from what they questions ask her in, “citation needed“.
stargazer writes about the “consequences” of Islamaphobia and how those claiming their freedom to speak bigotry would probably be less likely to do so if they experienced the treatment that is meted out to those they speak against.
stargazer also writes about her thoughts of belonging after reading a post on indigenous people, and her conclusion that she is not indigenous to anywhere, in “not indigenous“.
Stephanie at ginger honey writes “On offense” discussing how when it’s not about you, your reaction says a lot about you.
Utopiana from Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist writes about her decision to participate in Frocktober and the clothes she’s generally comfortable in, in “Yes, yes, I wear a dress… ”
Chrys at Gladly the Cross Eyed Bear wrote about the sexism in the criticism of Deveny’s appearance on Q&A, especially the characterisations that Deveny was militant, shouty, disrepectful etc, in “Defending Deveny“.
Jane at Putting Her Oar In, wrote an open letter to Deveny detailing her own experiences of gaslighting, and how Jensen and his supporters attempted to gaslight Deveny in “an open letter to catherine deveny“.
Justine Larbalestier writes about how problematic it is to have a YA protag proclaim her hatred of all women, and breaks apart why this is a bad thing, and what some of the causes are in, “Girls Who Hates Girls“.
This is going to be rather epic, because I’ve been busy, and because I caught up with my RSS feed while I was visiting family and so I have many articles which I found interesting. And since I can’t share them on Google Reader anymore, everyone else gets to enjoy them here.
In the latest from the Vatican, Benny has decided to condemn priests who abuse children, and for a change not link paedophilia to homosexuality. The article is good, it talks about how Bishops who have been hiding child abuse are not being condemned, and that the Vatican isn’t really doing anything about the child abuse other than talking about it. The bit that annoyed me was at the end:
In his speech on Monday, Benedict said children deserved to be loved and respected by all – and that they flourish best in a family.
He stressed his long-standing position that a family is founded on the marriage between a man and woman – and that couples should do everything possible to avoid separation and stay together for the sake of their children.
“They want to be loved by a mother and a father who love one another; they need to live with and grow up with both parents, because the maternal and paternal figures are complementary in educating children and in building their personalities and identities,” the pope said. [emphasis mine]
This, again, shows how far out of touch with reality the pope is. I could start with how the nuclear family is a very recent concept and only really started in the 17th and 18th century, and then discuss how widespread nuclear families are, and how common extended families are, to suggest that perhaps the pope’s idea of a family needs to be broadened.
But what I’m going to do instead is complain about the bolded text above. I posted a while ago about why conservatism is bad for women’s rights, and this is more of the same, by one of the most conservative and patriarchal institutions on the planet. I said then:
The big problem with this style of conservative thinking, and “traditional family values” is that it places women in society at a lesser place than the men. Women are typically more likely to become victims of domestic violence than men (I am not denying that men are not victims of domestic violence), so if it harder for women to obtain a divorce from a violent marriage, then that’s hardly fair and surely not part of what people would think that “traditional family values” are.
Staying together “for the sake of the children” if you are in an abusive relationship is not in the best interests of the abused spouse or the children. Staying together “for the sake of the children” if one of the spouses is abusing the children, is not in the best interest of the spouse or the children. Staying together “for the sake of the children” and raising those children in a toxic environment full of anger, hate and bitterness, is not in the best interests of the children.
Surely if we are going to “think of the children” then surely what is in the best interests of the children should come BEFORE religious ideals of the nuclear family and traditional values.
Personally, I’d also like the pope to show me his research in relation to what children want. I agree that children want to be loved, but I am sure that in some incredibly dysfunctional households* children don’t want to be loved by one of their parents and would rather be a long way away from them, due to abuse (directed at them or their other parent), neglect or disdain.
And how does the pope knows that “the maternal and paternal figures are complementary in educating children and in building their personalities and identities”, and how that has to be a mother and father, versus extended family such as aunts, uncles, grandparents or close family friends. There are many families that are single parents due to the death of one of the parents, should that single parent immediately rush out and remarry because their child is now lacking a maternal or paternal figure?
I am tired of the Vatican telling the rest of us how to live our lives. We’re grown up now Mr Vatican and we’re making our own way in the world. Get back in your box and leave us alone.