19 April 2010

Quick hits, only vaguely related

Both of these seemed relevant to some of the things I've been talking about here lately.

First, Ophelia Benson talks about a recent NPR piece about the proponderance of men-folk as experts or analysts in the media (a poorly-planned NPR piece, by the way, since it's all, "Let's talk about how important it is to include women's voices!" without including actual, you know, WOMEN in the conversation). Clay Shirky is kind of an obnoxious asshole sometimes, but he also sometimes gets it. The quote Ophelia pulls is particularly smart:
BROOKE GLADSTONE: In your view, what is the impact of having so many more male voices as experts and sources than women?
CLAY SHIRKY: I think one of the big impacts is that the male voice is what expertise comes to sound like. And so, even from someone who doesn’t go in with a formally sexist bias about whether men are more expert than women in general, you may just unconsciously flip through to those parts of the rolodex.
Someone somewhere has to say, we have to change the fact of the representation before we change people’s mental model of what expertise sounds like because if we just wait, we will always lag the cultural change rather than leading it.
I wonder if there are many studies about this sort of thing. Do people tend to believe facts stated by men more than women? I imagine so, particularly since it seems to be the experience of most women that men just don't listen to women, completely discount their experiences, and need multiple women to say a thing before they'll even consider its validity. (A great example: this response to Zuska's compulsory smiling post.)

Second, MY HERO, Sady Doyle, and her musings with Amanda Hess about rock music and ladies. I'm not a big rock person, but this bit stuck in my heart:
SADY: Oh, man! And, yes: I think we even did a Ye Olde Sexist Beatdowne, about this, in Oldyn Tymes! My experience of lady-nerds is that they tend to be huge and fairly hardcore feminists. And I was like, “that’s funny, I never thought of feminism as a particularly nerdy thing,” but then I realized (a) I was on the Internet, and (b) male nerd subculture tends to be like INTENSE in its misogyny! Lady-nerds seriously grab on to feminism like it is a buoy and they are drowning, because it is! And they sort of are! And women in music sometimes do the same thing, see: Riot Grrrl, duh. Formed in reaction to dudes with floppy Kurt Cobain haircuts, at least one of whom was ACTUALLY KURT COBAIN. (Though he was a huge feminist, God bless.)

AMANDA: Yeah. It’s not that I don’t appreciate and understand men who are alternative in appearance or interest or values or whatever needing a space that’s outside the mainstream that’s their own.

SADY: Maybe they could all become Male Studies Majors?

AMANDA: BUT. I wonder if some of the disconnect here is in these guys thinking that their asymmetrical haircut or interest in Magic: The Gathering is like the most intensely othering experience that a human can have? And are unaware that there are some other people around who may have that experience of being othered no matter which subculture they attempt to access.
THIS. Feminism has been for me, as a person who only entered geek subcultures as an adult, a lifeline. A buoy that reminds me that I AM NOT A CRAZY PERSON. Well, I am a bit of a crazy person, but not because I feel unmoored in most geek spaces. Anyway, Sady and Amanda, I love you.