Hacking: Capture the Flag

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , | Posted on 11:06 AM


Last week, I had the chance to go to an invitation-only event held at my and the competing technical university. It was a 'bring your laptop' event, so I packed up and went.

In the basement of the engineering building is a medium-sized lab: dim, quiet and completely suited for puzzles. There were only a few people in the room, no more than 13 people divided into teams of their own choosing, from both universities. On the in-room server, as we logged in, were puzzles ranging from fairly simple to painfully diabolical.

Considering that I am not a Computer Science major and have only had a single programming language, I feel fairly satisfied with the fact that I finished a handful of puzzles on my own. Obviously, the puzzles which involved getting past a firewall on a segregated server are currently out of my skill range, but I was pleasantly surprised by the number of puzzles based on classic dilemmas in literature, like the dancing men puzzle from Sherlock Holmes.

My favorite puzzles were of a class called Steganography. In puzzles of this class, an encrypted file is buried inside a JPEG or MP3/4. In order to find the encrypted file, you have to manipulate the image. Sometimes, this is through changing filters in GIMP or Photoshop, and sometimes this is through opening the files in a Hex editor and knowing the address at which is encoding is supposed to end. Once you find the encrypted file, you must figure out how to break the code. Some of these codes are simple transpositions, and others are diabolically difficult pictoral codes. The one which broke my brain was a code made of a language which used bubbles, toward the end of the puzzle set for that kind of puzzle. I suspect the font was a special typeset in Microsoft Word, but by that time someone in the room had attacked my laptop and it was getting intermittant access to the puzzle server, so I shifted to looking over the shoulder of the other people on my team.

Several of the men in the room were assholes, speaking to the male friend I brought with me and belittling me. I expected nothing less, having been around the block a few times. My friend, like the gentleman he is, kept bringing me into the conversation.

Even though some of them were assholes, I still enjoyed the puzzles. They reminded me of being a kid, in one of the 'gifted' courses I had been slotted into. Much of my time in those classes was spent solving logic puzzle after logic puzzle, and I was typically the first to finish.

I forgot how much I had missed those puzzles.

Lag in posting

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 10:24 AM


I apologize for the lag: I got through a period after I've been harassed when I find it difficult to get out of bed. I've essentially been hiding in my place for the last two weeks, not the healthiest habit but better than some of the others I've had in response to harassment. I think I'm a little better now, and can resume blogging away.

Don't say Va-jay-jay

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , | Posted on 8:03 PM


Picture stolen from College Humor.


Consent and Using Yer Words

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 7:11 PM


Part of the reason I'm so averse to traditional gender roles has to do with consent and verbal acquisition of permissions. I've talked previously about consent in a romantic sense, but consent also happens to be an important function of friendship and my work life. By implication, of course, I think it's the best way to deal with stuff ever (down, DOWN ego!)

I have a friend who checks in regularly with me in conversation. He'll ask, if conflict looms, if I'm okay, or if the subject is okay. If it looks like he's about to ask a personal question, he'll ask to see if that's okay. If it stays quiet, he checks in.

He checks in when he's drunk, as well. It's fucking adorable.

I'm relatively sure, from our conversations, that part of it is the fear of rejection. He has been rejected before for his checking in. I'm guessing they assume he's neurotic, or perhaps terminally shy.

This has not been the case, in my interactions with him. In fact, because he does check ins and is so explicit with permissions, I find him absolutely perfect to have deep discussions with: the check ins are a signal, along with the way we talk, of honesty.

Along with the mind reading act men and women are supposed to do (and the presumption that we are cookie-cutter alike in our responses) in dating circumstances comes the presumption that 'good' functioning in friendships is a bond which is mostly unspoken.

If you're in the least bit critical of culture or self-reflective, that bond falls apart, making you feel like a damn alien in most company. Is it really true that all men like women in bikinis and porn? Can we assume that all women like pink and want to be housewives?

Can I afford to live without the comfort of just being 'understood' because of group cohesion?

Breaking group cohesion by being critical and/or introspective can be very painful. It emphasizes the individual, in addition to exposing the more unpleasant things we have in common. Many feel that gap keenly, in a bubble of loneliness and silence which can make one feel as if one really is an alien of some description.

So what do we do with that gap? Do we go back to seeking group cohesion by subsuming our critical facilities and the observations these facilities have given us?

I don't feel as if that is an ethical action for me. Instead, like my friend, I feel that gap with words. I fill that gap by verbally acknowledging our differences and the observations which criticality and introspection have given me, always checking for not a mute consensus, but for the deliberate bridge of those differences to meet someone both as honestly as any social person can.

It also allows me to have more agency: consent means I can say no and that anyone who is ethical will respect that no.

While my friend will probably continue to be labelled awkward, or weird, as I have been labelled for insisting on consent and discussion in my relationships, I am his friend precisely because of consent. It is a bridge back to feeling like a part of a group, rather than an overly cerebral alien.

We'll never have perfect consensus, unison based on being so alike there is nothing to speak of, because of this, but those bridges are completely awesome. And, because they are explicit, they can always be adjusted.

Try using your words. Even if you fumble, this is a better form of consensus.

It's more honest.

Hypervigilance: A Snapshot

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 11:09 AM


In a few hours, it will be 24 hours since I last slept. The FTB trolls, the behavior of one of my lovers and the groping in the bar last Tuesday night have combined to tip me over into one of my frequent multiday stretches without sleep.

Another reason to be happy about being older is that I can't go any more than a day and a half of being awake, as opposed to at least two.

Right now, the room is just a tad spinny, and little flecks are dancing in front of my eyes. I spent last night rigid, telling myself it was all right, that I would be all right.

Thank you, assholes, for making it a little harder for me to sleep. If there's anything I could always do less of, it's restful sleep.

Best Thing Ever

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , | Posted on 3:34 PM


Under the Skin

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 3:25 PM


This has been on my mind for the last few days, as I've been monitoring the discussion on sexual harassment and had my own experiences with it. It isn't as if I've never had the experience before, and it isn't as if I'm not familiar with the theory and law on the issue.

Several people, on the threads discussing the problem, have essentially remarked on the same thing: they really don't know what it's like to live under the conditions which spawn harassment. They swear off, in many ways, expressing opinions about harassment due to the lack of experience.

This is good, in some ways (specifically to prevent them from preventing the conversations of the people who are familiar with living under those conditions.) I think, however, that it might help them to be exposed to the concept of double consciousness, which I'm shamelessly borrowing from W. E. B. Du Bois.

His work discussed race, and with the concept of intersectionality, is safe to apply to issues of gender as well. I want to make sure everyone knows where I got the idea though, so I'm not 'stealing' a concept.

In my daily practice, the litany of the way others see me plays out as much behind my eyes as in front of them. I don't really have the choice of remaining ignorant of that litany, though I can sometimes temporarily tune it out (typically, this causes me problems because without the litany to govern my behavior, I fuck up acting like a woman.) All day, in the background, runs out a series of corrections:

Don't smile too much. Is that guy looking at me? Does he look creepy? Do I look fat in this? Why is that person staring at my tits again? Don't look at him, he might interpret it as an invitation. Make sure you're grateful to your partner, he may leave you because you make him do housework. Am I pretty? Please don't look at me. Maybe if I walk faster, no one will stop me to ask for directions or try to get my phone number. Maybe if I'm quieter, I won't get groped. Don't make eye contact. Don't show that you know you were just insulted on your face. Don't grip his hand too hard when you shake. Remember to thank him for inviting you to that hacking competition. Bring him a gift so he'll be nicer to you. Make dinner for that lover, in case he's thinking about leaving you. Be grateful. Watch your feet. Sit with your knees together. Don't touch your hair too much, he may think you're trying to flirt. Why didn't I wear makeup today? Don't get angry when you explain that this is your own work. Don't get emotional when you're casually insulted, it'll discredit you. Blouse your shirt up so your boobs are less obvious. I can't stretch here, I'm the only girl in this room. Don't ask questions, you already tried and the teacher told you your questions were stupid. Don't get mad that the guy in front of you made a 96, even though he's been asking you for help all semester long and didn't even turn in his last project until two weeks after the due date: just don't notice it. Would a stranger think I was dressed modestly? Would any of these people defend me if someone started groping me? Is this hallway too dark? Is my door locked?

All day, irrespective of how I feel about myself, I have the litany. All day, I see myself in the reflection provided by the behavior of others, and I have to. Any sort of deviation causes me to be insulted, threatened, my sexuality to be speculated on or my credibility to be challenged.

The bastards expect me to laugh as they insult me, because it's all in good fun, isn't it? They expect me to laugh at myself for trying to get through my day, for trying to be good at something.

They expect me to laugh at myself for being alive, because it's hilarious that I think of myself in any way which could be construed as having self-respect.

Isn't it obvious that I have no right to self-respect?

I actively look for those reflections, because far more important than my self-regulation is the way I am perceived. It's more important for my safety and ability to function that I find and try to manage those reflections.

When I am at work, lecturing to the class, a part of my brain has to manage those reflections. The few times I've bothered to report students for threatening me or for demanding that I 'get into their car because no one can see me,' my peers and the bodies I complained to immediately ask what I was wearing and how I might have led the student on. I've actually been lectured on having slutty hair by a tenured faculty in my previous department, because I decided to have bangs.

When I am playing online, the commentary reminds me of those reflections: last night, one of the players spent the whole night changing his name to things like 'Lesbian Date Raper' and talking about how all women want a good dicking to help them become real women. My user name is ostensibly feminine, and my gun is named 'Pink Fluffy Lady Brainz'.

When I am home, or out with friends, I have to check those reflections. Even though I know managing those reflections will not stop someone I think of as a friend from spending the night pulling me off my chair in a bar so that I'm horizontal in his lap and squeezing my arms tight to my sides, I still have to try because if I do not, the situation gets worse.

And, horribly, part of managing my reflection is downplaying the sick feeling in my stomach because if I'm seen to need intervention, I'm not 'tough enough' for real debate. So I endure.

My entire life is shaped by another person's gaze, with the constant threat of violence and risk management inexorably woven into my daily routine. There is no activity I do, even privately, which does not have some element of risk management plaited into it.

And that, that is what it's like for me to live in this society. Those are the stakes.

Gamers, We (Feminists) Are in You

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 4:14 PM


I'm not sure why this surprises anyone: there are women in the gaming world, women who love FPS, women who love MMORPGs, women who love casual gaming and women who tabletop game.

When I started buying Magic cards and tabletop gaming accessories, I literally was the only girl in the store. Ditto when I bought comic books. I went to a handful of local Magic tournaments, which persuaded me very quickly that even though the game was social, I couldn't be.

I'm still sorry I gave away my complete set of first edition cards, for which I had illustrated a white cardboard box with an elf archer. For many years, I stayed away from online gaming and social gaming because of the problems inherent to being around a bunch of male gamers who really thought that women were an inferior alien species. I played Nintendo games and later Playstation games, when I was by myself, and played PC games whenever possible.

For me, and I suspect many other women, gaming was a solitary occupation. It occurred to me fairly early in that my choice, in terms of character, was almost exclusively male, and that my job was to rescue useless women, who the games taught me (as society had) to despise. I identified more with the male characters, thinking of myself as almost as good as they, promising myself that I would never be a 'useless woman.'

As it turns out, this sort of gender stereotyping is common, as is negative self-report and evaluation of others based on in-game stereotypes. It's not that I meant to think poorly of other women and myself, it's that because I am a gamer, a lot of my interior life is tied up in my imagination and in the use of a computer. Gamers, I suspect, because they tend to have rich interior lives, are probably quite susceptible to the sorts of statements made implicitly (and explicitly) in games and agency and capability.

It took me years to start correcting these patterns of thought, and I still find myself thinking them, even though I'm armored against believing those ideas by my education. Were I still a girl, and not specifically educated in these subjects, the effect would still be (as it was when I was younger) devastating.

This is why projects like this are vital, and why they draw so much venom from gaming communities.

After all, I'm still being told there are no women on the internet.

The Next Day

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 5:51 PM


I've been a pane of glass all day, something which I am capable of partially ignoring the same way that one has to ignore harassment to get through a work day. I shiver, and everything around me is a little distant, as if viewed through plastic wrap. I feel like an echo, a woman who is an echo of many voices, not my own.

This is why I hate harassment, coming from people I know and think I can trust: it strips my necessary illusions away and leaves me with the inability to shield myself, for a time, from the society I live in. It strips the assumption that I am human to others, as human as I find myself and others.

I need those illusions. I need them to appear to have good will and to act as if I expect others to have good will. I need my illusions to grease the work of my day, ignoring catcalls or the comments of people online while I play TF2, or even the little comments made by friends and lovers of which they are not conscious. There's no use in reminding them, either: I don't have the energy to explain why.

At least, unlike when I was in my twenties, I no longer confuse this feeling for the poisonous pleasure of being desirable to someone, even if being desirable turns me into an object, not a woman or myself. It is not myself he desired, not with that approach.

The calculus of danger, last night: the man is a military veteran, has already confessed that he feels it's okay to hit women. Last night, despite my punching him hard enough to echo in that section of the bar, he just laughed as I tried to figure out if losing my temper meant I was about to get punched by someone who is still in excellent shape because of the physical labor he does at his job. It was funny to him, and when I did not laugh, he told me I needed to learn to take his jokes.

A few people at the table asked how I was. I told them if I were to stop for every time someone does this, I'd never go anywhere.

Last night, at 5 am, my partner finally talked me into sleeping.

Today, I shall be very careful. The urge to hurt myself is strong.

Moments in being female

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 2:02 AM


I went, tonight, to the local skeptics drinking event. We were being visited by a representative of the Secular Student's Alliance, a big deal for our small group. I went alone, simply because I wanted to spend a little time alone.

I feel a bit like I should apologize to her, after tonight's events, even though I know she knows it isn't my fault. I know it certainly isn't mine.

There is a gentleman who comes to that drinking event on occasion. In the last year, he's had a divorce. His ex-wife has been sending him tales of her exploits. His job has been ultra stressful. He's had little luck with dating. I have sympathy for him and his situation.

He spent the whole night touching me, pulling me into his lap, kissing my head and sniffing my hair, telling me what a wonderful catch he was and how much money he will be making soon. He alternated this with talking about what a cunt his ex was, and how all the women who want to fuck him look like his aunt, and want to use him for his money.

He's a big fella. I did end up punching him repeatedly, while he talked about women and aggressively hit on me.

I apologized to the SSA representative. I'm not sorry that I ended up punching the guy, especially since he pulled me off my chair repeatedly and into his lap, holding me tightly, kissing me and interrupting any attempt at conversation. But I'm sorry that the situation resulted in violence.

When he left, sexism came up. We talked about the problems with sexism in the online and offline atheist community, finally getting to the recent TAM discussions.

It's still a mystery to me that people can deny that there is sexism, and that it has an awful toll. Tonight was just another reminder.

The Fear of Success

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , , , | Posted on 2:45 PM


I suppose it makes sense that someone with my background would have intense fears of being valued, which is why I threw up in my mouth yesterday while filling out applications which I am qualified for, and which would place me in the top 1/2 (and more like top 1/4) of earners here in the US.

I have a surprisingly nice CV, once I add all the job skills I've had to it. I also pick up job skills quickly; my job situations tend to be 'toss you in the deep end to see if you drown' types, which has meant I've picked up whatever was necessary to support myself and others in the same situation.

Despite the nice CV, and despite all the nice pieces of paper which certify me as this, that or the other, the idea of being paid that kind of money makes me nauseous (and kept me up until 5 am this morning, despite the sleep medications I take.)

A lot of the training aimed at professional women tells them to learn to be more assertive, as if repeating a mantra about negotiating their salary 'like a man' is the root of their problems. I won't knock methods for getting by-- if the mantra works for you, use it-- but I have some serious problems with the idea that all which is necessary for women in the work force to enter these kinds of positions is just that they 'act more assertive,' something which is pretty poorly defined in the literature on the subject.

For me, applying for jobs at Fortune 500 companies is incredibly nerve-wracking. I will literally be changing my class identity, something which is a major part of my self-conception. I'd imagine this is shared with men, as well. I've spent most of my adult life in college, being paid pitiful amounts of money to do complex jobs, with little institutional support. I've learned to take pride in being able to pay the bills and, on occasion, afford to eat out. If I can pay all the bills and eat out once, I consider myself affluent.

I've learned to take pride in survival, as someone who's been homeless. Survival.

And now, assuming I get a nice job, I have to learn what to do with money enough to buy a house, to pay off  my student loans, to buy a car, to be able to go out to eat and buy clothes for everyone and  provide for them without skipping meals.

I'll have enough money to be one of the people I hated, the people whose families actually did something for them, who transitioned seamlessly from college to a job, the people who never involuntarily went hungry, who could focus all their attention on academic studies instead of working a 12 hour day on their feet five days a week, and walking two miles to class the other two days a week. I hated them because they thought I wasn't working hard enough to succeed.

I will look like those people, sound like those people.

I am desperately afraid of buying into the idea that all you need for success is work and merit. I am desperately afraid, despite a extensive list of skills, that I will turn out to be not good enough.

I fear no longer being me, but I'm applying anyway.

People who apply anyway, despite their impostor syndrome, despite the fear of becoming someone they no longer know-- magazine definitions of proper aggression aside, those people are being aggressive.

Trust me. *hork* This is an act of bravery.

For Your Aural Pleasure: 19

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 2:24 PM


FPS: Despite Being Called Names

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in | Posted on 2:22 PM


Since Wolfenstein 3D, I've been in love with first person shooters: the sound effects, the stream of lead pumping through the muzzle, figures falling away from you in a spray of pixelated blood, the elation of surviving an ambush.

Seriously, can anyone resist shooting mechanized Hitler with a minigun? How about zombies? Or, in my case, can anyone resist shooting Team Fortress 2 characters?

It depends very much on your experiences, though I and many other women I know play despite the annoyances of playing on a server. An ugly reality about playing against people on various servers is that they will break out in a rash of sexist, homophobic bullshit when they lose, when they win, when they're in a good mood and when they're in a bad mood. If they don't know you're female (I chose a feminine surname, so they know with me), they talk about what they want to do to women. If they know you're female, they talk about what they want to do to you. Rape comes up often.

I comment sometimes, depending on whether or not I feel like getting into it with the whole server. Other times, I make it a point to shoot them enough to 'dominate' them (to kill their character three or more times in a row). I can often cause them to ragequit.

My partner, and others, have asked me why I so often pick servers which are extraordinarily unfair (the teams are stacked with all the newer players on one team, against people who play every day). I tried to explain, but I'm not entirely sure I make sense to him.

What I tell him (and others) is that the server is a lot like life: the odds are stacked, the set up is fucked up and no one wants you to win because you don't fit their picture of who should win. They insult you and shoot you and make fun of you, tell you that you can't play and your efforts won't get you anywhere.

And on the server, you can shoot them for it. I don't literally want to shoot them, but I love stopping them mid-rant, mid-insult, enacting on them the symbolic violence which their words enact on me.

I can kill their characters over and over, as they sputter and threaten and posture. I come back because it's a chance to do something about the stream of insults I am forced to swallow daily for being female. Most days, I can make them swallow it and run.

It's the same reason shooting Hitler is fun-- I can do something merciless about people whose hatreds and banal evil hurt half the population of the world. Obviously, the nerds I shoot are not as evil, nor as violent as Hitler and his ideology, but there is more than enough violence out there against women, abetted by the same tired memes about what women are good for. The interviews with rapists and persons who commit domestic violence are consistent in that respect. They're saying the same thing these teenage boys and men are saying to me: don't make me have to hurt you, bitch. Fuck you, I'll punish you for doing well, I'll rape you.

The same ideology, but the odds of it happening in real life are somewhat less, and online I can defend myself without being shamed for the desire to do so (women are passive creatures, don'tcha know?)

I'm up 16,000 points on my favorite server, and I spend most of my time on the MVP board. It makes the daily insults a little bit easier.

A Short Post About Pretty Pictures

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 5:30 PM


A pick-you-up after this last round of posts, courtesy of a friend and Zen Pencils.

For Your Aural Pleasure: 18

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 3:42 PM


Fuck, Wisconsin, Why?

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , , | Posted on 2:26 PM


Thank you, Wisconsin, for giving me another reason to drink. I was so fucking depressed last night that I couldn't bring myself to finish a post.

There are times when, looking at the political landscape, the trends I see teaching college, the problems I have being paid a living wage (I currently make $740/month teaching college), the general push to prevent our society (with implications for science and our future as a species) from finishing the transition to a global society, and general push to waste the talent and lives of the majority of the population (women, the poor and persons of color), and I just want to fly to a moon base and live in a very small community somewhere the fuck else.

Wishful thinking, of course. We take our problems with us.

Assuming that the results are representative of the actual voting, I suppose the thing I'm most astounded by (though I shouldn't be) is the willingness to vote in a way which obviously and demonstrably is not in the interests of the inhabitants of the state. Walker's policies are disastrous-- from the attempts to union break to the emergency manager he appointed which dissolved local democracy in Benton Harbor, for the purpose of possessing the natural resources around the town (though his stated intent was to help them deal with the town's debt.)

I mean, for fuck's sake, the emergency manager for that town literally dissolved the town's council, auctioned off the local AM radio equipment because town council used it to complain about having their elected authority stripped. Auctioning that equipment is illegal because it is federal equipment and intended for a nonprofit.

I don't want to understand. I don't want to know and understand. I don't want to understand the effect of the slow attack on schools and civics, or the entrenched resistance to preventing the waste of talent and lives represented by sexism and racism. I don't want to understand the fatalism which causes voters to bring back a man who is stripping their rights to safety at work, to fair pay and to long-term employment.

Fucking fucking fuck, I don't want to understand but I do. I understand the fear, the knowledge that there are no options, the desperation to hold on to what little one has, the racism which makes a black president so scary. I understand the fear of change, the inability to break from an authoritarian way of thought which seems like all there is.

Fuck, Wisconsin, I don't want to feel compassion for you.


Edit: In a supreme dur moment, I've confused Michigan and Wisconsin. I r a dumbass sometimes, sorry. The emergency manager is in Michigan, not in Wisconsin.

I apologize.

For Your Aural Pleasure: 17

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in | Posted on 2:28 PM


On Running Into that Wall

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , , | Posted on 2:27 PM


Being female is like bruising your nose over and over on invisible walls which other people can walk through. One of my least favorite happens often in atheist/free-thinkers conversations, as well as all day at school, from students and faculty: any evidence, no matter how much and how stringently researched, can be dismissed offhand because of the gender of the speaker.

It does not surprise me that people are desperate to rationalize the ideas they like, even when presented with overwhelming evidence that they're wrong. What surprises me is that the same group which claims there's not enough evidence presented to them will refuse evidence presented to them, changing their argument as many times as they feel are necessary to justify ignoring the evidence. Jason at the Lousy Canuck and Ophelia Benson at Butterflies and Wheels have both blogged about what they're calling 'hyper-skepticism.' I'm inclined to agree. People who will accept rather serious pseudoscience (for instance, women like pink and gender stereotyping because magic cavewomen and berries) as indisputable fact will balk at being shown anything in the last twenty years on stereotype threat, or on social inequity.

I'm well aware of confirmation bias. I hope, as Ian at Crommunist Manifesto suggests, that this is a battle being won by attrition, by refusing to give in as the objections become less plausible and less able to be repeated with the expectation of public support. I know that between now and then, there's liable to need to be quite a bit of time, in which people attached to the same tired tropes about gender, ethnicity and economics. I know that in that time, there'll be plenty of abuse (and, in fact, I just got called a faggot piece of trash on Skepchick by one of the people protesting that characterizing misogynistic actions as misogynist is a symptom of a dangerous cult).

I expect those things. The strange thing, for me, is to run into those transparent walls. Perhaps this is a product of my education, but I tend to expect to be able to present evidence and to have discussions on the evidence. I've noticed two things in these conversations: first, that when the other person thinks I'm male, they're politer. And second, that the evidence means nothing to them, even more so when they find out I'm female.

It's an odd feeling; I've spent tremendous amounts of time doing research, learning new things, teaching, practicing various disciplines. I have a high GPA and a rack of awards for grades, letters of recommendation, student thanks and a few writing awards.

Yet in these discussions, it is still possible for me to suddenly be immaterial to the point, and/or to actually be a detriment to research I did not do, because I am female and I used the information. Suddenly, the standards for evidence no longer matter, and all the intricate connections between fields which I possess as a function of research also do not matter.

It's almost exactly, for me, like walking into a glass wall (I have had that experience.) One minute, I'm moving like everyone else and then, suddenly, I'm knocked sprawling.

My education ceases to matter.

For Your Aural Pleasure: 16

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in | Posted on 1:47 PM


Extraordinary Claims

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , | Posted on 1:21 PM


So my resolution to give myself a rest from the dust-up on FTB lasted about three minutes. It bothers me to see arrogance and ignorance of evidence passed off as surety about the way the world works.

All too often it's used to sandbag feminists who have not, perhaps, been to college or whose specialties are not in statistics and research-- I'm not good at ignoring that for long, because I know what it feels like to perceive the problems but not have access to enough research to prove the problems. It feels suffocating, and I have some strong feelings about that being done to feminists and allies.

A particular strain of reasoning keeps popping up in the push back to modernizing and enforcing harassment rules, typically wielded by people whose sole qualification for rebuttal appears to be having been born male and just 'knowing' that the pervasiveness of sexism and harassment is an extraordinary claim.

On a personal note, this is where I say that I have never had a job, as both an adult and a minor, in which I was not sexually harassed. I'm still getting it from my students: last semester I had a student who had spent the whole semester insisting that women hold power over men, and therefore there's no real reason to study sexism. That same student, toward the end of the semester, suggested that I should get drunk, and speculated on how fun I might be when drunk in front of the entire class, disrupting lecture. I also spent significant portions of last semester with one of my professors staring at my tits whenever we talked. His department head dismissed it when I reported because "I must have misunderstood him/it's normal for Iranian professors to stare fixedly at the breasts of female students."

I asked the Iranians I know. It's not normal.

The statement "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" comes up often during discussion of the -isms. It's not difficult to see why it comes up: here are a set of experiences which contradict the assumption of innocence and good will which privileged persons like to presume exists. They can assume it exists, of course, because they haven't encountered anything in their lives which concerns the issue and puts them at a disadvantage, or they've encountered explanations for it which blame the victim of harassment. System justification explains why even people who are on the receiving end of harassment sometimes buy the idea that they should be at fault for it, let alone those who gain advantage from their relationship to whatever is being discussed. (Pro-tip: historically, it's courtesy of religion.)*

When confronted with the idea that they have participated in a system which makes problems for others and in which they profit from historical and current stratification, these same persons flat out deny the problem. It must be an extraordinary claim: after all, they haven't experienced it.

I am always amused that their experience is fully enough to render a claim extraordinary, but the experiences of people who have been harassed are, of course, not enough. Some of the detractors seem, without the slightest self-reflection, to be comfortable claiming that only their experience is adequate for evidence. When someone challenges this, the epithets start flying. The only reason we might possibly think there's a problem must be hysteria, as is any sort of frustration with their obtuse behavior.

The link storm previous was only the tiniest sliver of research available; I deliberately used only full PDFs, and only things available on google scholar. Through the college at which I teach, I have access to hundreds of thousands of studies, but I have to assume not everyone has access to those kind of resources. The weight of evidence is in, and it does not favor those who reject the idea that there are systematic problems which do not require conscious participation.

I turn the burden of proof over to those who would deny the phenomenon, since making claims on anecdote in defiance of (instead of in compliance with, which I note anecdotes about harassment are) what is known and proved to be true is a far more extraordinary claim than the pedestrian and rather common claim that harassment, discrimination and cruelty based on gender, race, money or orientation exist.

I find the first claim, that this is not a problem, does not exist, is not current or that it is uncommon, extraordinarily extraordinary. I have no reason to believe that it's true.


*Would you believe these same people will argue there's no science to support the assertion that there are systematic problems which they can participate in unconsciously? Every one of those links is to a study and/or dissertation concerning system justification, the effects of system justification, and conscious/unconscious participation in these problems. These are also links to the full PDF, since I've been complained at for linking abstracts.

Multiple Relationships, Not People I'm Fucking

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 2:43 PM


I remember, early on, being very impressed by the fact that I was dating more than one person at once, ZOMG 11!111eleventy!!!11 I was completely sure this meant I was a bad, bad girl. Bad, bad, so bad, etc. Men and women! I was a threat to good people everywhere (start theme music)

Another advantage of age (number 50 billion) has been being able to get past, if imperfectly, the facile desire to think of it like an accomplishment to knock off my bucket list, the other people involved utterly incidental to my list of prospective sexy times.

To some degree, we're not encouraged to see the person we're fucking, instead of the confusing mash of stereotype and the desire we're supposed to have, the preset patterns of relationships popularized in the media and by upbringing, religion or custom. One of the hardest tasks for someone who would be a prospective lover of many is learning to see the other person, not what we wish they were or think they're supposed to be: to see failings and successes, able and willing to accept those, if merited, in one's lovers.

When people learn I have slept with more than one person at once, they are often titillated by that idea. A real live woman who does that sort of thing, a curiosity (though less as time goes on) to be questioned, a representative for the entire class of weirdos doing that kind of thing.

I have discovered, as I have lost my affinity for much of the culture and as I spend more time researching, talking to people who are in similar situations as I and reading websites which perform critical analyses of society, that the person I am sleeping with has become more interesting.

My lovers are wonderful mysteries: why this one is so reserved, the sound of their surprised laughter. Their fears, the things they hope for, the feel of their bodies against mine, the sound of their voice, their political beliefs and the way their voices soften late at night when we talk about what we would do with the lottery.

Their individuality is also a wonderful mystery, only highlighted by the time I spend with the other. I travel between lovers in a profound sense of gratefulness; time spent with one makes me think more about the other, appreciating their differences and generosity, at letting me see parts of their selves I might not otherwise notice.

To my mind, that's the difference: age has bought me generosity, mine and others. These relationships are a sweet generosity, for which I am grateful.

Battle Exhaustion: Once More Into the Breech

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , | Posted on 3:14 PM


FTB is abuzz about the remarks of DJ Grothe. Just up front, I'm going to say I think he's a douche, but anyone who finds out their buddy is engaged in sex with underage prostitutes and responds to questions by talking about lowering the age of consent is no one I am going to particularly like. Just that pairing makes me nauseous, but then I've done survival sex work, some of which was done when I was 16.

I'm going to go on the record and say that no minor should be involved in sex work. The idea that using people whose ideas, brain and behaviors are forming to sate the sexual urges of people who are older and more affluent, while historical, is abhorrent.

I've been reading the storm of posts, and I'm... tired. I guess, like any newb to a community, I had high hopes of the online atheist community. I accepted that portions were going to be rotten, even flattered myself to think that they would be considered outliers. For me, feminism and atheism are inextricably linked: to be aware of the destructiveness and social control of religion is to be aware of the exploitation of gender which is so much a part of religious communities. It's not even like women are the only people exploited in religious hierarchies: the poor, people who are queer or in any way gender deviant and people who are not white also all suffer from poor treatment here in the US, and as far as I know with the Judeo-Christian religions, also abroad. I even figured there might be some consensus on those issues, because I presupposed that part of identifying as an atheist involved an exploration of the harm done by religions, including our homebrews here in the US.

I'm rather saddened, and sometimes down-right insulted to find this is not true. While there's a tendency to mention that religion is bad for women and minority groups, there's also a nasty, vocal minority in the atheist community (my local atheist group unfortunately hosts Ben Radford and the occasional scientist with interesting ideas about women) who uses a nasty mash of "I am man therefore my ideas are important" and "wommenz brains are too pink and fluffy and emotional for real thinking." For me, it is easy to move from a critique of the way religion treats women to the ways society also treats women, as mirrors of each other.

But since my cock is detachable, my critiques had better move quickly past gender, lest I be considered 'whiny'. I tend to leave when one of those assholes shows up, as dumping my drink on him, while satisfying, is only 'proof' of my wommenz brains.

I also though scientific literacy would be more common in this community. It appears to be common to the persons writing posts, and about a quarter common in the comments. I do appreciate FTB because psuedo-science is treated so derisively by regular posters and by the people writing FTB blogs. I have, however, been sort of stunned to find it in the comments. The same, Lamarkian bullshit idea that traits are directly heritable, debunked in Bio 101, pops up regularly. It tends to be paired with what I like to think of as 'magic cavemen'.

Cavemen who echo an ahistoric, ignorant and oversimplified version of history, in order to support whatever nastiness the poster has in mind. If you can't tell your caveman from a particularly douchey frat member, there are serious problems with your conception of that caveman (also history, biology, anthropology, palentology, etc.)

I guess I also thought more people had been exposed to the social sciences. I may be frustrated with my program, but there are some well-researched, well-proven concepts (better than 60 years of theory and experiments) in social science which are apparently either not known, or the idea of scientific testing on these subjects is somehow invisible to people. Hell, even google scholar has some of these things. I'm astounded that a community of persons who are interested in reason has, in many cases, not even bothered to google the concepts.

Even if the only thing someone commenting wants to do is discredit, the least they could do is read the damn studies. A lot of the studies in social science on these subjects are actually PDFs, not just the abstract.

I also, I suppose, expected some of the basic ideas in statistics to be better known. Apparently, as I have found from some commentors and even people on my friends list on social websites, statistics mean nothing. Or at least they do when I use them.

I suppose, in some way, I should expect online discussions to be craptastic, simply because anyone can make an account and say shitty, stupid, ignorant things. This particular shitstorm, as with ElevatorGate, which I spent a considerable amount of time commenting during, has just reinforced that unpleasant, annoyed and creepy feeling I get when I see the previous pop up.

Perhaps I will have the energy to deal with it at a later date, but for now, the subject exhausts me. It's not because I don't have to answers, can't prove it, don't care about it, aren't affected by it and/or don't have the time to comment on it.

It's because the commentors using those objections don't listen, don't care, lie, dismiss, don't read, are arrogant, abusive, refuse to come to any sort of consensus on even little issues.

And because they all say the same fucking thing. Every fucking time, as if reading a damn script. I have a lot of sympathy with the FTB regulars who have started responding with obscenities.

How long can you repeat the same damn thing to someone who uses your body/gender against you?