Author Archives: skud

Thoughts on International Women’s Day

It’s 11:18pm in my timezone as I write this and I’m reflecting on International Women’s Day. I feel kind of anxious and twitchy and unhappy, and I’m trying to unpick why.

This morning one of the first things that greeted me, as I sat in bed skimming my Dreamwidth reading page, was this video of Ethyl Smyth‘s March of the Women, illustrated with pictures of women suffragists who fought for votes — and a wide range of human rights — for women.

Next year marks 100 years since the composition of that song. These are women of my great-grandmother’s generation marching, fighting, protesting, being arrested, and being imprisoned for basic human rights. I should be inspired, and yet I feel frustrated and exhausted.

How is it that we are still dealing with this shit?

(And because I am cranky, I am going to set an arbitrary rule on comments: if you post a comment with “but here’s an awesome feminist thing to be happy about!” you must also post a “but this fucking sucks” link as well. And vice versa.)

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.

Germany’s Pirate Party: “We already have gender equality.”

Via yvi, who points out problems with the Pirate Party’s stance on gender equality. Sources are in German, but she writes:

Basic summary: “We don’t need to talk about gender equality in our party because we already have gender equality! Every woman who says otherwise is an evil bitch! The evil feminists are trying to exclude the poor men! Also, we don’t need gender statistics in our party because we don’t need to care – see above re: gender equality.”

Err, yeah.

The Pirate Party is a political party who support Internet rights and the oppose online censorship and the like — for a US perspective, think EFF as an actual political party (though yes, there is an actual US Pirate Party, as well as others internationally).

The discussion seems to have come up after an attempt to form a women’s group within the German Pirate Party. A Google translation of the Piratinnen page on the Pirate Party wiki reads:

“We are post-gender” is often claimed by the pirates. This is an ideal and for many it is so, but sometimes the reality, unfortunately, still looks different. That nobody is disadvantaged, can not be dogmatically postulated by the majority. We want to reach women who feel discriminated within the party – and women who are not going to take but the position of the other seriously. In particular, we want to be focal point for women who for network policy and issues of interest to other pirates, but have not been committed because they feel discriminated against than women with us. We want to create a communication space in which such problems can be articulated.

Sounds very much like the same discussions I’ve heard in other tech areas (open source, tech industry, etc.) Are there any German GF readers who can share a bit more insight into this particular situation?

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.

You know what’s hilarious AND disgusting?

Vaginas! And anything that goes in or near vaginas! If you want to be the funniest person in the world, and gross everyone out with how edgy and ewww you’re being, what you should do is compare things to menstrual products.


Also, people will think you are twelve years old. Which is awesome, because twelve-year-olds are the funniest and coolest people in the history of ever.

Wiscon panel brainstorming post

Those of you who attend WisCon probably already know that they are seeking program ideas. For those who have never attended WisCon before, it is a Feminist Science Fiction Convention held each May in Madison, Wisconsin. I went for the first time last year, and met many of the GF bloggers there for the first time, not to mention many of our regular commenters. It was a great experience, and one I look forward to repeating this year. If you’ve never been to an SF convention before, I can recommend this one to first-timers.

Anyway! My point! I had one!

Program suggestions close on the 22nd. What are you going to suggest? Got any half-formed ideas you’d like to bounce around? Do any of the geek feminist events of 2009 suggest panels? And the most important question: GF Party Y/Y?

Quick hit: About a rant about women

I guess by now everyone’s seen Clay Shirky’s A rant about women?

This worry isn’t about psychology; I’m not concerned that women don’t engage in enough building of self-confidence or self-esteem. I’m worried about something much simpler: not enough women have what it takes to behave like arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks.

It was cheering that, by the time I read it, there were already comments pointing Clay (and other readers) at the ovular (what!? it’s like seminal but without the semen!) Women Don’t Ask. If you haven’t read that book, go get hold of a copy pronto. It’s an overview of research into negotiation skills and gender, and it’s eye-opening.

I didn’t see linked, but also thought of, Fugitivus’s posts about rape culture, especially another post about rape, in which she says:

If we teach women that there are only certain ways they may acceptably behave, we should not be surprised when they behave in those ways.

That, in a nutshell, is my response to Clay. (A good feminist bookmark collection is a life-saver, I swear.)

Two other posts I found today, talking about Clay’s rant. First, Gabriella Coleman, Being Bad-Ass w/o the Arrogance:

I have always resented the idea that women can’t be assertive and confident. However, confidence and self-esteem, which I agree are vital for getting noted, does not inherently entail jerky behavior. I think Shirky’s perspective might be skewed because of his home field, which is filled with just the type of guys he is describing.

And Tom Coates, Should we encourage self-promotion and lies?:

My experience has been that there’s definitely a role for the arrogant and the pushy in the creation and promotion of a project. It’s also taught me that this skill is a small part of the set of skills necessary to produce something great.

The kinds of things that result in great products are tangible skills, a desire and a pleasure in collaborative building, an aspiration and sense that you’re making something important, a sense of teamwork, room to experiment, the ability to bring out the best in the people around you, a good work ethic.


GF Classifieds

We’ve been saying for a while that we ought to do something like this, so here’s a first attempt.

I frequently get email from people who say that they’re trying to recruit women for events, projects, speaking gigs, research studies, or whatever. I sometimes wonder… what am I meant to do with these emails? I’m not just going to post them here every time. For one thing, it would be spamalicious, and for another, I quite often don’t know the event/project/etc in question and don’t have time to research it before implicitly endorsing it by posting the want ad.

So, this is going to be a semi-regular (I hope) place for people who are looking to reach out to women to post their information.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Geeky subjects only. We take a wide view of geekdom, but if your thing isn’t related to an obviously geeky topic, you’ll probably want to give a bit of background on why the readers of Geek Feminism would be interested.
  2. Explain what your project/event/thing is, or link to a webpage that provides clear, informative information about it. Ideally you’ll also explain why geek women might find it particularly awesome.
  3. Explain what you’re looking for. Think of it like a job ad: what is the activity/role in question, and what would it involve? What is the profile of people you’re looking for?
  4. Keep it legal. Most jurisdictions do not allow you to (eg.) advertise jobs for only people of a given gender. So don’t do that. If you are advertising for something that falls into this category, think of this as an opportunity to boost the signal to women who might be interested.
  5. Provide a way for people to contact you, such as your email address. The email address you enter in the comment form is not public, so don’t assume that readers can see it.
  6. Keep an eye on comments here, in case people ask for clarification or more details. (You can subscribe to comments via email or RSS.)

If you’d like some more background/tips on how to reach out to women for your project/event/whatever, take a look at Recruiting women on the Geek Feminism Wiki.

And, because this is the first time we’ve had this sort of thing, here are some examples of things that would be suitable to post:

  • If your workplace is hiring, and you’d like to see more women applying, you could post job ads here and tell us why geek women would love working there.
  • If you are an event organiser, you could use this to recruit speakers or attendees (be sure to mention any efforts you have taken to make your event women-friendly).
  • You could advertise for guest-bloggers or writers for geeky publications.

You get the idea. Good luck!

Wanted: aggressive people with no lives

Sarah Mei just tweeted:

Whenever anyone asks why there aren’t more female developers at startups, I’m going to send them this job post.

The link goes to this job ad for Mahalo:

If you’re looking for a 9-5 gig where you can keep your head down and collect a pay check don’t apply—we don’t want you. Seriously, I don’t care if you wrote the book on Python or MySQL… if you’re not a hardworking maniac who is hungry as hell you’re of no use to us. We need killers. So, if you’re a killer who wants crush it with a bunch of killer who already crushing it send me your resume.

Their benefits include:

We’ll clean your car for you and do your laundry—literally. Seriously, we don’t want you thinking about doing your laundry, cleaning your car or what you’re doing to eat—let alone spending time on that non-sense.

Who is this aimed at? Young single people, for starters. People who can move cross-country for a job. People without kids. People whose partners care for the kids. People who are aggressive. People who like working with other aggressive people, including the boss. People who are pushy enough to deal with a self-described meritocracy, or be fired. People who can identify with a long list of male names, representing people who previously enjoyed working this way.

Sound appealing to you? If not, how would you write that ad to make it more appealing?

Two genderfails from LiveJournal and its environs

First up, the return of fannish scammer formerly known as Victoria Bitter, most recently appearing on LiveJournal as thanfiction. If you’re familiar with the back-story, you’ll know that the person in question has been identifying as male for some years now. Despite this, various people in the fandom_wank thread have been referring to him as “she” or “s/he” or the like. The fandom_wank post now comes with a “No more transfail!” warning.

Brown Betty puts it like this:

It is never okay to disregard a transperson’s preferred gender identity. Not if he’s a compulsive liar, not if he’s a demonstrated con-artist, not if he’s dragging down the name of fandom, not if he’s the worst person on the internet.

Let me recontextualize, with a hypothetical: “It is never okay to slut-shame. Not if she’s a compulsive liar, a demonstrated con-artist, dragging down the good name of fandom…”

Clearer now?

Meanwhile, Livejournal has recently added code which will require (binary) gender disclosure, presumably to better target its advertising. Unlike, say, Facebook, LJ has never nagged you to disclose your gender or fit into the boxes marked “Male” or “Female”. This made it more trans-friendly than many social networking sites.

Denise’s letter to the LJ feedback folks reads, in part:

Transgender and genderqueer individuals experience discrimination every day when they are forced to identify themselves with the gender binary when it doesn’t apply to them. Please do not contribute to this oppression.

Please keep the “Unspecified” option for gender, and add an “Other” option, if you are making the gender field mandatory. Please do not contribute to the oppression of others. While I recognize that having a user’s gender makes advertisers happier, collecting revenue at the expense of human suffering is not the action of a company I want to do business with.

She suggests that LJ users go set their gender to “Unspecified” in protest, before the probable code-push on Thursday, and send a letter to LJ registering your disapproval.

If anyone wants ’em, I’ve got Dreamwidth invites. More on Dreamwidth and trans/genderqueer inclusion.

ETA: The LJ change has been rolled back. Binary gender disclosure will not be required (for now).