Mittwoch, 25. Juli 2012

Who moved the zebra, eh cheese?

You know that idea of "who moved the cheese"? The idea that, if we suddenly find that the provisions we carefully made are gone we're supposed to work harder and find new resources instead of asking who fucking moved the cheese.
Today I noticed that concept in a children's book. Yes, teach 'em young.
The story is about a zebra in the Zoo who wakes one morning to find her stripes gone. She's black all over and sad and scared. Together with her friend she sets out to find new stripes. When she's finally made it she meets the zoo director who tells her that he borrowed her stripes while she slept because he needed a zebra crossing, but wasn't she a good zebra to find new ones for herself so her old stripes could now serve as a zebra crossing forever?
The moral of the story: If you're brave you'll find new cheese, eh stripes.
My daughter didn't buy it. Hearing it again and again (isn't it incredible how often they'll make you read the very same story) and knowing in the beginning that the solution to the vanished stripes is the director, she said "he just shouldn't have taken her stripes without asking. He mad her sad."
Good girl, bad authors.

Montag, 23. Juli 2012

Your daily dose of sexism #7 Teach 'em young

Just after the kids' evening TV, there was a trailer for a movie they're showing the coming Friday on the children's TV.
So school-kids install cameras in their school and then watch what's happening, for example, in the teachers' room. And then there's, of course, a camera in the girls' locker room. And the boys (whait, you didn't think the cool protagonist kids could be girls or a mixed batch? ) get to see the girls after taking a shower, wrapped in their towels.
The poor boys!
Even in a 30 seconds trailer for a movie for tweens they manage to tell us that the actual bad thing that happened in that scene was not the sexual offense (just exchange schoolkids for boss and secretary and you get it) commited by the boys, but that the poor innocent boys got to see some nekkid skin of those eebil girls who probably have cooties!
Nothing spells rape-culture better than that.

Freitag, 13. Juli 2012

Your daily dose of Sexism #6: Women and informatics

I teach Spanish for adults and often use material from a magazine that is especially made for learners. They have a feature called "La familia Perez", in which they show colloquial language in dialogues.
Sadly, the women of the family are always the punchline.
So, this time, while he is working on the computer, she is cleaning the living room (inconsiderate cow, to disturb him after he complained about the dust). And he complains about all the spam and if she has been fooling around with their email address.
No, of course, she hasn't (it's established (he tells us) that he can't have a sensible discussion with her about informatics), but, btw, there was this mail from the bank where they asked for their details. So he freaks out, they have been fooled by a Phisher, didn't he tell her?!.
By whom, she asks, what guy, but he sets off for the bank.
After he saves them and comes back from the bank, she asks again what a guy named Fisher has to do with this, and he goes off laughing, and wer'e supposed to laugh along.
Stupid woman, doesn't know what Phisihing is! Well, seems like she was extensively schooled on the subject by a patient teacher.

Donnerstag, 12. Juli 2012

Hugs are like sweeties

I'm really proud of this analogy, so I'm going to use it to death, be warned.

Since currently people are discussing the AA code of conduct,  there seems to be some controvery about what certain parts of it mean, especially the ones about asking for hugs:
Yes means yes; no means no; and maybe means no. Please take no for an answer for any request or activity. You are encouraged to ask for unequivocal consent for all activities during the conference. No touching other people without asking. This includes hands on knees, backs, shoulders—and hugs (ask first!). There are folks who do not like to be touched and will respect and like you more if you respect their personal space.
So, my take on it: they're like sweeties

Everybody likes them!
I mean, come on, everybody likes sweeties. And hugs. They're great, they're good, who couldn't possibly like them? Oh, you. And you. And you only like peppermint humbugs. That's obvious, isn't it? Although most people like them, not all do. And of those who like them, not everybody likes all of them, at all times. The fact that I'm a big hugger doesn't mean that I want to hug you now.

There's more than one way to offer a sweetie 
A lot of the discussion is about whether asking explicitely means verbally (hint, AA, clarify that, please).
Ophelia Benson thinks it does:
“Ask first”=ask in words. That’s the normal meaning! Yes, you can pantomime, but that really isn’t what’s usually meant by “ask first.”
And she doesn't like it:
I have to say though, I agree with the critics on this one. No, I don’t want people asking me for permission before hugging. No, I don’t want to ask.
And yes, that would be kind of strange. Last weekend (I had a fantastic weekend, did I tell you?), I went to an internet community meetup (in an old castle that functions as a youth hostel, just cool). Most people there have known each other for years, there are deep friendships, but we mostly only see each other once or twice a year. So a frequent scene was that some new arrival would drop their luggage, scream a name like a teenager at a Justin Bieber concert, and run towards somebody who was already there who did the same. It would be absolutely awkward and perfectly ridiculous if they had to stop 1 m in front of each other and ask "can I hug you?"

But I disagree  that this is necessarily meant: 
Hmm, most people seem to interprete “ask” as verbal and/or non-verbal. Clarification would probably in order.
When I open my arms I’m asking for a hug.
When I purse my lips I’m asking for a kiss.
 Or, to get back to my weekend (did I already mention that it was fantastic?): one of the lads would permanently offer you  sweeties. No idea how many kg he had with him, there seemed to be a neverending supply. Sometimes he asked: Do you want a sweetie?, but most of the time he would only hold a sweetie in front of you and grin. Somehow everybody interpreted this as "do you want a sweetie?"

Sadly, hugs aren't like sweeties

For example, you burn calories by hugging, you consume them with sweeties. There's disagreement about what's better: non-verbal or verbal asking.

Tigger the Wing prefers verbal communication:
P.S. I actually find it easier to turn down a verbal request for a hug, because I feel intense embarrassment on behalf of someone left standing with their arms open. But hugs are actually quite painful to me and I’m sure that even enthusiastic huggers don’t want to cause pain.
 I clearly prefer non-verbal communication. To me it seems easier to widdle out of that without saying "no". And that's the difference between hugs and sweeties: The common rules of politenes are currently skewed in favour of the hugger (hello Mr. Dawkins!). I don't become an asshole for turning down a sweetie. I must have rejected as many sweeties at the weekend (which was great, btw) as I have accepted. Other people told him once that they're not into sweets/ peppermint sweets and everything was fine. It's not impolite to turn down a sweetie. You're not embarrased for the other person who is now standing there with his sweetie. Rejecting a sweetie is not rejecting the person.
With hugs, that's different and IMO this has to change: It's OK to say no. People must feel comfortable in saying no, especially women, who have been trained much more to put the needs of the other person before their own. You don't have to accept a hug or a kiss just not to embarass the other person, you must not be judged by other people for that. And the luckless hugger must learn that this doesn't devalue them, doesn't mean that the other person doesn't like them.
OK, sometimes it is because the other person doesn't like them, but, hey, they don't like you anyway and the will like you even less if you use the rules of politness to get some unwanted body contact.
That's a big goal, I think, a big shift in culture. Implementing rules that may seem uncomfortable at first can be a step towards this. The first time you wore a seatbelt was uncomfortable and awkward, too.

Mittwoch, 11. Juli 2012

Your Daily Dose of Sexism #5

My husband the feminist, or I'm being stupid again.
A friend of me is expecting a baby and I'll make a quilt for the baby.
So, I remarked that I'll wait until she knows if it's a boy or girl, and if it's a girl I'm going to make one with fairies and unicorns!
His remark was: Why not make one with all kinds of fantasy creature right away?
I think that means I'll have to hand in my badge...

Dienstag, 10. Juli 2012

Your daily dose of sexism #4

From the blurb of an erotic novel:
Lucilles neuer Boss, der ebenso charismatische wie exzentrische Reeder Craig Bellamy, erwischt sie während der Arbeitszeit bei einer Ménage à troi. Er sieht von einer Kündigung ab, wenn sie ihm Liebesdienste erweist. Neugierig lässt Lucille sich auf das tabulose Spiel ein.
In English:
Lucille's new boss, the charistmatic and excentric shipowner Craig Bellamy catches her in a threesome during work hours. He tells her he won't fire her if she grants him sexual favours. Being curious, Lucille joins this game without taboos.
Sexual coercion and probably rape as teaser for eroticism. Clearly, that's what all women want: as long as the guy is good-looking and rich, they don't mind that they have to give him a blowjob in order to keep their real job.

Montag, 9. Juli 2012

The Strong Woman Fallacy

By now many people have handed Paula Kirby her ass wrapped and with ribbons over her "open letter" that it's really not necessary to do so again.
But there's a point that comes up in her letter and in many comments, by both men and women that go along these arguments from Paula:
I simply do not accept that any reasonably mature, rational adult does not know exactly how to avoid getting into this kind of situation [she talks about being propositioned at bars after conferences] if he or she would prefer not to,or how to deal with it if it occurs...
So there is an alternative, and it is this alternative that I would urge women to seize with both hands – whether we’re talking about how we interact in our jobs, in our social lives or in the atheist movement. And that alternative is to take responsibility for ourselves and our own success. To view ourselves as mature, capable adults who can take things in our stride, and can speak up appropriately. To really start believing that we can do whatever men can do. To stop seizing on excuses for staying quiet and submissive, stop blaming it on men or hierarchies or misogyny or, silliest of all, “privilege”, and start simply practising being more assertive....
In almost any fieldyou care to consider, the women who have made it to the topare generally not sympathetic to the view that men or the system were desperately trying to hold them back. They havesimply adopted the tactics I am describing here, and have refused to let anything stop them.

I'll call it the Strong Woman Fallacy: Strong women deal with things. Strong women don't need silly harassment policies. Strong women kick ass without any help. It's infantilizing to suggest that women need protection. It's a particularly attractive and dangerous fallacy for many reasons:

1) It pushes people under the bus. Actually not all women are able to deal with harrassment. Because some women have been through extreme shit, have been hurt, raped, beaten, broken. But Paula, and many others, dismiss them as hysterical, immature, unreasonable, irrational. It's like telling somebody in a wheelchair that they should get the fuck up and climb the stairs instead of telling people to build ramps so they can participate in life.

2) It completely dismisses the fact that women have to deal with a shitload of things men usually never face. There's an old saying that homophobia is the fear of gay men treating a guy the way he treats women and there's more than a grain of truth to this. It's not about women being not as good as men, it's about the fact that women have to run an additional 100m to make it to the starting line.

3) It leaves the women who buy into this very vulnerable. It's attractive at first sight. It gives a sense of empowerment. I don't need help, no training wheels. I kick ass, I won't be held back, I can deal with all the jerks all by myself. And it leaves them completely without any protection or mechanisms come the day they can't do it alone anymore. By internalizing everything and denying external factors, all failing becomes their personal failing (and before that they're simply assholes because they'll tell everybody else that their failing is just their own fault) and since their sense of self and their self-worth is so closely tied to being "the strong one", they fall deep and they hit hard.

4) They dismiss the fact that it's simply wearing people out and, let's say it frankly, spoils their fun. Sure, most of us are able to tell the occasional asshole off (but, see point #1, there are those who can't even deal with that and it's not because they're immature or weak), but to put it bluntly: I refuse to spend my money on having my evening ruined (probably I'm not cheerful enough. Cheerful people don't let assholes spoil their fun). For many women, the way to deal with it is to stay at home. People like Paula will then tell us that we're hitting ourselves. Well, better me than you.

How to create a legend part 2: The Feminist Monolith

In my recent post "How to create a legend", I posted some tweets from Paula. S. Kirby and Russell Blackford, where they create the legend that "The Sisterhood of the Oppressed" (a very vaguely defined group, apparently) don't object to calling people "who disagree with their feminist dogma house-slaves" or, how Blackford called it "house negroes".
Timid Atheist pointed me towards something in the comments* that might have been the source of the claim, namely a comment by Taslima Nasreen on one of her posts on sex-work. If she meant that, it is in itself hilarious as an alleged example of the feminists monolith that does not allow for plurality, dissent and argument, because Taslima Nasreen's blog and her posts about prostitution and abortion are amongst the most controverse and discussed on FTB.
The post itself was very controversely discussed, with many voices disagreeing with Taslima Nasreen, challenging her for data, speaking their own experiences as sex-workers. So much for "dissent not being allowed".
Within the 305 comments, Taslima Nasreen answered one by an actual sex-worker and activist with this:
House slaves did not want the abolition of slavery because they were treated considerably better than field slaves. Would you say slavery should not have been abolished only because some privileged slaves wanted to remain as slaves?
 So, yes, Taslima Nasreen compared a woman who disagreed with her to a house slave, that part of Paula Kirby's statements is correct. What is a lie is that Taslima Nasreen's original position is "feminist dogma". Although there are feminists who agree with her, it is far from being the only position towards prostitution held by feminists and it's not like feminists don't heavily disagree with each other on the subject like in the very blog-post this comment follows. That part is lie #1.
The next lie is that people didn't object to that:

Stealth Badger replied to that comment with heavy critique:
Read that and think about how dehumanizing that is to say to someone; think about how casually you just swept away everything she said as if it was of no value whatsoever.
If you’re willing to do that, how can anyone be sure whether you’re speaking in support of someone, for them, or over them, especially when you ignore what they have said?
Anthony Kennerson writes:
Your analogy between consensual sex work legally sought and slavery is the most outrageous nonsense…and trivializes actual slavery and real exonomic exploitation that actually exists.
 MsLilithe weighs in:
THAT is the must ludicrous thing I have read thus far. Forget the fact that you just completely erased my sense of agency as a sex worker and that of sex workers who choose their occupation worldwide, you diminished the reality of slavery by comparing it to us. First, I find this comparison very unfeminist (ie, not celebrating the agency and strength and choices of women) second and more importantly, dismissing of the reality of true slavery that has existed and still exists.
So, to say that people didn't object  to Taslima Nasreen's term is another big, fat lie. Paula S. Kirby, you are a liar, ma'am. You, Russell Blackford, are one, too, sir. You whole argument relies on lies, distortions, strawmen and dishonesty.

*What comment you might ask?
The one that re-appeared, apparently. Don't ask me...
Yeah, sometimes I suck. I managed to delete comments by re-saving this as a draft while working on it. Thankfully it was still in my emails:
I'm wondering if Ms. Kirby meant this comment by Talisma Nasarin:

If so then she actually was refuted by her commenters. However I'm not sure that any of the bloggers at FTB saw that comment or if they did see it, say anything about it.

Donnerstag, 5. Juli 2012

How to create a legend, updated

Now, I think you all know about the verrry funny Twitter hashtag #FTBullies. On this hashtag and around it the following legend was birthed.
On the fourth of July, Paula S. Kirby tweeted this:
(formated for better readability, original below):

Last year one of the Oppressed Sisters described women in the atheist movement who don't take the RadFem view as 'house-slaves'. 1/3
Strangely, no one attacked her for the term on the basis that we weren't actually flogged for failing to polish the doorstep properly ...2/3
... or that using slavery as an analogy was disrespectful to its victims. 3/3

... or that using slavery as an analogy was disrespectful to its victims. 3/3
Strangely, no one attacked her for the term on the basis that we weren't actually flogged for failing to polish the doorstep properly ...2/3
Last year one of the Oppressed Sisters described women in the atheist movement who don't take the RadFem view as 'house-slaves'. 1/3

When asked who said that, her reply was this:

You think I save the URL of every comment insulting those who don't support RadFems?! It was a yr ago. Gd luck if u want 2 google

You think I save the URL of every comment insulting those who don't support RadFems?! It was a yr ago. Gd luck if u want 2 google
After that, the person who asked the question was blocked, so much for silencing dissent...

But that's not my point, nor the hilarity of claiming that using the term slave was disrespectful but using Feminazi is justified.

The problem is: We have no evidence for that claim except for Paula's memory.
Now, since Paula can't be trusted to give a definition of "Radfem ideology" recognizable by any person with a passing acquaintance of  feminist theory and schools of feminism, we have no idea what the "oppresed sister" actually said. Or in what context. Or, who she is and whether she has any actual ties to those she calls "The Sisterhood of the Oppressed".
So, make a claim that somebody whose name you don't remember said something that you don't remember exactly said something in a place you don't remember and then shout "you're silencing me" when people have the cheek to ask for evidence.

But it gets better. Russell Blackford jumps the train and twists this into this:

And nor are my female friends "chill girls" "gender traitors" "sister punishers" or (most amazingly!) "house negroes".
 Now we're racists as well!

Your (almost) daily dose of sexism #3 Birthday Edition

Today is my daughter's birthday (Happy Birthday, my love. You're smart, you're gorgeous, you kick ass). The amount of sexist crap I've gotten since I dared to have a daughter would fill this for like forever, but today I yaught myself at the daily sexism.
For her birthday I gave her a set of beads to make jewelery. Yeah, lots of pink butterflies. Not a cool science kit. Girl stuff, you know.
And since it's her birthday everything had to be postponed for half an hour so she could make a necklace (with a little help from me). Working with her I realized that this is a damn educational toy. Her fine motor skills were trained, we talked about symetry, colours and numbers. I, a passionate crafter and seamstress (not that kind) had fallen into the trap of the disdain for all things feminine.
Lesson learned, morre beads!

Sonntag, 1. Juli 2012

Your daily dose of sexism #2

I said it would be daily, didn't I?
So, today we have Nompliments, not really compliments.
In my parents' garden, the little one stood on the wall, holding the cloth-line pole, jumping up and down and singing "Jingle Bells".
Yeah, I know it's July.
So an elderly relative commented at the side of this happy and energetic child: She should have better been a boy!
Yeah, if those are compliments I don't want to see the insults...