liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
Some months ago, [personal profile] rachelmanija posted a request for escapist genre novels with major Jewish characters. And I babbled about it to people I talk about books with, notably [personal profile] jack, but I've been meaning to make my thoughts into a top level post.

Jewish representation )
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
So it's fairly topical in social justice circles that media representation of "non-default" people is important. I absolutely agree that it's important and I am totally on the side of the people who want more and better representation, and have no truck with the curmudgeons who think that political correctness is ruining good stories. The thing is, though, that what the SJ blogosphere says about representation doesn't really match with my personal experience. This might be because I'm weird, because I'm not American, because my identity isn't just one thing? It might also be because the clamour for more representation is focusing on one aspect of the issue and not on the aspect that's important to me.

thinky thoughts )

I most certainly think that greater diversity of representation is highly, highly desirable. I suppose I just want more diverse stories, not just a greater range of minority identities? I suppose they go together in some way, because if you're only ever represented on the rare occasion when someone wants to tick the minority representation ticky-box, you're a lot more likely to appear in cliched and annoying storylines that are all about stereotypes of your identity. Whereas if stories were more like reality, people with various sorts of identities would have a much better choice of non-awful role models.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
Last week the Islamic society on campus tried to run an Islamic Awareness Week. I say tried to, in that they had some very good events, but they didn't really manage to put any publicity for them in any visible place, so the "awareness" part was rather lacking. Anyway, the keystone of the week was an interfaith panel debate on Should modern law be guided by religious principles?. Some of the regulars from the women's three faiths group I run on campus asked me to speak as the Jewish panellist. I felt somewhat dubious about the event, but I knew that the students who invited me at least were coming from a place of good faith, so I agreed to do it. I made it very clear that I wasn't going to treat it as an adversarial or competitive debate, I wasn't going to try to prove that Judaism is better than Christianity, Islam or humanism, I was only willing to participate on the basis of giving some Jewish perspectives on the topic.

that was an experience )
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
My excellent brother gave me a challenging prompt: can we have a post about Charlotte Cooper's criticisms of the body as a locus of health, and the way even fat activism focuses on health issues. That's assuming you have thought about her stuff. I figured it might be interesting to hear a biologist respond. The problem is that I'm not at all familiar with Charlotte Cooper. Furthermore, between my trying to make daily posts and the fact that Screwy is buried in the very final stretch of writing up his PhD thesis, we haven't managed to find time for a conversation clarifying what exactly he wants me to talk about. I can talk a bit about fat activism being fixated on (a narrow definition of) health, and follow up with a more detailed post once I've had time to do the reading.

bodies and body image )

Not at all sure if this is what Screwy was after; I'll either follow up with more detail or I'll write an entirely different post if I've got the wrong end of the stick.

[January Journal masterlist]
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] zhelana filled the last lonely-looking gap in my January list by asking about social Causes I work towards

not an activist )

[January Journal masterlist]

Not enough

Sep. 11th, 2013 04:18 pm
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
A few months ago, just before I got very busy and then went away, several people made locked posts discussing the issue of not having enough capacity to address all possible problems in the world. This connects to a bunch of stuff that I've been thinking and reading about lately, and I am particularly interested in the question of how to interact productively with people who have different priorities. Also a lot of issues to do with intersectionality seem to be very relevant here. I will try to keep this post moderately focused but I'm rather at the swirling ideas stage of thinking about this.

reactions and questions )

The thing is that in order to avoid these pitfalls, activists have to be able to engage with people who support and are knowledgeable about other, perhaps conflicting causes. So the discussion I want to have is, what's the best way to connect to causes that you personally are not committed to, don't have room in your life or abilities to be committed to? Is there any way to achieve this without just devolving into everybody yelling at everybody else for not being (sufficiently or at all) on the side of good? I note that I'm presuming goodwill here; there is always backlash, there are people who are actively trying to undermine any given worthwhile cause as opposed to not happening to be involved in supporting it. I'm not really talking about how to deal with that sort of actual malice. But I would very much welcome any thoughts.

And thank you to the people who have been having interesting conversations about these issues; I'm not acknowledging you by name because I want to respect the choice to restrict access to your take on potentially controversial discussions.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
So [personal profile] jack recently made a post listing taboos in our social circle. I don't think the things he's talking about are taboos (and indeed, this was the consensus after a long, wide-ranging discussion); I think they are opinions that are likely to get you shouted at, but it's perfectly possible to express those opinions and everybody can think of someone who does in fact hold any one of the listed positions. A real taboo is something you simply can't say, maybe can't even think.

pontification )
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
So [personal profile] jenett is being a superhero-librarian. She conspired with her friend [ profile] elisem [ETA: and others] to get a really well written post about being sexually harassed at an SF con posted simultaneously on six highly trafficked blogs. And now she's curating the conversation and reactions that are arising from this bombshell.

online fandom response to stories of sexual assault )
But in spite of starting from a relatively ideal situation, in spite of being backed up by some really big names, the usual pattern of minimizing responses hasn't been eliminated completely. One thing that always always seems to come up in these discussions is, but what if he was just a bit socially clueless and now he's getting lynched [sic] by the internet for an honest mistake? I mean, that could hardly be less relevant in this case: for a start, we're talking about a guy who holds a senior job at an influential publisher, and one who has a decades-long history of making women uncomfortable and being the sort of guy those in the know warn eachother about.

I'm sort of interested in why people always jump to worrying about that possibility, though. One interpretation is that it's part of a great misogynist conspiracy to stop women from taking any effective action when they get harassed. I don't find that very likely, because I don't believe in conspiracy theories, and because while I'm seen some unambiguous misogynist troll comments, I have definitely seen more that look to me completely sincere. There does seem to be a great terror that if sexual harassment of women at cons is taken at all seriously, it will lead to disaster for socially clueless men.

So the question I have is, how many people reading this personally know someone who has ever been falsely / inappropriately accused of sexual harassment? Just how widespread is this problem, really? I'm particularly concentrating on accusations made against men, but judge for yourselves whether accusations against socially clueless people of other genders are relevant to this conversation. Anon comments are on, and in many ways I'd prefer anonymous comments if personal anecdotes are involved.


Jun. 18th, 2013 07:00 pm
liv: bacterial conjugation (attached)
So a friend made a locked post about definitions of family, and it reminded me of several things that have been in my mind recently. I'm not sure this is going to be very coherent, just a bunch of stuff.

thoughts )

Like I said, somewhat rambly and not very coherent thoughts. This probably ought to've been several posts, really, but let's see what people think.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
So infamous former Conservative MP Louise Mensch wrote a reasonably ignorant article against asking people to check their privilege. The left-leaning internet, lead by Laurie Penny, got very impatient with Mensch. I don't particularly care about Mensch versus Penny; Penny unquestionably has the sharper mind and is far more politically astute and media-savvy, but that's like pointing out that Bach was a better musician than Justin Bieber. I'm more interested in the essence of the debate, about whether the idea of privilege and checking one's privilege is useful to feminism.

I'm more on the fence than you might imagine )

There may not be any way to fix this, I know. But I am not yet convinced that the privilege framing has enough benefits to outweigh this downside, even though I don't really have any better suggestions.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
I am not sure I should really wade into this, because this kind of topic can really easily turn into non-mentally-ill people pontificating about how people with actual mental illnesses should live their lives while obliviously forgetting that they are likely to be talking to people who have actual personal experience. At the same time I think there is a big problem with prejudice against people with mental illnesses (as well as lack of access to treatment, which in some ways is connected to prejudice) and that's something I want to challenge.

links and commentary about mental illness, including discussion of violence )

What I don't know here is how to use rhetoric responsibly. It does a lot of harm to imply that all mentally ill people, or all people with certain categories of mental illness, are dangerously violent. But it also does harm to pretend that mental illness can easily be handled by just, you know, having a "positive attitude"; decent mental health provision is absolutely necessary, both for people with mental illnesses and for wider society. I suppose I want to argue that people should be able to get help because it's morally right that we take collective responsibility for treating the sick, not necessarily because otherwise they might go on a rampage and murder their carers or some innocent bystander. And I want to argue for this in a way that isn't about making me, as a non-mentally-ill person, feel safer at the expense of others.
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
Which is not a very profound title, it's just that the assigned Torah reading for last week was two sections back to back, and the sections are named after the first word (significant word, that is, otherwise half of them would be called "it came to pass" or "[God] spoke" or "the"). religion and homophobia )

I do welcome comments on this, but please do understand that it's fairly sensitive stuff. And if there were an easy answer I'd have found it some time in the past 20 years.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
I made a big post talking explicitly about class and finances and the sky doesn't seem to have fallen in, so why don't I talk about death while I'm at it?

death musings )

Tell me, is there anything that you find comforting when you have to confront death? Texts, art, music, philosophies? How do you live with knowing about mortality and the enormous unfairness of it all? Or are you reconciled to living in a world like this?
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
Eastercon has a Hay lecture given by an actual scientist, and the BSFA instituted a talk by a social scientist to match this. This year's talk was by sociologist Dr Louise Livesey, about the politics of sexual abuse of children. The talk generated really a lot of discussion over the course of the con, and I'd like to carry on that discussion here. Please don't hate Dr Livesey because my summary doesn't do her talk justice; it was a very good talk and also a contentious one, and I wasn't taking notes and I'm not a sociologist.

The subject of the talk is what it is. It wasn't graphic, because it was mainly about the politics of how society reacts to accounts of child sexual abuse rather than the act itself, but still.

hearing stories of child sexual abuse )

So, in conclusion, if someone tells you they were sexually assaulted, you should at least default to believing them, and you should listen to what they actually say happened and how they feel about it, rather than assuming. But believing them doesn't necessarily mean you should get into a huge panic about how everything must be completely terrible, nor does it mean that you be in a rush to punish the alleged perpetrator. I don't know, does that seem like a helpful way of looking at things?


Mar. 21st, 2013 11:54 am
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Somebody said on Twitter that there should be a new acronym: tv;dw for "too video; didn't watch". And the same day I saw that remark, an LJ friend linked to a really interesting TEDx video. I thought about it and decided it was likely to be interesting enough to justify 15 minutes sitting watching the video, and indeed it was. It contained actual relevant scientific information and some thoughtful and new to me analysis, unadulterated by the kind of hipstery flashy mostly bullshit that sometimes plagues mediocre TEDx stuff. But it was 15 minutes of video of a woman speaking, occasionally panning out to show a lecture theatre audience listening to her, and with a smattering of visual aids consisting of stock photos of eg a shattered windscreen to represent a car crash.

If that content had available as plain text, it would have lost nothing because all the information was in the words. And it would have taken me 3 minutes to read and I'd have absorbed and remembered it a lot better. this led to thinky thoughts )
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
So next week I have drawn the lucky ticket which means I get to facilitate a first year workshop on obesity. I have really mixed feelings about this!

fat people and doctors )

Any suggestions or thoughts? I myself believe in health at every size, but I welcome perspectives from people who subscribe to the mainstream medical view of obesity as long as you start from the assumption that fat people are human beings worthy of respect. (And if you don't believe that, why are you even friends with me, a fat person?)

While we're on the subject, I am drawing sparkly hearts all over this lovely article by Lesley A Hall, guesting at the wonderful Body Impolitic, where Hall compares the obesity epidemic to older health panics about masturbation.
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
[ profile] atreic and friends are discussing that middle-class thing of buying beggars the thing they say they need money for (food, transport tickets, shelter) instead of just giving them money. The idea, of course, is that you help people who genuinely need help, but thwart scammers who are just making up a story to get money out of you for presumably unworthy purposes like buying drugs.

lots of opinions )

It may be that the best solution is to just routinely give 50p to everyone who asks. No matter what story they tell or don't. It's probably not going to add up to a whole lot of money in absolute terms or a big bite of my charity money. It probably does some minor harm (more money flowing into the hands of drug dealers, encouraging people to importune passers-by) and some minor good (beggars getting slightly more money for things that make them happy, and a somewhat enhanced sense of being respected and treated as a fellow human.) I definitely have phases of doing this, and phases of not giving directly to street beggars at all for all the obvious reasons. But I'm not sure that offering to buy someone a cup of coffee, a train ticket or a night in a shelter or B&B but refusing cash is really better than either option.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] wildeabandon posted something thoughtful about giving to charity a while ago, and it made me realize just why I am uncomfortable with the idea currently fashionable among my friends of trying to maximize the efficiency of charitable giving. Unfortunately I started getting into a debate based on my new insight just a few days before I got married, so didn't really have time to follow up.

This is going to be an unpopular opinion, certainly, but I don't really agree with the principle that there's a moral imperative to use your money to save as many lives as possible. On the face of it that's a seductive idea, because saving lives is obviously a good thing, so saving more lives is obviously better, right? Also using resources efficiently is obviously better than wasting money. What kind of twisted person would disagree with that?

questioning received wisdom )

I wonder how many people I've mortally offended with this post...
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
So Gerv posted a call for people to sign the petition to keep marriage restricted to one man and one woman. This offended lots of people, and appears to have turned into one of those internet imbroglios. I didn't realize just how far it had spread until I was idly browsing Geek Feminism, of all things, and stumbled across some commentary.

homophobia and internet debates )

And on a personal level, you know, Gerv is still my friend whom I disagree with about lots of stuff. I am forever grateful that university brought me into contact from people of all kinds of backgrounds with all kinds of views. I argued with him a bit on his original post, but I know I'm not going to change his basic opinion all sex is sinful except within a highly gendered marriage between a man and a woman. There are some opinions I might consider disowning a friend for, but I don't think this should be one. But it's always tricky to balance loyalty to a friend with loyalty to principles, and my deep commitment to pluralism and diversity with my commitment to ending oppression.

One thing I do find encouraging is that it seems like even the political voices most strongly against marriage equality are falling back on the argument that civil partnerships are good enough, not that gay people are sick and disgusting and perverts and deserve to be cast out of society. So at least in the UK, it seems like the battle is very close to being won.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
Most of what's going on in my corner of Google+ is... discussion about the awfulness of Google's so-called real names policy. There's a lot of speculation as to why Google, with their previously good reputation, is apparently shooting for evil and incompetent at the same time. One of the more plausible theories that's been proposed is that they want to reclaim the part of search territory where you find out what's going on in the lives of non-celebrity individuals. That is, if you want to look up your first crush or that guy you worked with years ago and see how they're getting on these days, you're likely to end up searching Facebook or LinkedIn. This harms Google's monopoly, because Google can't put its ads on those sites.

It also transpires that if you search while logged in to Google, it prioritizes results that it thinks are connected to people in your G+ circles. This, on top of everything else, is yet another huge Do Not Want flag for me.

it's getting claustrophobic in here )

So, do you have any ideas, either technical or social, for how to get access to a wider range of opinions, views and perspectives?


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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