Tag Archives: science fiction

Dear male allies: your sexism looks a bit like my racism

Octavia Butler

Would you indulge me in a little geeking out about intersectionality? Why, thanks. Hi, I’m Yatima and I’m a racist.

I don’t mean to be, I’m working really hard to stop it and God knows it horrifies me every time I hear something racist come out of my mouth. When I wake at 4am for a bout of self-loathing, those are among the top moments I replay, over and over. I guess you could say I am a person who sometimes says racist things but seriously? Let’s not split hairs.

Trouble is, as a white, able-bodied, educated, employed, cis, married, middle-class person, I am very, very privileged. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m a woman, I would probably never have experienced any kind of oppression based on aspects of myself that I can’t change.

But I have experienced gender discrimination, and it has irked the hell out of me, to put it mildly, and so I work for change. Fine. It took me an embarrassingly long time to take the next logical step, which is to understand that if it hurts to be singled out because you’re a woman, it hurts even more to be singled out because (say) you are a woman of color. Or a woman with a disability. Or a working-class woman. And so forth.

It’s relatively easy for me to advocate for feminist change because I can – in Ursula Le Guin’s words – offer up my experience as my wisdom. My testimony is relevant, because I am a woman. It turns out to be much harder for me to advocate for race or ability or class issues, because oftentimes I just don’t know what these issues are. My racism, and my other *isms, are a function of (among other things) my ignorance. Privilege conceals from me the experiences of not-having-privilege.

I was at about this point when Racefail erupted all over the science-fiction-blogosphere: just barely smart enough to notice that some of the white participants in the discussion were unintentionally making things worse, and to try to figure out why. That curiosity led me in turn to the 50 books by People of Color community. It’s a Livejournal comm that challenges participants to read 50 books – any 50 books – that are written by, well, people of color. And then review them. Or not. (It’s pretty mellow.)

While I didn’t finish the 50 books challenge – I think I got to the high thirties before I stopped counting (ooh, it was 45! go me!) – it was one of the best experiences of my intellectual life (says the woman with a Master’s degree and a great job in research.) For the first time, I read Doreen Baingana, Larissa Behrendt, Octavia Butler, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Iris Chang, Samuel R. Delany, Edwige Danticat, Anita Heiss, Mei Ling Hopgood, Nora K. Jemisin, Angela Johnson, Jamaica Kincade, Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama, Sanjay Patel, Alex Sanchez and Jane Jeong Trenka. It was…

It was great. It changed the way I read, permanently, for the better. I no longer feel satisfied on a diet of pure Western canon.

I began to see what I was missing. I began to see some of the things the Western canon chronically leaves out and overlooks. I began to see some of the ways in which I, as an educated white middle class person, had been socialized and conditioned to speak up and interpret and analyze and assume that my (uninformed) opinion was really really interesting to other people. I began to see the ways in which my opinion was, perhaps, not.

This, to be honest, remains to this day my best strategy for fighting my own racism, and all the other prejudices that I have unthinkingly imbibed along with my privileges. I am learning to listen. I am learning to seek out other voices – not only in books but in film, music, graphic novels, journalism and blogs. I am learning to feel incomplete without them.

There’s still a time and a place for me to express my opinion on issues around race and ability and class, and it’s this: I get to be the one who says to another white person: “That was a really racist thing to say.” Or to another able-bodied person: “We need to think about improving access for disabled people.”

I don’t get to be the one who tells people of color or disabled people How It Is.

Here’s what I want to tell you, dear male allies. It is such a relief. Listening to other peoples’ voices? Is incredibly moving, and humbling, and endlessly interesting. Shutting the hell up while I do it? God, how I love the sound of not-my-own-voice. Going into battle against racists and so forth? So much easier, now that I have a faint clue what’s actually going on.

And that’s all I have to say. If you would like to know more about how women think, listen to them. Listen to Regina Spektor and Meshell Ngedeocello and Diamanda Galas. Read Madeleine Albright and Barbara Tuchman and Leslie Chang and Katherine Boo and for God’s sake, read Octavia Butler, she is seriously so completely amazing.

Come and join the Geek Feminism Book Club. We’re going to have fun.

Announcing Geek Feminism Book Club!

The Long Room, Trinity College Dublin

Folks, we’re delighted to announce the launch of the Geek Feminism Book Club, dedicated to:

  • geek discussions of feminist books,
  • feminist discussion of geek books, and
  • geek feminist discussions of books!

Our immediate models are (for this author, who is lowbrow) the Hairpin’s Classic Trash feature, and (for Mary, who is not) Crooked Timber’s much weightier Susanna Clarke seminar. Other inspirations include the late, lamented Racialicious Octavia Butler book club and the literary discussions hosted by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I expect we will meet somewhere in the middle…

In any case, it’ll work like this. Each month, starting this month, we’ll pick a title together. A month later – to give participants time to get and read the book – we’ll open a thread for discussion. We’ll try to include books available under CC licenses and/or available in electronic formats. If the community picks a book that can’t be had except for cash, we’ll set up a scholarship fund to try to ensure open access.

Here are some of the books we’ve thought about for the kickoff on Thursday February 28th. Vote for your favorite below! Suggestions always welcome!

  1. Biella Coleman, Coding Freedom
  2. bell hooks, Writing Beyond Race
  3. Ursula Le Guin, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
  4. Sarah Schulman, The Gentrification of the Mind
  5. Gail Simone, Batgirl, Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection

ETA: The voting period is over, and we have a tie! Full results are here, but to summarize: Le Guin and Simone both got 14 votes, hooks 9, Coleman 8 and Schulman 7. I suggest we start with (drumroll):

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas on Thursday February 28th

and then read

Batgirl, Vol. 1 on Thursday March 25th.

In fact, since there was so much enthusiasm for all five titles, what about reading the hooks in April, and so on? We can have another vote when we work our way through these five.

(Oskar, you’re right, we should definitely try that polling thing. Making spreadsheets by hand feels very second-wave…)

Back to the linkspam (16 January 2013)

  • Harassment in nerd spaces, and encouraging honesty: “I hope this story encourages more people to talk seriously about experiences they’ve had at conventions, at gaming meet-ups, at comic book stores, or any other male-dominated spaces that (however unintentionally) end up housing predators and “creepers” who make people feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. People should feel like they can talk about their experiences without having to use jokey euphemisms (“creeper”) or make supposedly-satirical-but-sort-of-serious videos.”
  • On false dichotomies and diversity: “A person who calls for greater diversity is not necessarily advocating the implementation of a quota system — that’s a straw man fallacy. Similarly, having a diverse roster of speakers at a conference does not imply that those speakers were not chosen on merit. Diversity and a merit‐based selection process are not mutually exclusive. To state the contrary is a false dichotomy. And before assuming that a conference probably couldn’t find enough women because not enough women applied (blaming the victim), first find out whether or not the selection process actually included an open call for talks.”
  • Rocket rain: “The ques­tion for me is, what signi­fi­cance the inci­dents actually occur­ring have for various atten­dees: inci­dents like sexist modera­tion, the reduc­tion of women to head­less bodies, or the hacking of Asher Wolf’s blog. For the majo­rity (I would guess) such events are little things, if they are noti­ced at all. Even if you find them ugly, they don’t tar­nish the ent­ire event. They have the signi­fi­cance of a bro­ken plate in a com­mer­cial kit­chen: it hap­pens, but it’s not signi­fi­cant. It’s just a blip. For many other people, and I include mys­elf here, these events carry a dif­fe­rent weight. They are indi­vi­dual cases of cho­lera on a cruise ship, or dog poop on the hem of the wed­ding dress: the ugly blips makes the over­all situa­tion dan­ge­rous or intolerable.”
  • [Trigger Warning: Violent Images] Facebook’s Questionable Policy on Violent Content Toward Women: “After a Change.org petition collected over 200,000 signatures and the issue appeared in mainstream media outlets, some of the pages promoting the rape and assault of women were removed. Others were allowed to remain on the site if they were categorized as “humor” sites. Given the seemingly inconsistent application of the site’s own guidelines regarding violent and threatening images and speech, it’s hard not to wonder: What is Facebook’s actual policy regarding content that advocates rape and violence toward women – or does one exist?”
  • Silicon Valley Congresswoman talks the 2013 tech agenda: “‘The outcome of the SOPA fight last year is the Big Content people realize the days of getting their way completely is kind of at an end. It doesn’t mean they don’t deserve consideration — they do. It’s time to work with technology and instead of seeing it as a threat, seeing it as an opportunity to grow your market.'”
  • 10 Awesome Female Engineers from Science Fiction: “Everybody knows that the engineers are the ones who keep everything going in a science fiction story. They’re the ones who make the ship fly. They build the megastructures. They make the spinning things spin and the jumping things jump. And some of the coolest engineers and designers in science fiction just happen to be women.”

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

I’m Commander Shepard, and this is the best linkspam on the Citadel (2 October, 2012)

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

Fus Ro Linkspam (14 September, 2012)

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

Photo of a single pink ribbon tied around a wire, shot against the sky by tanakawho

Signal boost: Dragon*Con, backup ribbons, and wolves in sheep’s clothing

As noted in Linkspam comments, there’s a dispute at the moment between the organisers of Dragon*Con and the Backup Ribbon Project. The Backup Ribbon Project is an off-shoot of the Backup Project and distributes badge ribbons for con attendees to attach to their badge, reading “Backup” in large letters, showing that the person wearing the ribbon is committed to backing up someone experiencing harassment.

On August 20, Dragon*Con released a statement, reading in part [my emphasis]:

At times, good intentions can lead to bad situations. Dragon*Con has become aware of a potentially dangerous situation involving a self-started project that provides ribbons for fans identifying themselves as people who are able and willing to help another fan in the event assistance of any sort is needed in a difficult situation. While we absolutely believe that the creation of this movement was done with the best intentions to protect fans, we feel that it presents a possibility for a person coming in as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” perhaps luring someone in distress to an even more dangerous situation. Providing a ribbon for someone to wear to give them any type of “official” sanction when no screening has taken place is quite frankly, scary to us. To that end, we have asked the individual to stop providing ribbons for Dragon*Con attendees. We think a lot of our fans and believe strongly in the message that if you see someone in trouble, you should always be willing to help out or get someone who can. We expect no less and you all have never disappointed.

The Ribbon Project responded on August 21:

Please know that, as of this time, Dragon*Con has informed us that it will NOT be sanctioning people wearing or distributing Backup Ribbons at the con, nor will it be confiscating ribbons. We regret this was not included in their official statement…

We stand by our conviction that the benefits of making the Backup Ribbon Project accessible to as many people as possible far outweighs the risk of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Yes, there will be a risk of some Bad!Person taking advantage of the situation, but we believe that risk is minimal.

What do you think? Which has the greater risk, false allies, or difficulty finding any allies?

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

Life, the Universe and Linkspam (29th May, 2012)

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

amongothers

Quick Hit: Women Win Nebulas!

It is so splendid when excellent people are recognized for their excellence! It’s delightful that Octavia Butler won a posthumous Solstice Award and that Connie Willis was given the Damon Knight Grand Master Award. And! I am personally over the moon that Jo Walton’s Among Others won the 2011 Nebula.

I loved this book so very much and if I haven’t already forced it into your hands, you are to imagine me doing it now: this is a geek feminist coming-of-age novel, and it is full of wonders.

steampunk-tardis-cosplay

Quick hit: new feminist Doctor Who blog!

For Doctor Who fans, a new blog has launched, Doctor Her.

Doctor Her is the brainchild of Courtney Stoker, who has also written about Doctor Who for Geek Feminism:

Doctor Her’s first post is Which Companion is the Best Feminist Role Model for my Daughters? The start of an on-going research project.

steampunk-tardis-cosplay

Re-post: Steampunk, Tech, and TARDISes: A Cosplay Tale

During the December/January slowdown, Geek Feminism is re-publishing some of our highlights from last year. This post originally appeared on July 1, 2011.

Cross-posted at From Austin to A&M.

So the idea of my cosplay project (which I have completed a big chunk of, but am putting on the shelf for a bit, so that I can mull it over in my subconscious) was pretty simple. Most people give these very simplistic answers about their motivations for their cosplay: it’s fun, it’s for the pure love of the show, it’s about hanging out with other fans, I like the character, I like the character’s costume, etc. I suspect, like most fan scholars, that something more complicated than those reasons go into cosplayers’ decision-making. So I chose a particular cosplay trend—women cosplaying as the Doctor—and tried to get beyond those reasons, both through interviewing and by “reading” the costumes. Which, of course, has all got me thinking about my own motivations and decisions in the cosplay I wore to Gally. Obviously, the premise of my project is that cosplayers don’t necessarily consciously know all the reasons they make the decisions they make in their cosplay, and I don’t consider myself an exception to that premise. In fact, I knew I wasn’t sure what it was about a steampunk TARDIS dress that held such a fascination with me. I only knew, as I told a friend at the time, that if I could dress as the TARDIS and wear a bustle at the same time, I’d be a happy lady.

Bustle time! Me in my steampunk TARDIS dress at Gally 2010. The dress consists of a white button up shirt, navy blue corset with appliqued windows, navy blue skirt with panels and a screen-printed “POLICE TELEPHONE” sign, navy blue bustle, and black headband with “POLICE PUBLIC PHONE BOX” painted in white.

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