Tag Archives: Media fandom

Macho, macho ‘spam, I want to be a macho ‘spam (8th April, 2010)

  • jesstess at Stemming wants to motivate programming for a twelve year old girl. Head on over and give her ideas.
  • There’s discussion following on from Cath Elliott’s admiration of The Lord of the Rings in The Guardian (linkspammed here):
    • Tolkien’s Ladies: Is Geek Culture Female-Friendly? Anna N doesn’t think feminists need an “excuse” to like things, but also doesn’t think Eowyn alone makes LOTR especially feminist.
    • Feminism vs geek culture?: liliacsigil notes that Anna N is talking about commercially produced geek media, and that geek culture is not monolithic and has many women and feminists, and returns to the issue of “strong women characters” in geek media.
  • Study: Pay, Promotion Limits Lead Women to Exit Engineering: ‘What’s for sure is that “it’s not about math or getting your hands dirty,” says Hunt. “It’s not because these women mistakenly wandered into engineering.’”. (Also, WTF at ad inserted into the article: “See iPhone apps for new moms.”)
  • Girls abandon dolls for Web-based toys: an anecdote-driven story about possible new play styles among girls.
  • Being Inclusive vs Not Being Exclusive: ‘A group of people put on some creative project, and someone notices that there’s a lack of representation of X Minority for whatever reason, sometimes noting that they themselves are in the minority. The people organising the project get defensive and say “But we’re not excluding anyone! We are open to everybody! They just need to sign on!†There is a huge difference between not being exclusive and being inclusive.’ (Via FWD.)
  • Five+ Ways Being Transgender in Fandom Really Sucks, and Why I Stick With It Anyway: iambic writes about his experiences as a trans fan.
  • Research Conversations: Munmun De Choudhury writes about her computer science research on homophily in social networks, that is, similar people forming connections.
  • In Australia the Victorian Department of Transport is offering $10 000 Women in Transport Scholarships to female, full-time or part-time students starting or completing postgraduate studies in transport-related fields.
  • Carnivals: Feminist Blog Carnival No. 16 and 23rd Down Under Feminist Carnival

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.

Ladies celebratin’ ladies

Like a lot of people, I think, I became an instant convert to the cult of Sady when I read her 13 Ways of Looking at Liz Lemon last week. I’m a big 30 Rock fan but not blind to the show’s problems, especially in its treatment of race and class, and I loved Sady’s trenchant take. But I think her piece on Parks and Recreation for Feministe’s Weekend Arts Section is even better. I haven’t watched the show but I sure will now. Here’s a chunk I found especially chewy:

Since your life is about your work, and about feminism — not in the abstract, Liz Lemonist sense, either, but in terms of actually and truly connecting with and helping other girls — and about your ideals and your friends and your goals for the city of Pawnee and for yourself, and very definitively not about any one dude or dudes in general, having Your Life Minus That One Dude was simply not a very big deal. It was sad, but it definitely wasn’t going to ruin you. You already had a full plate, a whole interesting life, and dudes could come in and out of your life without altering that fact. So, no matter what happens to you, dude-wise, you’re going to know that you’re pretty great. And since you put your whole self into all you do, since you care about people and it shows, other people are going to know that you’re great, too. They’ll be there for you. And that’s how you’ll get by.

I talk a lot about feminism, Leslie, and I think about feminism a lot, and I have to tell you: I think this was one of the most genuinely feminist moments on your show.

Wow. I mean wow, seriously, especially in the wake of the always-provocative Ada Lovelace Day. This made me think about how profoundly my relationships with women have changed in the last decade. I was a bad feminist in my twenties. I wanted to be the special one, the one who was into physics and maths and programming and who could talk to boys, and I saw other women as competition, and so nearly all my friends were men and nearly all women found me incredibly irritating and divisive.

I’m not claiming to be a great feminist in my thirties, but one dramatic change has been the quality and intensity of my relationships with other women. These days when I meet an awesome woman my first reaction is not, or isn’t always, to be threatened and defensive. The self-confidence that has been the single absolute best thing about growing older has made it possible for me to hold my own in awesome company, not because I think I am awesome, but because I mind less and less what other people think. And of course awesome women tend to be awesome friends, if you gather up the courage to approach them, and when you realize that you somehow without really meaning to have created this network of strong intelligent kind entertaining adults on whom you can rely – well, it makes the prospect of middle age look downright pleasant to me.

It’s what Wired magazine and the Burning Man organization used to call the shift from a scarcity economy, where people competed over constrained resources, to a surplus economy, where people just give each other gifts, because. That model looks like questionable economic theory these days but it’s certainly true that love and friendship don’t need to be constrained resources, and that the more you give, the more you get. Another economic analogy might be investment. Romantic relationships were for me always very high-risk, high-return propositions – a VC investing in a startup – and I wish I’d never risked more than I could afford to lose. (I did, of course. Oh well. I wasn’t using that dignity anyway.) Platonic friendships, in this analogy, are dividend-bearing stocks.

Among the dividends: these relationships have also improved my friendships with men – including a handful of very intense friendships left over from my single days. It’s my women friends who have taught me to shut the fuck up and listen, to not try to fix things. That sometimes all you can do is show up.

I’ve noticed these patterns at work as well as in my personal life. I’ve sought out professional mentors, and younger women have sought me out. I feel completely inadequate to offer anything to the latter, of course, but at the same time I have a strong sense of indebtedness to the older women who have given me their advice and support. I’ll always seek out qualified women for jobs, and I’ll always try to make time for younger women who seek my advice: it’s the least I owe to myself.

Bottom line, I guess: I really honestly believe that it’s true, that women can have a complete and fulfilling life made out of work and friendships, with or without a significant other. If I could go back and give my 18-year-old self advice it would be to love my friends more, and let the dudes come and go as they please. What about you? What are your hot tips for the investment of your affection and time?

Cage match

Author Info: Quixotess is a geek of wordplay, numberplay, names, history, easy logic puzzles, IRC, various works of fiction (particularly speculative fiction), certain aspects of theatre, and local geology. Not computers, though. She blogs at Reconcile and has an IRC channel which she would like you to visit.

This is the Suvudu [Cross-Verse] Cage Match, where we may vote on how characters from various speculative fiction works may fare when fighting each other, tournament style. The order and initial matches were chosen randomly.

I think it’s worth looking at, first because you all ought to have a chance to vote. Second, because of the dynamics surrounding the tournament that i think merit feminist examination.

Some questions: How many of the characters are women? How many of the characters are characters of color? How many of the authors are? Now, how many of those characters are winning?

I think it’s pretty clear that in some cases, as with the Jaime Lannister vs Hermione Granger match, the white male character is winning at least in part because of sexism on the part of the voters. Jaime’s a handsome man, oldest son of a great lord, and an experienced warrior (a very male-dominated profession) and Hermione Granger is a girl whose parents are dentists. In fact, look at what Jaime’s author Martin has to say about the pairing on his livejournal.

[Jaime's] opponent? Well, he’s really pissed off about that. He wanted Conan or Elric or Aragorn. Instead he’s drawn (they CLAIM it’s random)…

Of course Martin frames it as his character wanting to fight one of these kingly heroes (more on that later), but even if Martin himself didn’t care, you can bet that many of his readers–gritty realism fans, a realm also dominated by men–identify with Jaime.

Speaking of gritty realism, Martin’s written up a little ditty on how he thinks the match would really go [TRIGGER WARNING]:

He’s not going to waste time and effort swatting at birds with his sword, either. He’s encased in gilded steel. What are they going to do, crap on him? He’ll rush right through the birds, and go straight for Hermione. A sword is not a knight’s only weapon. While she’s watching the blade, he will slam his shield right into her face, knock her off her feet. Let her try and mumble those spells with a mouthful of broken teeth.

Martin’s well known for putting a lot of violence in his books, where it fits, but I find it shocking when applied to characters from another verse, especially a young woman. As this piece is written to convince readers that Jaime would beat Hermione in a fight, the effect is not so much “gritty realism” as “alarming glee.”

I don’t mean to pick on Martin (even if he deserves it) because I know that various fandoms as boy’s clubs is familiar to all of us. I see that pattern playing out here.

I think it’s equally interesting to look at those cases in which there is a genuine imbalance of power. For example, see Hiro Protagonist vs Gandalf and Lyra Belacqua (called Silvertongue) vs Cthulu. No points for guessing who’s winning those fights.

Look at how many of the characters in the tournament are gods, messiahs, patriarchs, or kings. I don’t know all of these verses, but I see Aslan, Dumbledore, Gandalf, Cthulu, Conan, Aragorn, and Rand al’Thor. The women and characters of color are likely to be knocked out in the first round here because they’re going up against characters who their authors made all-powerful.

How much we enshrine ultimate power! Most of those with unconventional powers are going down to a very male idea of strength or intelligence; those who win are those for whom sheer power is a big part of their characters. (for example, Arthur Dent lost, narrowly, to the Shrike.) Look also at how many of these characters have some sort of Grand Destiny–that trope which makes it okay to have been born a farmboy, or living in exile, because in reality you are still more important than others in the fabric of the universe. In this sense it’s worth looking not just at the characters’ demographics, but at their abilities and means of power, and the intersection thereof. I’m talking about the difference between conventional marks of heroes and villains–destiny or control over the cosmos–and unconventional powers–like access to information and lying, as with Lyra, or improbable luck, as with Arthur Dent.

Many people in the comments have complained about the inclusion of Cthulu in the contest, predicting that it will come down to a battle between him and Aslan, because who can stand against those two? They might be right, but why? What’s with our preference for these mighty male forces of nature or chosen ones of gods?

What do you think?

Quick hit: a feminist fanvid sampler

I missed this when it was posted, but thought it was worth a quick hit. halfamoon is a celebration of women in fandom that occurs every February. This year, among the posts celebrating women characters, women writers, etc, was harriet_spy‘s post about feminist fanvids.

She breaks her recommendations into four sections:

Critique: vids that explicitly critique the source, or social attitudes reflected in the source.

Methods: is fangirling itself a feminist act?

Reclaiming the Narrative: “if you don’t like it, rewrite it”—how can you bring this approach to source that excludes or diminishes or demeans the stories of women?

Reclaiming the Gaze: A particular problem for fans who use visual media: how do you take footage conceived and edited to appeal to a sexist audience and use those very same images to tell a different kind of story?

Each fanvid is usually around 3 minutes long, and sets footage from film, tv, or other visual media to music to tell a story or evoke some kind of response. While many are streamable, some vids will need to be downloaded to watch; if your computer doesn’t have good video player, try VLC, which will play just about anything.

Women have been making fanvids for at least 35 years, since long before Youtube. For more information on the mostly-female vidding culture, check out Vidding, a documentary available on MIT’s Tech TV channel, or read just about anything from Francesca Coppa’s bibliography.

On LambdaFail, women writing m/m erotica, and the queerness and/or misogyny of slash fandom

This won’t be news to anyone who moves in fannish meta circles, but I thought it warranted a post for those who might not have encountered the discussion before now.

Back in September, the Lambda Literary Foundation announced that henceforth their awards would be restricted to authors who identified as GLBT, rather than (as had previously been the case) anyone who was writing GLBT-oriented works. This excluded, in particular, a growing segment of the book market consisting of male/male erotica written by (presumably straight) women.

Discussion ensued as to whether such fiction was appropriating gay male culture and offensive to gay men, or whether the backlash against m/m erotica written by women was just another instance of women’s sexual expression being policed by men, as it so often is. A round of Oppression Olympics ensued, with women on one team and gay men on the other; both groups are in the right, being similarly subject to the kyriarchy and privileged (or not) on different axes, but few commentators approached the debate from this perspective in the early rounds.

Recently, the discussion has spread to slash fandom on Livejournal, Dreamwidth, and elsewhere, and this (IMHO) is where it gets really interesting, because that crowd is nothing if not introspective, verbose, smart, and well practiced in massively hypertext discussions of complicated issues.

Slash is m/m erotica written (usually) by women about (usually) male characters from TV, movies, books, etc. Many of the most popular slash fandoms are geek staples such as Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Buffy, superhero comics, and so forth. Unlike the professional m/m erotica market, slash writers are generally working with existing characters, often from fandoms that don’t pass (or barely pass) Bechdel in the first place. Many slashers use their writing/reading to explore sex and gender in a relatively safe online environment that might not otherwise be available to them. And, it turns out, many or most slashers are themselves queer, despite stereotypes about “straight housewives” and the like.

So, fandom being fandom, and things being always more complicated, the discussion coming out of this is pretty crunchy. Some of the questions/themes I’ve seen covered include:

  • Does romance/erotica ignore or erase difficult issues (eg. discrimination, oppression), and should we care? Or does escapism get a free pass?
  • Do fanfic writers have a duty to write the other respectfully and realistically when the “other” in question is gay men/MSM? How do we do this?
  • Why do fanfic writers write about male characters so much more than female characters, anyway? Is this internalised misogyny?

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re interested in reading up on some of what’s been posted, take a look at the linkspam and metafandom communities, which have been collecting links to interesting posts on the subject.

On geekitude, hierarchy, and being a snob

Liz Henry’s thoughts on geekitude got me wanting to post my own half-formed thoughts on the topic. (Crossposted from my personal blog at Skud’s suggestion.)

Evidently I have the capacity to continuously raise my standard for what makes a real obsessed fan of, say, Star Trek or Cryptonomicon or whatever. I read the Memory Alpha wiki (Star Trek compendium), but I don’t contribute to it; I only know a word or two of Klingon; I haven’t *memorized* more than, say, ten lines of Cryptonomicon.
So I can always say, “oh, I’m just a regular person who happens to like this thing, there are OTHER PEOPLE who are really obsessed.” But that’s just No True Scotsman in reverse. These goalposts must be made of new space-age alloys, they’re so easy to move!

But when I come across an enthusiasm more ardent than mine, there is a kind of intellectual squick, a cooler and more abstract horror. And there’s relief — at least I’m not like that, at least there’s someone below me on this imagined hierarchy. Which makes little sense; to whom am I proving this alleged cool?

Obsession is a derogatory synonym of mastery.

Mel’s post on how she learns tickled my brain. When I learn, I like to hypothesize internally consistent systems of rules. And then I take pride in the architecture I’ve built, in my mastery of my personal social construction, and bond with new tribe members when we learn that we share intersubjectivities.

New skills are tools and catalogs of tools. If you learn what I know, then you’ll realize certain tasks are far easier than you thought. I can be uneasy with that power; it’s like the disorientation of suddenly driving an SUV, getting used to a bigger, stronger body.

But an expert also confidently says, “No. That’s far harder than you realize.” While the fairy tales usually scorn naysayers — they’re just obstacles in the hero’s way — in our real lives, over coffee and beer, we shake our heads and say, “I told him it wasn’t gonna work.”

I had a dinner with an out-of-towner once, and happened to mention that Roosevelt Island’s tram is a major means of transit for RI’s residents, and that when it gets taken down for construction/maintenance for several months (sometime soon, I believe) it’ll be a big hardship for those residents. It would suck to commute by car (that teensy bridge would get backed up real fast), and the RI stop on the F subway line will get uncomfortably crowded. She started making suggestions. Run more F trains? Well, that would probably throw the rest of the system out of whack. Get a bigger bridge? Probably not worth it for a five-month workaround, and besides, building bigger roads means asking for more traffic. She finally said in bewilderment, “Well, they should just fix it!” And I said, eh, it is complicated, isn’t it? And we moved on.

I felt very superior and sophisticated at this – scorn is shorthand for status. There’s a whole other thread here about urban systems, interdependence, respect for homeostasis. But basically, I’m ashamed of that impulse to snobbishness. Had I time, love, security, and patience enough, I’d be about sharing, not shaming.

I like being enthusiastic. I like sharing myself. My opinions, my judgments, and my ideas sometimes feel like an extension of myself, as much as my adopted culture says I should take criticism of those opinions impersonally.

But sometimes I have a snobbish geekiness, so complacent & happy to bond with one person by slamming another. Either because I have more mastery than her (e.g., re: transit), or less (e.g., re: Star Wars).

So, the Twitter version: Parallax sucks, and I love mastering worlds because I can’t master myself.

a sentimental viducation

I’m not much of a night-owl but I remember as a dorktastic 80s teen propping up my eyes with matchsticks, almost, so I could watch the music videos on Rage, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s indie answer to MTV. I loved music videos then (Golden Brown! Safety Dance! Wouldn’t It Be Good! Wild Boys! Man Overboard! Big Time! Wuthering Heights! – I told you I was dorktastic) and I love them now (recent faves include Her Morning Elegance and Happiness.) At its best the three-minute pop music video is the Faberge egg of late-20th-century art forms; tiny, brilliant and exquisite.

Now a confession: despite being an avid lurker at the gates of fandom I have neglected my viducation. Oh, sure, I love the classic Closer, and I had Lisztomania on constant rotation after we lost John Hughes, but it wasn’t until Skud took me in hand the other day that I first saw Lim’s stunning Us. Fanvids combine the miniaturization of the pop video with the metatextuality and wrenching attachment of your favourite show. To marvellous effect!

So: what else am I missing? What else is there that’s accessible to the dilettante fan (Here’s Luck’s Superstar is fantastic, as long as you’re intimate with late-season Buffy/Faith power dynamics, whereas Francesca Coppa fave A Fannish History of Hotness is shiny crossover win), that marries beautiful music and apt lyrics to sharp editing and production? I like reboot Kirk/Spock and Spock/Uhura and Nine/Jack and Ten/The Master, and I will always be a sucker for John/Aeryn. And if anyone can find me high-class Hermione/Luna I will have your babies. I will. I like meta and politics and hoyay and angst and sweet emo pop and the funny. What do you like? Bring me your shinies! Otherwise I might have to do some real work…

When I Became a Mom I Put Away Childish Things

Today’s guest post is by aca-fan Kristina Busse. She is the co-editor of the journal Transformative Works and Cultures and blogs at ephemeral traces.

My name is Kristina. I am a mother and a fan.

On my blog I have a variety of designators I use to try to articulate my identity–academic, teacher, wife, expatriate–and yet none of these may get as close to the center of my being these days as the two with which I started this essay. And maybe none of the others are as contested and in as much constant turmoil as these two. Oddly enough, I took on both these identities nearly simultaneously–I fell in love with my son Gabriel and with Buffy (the Vampire Slayer) at about the same time over long nights of extended nursing. It wasn’t that I hadn’t behaved fannishly in the past–the fannish gene reveals itself in different ways at different times and my fannish engagements had mostly been both more private and less creatively oriented. But my entry into fandom proper, and media fandom to be exact, coincided with my entry into motherhood.

And I found that both were strange new worlds indeed. Not worlds that can always smoothly coexist, although for me personally each of those realms have allowed me to balance and manage the other. Life with newborns and even toddlers (especially the highly difficult variety that my firstborn turned out to be) can be immensely isolating. Living in a city as I did where I knew no one, the Internet was often my one connection to the larger world. Moreover, the asynchronic conversations of email and blogs as well as the global, multi time-zoned aspect of online fandom allowed me to talk to people when I was able to find the time–be that at three in the morning or three in the afternoon, whenever the kids were asleep or otherwise occupied. This is not an unusual experience and, in fact, many a mommy blog has been created and found an audience for these very reasons.

Online fandom, however, is slightly different. I didn’t follow my fellow solitary and isolated moms as they turned to one another, via blogs or newsgroups or bulletin board, as groups revolving around the ages of their kids, parenting philosophies, or particular challenges. Those moms are sometimes chided for spending time on the computer rather than tending to their kids but they still focus on their children, thinking and talking and writing about them. I however had the gumption to be selfish and occupy my time with things that were for my own pleasure and leisure only–even if my fannish pursuits did give me balance and refuel me to better deal with motherhood.

Janice Radway, in her groundbreaking book Reading the Romance (1987), describes the anxieties and guilt many women romance readers experience for taking time away for their own enjoyment–and the small triumph and moments of resistance that pleasure can bring. Of course reading has long been a contentious issue–whether literacy and access was used to keep minorities in control (be they based on class, race, or gender) or its dangers were sexualized (there’s a long discourse that connects reading, especially among young women to masturbation as Thomas Laqueur suggests in his Solitary Sex [2003]), reading has always been dangerous.

I found that my fascination with fan fiction, and with a culture of other women reading and writing stories about fictional characters, brought together a number of issues that were in direct opposition to my role as a mom: reading to and for myself, connecting to other people on subjects unrelated to motherhood, and at times discussing non child-appropriate topics all raised the stakes in the competition of my hobby competing with my sole socially sanctioned role as wife and mother.

Continue reading

Link Roundup: The Geekening (Sep 5th, 2009)

Who wants to play Evolutionary Neuro Cognitive Research FAIL?

Let’s all imagine that we’re cognitive neuroscientists and we want to do some “research” about fanfic (why fanfic? nobody knows!) and see if we can get a bunch of womengurlz to support our pet theories about “the unified fabric of human desire” (whatever that is — ilithiana says plaid). Because you can totally tell stuff about brain function from hacked-together surveys on Appspot.

What will we put on our survey? Here are my questions.

1. What sex are you?
a) Man. 100% manly man. GRRR.  
b) Female. *teehee*  
c) Confused.

2. Which statement do you agree with? Choose one:
a) I love cock!
b) All men are heterosexual.
c) One day my prince will come, and he will be Edward Cullen.

3. Which best represents your fanfic reading habits?
a) I fulfil my personal fantasies by inserting myself into fictional scenarios.
b) Because of my sexual inexperience, I read fanfic as research about boys.
c) I read fanfic because I am into depraved kinks like homosexuality and bandom.

Jonquil (who, incidentally, is kicking bottoms and taking names on this one — check recent entries on her journal) suggested via IM:

4. Will you please tell me about your sexual practices? With pictures?

If you need inspiration, check out this transcription of the 70-question survey. Remember, nothing you suggest will ever be reviewed by an IRB, so you can ask anything.

See also: Ten steps to a perfect fanstorm at Hoyden About Town, unfunnybusiness roundup, linkspam roundup on DW, high-larious Ogi/Sai badfic slash (NSFW).

Photo credit: innocentsmith @ dreamwidth

Credit: innocentsmith @ dreamwidth

In conclusion: fandom, I love you. You are smart and funny and don’t take shit from anyone — especially not cave-dwelling neanderthals posing as scientists.