Tag Archives: movies

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.

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.

“The Social Network” discussion thread

On the previous post, I led with an intro about The Social Network:

I feel odd blogging about a movie I haven’t seen, I want to get that out of the way. But a lot of women I trust are telling me that the movie The Social Network (a dramatisation of the founding of Facebook, script by Aaron Sorkin and direction by David Fincher) is infuriatingly sexist. Men made Facebook entirely, apparently, and women granted them sexual favours for it. As is the natural order! (See the Melissa Silverstein and Laurie Penny links in our last spam for this.)

I went on to make a more general point about geek history. But I figure a lot of people may want to talk about the movie itself. Here’s a discussion thread for you. Have you seen it? Were you bothered? Are you intending to see it or boycotting it? Have you seen additional feminist critique of it?

If it’s really good, men made it

I feel odd blogging about a movie I haven’t seen, I want to get that out of the way. But a lot of women I trust are telling me that the movie The Social Network (a dramatisation of the founding of Facebook, script by Aaron Sorkin and direction by David Fincher) is infuriatingly sexist. Men made Facebook entirely, apparently, and women granted them sexual favours for it. As is the natural order! (See the Melissa Silverstein and Laurie Penny links in our last spam for this.)

(If you want to discuss The Social Network in particular, rather than the rest of this post, which is about geek women’s invisibility in general, I’ve set up a discussion thread for the movie.)

The erasure of women geeks from geek history is going to continue and snowball, most likely, because here are some of the factors that play into it:

  1. what geeks do is hard! you can tell, because women don’t do it!
  2. you might have heard geeks are not that high up the masculine status chart! you are wrong! because there’s no women doing it and that makes it Man Stuff! which is hard, see 1! (also wot Restructure! said)
  3. s things become important in retrospect, they become men’s work.

On that last point, there was a related discussion in Australia last year about the recent history of rock music. Triple J, a youth music radio station which is part of the government funded ABC network, ran a “Hottest 100 of All Time” poll for songs its listeners like best. Triple J’s airplay is generally “alternative” and in the late 1990s (when I listened most) featured women artists such as PJ Harvey, Courtney Love of Hole, Shirley Manson of Garbage, Liz Phair and Veruca Salt.

There was some leadup criticism about the voting website:

Divided into decades, starting with the 1960s, each page shows between 9 and 15 album covers, with an accompanying note about musicians or bands that influenced the direction of rock and pop. The section on the 60s mentions the Supremes as one of the groups on the Stax/Motown label, and Janis Joplin as appearing at the Monterey Pop Festival. Then the 2000s section mentions the White Stripes. NO other female artists or groups that include women are mentioned.

And although the website was merely a memory jogger and did not restrict listener voting, it turned out it was a harbringer of what the listeners voted for. The top 100 songs contained two female vocalists, both appearing in one-offs as vocalists with Massive Attack (with songwriting credits). There were also five bands with female members. This became a big deal: Triple J was quick to defend itself by noting that it was a listener poll. One of the most interesting pieces of commentary went to air on Triple J’s own coverage, from Catherine Strong, whose PhD research was into changing memories of music (thanks to Lauredhel for this transcript):

Catherine Strong: “What happened with grunge – it’s very interesting, that in the early 1990s, grunge was seen as being a very female-friendly type of music. There were lots of women involved in the grunge. So you had bands like Hole, and L7, and Babes in Toyland. There was also the associated riot grrl movement that was happening at the same time, so bands like Bikini Kill and Heavens to Betsy. At the time, these bands were quite successful: commercially successful, and they were critically acclaimed, they were talked about as being fantastic. There was a lot of celebration in the press of “Women in Rock”, “Isn’t it fantastic to see women in rock?” But then if you look at the media coverage over time, when people talk about grunge over time, the women don’t get talked about anymore. So on the tenth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death for instance, there were lots of magazines that came out talking about “Let’s look back at grunge”, “what was important about grunge”, “why was grunge such a great thing?”, and the women are hardly mentioned at all. So again you can see the public record leaves the women out – they just disappear, they fall out over time, as people write about it, and think about it looking back.

And the thing in rock that I think is particularly interesting, is that periodically, women are rediscovered. So every five years or so you’ll find that there’s something that will turn up in the media saying “Hey, it’s great! Women are making inroads into rock for the first time!”, when it’s not the first time. So every time those stories come up, I think we as a society, or people who like rock, feel as though progress is being made; but what’s actually happened is we’re just going round and round in circles. Women are being discovered, then they’re being forgotten, then they’re being discovered again, and they’re being forgotten again, and it’s just going round and round like that.”

And here it is, happening with geek history. To avoid one obvious strawman: no, I am not claiming that there was a woman who was more important to the story of Facebook than Mark Zuckerberg! I’m claiming that the movie is part of this pattern in geek history:

  1. when we look back on geek history, things women worked on, and women who were involved in men’s projects will slowly vanish from the story as part of a pattern of making what geeks do important and hard and real
  2. there will continue to be active resistance to women being visible as geeks because the presence of women takes away status points in the masculinity hierarchy and/or that geekdom is a men’s space for men who don’t want to be around women (I keep meaning to find the explicit comments I’ve seen on LWN to this effect, if the lazyweb helps I won’t object)
  3. perhaps most worryingly of all, every few years there will be a brief spotlight on women geeks, everyone will conclude “hooray they’re/we’re here, we’ve been seen, this is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning of the battle, thank goodness for that” and then a few years later we’ll do it all again (see an example of “but women geeks are new” here).

What do you think? How many rounds of the geek women visibility battle have you been present for? (I’ve been around for at least two major ones, I think.)

Placing linkspam on pedestals (5th October, 2010)

  • The Haecken miniconf at linux.conf.au (January in Brisbane, Australia) has extended their Call for Papers until October 22.
  • Sir, Can You Help Me With This?: a transman comments on becoming a goto guy: This is not the first time I’ve been singled out since transitioning. It even happens with people who knew me before and after the physical changes began to take effect. As a young woman, coworkers and friends never asked for my advice on anything mechanical or technology-related.
  • Gabriella Coleman has given The Atlantic an overview of her undergraduate course on The Anthropology of Hackers
  • A million starfish stranded, I’ll throw back what I can: Annie on Kotaku: I am a woman who games. I am one of millions. I enjoy gaming. I am not asking for it by being bold enough to play games online and interact with other human beings. I do not deserve to be treated this way.
  • Melissa Silverstein reviews The Social Network, a movie based upon the story of the early days of Facebook. She enjoyed it as a movie, but …as a woman and a feminist, the film illuminates another instance of just how superfluous women are.. Laurie Penny also has a review: Woman-hating is the background noise of this story. Aaron Sorkin’s dazzlingly scripted showdown between awkward, ambitious young men desperate for wealth and respect phrases women and girls as glorified sexual extras, lovely assistants in the grand trick whose reveal is the future of human business and communication.
  • Antipodean feminist reading up at the 29th Down Under Feminists Carnival (sadly, the worldwide Feminist Carnival seems to be inactive now).

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?

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.

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.

The way of linkspam is neither swift nor easy (18th 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.

Feminist concerns about a project

Thanks for your Ask a Geek Feminist questions. There are many many questions left, and selected questions will be appearing twice a week for quite a while for our commenters to have input into. Here’s the first one:

I’m currently working on an animated short film project with several other people (mostly guys), and I feel on fairly equal footing with everyone else (i.e. just because someone is a “director” or whatnot doesn’t make me feel like I can’t speak my mind). The main character of our short is female.

So here’s the problem.

I fear that the visual design of her character is sexualized. She’s not wearing bikini armor or anything like that, but she’s clearly designed to be particularly sexually attractive. I also feel like the story exploits the stereotype of women being maternal in not-so-sane ways.

I’ve been vocal on both of these points. I fought to keep the character design more down-to-earth. And during development of the story I pointed out things that I felt were problematic (though I was a bit timid on this point because the writer is a woman). And I continue to speak up about these things with the team when it seems reasonably relevant, and I’ve made it clear that I’m not happy about this.

I know I’ve made real impacts here, and particularly the director has said that the things I’ve talked about have really made him start looking at things differently. But I wonder if there’s more that I should do? Or should have done? At this point we can’t change the character design or story, because we’re too far into production, and deadlines are looming fast.

A feminist friend of mine believes really strongly that I should drop out of the project entirely, and is really upset with me for staying on. But dropping out is a really difficult proposition for me for a variety of reasons, including the typical “hurting relationships” and “endangering future employment” reasons. But I would also feel really bad abandoning people working long hours to meet deadlines when the team is so small.

I could really use some outside perspective on this.

How have other people dealt with working on projects where they’ve had feminist concerns about aspects of it but for other reasons haven’t walked away entirely?