Tag Archives: body image

My Little Linkspam: URLs are magic (22 January 2013)

  • Gender in Twitter: Styles, stances, and social networks: “By clustering Twitter feeds, we find a range of styles and interests that reflects the multifaceted interaction between gender and language.”
  • New X-Men Relaunch Will Feature an All Women Team, Albeit Still Drawn By Men: “A relaunch of X-Men is going to feature an all-lady series, including all of my favorite female characters: Jubilee, Kitty Pride, Storm, Rogue, Rachel Grey, and Psylocke. X-Men has a history of featuring strong females, and I have high hopes for how well this series will be written even though it is authored and drawn by two men, because really, this would have been the perfect opportunity for a female writer and artist.”
  • Sexism In Gaming: A Response To Gabrielle Toledano: “[W]hat Toledano fails to comprehend is that gaming, like everything else, is an ecosystem – and right now, at every single level of participation, women are feeling the effects of sexism.”
  • The Panasonic Toughpad Press Conference: “A man in charge of something important just made a SEX PISS JOKE at the Panasonic Press Conference and that’s all fine. I don’t understand. I don’t understand. Is that fine? Is this just what happens at tech events? I want to have a lie down.”
  • The Great Face-Paint Debate: “The anti-‘superficiality’ thread in geek culture promotes often veers into femmephobic territory. Spending $30 on a single t-shirt with a particular geek darling’s logo emblazoned on it is considered admirable, while spending $30 on an entire outfit that reads “fancy” or “overdressed” (i.e. coordinated and feminine) is unthinkable.”
  • Women take future of coding in own hands: “Howard acknowledges that there are plenty of coding classes out there, but in approaching a predominantly male profession, many women prefer to learn without the typical “bravado,” as she termed the hyper-competitive nature of coding groups or hackathons.”
  • Sigh.: “Can I not even escape getting punched in the face by the unattainable “idealized” female body in my nerdy writer space?”
  • The Feministing Five: Reshma Saujani: “Girls want to leverage the power of technology to help others, and I knew we had to teach more girls the skills they needed to do that. The girls we taught last summer all opted to build products to give back to their communities.”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Tag reading "NOT OK" lies on wet ground

On not being OK

This is a guest post. The author is an anonymous geek woman.

Trigger warning for body shame and eating disorders.

I am thirteen and at my first comic/sci-fi expo. I’d had no idea what to expect, and I’m stressed out. The place is packed, and everything seems to be anime and everything seems to cost money. It’s the height of Dragonball-Z‘s popularity in New Zealand and there are Gokus competing in Kah-me-ha-me-ha competitions in the hall. There are signings by people from Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, two more things I’m not into. There is the ubiquitous Xena stall. The Lord of The Rings won’t come out till later this year.

I look around and feel like the only girl in the room, not that you can actually tell. I am a weird, wide-eyed child still round with puppy fat, in blue dungarees, clutching my favourite “Hellblazer’ volume. I have Batman and Xena dolls in my backpack, but they’ve been played with and chewed on and generally treated like a toy, not a collectible.

Eventually I find a corner to sit in and watch people. I’m looking out for my friends, most of whom are busy talking Evangelion or Star Trek.

Then I spot them. I’m not the only girl in the room. There are a bevvy of them – And they’re all dressed up as Sailor Scouts. I recognise sailor scouts from five years ago when Sailor Moon played on TV after the Samurai Pizza Cats in the mornings before school. I liked the pizza cats better.

But these sailor scouts are older than me, they’re thin and pretty and everyone is paying attention to them. Cosplay’s not big here, and these five girls look perfect. They pose for photos and simper and smile.

Later, when I mention them to my friends (who are all boys) They make a big deal over how hot those girls were. I look at my thighs and decide to go on a diet.

Five years later and I’m at a roleplaying convention. This is more my pace – I know most everyone here, I’m even running a game for the first time ever. Before the first round a guy I know comes and sits next to me, pointing out a mutual friend who just got engaged. “There’s a reason to keep doing your sports and things,” he says, gesturing to our friend “I swear the only way she got a guy was by stealing his soul and keeping it in a jar.”

I am utterly stunned. Yes, our friend is fat. So is her fiancee. So is the guy talking to me. I mutter something. During the first game we all put junk food on the table, and I am in hell. I eat way more than everyone else (or maybe I just think I do) and sit, squirming, till the end of the three hour session. Then I make a break for it. Up to the floor being prepared for the LARP, so no one will be in the toilets. I make myself throw up over and over until I can’t get anything else out.

I’m a geek, and I’m bulimic.

I sit weekly among stacks of corn chips and M&Ms, pizza and Pepsi when I roleplay. My mind is NEVER totally on the game. Depending on my mood, a part of it is always there, calculating how much to eat, and how to purge.

I get this idea that we, as geeks, are expected to rise above the common herd that are influenced by advertising and self-hate. We’re so much cleverer than that, so much more accepting! We were the fat kids in high school!

But we’re not. After all, geek boys lusts after the thin ones, every geek girl is bombarded with pictures of thin Leia, thin Xena, thin Sailor Scouts. Comics portray thin people as good, fat people as bad. There’s a reason Desire is slim and Despair is fat. Women get the same role-models in geek culture as they do in the rest of the world, but that culture is determined not to address this, nor to address the problems it might cause us.

I’ve grown up through both geek and jock culture and they’re both the same. Dominated by men, a thin varnish over pervasive misogyny. The only difference is where the jocks know the girls have eating disorders, but don’t care; the geeks genuinely think that this part of the world cannot touch them.

So it’s okay to make fat jokes, cos everyone knows you don’t mean them, not when you’re fat and 2/3rds of the room is too. And it’s okay to mock girls who are “stupid” enough to want to starve or puke themselves pretty, because we all know that geeks are too smart to succumb to such base stuff as the desire for control and perfection.

The comments on people’s bodies that are flat out rude, excused by social awkwardness and “I was just saying”. I sit uncomfortably in these conversations. My disorder has only been remarked upon in ways that are scathing. The attempts at recovery which lead to “you’ve put on weight.” in a flat, ugly tone. The times when it has been so bad I stopped eating only resulted in comments like “God, you look skeletal.” “Go have a sandwich or something!”

I want to know if I’m the only geek who has an ED. I’m afraid the answer is yes.

Of course, there is another factor – EDs are women’s problems. Geek culture is not “girly” and rejects all notions of “girly”. Why bother with body image issues when that’s clearly a girl problem. By discussing them geek culture would have to highlight the way id currently uses women’s bodies – confront the paradox that to be welcomed as a woman you must be hot, but to be taken seriously you must be not-hot. And both parties must endeavour to become “one of the boys” (except when there’s an opportunity to objectify the hot ones) and not bring up irrelevant girl problems.

Even when those girl problems might be killing our friends.

No geek has ever looked at me, puffy and red-eyed, or bony thin, or exhausted from exercise and asked “are you okay?”

“Are you okay?”

No, I don’t expect people to be mind readers. But rather than make body-shaming comments at all, ask that question first. Are you okay? Genuinely want to know the answer. Ask it over text, google+, x-box live, or over a coffee.

So, I’ll ask it here – Geek Feminists, are you okay?

You know what, right now, and since age 13, I’m not okay.


Note on comments, from the moderators: because this subject matter is sensitive, you may wish to not use your regular pseudonym. However, please use something more unique than ‘anon’ or ‘anonymous’, so that multiple people aren’t read as the same person. Pick something that is new to this thread. You could use, eg, a single letter like ‘K’ or ‘Q’, or a non-specific phrase like ‘Another Geek Woman’.

Also, if you want to be not recognised, use an email address that does not have your regular gravatar associated with it. With gmail addresses and some other domains you can do something like myusualaddress+randomstring@gmail.com.

You are also welcome to comment under your usual name or pseudonym if you wish.


Update from the moderators:

  • please do not offer people unsolicited advice, particularly medical advice, in this thread
  • this means: if you want advice, please explicitly ask for it “what do people think I should do?” “what should I look for in a health professional?” “what advice do people have?”
  • requests for advice on how to acquire an eating disorder will not be published, nor will requests for advice on weight loss strategies

Some existing comments may violate this, but more will not be published.


This post was submitted via the Guest posts submission page, if you are interested in guest posting on Geek Feminism please contact us through that page.

T-shirts, YET AGAIN.

Are we really doing this again? I just tried to register (as a speaker) for an upcoming tech conference. One that prides itself on its woman-friendliness, no less: they have an anti-harassment policy, a track devoted to women in the field, and photos of women on the front page of their website.

The registration form asked me what sized t-shirt I’d like, and offered only straight-cut shirts: the kind that are often sold as “unisex” but, in fact, only fit people who have approximately the same chest, waist, and hip measurements — a group disproportionately made up of men.

So, with a sigh, I left the t-shirt field blank and submitted the form, only to receive an error message. I wasn’t allowed to register without taking an ill-fitting t-shirt that I didn’t want. I’m told this was a bug with the registration system, and has now been fixed so that you can opt out of the t-shirt altogether, but I’m saddened by the whole process and it’s making me reconsider whether I want to attend this conference at all.

Event t-shirts are something that stress me out EVERY SINGLE TIME. Endless indignities and insults. Every time I go somewhere, I have to go through a process that reminds me that I’m different and don’t fit in, because I have a female body.

It goes something like this:

What sized t-shirt do you want? Oh, no, we don’t have fitted/women’s sizes. These are unisex! They fit everyone! As long as you like wearing a tent that chafes and chokes you, and why wouldn’t you? THEY FIT EVERYONE.

We have girl’s sizes! They’re designed for actual pre-pubescent girls, but they’re nice and stretchy! They’ll show off your breasts REALLY WELL. Oh, and the logo we’ve printed across them will just serve to make the guys stare even harder. You won’t find that distracting at all when you’re trying to concentrate on the conference, will you?

Your breasts aren’t that big. Let me just look at them a bit and assess them. Hmmm. Mmmm. Yup, pretty sure you can wear a unisex tshirt. I, man, have spoken!

Are you sure? Please provide me with your measurements. Because that’s not creepy or undignified at all. While you’re at it, we’d like your mother’s maiden name and social security number.

Well, you can take a men’s shirt and wear it to sleep in! Because everyone wants to sleep in big ugly t-shirts, and needs dozens of them just for that purpose. Anyway, why would women want to wear a t-shirt AT THE CONFERENCE where they could actually, you know, be part of the in-group and feel like they belonged?

Staff must wear the shirt. You’re working the registration desk, staffing a booth on the expo floor, or giving a talk, and we want you to have our logo emblazoned across your chest. Obviously feeling comfortable and self-confident, being well groomed, and giving a good impression to others, are less important than that.

Group photo time! Let’s get everyone in their t-shirt! What do you mean you don’t have one, or don’t want to wear it? Why aren’t you participating? You obviously don’t want to be part of our community. Here, borrow one, and SMILE! Now everyone can mock you online for how ugly you look.

Oh look, it’s a newbie. She doesn’t even have a geeky t-shirt to fit in with the in crowd. She’s probably here with her boyfriend. (If she were wearing a shirt from that great conference five years ago, we might have at least thought twice before assuming that.)

I’m fucking sick of this. Don’t tell me you “worked hard” to get fitted t-shirts when you didn’t look at more than one supplier, or ask people who might know anything about it (for instance: other conferences that managed to supply fitted t-shirts, local women-in-tech groups, this very blog.) The Geek Feminism Wiki has a page full of t-shirt related tips and recommended suppliers for starters. THERE IS NO EXCUSE.

But pink is a linkspam’s colour (13th October, 2010)

  • Our regular commenter Jenni wants to share a new geek feminist group blog she’s writing for: Bad Reputation. From the first post: Our strapline is a feminist pop culture adventure. We’re named after a Joan Jett song for a reason – we want to be a good first route in for people just starting to become interested in gender issues, and we also want to reclaim some of the inspiring, rock “n’ roll energy that characterised the feminist movement in previous generations..
  • A prologomena to all future blathering about gender on the Internet: I am proposing a new maxim: those who wish to argue from personal anecdote that a certain character trait is dictated by evolution should endeavor to advance the argument beyond 1792.
  • K. A. Laity on Joanna Russ on Slash Fiction: Laity highlights some of Russ’s analysis of slash.
  • Oh goody: bodies presented in cinema will be even less attached to the real appearance of humans. Software to slim actors on-screen
  • Art in the roller derby medium: BUMP flesh bump data -> live art units: For Bloodbath, the packs also have a virtual life, from robust wireless sensors (wiimotes) installed on the heads of players, collision, speed and rotational information is sent to a server and from there, on to data driven artworks. The artists are making their artworks live on site, in real-time, and these are projected as the game is played out.
  • Pat has begun a series of posts on feminist readings of the Achewood comic.
  • Women helping women get into tech: Girl Develop IT, an educational effort [Sara Chipps] helped start, is introducing women of all ages to programming.

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism” to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

The t-shirt challenge

Yesterday on Twitter, I announced an offer:

For any tech conference I attend which provides t-shirts in my size, I will donate $100 to the event or to a related non-profit or charity.

The small print:

  • The t-shirts must be provided as standard and available to all attendees, not custom-made just for me.
  • My t-shirt size is 24″ measured from armpit to armpit, unstretched, in a women’s “fitted” cut. This is roughly the same diameter as a men’s XL.
  • If the event is a volunteer-run/non-profit/donation-accepting event I will donate the $100 to the event itself. Otherwise, I will donate to a closely-related non-profit or charity such as an open source software foundation, the EFF, or similar.
  • I will do this for the first 5 events that meet my criteria, or 2 years, whichever comes first.

A word on sizing. Women’s/fitted tshirts provided at events or for sale online usually max out somewhere around 40″ bust measurement, plus or minus a few inches. For instance, Thinkgeek’s largest women’s size, XXL, is 36″ in circumference, equivalent to a men’s S. American Apparel’s women’s 2XL tshirt supposedly fits around a 44″-46″ bust though AA run small. The actual size of their largest women’s tshirt, measured with a tape measure, is 42″, and falls between a men’s M and L.

Here’s a picture of an AA women’s 2XL laid out over a men’s L. As you can see, the largest women’s size is smaller than a men’s L:

American Apparel women's 2XL tshirt laid over a men's L.  The women's tshirt is slightly smaller in diameter than the men's.

Now, I recognise I’m a large woman. But I’m not that large. Without breasts, I would be a stocky little guy with a bit of a paunch, and take a size L tshirt. With breasts — and again, they’re large but they’re not that large — I’m off the scale.

Don’t tell me I can wear a straight-cut/unisex/men’s tshirt. I don’t want to. Yes, some women prefer straight-cut shirts or find that they fit well. I am not one of them. And my size/shape/t-shirt preference is not a rare one.

When I wear a straight-cut shirt, it pulls across my chest and hips, sags around my waist, bunches under my armpits, creeps up to choke me, and the sleeves hang down to my elbows. I feel awkward and uncomfortable and I spend a good part of your conference thinking about how I look and feel, rather than about the subject at hand. I really hope that’s not what you want me to remember about your event.

Which conference cares more about its attendees?  Webstock t-shirt fits well, JavaOne t-shirt is baggy and unattractive.
Photo credit: Kathy Sierra, under CC-BY-NC-SA, from her Creating Passionate Users blog.

So here’s what I want event organisers to do. Find a vendor that provides women’s/fitted t-shirts in sizes that go up to 24″ measured armpit to armpit. Yes, there are a number of them out there — but American Apparel is not one of them. Have those t-shirts at your conference for any attendees who want them. And I will donate $100 to your event or to a closely-related charity or non-profit.

Who else is with me? (Or, since cash donations aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, feel free to propose other incentives in comments.)

Call for guest posts: appearance/presentation issues

Some comments on both Kylie’s post and Terri’s latest post suggest that this blog should really is overdue to host discussions on geek women who are oppressed or trapped by or feeling policed about issues to do with: body image, femininity, gender presentation and similar, or who want to question and deconstruct them, or opt-out.

I know it’s a cop-out to say “we’d welcome guest posts”, but here’s why I feel it’s appropriate in this case: our bloggers who are most sensitive to these issues from personal experience aren’t able to be public about it in this venue at this time, or don’t feel that they can deal with the issue sensitively enough or analytically enough for a satisfying respectful discussion with others. So maybe I should say: we need guest posts to address these issues in a satisfying way, and we’re sorry that we can’t properly address it otherwise (at this time, at least).

If you would like to guest-post on this issue, leave a comment here or on the latest Open thread (you’re always welcome to offer a guest post on an Open thread). Otherwise if you’d like to share links, analysis and resources on these issues, or offer shorter comments, or angles that you’d like addressed on this blog by other writers, please comment.

Maths is hard, let’s go linkspamming (7th January, 2010)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.