liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
A while back, [personal profile] jimhines, (who is generally a worthwhile feminist blogger, though he talks about a lot of other stuff apart from politics), wrote a very cute post about an alternate version of what his life would have been, had he been female. This seems a very cool idea, and I thought I might copy it. The trouble is that I think in most respects my life would have been the same or slightly worse had I been male. Still, a thought provoking exercise.

The boy who blogs as Lev was born in an alternate universe back in 1978 )

I think doing this exercise could be a useful way of thinking about sexism and perhaps avoid getting entangled in pointless debates about terms like "privilege". Also, it's always fun to imagine alternate versions of your own history. (Somewhat easier for me since I do have brothers, so the early part of the story at least is fairly possible to predict!)
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
There's a thing where women go to technical or fannish conferences and experience creepy, sexist behaviour. There's a thing where they write about it online and suddenly the entire internet hates them. (Rebecca Watson and the atheist blogosphere is just the latest example, it's a pretty common pattern.)

So the first thing happened to me last week, and I'm sitting here hesitating whether to post about it unlocked, because I don't particularly want the second thing to happen. I think the risk is low because Dreamwidth isn't really noticeable to the blogosphere, and because the community here doesn't overlap with the community attending the conference, (unlike the situation of conferences about the future of the web or fannish topics). Anyway, I think there's some merit in telling the world when something like this happens, and also I'm pretty angry about it, though it was fairly minor in the scheme of things.

This year's ASME conference was on the theme of diversity in medical education. There were lots and lots of good things about it, and I had a very enjoyable time overall. The one sour note was a slightly pompous, middle-aged American attendee who approached me. I was wearing my hair in its usual long plait which had fallen over my shoulder. He reached out as if to grab my hair, which meant reaching towards my breast underneath, and said "That's a great ponytail you have there, you're beautiful!" He was moving past me at the time and was the other side of the room before I had time to recover from my initial goldfish state.

I don't think he was being lechy, otherwise he would have stayed around for a reaction. I didn't feel threatened: it was right in the middle of a crowded room. No, the only reason I'm angry is the breathtaking arrogance of his assumption that I wanted to know what he thought of my hair and appearance. I was taking part in a professional conference, I was enjoying a coffee break and networking opportunity. I wasn't there for his aesthetic enjoyment, just because I happen to be younger than him and new to the medical education community and female. He probably read me as even younger and less influential than I am; the big selling point of the ASME conference is that it's a chance for everybody to mingle, from first year medical students to international Med Ed superstars. I know I look young for my age (the long hair contributes to this), and even if he guessed that I'm a junior lecturer rather than a student, I'm a complete newbie in the field of medicine and medical education.

It's a little thing, certainly, and it's hardly going to drive me out of my chosen career! But there's something incongruous about a three-day event in opulent surroundings set up for middle-aged, influential, mostly white men to air their opinions about how to make the medical profession more diverse, and then they turn round and treat their younger female colleagues like that.

The keynote speaker, another middle-aged, highly successful, white-appearing, middle-aged doctor and academic, annoyed me not by overt sexism but because he kept contrasting "diverse students" with "less diverse students". Apparently when presenting his research about the experiences of black and minority ethnic medical students, he was too embarrassed to use the term "white". Less. diverse. I've always rolled my eyes a bit when I see studies discussed that suggest many white people have negative associations with concepts like diversity, access, multiculturalism etc. But if someone who's enough of an expert to be invited as a keynote speaker at a conference on diversity talks as if "diversity" is a characteristic that individuals have to a greater or lesser extent depending on how many oppressed groups they belong to, the problem starts to look explicable.

And circling back to my opening paragraph, I wonder if there isn't something similar going on when a comment as carefully neutral and mildly stated as Watson's ...don’t invite me back to your hotel room, right after I’ve finished talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner can provoke such huge outrage. Somehow women are saying "I'd prefer not to be sexually harassed, thanks", and some men are hearing "men are all evil and disgusting and probably rapists". There are lots of reasons for this phenomenon, and one of them is probably genuine defensiveness by actual misogynists. Still, a contributing factor may be that objecting to harassment is considered a feminist position (as opposed to, you know, a decent human being position!) and feminism is tainted by all kinds of negative associations.

Anyway, I will soon get round to writing more about all the cool things that have been going on this month! Just wanted to get this story off my chest.
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
When I went to university, I left an almost exclusively female environment for a male-dominated environment. The differences I noticed were very small, and all positive. But this weekend I returned to my old college for a reunion, and there were several things that started me thinking.

some observations and speculations )

Anyway, I had a lovely time, revisiting some of the fun relaxing things you can do in an Oxford summer, without any of the intense academic pressure parts of being a student. College even thoughtfully put me in the same house where I had a room in first year, to really underline the nostalgia! It was lovely to be able to show [personal profile] jack some of my past, and show him off to some of my former fellow students. And conversation at lunch was great fun as usual at these college occasions, just throw a bunch of highly intelligent and socially confident people together and watch them play around with ideas while eating tasty food and drinking really good wine.

There was also a heat-wave, which made me wilt a bit but certainly showed the city at its best. Apart from the college events, we ate at Al-Shami (its more down-market but friendlier daughter restaurant, Restaurant du Liban, very sadly no longer exists), and wandered about Jericho and along the canal to Port Meadow, and had a pint in the Turf and consumed lots and lots of G&Ds icecream.

I don't think I'll make a habit of attending college reunions every year, but it was nice to drop in for one occasion, anyway.


Oct. 31st, 2009 08:09 pm
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
Imagine someone holds the opinion that people should not face prejudice and discrimination on the grounds of height. That's almost so obvious it's not worth stating, but what if instead of agreeing that it's completely obvious, people started arguing against our heightism activist by loudly declaring that of course height exists, there's no point being politically correct and ignoring the fact that some people are shorter than others!

this example is obviously ludicrous )

In spite of the obviousness of this point, a lot of people seem to be confused on it when the issue is not height, but gender. I have seen a lot of fruitless arguments like this, even among generaly intelligent and sensible people:

Feminist: Don't discriminate based on gender.
Peanut gallery: But gender totally exists!
F: Our culture is often prejudiced against women.
PG: But gender is totally real and biological, not just cultural!
F: Sexism forces women into low-status roles.
PG: But gender totally exists, so men and women are suited to different jobs!
F: Everyone should be able to choose the path that best suits their talents and personality, regardless of gender.
PG: But gender totally exists!
Random Observer: I guess I must not be a feminist, then, because I definitely believe there are differences between men and women.
F *headdesk*

I think a big part of the problem is that people are unclear about what the word gender means. In some ways it was an unfortunate choice of term, because it already had a meaning referring to languages which have two arbitrary declensions, even for inanimate objects. But that's the word most commonly used to refer to the complex interaction between a person's identity and how they are perceived in society. Usually, but not always, the person's biological sex, ie their configuration of genitals, reproductive organs and possibly chromosomes, is going to be a major component of their gender identity. Now we have a big problem, because some people believe that sex and gender are absolutely congruent in all cases, and some people are embarrassed to use the word "sex" in formal situations (or confuse it with the other thing we call "sex", namely the act of having erotic intercourse). And some people have picked up the idea that "gender" is a more polite or more academic or more PC way of saying "sex", so they always say "gender" even if sex is what they mean, which is a bit like people thinking it's posher to say "whom" instead of "who" and overcorrecting.

Look, sex obviously exists. It's a (mostly) objective aspect of biological animals, including humans. No sane person is denying that the majority of humans belong to either the male or the female sex, and you can reasonably easily tell who is in which category. (You can get some problems when people insist that what is true for the majority must be true for everyone, but that's not my major point here.) It's also mostly trivial; there are circumstances for which it matters, such as pregnancy, and susceptibility to certain diseases. There are a few physical traits which are roughly divided along sex lines, such as height, muscle mass, fat distribution and so on. It would be extremely stupid to deny that these differences are real, physical differences, but it would also be extremely stupid to claim that all men are taller, stronger and leaner than all women; we humans just don't have that degree of sexual dimorphism.

But the point is that we live in a culture that has collectively decided that differences in somatic characteristics aren't important outside these narrow, mostly medical contexts. Most people having these debates broadly agree that it's wrong to treat people differently based on differing appearances, especially if the treatment is favourable to one kind of appearance and hurtful to the other kind.

However, gender is a different thing. I don't know why gender identity often goes along with physical sex; could be something that has evolved in the way human brains work, could be a consequence of the human tendency to divide people into categories based on superficial but immediately obvious traits, like sex in fact. It doesn't really matter; gender identity is clearly real as well, and the fact that it is psychological and social rather than physical doesn't make it any less so! It's also obvious that lots of people become very unhappy if the social rules for how they can express their gender identity are too rigid. Although in general in our society, having a masculine gender and a male body are relative advantages, men are just as likely to be miserable if they have to behave in ways they find completely unnatural and uncomfortable in order to get those advantages. That's sexism, in a nutshell (and it possibly should be called "genderism" according to the argument I've just made), and I'm against it because it makes people unhappy, it's an inefficient way to run society (putting effort into making people conform to generalized expectations instead of changing the model when it doesn't match reality), and most importantly because it's unfair.

One of the ways that sexism is unfair is that it severely and unjustly punishes people for having a gender identity at odds with their physical sex. That can be men who are effeminate or women who are butch, or it can be people who have such a strong sense of non-congruent gender identity that they experience dysphoria about their bodies. Now, if you knew nothing at all about gender dysphoria, you might hypothesize that undergoing surgery to bring one's body in line with one's gender identity would be totally useless and probably harmful. However, if you look at the actual empirical evidence, it turns out for some such people, no amount of counselling or brainwashing, and no amount of rejecting sexism and gender essentialism does any good, whereas reassignment surgery is pretty much curative. For others, simply behaving in ways typically associated with the opposite sex is not enough to make them feel right, but getting other people to acknowledge them as the sex that matches their gender, for example with names and pronouns and legal certificates with the appropriate sex category on, is enough. Again, you might not think this would do any good, but for some people, it does.

I have little respect for people who cling to their first assumption when the empirical evidence overwhelmingly contradicts them, and I have even less time for this attitude when it involves expecting other people to live their lives in misery in order to better suit the disproven theory. I suspect that the number of people who can get such major (and unexpected based on pure thought experiments) benefits from reassignment surgery or non-surgical transition is probably quite small, but there is absolutely no call to punish this small group for all the social ills related to sexism (which in fact has little to do with their unusual gender status anyway!)

That was an aside, really, or rather an extreme and topical example of the kind of question it's hard to have a useful, communicative discussion about, because every time someone brings up the issue, it devolves into an argument about whether gender exists. This argument is stupid and unhelpful! Gender exists, duh. Also, sexism is bad, duh. And trying to do something about the latter is in no way contradictory to the former. Just because gender exists, doesn't make it ok to force people into a really narrow set of behaviours based on their physical sex (or even to argue that biological sex doesn't matter, as long as people stick rigidly to one or the other set of gender rules). Just because gender exists, doesn't make it ok to discriminate against people based on their gender, or treat things and people regarded as "feminine" as inferior to things and people regarded as "masculine".

Disclaimer: I have a really weak gender identity myself, so a lot of my ideas about gender are quite theoretical, and I've never been strong at social science anyway. And my take on trans issues is going strongly for the basic human decency angle, based on what I've picked up from friends and reading, but I am in no way an expert. Check out [personal profile] auntysarah or [ profile] lisaquestions for much more in depth information.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
Went to hear a talk about how different mutations in the same gene (to do with the semi-rigid network that holds cell nuclei together) can cause a whole range of different diseases: neurological degeneration, heart failure, muscular dystrophies, premature ageing, and problems of fat metabolism. Apparently in one form of the last, patients with inherited mutations are normal until puberty, and then lose most of their subcutaneous fat, instead accumulating body fat in the liver and pancreas. They end up with problems similar to diabetes and chronic heart failure, due to too much fat in places it's not supposed to be as well as too little where it's meant to be.

We heard that the condition is far more readily diagnosed in girls than boys, and indeed that a girl will often be picked up and then her brothers turn out to have the same problem when investigated. Why? Because if a teenaged boy suddenly loses all the fat from his limbs, the uncovered muscles give the appearance of being "cut", and prominent muscles are desirable for teenaged boys. But if a similar process happens to a girl, she panics because her arms and legs are becoming all ugly and muscly, and rushes to the doctor.

The (American) lecturer regarded this as vaguely amusing. But I find it really rather sad, the idea that having visible muscles is such a terrible tragedy for girls. (OK, in this case it is the symptom of a serious disease, but in the early stages there's no reason to think that.) It makes me wonder just how many girls are avoiding doing exercise to make sure their limbs stay soft and unmuscular.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
This is based on several discussions I've taken part in recently, both on LJ and offline. My options are deliberately inadequate because I'm more interested in discussion in the comments than in the actual vote counts.

no, you don't get any nuance, pick one or the other )

PS I don't have time for nature versus nurture arguments; it's part of human biology that we are members of societies, so it's natural that we are subject to social pressure.

PPS There are various flavours of genderqueer and trans folk reading this journal, as well as people with a whole spectrum of opinions about feminism, so try not to be more offensive than you can help.


Nov. 6th, 2008 11:29 pm
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
I know you shouldn't eavesdrop, but the group at the table next to me this lunchtime weren't speaking quietly or confidentially. They were having a loud, cheerful discussion of how difficult it is for a man to mention any of the fundamental biological differences between men and women. In fact, the way that is is hard for men to have a voice in feminist circles is just like the way that certain topics to do with race are taboo for white people. It's a big problem for feminism, this unwillingness to listen to men and to put the movement on a sound, objective scientific basis rather than just clinging to victim identity and unempirical but ideologically sound political theories.

These are Swedish men, a sociologist and a couple of ecologists I think, the sort of people who would be deeply offended if you implied they were anything other than staunch feminists. They knew all the right buzzwords, they talked about the difference between sex and gender, and decried essentialism. They rather deplore the fact that women are under-represented at the senior levels they belong to, though they expect it's probably mostly a matter of time lag and the fact that so many women choose family over career in spite of all the opportunities available to them.

I suppose I shouldn't complain, perhaps a generation ago a similar group of middle-ranking academics would have bonded by means of loud conversations about the fuckability of their secretarial staff. And they really do mean well, they really do seem to feel hurt about not having an equal voice in feminist discourse. It's extraordinarily unlikely that they were having this discussion with the deliberate intention of making female colleagues feel unwelcome. It's just sad that people who have lived most of their lives in a remarkably egalitarian society, people who strongly believe in principle that women and men are absolutely equal, people who by the sound of it are better versed in feminist literature and theory than I am, just so fundamentally don't get it.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
Having decided I'm going to be a feminist, I should actually do something about it. I'm somewhat in trepidation about discussing directly feminist ideas in public like this, but I'd be pretty useless if I kept silent and never dared to say anything about my convictions. But I am certainly not claiming to be any kind of authority on this stuff.

Anyway, this post, such as it is, is dedicated to [ profile] ravingglory, [ profile] lizzip and [ profile] atreic.

sharing a planet with men )

I find myself in an LJ discussion (mostly friends locked) where I am trying to explain why feminism is a matter of justice. [ profile] atreic comes from a similar place to me and feels alienated by feminism telling her that she's a victim even when her life is in fact perfectly satisfactory. [ profile] lizzip has a strong sense of the need to make the world a fairer and more welcoming place for women. And all three of us find ourselves in conversation with men who don't see why they should bother with feminism, because at least this part of the world is basically equal already, and there are feminists making sloppy, man-hating arguments all over the internet.

I am working on the basis that the men who don't see the point in this discussion and a whole lot of other similar are mostly coming from a position of good faith. (Not absolutely all of them; there are clearly some people who just like to disrupt feminist discussions because they feel threatened or just like the attention they get from literal trolling.) But it's perfectly possible to genuinely and sincerely care about women, and still not get it; I didn't for a long time, after all. At some level, I want to convince such well-meaning people, but at the same time I feel really, really uncomfortable with any kind of proselytizing.

I'm also all dewy-eyed and naive and actually taking an explicitly feminist position in a highly charged internet argument is a novelty to me. I can really see both sides of the argument so well it's almost dizzying. I can see the weary frustration of seasoned feminists who have to deal with a huge wall of denial every time they mention a sexist incident. I can see why many might not want to argue at all, or might not want to be polite and patient, with men who might possibly deign to care about injustices against women if they can be convinced that feminists have a cast-iron rational case that would stand up in the strictest court. Everybody who complains about sexism has to answer for every feminist who might ever have said something negative about men, or something more emotional or hyperbolic than rigorous. At the same time, I can completely see why feminism can look really alienating; it alienated me for a long time, and for exactly the same reasons being raised in this kind of conversation.

I am going to propose a theory about why it's extremely difficult to report sexism and systematic discrimination. This is probably obvious to experienced feminists, but it might be helpful to people who don't see the point. Anyway, it's a conclusion I've come to recently. If you talk about individual incidents, people can (and seem particularly inclined to) always propose reasons why that particular incident might not be sexist. Even if someone believes that the most likely reason why a woman was disadvantaged is sexism, she's still rather in a double bind: if the incident was minor, she's making a fuss about nothing, but if it was major, then it wasn't mere sexism, it was viciousness by someone so far beyond the pale of normal human behaviour that there's no hope for them.

To avoid this problem, you have to go to systematic analysis to look for overall trends. The problem with that is that it becomes very abstract, people don't relate emotionally. And it's a lot of work, so it ends up being its own academic discipline, with its own jargon and community that is not very accessible to outsiders and a sort of self-perpetuating orthodoxy. Like most complex subjects, feminist studies and positions get misquoted and over-simplified by ignorant internet people. At the same time, if someone posts to a blog complaining about an annoying sexist remark, they don't want to and quite likely can't justify their complaint by giving an overview of all the feminist studies and theory ever to have been performed on the topic.

So it's easy to get to a point where someone who has done a fair amount of reading and thinking about feminist issues is going to dismiss a well-meaning but relatively ignorant man out of hand, if he starts demanding detailed arguments why he should believe her complaint. This can end up looking a lot like telling him that his opinion is worthless just because he's male, which is not at all likely to encourage men to be sympathetic to feminism.

Obviously, the fact that something is hard to demonstrate doesn't make it true! But what I would like to see is a little less readiness to look for reasons why sexism might not be sexism. I want people to at least consider the possibility that something might be true, and realize that some of the apparent causes for scepticism would still apply even if it were true. Also, the fact that some people who consider themselves feminists say ridiculous things fairly obviously doesn't make every claim that might be interpreted as feminist prima facie ridiculous!

SF gender

Jul. 16th, 2008 09:32 pm
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
So I read Ian McDonald's River of gods about a month ago, and although I was extremely impressed with it, I never got round to posting a review. I think that's partly because I bounced about it at [ profile] cartesiandaemon and [ profile] rysmiel while I was reading it, and partly because I'm disorganized. But it's an absolutely fascinating and highly original book.

Anyway, among the explosion of exciting SF ideas, one of them is the concept of "nutes" who "Step Away" from gender, by a surgical and psychological process more or less analogous to an extreme version of sex reassignment surgery in our reality. I just can't get out of my head that if that gender existed, I would want to be it.

gender stuff, very slight spoilers if you're super-picky about this kind of thing )

Don't know if I'm actually going anywhere with this; the main point is that if you are interested in my review, it's linked.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
Author: Hanne Blank ([ profile] misia)

Details: (c) 2007 Hanne Blank; Pub 2007 Bloomsbury USA; ISBN 1-59691-010-0

Verdict: Virgin is lively and interesting.

Reasons for reading it: I was reading [ profile] misia's journal while she was writing Virgin and it seemed such a fascinating project I wanted to read the end result.

How it came into my hands: I bought it from Amazon, nice shiny new hardback, because reading her blog meant I had enough trust in Blank's writing to pay real money for the book. And it is a very nice edition, lovely paper, attractive typeface, and a sparsely elegant cover (I am so glad that [ profile] misia won her argument and stopped the publishes from using the clichéd image of a naked woman's torso).

detailed review )


May. 2nd, 2008 11:47 am
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
I think I might be a feminist after all.

I've probably been headed in this direction for a while now. My sporadic habit of delving into feminist writing seems to have developed into an ongoing interest, and I've been finding myself more and more taking feminist lines in discussions I've been involved in. At the same time, I've been getting increasingly angry about sexual violence in various forms. I am not completely sure that feminism is the optimal way to address this problem, but there's not much else available in the way of movements organized around the issue, and it's important enough that I feel I have to do something. I can't just dismiss it as somebody else's issue when so many women's lives are constrained by the fear of rape, and when that fear has proved justified for so many of my friends.

There are undoubtedly some people who define themselves as feminists who are not at all nice or even rational people, but I've become increasingly aware of feminists I strongly admire. (Not just people I admire who happen to be feminists, but people I admire because of the way they live as feminists specfically.) It's never a good idea to judge an ideology by its worst adherents! Several people on my flist have influenced me in this direction, but [ profile] redbird in particular has inspired me. Partly, in fact, by not being terribly evangelistic about feminism, but just being an example of someone who is compassionate and thoughtful and makes sensible and enlightening comments from a feminist perspective.

The immediate cause for making this decision now is to do with the discussion around and reaction to the incredibly stupid Open Source Boob thingy. I found myself following links and reading posts about it almost compulsively, and some of it was really amazing and insightful, but some of it was incredibly, crushingly depressing. I'm not going to talk about it much because really absolutely everything original that could possibly said has already been chewed over about five hundred times. But the point is I was feeling more and more strongly that I want to be on the side of the people who are making insightful and compassionate analyses all over the place, and not on the side of the people who keep coming out with crass and depressing comments.

further wibbling )

Recanting a long-held opinion is a bit painful, isn't it? Last time I went through a process like this was in my early teens, when I realized that caring about the long term environmental effects of my lifestyle was actually morally important, and not just some stupid trendy bandwagon. It's a big part of my self-image that I am capable of changing my mind if I'm convinced by better evidence or arguments, and that allows me to overcome the cognitive dissonance and just general embarrassment of admitting, actually, I was wrong.
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
I posted a slightly tongue-in-cheek essay to my OKCupid journal recently, on the topic of men who whine that women on OKCupid are rude to them. I give several possible reasons why women might be rude in an online dating context like OKCupid: summary of the essay )

The version I posted on OKCupid was a lot less harsh than this. I filled it with disclaimers about how I'm sure all the men doing the complaining are basically decent people, and how I understand that it's really upsetting if a woman is rude to you because of other men being jerks to her in the past. Even so, within minutes I got a comment from a guy whining that I was expecting men to be omniscient, and how unfair it is that women are so mean to him. (I suspect this is partly a ploy, he wants me to come back to him and try to prove that I'm not like those mean horrible women that he's complaining about.)

I'm also reminded of this long and tangled discussion on Making Light. There was a thread that was vaguely about feminism, and a commenter showed up with an anecdote about an incident of fairly standard harrassment of a woman by men. The reaction to it was kind of amazing. Many women started talking about how she might have been in physical danger, and ways to assess the probability of and hopefully avoid really extreme things like gang rape in that sort of situation. Many men started talking about how the guy sounded like he was a bit clueless but he didn't mean any harm, and there was no need for her to overreact so much, she should have been more polite. (Her supposed rudeness, by the way, consisted of: So I take off the headphones, look him dead in the eye, and say, "I would like to be left alone. I thought by now that would be obvious. Good night." And I put the headphones back on.)

Now, the discussion wasn't divided purely along gender lines, but the gulf was definitely significant. The thread unfortunately devolves into people yelling at eachother, with some trying to frame the whole discussion with standard feminist theory and others not understanding the asusmptions of said feminist theory, and I don't think any of that is helpful. But I think it's part of the same phenomenon I'm talking about in this post. Men just don't know what it's like to go through the world being female, and don't understand why a lot of women make an assumption of malice when an unknown man approaches them. Also, they don't see malice when it actually exists; the guy in Nicole's story wasn't just socially inept, he was getting off on having power over her, but he was keeping his threats deniable.

I've never been offended by a man chatting me up or expressing interest in me, if it's genuine. I am offended by men being sleazy and lechy because they can get away with it. I really don't like having to be wary of men; by nature I'm very friendly and will chat to pretty much anybody who approaches.
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
In a discussion in a locked post, someone mentioned those stupid "statistics" about how often people think about sex. Because I am incurably nosy (and also procrastinating), I decided to make a poll.

poll beneath )

As usual, feel free to argue with the poll, suggest options I've left out, clarify beyond the detail of the poll options, etc.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
Go back and look at the poll I posted a few days ago. I mean, totally, it's an LJ survey, it means nothing at all. But look at just how many women do the majority of the housework, and there's always a good reason for it; they just happen to be the one more bothered by dirt, or they're better at housework than their partner, or their partner works long hours so they have more time... In each individual case, it's of course nothing to do with gender, but I think there's something going on beyond just random chance here.

lack of conclusions )

I don't have any suggestions for what can be done about this, mind you.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
This is inspired by a discussion in a friends locked post. Please tick as many boxes as seem relevant, but make sure to answer only the question applicable to your gender.

If you don't define yourself as either "male" or "female", that's wonderful and liberated of you but there is no space for you in my poll. Answer in a comment if you like, and preferably don't hate me. The reason for this is that LJ polls have no direct way to link answers in two different categories, and for this particular poll I'm interested in the people who are still part of the binary gendered majority.

[Poll #846234]Oh yes, I am displacing from my own housework, why do you ask?


Aug. 26th, 2006 08:39 pm
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
[ profile] misia posted a poll about gender, and that meshed with stuff I've been thinking about the subject triggered by a remark of [ profile] redbird's about gender and feminism.

This will be rambly. I'll start by quoting my comment to [ profile] misia about how I define my gender:
I don't get on well with these kinds of questions, not because my gender identity is terribly complicated but because it's really trivial to me. I do understand that some people are massively upset about there only being two options for gender and want to pick something else, people who are strongly identified with being some form of genderqueer (by whatever term), people whose gender identity doesn't match their physical body. I'm not in any of those categories; I just want to pick "don't care".

I'm definitely female and more or less cisgendered. I don't on the whole get mistaken for male (or butch or any of the male-leaning genders) in person, because I have long hair, prominent breasts and hips and that sort of thing. Online I read either way and that's fine by me.

I'm not feminine or womanly or femme, but I'm not masculine or butch or manly either, and androgynous is silly because of the aforementioned physical characteristics. Plus the word implies partaking of both male and female, and I think I'm more neither than both (apart from the physical body). If I'm not allowed female as a gender as opposed to a sex, and I'm not allowed to opt out, then woman, or possibly girl. Geek doesn't feel like a gender to me, and I'm not sure whether I identify as that anyway. I like some male-related gender words, such as bachelor, gentleman (but I suspect that's partly because spinster and lady are sucky words).

If such a thing exists, I'm pretty much an agendered person in a female body. And being not really at all attached to my gender I'm not bothered that I read as female.
exploring this further )

So far so navel-gazing. The way this connects to feminism is related to this very trenchant comment on gender presentation by [ profile] papersky.1 One could argue that my not feeling especially female is because I'm rejecting the stereotypes about what female is supposed to mean. And yes, I do pretty much reject those stereotypes. But I do think there's more to it than that, I don't want to regard myself as agendered because I think women are restricted compared to men.

When I was a kid I felt much as [ profile] papersky does (though if I can express myself as well as Papersky does by the time I'm 100 I shall be delighted, let alone when I was seven; anyway I would have agreed strongly with her comment if I had seen it then). I was something of a tomboy, but I hated being referred to as such, or even worse, being mistaken for a boy (I had short hair, so it happened a lot). I didn't in the least want to be a boy, I wanted to be a girl who liked climbing trees and playing hockey and football and dealing with conflicts by physical fighting.

Now, though, I don't feel nearly so strongly. I absolutely believe that in principle women should be able to be scientists and be career ambitious and live on their own and express themselves confidently and all sorts of stuff that stupid misogynists think women shouldn't be allowed to do. But I no longer care that I personally should be perceived as a woman when I'm acting in ways sometimes classified as masculine. I'm simply a person doing the things I want to do, and my gender is irrelevant to that. Is it feminist to say, as [ profile] papersky does, This also is a valid way of being a real woman, or is it feminist to say, do what you like, it doesn't matter what gender you are? I have sympathy for both points of view, but lean more towards the second for myself. The question is, can I take that attitude without undermining people like [ profile] papersky?

Or am I missing the point altogether? It feels to me like feminism has something to do with this, but also that it is giving a lot of unsatisfactory answers. My usual response is to say, well, I don't care about feminism, I'm just doing what I think is right. But on this kind of issue, I don't want to be actively opposing feminism or harming the people who do feel strongly about their gender in whatever direction.

1] I'm trying to display the comment in my journal style because [ profile] redbird's original post is interesting too and my layout shows individual comments attached to the appropriate posts, but due to the weird way security works with S2, that might not work for you. So here's a link to the post in question.
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
Sorry if you're bored with this topic, by the way; I'm working through stuff.

So there were some visitors in synagogue this shabbat. (It's quite gratifying that I'm getting to the point where I can spot visitors as opposed to regulars I don't recognize.) Anyway, the male half of the couple asked me if I was the only woman in the community to wear a tallit. I told him that there are a handful of us, and also mentioned that there are semi-regular "egalitarian" services where women's participation is positively encouraged and that a lot more tallit-wearing women show up at those. He said something about a lot changing in 50 years but I couldn't tell whether he was being approving or critical. I didn't bother getting into an argument about whether this is actually an innovation, anyway.

It turned out that the person I'd been speaking to is rather a famous rabbi. So famous in fact that I had previously assumed (in a vague, non-specific sort of way) he was dead, as he is mentioned so much in historical accounts. And as he was leaving he said to me: Keep flying the feminist flag with your tallit! I said that it wasn't a feminist tallit, but in the conciliatory manner one uses for contradicting strangers.

I am sure the rabbi meant well (and now I know who he is I'm fairly sure he is pro egalitarianism). And no, I don't think it's insulting to be thought a feminist. It's just annoying that people should make a whole string of assumptions about my politics because of something I do for religious reasons, not gender political reasons.

So why do I wear a tallit, then? )

Is that "flying a feminist flag"? I don't see it as such. I don't put gender politics above religion; in this particular case, I think the differentiation between men and women is not justified and that's why I ignore it. But I don't have a problem in principle with men having different ritual roles from women. (And now that I'm a bit more mature I don't think anyone who comes to a different conclusion from me on this issue is old-fashioned or sexist, either.)

Words that might need explaining: tallit is the Jewish ritual garment, often described as a prayer shawl, usually white with black or blue stripes, and where the important part is fringes at the corners tied with knots in a specific pattern. Tallissim is the plural that comes most naturally to me; it's sort of Yinglish though and probably not a "real" word.
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I have always maintained that I don't care very much about the gender of the person leading services. I prefer egalitarian synagogues given the choice, but I am perfectly comfortable with the fact that many sections of the Jewish community don't believe women should take public ritual roles. With this background, I surprised myself by how strong my own emotional reaction was when I walked into synagogue on Saturday and heard a woman leading the morning service.

being a Jewish woman in Stockholm )

While I'm on the subject, I owe my feminist friends an apology for this post. The post in my head was meant to be pointing out the incongruity of seeing these half-naked women prancing about on campus in the name of feminism. But I allowed the post by email function to tempt me into posting too hastily, and I got distracted onto being grumpy about protest marches as a way of achieving political goals, and what with a poor attempt at self-deprecating humour, it ended up looking like a rant about how feminism sucks. Which was really not my point at all.

So, many thanks to [ profile] redbird and [ profile] adrian_turtle for giving me serious and thoughtful answers and not being impatient with my ignorance about feminism. I am ignorant, but not as ignorant as I came across in that post, and I do appreciate people making the effort to explain their beliefs rather than assuming I'm the enemy. Thank you both. And my apologies to you and to any other feminists who may have read and not wanted to comment, for implying (even unintentionally) rude remarks about your beliefs.

I was really reluctant to create a gender tag, because I don't care about gender. But I find myself using it a lot recently, so there you go.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
A troupe of all but naked burlesque dancers is a novel way of protesting that feminism is good and violence against women is bad. Actually, when I saw them my first thought was, guys, it's 7 degrees and raining, you really need some more clothes. My second thought was, oh, it's supposed to be "sexy". Only subsequently did I realize that they are meant to be part of the feminist demo that the college is running today.

When I first saw posters advertising the event "Demonstration about violence against women", my response was a bit, meh. Even the most sexist of chauvinists is not going to be in favour of violence against women, and having a protest about it is not going to convince the few psychos who are pro-violence. Recently, the posters with more detailed info have gone up and apparently the full title is a "Day of feminist protest about men's violence against women and children". That really put me off, because lumping women together with children as vulnerable people that one has a duty to protect doesn't seem to me to be a particularly feminist way of regarding the issue.

The girls with nipple tassles and thongs dancing in the rain with more enthusiasm than skill haven't really changed my mind on this. Violence is bad, duh. Demonstrating to that effect seems singularly pointless, and dividing up violence according to the gender of the victims is possibly even counter-productive. In as far as feminism is about working against anti-women violence, I am pro-feminist (as any sensible person would be). But if feminism is about devoting one's resources to methods that are likely to be totally ineffective, then even if the cause is worthy, I can't be bothered.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
Author: Octavia Butler

Details: (c) 1980 Octavia E. Butler; Pub Victor Gollancz 2000; ISBN 057507-145-1

Verdict: Wild Seed is extremely disturbing, and hard to justify apart from the obvious quality of the writing.

Reasons for reading it: [ profile] lethargic_man recommended it, on the grounds of interesting ideas about different forms of immortality.

How it came into my hands: [ profile] lethargic_man lent it to me.

detailed review )

Wild Seed will certainly stick in my mind, but in some ways I think I'd rather it didn't.


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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