The late linkspam of August (overseas edition)

So I’m enjoying myself in a bit of summer (thought right now I’m a bit too hot), in Europe, and I completely forgot my linkspam duties.  So here is some linkspam, albeit a bit late.

Laurie Penny at The New Statesmen writes, “I was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl“:

Writing about Doctor Who this week got me thinking about sexism in storytelling, and how we rely on lazy character creation in life just as we do in fiction. The Doctor has become the ultimate soulful brooding hero in need of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl to save him from the vortex of self-pity usually brought on by the death, disappearance or alternate-universe-abandonment of the last girl. We cannot have the Doctor brooding. A planet might explode somewhere, or he might decide to use his powers for evil, or his bow-tie might need adjusting. The companions of the past three years, since the most recent series reboot, have been the ultimate in lazy sexist tropification, any attempt at actually creating interesting female characters replaced by… That Girl.

Men grow up expecting to be the hero of their own story. Women grow up expecting to be the supporting actress in somebody else’s. As a kid growing up with books and films and stories instead of friends, that was always the narrative injustice that upset me more than anything else. I felt it sometimes like a sharp pain under the ribcage, the kind of chest pain that lasts for minutes and hours and might be nothing at all or might mean you’re slowly dying of something mundane and awful. It’s a feeling that hit when I understood how few girls got to go on adventures. I started reading science fiction and fantasy long before Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, before mainstream female leads very occasionally got more at the end of the story than together with the protagonist. Sure, there were tomboys and bad girls, but they were freaks and were usually killed off or married off quickly. Lady hobbits didn’t bring the ring to Mordor. They stayed at home in the shire.

Randa Abdel-Fattah at The Hoopla writes, “The Us and Them Project“:

All the research demonstrates that since the 1990s and certainly post-September 11, Muslims and Arabs are our ‘folk devils’. The vitriol and Islamophobic diatribe Ed Husic (Australia’s first federal parliamentarian of Muslim background) was subjected to yesterday for choosing to swear an oath on the Koran was not surprising.

Being Australian and Muslim is considered an oxymoron.

Muslims are accused of failing to ‘fit in’ (code for abandoning one’s Muslim identity) or, as part of larger moral panics and discourses surrounding Islam, are viewed as a clandestine group attempting to subvert the nation from within.

Van Badham writes at the Guardian, “Miranda Kerr, being in a ‘traditional’ marriage is no recipe for happiness“:

Kerr is enough of a celebrity that she could announce that zebras have 10 testicles or that NASA is going to fly her to the moon on a magic banana, and someone would run it as story – the accompanying photo would add some hot-looking click-bait to their pages. And I would prefer this to her tired stereotypes, if only because 10-testicled zebras and magic bananas face gross under-representation in the media.

Massively over-represented, however, is the perpetuation of mythologies of gendered “traditional” roles that are assumptive, not factual. Stupid, pseudo-scientific terms like “alpha female” are overused, too, but let’s deal with that later.

Perhaps because Australian women are now so very aware how “traditional” gender stereotypes belittle and damage strong and capable women at national cost, gender politics are finally coming under deserved scrutiny. In the way that R&B star Chris Brown was once given an awkward pass by many in the media for his brutalisation of Rhianna, the same could not now be said of Charles Saatchi and his treatment of soon-to-be-ex-wife Nigella Lawson.

Cara Ellison writes at New Statesmen, “There’s no sexism in gaming“:

To anyone getting their boxers in a bunch over this, I say: buy the games with the male protagonists. There are at least four of them. They are attractive, virile boy characters with a lot going for them. Show us you mean business by buying those titles. Lawrence Croft is still an icon: that bulging crotch and tight ass, the washboard abs – what more could you want to identify with? He’s everything you aspire to. And those of you who complain we didn’t put any clothes on him – he became an icon because of that lack of clothes! And Lawrence Croft has trousers now, think about that. Women’s interest in a sexy, provocative young male is what gave Lawrence Croft his iconic status. Stop asking for special treatment by the games industry, we are making the best games in whatever way we see fit.

CBC News posted, “UN demands answers from Vatican on child sex abuse“:

In a document published online, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has asked the Vatican to come clean with how it addresses children’s rights around the world, including what measures it takes when dealing with sexual violence.

The panel, which polices the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, wants the Catholic Church to reveal confidential records on investigations and legal proceedings against clergy members accused of sexual crimes on children.

The Geneva-based committee also wants to know what measures are being taken to ensure that clergy members accused of sexual abuses are not in contact with children and how members are told to report allegations of sexual violence.

Lisa Hix at Collectors Weekly writes, “Singing the Lesbian Blues in 1920s Harlem“:

When Gertrude “Ma” Rainey—known as “The Mother of Blues”—sang, “It’s true I wear a collar and a tie, … Talk to the gals just like any old man,” in 1928′s “Prove It on Me,” she was flirting with scandal, challenging the listener to catch her in a lesbian affair. It might not seem like a big deal to us now, but back then, pursuing same-sex relations could get you thrown in jail.

The good news for women-loving chanteuses like Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Gladys Bentley is that blues music in the 1920s was so far under the radar of mainstream America, female blues singers could get away with occasionally expressing their unconventional desires. That said, they all felt obligated to produce song after song about loving and losing men.

“I don’t want to overplay the significance of the three songs that Ma Rainey wrote and recorded that had some references to lesbianism and homosexuality,” says Robert Philipson, who directed the 2011 documentary, “T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s.” “That’s a handful out of hundreds and hundreds of blues songs that were recorded. The fact that there were any was remarkable, given the times. You certainly never saw it in any other part of American culture.”

Emily Alpert at Los Angles Times writes, “Why bisexuals stay in the closet“:

In the middle of the rainbowy revelers at the pride parade in West Hollywood, Jeremy Stacywas questioned: Are you really bisexual?

“One guy came up to me and said, ‘You’re really gay,’ ” said Stacy, who was standing under a sign reading “Ask a Bisexual.” “I told him I had a long line of ex-girlfriends who would vehemently disagree. And he said, ‘That doesn’t matter, because I know you’re gay.’ ”

Stacy had gotten the question before. From a friend who said anyone who had slept with men must be gay — even if he had also slept with women. From women who assumed he would cheat on them. From a boyfriend who insisted Stacy was really “bi now, gay later” — and dumped him when he countered he was “bi now, bi always.”

Maria Dahvana Headley at Glittering Scrivener writes, “BUT HE DIDN’T KNOW HE WAS HIJACKING YOUR SHIP: On Conference Creeps“:

5. Conversely, when I complained about The Hugger anecdotally to men, most of them said he was just clueless and didn’t mean to creep me out, and that if I was clear that I didn’t want to be hugged, I wouldn’t be, because The Hugger was a nice guy. Don’t get me wrong. Most men are great. But I think most guys have also not been witness to a lot of this. Creepers wait til you’re with your girls, or alone. Because Creepers calculate.

6. The Hugger wasn’t hugging the guys. Nor was Spoor Guy licking their arm and then sending them love letters. Nor was Dealer’s Room Guy lifting them off their feet.

7. Notice that I’ve not even mentioned anyone giving me any kind of respect for being a professional writer here. In these scenarios, I’ve been A Pretty Writer. It’s part of my job to be nice to people at conventions. I don’t like to cause scenes and be ill humored. I’m inherently a friendly person. Sometimes this bites me in the ass, literally. Sometimes it gropes me in the ass.

Chris Brecheen at Writing About Writing (And Occasionally Some Writing) writes, “Changing The Creepy Guy Narrative“:

And in reading all these things I’ve come to be aware of a narrative.  An everyday narrative almost as common for women as “the train pulled into the station, and I got on.”  It’s not that no one but a writer could be aware of this narrative it’s just that in a world where tragically few are, that was my gateway.

It is the narrative of how men hit on women in public places.  A tired old story if ever there were one.  A story where consent is not a character we actually ever meet, and where the real antagonist is not a person, but rather the way she has been socialized to be polite, to be civil, to not be “such a bitch”….no matter how much of a Douchasauras Rex HE is being about not picking up the subtle clues. Yes, a human being might fill the role of the immediate obstacle–and in doing so personify the larger issue, but the careful reader of this tropetastic narrative knows the real villain is the culture that discourages her from rebuking him in no uncertain terms lest she be castigated.  (And that’s the best case scenario; the worst is that she angers someone with much greater upper body strength who may become violent.)  The real antagonist is a society where she is actually discouraged from being honest about what she wants…or doesn’t want.  And the society that socialized him that it’s okay for him to corner her…pressure her….be persistent to the point of ignoring the fact that she has said no.

Susan Silk and Barry Goldman at Los Angeles Times writes, “How not to say the wrong thing“:

Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. For Katie’s aneurysm, that’s Katie. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. In the case of Katie’s aneurysm, that was Katie’s husband, Pat. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order. One of Susan’s patients found it useful to tape it to her refrigerator.

Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring.

Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.

When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you’re going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn’t, don’t say it. Don’t, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don’t need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, “I’m sorry” or “This must really be hard for you” or “Can I bring you a pot roast?” Don’t say, “You should hear what happened to me” or “Here’s what I would do if I were you.” And don’t say, “This is really bringing me down.”

Michael Kimmel at the New York Times writes, “Fired for Being Beautiful“:

MOST everyone knows by now about “lookism” — the preferential treatment given to those who conform to social standards of beauty. Research suggests that people who are judged physically attractive are seen as more competent and more socially graceful than those who aren’t; they have more friends and more sex; and they make more money. One economic study found a 5 percent bonus for being in the top third in the looks department (as assessed by a set of observers), and a 7 to 9 percent penalty for being in the bottom 9 percent.

All of which might come as a surprise to Melissa Nelson, a 33-year-old dental assistant in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Ms. Nelson, you see, was fired in 2010 by her dentist boss, James Knight, because she was too attractive. Mr. Knight, who is married, said he felt that Ms. Nelson’s beauty was simply too tempting to pass unnoticed and that he was worried he would have an affair with her. And so as a pre-emptive move (and at his wife’s insistence), he fired her.

Ms. Nelson sued on grounds of sex discrimination. Stunningly, an Iowa district court dismissed the case, contending that she was fired “not because of her gender but because she was a threat to the marriage of Dr. Knight.” Naturally, she appealed, but last week the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision (for the second time), maintaining its view that an employee “may be lawfully terminated simply because the boss views the employee as an irresistible attraction.”

Heather Crawford at NBC News reports on “Florida man pleads not guilty to shooting teen to death over loud music“:

A Florida gun collector has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge alleging that he opened fire on a car full of unarmed teenagers, killing one, in an altercation that police say stemmed from loud music.

Michael David Dunn, 45, acted “as any responsible firearms owner would have,” his lawyer said of the Friday evening incident at a gas station outside a convenience store in Jacksonville, Fla.

Dunn and his girlfriend were in Jacksonville for his son’s wedding when they pulled up in their car next to the teens. Police allege that while the girlfriend was in the store, Dunn told Jordan Russell Davis, 17, and his three friends to turn down their music.

“It was loud,” Jacksonville homicide Lt. Rob Schoonover said of the teens’ music. “They admitted that. That’s not a reason for someone to open fire.”

After an exchange of words, Dunn began shooting with a handgun, Schoonover said.

At Political Blindspot, “MEDIA BLACKOUT: No ‘Stand Your Ground’ Right For CeCe McDonald Against Neo-Nazi Attackers“:

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that 23-year-old CeCe McDonald was sentenced June 4, 2012 to three years and five months in prison for the death of Dean Schmitz, a white Neo-Nazi.

McDonald was walking past a Minnesota bar on June 5, 2011 when an altercation between her and Schmitz, in addition to other patrons, erupted on the sidewalk outside. According to various reports, McDonald pulled out a pair of scissors in a clear self-defense attempt after the group hurled a glass at her face, resulting in a gash that required 11 stitches: far more than the two Band-Aids George Zimmerman received for his injuries. The Neo-Nazis targeted McDonald with both anti-homosexual and racist epithets, including “fagg_ts,” “n_ggers” and “chicks with d_cks.”

Minnesota’s Governor Mark Dayton, vetoed the “Stand Your Ground” defense, claiming that “state law already protects law-abiding residents who shoot someone in defense of themselves or others when it is reasonable under the circumstances.” Critics of the “Stand Your Ground Law” have said is used to facilitate the murder of African Americans, while the right is in turn denied to members of that community.

Chris Graham at New Matilda writes, “Does Trayvon Martin Matter Here?

The island has a brutal history, and the tough nature of the community today is a consequence of that. But personally, I’ve always found Palm a warm and welcoming place. Had Barack Obama visited at the time of his election, he would have too. The local council raised the US flag to join in community celebrations at the announcement of a black president.

People are often surprised to learn that Aboriginal Australians take a strong interest in black American politics. Few Australians, for example, are aware of the strong historical links to the Black Panther movement in Aboriginal Australia.

It’s one of the ironies, I suspect, of modern oppression — while the oppressors somehow manage to remain stubbornly ignorant, the oppressed get more educated.

The issue is one that resonates with black Australia, for obvious reasons. Indeed there are so many parallels it’s hard to know where to begin. So maybe where it began for Trayvon Martin — racial profiling.

In Australia, Aboriginal adults are more than 17 times more likely to be arrested than non Aboriginal people. Aboriginal youth are 28 times more likely to be arrested.

Having been arrested, the jailing rates come into play. On that front, in the US, black Americans make up about 13 per cent of the general population, but around 40 per cent of the prison population.

But in Australia, Aboriginal people make up just over three percent of the total population, but comprise about 25 percent of the prison population.

For youth, they comprise more than 50 per cent and in some jurisdictions, such as the Northern Territory, Aboriginal people make up almost 90 per cent of the prison population.

John Scalzi at Whatever hosts a guest post from Chris Kluwe, “The Big Idea: Chris Kluwe“:

Sparkleponies is a collection of short stories and essays covering a wide variety of topics, hopefully in an entertaining and educational way (I promise you’ll learn some new swear words at the very least). I frequently describe it as a snapshot into my mind, and the main reason I wrote it as such is because I wanted to show you can’t define a human being with just one label.

When various publishers first approached me about writing a book, the majority of them wanted the standard “football player autobiographical” that everyone churns out once they get even a sniff of attention. You know, the “on x day I did y, and it made me feel z because I gave 120% of all the sports cliches my coach ever taught me about Jesus.” That one.

Well, I’m not a fan of that book, primarily because it plays into the kind of lazy thinking that’s so prevalent in our culture (America in particular). “You’re a football player, so all you can talk about is football.” “You’re gay, so you hate sports and love clothes.” “You’re a woman, so shut up and get in the kitchen, and don’t even think about playing video games with us manly men.”

James Arvanitakis at New Matilda writes, “The Seven Step Misogyny Detox“:

These conversations invariably led to Julia Gillard’s popularity, her treatment by the press and “that misogyny speech” which many had seen. This led to two interrelated questions: “Are Australians ready for a female Prime Minister?’; and “Does Australian culture breed misogyny?”

The way Julia Gillard was treated has been detailed elsewhere so I won’t discuss it here. Rather, my interest is the everyday language and behaviours – or simply, our culture – that perpetuates the feeling that women are somehow inferior to men, do not know their place and are behaving badly (or “destroying the joint”).

Just like passive racism, many do not even realise we are doing it, but it is in these unguarded moments that we gain insights into what is at the core of our culture. In the spirit of responding to those who begin their sentences with “I am not a racist, but…”, or in this case, “I agree that some sections of the press have been harsh but her voice really is grating”, here are seven steps that we need to adopt if we are going to stop the perpetuation of misogyny in our culture.

Ms. Muslamic writes, “Here’s what’s wrong with hijab tourism and your cutesy “modesty experiments”“:

These ‘hijab tourists’ venture into the mysterious world of Islamic veiling like the colonialist explorers of old, and like those explorers they return from their travels to report back on what they experienced. The veil is an ~exotic foreign country~, and you can’t trust the locals to tell you what it’s all about. No, better to send one of your own – usually a nice, middle-class White woman – and get her to translate the experience into a narrative that’s palatable to a Western audience. Hijab and niqab are thus shorn of their cultural, religious and social significance and reduced to tourist attractions and teachable moments for privileged outsiders. They swoop in, swan around in a veil for a few days (or weeks) and then write earnest op-eds about how much they ~learned~ from the experience.

The consequences for these privileged, non-Muslim women who try hijab or niqab for a day (or week, or months) are usually attention, column space and – in most cases – monetary reward. Liz Jones and Danielle Crittenden are both professional journalists who were presumably paid to dress up in niqabs and then write scathing, offensive articles about it. In the latest iteration of these articles, Lauren Shields announced recently on her blog that she now has an agent and a book deal based on her experience.

There’s good money to be made in cultural appropriation, apparently. Shields denies that her experiment is cultural appropriation because she “made [her] own modesty rules” {x}, which is a pretty disingenuous assertion given that she states in her Salon article that the whole experiment was inspired by a lecture about Muslim women and the hijab.

Caitlen Welsh at Junkee writes, “Is Gender-Flipping The Most Important Meme Ever?“:

In the wise words of Community’s Dean Pelton, sometimes we don’t see our own patterns until they’re laid out in front of us. We, as consumers of media and culture, absorb a lot of sexist, racist, heteronormative bullshit every day, and we never really question it because we see it every day. We internalise it. We expect it. It feels normal — until something fishes us out of our warm pot and forces us to see the steam.

Tootsie came out back in 1982, so gender-flipping as a tool to expose double standards is nothing new – but it does seem to have taken off recently. It can be as simple as posing a hypothetical: “Would Julia Gillard have been subjected to the same diarrheic torrent of abuse if she had been a man making identical decisions?” has been a popular one recently, with at least one “let’s give it to Kevin!” article appearing within days. “Would John Inverdale have felt the urge to comment on Andy Murray’s looks?” is another one.

Radhika Nagpal at Scientific American writes, “The Awesomest 7-Year Postdoc or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tenure-Track Faculty Life“:

In 2003, at a party, I met this very cool guy. He was on the job market for faculty positions and had just gotten an offer from MIT Sloan. I was on the job market too, and so we instantly hit it off. I had recently completed my PhD in computer science from MIT; it had already felt so hard, just proving myself as worthy enough. I also had a 4 year old kid and a little toddler. I really wondered how I’d emotionally survive tenure-track, assuming anyone would even offer me the job. So I asked him. How did he feel about doing the whole tenure track thing? Having to prove oneself again after the whole PhD experience? The answer changed my life, and gave me a life long friend.

He looked at my quizzically, and said “Tenure-track? what’s that? Hey, I’m signing up for a 7-year postdoc to hang out with some of the smartest, coolest folks on the planet! Its going to be a blast. And which other company gives you 7 year job security? This is the awesomest job ever!”

In 2004 when I came to Harvard as a junior faculty, I wrote it on my desk.
I type it in every day. For all seven+ years I have been at Harvard. No joke.

Amanda Marcotte at The Raw Story writes, “Radical Feminist Law Professor Believes Girls Can Want To Be More Than Housewives“:

For anyone who wants proof that the conservative Republican tendency to accuse liberals and feminists of being “radical” or “militant” is pure projection, Wednesday’s confirmation hearings for Nina Pillard, Obama’s pick to sit on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, served nicely. Pillard is a Georgetown law professor and yes, openly feminist (though not as aggressively feminist as, say, Justice Samuel Alito is anti-feminist), which was enough to put the Republican Senators who showed up at the hearing into a full-blown paranoid lather. Sen. Ted Cruz, for instance, accused Pillard of arguing that abstinence-only programs were inherently unconstitutional.

Cruz did not understand correctly the document in front of him, which happens to be available for anyone who wants to compare their reading comprehension to that of a Harvard-educated attorney like Cruz. Pillard argues in this document not that it’s unconstitutional to scold kids to keep it in their pants to your heart’s content, but that the specific gender roles taught in many abstinence-only courses violate the students’ right to equal protection.

Kasey Edwards at Daily Life writes, “Five lies the weight loss industry wants you to believe“:

3. Doctors and health professionals are experts in weight management

“Weight management and the psychology of eating is a relatively new area of health,” says Dr Kausman.

Doctors, dietitian and psychologists are experts in many areas, but according to Dr Kausman weight management and the psychology of eating is very often not one of them.

“In a short period of time we have seen weight gain for a significant number of people, as well as a thin ideal that is almost impossible to achieve” says Dr Kausman. “The education and training for health professionals has not caught up to deal with this problem.”

“On the whole, GPs, dietitians and psychologists are very poorly equipped to support somebody who might come in and say that they feel they are above their most healthy weight and looking for advice on what they should do about that.”

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