29 July 2010

Verbal abuse and "toughening up"

(Trigger warning for descriptions of verbal and physical abuse and douchiness about those things.)

s. e. smith's wonderful "Dear Imprudence" series at FWD/Forward is one of my favorite things in my (ridiculously extensive) blog reading habit. Part of it is just that I find hiring incompetent and uncompassionate advice columnists fucking reprehensible. For example, the "Love Connection" column in the Maroon Weekly is a train wreck. (My inside information tells me that this author doesn't work for MW anymore. Let's hope they don't scrape the bottom of the barrel and finally get someone better.) And smith is great about calling all the shitty, shitty advice columnists out. Which is hugely important, I think, because no matter how bad the advice author is (see: Maroon Weekly), people will continue to write in to them. So we need to hold these authors to a high standard, because their bad advice will continue to affect people's lives.

Anyway, one of smith's posts really resonated with me recently: Dear Imprudence: Just Toughen Up Already! In it, smith criticizes the Ask Amy column for refusing to take verbal abuse seriously. The letter to Ask Amy is from a lady in high school who wants advice on how to deal with her verbally abusive brother. Amy's response is to tell this lady that what she is experiencing is not abuse, and basically that she shouldn't let it bother her. From smith:
Let’s be clear here. Hurt Sister is saying that what her brother is doing is actively hurting her. She cites that it’s a blow to her self esteem, and it makes her feel bad. She’s writing to ask for help. It’s worth noting that all over the world, every single day, people experiencing verbal abuse cry out for help, and they often get responses exactly like Amy’s.


You know what is verbal abuse? Something that someone identifies as abuse because that person is experiencing it. There are definitely degrees of verbal abuse, but they are all abusive. This is a short letter. We don’t know all the details. But it seems to me, reading between the lines, that her brother is constantly hounding her, is constantly making her feel small and worthless, is constantly saying that he is better than her, is constantly reminding her that she is ‘not doing things right’ and, you know what? That can become highly abusive when you are hearing it over and over.

Especially if you are aware of how it is impacting the way you feel about yourself. Hurt Sister is not writing in to say ‘this is annoying and it bugs me,’ she is writing to say this hurts me and I want it to stop.

Amy’s response is the equivalent of the old ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ adage, with a side of ‘you shouldn’t let the things that other people say about you affect you.’ Well, guess what. Words hurt people. The things that people say about (and to) you affect you, whether you like it or not. It’s not always possible to make a ‘healthy choice’ to ignore verbal abuse, especially when you are a high school student, in your own home, a place that should be safe, and your family member is subjecting you to it.
THIS. This all over the place. Had I read this Ask Amy column without smith's commentary, it would have been triggering. Growing up, I experienced verbal abuse from my father. It took a long time for me to take it seriously, because I actually got the least of it in my family, because it never slipped into physical violence like it did for my other family members, and because when I talked about it, my friends pretty much gave me the same advice Amy gave this young lady. smith again:
There’s a prevailing and extremely dangerous attitude that verbal abuse isn’t ‘real’ abuse, despite ample evidence to the contrary. That attitude manifests in the way that people at all levels deal with abuse, from teachers handling bullying to human resource directors in offices with hostile work environments. If an abuser uses words alone to harm people, that abuser is far more likely to get away with it, and the responsibility for dealing with it will be placed solely on the victim. It’s the victim’s fault for being ‘too sensitive’ and not ‘toughening up.’
So, personal story time. This is not actually something I talk about much, because I've gotten the "you're being too sensitive" reaction a number of times. While most friends I've told about my abusive home growing up did not come right out and say "toughen up," most of them did act like I was overreacting to what they saw as normal parent/teenager conflict. It's taken me a number of years to get comfortable calling it abuse because of this. When I was a teenager, my father was abusive. Verbally to all our family members (my mother and my brother). That became more physical with my brother as he got older. I have reason to believe that his abuse of my mother was well beyond verbal, but we haven't really ever talked about it. We had a code of silence when I was growing up, which I think is fairly common in abusive homes. While we all hated Dad, there was an understanding that it was not okay to talk about it outside of the family. And even within the family, it had to be framed a certain way. Calling it abuse was not okay, because that word indicated a seriousness that would force us to tell someone else. If Dad shoved my brother, it was a "fight." If he yelled at us until he was red in the face for mostly imagined crimes, or told us that we were to blame for him and Mom constantly fighting (and, eventually, for their divorce), or when he basically told us we were (and made me feel) worthless, he was an asshole. But it was still not abuse. And my mother, because she was getting the worst of it, and didn't really want us to know (but of course we knew some, and suspected more), didn't talk about it at all. So breaking that code of silence after their separation when I was 16 was a huge breakthrough for me. But when I talked to my friends about it, I was silenced again. (I was the only member of our family that didn't go to therapy at this time, because we were broke and Mom and my brother clearly needed it more.) According to my friends, what I experienced wasn't "real abuse," and my talking about it downplayed the real abuse suffered by my mother and brother. I was just being too sensitive and exaggerating what really happened because I didn't like my father. For years, I thought those friends were right.

It's still rare for me to talk about this with friends, despite the fact that I'm a fairly well-adjusted adult now. But even as an adult, it's still rare for my friends to take me seriously. The other day, I was telling Adrienne about how my father would remove my and Justin's bedroom doors for days at a time when we were pre-teens and teenagers as punishment, usually for not ratting each other out. She was horrified, and sadly, I was actually surprised by her reaction, despite the fact that it's mine as well. But the taking-off-the-doors punishment usually elicits nothing more than, "Wow, your dad was an asshole." Well, yes. But he was also horrific and abusive. And sometimes I need to hear that from my friends. (Thanks, Adrienne, for being awesome!)

I still have certain family members that think I'm overreacting, or that don't understand exactly why I won't speak to him. It's hard to talk about with them, so they don't know everything. In fact, they know very little, and most of what they do know actually comes from him. They're his family, and he's supposedly turned a corner, so there's been a lot of reconciliation on their end with him. Which means they think a number of things, namely that his chief crimes to his children were being sort of absent and cheating on my mother.  He's manipulative, and their distrust of me, when they are good people and when they know me to be a perfectly reasonable and very smart lady, is plenty of evidence for me that he hasn't changed a bit. Whatever he's told them, it's probably mostly bullshit, and it sure hasn't been admission of abuse. I wish that I could tell them all this, but I can't. They're too sympathetic to him, and I can't talk to people about this when they've been trying to get me to reconcile with him for years now. But, honestly, I think they should at least suspect. As I noted, I'm clever and driven and reasonable, not a whiny child. They know this, and they also know I haven't said more than pleasantries to him in over 3 years. That should indicate that this is not just a temper tantrum, but a defense mechanism, one I only need because something really fucking bad happened.

But I'm also afraid to tell them, because they might react the way that so many have: by telling me that it's not "real abuse," by thinking I'm overreacting, by thinking that I'm too sensitive. And, frankly, I can't handle being told all that again.

(Fun story: I was forced to invite my father to my undergrad graduation because of a guilt trip from this side of the family. Before this, when discussing it with them, I burst into tears and couldn't talk about it anymore. A side effect of this whole damn mess is that when older men make me feel threatened or patronized, I verbally shut down and can't stop crying. Can't do it. The male family member then said, "I'm kind of glad you're crying. It means you still care about him." I've never wanted to punch someone so much as I did at that moment.)

My father scarred me with words. He's made it nearly impossible for me to control myself when male authority figures patronize me (that was not the first or last time I've cried uncontrollably in front of older men, and the other times were much more embarassing, since they were university-related). He's made my relationships with the rest of my family strained and difficult. And he made me feel useless and unworthy of love for years.  And the advice of Ask Amy, the advice of most adults when something like this happens, enabled him to scar me.

24 July 2010

Counter protest at Comic Con; or, God hates Jedi

So, the Westboro Church is protesting Comic Con this year, for "worshipping false idols." You can't make this shit up; apparently God hates geeks. So, geeks, being awesome, held a hilarious counter-protest. From Comics Alliance:
Unbeknownst to the dastardly fanatics of the Westboro Baptist Church, the good folks of San Diego's Comic-Con were prepared for their arrival with their own special brand of superhuman counter protesting chanting "WHAT DO WE WANT" "GAY SEX" "WHEN DO WE WANT IT" "NOW!" while brandishing ironic (and some sincere) signs. Simply stated: The eclectic assembly of nerdom's finest stood and delivered.

Which is the best thing ever. More pictures below the jump.

23 July 2010

Quote of the day

-My friend Kaitlyn, who hadn't seen a single episode of Doctor Who a few months ago, after deciding to go to a coffee shop to research Doctor Who cosplay stuff for the Gally convention

ForeverGeek does it again!

Okay, so, ForeverGeek. I've written about them before. I'm not sure why I keep talking about them, except that maybe they seem representative. Like your dudely geek friend who doesn't have a problem with geek ladies, but doesn't understand why it's a problem that he only celebrates them by suggesting that his girlfriend buy Star Wars lingerie. And insists that his actions have no political consequences, like, all the time. The geek dude who, though not an ally, seems fairly harmless, and doesn't seem to warrant the label "anti-feminist," even though that's pretty much what he is. The harmless vibe of ForeverGeek is really what gets to me, I think, so when their single lady-blogger wrote some nonsense about geek feminism, I about cried.

ForeverGeek has five bloggers, only one which is a woman (Dora on that link, but she posts as Noemi). Now, there was an influx of meta things being written about geek feminism the week my interview went up at The Sexist. The one that Noemi read was the great "Geek feminism as opposed to mainstream feminism" over at Geek Feminism Blog (highly recommend it, that blog). And apparently it fell to Noemi, as token lady of ForeverGeek, to blog about it. I'm sure the men there couldn't be bothered.

Anyway, Noemi's post was full of fail, and made me actually cringe:
The blogger, Mary, wrote down some experiences that geek feminists encounter. Here is one thing that stopped me in my tracks and got me thinking: Geek feminists live in a male-dominated world.

I suppose this can be true of “mainstream feminists” as well. However, if you limit the definition of geek to IT-related fields, then the chances are that there are more males in the work place. What made me think more were some specific experiences mentioned:

Hearing how some men talk disparaging about women (especially about women as sexual and romantic partners) when they’re in a space where they feel like they have enough allies.

I suppose that there will always be guy talk – just like there is girl talk (I told you I don’t think I am a feminist). Still, I totally get irritated when guys talk this way. Then again, they can be real idiots sometimes, so who ends up having the last laugh? You tell me!
How has this adult geek woman never considered, when she writes for a blog where she is a token lady, that she is in a male-dominated culture? Seriously. And that last bit, that last bit, friends. In what fucking universe is it inevitable that disparaging talk about women (especially as sexual and romantic partners) becomes "guy talk"? Oh wait, none of them. Because "guy talk" is just talk among guys, which means they could be talking about fucking anything. And I seriously doubt that Noemi thinks "girl talk" is disparaging talk about men as sexual and romantic partners. Probably she's thinking shoes, or something.

So, I guess we better pack up our feminist bags, readers, because Noemi has discovered that, misogyny: totes inevitable! But it's stupid, right, so we get to laugh and feel superior to men, even though they make more money and have more institutional power. Oh well!

Then Noemi decides that because she's had positive work experiences, that's all that's really worth her time in this post:
Being used to being thought of as a woman first, and everything else a distant second.

I think I was lucky enough to have worked in my previous company as women are considered smarter and more responsible than their male counterparts. I understand this is may not be the norm, and there are places wherein geek females may be seen as women first, professional credentials notwithstanding. Does anyone have a similar experience?
May not be the norm? As the sole comment on this post points out, Noemi is brushing aside literally countless stories by women in IT fields (easily found on the internet) with her ignorance here:
Your response, though, sheds your ignorance on the matter: “I understand this is may not be the norm…” May not? There’s no question how women are treated in the variety of professional nerd fields. Read anything, really anything!, where a woman talks about her experience in the video game industry, in music, in science or math related fields, etc. There’s more than enough evidence that it’s just not happening.
This whole post feels like an attempt to not actually engage with why geek feminists are geek feminists. Noemi, instead of talking about the fact that women in geek communitites and jobs are facing the sort of sexism most men abandoned a couple decades ago for something more subtle, just states her (fortunately) positive experience at work as evidence of...what? Why she's not feminist herself? Why geek feminism isn't applicable to her? Neither is really okay here. Not all feminists face My Fault, I'm Female levels of sexism every day (although certainly some do). That doesn't make feminism not applicable to their lives. Just because I'm a privileged, abled, cis woman doesn't mean feminism wouldn't make my life better, although that shouldn't be and isn't the only reason I'm feminist. Just because my partner's a white, abled, cis man doesn't mean it wouldn't make his life better, although that shouldn't be and isn't the only reason he's feminist. And just because you personally are not facing oppression (or aren't facing enough for you to recognize it as such) doesn't mean you just decide feminism isn't worth the effort and leave it to the oppressed people to worry about. When you do that, you're complicit. You're part of a system of oppression. Which may sound like too-weighty a claim for a nerd blog, but I'm tired of the harmless-vibe we allow these sorts of spaces, which send the message to countless geek women that they are only welcomed in the community as long as they embrace objectification and don't get too feministy. Fuck that.

22 July 2010

Shameless promotion of Ryan's new blog

Hey all! If you enjoyed Ryan's first guest post, or are interested in anarcha-feminism, Ryan started a new blog on that very subject! A teaser:
Since governments have a monopoly on violence, throwing rocks would be like setting up a lemonade stand to try to put Capital One out of business. Education, aid, nurturing, blogging, all those unseemly, non-manly things will change the world more surely than additional violence. Someone may force us into a corner one day, but at this point, violence is our enemy just as much as those that would use it to own us.
And from his second post:
So many places paint anarchy as the first step to being a fugitive. And these aren't place that hate anarchists. They are websites like Crimethinc., where "the fight" comes dangerously close to being institutionalized, where the literature reads more like rules than guidelines, where being an anarchist means something rigidly spiritual. They are still accepting and nurturing of nonviolent thinkers, but violence is still very much an accepted part of the family.

For this reason, I was disillusioned. I didn't want to hurl bombs, break windows (much), or start riots. I also didn't want to just throw everything down and set off like some sort of pilgrim. I just wanted to learn, to educate, and create in a crazy, spontaneous way that speaks to me.
I'm very excited about this new project of his, so I hope you'll get over there and read his stuff!

19 July 2010

Moving, life, and blah.

Adrienne and I have both been busy bees lately. She moved into her new apartment (yay!) last week, and it was like a four-day ordeal. But it is over now, so we'll get back to the blogging this week.

Thanks everyone for their blog/forum suggestions, and I'll keep you updated about that project. I think you guys will all like it!

16 July 2010

Geek forums and gender

So, I need a favor, dear readers! I have this project in my sociolinguistics class, and I've decided to study gender and geek spaces on the internet. What I need from you are suggestions for forums, because I avoid them at all costs and thus am not familiar with them. These are the categories in which I'm interested:

General science fiction
Joss Whedon
Star Trek
Star Wars
Doctor Who
Comic books/graphic novels
Gaming forums (WoW, etc.)

Please refrain from forums that focus on foreign geek things (like anime), because it would require some extra analysis that I don't have time for in this project.

So, what I'm looking for are large, mainstream forums or blogs that are still active, even if their object of fandom (say, Buffy, for example) is not. They need to be Euro-American centered.

Also of interest would be any non-mainstream blogs or forums that focus on gender in these communities. Are there clever, smart analyses of gender and feminism from the perspective of these communities that you can point me to? Are there smaller lady-centered, -run, -moderated, -friendly forums out there?

I'd appreciate any suggestions and direction here. Thanks folks!

NOTE: There are a couple of commenters who seem apologetic about offering me forums and blogs that aren't feminist or lady-friendly. That's okay! I'm studying the mainstream culture of geek communities, which I already know is usually not either of those things. I'm not looking for forums to participate in, just study.

UPDATE: I think I'm shifting my focus a bit now. I've got a number of mainstream dude-dominated geek blogs under my belt, but I'm really interested in how lady-centered geek blogs figure themselves in geek culture. So if you have suggestions similar to WoW Ladies, sites that specifically identify themselves as lady-centered or -authored, that would be fabulous! Thanks!

11 July 2010

Linkspam for the ages: Miscellaneous feminism edition

Last linkspam!

First, a wonderful post from Fugitivus about what happens when you become a feminist and realize all your friends and acquaintances are sort of assholes. How does one deal with douchey friends, coworkers, etc. as a feminist?
For example, at my last job, my boss was sexist. He was sexist in a very chauvinistic sort of way – the kind of guy who makes the word “lady” sound like a blessed infirmity – and that was generally tolerable. It was tolerable because he didn’t make rape apologies, he didn’t actively bar women in the office from certain activities, and he didn’t bring it up every day. It was also tolerable because I was in a workplace that brooked little to no dissension, and I was at the target age for Doom Unemployment during a recession. I adjusted my expectations. I did not expect a workplace free of sexism. I did not expect to not be patted on the head, or treated as dumb sometimes. I did not expect fairness or an AfterSchool Special Moment. I did not expect that I had the strength or courage or conviction to make myself unemployed during a recession. I did not expect these things, and I stopped being a seething, boiling volcano of disappointment and rage every day. I found my current circumstances tolerable. Now I am in a new job. The culture here is very different. I can complain without retaliation. So I find myself saying things, to my higher-ups, like “I don’t think that’s fair; somebody could apply the same standard to you,” when one of them starts talking about what one celebrity wife or another deserves from her plainly abusive husband. I find keeping my mouth shut intolerable, because I expect to be given the freedom to open it. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to change my expectations to be able to tolerate some degree of abusiveness in my day-to-day life. But we don’t live in that perfect world – that’s why feminism exists as a concept, and why I identify as one – so in the meantime, I change my expectations when I need to survive.
A commenter pointed out that part of this post really resonates with my open letter to ForeverGeek:
This, to me, is comparable to people making personal decisions by “not choosing sides.” What is perceived to be a third option is, in effect, only one of the two options; it’s just masked in a way that feels ethically, morally, or vindictively better. If I have told you that one of your friends raped me, and you tell me you are not taking sides, you have taken a side. Your decision was to support me or not support me. There was no third option. “Not taking sides” is “I don’t support you,” dressed up like morality and the higher ground.
The moral of the post: look out for yourself. It's long, but worth it, though, so read it!

Next, AP Style Book fails big time.

This explains why most of the mainstream media still uses the term "illegal immigrant." I find the term offensive and disrespectful, as do most immigration activists. People are not illegal, actions are. The advocate community uses the term "undocumented immigrant" which the Stylebook clearly disagrees with.
The worst is that AP clearly thinks it's being sensitive by ruling out "an illegal." Ugh.

Then, Amanda Hess at The Sexist talks about the (sigh) case of Olivia Mann in the context of expecting women to be the gatekeepers of sex and sexism.
Sure, we want high-profile women to be allies to other women—and it stings extra hard when sexism is perpetuated through their public personas, instead of exclusively by dudes. But behind one Olivia Munn is a producer instructing Munn to “take it off reeeeeeally slow,” and a network president “standing on a speaker in the back, leaning over to get pictures,” and a team of photographers vying to catch an unauthorized glimpse of Munn’s nipple, and a male co-host who insists that he “violate [her] from behind” despite her protestations, and a whole audience full of fanboys screaming at Munn to put her mouth on something. Behind her is an entire industry making sure this happens.


Another expectation making girls’ lives hard? The equally sexist demand that women take full responsibility for these sexist expectations by always refusing to fulfill them. By faulting Munn for “flaunting it”—instead of taking a look at the demand side of the Hot Girl equation—we’re not only accusing Munn of being a bad feminist, but also a poor gatekeeper of sexism. An entertainment industry that’s built on arousing men by wearing women down until they acquiesce? That, we take for granted. Women, who have little power in this structure, are nevertheless expected to keep the industry’s libido under control—just as they’re expected to hold off sex, keep a sufficient amount of clothes on so as not to tempt men, and never “put themselves in situations” where sexual assailants may strike.
Finally, Ampersand at Alas, A Blog! talks about the sexiness of consent and its relevance to sex education:
Okay, now let’s imagine that Alas University offers two sex-ed classes for first-year students. Class “A” teaches how to have sex based on Cathy’s principle — checking for consent during sex kills the moment. Class “B” teaches based on Clarisse’s principle — checking for consent helps keep sex hot. Randomly assign 50% of students to class “A,” and 50% to class “B.” Check back in a year and survey the students and their sexual partners.

I’d bet a lot of money that the folks in class “B” — and their partners — wind up having hotter, better sex lives.

There’s a myth that communicating about sex ruins sex; and that by emphasizing consent, feminists are in effect opposed to hot sex. I don’t think either myth is true.
I love the example she gives in the post. Sexy sexy.

[TRIGGER WARNING: The comments include some content that may be triggering for survivors of rape or assault. Please proceed with caution.]

Linkspam for the ages: The politics and ownership of bodies edition

My favorite from this week, Jessica Valenti writes about how people treat pregnant bodies like they're public:
•Stop touching my stomach without my permission. It’s presumptuous and it creeps me out. You wouldn’t touch a non-pregnant person’s belly without asking, so what makes you think it’s okay to just lay hands on mine? I know you probably mean well and are excited about the baby and all, but please just ask first. (Especially because there’s no socially acceptable way for me to tell you to stop without sounding like a killjoy.)

•Please don’t comment on how small or big I’m carrying for how far along I am. It’s weird enough having your body change in such dramatic ways without having strangers tell you that you’re not normal. (I’m talking to you, bra-store lady! Your skeptical frown after I told you I was 6 months and comment that I’m way too small was not helpful nor welcome. I’m nervous enough about shit as it is.)
Sing it, sister!

In the It's About Damn Time Category, South African runner Caster Semenya has finally been cleared to compete again after the debacle in which she was subject to a battery of gender tests. From Feministing:
I'm glad Caster will be allowed to compete once again, but this ruling by no means clears up the underlying issues at hand with gender based sports.

I've argued before that the gender binary is not as black and white as our society would make it seem. This point, in my opinion, is further elucidated when someone tries to "prove" gender. There are wide variations that exist, which poke holes at our attempts to simplify everyone into an either or category.
Lastly, Amanda at Pandagon discusses the archives of Larry Rivers, an artist who died in 2002. After his death, Rivers's work was acquired by NYU, but his daughter is asking the archive to turn over some pieces to be destroyed, because they depict the sexual abuse of her and her sister. From Tracy Clark-Flory via Pandagon:
Rivers [...] filmed his daughters, starting at the age of 11, every six months for five years, asking them “about their breasts and whether boys have started noticing them.” There are “close-up shots of one daughter’s genitals and detailed commentary by Mr. Rivers on the girls’ changing bodies.” In some scenes, his wife, Clarice Rivers, “appears with her daughters, displaying her own breasts and talking about them.” The clips were edited into a 45-minute-long film. He titled it “Growing.”
And instead of just handing the damn thing over, everyone is discussing whether the pieces are or are not Art. Which is fucking stupid, because child abuse is child abuse. From Pandagon:
NYU is wanting to hang on to these films in order to release them after the subjects pass away. That’s not enough.  Rivers abused his children, and NYU shouldn’t cooperate in the abuse, even in the name of art.  They should let Tamburlini destroy the videos if she wants.  After all, she was part of the making of them; they belong to her as much as they do her dead father.
Have a good week!

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.

09 July 2010

An open letter to ForeverGeek

(Warning: NSFW pictures below the jump. Possibly triggering, because it's naked ladies with their identites removed.)

Dear ForeverGeek,

I'm concerned that you don't know what the word "political" means. First, I pointed out to you on Twitter that it was weird that this post didn't include any of the (many) explicitly American-, Christian-, or capitalist-centric images of violence from this artist. You told me that "we aren't too political at ForeverGeek." And "Not always do you have to look for a reason behind everything." Whatever. I let it go.

Later, I use your blog as an example of the objectification of female fans (and women in general) in geek communities, and you insist! Again! Nothing political at ForeverGeek! Hilariously, you use this opportunity to invite me to blog there:
Courtney, why don’t you join the geek subculture at ForeverGeek and be part of the team. Then you will notice how little agenda there is and that everyone just posts about their favourite geek discoveries, AKA what they find cool at that time.

Any geek topic one is passionate about or finds just utterly cool is welcome, also writing about being a woman who tries to participate and does not want to be considered as an object. And yes, you can even write with an attitude trying to play with the audience.
(Aw! Folks, did you know that feminism is just "an attitude" designed to "play with the audience?" Because I'm never serious about sexism. I'm just riling you up.)

05 July 2010

Call for papers regarding race and ethnicity and fandom

Received this from a commenter and colleague at A&M, and thought my readers may be interested in submitting something! (Let me know if the PDF viewer isn't working.)


04 July 2010

Patriotism generally has a chip on its shoulder.

Patriotism, red hot, is compatible with the existence of a neglect of national interests, a dishonesty, a cold indifference to the suffering of millions. Patriotism is largely pride; and very largely combativeness. Patriotism generally has a chip on its shoulder.
-Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915)

I have a very complicated relationship with the Fourth of July (independence day here in the U.S.), because I think patriotism is usually just an excuse to be a bully and a horse's ass. Patriotism is an excuse to act unjustly in the name of one's country. And that we celebrate this holiday as the beginning of liberty and freedom in this country is an insult to every former slave in the United States. And every former or current undocumented immigrant.

But, as Ryan pointed out, for most people, this holiday is about family, friends, and food. And that is something I can get behind. So have a great Fourth of July, U.S. readers! I hope it's filled with the important things.

01 July 2010

Recommended reading for July 1st

A social history of Diet Coke, the drink of choice for many ladies.

FWD/Forward talks about Buffy in the beginning of season 2 as a treatment of depression:
This stings close to home for people who deal with real life depression, over loss in their lives, or any of the other reasons that mental illness comes crashing down or tries to suffocate us. Often, the people around us give up trying to support us, and withdraw, leaving us to lash out or sometimes give up.

Perhaps Joss didn’t fail as much as I first said.

Perhaps, in Buffy, he has attempted to personify the utter helplessness and angst that people in a deep depression sometimes feel. Perhaps, he has done a perfect job of showing what it feels like to not be able to yell out exactly what is going on inside, how it feels to have suffered what you have suffered because no one really can truly empathize, no one can truly feel your pain


If only defeating your demons was as simple as smashing a set of bones with a giant mallet.
The Angry Black Woman writes about the problematic race issues of the new The Last Airbender movie, and why you should skip it and see the movie instead:
And this is about them, those producers, casting directors and everybody who took a fucking property and ripped out the guts of what made it successful, what made it true, what made it unique, what made it so special to so many minorities; because they once again decided that only ablebodied, misogynist, het, cissexist white males deserve to see their culture being reflected and respected and validated in entertainment. The rest of us, women, racial and disabled and lgbtaqi minorities? We don’t matter. We are adjuncts to the great white male, and our stories? Don’t get to be told. And if by some rare chance our stories do get to be told? Able-bodied, het, cissexist White people (for the most part) are going to buy them, make movies out of them, and replace us with themselves, just to make it goddamn clear that only they matter in this universe and there will be very very few things that minorities of any type will get to have and hold and enjoy.
Yes Means Yes! combats the idea that bodily response is the same as consent:
Following that logic, anyone who can turn us on can do whatever they want to us. No feminist would make that claim about cis women, of course. No feminist would listen to the story of a cis woman who has been raped or molested and whose body has responded with arousal and say, “you were not raped because your body wanted it.” (Would the commenter argue for a different rule for trans women with cocks? I’m not assuming any measure of reasonableness or good faith with that asshole.)

We all know that people are not their bodies, right? Isn’t that an important general rule? Disabled people are not the limitations of their bodies and trans people are not the histories of their bodies or the anatomy of their bodies, right? Women who have uteruses and can reproduce are not their uteruses or their capacities to reproduce, right? Isn’t it always true that we are not our bodies? And when we die, we are gone, but our bodies will remain.
Shakesville blogs about human rights violations at the G20 protests. Trigger warning: the post includes descriptions of verbal abuse, threats of rape, and physical abuse against women.

Thus Spake Zuska reminds us that things are not that much better for women in academia as they were when she was an undergrad and grad student.

And some happy for the day, from Hark! A Vagrant:

Feminism and Anarchy

My name is Ryan, and I'm guest blogging for Courtney. I'm an anarchist with a keen interest in women activists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, I'm talking about a few connections between feminism and anarchy.
Following the Russian Revolution, Lenin and Stalin marginalized and eliminated the amazing women and anarchists that had made their liberation possible. If those figures - Vera Figner, Vera Zasulich, Maria Spiridonova, Katerina Breshkovskaya, Sofia Perovskaya, and all the other Narodniki women - had won out over the Bolsheviks in the eleventh hour, the world would have seen its first truly collectivist anarchy. If the CNT and Mujeres Libres had persisted en forma through the 1930s, Spain could have gone the same way. ML, the amazing 30,000 woman strong group that splintered from the anarchist CNT, sought to build its new world using methods it hoped would reflect the image of their desired society: a gentle, nonviolent community that was as accepting and empowering of women as it was of the poor. In both cases, these were women disillusioned with certain aspects of the revolutionary fight, if not with the entire fight itself.

They understood that a revolution that seeks to truly disseminate power, yet still treats women as anything but equal human beings, is doomed. If it seeks to liberate the poor, it is because it understands what power structures create poverty. If it seeks to liberate the religiously oppressed, it is because it understands the lies and promises that are built on the idea of Eternity. If it seeks to liberate women, it is because it understands the fundamental nature of force and conquest. The latter is, for anarchist men, the hardest to understand and the most difficult to grasp.

To understand that, we must see anarchy as the world does. The general view of anarchy is black bloc, riots, smashed windows, and fantastic terrorism. The media eats up sensation, so these images are the only ones broadcast. This is how the world gets a violent and masculine view of revolution. It's how anarchists get a violent and forceful view of themselves. It's all guns and bombs because that's what's entertaining. What's less entertaining is the women cooking for the squatters, cleaning and scrubbing pots and pans and ski masks, and the same molotov-hurling machisimos sitting at a bar hours later trying to pick up some ladies with their tales of smashing up a Wells Fargo. It's much less entertaining to envision anarchy as a simple blog post or something as banal as not having to ask someone every time you want to go to the bathroom. It's not forceful or heroic to say that we're all anarchists - like saying that we're all winners. But if you are reading this without asking permission, out of your own curiosity and interest, without coercion or the promise of a dollar, you are engaging in anarchy. Your time spent reading this is not productive. Nor should it be. That would defeat the point. We aren't producing here. This isn't a factory. This is where we gently destroy. If anarchy and feminism mix to create the sublime anarcha-feminist, I would imagine her as a woman that picks apart the building until it crumbles, piece-by-piece, methodically, pleasurably, and voluntarily.

The difference between the anarcha-feminist and the manarchist would be that, once she has all these friends and this pile of resources, she doesn't build a throne, doesn't usurp the state and make her own, doesn't become Queen, doesn't take with the promise of giving and then simply proceed on another road of taking.

At this point, there would be contention amongst certain figures. Voltairine de Cleyre, the quintessential American anarchist, was a strong proponent of property. Though a feminist, freedom for her meant the freedom to have. Emma Goldman, who is famous for her statement, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution," counterpointed de Cleyre aptly: "The only demand that property recognizes is its own gluttonous appetite for greater wealth because wealth means power; the power to subdue, to crush, to exploit, the power to enslave, to outrage, to degrade." That is where anarchy and feminism not only buddy up, but show themselves to be logically inseparable. Power makes property out of its object, and, in our society, women are still claimed every day without irony. As much as the poor are demonized and brushed aside, women are just as keenly judged, sought out, or pushed aside as either necessary, desirable, or neither. The laborer seeks out an equal contract with an employer with just as much disillusionment as a woman that seeks out an equal understanding with a potential partner. Regardless of each entity's mien, once behind closed doors, gentle social manipulation turns into emotional and physical coercion. Companies and employers are no more gentle with their workers than are men and women that have "won their prize" and then seek to use it for their lifelong benefit without equal consideration.

In short, we are all to be made willing tools of those that would use us as their property. Both anarchist and feminists walk hand-in-hand against that particular outrage. It is outrageous to think that any person in this day and age can be owned, but, in this society, hundreds of millions of us are. Or we are brushed aside because we refuse to be.

Thanks for reading.

Have I hugged a Christian today?

This post is written by guest writer Adrienne. She is currently attending Texas A&M in the Ph.D. English program.

I Hugged a Man in His Underwear. And I am Proud.

Are people reading this story? And if so, did they read it (like I did) because a friend posted it or brought it up while talking about how wonderful and truly powerful it is? And am I the only one that is still really upset and horrified by the message implicit in these events?

I like leading questions, don't you?

I get why people like this. I understand that the message people like in this story is that Christianity should love everyone and be inclusive and not judge. And that Christians can apologize and be humble and take responsibility. I can see how people would want to be drawn in and believe in this. The message at the parade was probably more powerful and less upsetting than this article. Or I'm willing to give the original message the benefit of the doubt.

But what I can't ignore when I read the article is that it is saying "I'll hug you even though you're sinful." Nathan writes, "Sadly, most Christians want to run from such a sight rather than engage it" and further "I think Jesus would have hugged him too. It’s exactly what I read throughout scripture: Jesus hanging out with people that religious people would flee from. Correlation between then and now? I think so." Unless we're taking this completely out of context (and even probably then), wasn't the reason that Jesus hung with those people was to help those most in need? Yes, he treated them well and maybe would have even if he wasn't trying to help or save them. But it was always connected to the message of helping or saving. This still sits firmly in the "Love the homosexual and hate homosexuality" area for me. This doesn't support gay rights, and supporting individual gays isn't enough. Yes, everyone should treat everyone else as a human being. It is important to know that the man dancing in his underwear is named Tristan. But unlike the article, we shouldn't know this in spite of the fact that the man is dancing in his underwear. Just stop at the "this is a man." Or he's awesome and great because he's dancing in his underwear. And stop being so proud that you hugged the controversial and icky. Nathan takes great pains to remind us that the man he hugged (that he wants to focus on) was in his UNDERWEAR. Nathan hugged a gay man that was being "flagrantly gay!" Like Jesus washed a leper, this author hugged sweaty abs, nudity, and a penis that was only barely covered. Gay is clearly already gross to the author and the reader. But they love gross anyway. I can't really love you unless I love who you are. I don't support you until I support who you are. To really support glbtia people then support glbtia rights and activism.

And even though he mentions the word a number of time- I don't see any real engagement with what reconciliation is going on here. Seems to me like if reconciliation is necessary then full acceptance isn't possible. Even from a loving Christianity mentality, Christianity is about hierarchy, behavior, and judgment.

I do not see this as a step in the right direction. It's a step "forward" that is still on the completely wrong path. I'm glad he apologized, openly and publicly. I'm really not glad he wrote this article about it.