liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently acquired: A second hand book stall appeared right in between my flat and work, and it ambushed me and somehow I ended up with Downbelow Station by CJ Cherryh and Tales of Nevèrÿon Samuel R Delany.

Recently read: In honour of International Women's Day:
The reality of women by Karen Pollock. The article addresses, in order to refute, the idea that trans women aren't real women, lesbians aren't real women, etc. Very erudite piece, and I've always wanted to quote impeccable feminist foremother de Beauvoir's On ne naît pas femme : on le devient at people who somehow think it's "feminist" to make a distinction between women-born-women (ie cis women) and trans women.

Even more internationally speaking, here's Sumita Mukherjee on the rhetorical use of *That* Indian Suffragettes photo.

In reference to the Nation of Internet, [personal profile] siderea makes a very interesting case that moderation is a feminist issue.

Currently reading: A journey to the end of the Millennium by AB Yehoshua. I kind of wish I'd finished it before IWD because it's really quite phallocentric in addition to being written by a male author.

Up next: Not sure. Recommend me something by an author known to be female? Any length, and I'll try to suggest a similar work in return. (International Nonbinary Day is July 17th and International Men's Day is November 19th so if I remember I shall try the same again for those genders on their respective days.)
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
So two posts about terrible letters to agony aunts crossed my radar recently:

[personal profile] oursin: Sexual bucket list WHAT?, and [community profile] agonyaunt: Women need to loosen up. In the Guardian column, the writer asks for validation of his desire to either cheat on his wife or pressure her into anal sex. And in the Dear Abby one, the writer wants his wife to give him an exceptionally nice surprise and stop being so inhibited. I mean, both of these are entirely gross and inconsiderate and in both cases the agony aunts and the DW commenters quite rightly slate the men concerned. But what's bothering me is that both the comment discussions go in directions of jokes along the lines of, bet these awful men wouldn't be so keen if their wives suggested doing them with a strap-on! (Paraphrasing rather that quoting, because the point is not to get at the particular people who made these kinds of jokes, but to talk in general about that sort of rhetoric).

grumpy and somewhat sexually explicit )
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
My current guilty pleasure: compulsively reading lots and lots of think pieces about Fifty Shades of Grey, even though I already know what I think about it, and have no more intention of watching the film than I had of reading the book. I really don't think the release of the film brings much new to the debate, I mean, wow, off-the-charts popular sexy book gets made into a blockbuster film, not exactly earth-shattering news.

Anyway, [personal profile] metaphortunate has the platonic ideal summary of all the FSoG opinions, and some really interesting meta-meta in reaction to it. can't post links without commentary! )


Jan. 7th, 2015 02:58 pm
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
I had an interesting conversation about this sort of general topic, which reminded me: do you prefer compliments on your appearance and body, or compliments on your intellect and personality?

mentions body image, assumptions about beauty and intelligence )
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
When I started to make the post about Ello I was going to talk about women and crowdfunding as well, and ran out of room / time. Now I'm reminded again, partly because of some current discussions in my circles, #GamerGate dragging on in all its horribleness, the Requires Hate story, and other things. And what floated this up to the top of my mind (I'm still not very organized about making lists and plans for what I'm going to post to DW) was that I was talking about playing Ingress and a comment discussion developed about whether the player community is toxic or not. And that made me step back and realize that the first thing I do when I consider playing an online game is make a threat assessment. And that's just for what is for me a potentially fun, time-wasting hobby, not my actual livelihood.

mentions gender violence )

At this point I'm starting to believe there is actually a conspiracy, and it's really scaring me. I mean, I realistically think it's not a literal conspiracy of angry misogynists who want to drive women off the internet, but there's a whole lot of people who find it rewarding to egg eachother on to more and more extreme reactions against women online, and that is pretty much functionally equivalent to a conspiracy. I do not at all have any good ideas about what can be done about this, mind you. Handing over control of online discourse to the police and the state is a solution that's worse than the problem, and the problem is pretty bad.
liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
This is liable to be controversial, and I should emphasise that I'm trying to work out what to think here, not proclaiming the right answers.

So it happens that the latest Captain Awkward discussion is about loneliness and how it can be a vicious cycle, if you don't have enough fulfilling social contact you can become miserable and self-hating and push people away or think everyone's out to get you.

The Awkward Army are being very good at firmly squashing the idea that all problems are just caused by bad attitudes, and pointing out that plenty of people have disabilities or external circumstances meaning they can't "just" make more friends. But still, loneliness is one of those types of suffering that people seem to treat as mostly the sufferer's own fault; the most comparable example I can think of is physical fitness. Like somehow, if you're likeable enough, whatever likeable means, in a fallaciously just world you should have as many friends and lovers as you wish. But that means it's very common to assume that anyone who complains about being lonely must in fact be an obnoxious person. And problems which are stigmatized like that are particularly hard to tackle!

The other thing is that "lonely" means two related, but to my mind different, things. Sometimes it means not having enough social contact, but sometimes it means not having a romantic partner. Or perhaps more precisely, the feelings of sadness and inadequacy that come from not having those connections. A really striking example is the guy in the Captain Awkward comments who says
The article is bull. I am horribly lonely. I shoot pool with friends once a week. I go to church every week. I go out to a party every month. I am active in two local communities. I have hundreds of friends [...]
I mean, sure, it's possible to be lonely in a crowd, but it's clear from the rest of the comment and subsequent thread that what's eating this guy is that he's middle-aged and doesn't have and never has had a romantic partner. And being stuck without a partner but wanting one means being perceived as a failure, to an extent that really worries me.

I think loneliness is a very serious problem, and from what I can understand a pretty widespread one. Some people are lonely because they're obnoxious, yes, but it's still a problem; you have to be a lot worse than just obnoxious to deserve how miserable it can be to be deprived of meaningful contact and emotional support. Anyway, lots of entirely lovely people are lonely because they have other stuff going on making it hard to make friends, or because they're just plain unlucky. That includes the not having a spouse-type partner side of being lonely. It's easy enough to say that marriage isn't everything, that people should be able to manage without that specific type of relationship set-up, but the fact is that lots of parts of society are set up so that it's really hard to function at all if you're not in a romantic dyad. Also, it's perfectly reasonable for an individual to want that in their life, even if it's not necessarily the only road to happiness for everybody.

This issue also intersects with gender stuff; people of all genders can be lonely, and people of all genders can be excluded because they don't have a spouse or aren't romantically "successful" as society measures it. But I'm getting the strong impression that there are aspects of this problem that affect men specifically, and that there are very few sensible conversations covering male experiences of loneliness. I doubt we can magically fix this, but I'd most certainly like to start some discussion if I can.

One thing that prompted me to think about related issues is Lis Coburn's essay Anatomy of a scar, which has an original and really insightful take on what's sometimes called the Nice Guy™ phenomenon. In some ways Coburn is much more sympathetic than a lot of the folk on the internet who use the term Nice Guy™, while she also buys into the idea that Nice Guys, men who are upset because they don't have a girlfriend even though they do their best to behave decently and treat women well, are potentially dangerous misogynists.

wild speculation about gender and relationships )


Jul. 4th, 2014 11:32 am
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
OK, 15 year out of date Buffyfeels, so maybe everybody else has already had this conversation in comprehensive detail. Anyway, [personal profile] jack and I have been watching Buffy the vampire slayer very, very slowly, at the rate of one episode every time we have an hour or so free, which works out at as every couple of months. We're about midway through S2, and recently reached the infamous double episode at 13-14, which Wiki says is titled Surprise / Innocence.

The whole point of this post is to discuss the big reveal in that double episode so if there's anyone left on earth who cares enough about Buffy to want to see S2 but hasn't already seen it, then this is going to be spoilery. technically spoilers, but mostly rant )

So, in conclusion, if you are in love with someone who has mostly benign intentions, but is suffering under a curse which means he's fated to hurt you badly sooner or later, it's not going to end well. And the cursed person is culpable for pursuing the relationship and not being completely honest about the nature of the curse, not you for falling in love with him. You might think this is only relevant to fantasy TV shows, but it's true in real life too.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
I've had some half-baked thoughts about being female on the internet for a couple of months now. My basic thesis is that the internet isn't all one thing, and specifically the parts of "the internet" that have most media visibility aren't the whole story. This may actually be several different ideas muddled together, mind you, and it's always risky to make broad generalizations about gender and social media. But let me have a go, and see if I can refine my vague ideas by discussing them.

muddled and anecdotal; mentions gender violence )

OK, that probably should have been two or three separate posts. And now I really must get back to my marking!


Apr. 3rd, 2014 12:37 pm
liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
This is a theme I keep coming back to, I think, and it's not unrelated to the ongoing discussion about representation. I don't really have a conclusion or anything, so this is mostly a buncha links.

mostly other people being brilliant, with commentary from me )

OK, that ended up longer than I intended. Anyway, thoughts welcome, as usual! Especially if someone can find me the rant about appropriative claiming of genderqueer identities.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[ profile] shreena asked for my views on single-sex education (schools/colleges/universities). I like this prompt, it gives me an excuse to pontificate on a topic I don't get into too often.

views, I have them )

[January Journal masterlist]
liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
So my brother (here known as Screwy) is a sessional teacher in a university. He decided, on the advice of a trans friend, that he would include asking for preferred pronouns during the intros in the first class of term. However, one fresher in his class, whom Screwy read as trans but who isn't out, was made visibly uncomfortable by this. This student later wrote in Screwy's teaching evaluation that this exercise could potentially out them, and respectfully requested that Screwy should not do that again.

As a result, Screwy feels really bad because his good intentions of making his class a safe space for people with diverse gender expressions backfired and actually made one of his students directly unsafe. He asked me to mobilize my right-on gender queer friends and seek advice for how he can do this right in future. I definitely share Screwy's aim of wanting my classes to be gender diverse safe spaces, but I have never dared ask for pronouns at the same time as asking for names, even though I can see the arguments for why it's good practice. So we would both like to know, what would be the most sensitive and helpful way to make both genderqueer people and gender normative, stealthed trans people feel safe?

I would prefer advice from people who have some personal experience or at least informed activist background with this stuff, rather than random speculation from cis people. I mean, I can come up with plenty of random speculation on my own. However, I fairly obviously don't want to out people or in any way force you to state your trans credentials to be able to comment. I think the best way round this is to encourage people to comment anonymously if you are willing to help but don't want to put the complexities of your identity in comments to a public post. I certainly welcome PMs if you have some advice that you don't want to put in the comments even anonymously.

And to give people as clueless as I am something to talk about, I also note that my uni LGBTsoc has declared November to be Trans* Awareness Month. They have Transgender Day of Remembrance shoehorned in there somewhere, but mostly it seems like they're showing a lot of films with trans themes, some of which seem to me to be quite, um, problematic, things like Priscilla queen of the desert and TransAmerica and Rocky Horror. They also sent round a survey to students and staff which basically assumed everybody answering the question would be cis, and had a lot of questions about whether people feel informed about trans* issues, the most egregious being Do you feel confident you could politely address a trans* person? which is making me very much side-eye. I can't figure out whether I should attend some of the events to show solidarity, or studiously ignore them because I don't want to pat myself on the back for supporting "diversity" by means of watching a bunch of chasery, cis gaze films. Maybe just go to the TDOR ceremony, but even that I've seen seriously criticized by activists. The vibe of the whole thing really does feel like it's aimed at making cis people feel good about themselves, but at least actively including trans* stuff within LGBT events is a small step in the right direction. And maybe I'm too cynical, maybe it will help actual trans* students as well?

Any ideas?
liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
Several cheerful upbeat articles about trans* and genderqueer matters have crossed my radar recently, some via Twitter and some on my DW readlist and some just in my general surfing around. I'm cis myself so if I've made a misstep and these are wrong-headed or in fact not cheering I apologize.

[community profile] agonyaunt recently highlighted a lovely column where the correspondent is hand-wringing over a grandchild who is insufficiently gender-conforming, and the advice is to show love and understanding (and stop panicking over nothing). I like how the agony aunt doesn't assume the child is trans or genderqueer because they're not a pink princess, and also doesn't assume the child is a girl just because that's how they were assigned at birth, but gives advice that is sensible and compassionate for any of the possibilities.

Talking of supportive families, this letter to my transgender father rather endeared me. It's interesting that the writer addresses his female parent as "Dad". I sort of like the idea of degendering the term, but some may find its masculine connotations too strong and therefore unpleasant to encounter in an article about a woman.

Ashley Altadonna listed 30 things she learned while transitioning. There's a bunch of really sweet stuff there; her #1 is that her family and friends are wonderful, amazing, supportive etc, and her #30 is that her wife is wonderful too. The post also makes a pretty good guide, from what I can tell, to trans etiquette, and because it comes in a happy bouncy context, not a theory-heavy or angry context, it may be palatable to some people who might otherwise be resistant to the advice.

This article, from Svenska Dagbladet, a right-leaning Swedish broadsheet, is basically a conservative columnist having a giant freakout over some progressive initiatives in Swedish education. Titled Genusförskola är inte jämställdhet [Pre-school gender studies is not equality], it is flapping about such things as:
  • Gender studies academics propose that some of the height difference between men and women is cultural rather than genetic.
  • Gender studies experts may have input into pre-school education
  • There is one pre-school in a trendy area of Stockholm where gender-neutral language ('friend' or 'person') is preferred to gendered language like 'boy' and 'girl'.
  • Some schools are intervening in children's playtime when the kids start segregating toys and activities by gender.
  • Parents will not be allowed to opt their children out of gender egalitarian initiatives in pre-schools. The horror!

    [personal profile] kaberett came out as trans, genderqueer and Queer and started some really excellent conversation, thinky and informative and supportive, on their post. What particularly struck me, among a whole bunch of cogent explanations, is [personal profile] kaberett's comment: the idea that the only way I can be recognised as genderqueer is by looking like a skinny white boy with long hair is bullshit. Which makes me want to reexamine my relationship with androgyny; maybe the fact that I have breasts and broad hips and little desire to alter my body doesn't automatically exclude me from that range of gender possibilities.

    Sidenote: when I congratulated [personal profile] kaberett on running such a good discussion, they said it was nearly as awesome as my conversations, which made me completely fall apart with feeling so well complimented. So, um, apparently we each think the other is amazingly awesome at facilitating good conversations on difficult topics...

    [personal profile] cxcvi also came out as trans and transfeminine, and announced her engagement at the same time. Many congratulations to [personal profile] cxcvi and [personal profile] sophie

    As it happens, several of my friends who happen to be trans have been bouncing at me about happy relationship developments recently; obviously I'm not going to list them here, but it's very pleasing.
  • liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
    Author: Hanne Blank

    Details: (c) 2012 Hanne Blank; Pub Beacon Press 2012; ISBN 978-0-8070-4459-9

    Verdict: Straight has some interesting ideas but overall is a bit rambly and anecdotal.

    Reasons for reading it: I've been a fan of Hanne Blank's various online incarnations for some years now (though her current blog is nothing like as outstanding as her old LJ and a couple of other defunct projects), and I really loved her previous popular history of sexuality, Virgin. Plus I am definitely interested in the topic of a history of heterosexuality.

    How it came into my hands: Bought new. I ended up getting it from Amazon because no non-Amazon shops were selling it in any sensible way.

    detailed review )

    Unfortunately, I think Straight may be one of those books where the title is rather cooler than the actual content. There's some good stuff in Straight, I did learn something, but I feel pretty unsatisfied overall. I think my best bet is going to be to read some of the sources in the (pleasantly extensive) bibliography, particularly Jonathan Katz' The invention of heterosexuality which Blank acknowledges as a major influence.
    liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
    So there's some pushback against using the term bisexual in that the bi prefix implies that there are exactly two distinct sexes / genders, and therefore excludes people who don't fit neatly into either box. noodling )

    And while we're on the topic, a thoughtful piece by CN Lester about whether the term non-binary may itself reinforce binary assumptions.


    Sep. 21st, 2012 03:48 pm
    liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
    There's a non-controversy that's been blazing up from time to time in Sweden over the popularization of the epicene pronoun hen. Swedish has han for him and hon for her, so hen just plain makes sense, it's rather easier to use without stumbling over than many proposed novel pronouns in English. It does have the disadvantage that it's a bit similar to the English word hen, which obviously sounds feminine, which slightly the defeats the point of conveying person-ness without specifying gender.

    However, for reasons I don't entirely understand, some people think that the word hen in popular usage is somehow going to lead to all kinds of implausibly awful consequences like forced castration of all men or outlawing heterosexuality. If you think I'm exaggerating for the sake of sarcasm, you can read some of this discussion, but if you want to retain any kind of faith in humanity then don't follow the link. That comment thread is chock-full of sexism, cis-sexism and I don't know if there's even a term for the really nasty prejudice against non-binary-gendered people on display there. Comment threads at The Local are a bit of a cesspit because since it reports on Sweden in the English language, all the Americans who think that Sweden is the symbol of everything that's evil about socialism show up there. But there seems to be a similar level of outrage in the Swedish media and I can't at all tell why people would feel that threatened by the existence of an accessible epicene pronoun!

    Anyway, someone made a funny internet meme thing which is getting reposted on FB by some of my Swedish connections: they have combined Princess Leia's dress and iconic hairstyle with Han Solo's rugged visage and big gun, and labelled it Hen Solo. I lol'ed, and then realized that it might fill the icon gap I have for talking about gender stuff. It's not as clever as [personal profile] kaberett's Swiss army gender. It's also not quite perfect, because it's in many ways a lot more androgynous than truly gender-neutral, and I don't find guns to be a particularly positive symbol of masculinity, or Han Solo a particularly good role model in general. But I sort of like the combination, the image of a bold, adventurous person with pretty hair and a cute dress and a pronoun that doesn't tell people which box to put them in.
    Anyone around in north or central London on Sunday? I've booked uncancellable train tickets and accommodation for a party which ended up being cancelled. And I was so disappointed that I wasn't going to get my much anticipated fun day out that I decided to go anyway. The tentative plan is to go out for dim sum or similar in Chinatown, and then do something cultural in the afternoon. Possibly the National Gallery, as I'm quite taken by the Titian / Olympic bandwagon-jumping exhibition that's finishing this weekend.

    It's fairly flexible and we're open to suggestions of something different that you're passionate about doing, or recs of more exciting places to get food. Happy to meet up Sunday morning as long as it's not too early and accessible from the Hackney-ish area; because this trip was originally planned around a party, we're staying overnight in Walthamstow. Sunday evening I have to catch a train home, so early dinner somewhere in the vicinity of Euston is doable, but sadly I'm not going to have quite enough time to make it to the Pembury.
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    There is a big kerfuffle / imbroglio going on regarding a woman who was harassed at Readercon. Readercon decided to make an exception to their written policy and apply a reduced penalty to the harasser. Then the internet exploded, as the internet does.

    I can't help myself, I have to opinionate )
    liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
    So I happened to come across a post by [ profile] shweta_narayan where she's trying to find some language for what gender she is [sic; the OP explicitly requests she as a pronoun]. And I can in many ways relate to what she's describing (apart from looking for a word in a non-English language or a concept of gender from a different culture; in as far as I consider myself to come from a cultural and ethnic minority, it's not one that does gender in ways that strike me as particularly different from the mainstream culture I'm also part of.)

    babble about gender, liable to be offensive though I'm trying to be careful )
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    So there's an organization called Athena Swan which promotes institutional policies that are good for women in STEM careers. I signed up for a meeting on the topic, hoping to pick up some tips, because Athena-related events are usually a bit earnest but often useful for both advice and networking. However it turned out that I'd kind of misunderstood the remit of the meeting, and it wasn't there to help female researchers, it was a crisis meeting for senior people.

    Why a crisis? Well, one of the major government funding bodies has announced that the Athena Swan silver level is going to be a prerequisite for funding from now on. They haven't given institutions any lead-in time to actually clean up their acts, it's a fiat which says, support women's careers or no money for you. And the way Athena Swan works, it's assessed on a department by department basis. Currently Life Sciences has achieved their silver level charter, Medicine has a concrete plan in place to apply for it, and my research institute, through whom I will actually be applying for most of my research funding, is kind of wrong-footed. And I suspect the RI is going to have a bit of a hard time because while not actively misogynist as a working environment (good enough for the bronze level charter, probably), they're a bit crap at things like flexible working policies, promoting proportional numbers of women and men and the sorts of things that you need for silver.

    I have rather mixed feelings about this decision by the funders. I mean, on the one hand actually imposing tangible financial penalties on sexist institutions means more than lip service to supporting women's careers. But as a female researcher, I think in many ways I'm more disadvantaged by working for an institution that is barred from a major source of research funding, than I would be anyway for working for a male-dominated institution!

    what do women want? )

    And then my head of department (a female professor, by the way) button-holed me and declared that since I'd showed up I was obviously interested in this stuff, and she wants me on the committee for the medical school to put together an application for our Athena Swan silver award. I think this is probably a good idea, but I'm not sure. Pros: I do in fact believe in making institutional changes so that women can fulfil their potential, and I'd like myself a lot better if I actually contributed to that goal rather than just vaguely thinking that feminism is a good thing. It'll be good CV fodder and genuinely good experience. Cons: the brunt of unintentional discrimination affects mothers, not women in general, and as a childfree woman I'm just not the best spokesperson for "women's" perspective. It's likely to be one of those life-eating things and I possibly shouldn't take on more of those. And of course part of the problem is that women take on more thankless scutwork, which takes time away from research and churning out publications, and gets emotional recognition but rarely actually leads to career advancement. Any opinions, anyone?
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    Author: Deborah Cameron

    Details: (c) Deborah Cameron 2007; Pub Oxford University Press 2007; ISBN 978-0-19-921447-1

    Verdict: The myth of Mars and Venus is an accessible and important contribution to the debate about gender and language.

    Reasons for reading it: I've been meaning to read Cameron for ages, because people keep quoting her or linking to her articles and I have a lot of sympathy for her views.

    How it came into my hands: Thuggish Poet gave it to us as a wedding present, to dispel any worries we might have that men and women can never communicate effectively.

    detailed review )

    I think tMoM&V is a book that everybody who wants to have an opinion about gender and language should read, it's very much a key aspect of that debate. And I don't think most of my friends are likely to take John Gray or Louann Brizendine seriously, but may well be a bit less skeptical when it comes to people like Baron-Cohen who sound "sciencey", so it's definitely good to have access to the other side of the argument. But it's not a book that every right-thinking person should accept wholesale, because it's just not rigorous enough. I think I need something one notch more academic than this, perhaps something aimed at university undergraduates rather than complete laypeople or subject experts.


    Feb. 21st, 2012 11:39 am
    liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
    [ profile] j4 linked to a really fascinating essay about twee marketing a few weeks ago, and I've been meaning to talk about it. and now I shall )

    I'm not arguing that giraffe bread causes sexism, obviously. I'm just having a bit of a click moment where several things fall into place, and I think there's an underlying theme that's worth highlighting!


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