Tag Archives: male gaze

On being geeky, disabled, and also kinda smokin’

This is a guest post by Cecily Kane. a writer, business professional, and sci-fi and fantasy geek. She blogs at Manic Pixie Dream Worlds , where she reviews books, talks speculative fiction, and rants regarding intersectional feminism, sometimes even coherently.

I am a geek, and a writer, and was born with a mild disability — thumb hypoplasia, type II/III.

Effectively, on my right hand, I have five fingers and no thumb. I possess a digit that looks quite thumb-like but has no thenar muscles, no flexor tendons, and an undeveloped joint — in short, it is devoid of all of the manual characteristics that make our species more highly evolved than other mammals.

There are many jokes in my household about my primate status. I make most of them.

I am also right-handed. This makes life awkward at times.

I began to disclose my disability regularly about a year ago, with the new knowledge that birth defects which limit one’s physical functions are, in fact, disabilities. Medical professionals are always curious; this defect only occurs in about 1 out of every 100,000 live births, so meeting me is often their only opportunity to see it. This curiosity does not bother me. I compare myself and my gimpy hand to Nemo and his flappy fin.

When I disclose this disability to men who are not in the medical profession, however, I almost invariably get the exact same response:

“Well, you don’t look disabled. You’re very pretty.”

Given that most of the men in my social circles are other writers, you would think the existence of a writer who is physically unable to write longhand would merit a mention, that there is something more to discuss here than my aesthetic qualities.

You would even think, perhaps, that there’s a smidge of a heroine’s story in there, a narrative of someone who overcomes a serious roadblock in order to pursue her dreams and do what she loves, a protagonist who has a dragon to slay daily.

You would think that authors would pick up on this.

They don’t.

I realize there is some confusion about the difference between a disfiguring disability and one like mine, one that limits my body’s functionality but is invisible unless one knows to look for it. Not that disfiguring disabilities make someone unattractive; I grew up with a beauty pageant queen who was born with half a left arm and half a hand. But it’s easy to see how these well-intentioned dudes who say this exact same thing are trying to reassure me that I’m, you know, bangable or whatever.

For me, it’s brain-jarring. Level of physical ability and level of physical attractiveness are not in the same registers. A dude thinking I am good-looking — well, that’s nice to hear, especially on a day I’m feeling bloated, or when the humidity levels make my hair do strange and awkward things.

But it’s not a consolation for an inability to hold a coffee cup without discomfort, perform common household repairs, use sharp tools safely, write longhand…

And given that this aspect of my life typically arises during discussions of  writing  with other writers , this response — “You don’t look disabled. You’re pretty” — clearly manifests the male gaze, and derails the nature of the conversation:

I transform from subject, writer , to object, she whom  the writer finds pretty .

And it’s not like this agency-removing comment comes from the mouths of unapologetically sexist douchecannons that I’d be better off not knowing. It comes from colleagues, friends, a boss I had once who added “intelligent” to the mix, since I’d just found him a rather substantial tax credit for hiring the disabled. Several of them are even male feminists and allies. However, I’m pretty sure it’d take an entire Women’s Studies 101 class to give any of these dudes the beginning of a clue about why “You’re pretty” is a head-spinning non sequitur and not, despite its good intentions, an appropriate response to a disability disclosure.

And so my response to these guys is, likewise, always the same. I smile and say:

“Thank you.”

Happy New Linkspam! (30 December 2013)

  • Indian Ad Turns the Male Gaze Back on Itself and it’s Awesome | Bustle (19 Dec 2013): “Prominent Asian film school Whistling Woods International released a YouTube video on Monday, exactly one year after the horrific rape case in Delhi that became international news and drew global attention to violence against women in India, that turns the tables on men who ogle women in public. The film shows four scenarios where women are subjected to the ever-pervasive male gaze while going about their daily lives, whether talking with friends or just riding the bus. But then a reflective surface, be it sunglasses or a necklace, turns these gazes back on the men themselves.”
  • When “Life Hacking” Is Really White Privilege | jendziura, Medium (19 Dec, 2013): “James Altucher recently posted a short piece on Quora entitled, How to Break All the Rules and Get Everything You Want. He has written an article about “getting everything you want.” He has actually written an article about white privilege. (And probably class privilege, and male privilege, and maybe some others.) There are many people in this country for whom it is exceedingly dangerous to assume that if you aren’t angry, there’s no reason for anyone to be angry at you.”
  • When is “guys” gender neutral? I did a survey! | Julia Evans (27 Dec 2013): “The other day I was having a discussion with someone about whether or not “guys” was a gender-neutral term. This person said “my friends totally think it is!”, and I verified with my friends, who totally said it wasn’t. Not the best grounds for a discussion. So I ran a slightly-more-scientific survey.”
  • What Makes Girls Fall In Love With Computers And Code? | Colleen Taylor, TechCrunch (29 Dec 2013): “So perhaps the best way to get a girl interested in computers is simply to put them in front of her as often and as early in life as we do for her male counterparts — and even more importantly, encourage her to approach computers as a producer, rather than as a consumer.”
  • It’s Not “Too Late” for Female Hackers | Katie Siegel, Medium (29 Dec 2013): “The fact is, most women and minorities are currently entering the field in high school or college. And yes, this is a problem. But it certainly should not be a death sentence for entrepreneurial aspirations. When the head of Y Combinator, arguably the best and most selective tech startup accelerator, claims that “it’s already too late” for those who began hacking past middle school to ever start a company, he is no longer critiquing CS education. Instead, he is emulating Silicon Valley’s deeply-held bias against a group of people typically composed of females and racial minorities: those who do not fit the stereotype of the “typical hacker.””
  • Paul Graham Isn’t Keeping Women Out of Tech – From Y Combinators’ Newest All Female Company | Lauren Kay & Katie Bambino, The Dating Ring (28 Dec 2013): “Paul Graham is right in that there is a huge problem 10 years upstream of us. Real societal and educational changes need to be made before Y Combinator is going to have any chance of having a truly diversified class. But that doesn’t give us free rein to ignore the problems that exist in universities, accelerators, tech companies and venture capital. These pieces of the funnel need to be thoroughly analysed and optimized for inclusion.”
  • Hello Pronoun Stickers | Not Actually a Pirate (29 Dec 2013): “The stickers read “Hello, address me as:_________, Please use: ________”, allowing you to declare your name of choice and preferred pronouns immediately upon meeting people.”
  • Where Do You Learn Your Cultural Traditions? |  s.e. smith (23 Dec 2013): “It got me thinking about cultural knowledge, these small things that we just assume people know by virtue of living in and interacting with a culture; I can’t tell you who’s told me these things about weddings and why I know these rules, just as I couldn’t tell you the cultural rules for weddings based in other cultures and held in other nations. I’d have to ask someone, and that person likely wouldn’t think of some very basic rules because they’re so second nature, it wouldn’t occur to them to mention them.”
  • Combating Sexual Harassment in Tech | Alexandra Garretón, MissionLocal (23 Dec 2013): “The coed members of Noisebridge, a collective workspace, agreed [“It has become abundantly clear to most women in the space that ‘Be Excellent’ has failed us.”]. In late September it became one of more than 100 hackerspaces, tech conferences and meetups since 2010 to impose an anti-harassment policy from the Ada Initiative, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that supports women in tech. The idea is “no jerks welcome.””

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

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Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

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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A vindication of the rights of linkspam (13th 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.

When linkspammers roamed the earth (23rd November, 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.