Tag Archives: comics

Firefly unleashes her thunderbutt attack: Bidding farewell to Tao of Geek and looking for geeky women in web comics

My friend and fellow female geek Liz has just concluded her long-running comic, Tao of Geek. Congratulations Liz! In celebration, here’s one of my favourite strips:

Tao of Geek comic: June 9, 2005

Tao of Geek comic: June 9, 2005

But with Naomi and Chris (the lead women of ToG) retiring, I’m realizing the fairly small selection of web comics that I read regularly will be lacking in geek fare that passes the Bechdel Test. Girl Genius is a fair bet, and both Schlock Mercenary and XKCD have some interesting women but not as many conversations between ‘em.

I’m sure there are lots out there somewhere that pass Bechdel more clearly, so here’s where I’d love some recommendations: what web comics are you reading lately that are filled with awesome geeky women? For each link you post, tell me why it’s awesome from a geek feminist standpoint and point out a favourite geeky woman moment or two!

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.

G33k & G4M3R Girls: You’re doing it wrong.

Metaneira is a 30 year old female currently in school for a master’s in public administration focusing on the non-profit sector. Meta has been gaming since she could hold a joystick, and has been blogging in one form or another since 1999. She currently co-hosts a site about mages and feminist issues in World of Warcraft at www.empoweredfire.com.

This post originally appeared at Empowered Fire.

By now you may have seen the video “G33k & G4M3R Girls,” a parody of Katy Perry’s “California Girls” written by a few women involved with geek culture. (If you haven’t, you can see it here: while safe for work, the video features women very scantily clad and has an aggressively cloying auto-tuned soundtrack. Watch at your own risk.) The four women — Milynn Sarley, Clare Grant, Rileah Vanderbilt, and Michele Boyd — form “Team Unicorn” and were interviewed by the Official Star Wars Blog about the video. The author of the article says the ladies answer as one unit “cause that’s how they roll.” Fine: “Team Unicorn” it is. Team Unicorn: you’re doing it wrong.

Now, let me get a few things straight: I’m a geek. I’m a gamer. And I’m a woman. But none of those things are me: they are just parts of the whole. Having my entire personality boiled down to a list of nerdy references I get or things I enjoy doing is kind of absurd, but this is what the video promotes. From the very start, Seth Green asks, “Hello friends… don’t you want to meet a nice girl?” The video is not aimed at the women it is purporting to celebrate: it is straight-up pandering to the largely sexist, male-centric geek subculture. It is geek women served up for the male gaze on a shiny latex platter. This is not empowering.

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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?

Linkspam vs. The World

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.

Dear Penny Arcade: WTF?

[Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault in games and comedy and sexual slavery]

Wednesday’s Penny Arcade told this joke where a hero insisted on leaving a rape victim in his own personal hell. Why? Because there was no reward! Har har! Ho ho! See what they did there? They made someone continue to suffer because the hero wasn’t going to get paid for it! Cue the Benny Hill music already!

Not. Funny.

When the aims of the games we play award merit for actions such as murdering and raping, etc, it rewards us with positive reinforcement for the concepts of these actions.

When we’re consistantly in environments where the illusion of equating a certain deed with a certain kind of repercussion isn’t challenged, or indeed mocked; things get fuzzy.

When we’re consistantly in environments where doing the right thing such as helping survivors is the butt of a joke; things get scary.

Over a century ago Ivan Pavlov coined, documented and received a Nobel prize for the concept of Classical Conditioning. For those who are unfamiliar with Pavlov’s theory but unable to fully access the previous link (full of flash and javascript), the following exerpt from Wikipedia may be of assistance:

The typical paradigm for classical conditioning involves repeatedly pairing an unconditioned stimulus (which unfailingly evokes a reflexive response) with another previously neutral stimulus (which does not normally evoke the response). Following conditioning, the response occurs both to the unconditioned stimulus and to the other, unrelated stimulus (now referred to as the “conditioned stimulus”). The response to the conditioned stimulus is termed a conditioned response. The classic example is Pavlov and his dogs. Meat powder naturally will make a dog salivate when it is put into a dog’s mouth; salivating is a reflexive response to the meat powder. Meat powder is the unconditioned stimulus (US) and the salivation is the unconditioned response (UR). Then Pavlov rang a bell before presenting the meat powder. The first time Pavlov rang the bell, the neutral stimulus, the dogs did not salivate, but once he put the meat powder in their mouths they began to salivate. After numerous pairings of the bell, and then food the dogs learned that the bell was a signal that the food was about to come and began to salivate just when the bell was rang. Once this occurs the bell becomes the conditioned stimulus (CS) and the salivation to the bell is the conditioned response (CR).

When we play, we are under the spell of this form of associative learning. We press a button and it does stuff! We will either like or not like what it does. If we liked it, we’ll probably do it again. Because it was fun! Or alternatively we’ll not like it and shun it in the future. We get rewarded with praise or something that makes us feel good when we do something we’re supposed to; we’re rewarded with adreneline for solving challenges.

Laughter releases endorphins. When we share in a joke we’re rewarded with endorphins via the laughter mechanism, a concept used in negotiation in many parts of life; from Clown Doctors to get patient cooperation in treatment, mediation to clear tension and marketing departments world over to lower consumer defensiveness.

There doesn’t have to be intent behind this triggering of a reflexive dropping of boundaries. Mere sexist jokes have been documented to “favour the mental mechanisms which urge to violence and battering against women”, in other words, make people more accepting of such behaviour. The release of endorphins gets linked to the sexist ideal, and suddenly it seems a good idea.

I personally resent having someone attempting to trigger the release of endorphins in to my brain while I’m being exposed to the concept of abandoning a victim to continue being raped.

Also, it’s not like it wasn’t already hard enough to get it across to some people that expecting cookies for basic decency is wrong.

It’s ok though, they apologised.

Oh, wait.

[TW reminder] Imaginary person raped imaginarily? By a myth0logical creature?!

Zombie fuck, guys.

Linkspam feels left out (2nd 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.

The linkspam-whore dichotomy (17th May, 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.

Death by a thousand links (20th April, 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.

Linkspamming ’round the clock (9th 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.