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
Tim Chevalier at Geek Feminism, writes, “Being a better ally to trans people“:
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]
Over at News Medical, “Bisexual men more likely to conceal their sexual orientation“, and although I do have some issues with this article, I think it’s better shared and considered than ignored because I have some minor quibbles with it.
Mikki Kendall at xojane writes, “On Behalf Of Willow Smith And Girls Like Her: Shut Up And Keep Your Concerns To Yourself“:
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.
Amanda Hess at Slate writes, “Lady Jerks of 2012: A Year in Review“:
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.
Sarah Gish at Ink writes about the “Sweet Dreams: Young widow holds tight to the big life her husband left behind“:
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.
John Plunkett at The Guardian writes, “BBC ‘should be bolder’ in depiction of lesbian, gay and bisexual people“:
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.”
Tansy Rayner Roberts writes at Tor.com, “Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy. Let’s Unpack That.“:
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.
Claire Hoskings writes, “Playthings“:
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.”
s.e smith at This Ain’t Living writes, “Yes, Genderqueer People Have A Stake In Gender Politics“:
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.
Asher Wolf writes, “Dear Hacker Community – We Need To Talk.“ *trigger warnings for misogyny & harassment*:
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.
After reading the post by Asher Wolf, I immediately came across a repost by Valerie Aurora at the Ada Initiative, “Re-post: Why conference harassment matters“:
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
Gregory Warner at npr writes, “Kenyan Women Create Their Own ‘Geek Culture’“:
“You know you’re the oddball just because of your gender,” Owigar says.
It turns out that in Kenya, exactly as in Silicon Valley, the problem with getting more women in tech is that there aren’t more women in tech.
“There are probably other women in tech who are alone, and they think they’re the weird ones, but if enough of us meet together, you know, it won’t be so weird anymore,” Owigar says.
Katherine Cross at Bitch Media writes, “Game Changer: Why Gaming Culture Allows Abuse… and How We Can Stop It“:
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.
Chandra at Painting the Grey Area writes, “Literacy Privilege: How I Learned to Check Mine Instead of Making Fun of People’s Grammar on the Internet“:
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.