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.
My own personal journey with depilating is probably similar to other women, particularly in western countries. I had grown up noticing my mother shave her legs, and seeing women with smooth legs on TV and all around me, and at what is probably a ridiculously young age (about 8 ) I deemed my own legs too hairy and shaved them for the first time. I cut them to bits with Dad’s rusty old Gillette Blue 2, and didn’t try that again for another year or so. I’d call my “need” to shave an “unconscious social intervention” as it was based on observation and “normalising messages” hitting me from a very young age. But what was a completely conscious one was when mum took me aside at about 11 or 12 and showed me how to shave my armpits. From that point onwards, I was paranoid of raising my arm if I hadn’t shaved. It wasn’t mum’s fault as nearly every girl in my school seemed to be in the same boat, if not then, then over the coming years.
After a spike in traffic on my blog, and specifically regarding my post about Dan Savage’s biphobia, I wondered what he’d done this time. Apparently he’d used a derogatory comment in relation to GOProud, a coalition of LGBT Republicans and their straight allies. *trigger warning for homophobic language* From the Huffington Post, “Dan Savage and the Other, Uglier F-Word“.
There are many people who feel attraction to both genders—or who are indifferent to gender entirely, who are just attracted to people and deal with the gendered parts when things get intimate. How is it possible that high-schoolers think it’s chic (though a little passe) to be bi, but our mouthpieces of popular celebrity culture don’t know what to do with famous people who have fluid sexuality?
Even after all these years of progress and activism related to sexual orientation and gender, there remains a core disbelief among gay and straight that bisexuality exists. Some think it’s a phase girls go through in college; others think it’s a bullshit position a guy takes because he’s afraid to be gay. It’s not validated on either side of the aisle, so to speak. So bisexuals disappear into headlines: Frenchie Davis is a lesbian. Score 1 for the absolutist team.
Bisexuality is sometimes looked on with confusion from both the heterosexual and homosexual communities. Researchers from Indiana University conducted a series of studies recently to explore how the stigma and stereotypes of behaviorally bisexual individuals stands up to reality, and how these men and women are actually living out their sexual lives.
“I was really surprised to find, among some of the guys, how they weren’t open at all about their sexuality,” he said. “For a lot of them, it had been the first time they’d ever talked to someone about engaging in sexual behavior with both men and women. There was a lot of stigma, even shame from both gay and straight friends and family members about bisexuality that was above and beyond just typical stigma. For some of them it really did seem like they were clearly linking that with having mental health issues, like feeling depressed or anxious or not comfortable with their sexuality because they felt like they were sort of the only ones. So in terms of the needs for actually doing this type of research, it was really validated.”
No Place for Sheep wrote a piece about “Belief versus human rights“, in relation to Gillard’s (Aussie PM) personal beliefs about marriage equality impacting the human rights of the LGBTIQ community. I recommend this post even though the BTIQ part of the spectrum are missing somewhat in the post.
Be that as it may, the fights led me to thinking about belief. While I agree that everyone is entitled to their beliefs, I don’t agree that everyone is entitled to act on those beliefs to the detriment of others. Once a belief is extrapolated from the personal realm and used to determine the lives of others it is no longer personal, it is political.
Personal belief can legitimately determine the course of one’s own life. If you don’t believe same-sex marriage is right, for example, then don’t make a same-sex marriage. Nobody in our country will force you into an arrangement that powerfully disturbs your moral sensibility.
What disturbs me, however, is the argument that personal beliefs ought to be set apart from the interrogations we are at liberty to apply to all other human processes. The personal belief is elevated to the sacred, inspiring respect and reverence simply because it is a personal belief, and regardless of its substance. While I find this bizarre, hinting as it does at some transcendental exterior governance, I have little problem with it, as long as the belief remains in the realm of the personal. When it becomes prescriptive, I argue that it is no longer protected from scrutiny and critique by reverence.
It turns out that Mitt Romney doesn’t like bisexuals or trans* people (well there is a surprise) to the point where those words in a anti-bullying guide resulted in the guide not being produced/endorsed by his office, “No mention of ‘bisexual,’ ‘transgender’ under Romney“:
Former governor Mitt Romney’s administration in 2006 blocked publication of a state antibullying guide for Massachusetts public schools because officials objected to use of the terms “bisexual’’ and “transgender’’ in passages about protecting certain students from harassment, according to state records and interviews with current and former state officials.
Romney aides said publicly at the time that publication of the guide had been delayed because it was a lengthy document that required further review. But an e-mail authored in May of that year by a high-ranking Department of Public Health official – and obtained last week by the Globe through a public records request – reflected a different reason.
There’s an almost constant stream of allegations of objectification through sexualisation currently being made in Western society. These are leveled by concerned citizens against much popular culture, and based largely on images of women that culture produces. These allegations presume an objectifying gaze, that is, they insist the viewer will inevitably reduce women portrayed in certain ways to objects to be used for sexual gratification, rather than seeing them as equal human beings. Clothing, facial expressions and postures are used as signifiers of objectification, as well as language.
The signifiers chosen by concerned citizens are based on a Judeo-Christian perception of the adult female body as unruly, dangerous and indecent, and requiring concealment except in specific circumstances such as marriage and other committed monogamous relationships. Clothing that reveals too much of the body’s “private” zones is regarded as transgressing moral codes, as are postures and language that imply female sexual desire, and/or stimulate male “lust.”
An introductory post and a follow up three post series on “Christian Fundamentalist Homophobia: It Really Is About Fear” (introduction, part 1, part 2, part 3) from the phoenix and the olive branch *trigger warning for homophobic language and hate speech (excerpts from all four posts):
I was raised to be homophobic. Oh, my church had lots of ways to deflect the label when it was applied to us, but deep down, I was afraid. The other kids were afraid, too. When pressed, we would spew lines like “hate the sin, love the sinner” or “I’m not afraid of gay people, I just disagree with their lifestyle.” (That one confuses me now: how can you “disagree” with someone else’s life? It’s not about disagreement, it’s about disapproval.) There’s always this old favorite, too: “They don’t even know they’re in sin; they’re deceived. We need to pray for them.” Thing is, all of this masks a genuine, visceral, inculcated fear. I wasn’t raised to have a vague, condescending, pious pity for LGBTQ people. I was raised to be violently afraid of them.
In my church, homophobia was a matter of course. We didn’t spend a lot of time hashing out the Scriptural arguments against homosexuality. Occasionally Paul and Leviticus were cited, but more often, sermons would rattle out evidence of modern depravity along these lines: “…and Satan has so perverted this generation that it thinks there’s nothing wrong with divorce, abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and girls throwing their babies in trash cans and doing drugs.” Defiance of gender roles was just one of the most obvious signs of demonic control.
Whether or not my church explicitly intended for me to receive this message, I understood homosexuality as one of an array of perversions. Homosexuality, promiscuity, pedophilia drug addiction, alcoholism, cheating, self-harm, unwed pregnancy and abortion were not treated as separate issues. I was afraid of gay people because I was taught that it was impossible to be gay or lesbian without partaking in all of the above.
These rhetorical strategies also reveal fundamentalist Christianity’s basic approach to LGBTQ identities: they are symptoms of an overactive sexuality. The demon that leads men to pornography and women to prostitution is the same one that causes sexual attraction to break out of the appropriate boxes. Fundamentalists don’t fully accept LGBTQ identities as categories. Instead, they see them as temporary stopping points on the way to total depravity. Hence their slippery slope arguments and their conviction that you can “pray away the gay.” The implication is that if you don’t “pray away the gay,” you’re mere moments away from self-harm and child molestation. [emphasis in original]
I have one final thing to offer to the “hate the sin, love the sinner” crowd from the other side of the fence they built to keep us illegal Christians out:
Unconditional love does not mean loving someone while disapproving of their actions. It means forsaking the right to disapprove. You cannot love who I am and hate what I do. What I do shows you who I am.If you choose to love a figment of your imagination, some idea of who I might become, then you love only your own mind, and what you hate is me. [emphasis in original]
Worse yet, in my church, women were told we were merely “incubators” for male seed. A man’s children were his; a woman’s children were also his. There was effectively no difference between a man’s children from another marriage or the children a man and woman had together. All belonged to the father. The mother was just the vice president: a useful source of authority in her husband’s absence, but ultimately powerless.
Pregnancy and babies, to me, signaled the dehumanization of women. Once women became mothers, they were trapped forever, at the mercy of their husbands. I looked at pregnant bellies and I saw swollen bee stings inflicted by aggressive overlords. In darker moments, I imagined myself committing suicide if I became pregnant. Abortion would save my life (a desperate realization that shocked me a little bit), but I would be cast out on my face. Pregnancy therefore looked like the end of the road. A death sentence. Once the wedding bells rang, I was a soul without a body in the eyes of the church. [emphasis in original]
These pieces are all from April, but April was a month that hit me between the eyes and was very unkind to me – though I had heaps of fun for the comedy festival. The fact that it is actually mid May is an indication of how stunned I was by the whole April experience.
Melbourne, she adds, has a reputation among her peers as ”a hotbed of radical sexuality”. Thanks to the efforts of local women such as Gala Vanting, Anna Brownfield and Liandra Dahl, it’s also considered a leader in ”feminist porn”.
Yet this term confuses many. Some wrongly assume that ”feminist” means an absence of male performers; others imagine that films made by women involve endless dialogue and soft-core sex scenes.
A student blows up at a teacher, drops the F-bomb. The usual approach at Lincoln – and, safe to say, at most high schools in this country – is automatic suspension. Instead, Sporleder sits the kid down and says quietly:
“Wow. Are you OK? This doesn’t sound like you. What’s going on?” He gets even more specific: “You really looked stressed. On a scale of 1-10, where are you with your anger?”
The kid was ready. Ready, man! For an anger blast to his face….”How could you do that?” “What’s wrong with you?”…and for the big boot out of school. But he was NOT ready for kindness. The armor-plated defenses melt like ice under a blowtorch and the words pour out: “My dad’s an alcoholic. He’s promised me things my whole life and never keeps those promises.” The waterfall of words that go deep into his home life, which is no piece of breeze, end with this sentence: “I shouldn’t have blown up at the teacher.”
The sexism that persists in geek communities is not special. It is not separable and inherently different than sexist institutions and behaviors in the “real world.” This means that the sexualization and objectification of women is not unique to geek cultures, though it is particularly severe in geek media. Video games, comics, science fiction, fantasy—these media forms are often at fault for promoting unrealistic (and, pretty regularly, physically impossible) standards of beauty for women. They fashion their female heroines and villains as sexy objects to be consumed, unlike male counterparts. Further, geek industries bring the objectification of women into the real world, hiring, for example, booth babes for conventions. Booth babes are conventionally attractive models hired by media companies to wear skimpy clothing and entice convention-goers to their respective booths. Geek women exist within this culture, which devalues their contributions as producers of media and meaning, but values their contributions as adornment.
Marissa Alexander is another victim of Florida’s infamous Stand Your Ground law, proving that Florida statute 776.013 is not for battered women or people who won’t shoot to kill. When attacked by her husband in her home, with an order of protection in place, Marissa Alexander shot into the ceiling, instead of into his body, to scare him away. She is now sitting in a jail cell, awaiting sentencing for assault with a deadly weapon.
Ms. Alexander is black and a mother of three. She had given birth nine days earlier to a premature infant, allegedly as a result of battering during her pregnancy. She is a licensed gun owner, with concealed carry permit. She was in her own home. Her husband had a documented history of domestic violence. She reasonably believed that her life was in danger and her husband was violating an order of protection.
Graeme Garden was always my favourite Goodie. He was a mad scientist, an inventor, a megalomaniac, and sometimes the most frenzied of the group. His character spoke to me and my enjoyment of science, helping dad in the garage with things, and my developing interest in design. I always loved his one piece suits. He was my first geek role model.
My second geek role model was Doctor Who (and I believe my first doctor was probably Jon Pertwee, though looking at the timeline of each of the Doctors, it was more likely to be Tom Baker. Then again, with the way the ABC ran Doctor Who at the time, it’s hard to know exactly. So Doctor Who saved the universe, and Earth, time and time again, had fun gadgets, understood maths and science, and travelled through time and space (what’s not to like?).
I don’t recall any female geek role models that I really identified with when I was growing up. Marmalade Atkins was a role model on rebelling and questioning everything, which is one of the lessons my parents also taught me – though not how Marmalade Atkins went about it. 3-2-1 Contact (the more grown up version of Sesame Street) had women involved, but as it screened at odd times in Australia (again on the ABC) I didn’t watch enough of it to identify with any of the presenters. Penny from Inspector Gadget was almost someone I could relate to, but she was a cartoon, and that made the whole thing unreal for me. The sad state of affairs of ABC children’s TV programming in the 1980s meant that for the most part we heard the stories of the boys and men over the stories of women (not having children and therefore not consuming children’s TV currently, I don’t know if this is still true).
So all my geek role models were men. Which meant, in part, that geekery when I was growing up was not a feminine thing. That to be a geek and female was unusual, so being a geek and feminine probably didn’t work out. I had a fairly normal childhood (well ok, it wasn’t that normal), I did ballet for 8 years, sang in choirs, rode a bike, had friends, learnt how to cook, and attempted to fit in – in Alice Springs not so much of a problem, but in Bendigo a nightmare.
The biggest issue is that I grew up without female geek role models. I didn’t know at the time about my cousin Hillary Booth, who had a PhD in mathematics and no doubt was a geek and I am sad I never met her. So growing up I separated geekery and femininity as they couldn’t go together. To be a geek meant that I couldn’t be feminine, so I attempted to distance myself from femininity and those who practised it. Which means that I didn’t have much time for many of the girls I went to school with, and they didn’t have much time for me as a result. I did have female friends, but they were geeks like me, stuck between the masculine and the feminine. Being female but not is still something I live today, but these days I no longer distance myself from those who practice femininity. I understand a lot more about feminism, gender constructions, the Kyriarchy, Geekdom, privilege and class than I used to thanks to the power of the internet, friends, and the awesomeness of the feminist blogosphere.
I’ve just remembered George from The Famous Five (TV Series) as a female role model I related to. Though sadly with that series you had the two options Anne or George. The Wikipedia entry describes them both:
Georgina is a tomboy and insists that people call her George. With her short hair and boy’s clothes she is often mistaken for a boy, which pleases her enormously. Like her father, Quentin, George has a fiery temper. She is fierce, headstrong and very loyal to those she loves. She is sometimes extremely stubborn and causes trouble for her mother as well as her cousins. She is very possessive of Timothy (Timmy), her dog. George is cousin to siblings Julian, Dick and Anne and is aged 11 at the start of the series and 16 at the end. In Five Have Plenty of Fun, Five Fall Into Adventure, and Five Go To Mystery Moor there were tomboys like her.
Anne is the youngest in the group, and generally takes care of their domestic duties during the Five’s various camping holidays. As the youngest, she is more likely than the others to become frightened and does not really enjoy the adventures as much as the others. She is 10 years old in the first book of the series and 15 in the last. As a small girl, she sometimes lets her tongue run away with her, but ultimately she is as brave and resourceful as the others. She likes doing the domestic things such as planning, organising and preparing meals, keeping where they are staying clean and tidy, be it a cave, house, tent or caravan. In Smuggler’s Top it is suggested she is claustrophobic as she is frightened of enclosed spaces since it reminds her of bad dreams she has – however this just shows how brave she really is as the adventures invariably lead the five into tunnels, down wells, in dungeons and other enclosed spaces.
So I could have the fierce, headstrong role model, or the domestic goddess who frightens easily. Top marks for guessing which one I related to – yes that’s right the girl who wants to be a boy.
Kindly supplied by “e” who had this post in their feed-reader. I don’t know who e is, but I owe them a drink.
As promised, a post on anger. This is completely out of my head without any supporting psychology theory exactly, though I suppose I could go and find some somewhere. Anyway… anger and my experience of it.
I can confidently say that my role models for dealing with anger as a child were not very good. I don’t know any people who had good conflict, frustration, or anger role models as children. My parents, like many people had troubled childhoods (which is a nice way of saying that for the most part both their childhoods were incredibly traumatic), and a lack of good role models in their life to deal with conflict, frustration, or anger.
I think that this lack of experience in seeing anger as another emotion, much like being sad, happy, concerned, worried, silly, etc, meant that my ability to be angry did not mature as my other emotions did. I no longer am sad as I was as a child, or a teenager, I am not longer happy as I was as a child… but my anger is… well… immature. My first response is to just go quiet and cold. To be angry, but not even to be able to express it. Anger was avoided in my family, both my parents would be angry behind closed doors, failing to hear each other (I thought), and eventually one of them, usually my father, storming out of the house and going for a walk.
When I moved out of home I unconsciously resolved to communicate differently with my partner than my parents did with each other. It certainly helped that I ended up in relationships with people who generally communicated with a similar language set and meanings (my parents do not seem to have the same dictionary when talking to each other – or perhaps it is an implicit/explicit communication conflict). Anyway… although I feel I communicate with my partners better than my parents communicate with each other, and I manage to avoid conflict through miscommunication along the way, my initial way of dealing with conflict and anger was to avoid them as much as possible.
So when angry, I’d walk away. I mirrored my father’s behaviour and his reaction to being angry. I didn’t lash out physically or verbally, I’d retreat and go away. Eventually (sometimes quickly, sometimes not) I’d come back and be in tears because I didn’t have a better response. I felt guilty about being angry about some things, and justified but unable to explain exactly what I was feeling in others. Part of that guilt I know is that women are supposed to be nice, good, quiet, biddable, etc creatures (not really human after all), who don’t get angry, because if we’re angry we’re bitches, shrews, shrill, uppity, etc. Part of the guilt had to do with being angry with people I loved and over things that were difficult for us to deal with at the time (my husband being clinically depressed for the first 9 years of our marriage for example).
When I was unable to communicate that I was angry, I would get upset. Much like feeling stupid is something that upsets me, being unable to articulate (and therefore feeling that I can’t communicate, therefore am stupid), upsets me. Feeling, as I did at the time, that I had to explain my anger/disappointment/whatever gently and carefully in order to not distress my husband added to the burden of dealing with anger and conflict, and made me even more likely to avoid it.
My husband was treated for his depression, we found the big wide world of polyamory, and having to deal with conflict and anger became something I could no longer avoid. Polyamory challenges assumptions about relationships, forces you to look at the relationships you are currently in and assess the health of habits and behaviours that you and your partner have been wandering around in (well it did for us). The relationships that we became involved in challenged both of us, and the way we acted towards each other, the things that we just put up with, the idiosyncrasies, and our avoidance of conflict.
It would be true to state that my first polyamorous relationship (outside my marriage) was with a high drama and high maintenance man and resulted in conflict with him and some of his other partners during the life of that relationship. I didn’t handle the conflict, anger, or frustration well (I still don’t think I do), but I learnt a lot. My counsellor was instrumental in helping me accept that anger is a valid emotion, one that is completely ok to have, and it is not the end of the world (or relationships) to be angry. I learnt that if I can’t immediately articulate what I’m angry about, that it is ok (though this I still struggle with because I take a while to process strong emotions and often the whole thing is done before I have a handle on why I’m angry/upset). I have learnt that I can talk about it, I can experience it, and it is another emotional response to stimuli as the others are.
As I have accepted that anger is ok, and a valid response, it has changed and grown into a different emotion than it was 6 years ago. I am no longer guilty for being angry, though still struggle with whether anger is necessarily the best emotional response (not quite the same as guilt). I also have a hard time processing some comments (particularly those I hear versus those I read) quickly, so am meaning deaf to comments that might otherwise make me angry until I process them at a later stage.
What is the moral of this story (apart from not write blog posts late at night because then you tend to ramble)? It’s ok to be angry, and it’s ok for your anger to be the anger of a younger you. The more I accepted my anger, the more it matured.
Bluejuice, one of my favourite Australian bands (they’re veryfunky) released a new single this week called Act Yr Age. I watched it because I thought, “Hey, awesome… new song by cool band” and then continued watching it wondering what the fuck I’d just seen. My initial reaction was revulsion, because that’s what we’re trained to see in this clip, that’s what society tells us is revolting and wrong and icky, and that’s what I want to explore. (Clip and the rest under the jump)
I have this thing about pain, it’s not me. Which is odd given I have a very very high pain threshold (which almost saw me not go to hospital with an ectopic pregnancy – so my high pain threshold =/= smart). I tolerate pain well, but I’m still really cautious. Doing something that might result in injury (running, jumping, paying sports) are things I tend to avoid. I’m really scared of falling and breaking something of the sudden pain and the resulting scene that would occur.
Though when I do trip and fall (and I’m still yet to break something) the world doesn’t end, and if I burst into tears with the pain, the world doesn’t end, and on those rare events such things happen someone stops to help me or I am with people who stop and help me.
All the same, I still am really cautious and tend to avoid activities that carry the risk of severe pain (except cooking which I partake in quite a lot). I’m not sure why I’m quite so timid about such things. I think some of it has to do with ballet and the excessive care that I took not to injure myself so I could still dance (with the exception of skinning my knees when falling off my bike).
No, I don’t think that’s it. I climbed trees, climbed hills and cliffs and did child-ly things as a child. I wasn’t hugely daring, but probably more daring than I am now. So why have I slowed down more than others I know, though technically less than others… clearly it’s a growing up thing. I’m far more aware of my mortality than I used to be. I’ve almost died at least once now, so it’s not like I believe I never will.
I’m not upset or worried about my caution, it’s just something I’ve noticed recently and have been thinking about it.
I think I might write a series of articles over revisiting various things I loved during my childhood, and going back and finding if they have any appeal to me as an adult. I don’t know how frequent they’ll be, but I thought I’d start with a series of books by an author I adored (one of many) when I was growing up in Alice Springs.
Given my mother’s love of Science Fiction, and the religious viewing of Doctor Who, it isn’t all that surprising that as soon as I discovered that I loved to read (which would have been when I was around 10 years old or so) that I found the science fiction books at the public library.
Today’s post is on the Last Legionary Quartet by Douglas Hill (now out of print, but available second hand on Amazon and in second hand bookshops (where I got mine)), a typical space faring adventure but with some really interesting tweaks. First up, the first book of the series, Galactic Warlord was published in 1980, a time I certainly associate with bad science in science fiction, however Douglas Hill has gone out of his way to ensure that the science in the books is as accurate as it can be. Space is three dimensional and a vacuum (so no noise in space), and performing sudden manoeuvres in space will result in g-forces being applied to the craft and pilot. Some future technology is incredibly similar to 1980s technology with tapes and keyboards in use, but there is a large array of energy weapons, faster than light travel and different worlds, so that certainly makes up for it.
The next best thing about the series is that it is not sexist. Yes the main character is male, but it is clearly stated from the beginning that he is from a world where the entire adult population could be turned into an army, where everyone is trained to be a warrior from early childhood, and that his squad’s gender make-up was secondary to its capability. So the main character could have been a woman. Women are not written as sex objects, nurturers, princesses needing rescue or victims of circumstance, they are strong, capable, leaders, agitators, aggressive, good, evil, wise, and just like men. At one point the hero hesitates in attacking a woman, not because she is a woman but because he thought she was on his side and his friend.
Another positive in the series is that there are humans who settled on other planets in the galaxy (it turns out that humans are the only sentient life form in this galaxy), and who have developed beneficial mutations to survive on those planets. Those planets are collectively known as the “altered worlds” and the emotive word “mutant” is rarely used throughout the book. The inhabitents of those planets are referred to coming from the “altered worlds”, but no value judgement is made about any difference that has developed in that group of humans. Additionally, any individual who comes from those planets (and this holds true for all individuals in the book regardless of where they have come from) is taken to not be a representative of their race/planet/home world system/type. So if someone is evil in the book, that person is evil, not all people like them.
That last positive that I’d to note out of this series is that the hero can’t always win the day on his own. He has a non-human companion – an alien from another galaxy, who is female and non-humanoid – who comes to his rescue, shields him when required (she’s a telepath), and who is completely capable on her own.
This series really lives up to my memories of it – in fact I’d forgotten how awesome they were. I’m enjoying it immensely and only have two books to go before I’m done. They’re quite short – so all four books is normal novel size. I was sad to find out recently that Douglas Hill had died just after submitting the final manuscript for the last book in another of his series (one I haven’t read in its entirety), but given how good The Last Legionary Quartet is turning out, I’m going to go and hunt down all the books of his I can, and enjoy them all.
It’s a question I’ve been asked at least thousand times by at least a thousand different people. It’s such an Australian question (to me), the curiosity of knowing where someone (and since they’re asking me – usually a fellow white Australian) is from, an opportunity to hear a story, an opportunity to hear something new or some gossip about another area you might have ties to. It is a very old style question after all. It harks back to the days when people travelled less, and to meet someone new was an unusual thing, therefore asking where they were from, and for them to fill you in on news from other areas was a novelty and useful.