The Feminist Gadfly

Discussing the problems of feminist identification in the context of gender egalitarianism

Month: March, 2012

The Fake Geek Girl Myth

by EddyNorthwind

So, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet in the blog, but I’m a pretty huge geek. Like, I’m the computer-science/zoology-double-major-vice-president-of-the-school’s-Magic-the-Gathering-club-playing-in-two-Pathfinder-games-while-GMing-one-takes-MIT’s-free-online-courses-for-fun kind of geek. So it shouldn’t be too much of a shock that I would want to talk about a recent, very-gendered Forbes article that has the nerdosphere arguing with itself.

Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away – Forbes

I was originally going to talk about the layer of sexism badly hidden beneath the geekier-than-thou, get-off-my-lawn mentality in the article, but a friend of mine linked me to an article on The Mary Sue that already did that way better than I could. So, instead, I’m going to talk a little about the myth itself, and the assumptions thereof. And it will be in list form!

Fake Geek Girl Assumption #1: Fake Geek Girls Exist
This is the obvious one. So, a girl (really, anyone) claims to love Dr. Who but hasn’t seen anyone but Matt Smith play the Doctor. Let’s look at some possibilities:

a) She absolutely loves the show, but only got into it a month ago, and wants to finish series 6 before going back to watch David Tennant or some classic Who.
b) She’s a “real geek” in some other area — say, Tolkein. Like the rest of us, there are parts of geek culture that she genuinely enjoys, but has only dabbled in. Dr. Who is one of them.
c) She, like many of us, is broke as fuck, and chose a healthy diet or an okayish apartment over Netflix. She’s also a musician with an ethical objection to piracy, so torrents aren’t an option. Sure, she could ask her friend to borrow her collection on DVD, but then her friend might remember that she still has her copy of the complete original series of Battlestar Gallactica!
d) She’s waiting for a friend or two to get some free time so they can watch the whole new series together, from the beginning.

I’ve never actually met a Fake Geek Girl, but I’ve met plenty of geek girls (I know, anecdotal evidence. Shoot me). Maybe it’s because I’m not immediately dismissing someone as fake when I find out that they’re not as invested in one particular aspect of geek culture as I am? I’m not saying that there has never-ever-in-the-history-of-the-universe, been a real Fake Geek Girl, but I am saying that such people are not nearly common enough for a magazine that isn’t even actually about geek culture to be publishing on it as if it is A Thing.

Fake Geek Girl Assumption #2: Geek Girls Want The Attention That Geek Guys Pour Over Them
Obviously, this varies from person to person. Some girls love having guys fawn, even obsess, over them; others find it annoying as fuck. Guess which one I hear about more often?

Fellow straight geek guys: Would you like it if every time you walked into your FLGS, one of the most socially awkward, annoying, and unhygenic girls there rushed you and followed you around the store unless explicitly told to leave you alone? (and sometimes, not even then?) That, with genders reversed, is more often than not what the “attention” that Fake Geek Girls supposedly want means for actual geek girls.

As more girls have entered the community, our problem of some guys fawning over them has waned, but it is definitely not a thing of the past. We, geek guys, have a lot to do as a community if we want to actually be the cool, welcoming, accepting group of folks we like to think we are.

(Also, geek girls: please, please, please call us out if we’re making you uncomfortable. Social awkwardness and coming from a male-dominated community can lead to some shitty, creepy behavior, but many of us just don’t know better. See the entire Captain Awkward blog for examples.)

Fake Geek Girl Assumption #3: Getting Into Something Through Your Significant Other Means You’re Doing For Attention (Or Sex)
Eventually, if a Fake Geek Girl fakes around long enough, she evolves into a Fake Geek Girlfriend (or so I’m told). Such women commit such heinous crimes as partaking in mutually enjoyable activities with their significant other, trying new things, and *gasp* trying to at least understand something that their boyfriend has put his heart and soul into, even if it seems silly!! Sometimes, they even continue the activity after the relationship has ended!!!!11111111

Despite what some may say, geek is still definitely a Guy Thing. Even as the numbers in our community shift closer to 50/50, women playing online games are forced to take male avatars and stay out of voice chat to avoid “TITS OR GTFO.” Companies continue to hire booth babes to garner attention at cons and expos. Bikini mail is still a thing. In such a male-dominated community, is it really all that surprising that a decent chunk of the girls there were first brought to the community by a boyfriend?

Directly because of former significant others, I currently:
– Listen to Flaming Lips, The Postal Service, Regina Spektor, and probably a few other bands that I’m forgetting
– Watch Dr. Who
– Frequent local coffee shops
– Know how to set up and work in a darkroom (Though I haven’t done so recently. I miss photography…)
– Go to art museums
– Know the owners of my local LAN center

When one is in a romantic relationship, one often does things with their partner that make them happy, because they like seeing their partner happy. Sometimes, one discovers that they enjoy an activity that they do with their partner in its own right. Why do we question only motives when this happens to girls, with geeky things?

For that matter, why do we have this myth at all?

~Eddy

My Sex “Education”

by naomiparker

It’s no secret that the state of sex education in the United States is problematic. The sex education that our students receive from public schools is something that we can and should work to improve. Today I would just like to bring down the mood a little and talk about my own sex ed. experience.

In 5th grade, our school had the “Hooray, you’re blossoming into adults!” bit of sex ed. Very informative, no shame involved, slightly more flower metaphors than seemed necessary, but all in all a good experience. That summer I started menstruation and felt that I now knew and had experienced everything about being a woman.

In 6th grade, I was enrolled in my church’s abstinence-only sex program. I’m still working on getting past the fear and shame associated with sexual activity and the mistrust of men that the program instilled.

When I returned to school, I was the only one my age who had seen both a penis and a vagina, and knew what they looked like after herpes, genital warts, and syphilis had struck. I was the only one who knew how a late-term abortion was supposedly performed. I knew that if my boyfriend wanted sex (never once was it mentioned that a girl might want sex), he was a bad person waiting to brainwash me into a life of debauchery and misery. I knew that if I ever once masturbated and/or watched pornography I would become hopelessly addicted. I knew that I was likely to get pregnant even if I used a condom and birth control correctly. I knew that there was a “mental burden” associated with a sexual relationship which would eventually destroy me and my relationship with God. And above all, I knew I would never partake in this ghastly “sex” thing. Ever.

Recently I found my stack of abstinence promoting pamphlets and brought them back to college with me. I needed to laugh at them, needed AJ to point out the ridiculously anti-male imagery, needed a very religious and very chaste friend to dismiss them as over-the-top fear-mongering.

I have no conclusions to make here. As progressive as we want to be as a society, this sort of thing still exists. For the record, I am not suggesting that sex should not be taken seriously, nor am I bashing the concept of abstinence. If you are old enough and informed enough to make that decision, then I respect you for it. But I can’t condone this breed of sexual fear-mongering. I also can’t say we have a right to step in and stop it. People will always impart ugly values to their children via ugly methods. I’m just thankful that it’s semi-reversible, and I hope that it never finds its way into our public schools.

Thank you, Noah Brand

by EddyNorthwind

I often get asked about how I can simultaneously identify as a feminist and a masculist. This is how.

Gender is not zero-sum. It’s incredibly rare that I find something offensive to one gender that is not simultaneously offensive to anyone outside of a very narrow view of the other. That’s not to say that certain specific gender issues don’t have elements of zero summiness (it’s a word, AJ :P) — My layperson’s understanding of economics suggests that at any one time, there are only so many jobs to be had, which leads to some unfortunate situations that can’t be resolved by simply saying “make things better for everyone”. All the same, the goal of a society that is fair to all its members is not too pie in the sky to be the goal of a social movement.

I want to live in a world where one’s gender is considered as indicative of who they are as the precise size and shape of their belly button. I want to live in a world where my gender is considered as indicative of who I am as the precise size and shape of my belly button. I’m pretty sure most people in the gendersphere can agree with that sentiment.

(Note: As seems to be a common problem over on GMP, the comments section of the linked post is mostly ignorance & overgeneralization punctuated by occasional bits of intelligent discourse. I wouldn’t read it unless you’re willing to see some ugliness.)

~Eddy

Revisitation

by aronjerrison

Although my feminist convictions are far from new, it has only been in the past year or so that I’ve actually attempted to make myself aware of the relevant literature and the variety of perspectives. This fact has opened me up to some shocking realisations when I revisit things which I enjoyed in my childhood.

Having been on break from school recently, I found myself with the opportunity to do some reading and television watching which I had been putting off up to that point. Given the temporal proximity of the ides of March, I thought that a reading of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar was in order. I was shocked at the levels of anti-female rhetoric. The misogynistic themes in Taming of the Shrew did not elude me when I read it in my childhood, but this was something I had missed.

Both of the major female characters in the play comment constantly on how their constitutions are weaker than their male counterparts. Their advices are continuously ignored, and they both end up unhappy due to their over-reliance on the men in their lives.

Finding misogynistic rhetoric in Shakespeare, however, is a bit like finding hay in a haystack. I won’t say that it’s acceptable, but he was a product of his times. When teaching the plays we can’t avoid talking about these themes, but ultimately one must admire his mastery of his craft. However, I have also watched some thirty episodes of M*A*S*H in the past week, and I was more than a little surprised at what I found, or rather, what I had missed as a child.

I must admit, I have special place in my heart for M*A*S*H; I have a penchant for quick witted one-liners, and Hawkeye Pierce ranks with Groucho Marx in the halls of the gods of that genre. However, despite Alan Alda’s contributions to and acknowledgements from the feminist movement later on, the first couple seasons of the show were replete with misogynistic slurs, sentiments, and acts.

I cannot and shall not deny the wonderful way in which they redeemed Hawkeye in the season seven episode “Inga”. For those of you who are not as familiar with the show, I shall provide a summary. A female doctor comes to visit the 4077th and shows up all of the main cast members. Hawkeye, as is his wont, falls for her. However, he has difficulty dealing with the fact that she is a talented and intelligent surgeon in her own right. Ultimately, he realises the error in his ways, but she is on her way out by that time.

It was a great episode, but it happened too late. Why did Hawkeye do so much to teach racists a lesson or two while not realising his own bigotry?

This realisation may not stop me from watching the show, but it has certainly put it in a new perspective for me.

-AJ

Fuck you, Don Pridemore

by EddyNorthwind

Trigger warning for spousal and child abuse

According to Wisconsin Rep. Don Pridemore, a woman being abused by her husband should not divorce him. For the kids.

I don’t want to turn this into a news blog, so I’ll leave the reporting to local news. From the article:

Senator Grothman is getting most of the attention, but Representative Don Pridemore is a co-sponsor of the bill…

…Specifically, it [the bill] cites non-marital parenthood as a contributing factor in child abuse. The bill’s co-sponsor, Representative Don Pridemore, told TODAY’S TMJ4 he thinks even in abusive relationships, there are other options than divorce.

“If they can refind those reasons and get back to why they got married in the first place it might help,” said Representative Don Pridemore.

There is more wrong with this than I can possibly fit in one blog post, but I’ll try. Abuse is not some kind of disagreement that can be resolved through better communication: If a pattern of abuse has started, the abuser has made it very clear that they are not interested in communicating. They are interested in maintaining control over their partner through intimidation or emotional manipulation. The best thing anyone can do in such a situation is get themselves and any children out of it.

Let’s follow Rep. Pridemore’s logic. My spouse is abusing me, so the best thing I can do for my kids is…keep myself and them with my abuser? Right, because people who abuse their spouses never abuse their children. Even if the kids are never touched, watching abuse growing up can cause a kid to think it is normal: children may grow up to be abusers themselves, or may be at higher risk of being abused themselves.

Also, Grotham and Pridemore? If you’re serious about single motherhood being a problem, maybe you should work to repeal some Wisconsin’s overly-strict abortion laws. Just saying, that would lead to fewer single mothers.

If anyone thinks that feminism/gender egalitarianism is no longer necessary, I point you to these elected officials who seem to think that divorce is so bad that one should endure lasting physical and/or emotional harm and put one’s kids in a dangerous situation to avoid it. This is what we are fighting against. As long as people like these two continue to be in positions of power, activism is not just necessary, but vital.

~Eddy

If you or someone you know even might be in an abusive relationship, please, call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224. It’s anonymous and confidential and they will not call the cops; they won’t even tell you to leave your relationship. They will not care if you’re a man, a women, gay, straight, anywhere in between, or something else entirely. All they will do is help you recognize if what you are experiencing or seeing is abuse, and provide you with the tools to leave if that is what you decide to do.

On speaking out, and carpooling

by EddyNorthwind

I recently had the pleasure of carpooling home with Lucy for spring break, and she said some things that got on my nerves. Many of them have nothing to do with this blog (though if I hear one more person refer to the DDoS attack on FBI.gov as “Anonymous hacked the FBI”, I will rip my own ears off), but her views on marriage and men popped up and, well, they’re repugnant. Very briefly:

Lan, a friend of Lucy’s from a relatively well-off Vietnamese family who was staying with Lucy for the break, said something to the effect of, “My mother says I should find a nice American guy and marry him, but I don’t want to do that. I’d rather make enough money for myself and marry somebody who I love.”

Lucy responds, “Yeah, I agree, but I don’t want to marry anyone who is too poor. My standards aren’t that high, but I do have them.” (emphasis mine, un-emphasized part is paraphrased)

First, props to Lan. I have no idea what Vietnamese culture is like, but I imagine that it’s at least no easier to say something like that over there than it is here in the States, and likely harder.

Second, I don’t know where to begin with Lucy’s comment. It suggests a belief that a woman cannot be the primary earner in a household, and, equally bad, that a man’s value is determined solely by how much money he makes. In the context of previous comments she has made, it continues to spread the narrative that women trade sex for financial security, which contributes to rape culture. I’m sure there are other problematic aspects of this (including the obvious classism), but that’s actually not what I wanted to make this post about. Despite her bass-ackwards views on gender and sexuality, I actually like Lucy. She’s been pretty accepting of others and my quirks and idiosyncracies, and is really sweet. I don’t want to make this any more about her than it already is.

What I wanted to talk about is how, despite the wrongness of what she was saying, I didn’t say anything.

Maybe I was tired. Maybe I’m just a weak person. Despite rejecting what she was saying with every fiber of my being, I made a choice to stay quiet, only texting AJ about what I was hearing. Was I right to do so?

I have no problem arguing abstracts with people, but when it gets personal, I don’t know what to say. Lucy was not explicitly saying that This Is How All Relationships Are, and yet from previous conversations I know that is how she feels. Would it have been appropriate to call her out on that? If I had, would it have made a difference?

I believe that talking about gender is the single most effective way to get people thinking about it, and getting people thinking about gender is the single most important thing we can do to promote equality. At the same time, kyriarchy is fucking everywhere, and if you point it out every time it comes up, you’re going to lose friends pretty quickly, or else your only friends will be fellow egalitarians (in which case, you’re not accomplishing anything when you point out kyriarchy).

Was I right to stay quiet? Was I at least not wrong to stay quiet? I don’t know. And that’s what bothers me.

~Eddy

As always, names are changed to protect the innocent

Pedantic Feminist cont’d

by aronjerrison

For those of you who have seen the comments on my last post, a regular topic of disagreement with Eddy once again reared its head. Although I will be responding to his latest comment eventually, I thought that I ought to finish this post first.

When we last left our blogger, he was discussing how we need to reclaim ‘man’ as gender neutral. What he had yet to truly discuss, was why.

I have, in my short time on this planet studied a great number of languages. Despite never achieving more than a very very basic grounding in most of them, there was a trend that I noticed. A large percentage of languages, when addressed a mixed gendered group, will prefer masculine forms. This goes so far that even if there is only one male in a large group, one would use masculine collective nouns.

For the first fifteen years of my life, I attended a small private school on the east coast. There were no more than 150 students enrolled in the school at any time and that included four kindergartens and first through eighth grade. (an astute observer will notice that I seem to have finished middle school at the comparatively advanced age of fifteen. This is something which I may discuss at a later date.) In the grade above mine, there was a class composed of ten students, of whom only one was male. Despite this gender ratio, the Hebrew teacher referred to the students as talmidim, the Spanish teacher as los estudiantes, and the German teacher as die studenten (seemingly in contrast to the others, but one must remember that all German plurals use the feminine article).

When we learned this standard of pluralisation, I remember being surprised, and a bit shocked. Why were women being subordinated to men in language? I didn’t see them being subordinated in reality.

Why would men be “more important” in religious texts when the only Rabbi of whom I could think was female?

It was years before I realised what this implied. At the time, I thought that it was just a linguistic quirk. Now, having studied the history of western civilizations spanning millennia, I notice the pattern of dismissal of women, and the undercurrent of fear.

The current debate over reproductive rights is another in a long line of manifestations of wermen’s fear of wifmen’s reproductive abilities. There is no more sense in trying to mitigate an individual’s control of their generative abilities than there was in Zeus swallowing Metis for fear of her offspring.

Really, that’s why I call myself a feminist. Sure, there is a great deal more to it than that, but that is the Aristotelian first cause. In the nearly three thousand years since Hesiod wrote of Uranus stopping up Gaia’s womb so that she could bear no more children, we have stopped using amputation and blood-letting as panaceas, we have stopped leaving sickly children out to die of exposure, and we have stopped killing people to propitiate a plethora of gods, why then, do we continue to treat women with less care and respect than men?

Why do we still marginalise them in our language?

-AJ