Tag Archives: books

A word of advice to urban fantasy heroines: cowgirl up

Ivy is an international woman of mystery who would totally dispatch urban fantasy vampires if she weren’t so darned busy learning to be a superhero in a number of real world genres instead.

Several people have linked to a Daniel Abraham post about urban fantasy heroines and their narratives, in particular:

The typical UF heroine (as I’ve come to understand her) is a kick-ass woman with a variety of possible lovers. She’s been forced into power which she often doesn’t understand, and can face down any danger while at the same time captivating the romantic attention of the dangerous, edgy men around her. She’s been forced into power — either through accident of birth or by being transformed without her permission — and is therefore innocent of one of the central feminine cultural sins: ambition. She is in relationships primarily with men rather than in community with women.

This annoys me about many protagonists of the genre… they are somehow dropped into the plot without agency, and they often don’t seize agency either because that might make them competent bad. Rather, they are manipulated by scheming ancient vampires, just happen to have superpowers that make them *have* to sleep with half the known universe (but only the boys) or are continually torn between them, were born with a curse/a power/a prophecy, etc. Okay, that sucks.

But really — it’s not *that* hard. Come on, urban fantasy heroines. I realize that I don’t have a cursed sword living in my mind, nor am I the prophesied hero of Chicago/Shannara, nor have I had to fend off zombies with a shotgun and an attitude. Nevertheless, I assure you that it’s completely doable to have a few dangerous, edgy men as your partners without them killing each other, and that you don’t have to give up community with women (or partnerships with women, or meaningful friendships with women) to do it. Admittedly, you may have to dump a few whiny master vampires along the way. But I’d still rather that than listen to emo-undead-is-never-happy-with-anything for the rest of my life. Also, ambition? Kind of fun! Looking forward to your future adventures where the woman who chooses her lovers and still wants to be queen *isn’t* the villain.

No power in the ‘verse can stop this linkspam

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.

Geekspiration of the fictional kind

Here’s an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our readers (questions still being taken):

Reading Rudy Simone’s Aspergirls prompted me to crystallise this question: where are the female role models for young geek women?

I’m thinking of characters who have genius-level IQs, coupled with a lack of social skills and, for whatever reason, an absence of Significant Other. There are plenty of characters like this: Sherlock Holmes, Rodney McKay, Greg House, Spock … but where are the women?

Where are the isolated geniuses who are married to their work? Where are the women whose ‘problem personalities’ are forgiven because of their talents / gifts / abilities / focus? Where are the women who are single and don’t give a damn because they have better things to do?

I’m probably missing some obvious examples: I’m not a big media consumer. Remind me, enlighten me! TV, movies, comics, novels all welcome.

A few possibilities, from a fellow consumer of not very much media:

  • Dr Susan Calvin, in various short stories by Isaac Asimov. She’s the leading research roboticist on fictional near-future Earth, and a key employee of US Robots.

    Unfortunately Calvin is one of those fictional characters who is a little better than her writer: Asimov lumps her with some unfortunate embarrassing romantic and maternal feelings occasionally, and the song and dance other characters make about their immense forbearance in forgiving her ‘problem personality’ gets a bit wearing. But nevertheless she’s a key fictional influence on the development of robotics, and the main character in any number of the stories.

    The character Dr Susan Calvin that appears in the 2004 film I, Robot is young, movie-pretty, sarcastic and really resembles Asimov’s character very little, but I quite like her also and still think she’s a fictional geek role model if you accept that she’s very loosely based on the Asimov character: she’s abrupt, literal-minded, a high ranking research scientist and, something I really liked, she’s not shown as having any sexual or romantic interest in the lead character at all. (Shame she isn’t the lead character.)

  • Dr Temperance ‘Bones’ Brennan in the Bones television series; if, crucially, you can ignore or don’t mind (or like!) the multi-season plot arc about her mutual attraction with Seeley Booth.

    Bones is a forensic anthropologist prone to social mistakes or at least idiosyncrasies, but key to criminal investigations due to her unparalleled anthropological skills. The writers apparently think of her as having Aspergers, but haven’t said it in the script because you can’t have Aspergers on Fox, or something like that.

    I’m actually not an enormous fan of this show for reasons that are irrelevant to this entry, so I’ll point you to Karen Healey’s guide, since she is an enormous fan and that’s only fair if you want to try it and see.

Who would you recommend?

One scoop of linkspam flavour, please (27th June, 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.

Hairy-legged bra-burning linkspam (17th June, 2010)

  • Open World Forum 2010 (Sep 30 to Oct 1, Paris) is having a Diversity Summit: Why women matter? relating to women in Free/Open Source Software. There’s an associated poll to gather data about women in FLOSS that anyone involved in FLOSS might be interested in taking.
  • Andrea Phillips is super-excited about Caitlin Burns and Jurassic Park Slope events.
  • Making games is hard: On the barriers that women face: … as someone whose life has been consumed by learning the ins and outs of game development for the past three years, I have to say that making a game is pretty damn hard. And I think that the complicated process of game development itself can be a barrier to women entering the field
  • Discussing sexism in geek communities is more important than discussing gender imbalance: Restructure! writes Ironically, when some female geeks use the capitalist discourse of increasing female representation in STEM fields as a structural strategy for reducing sexism and improving our personal autonomy / right to pursue our career of choice, many male geeks misunderstand these efforts as being anti-choice.
  • In light of Restructure!’s post, see Eric Ries, Why diversity matters (the meritocracy business): That’s why I care a lot about diversity: not for its own sake, but because it is a source of strength for teams that have it, and a symptom of dysfunction for those that don’t.
  • Women and Technology and Myth: Adriana Gardella interviews Cindy Padnos, a venture capitalist. The article is a little bit on the "suck it up, buttercup" end of the spectrum, but has good points about critical mass and homophily.
  • Jessa Crispin has given up reading bad books about women: I had to give up on a pretty good book because halfway through I did a little equation: what was the probability that the two women in the book would turn out to be anything other than gold diggers and sluts. Not great! So: gone.
  • Isis the Scientist has more on John Tierney, bonus humorous pictures!
  • What I got wrong about women in science: Maggie Koerth-Baker writes Several hours after I hit “publish”, I realized that I’d managed to put together a panel on diversity made up of nothing but white people.
  • Her blogging about social justice doesn’t make Renee your on-tap free expert on womanism, anti-racism or social justice.

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.

Girly geeky lit

Here’s a bit of a 101 thread with a difference, it’s 101 for women writers, not 101 for feminism.

Over at Tiger Beatdown C.L. Minou talks about her transition in reading (which coincided with her transition in gender presentation), from reading books by and about men to reading books by and about women. Here’s an excerpt, although you should definitely read the whole thing:

Back in my youth I indulged in the most stereotypical of male literature, science fiction, reading it pretty much exclusively for about a decade. It wasn’t all wasted—I got my first bits of sex ed reading New Wave sci-fi—but I don’t need to tell anyone that a lot of what I was reading was so backwards on the matter of gender as to be fucking retrograde. I liked the Big Three a lot: Asimov, Clarke, and god help me, Heinlein—a man who not only thought “all women are the same height—lying down†was a good pickup line, he actually wrote a story where it worked as a pickup line… And women authors? Hah. Even when I was reading science fiction exclusively, I didn’t like LeGuin, the most openly feminist sci-fi author. I think I read one book by Cherryh. Octavia Butler? Never heard of her. Seriously. I’d never heard of Octavia Butler until she DIED. And the authors of my Great Books tour could pretty much all use the same restroom…

Now for our 101. A lot of the fannish geeks here are all over great stuff by women, I imagine, but some (ahem, me) aren’t so much. So here’s a thread for those of you who are on top of your recommendations: women fiction authors, especially ones that you think of as somehow geeky (by genre, or style, or… geek vibe). Some things to start with:

  • General description of fiction that this woman writes (genre, style, language if not English)
  • Recommended starting point for her work.

What you recommend doesn’t have to be professionally published original fiction. Just stuff you love and want to share.

Ask a Geek Feminist: the definitive “women in CS/STEM” resource thread

Both rounds of “Ask a Geek Feminist” so far have contained some variant of “why are there so few women in computer science or software development, should we fix this, and how should we fix it?” I didn’t post it last time, but I suspect that it will keep coming up, and it would be good to have a link for this.

This is your thread for pointing out research articles, books and other literature on this issue and I’ll link to it from future ask a geek feminist rounds and from the wiki’s Resources page. Note, this is not a thread for your personal theories unless you have unusual expertise in the area (having read most of the stuff other people are suggesting would be a good start), it’s a thread to gather in one place a reasonable list of the accessible literature.

Related stuff on women in engineering, women in science (particularly sciences where they are a smallish minority), women in mathematics also welcome.

Update: There are comments in moderation recommending blog articles and pieces of journalism. I’m really looking for serious research here, such as books, journal articles and reports from studies, either academic or by industry groups. Nothing wrong with a good blog entry (ahem!) but the point here is that there’s plenty of research to turn to before you fire up the ol’ blogging engine.

Bechdelicious geek entertainment of 2009

Inspired by a post of lauredhel’s asking for recent movies that pass the Bechdel test, I wondered if anyone has some recommendations for good recent geeky entertainment that also passes, ideally comprehensively rather than barely. Share your recommendations in comments. Fanfic and vids and similar welcome!

Quick refresher: passing the Bechdel test requires that:

  1. the movie [media/story/game/narrative…] has at least two women characters;
  2. who talk to each other;
  3. about something other than a man.

If you’d like to recommend something not-women-hostile that passes a variant instead (two people of colour who talk about something other than a white person, for example) go ahead.

That’s Ms Linkspammer to you (4th December, 2009)

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

Geek Feminism scholarships

Valerie Aurora liked Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever’s book Women Don’t Ask so much that for a number of years she ran the Valerie Aurora Women in Computing Book Scholarship, buying or contributing towards women’s purchases of the book.

I wondered if other people would be interested in doing the same. If there’s a book or work on feminism, diversity or geek variants thereof that you think readers of this blog would really benefit from, consider founding your own scholarship and let me know in comments here. Depending on response, I’ll put up a second post with a list of scholarships, and perhaps re-run this every six months or so.

Leave a comment here to offer a scholarship. Things I need to know:

  1. The name of your scholarship.
  2. What books (media, texts) your scholarship is for, and why people should read (view etc) it.
  3. What your contribution will be: will it be a copy you’ll ship to them (any limits on where?), a gift voucher from a retailer for its value or some portion of its value?
  4. Is your offer for particular applicants? For example, is it for women? (A few notes here: I would strongly encourage you to rely on self-identification on this, and also if you’re thinking about gender restrictions, consider non-binary gender identifications.)
  5. Any firm expiry or limitations (for example, expires end of 2009, limited to 10 copies…). You can of course withdraw your scholarship at any time.
  6. How people should contact you in order to take up a scholarship. You do need to provide some way of being directly contacted: I will put up a post listing the different scholarships and linking to their webpages or providing other contact details for them, but I won’t handle correspondence for you. Setting up a webpage would be be best, that way you can update it when your offer expires.