11 July 2010

Linkspam for the ages: Geek edition

I have a ton of things for you to read! So I'm dividing them into topic-centered posts. Ignore the ones you don't care about, or all of them! It is your decision.

So, this week in geekdom! It was exciting! And infuriating!

While writing my open letter to ForeverGeek about the politics of objectifying women, I completely forgot about this obnoxious post that I bookmarked from them, in which one of their male writers gushes over a youtube video called "I Kissed a Nerd" (in the style of Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl"). What genius commentary does he offer about it?
What do you think? The singer isn’t quite as hot as Katy Perry, but she’s definitely catering to a whole new crowd who I’m sure would be more than willing to have her.
GROSS. Seriously, seriously gross. THIS is why women think geeks are disgusting, assholes. Because you think the only important thing about them is that they're hot enough for you to fuck, and because you openly talk about them like they're not people. This video is full of references to geek things, meaning this singer is probably a geek herself. Instead of celebrating the fact that geek men might be able to connect with this talented young lady because of their shared interests, ForeverGeek instead remarks, OMG HOT GIRL WILL HAVE SEX WITH ME. Ugh. Fuck you, ForeverGeek.

This was also a week of multiple ruminations at Geek Feminism on geek feminism and geek masculinity, my favorite topics! On geek masculinity, Restructure! argues that when male geeks reclaim masculinity, they do so at the expense of their fellow female geeks:
Most male geeks believe that they are subverting traditional masculinity by reclaiming and self-identifying with the term “geek”. For most male geeks, geek identity is defined partly as a rejection of the “jock” identity. According to the traditional high school male social hierarchy, jocks are high-status males and male geeks are low-status males; jocks are alpha males and male geeks are beta males; jocks are masculine and male geeks are “effeminate”. Thus, when a man proudly self-identifies as a “geek” in response, what he is doing is redefining what it is to be a man, redefining geek identity as masculine.

Typical male geeks argue that to be a geek is to be masculine by interpreting the scientific, mathematical, and technological achievements of overwhelmingly male persons as definitive proof that science, math, and technology are inherently male and define maleness. Such male geeks typically argue that there are innate differences between male and female brains that make success in science, math, and technology exclusive to men. Thus, arguments and studies that suggest otherwise are perceived as a direct attack on the masculinity and male identity of male geeks. According this male geek worldview, if women are equally capable in science, math, and technology, then male geeks lose their claim on masculinity and become low-status, beta, and “effeminate” males once again, because there would be nothing left to separate male geeks from women. Thus, male geeks—much more than non-geek men—tend to be emotionally and socially invested in maintaining the idea women’s brains are hardwired against understanding science, math, and technology to the same extent as men. [emphasis in original]
In this endeavor, male geeks who try to reclaim masculinity are, in part, trying to shore up their male privilege. Masculinity carries with it a certain amount of power and privilege, and that can only be accessed by male geeks if women aren't allowed to have it. In this equation, instead of physical power and sexual prowess (the hypermasculinity characteristic of the "jock"), male geeks try to claim intelligence as a masculine trait (insert all the jokes you've ever heard about jocks growing up to pump gas and nerds growing up to rule the world). But male geeks can only access male privilege by arguing that intelligence is a masculine trait. Instead of overturning the hierarchy that causes male geeks to suffer growing up (for not being hypermasculine), this strategy buttresses that power structure, and fucks women over big time. The solution, fellow geeks, is not to try and reclaim masculine power. It's to smash the system altogether.

Later, Mary at Geek Feminism ruminates on the reasons why one would practice geek feminism as opposed to mainstream feminism. As someone who does both, and who didn't grow up a geek, I found some of the reasons rather fascinating. For example:
Geeks believe themselves highly rational and independent of social influence.

Perhaps the FLOSSPOLS D16 report put this best (it was a report into gender in FLOSS, hence that specific terminology):
F/LOSS participants, as in most scientific cultures, view technology as an autonomous field, separate from people. This means that anything they interpret as ‘social’ is easily dismissed as ‘artificial’ social conditioning. Because this ‘conditioning’ is considered more or less arbitrary, in their view it is supposed to be easily cast aside by individuals choosing to ignore it… As a result participants largely do not believe that gender has anything to do with their own individual actions.
So it’s common for geeks, although hardly unique to them, to analyse sexism in terms of “I’m too smart for that” or “I was victimised [as a geek], and am therefore intimately acquainted with how bad it is and now incapable of perpetrating or benefiting from oppression of others.” But it’s part of the systemic geek feminist experience, to believe ourselves and others or at least other geeks as rational actors. Geeks then divide into believing themselves not sexist, or as rational sexists (“studies show that…” or “but it’s to my reproductive advantage to indiscriminately sexually approach women, the end.”).

This applies to geek women’s view of the world too, and means that many geek women come to feminism with some distrust of any analysis that gives social conditioning real power, and that if and when we do decide that it has it, we have to talk to a lot of people who don’t believe it.
Geek ciswomen may have struggled with aspects of their womanhood in light of their geekhood.

I’m making this point about cis experiences because all of the self-reporting I know of on this subject is by ciswomen, and I don’t want to imply that cis people’s experence of, essentially, being annoyed with their gender identity can be equated with the experiences or oppression of trans or genderqueer people. Trans and genderqueer people, if you’d like to discuss whether identifying as a geek influenced your relationship with your gender identity in comments, please do, or if you’d like a new thread opened up, I’ll get on it. (Special note to cismen: I realise that geek cismen have also often been victimised as less masculine and conforming men, but this thread isn’t about your experiences. See Restructure!’s recent post for why.)

Geek ciswomen often have a slightly complicated relationship with what it means to be a woman. It’s not an uncommon experience for us to have felt more comfortable socially with geek men than with non-geek women, and to have largely been friends with geek men at times. This is particularly true for many geek ciswomen when we are teenagers. It’s fairly common for geek ciswomen to remember a period of being actively misogynist, along the lines of: “I can see why men find women so bad, 99% of women are indeed trivial and annoying” or “I get treated in a sexist way, and it’s the fault of other women, for inviting sexist behaviour.” Ellen Spertus talked about this in an interview (note, I can’t tell how she is using the term “male-identified” for sure, but it seems to mean something like “sympathised with men and their complaints about women” rather than “was a man”):
… I was pretty male-identified and was somewhat misogynistic. Specifically, I thought that technical fields required more intelligence and effort than non-technical fields and that women’s underrepresentation meant that they were stupid and/or lazy. I no longer feel this way.
Geek ciswomen may also have been taught misogyny, along these lines: these are my people, my clever geek friends who welcome me! If they hate women, there’s must be a reason for it, something the women did!

It’s also common for geek women to have bought into geek hierarchies: we’ve talked about that several times on this blog in fact (Girl stuff in Free Software, Metagaming: Casual vs Hardcore, Women and geek prestige) and avoided things they thought were for women and therefore easy, boring, or at least likely full of female modes of socialising which geek ciswomen feel victimised by.

So geek ciswomen may come to feminism late and reluctantly. It’s an identity that very clearly sets a geek feminist apart from most geeks, and sometimes one’s current or former dear friends.
This is the big one for me, though, as someone who has not identified as a geek for as long as I've identified as a feminist:
Geek feminists are invested in geekdom

This is important. Geek feminists see ourselves (I think) as either wanting to improve existing geekdoms by acknowledging how oppression is perpetrated inside geekdom and trying to teaspoon it out, or to build new improved ones, or both. Geek communities and geek interests simply don’t appear “that important” to many people, feminists included. (See also Moff’s Law.) It is important by definition to geek feminists.

Of course the Internet and social justice activism are big places, and not everyone has to be active on the subject of geek feminism. But we are.
Seriously, though, just go read them all.

Next, did you hear about this Blizzard debacle? Probably! Because you are reading the geek edition! If not, here's the skinny: Blizzard, of World of Warcraft, thinks internet harassment is solved by forcing its users to post their real names on its forum. Genius, right? Here's the forum announcement:
Recently, we introduced our new Real ID feature – http://www.battle.net/realid/ , a new way to stay connected with your friends on the new Battle.net. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about our plans for Real ID on our official forums, discuss the design philosophy behind the changes we’re making, and give you a first look at some of the new features we’re adding to the forums to help improve the quality of conversations and make the forums an even more enjoyable place for players to visit.

The first and most significant change is that in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it… the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before.
(If you want to read some blog posts on this issue, Just a Girl Lost in Azeroth has a great link list on the subject.) Then, after three days of being told they are douchey assholes, Blizzard partially retreated:
I'd like to take some time to speak with all of you regarding our desire to make the Blizzard forums a better place for players to discuss our games. We've been constantly monitoring the feedback you've given us, as well as internally discussing your concerns about the use of real names on our forums. As a result of those discussions, we've decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.

It's important to note that we still remain committed to improving our forums. Our efforts are driven 100% by the desire to find ways to make our community areas more welcoming for players and encourage more constructive conversations about our games. We will still move forward with new forum features such as the ability to rate posts up or down, post highlighting based on rating, improved search functionality, and more. However, when we launch the new StarCraft II forums that include these new features, you will be posting by your StarCraft II Battle.net character name + character code, not your real name. The upgraded World of Warcraft forums with these new features will launch close to the release of Cataclysm, and also will not require your real name.

I want to make sure it's clear that our plans for the forums are completely separate from our plans for the optional in-game Real ID system now live with World of Warcraft and launching soon with StarCraft II. We believe that the powerful communications functionality enabled by Real ID, such as cross-game and cross-realm chat, make Battle.net a great place for players to stay connected to real-life friends and family while playing Blizzard games. And of course, you'll still be able to keep your relationships at the anonymous, character level if you so choose when you communicate with other players in game. Over time, we will continue to evolve Real ID on Battle.net to add new and exciting functionality within our games for players who decide to use the feature.

In closing, I want to point out that our connection with our community has always been and will always be extremely important to us. We strongly believe that Every Voice Matters, ( http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/company/about/mission.html ) and we feel fortunate to have a community that cares so passionately about our games. We will always appreciate the feedback and support of our players, which has been a key to Blizzard's success from the beginning.
Let's hope Blizzard never again sways to the idea that internet harassment is going to go away if they just make real names freely available. Fingers crossed.

Next, Wonder Woman! She recently underwent a costume change and back story reboot, which could have been good, but actually wasn't. From Jezebel:
This is modernity? Where are her red boots? What about modernization requires her trademark "W" emblem to fade into the background? How is covering her once rippling, now wimpy, muscles a nod to evolved images of womanhood?

I know what you're thinking: Shouldn't feminists be happy that Wonder Woman now looks more like a young woman freshly off a college campus, at once ready to go fight some bad guys in an alley or in a pay discrimination lawsuit? Haven't we been fighting for women role models with more clothing as well as more substance? She couldn't really fight evil in a bustier-is this not a feminist win?

No, not by a long shot. In fact, it feels like the sad loss of America's first truly feminist comic book heroine.
Ross at Laist points out that Wonder Woman's rebranding comes from a bunch of middle-aged white dudes:
Maybe I'm drunker than is normal for a weekday, and as a Babylon 5 fan this hurts me to say, but fuck you Straczynski. Just... fuck you. But before you saunter off to the bedroom to give yourself a well deserved fisting, why not stop to consider something: Would you ever refer to Batman's utility belt as "it can be accessorized... it's a Bruce Wayne look for the 21st century."? Yeah, I thought not. But great job shrinking it and pinking it, idiot. Meanwhile, and I know this is going to sound crazy, but I'm pretty sure there's a ton of women creating comics right now who might, and I'm just speculating here, have a hell of a lot more to add to a Greco-Roman myth-inspired Female Character with serious Feminist overtones than a couple of middle aged dudes. Right?  

Last, but certainly not least, Doctor Who! So, Moffat isn't as queer-friendly as Davies. (Shocker!) On that subject, stirring_still writes up a comparison of heterosexual vs. queer moments in the 5th season. Meanwhile, svollga points out the fail in the comments of that discussion:
#It is a family show. Queers aren't allowed in a family show because they are enemies of family. Also, naughty queers.

# It's for children, not for teenagers as RTD's era was. Again, children should never see queers. They can get queer cooties. Right through the screen.

# Moffat isn't gay so he doesn't think about gay agenda when writing his stories. Minority stories are for the minorities to tell (to each other, probably) while privileged people enjoy their privilege to forget about the existence of said minorities.

# The story isn't about relationships, romance and/or love. So we can have blatantly heterosexual people all around flirting/in love/married/having families (not to mention heterosexual couple as the main characters and a wedding as a major plot point), and the story isn't about romance, but having any kind of queer representation makes it about romance.

# I watch for the story, not for romace/sexual situations. And queers can't be action characters, they are all about queer sexuality.

# Most foregrounded relationships in the series are between parents and children. And queers can't be parents. Never.

# Heterosexual relashionship aren't really in your face. But they are in background all the time, and did I mention heterosexual couple as main characters and a wedding?

# It is close to the ratio of straight/queer in real life. No, it's not, even if we take only quantity not quality (i.e. one short remark vs wedding storyline).

# I assume that River is bisexual/Eleven is asexual/character N is queer, so add it to your list. Can we please stop talking about subtext while discussing text? Subtext is in the eyes of the beholder. Those who want see it, those who don't - don't. Text is a slogan, a speech, a statement of existence. Queers were in the closet of subtext for too long. Thank you, but no.

# And my personal peeve: I'm bisexual, and I don't care whether there are queer storilines or not, because I make no difference between genders/don't look specifically for queer references. So you are okay with dating any gender but seeing only straight couples on screen? Well, I'm bi, and I'm not okay with it. Because I'm tired of feeling that one half of my sexual identity is forbidden while the other is supported by society, and that I have to choose sides. I want not to care about the gender of people kissing on my screen, but because nobody cares, not because I'm blind to the unequality and queer invisibility.

Grrr *shakes fist*

Grr, indeed.


amasama said...

I`m definitely going to have to stop reading the commentary about ForeverGeek because it never fails to piss me off >:C

I know the whole debacle is mostly over (for now) but the livejournal community wow_ladies also had a series of fantastic posts detailing reactions to the Activision-Blizzard forum decision, including one very moving post asking ladies to write letters specifically directed to Blizz employees.

Mega linkspam and reactions post:
Our voices post:
Celebration post:

Courtney said...

I know! The worst part is that I *like* ForeverGeek most of the time. They usually post cool stuff, like Tetris furniture and Pac Man jewelry. But once every one or two weeks, just when I've sort of gotten over the last douchey post, someone posts something infuriating. It's maddening.

Thanks for the WoW links!

Gemma said...

I finally got round to reading all of these links after actually having a life for once (except by 'having a life' I really mean 'going out once and then making up for it by playing video games a lot').

Augh. So. Much. Rage. That music video and accompanying reaction made me want to be sick in my mouth a little bit.

Anyway, thanks, I really liked the others!

konkonsn said...

They made an...attempt, we shall say, at addressing one of these articles (Geek feminism as opposed to mainstream feminism) which basically followed: "Look at me, actually caring about women stuff without really thinking about anything the article said." It's so half-hearted that I wouldn't even give the writer points for trying because ze clearly didn't.

Courtney said...

I know! I saw it, and it was pathetic. I'm going to blog about it today or tomorrow.