Tag Archives: media portrayals

Angry woman covered in dark paint, wearing a shirt reading 'freedom'

Writing violence against a woman

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our readers:

I am male who wants to write a novel about a female superhero. Since this is a superhero novel there will be violence and at some point my hero will have to lose a fight (though of course she wins in the end).

I am wondering how I should write the scene where the supervillain beats the crap out out of my female hero. Should I just write as if she were a male? Or do I need to take precautions so I don’t end up glorifying violence against women?

A quick thought on this one: there’s no “just” in “write as if she were a male”. A big part of the problem is that this is pretty rare, hence the Women in Refrigerators trope and similar critiques. Your own knowledge that she’s a woman will influence you to write violence specific to her gender and to cultural tropes about male-on-female violence.

So, I think you’ve set up a bit of a false dilemma between “write what comes naturally and it will be just like as if she was a man getting beat up” or “go out of my way to de-glorify the violence against her”. Another thing you need to be careful of is “write what comes naturally and spew your cultural uglies about women and their bodies and violence against them all over the page completely unawares.”

Second thought: you don’t want to “write as if she were a male”, in any case, because she isn’t. You want to write as if she was a person. Your current thinking on this seems to be edging towards “men are the pattern for people, women are special unique cases of people” which is a little concerning for your characterisation of a woman!

Do you have a writing group who review each other’s drafts? Does this group contain women? Obviously the women in your writing group should be reviewing all the work that your male peers do, not just “hey, I have a woman-centric bit here, so now you’re the expert, but I’ll ask John about the rest of my writing.” But you could ask the group in general for feedback on this and since you can show them the actual draft, they may have more specific thoughts.

You could perhaps get some of the way with playing around with reading and writing drafts of your violence scenes gender-switched and with more ambiguous pronouns in order to try and keep the uglies out of it, but I think this is where we need some fiction writers to step in. What think you?

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Remorseless husband-stealing no-good linkspams (15th August, 2011)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us 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.

Magical linkspam sparkles (26th May, 2011)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us 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.

A linkspam of startling elegance (31st December, 2010)

  • Activist burnout: Dan Choi, an activist working to end DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, US miliitary policy against openly lesbian, gay or bi people serving), made his burnout and hospitalisation public: I did not initially want to publicize this but I now realize it is critical for our community to know several things: veterans gay or straight carry human burdens, Activists share similar burdens, no activist should be portrayed as super human…
  • Jess on Slacktivist Uprising: There is more than one job, and more than one tool. Many oppressed groups, including women, still face bias that’s engendered in (or at least not counteracted by) the law. But law is at least starting to catch up to justice, while social discourse, including among progressives, lags behind… For the finishing work — for lifting tenacious ugliness to the light, for uncovering the frameworks of privilege, for crafting a progressive movement that truly values everyone it represents – we need different tools.
  • Siobhan Quinn lists 60 women she knows who work in engineering, product management, design and executive roles.
  • Geraldine Doyle, Inspiration for Famous ‘We Can Do It’ Poster, Dies: Geraldine Doyle of Lansing, whose face became the inspiration behind the iconic World War II image of Rosie the Riveter, has died, according to her family.
  • Record Set for World’s Youngest Chess Champion: Hou Yifan, a 16-year-old chess player from China, became the youngest world chess champion on Friday, toppling a record held since 1978… Ms. Hou had an earlier shot at the women’s world title in 2008, when she was 14, but lost in the championship match to Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia. She said that Ms. Kosteniuk had simply been too good at the time.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the geekfeminism tag on delicious 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.

It is the season to be spamming, fa-la-la-la… (23rd December, 2010)

Notice: we currently use delicious.com as a way of getting people to suggest links for these. The future of delicious.com is currently a little unclear, but since they are saying that it will stay up and are currently trying to find a new corporate home for it, we will keep using it for now.

  • Trigger warnings: rape and rape apology. We’re not even trying to stay on top of the discussions about Julian Assange and rape allegations, but Sady at Tiger Beatdown was dismayed by Michael Moore’s support of him extending to publicly belittling the allegations, and thus started #MooreAndMe, a Twitter campaign to get his attention. Her commentary on the campaign starts here. Meg Thornton has an epic linkspam. Sady describes the end result so far here.
  • Virtual 3D world is very bright and tangible – but not pink!: The RapChick’s “pink accents’ did made me see red as it seems that pink plus the branding were the only design differences between the RapChick and the Rapman!… Seriously, I do applaud what BfB are doing but to truly democatise 3D printing (as BfB say they are doing), they have to also appeal to all rapidly expanding, underserved audiences. For non technical groups Rapman and RapChick kits are not the way to do this.
  • Sexual Harassment is Adult Bullying (and It’s Alive and Well): … it’s two days later and I’m still processing the incident. I am confident in my abilities, I am a quick learner, and I love to see others succeed. Rationally, I know these jerks were nothing. Emotionally, though, they shook me.
  • Anna Kreider has done some quantitative analysis of depictions of women in various gamer worlds and resources, such as D&D manuals.
  • A World of Warcraft story: This is a story about a goblin named Mida—Boss Mida <Her Tallness>, to be precise. Boss Mida is no ordinary NPC. Mida was born from a full-throttle player campaign of epic roleplaying enthusiasm
  • Kinect and the Disabled part 1 and part 2 [spam editor note: “the disabled” terminology here was the choice of AbleGamers]: The AbleGamers Foundation took the Kinect into our lab last week for some stress tests and to see if they followed up on any of the suggestions made at the accessibility Roundtable we attended earlier this year. We wanted to give you our impressions of the much-hyped device as it is now, as well as some insight and predictions to what it might look like in the future.
  • Share your or others entrepreneurial successes at Women 2.0’s Female Founder Successes of 2010.
  • Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk: Why we have too few women leaders

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the geekfeminism tag on delicious 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.

Why subscribe to their feeds when you can get the linkspam for free? (21st November, 2010)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the geekfeminism tag on delicious 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.

Dot Diva: The Webisode

This is an amended version of a post I wrote for the CU-WISE blog (my local Women in Science and Engineering group). See below for additional comments to geek feminism readers.

Dot Diva logo

This Wednesday fun is actually something connected to CUWISE: We met the fine folk working on Dot Diva at GHC09 and got to hear about some of their plans to make computing seem like a cool career for girls. While most of us seem to focus on fun outreach science programs, they took things in a different direction: seeing as crime shows like CSI have increased the public interest in careers in forensics, they thought perhaps TV would be the best way to make younger girls realise that computer science is actually pretty cool.

They’ve released the first episode of Dot Diva:

KATE, a sarcastic fan of alt- and indie-rock. ALI, a lover of kittens, chick flicks, and the mall. Two girls with NOTHING in common… except for being ace programmers at a seriously-crazy video game company.

As they work to launch Rocklette’s first-ever game, these two Dot Divas have to outwit their smarmy boss, Kate’s doofus boyfriend, and the spy within their midst.

If the video embed doesn’t work for you, click here to view the video

I wasn’t too sure about the first episode initially, since it seemed like they were throwing a lot of the stereotypes in there, but I think they dealt with them ok for a first look, and I expect we’ll be seeing more nuanced stuff as the characters develop. I found myself caught up in their story despite my initial feelings of awkwardness. One thing I really loved was how different the two women main characters are, while still both being programmers.


Now, I’m actually guessing some of our readers here on Geek Feminism are going to be irked by this video because it’s once again conventionally pretty young women depicting geeks, but I’d really like to hear comments about more than their appearances here. Would this show have appealed to you as a tween (their target demographic)? What else would you want to see? What other stereotypes would you like to see them deal with and maybe overcome? What else do you think could make the career of programmer appeal more to girls? Do you think this actually does make it more appealing to girls? Have you shown it to girls you know? What do they think?

Please be constructive in your comments — remember the women who produced this are genuinely trying to help the image of computer programmers in a way beyond Barbie, and that they actually have a decent amount of media savvy but likely had to choose their battles to make something appealing to both their sponsors and their target demographic.

Note: I’ll be taking a heavier hand to moderation here than I usually do because I don’t feel like hosting a whole lot of hate towards this project, though I do think readers may have interesting suggestions, criticisms and ideas for future episodes. If you’d like to rant, you may wish to keep a copy of your post for your own blog, or find a way to balance it with constructive ideas.

Linkspamming in a bubble (16th October, 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.

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.