Good News: My Tits are an Act of Violence Against Dudes

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 5:41 PM

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I read ManBoobz often, though I occasionally have to stop reading because the urge to punch my screen is too high.

One of today's ManBoobz articles is quite literally the funniest thing I've read in awhile. Portions of the Manosphere have decided that the sight of cleavage and/or legs is at least as bad as assault, and sometimes worse, since these clothes are obviously designed to tempt men who are not allowed to 'do anything about' that temptation. Apparently, I've been assaulting men for years with my cleavage, making me a career criminal.

Oh, the humanity. Men can see my tits but are not supposed to rape me, therefore I am irreparably wounding them.

I'm going to really enjoy wearing tank tops this summer.

By Request: Issues in Technical Writing

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 4:46 PM

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One of the more startling things I've found as someone who has an English degree (the MFA is in nonfiction, and I've done a double shit ton* of free lance editing and technical writing), is that people seem to believe that writing and design are easy enough to relegate that task to people who may have no qualification for those tasks. It's not uncommon for professionals with no training in how to write manuals and/or brochures, design, editing and gauging an audience to be given a very small amount of time to do so.

The typical results are things like laughably bad manuals, design which is stuck somewhere in the 80s and steps which are impossible to do in the order suggested. Some professionals are, of course, capable of this kind of writing and design. However, it should not be assumed that someone who is incredibly competent in another field will automatically do a good job of design and technical writing.

Writing is actually a thing, and a demanding thing.

I have a friend who is facing that sort of problem right now; he's a more than just competent programmer, but his bosses have handed him the task of writing technical manuals for the servers he administers and for the projects whose frankencode he's been handed. (He says the code is awful.)

The problem which is currently frustrating him is fundamental to technical writing: where do you start assuming competence in an audience? This particular problem is actually something which is takes professionally trained writers years to get a clear sense of; the classes I've taught for composition and rhetoric dealt with this problem over four months, because it is incredibly difficult to clearly conceptualize and execute.

He's asked for some guidelines to consider. Without further ado, I give you my personal ones.

Bob** the Pragmatist's rules of thumb for estimating audience competence:

Is the audience the general public or some subsection of the general public?

If the audience is the general public, you'll be best served by over-explaining in a conversational tone. Think furniture assembly instructions: take the plug with the pink ring and match it to the plug on the back of your computer, near the bottom, which also has a pink ring. Good job!

If the audience is a subsection, particularly a technical or highly educated subsection of the general public, you can assume, whether it's true or not, access to technical jargon for the field and some task skipping.

Think of this as the PB&J rule. The hypothetical general public has never made a PB&J before. If you tell them to make a PB&J, but don't include instructions, they have no idea what you're talking about. And you can't just start with grab a loaf of bread, because they may never have made a sandwich. You have to figure out some way to describe sliced, presumably commercial bread to them so that they can locate it by sight. Same goes for the peanut butter, the jelly, and a butter knife to spread.

It's tempting to think of them as idiots at this point. Resist temptation; ignorance is not always stupidity, though I freely admit when I write for newspapers as a columnist the breadth of vocabulary I have to not use makes me want to head-desk myself unconscious. Assume, rather, that they are reading your manual because they want to understand. It's a rhetorical assumption, yes, but an effective one in many situations (obviously not one you're always obliged to take).

Now, if you're talking to people who have already made a PB&J about making a fancy fried banana PB&J (Uh-huh-huh, hip swing), the good news is that you don't have to explain what bread, peanut butter, jelly and a sandwich is. The bad news is that you have to explain any alterations to the pattern for making PB&J which they already know, and fold it into the explanation for how to make the sandwich so they do it in the right order. You must fry the bananas before assembling the sandwich, and you might want to include a description for what a fried banana looks like when it's done.

This means you still have to write the instructions, unfortunately, but instead of starting with locate bread in a grocery store by the presence of clear wrapping around a product which is soft and springy, sliced into sections a third of an inch wide with a distinctly darker edge around the outside and is not stored in a refrigerated section of the store, you can start with assembling bread, peanut butter, quince jelly, vegetable oil, one sliced and slightly green banana, a shallow frying pan large enough to fit the sandwich, a butter knife and a plate.

It makes for slightly less writing, though I've seen manuals which have a glossary. If the manual is online, hyperlinking can eliminate the need for a glossary.

Assuming that you are writing to your peers eliminates many of the definitional tasks, though it is generally best (unless you are talking to persons with broad experience or persons with extensive education) to limit the number of very large, very technical words if you can.

Based on these criteria, the assumption of basic competence includes the following criteria:

--They can read the language you're using (if not, add translations to other languages).
--They are either the general public or a subsection, both of which have different requirements for definition and tasks.
--They are best served by sequential ordering in tasks and are willing to do the tasks in the order suggested.
--They will try to find the answers to reasonable questions in your manual, which means you ought to try and anticipate those questions based on what an average person from their level of expertise might ask.***
--They will be best served by both an overview of steps and a detailed explanation of steps, including reminders of the final goal in addition to detail involved in steps. Even professionals need to be reminded of the end goal, especially in any manual which requires more than eight steps.
--They need the steps broken down based on changes in one of the following: a change in equipment used, a new sub-task (plugging something in versus sorting out the cables), a change in location, a change in type of task (importing libraries in code versus writing a function) so that they can effectively follow the stream of tasks which you assume they are trying to perform.

This is sort of technical writing light, and I'm pretty sure you can think of exceptions, but those are some of the fundamental assumptions of competence which tend to get used.

Oi there, buddy: when you read this, feel free to ask questions.


* That's the official measure of this blog-- a shit ton is more work than you can get done in a year.

** When I used to work at gas stations, I got tired of being aggressively hit on by men, especially since I was working alone. I chopped my hair and made a 'Bob' name tag. It only helped a little. Now I use Bob as a pseudonym during gaming: my current character's name is Lady Isobella Violetta Charmisa Margarite Coeur de Leon the Third, Bob for short.

*** Yeah, I know. That's a huge topic which is highly situational, so it's best if I offer you an example. Technical professionals are not going to ask what a computer is, but they are likely to ask what software version you're using because some functions are not covered in earlier versions. If they're programmers, they'll want to know why you're using that version, not their favorite version. The answer is NOT because I want to, that's why.

Being Your Role-Playing Character

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in | Posted on 11:47 PM

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Some people say they fall in love with their characters, that they identify intensely with their character's struggles during a path, that they are truly bothered when their characters die.

Many (MANY) years ago, I took the first round of drama classes, mostly out of curiosity (and to use up some electives). The professor assigned me the role of Emily Dickenson, at a press conference. If you know her history, you know she would never have submitted to one after her public humiliation at the hand of local literary critics, and that press conferences, such as they were, would not have been held for her. He gave me a day to research her, then I had to perform her.

As a character, she's an odd mix of brash and shy. I thought it would be appropriate to have her trembling, barely able to lift a cup to her mouth, hands fluttering like birds around her chest, trying vainly to be unseen, unless asked about her work. She was a lion when asked about her work. While I didn't fall in love with her, I felt I understood her.

The Traveller game we just started has me playing a noblewoman who is vapid in society and sharp in private. It's a lot of fun to play these characters, to step into those shoes and try to think like someone who had been taught to be a social ornament, but longs to be a captain of industry.

I played tabletop a little when I was young (not much, as it was the eighties and D&D meant you were asking to be possessed by Satan.) I don't remember having nearly as much fun with it as I am now that I know I'm not being possessed by demons and I less ashamed of my nerdiness.

Each game we start gives me a new chance to be someone else. It's fun to escape from work and life for awhile and be an explorer in a personalized universe.

For Your Aural Pleasure: 15

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

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If this don't touch you (especially if you know the singer and the song's history), I don't know what would.


The Death of One's Passions

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 2:47 PM

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I've come the long route to the things I am passionate about, though my family labelled me dangerously over-passionate most of my childhood. I remember my childhood as quite passionate; like an exhibit behind glass, I scrabbled at an invisible wall in a suffocating space. No matter what I wanted, I would become just what the card in front of the glass said: "Female, North American, Native Habitat: Domestic, Reproduction. Incapable of independence, relies on provider."

Not so much human as a curiosity; someone who would deny the self-evidently natural script for our lives.

My nightmares were often of being married to a middle-class fellow, trapped in a home with 2.5 children and given only home-decorating and child-rearing as an outlet for ambition. I am not exaggerating when I say that dream used to wake me up in a sweat, thinking of my mother and father.

Sometimes, it woke me up literally screaming. The people who have shared my bed tended to laugh at my explanation that my nightmare was of being a housewife.

I have to believe my mother also wanted more for me, despite beating me and telling me that I would never be loved, since I was so ugly: in a twisted way, this was her charity. If I were ugly and unloveable, I could devote myself to pursuing my passions, instead of being trapped in a home, as she was. After all, a woman cannot have both a career and love. As she told me often, that meant I could be seen as competing with men, and they would be forced to punish it out of me. No love, no softness, no femininity, else I would fail to have my own desires.

And what cost would you pay, reader, to follow your passions? What cost have you already paid?

My MFA dissertation compared this to a tide, drowning my mother and I, filling the rooms of the house with the slap of waves. To be immaterial to your own desires and ambitions, to live every day with the knowledge that you will have no life of your own, only what the men and women who are willing to collaborate around you believe to be appropriate.

To have others be genuinely surprised that you did not passionately, with every fiber of your being, want nothing more than to find a nice man to marry, then stay home, have kids and never have to work. Isn't that what women want?

Your passionate refusal, of course, is evidence that you are mentally ill, defective. How could you not want this existence?

I suppose it's probably no surprise that my relationship to my passions is a bit distant. I had to kill something of myself to go to college, something which I will not get back in the same form. I am no longer capable of casually assuming good intentions in others and that society is essentially a fair place.

The difference for me, and something I'm continually surprised so many people think is irrelevant, was seeing women able to have careers. It was seeing women who were mathematicians, atheists, and scientists. There've been several threads on FTB about female role models, the most recent of which is Jen's.

Someone inevitably shows up, like pidgeon shit on park benches, to strafe the conversation with the idea that it's the artist's choice, or that there really aren't any women to admire, or that women don't contribute to the sciences.

And once again, for a minute, I feel the glass.

Restlessness

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 2:16 PM

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I have this personality flaw, and trust me, it is a flaw: I am fiercely intellectually restless. I am currently looking for work over the summer vacation, and I can only take about two weeks without working, building, creating, learning and producing. I start to feel stale and slothy after about four days, and by now, I'm just twitchy.

I feel useless, if that makes sense. It's a flaw because it makes vacation time difficult for me. I feel guilty for not doing more.

My partner says it's that Puritan work ethic drilled into my head as a child, and that I should drink more. The cure, he says, is to wean me away from those work habits using fun. I've given up explaining that making things is fun in a different way and accept the occasional chivvying to do something non-productive. Okay, constant chivvying.

I give him a hard time about describing my behavior as Puritan, but it is possible that childhood habits prevail in my feelings about fun. My family did not believe in play on a regular basis because idle hands are the devil's playthings; we could play only if we finished work. Since my father hired me out to do yard work and construction on the weekends and during the summer, as well my taking off and wandering for eight hours on days which I was not scheduled to work, in order to get out of the house, I did not spend a lot of time playing as a child.

I'm going to blame my fascination with science toys on that and the pressure to adopt traditionally feminine roles. I suppose I should be grateful in some ways; this allows me to work insane hours, under bad conditions, and still get shit done.

I am finding, as I age, that I am fascinated with the idea of rest. I watch my partner through his day, trying to figure out the secret: how does one appreciate extended bouts of spare time?

What It Means to Say Information Economy

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 4:02 PM

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Obviously, this won't be a complete list, but I think that the term and discussions around it are essential to understanding the fight over intellectual property rights (in addition to understanding the current engine of the economy.) In a general way, the phrase information economy refers to an economy which is increasingly based on information seeking, information industries and/or information transactions.

For the purposes of this, information can be defined as data of various kinds, with greater and lesser degrees of verification. To give a broad example, the stock market is based on speculation (betting, if you will). That speculation is based on a complex mix of independent, political and/or governmental and corporate investigations, summed up by speculators and agents in the stock market into a portfolio, which they use to place bets on the price, availability and value of various kinds of things: physical objects like crude oil or oranges (commodity markets), the value of companies (shares), or on derivatives (roughly a set of agreements which governs the exchange of stocks, goods, shares and/or properties between companies, also the future of the things exchanged.)

It's worth noting, as a side concern, that derivatives allow for both bets and for insurance on those bets (hedge funds). Derivatives are also immune to some of the regulatory laws which govern other transactions on the stock market.

Information gathered by those investigations directly effects the price and availability of goods and services, and as such becomes at least as valuable as the goods and services itself to the portions of the economy which dictate availability.

To understand the fight over intellectual property, you have to understand the transition between an industrial economy and an information economy; the transition between an economy which is greatly concerned with manufacturing and an economy which is greatly concerned with gathering information on the behavior of large businesses and governments. To some degree, the interwebs render physical possession, central to previous economies, moot or highly complicated; ideas and intellectual property tends to disperse without extraordinary efforts to prevent it from doing so.

A great example of this is the reproduction of movies and music. You do not need the physical presence of the musicians to be able to hear their work. If their work has been properly recorded and you have the equipment and knowledge, you can reproduce it as much as you please. Information economies are characterized, among other ways, by the ability to reproduce information and the fight to keep certain species of information exclusive.

Think of it as a carryover from when you had to physically possess something and/or possess legal documents to own it. Physical possession becomes considerably less important as the economy transitions to a information economy, making the role of institutions considerably more important and reducing the effect of individuals (barring the very rich and well connected).

An information economy also means that world events strongly effect local events, because information on these events is used in decision-making. Whether we like it or not, the shape of the economy means that we're increasingly connected to even distant events, and that traditional measures for possession no longer function as they had.

In the stats for this blog, I'm informed that I have visitors from outside the continental US. Welcome, US residents as persons who are not US residents, to this corner of the information economy.

Best Propaganda Poster Ever

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 2:17 PM

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Reposted from Lousy Canuck.


Fear of a Nuclear Planet

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 2:01 PM

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Before this last semester's nuclear and chemical engineering class, I had a very different view of nuclear power and politics: under the same sort of general 'nuclear power is bad' stance (equal parts B-movies and Chernobyl) which seems common to lay persons in the US, I viewed the goals of preventing proliferation and nuclear power as being essentially the same. Obviously, I thought, both needed to be reduced. Weren't they essentially the same problem? Weren't they both going to bring about the apocalypse (and giant glowing ants)?

Some of my misconceptions about nuclear power and proliferation stem from the way nuclear power is reported; nonproliferation and nuclear power are often paired in reporting, by people who do not necessarily have the background necessary to understand the technical and/or political events which make up newsworthy events in nonproliferation and nuclear power. Reporters tend to focus, sometimes with ghoulish glee (as do film-makers and game developers) on accidents, threats, scares and/or completely implausible scenarios. I play and love Wasteland, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Fallout, but can no longer consider them even mildly plausible as descriptors of what nonproliferation means, and the current system in the US for maintaining safeguards at nuclear power sites.

After Fukushima, fears over catastrophic disaster have only increased. Some of those fears are justified; reactors all over the world sometimes should be, for lack of a better word, upgradedSecurity could always be tightened, and the voluntary nature of participation in nonproliferation regimes could give developing nations a chance to create secret nuclear programs.

The engineering class I took used publicly-sourced information (nothing classified) and basic instruction in IAEA procedures, current events and science (historical and present efforts to increase safety, and progress made on nonproliferation goals) to made a damn good case for problems with the way nuclear power and nonproliferation are linked.

It is true that the nuclear fuel cycle produces waste which can be used in the manufacture of Plutonium 239 weapons, and that enriching the Uranium through any of the commercial weapons could, if it continues well past what is necessary for use in power plants (the threshold is 25% Uranium 235, at which point it can be used to make serious mischief). However, the nature of nonproliferation treaties and political alignments make doing so a problem without a fully funded program which can be hidden, meaning that it has to be a funded, state or governing body authorized program, not something which can be done in the basement, to the specs required for modern reactors or to get large scale fission.

I will not claim that the IAEA can prevent all problems. This article, while laughably misinformed (at 90% enrichment, you are so very far past what you need to cause problems), points to one of the key problems: sensationalism of some of the risks, minimal information about the science and safety procedures involved and the refusal to acknowledge the need for nuclear power.

Concerns over Iran are well-founded, for reasons that can be googled on any of the sites I link to. Seven hundred, plus 350 more centrifuges, ensures that should Iran choose to enrich for weapons, they will be more quickly able to do so. I won't fault the reporter for providing an explanation of why enriching to 27% could be an accident, as we are talking about the public, here.

However, several concerns complicate the issue; there's no way to get around the fact that nuclear power is currently necessary. We in the US are, for the most part, privileged enough to have regular access to power in both public and private venues (assuming, of course, that any individual examined can pay the electricity bills and is not homeless.)

We have power partially because of our nuclear power plants; natural gas alone does not provide enough energy, wind and water alone don't provide enough energy and coal (combined with other fossil fuels) is so damn bad for the environment that it shouldn't be an option. Nuclear power does produce waste and have an environmental impact, comparatively less (without an accident) than fossil fuels.

It is necessary for (and, in fact, part of nonproliferation treaties) nations to have access to power for their citizens, even nations like Iran, which is one of the things which complicates international relations-- we and other developed nations share peaceful use technologies with developing nations due to the need for international stability (frequently accomplished through economic growth in these nations, which tends to strongly motivate peace.) Reporting on this issue often does not cover the reasons why developing nations are so desperate to maintain their nuclear power plants, and that part of our diplomatic mission is to help these nations find ways to join the international community.

This contributes to the often exaggerated fears of nuclear power, providing a significant obstacle to efforts to reduce emissions and humanely understand the concerns of developing nations. Those two things are a much more realistic fear than glowing ants, mutants and a nuclear wasteland.

There are good reasons to fear a nuclear planet. I wish they were the ones which came to mind for the general public.

One of the best things ever

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in | Posted on 6:27 PM

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This is too long to embed video, but it's a bunch of voice actors reading the Star Wars scripts in their character's voices (Pinky, the Brain, William Shatner, Bubbles, Bender, Stimpy, etc.)

For Your Aural Pleasure: 14

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 3:11 PM

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The Sexual Harassment of Uppity Bitches

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , , , , | Posted on 2:49 PM

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Yesterday, I posted a few of Dr. Berdahl's studies on the correlations between social control and sexual harassment on Jen's discussion on ERV's use of personal insults. The connection has been nagging me since; I don't think very many people understand why sexual harassment is not a function of desire, and not a compliment, in any fashion.

My psuedonym is mouthyb, has been for most of my life, and certainly for some time on the net (I have said some dumb shit over the years). I say most of my life deliberately here. Mouthyb is short, as you likely know, for mouthy bitch. That particular phrase has been one of the most common epithets aimed at me. I took it on at first as a warning, and later as a reclamation because I am most certainly mouthy and bitchy to assholes. I love being able to be a bitch, as well, but that's another post.

When I talk about sexual harassment with people, talk about the fact that I have not had a single job where I have not been sexually harassed in the entire, checkered history of my jobs, I am met with disbelief and scorn. I am told, "You must think you're really hot/special/etc" and/or told that I am not that hot, and therefore must be lying for attention. In my twenties, that would have bothered me. Now, it's just funny, and a little sad.

It's funny because I do all right, in terms of looks (I ain't nothing special, but I've never lacked for company unless I didn't want company), and because I know that being sexually harassed has nothing to do with my looks. I have seen people be sexually harassed who are nowhere near what is considered pretty by society.

The view that sexual harassment is a function of desire is not even wrong; it's an irreparably stupid view of why people get harassed.

It's sad for much the same reasons. Girl-on-girl competition for male attention, the persistent narrative that women are objects for male desire and the situating of personal power as belonging to men motivates the view of sexual harassment as a 'win' for male attention. If it is demeaning (pro-tip: it is), it is only because she needed to be reminded of her proper position, which is where we get into the meat of the studies I linked to in Jen's post.

Dr. Berdahl, in her studies, tests several models for sexual harassment: the first is that sexual harassment is motivated by desire, and will tend to be aimed at women who are conventionally attractive. The second is that sexual harassment is motivated by the desire to punish gender role deviants. Her subjects were college age men and women, and men and women in 5 organizations. She tested three separate thesis about sexual harassment: first what kind of women tended to be most often sexually harassed, whether or not this was a function of over-reporting and whether or not women in organizations with male heads were more likely to be sexually harassed. ("The Sexual Harassment of Uppity Women")

As I am not writing a formal analysis, I'm just going to say that she was really fucking thorough in testing correlations. Her total population tested across all three studies is 547; she sent out over a thousand surveys. A response rate of 30% is pretty typical for these kinds of outreach. I assume, because she's had that training if she's a PhD and because the populations are different sizes, that each population member is unique. You do not share members across these kinds of studies, as it will bias your results.

Her findings were consistent with my own experiences of being sexually harassed: women who are aggressive, dominant, independent and/or have masculine-coded personality traits are more likely to be harassed. Women who had these personality traits were no more likely than women who did not to report sexual harassment (which is to say fairly unlikely). The last finding is also consistent with my experiences, that male-dominated workplaces tend to result in more sexual harassment of women.

Her second paper, "Harassment based on sex: Protecting Social Status in the context of Gender Hierarchy," fleshes out the idea that harassment is based on power and policing gender roles.  She includes an admonition that sexual harassment is not correlated with the following: sexual behaviors, men only as harassers and bad individuals. This has also been my experience.

Viewing sexual harassment as a function of desire has the following effects (not an exhaustive list, by any means): continuing to obscure communication/contribute to misunderstandings between groups, belittling the emotional, mental and physical toll of sexual harassment, making restitution extraordinarily difficult, making any attempt to fix the environment really difficult, reinforcing gender roles and hierarchy, obscuring sexual harassment of men and/or sexual harassment between women, glamorizing sexual harassment and/or making sexual harassment seem as if it is an important part of being female (as a 'badge' of being desirable/having power in society).

And that, as a woman, is finally what makes it painful. You are told to take it as a compliment when someone yells out in your classroom that you've given them a boner, or when someone tries to blackmail you into sex, or when someone you don't know (because women's bodies are public property) grabs your ass or tits as you walk through the room.

It twists like a knife in the gut: the repeated assertion that this is a compliment while you feel violated because all you wanted was to get through the day.

Jebus help you if you, as I have done, file a complaint: because you need a sense of humor, because you must be lying, because you should have known better, because it can all be viewed as one event, no matter how long it persists, and doesn't make the standard for persistent harassment, because you once made a crude joke at a party and that person heard, because you should have known not to be alone with your colleague, because you wore a low cut shirt, because you seem dirty, because you weren't bold enough, because you were too bold.

But it's a compliment, right? It just means people like you.

No condoms for us, thanks

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , | Posted on 5:36 PM

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We like our STI, poverty and teen pregnancy rate.

My friends send me entertaining news snippets over google messenger. In today's case of I want my own moon base, one of the local Department of Health officials claims to have been pressured to resign because she went on the air to discuss condom use.

The city of my current residence has an unfortunate history of allowing religious sex ed programs to dictate what is taught to teens in public schools. From what I hear about the subject (my students, when it comes up), despite overt lip service to the use of birth control, the sex ed around here is still mostly of the "you're going to die of an STI, you filthy whores" variety.

My state is #4 on the 2010 infection rates for chlamydia, but we wouldn't want to offer accurate, nonjudgmental information about sex to teenagers. That would be encouraging them to have sex, because, as we all know, teenagers are incapable of conceiving of sex without information given at school.

And they always respond well to fear tactics.


For Your Aural Pleasure:13

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 5:02 PM

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Playing Stupid

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , | Posted on 3:50 PM

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There's a reason I have something of a short fuse during internet discussions, other than that I'm too old for some of this shit-- I was born too old for some of this shit.

One of the most frustrating things in conversations about feminism on the internet is the person who plays stupid or feigns ignorance. It can be tricky figuring that out, if you're the one on the receiving end of that sort of thing, whether or not the other person is sincere. Playing stupid can hopelessly derail the conversation, preventing any sort of meaningful conversation from happening because every time you explain something, someone in the listeners demands that you start over.

They're essentially demanding that you perform all the work in the conversation, refusing to participate or give the willingness of the doubt (see ElevatorGate). Frequently, this goes hand-in-hand with nitpicking and distorting what is said in the effort to 'prove' that what the speaker believes couldn't have existed. As an aside, I notice that most people don't try it with me after I start carpet-bombing with social science studies. (Pro-tip: There are easily 60 years of studies on the subject. Sexism and social problems related to sexism and racism are very well researched, in terms of volume.)

Generally, for a conversation to happen, both parties must participate. A frequent assertion, when I'm talking about feminism, is that I'm not participating enough to overcome the skepticism or resistance to the ideas of feminism, typically after I've given up trying to explain for the millionth time some extraordinarily basic ideas (like that people have different experiences of culture) and have moved on to insults.

It is not, for fuck's sake, my job to force people to concede my point. There are plenty of people who refuse to concede anything. I can't force them to concede that the sky is blue, because they're so afraid and/or contemptuous of the ideas in feminism that they won't agree, just in case the sky being blue becomes a critical weakness in their philosophy.

I can't figure out if they believe feminism to be so powerful it can disrupt the laws of physics, or if they're so incapable of letting go of the mental comfort of being a good person all the time that they can't concede the point. After all, if feminism is right (yes, it is), they could be not good people all the time and not have realized it. Someone is always wrong on the internet, but by jebus, it can't be them. If they're wrong, it means that they can never be right again, or something. There are a few things which tend to tip me off to insincerity in persons I'm chatting with (other than refusing to concede that the sky is often blue during the day):

The first is when they drag their goalposts for proof anywhere they have to in order not to concede anything; the burden of proof keeps changing. Maybe they'll believe if I show them science, oh but social science is not science, oh but everyone knows that statistics are unreliable, oh but women are too emotional, oh but words are flexible and this means I can't be logical or some shit along those lines.

The second is when they refuse to read the research studies I post and/or accuse me of being a snob for posting them. It's arrogant not to look at resources provided by experts, and stupid to accuse someone trying to provide you with information of being mean for hunting down information for you.

The third is when they cherry-pick research studies, saying they mean something which they do not, or cling to one or two research studies instead of making an attempt to understand the field (hint: as a professional, I have to survey the field to publish.)

The fourth is when they insult my expertise either because I'm female or because I can't be trustworthy as one of those college professors. I've been teaching and/or a college student for 15 years. My value is measured in my intellectual labor, and I am building a specialty in inter-disciplinary research. Respect mah fucking dedication, people.

The fifth is when they devolve immediately into insults, but I often find that laughable.

Generally speaking, I'm willing to offer ideas, tips and discussion (given that I'm not tired). But when I run into those, I know I'll just be wasting my time.

Anyone who plays stupid does not deserve my time.

For Your Aural Pleasure: 12

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in | Posted on 6:18 PM

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Flirting as an Ethical Game

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 3:57 PM

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For some people, myself included, flirting is a fun mental exercise. I don't always flirt, though when I am comfortable, I tend to engage the people around me in that way. For me, flirting is a balancing act: I'm watching the other person's body language, learning about the way they think, and to a degree (because I am competitive and aggressive) it's a measuring process. I want to see what they're made of, as I am aggressive enough to make dating someone who is not a problem. Because I could offend or stifle someone, despite my best efforts, I actively seek out people who like to flirt, if they understand boundaries. JT has a great post up about this, which inspired this blog post.

Off the top, the hard news is that women have different opinions on what the boundaries are. There are a few things which I'd say were highly likely to show up on lists of things which make women want to run into the night, many of which are covered by Dr. NerdLove, Schrondinger's Rapist and the commentariat on JT's blog. The rest is going to involve flexibility, observation and a willingness to apologize and back off when mistaken.

For the record, this happens to women as well. I've been too forward with men and had them be freaked out, at which point, it's time to apologize and retreat.

I'd like to talk a little bit about romance, at this point, because gender role violations often cross what is romantic/desirable for the general public and/or in this society. I'm very resistant, in general, to the idea of romance. I think it puts a fuzzy, out-of-focus filter on some fucked-up shite.

Fucked-up shite #1: In a 'real' romantic relationship, the man should know, by instinct or fucking witchcraft, what pleases a woman and what she 'needs', as opposed to what she wants/expresses a desire to do/etc.

Why it's fucked-up shite: Holy unreasonable presumtions, Batman! Assuming I don't have to cover why using instinct in this way is just stupid, let's talk about what that does to communication. This model for 'romance' insures that neither party knows what the hell is going on, and the odds for something hurtful or even dangerous (if you're kinky) go up exponentially. It shames men for communication by insinuating that if they were 'real' men, they'd just know, and prevents women from saying what they want by outright declaring them incapable of understanding their own needs.

As a side note, this is why some women may not be able to express what gives them pleasure in the bedroom. Does ANYONE want that relationship?

Fucked-up shite #2: Wuv, tru wuv, happens in an instant, for all eternity. (Out, out, damned Princess Bride.)

Why it's fucked-up shite: Hey, you know how to put together a functional relationship? Work, work and more work. I should know, I've been married three times. I may want to bone the shit out of you when I meet you, but actual, relationship-building love requires dedication, work and the willingness to change. None of these are instantaneous; they take years. The desire to fuck you silly is not love, it's just horniness. There is a difference.

Fucked-up shite #3: You should do anything for your tru wuv, to keep them in your life. (The Stephanie Meyer corollary.)

Why it's fucked-up shite: You know what the best thing in the world is (okay, for me)? Being able to leave someone. Those three divorces were the best thing for those situations. Staying in those relationships would probably have killed me by now. No one who loves me wants me to endanger my life, well-being and mental health for their amusement, so they won't leave me.

As a side note, nothing peeves me more than watching women compete for the attention of a man because he's their tru wuv, and they just want to prove it. Ugh. UGH.


Fucked-up shite #4: If you have tru wuv, you'll never have eyes for anyone else.

Why it's fucked-up shite: Really? For the rest of eternity, you will only ever desire one person? Never to enjoy the body and/or mind of anyone else? Never to even look at anyone else? Not only is this unrealistic, the insecurity it represents is relationship wrecking. Even if you are not poly, I would be highly surprised if, at some point in your life, you did not appreciate the sight of someone else (like a movie star, a co-worker, etc.) Being constantly afraid that your significant other will leave you, or that no one will love you if you get old or unconventionally attractive is no good, and it's part and parcel with the whole romance package. Insecurity happens (hell, I have a lover and a boyfriend, and am mystified by their attraction to me), but building a relationship of casual paranoia is not a good path to long-term relationships. It's better to deal with that shit.

What this has to do with flirting: At its heart, flirting is an act of communication. Some people are more adept communicators than others, and learning to flirt is a part of the process (I recommend cybering with people who are able to respect boundaries. For me, this was a part of the kinky community.) The various things I outlined above are flirting killers. They undermine communication and penalize taking flirting lightly, freighting it with expectations which range from toxic to dangerous (after all, a failure of romance can be taken as a character failing which merits threats and/or actions designed to 'punish' the other person.)

They take all the fun out of flirting and make it less ethical. I won't flirt with people who have those expectations; it's too risky. The only ethical thing to do is withdraw.

My Compassion is in My Other Pants

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 4:44 PM

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I continue to be surprised, though I shouldn't be, at the stubborn obtuseness of conservatives. As a nerd, I understand that stuffs on the interwebs is forever. I am aware, just due to the subjects I chose to write about, that I may do some damage to my career prospects with this blog.

I find it amazing that people don't understand this: the internet, diffuse as it is, is like a giant recorder. Once on that sucker, the information could be anywhere; it's impossible to utterly get rid of it.

George Tierney appears to not understand this fairly small, simple precept. Sandra Fluke, since her testimony to Congress, has faced a river of nasty comments from public figures such as Limbaugh, in addition to random persons who listen to that kind of garbage. George Tierney joins the onslaught a bit earlier this year.

TBogg, Daily Kos, Balloon Juice, and Raw Story have all had something to say about Tierney, especially when Tierney's response was to threaten to sue TBogg and Firedoglake for posting about him. My sympathy is definitely lowered by the threatening language he aimed at Fluke, but even more so because his response to criticism of his tweets was to threaten to sue people.

He apparently rented a backhoe and crew when he started to dig that hole.

Social networks and/or public profiles are considered to be in the public domain, meaning that anything you put on facebook, or on OK Cupid, or on Twitter, is considered to have been volunteered information, which you cannot and do not retain the exclusive rights to, partially because, as the last link discusses, copyright does not apply to short phrases and words which are not being used for commercial purposes. Invective cannot be copyrighted, especially not when it is used on a site whose terms of service place it squarely both in violation of user rules and within publicly searchable information.

Tierney, you are so boned right now. And, since my compassion is in my other pants, I join the chorus in laughing at you.
                _________________________________________________________________

Edited to add: It's not even defamation, jackass.
Further edited to add more links of Tierney's threats/invective.

My Dreams, for the last month

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 3:09 PM

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If you've been paying attention to politics at all, you know that the Republican party is trying to kill women in droves: illegal and unsafe abortions are on the rise.

I'm often told by people, on the subject, that sure, it's angering, but what can anyone do? They urge me to distance myself from politics, tell me that it doesn't have a direct effect on me, anyway.

It has an effect on me when I'm awake, of course. As a vagina-American, policies restricting access to OB/GYN services and birth control effect me intimately. Every time I hear about another attempt to restrict medical services to women, I think about all the times I've stood in for medical access for my friends, who couldn't afford a doctor. I think about all the times my google-fu has been the best access people I know have. I think about picking glass, stones and thorns out of people, about bandaging gashes, supergluing people back together, trying to lower fevers and find the source of infection, and trying to figure out what to do with a first aid class in the fourth grade and whatever I can find around the house. I think about providing pressure, about trying to keep people who have OD awake, to find a ride to the hospital for them so they don't die.

I fill in the blanks when people shrug off the effect of no health insurance or access to care with faces.

When I sleep, my dreams are similar: I am crawling through tight, wet stone tunnels in the absolute dark. We are trapped, the women and children and I, underneath the house of the men, men making decisions while we crawl through the only spaces we are permitted, unless called upstairs. We live down there, in the suffocating dark, listening to the muffled sound of their voices and their footsteps so far above us, conducted through the tunnels like the tread of gods, above us.

In other dreams, I'm writing on the walls which get erased as soon as I turn around. I'm trying to write names, people I've known, and their names keep disappearing.

This story reminds me of that process.

It's amazing how invasive the effects of those policies are.

Post-Threesome Dynamics

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 2:06 PM

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The morning after group sex can get weird. For me, at least, it hasn't been weird in a long time, but I've had more practice at being around that kind of thing. Many women have, at some point in their lives, been exposed to the idea that their sexuality should be more flexible, that along with the power we're told to pursue, being desirable, a weapon in our arsenals is sex with other women. After all, the most public description of relations between the genders is that of a war.

You'd have to try really hard not to notice the hints or straight-up footage of women making out which is a part of advertisements, part of movies and TV shows, part of porn aimed at straight men. Now, these media don't do anything right in terms of being realistic or not making women accessories to male sexuality, but the idea is out there: threesomes are okay if it's two women, preferably hot blonde twins, to service one man.

Other kinds of threesomes, unless all women, are the fodder for gay jokes, still a potent insult to male sexuality in mainstream society.

I have a certain amount of compassion for men in threesomes, assuming they are two of the three persons. It must feel like running off the edge of the world: even if they don't touch each other, the potential remains. They must have to fight against trying to assert dominance over each other (not the fun kind), fears of being seen as less than men in the most intimate of arenas. After all, they've been told their whole lives that managing a woman successfully makes one a man.

Last night, after the action, as it were, the mood in the room started to be tense. To be clear, our friend knew up front what was coming, had discussed it with my partner. There were no surprises to be had, in that sense.

I have some compassion with the tensions running through the two men in the room. My partner put on what I like to think of as his 'game face,' tense, slightly angry, brisk. There was good reason for it. I have a small bed, too small to sleep three, and it was roughly three am. He had already said he didn't want to be displaced, but our friend was in no shape to drive. When I offered to sleep in the living room, to give them both the bed, he was not having it. He was offended, he said, partially because sleeping in a bed with me was 'his'.

Our friend tensed, and then seemed gently sad. I curled up around him and tried to be comforting. In the morning, I woke with my partner. At some time while I was asleep, our friend had left.

Threesomes, in my experience, are considerably difficult for men. I wish I could somehow make that tension disappear, but I cannot. All I can do is keep checking in, trying to figure out how to negotiate the tension.
          __________________________________________________________________

Edited to remove accidental comparison.

For Your Aural Pleasure: 11

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 4:02 PM

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So cool.

Relationships off the map

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , | Posted on 3:59 PM

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Every time I find people willing to engage in multiple relationships with me, since I started dating married couples at 16, I have the same set of emotions. Like the period where I exclusively dated women, I have the odd sensation of wandering off the map. Being publicly poly has been less dangerous than being publicly gay, at least in terms of people behaving aggressively: being out as a set of three or four has caused considerably less aggro behavior than my going out in a suit, with my breasts bound and/or with false facial hair.

Yo, straight couples, feel free to stop aggressively making out while staring at me, or cracking jokes about my needing a good cock in my life: you can't rape me straight. The religious comments make you a special kind of asshole. Also, dear waitstaff, stop policing my gender and orientation by refusing service, thank you very much. That's happened a few times, now, both when I've butched it up and when I've been on a date with someone non-white.

The feeling of being off the edge of the world persists. Over the last 34 years, I've been in five poly relationships, with two-three other people: mostly nerds, SCA folks, a dominatrix and punks (go team weirdos.) We've gone to restaurants together, or stayed in and hung out, gone to concerts and done essentially what dating people do, with the exception that the seating order gets complicated, and one has to confirm that touching this person is okay. Typically, we just look at each other, less body English required as the relationships go on. You have to keep checking, a feature of all of my 'alternative' relationships: constant consent checks.

The way the larger culture treats consent and anything but one man, one woman, make babby, makes this much harder. In a very real way, we are presented with relationship presets which we are expected to replicate. The consequences of not following the pattern can range for depressing to dire, to which persons who are gay-bashed can attest. Even as an adult who is modestly able to defend herself, even as someone with an advanced education and a male partner, the watchfulness and anxiety persist. I have lists of friends I cannot tell about my relationships, the people in my department can't and won't know, people at my workplace know little about my relationships and I am circumspect about appearing in public.

It's not because I'm overwhelmingly ashamed (there is some small, lingering religious guilt, thanks to my upbringing.) I love my relationships. I passionately advocate, if I can, for the acceptance of alternative arrangements and talk about the way society governs the expression of gender and sexuality. It's because I'm afraid of the consequences of going off the map, of which I am very aware.

I never officially chose to be poly (or bisexual). The tendency was there, nagging at me, something which I did not, for a long time, have the words to express. Noticing women and girls, at first a vigilance which expressed itself in words and gestures: borrowing coats and combs, petting and hugging the girls around me, protecting them from boys. Later, it became a little obsessive: noticing their smell and what they liked and disliked, falling in love with the way they looked and talked, so like and unlike my own behavior. All but panting with desire when they combed my hair, hating their boyfriends. Laying, rigid with desire, during sleepovers; wanting to cuddle them, kiss them, touch them. Falling in love with female friends, with their athleticism or their sense of humor or their intelligence.

It was much the same way with poly. I always was oddly resistant to being in a relationship with one person, something that, despite my having dated married couples, over which I flogged myself with guilt. My first marriage was spent hating myself for being unable to be happy in a relationship with just one person. Even now, sometimes I get frustrated with myself for being so completely unable to do as we're 'supposed' to do, because it is demanding of my partners. It appears to be more natural, guilt notwithstanding,  to me than it appears to be to many of my partners, and I resent myself for the demands this makes on them.

The watchfulness persists, despite being comforted by age and a more accepting community of friends (I can talk about it without being labelled a slut with most of my friends, though they, too, misunderstand me.) I am never unaware that I am off the edge of the map given me, and that here might be dragons.

Microaggressions

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , , , | Posted on 1:58 PM

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Sexism doesn't always come with bells and whistles. I wish it did, so I could turn around and say to the witnesses of it, "You heard the bells. It exists. You had to have seen it."

Not, of course, that they wouldn't deny the bells, the whistles, the presence of a brass band, because obviously if something like that happened, it must be because I done wrong.

This semester, the most common comment to me in my department, when I talked about my problems with the person teaching statistics, was that I obviously just don't understand math. That comment inevitably came from a white, male student, several of whom had, drunkenly at a party, told me they didn't know why they passed the class, that they could barely understand the content.

One lectured me, in fact, on the stupidity of taking calculus. Who needs all that math, he said. Surely you can't understand it. My male partner, sitting next to me, ended up having to defend me to the room, having to vouch for my intelligence, because the men sitting on the couch, from my department, could not believe that I would be able to comprehend complicated math.

There were no bells and whistles, as there aren't in a typical day for me. During the semester, my days contained lots of little moments: being unable to get the professor's attention. Adapting a computer science algorithm to discuss lowered trust thresholds and increased odds for proliferation, but noticing my professor, during my presentation, staring fixedly at my breasts and later talking to them, when I asked what score I had earned on my presentation. Sitting behind a student in programming class who, despite repeatedly stating he had no idea what was going on in the class, asking me to tell him how to program and turning in his projects 3 weeks late, made a 97 on the exam, to my 60, after the class was lectured on how much more resilient white males are to criticism. Being cut off and yelled at for asking questions in calculus, when male students are typically allowed to finish their sentences.

Having male students attempt to talk over me or tell me what to do in class. Having a male colleague who tells me he is a feminist make passive-aggressive comments about some people just needing to not complain, after telling me he loves the statistics teacher, who cooed at him that she ought to be punished for making a math mistake on the board, a story he loves to tell while waggling his eyebrows suggestively. After all, it must be just jealousy.

Little things, some larger than others. They add up. Day before yesterday, I had to leave a drinking event. A man I am friends with, whose opinion I respect, told me that even though my scores on projects in the programming class were As, even though my quiz scores were As, my exam score would cause the computer science department to reject me.

When we talk about privilege, inevitably some fella (typically a nerd/geek/gamer) says to me that privilege doesn't really exist. If I only I worked harder. Maybe I'm just meant to be a victim, I mean, look at my background. Maybe I just give off the need to be victimized.

The real test of my self-control is how often I don't punch them in the mouth for face-stabbing me.

So far, I've never punched anyone.

For Your Aural Pleasure: 10

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in | Posted on 2:29 PM

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Authoritarians and Magic Words

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , , | Posted on 2:25 PM

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We live, of course, in an authoritarian and highly bureaucratized society. There is a paperwork for everything and everything generates paperwork. We have highly formal rituals for recognizing power in others, with speech and dress codes, most of which are based on race and gender.

It is a perfectly logical move, when one is confronted by a series of currents in society which have such drastic consequences (for instance, poverty), to try and figure out how to game those currents. I think it takes most people very little time to observe that the meritocracy we say we are is not actually how power and authority functions in every day life. The American Dream works for increasingly fewer persons.

And so we try to figure out how to best negotiate all these currents, how to take advantage of anything we can which will allow us to keep our jobs, allow us to not lapse into the very real threat of being unable to provide for ourselves and our family, in a society which tells us that the inability to do so means that we are morally and ethically unfit, in addition to materially unfit.

For this reason, authoritarianism is common here in the US. It is an adaption to our society-- a mal-adaption which sometimes is helpful to individuals, but causes serious problems for everyone else.

If you read a lot of Republican and/or religious blogs, you are reading persons who have learned that they cannot make society better and that all there is, is adapting to the extant system. They have learned that what rules success does not care about them, and that their main task in life is to compete. Sometimes they are authoritarian because it is comforting; they feel as if they can at least partially understand the 'rules' for society, and can negotiate what they know. Change is destructive to the delicate networks they've set up to compete. Anything else seems like chaos to them: unknowable, destructive, annihilating.

This shows up in a lot of little ways, my least favorite of which, as a teacher and a progressive, is the facile repetition of arguments which authoritarians believe to work and allow them to win. Students learn to say whatever the teacher tells them, because the point is not to understand, it is to flawlessly repeat.

Adults and children believe that a facile repetition of the phrase 'I was just kidding,' or 'I have a right to free speech' gets them a magic out. Since there really isn't a meritocracy, and the rules of society are consistently inconsistent, why shouldn't there be a magic phrase?

Why shouldn't saying the word 'discrimination' also be magic?

Authoritarian systems discourage the overview, and any sort of critical thinking. To someone only versed in authoritarian systems, it seems as if, with some kinds of confusing people, saying those phrases causes the argument to end. They do not understand the idea of meta-criticism based on fairness. What in the world could that have to do with the way the world really is?

The most difficult part of my job, by far, is not making speeches or designing pedagogy or creating slides or grading.

The most difficult part of my job is convincing people whose entire lives have been shaped by a system which they have had to game in order to get anywhere that the problems they've been trained to ignore mean something, can be dealt with in little ways every day.

The most difficult part of my job is convincing people whose entire lives have been shaped by an authoritarian world that they can be critical, that they are responsible for understanding, not repeating my words.

There are, after all, no magic words.

PHMT, Why Feminists Can Be Your Friend

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 5:28 PM

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The idea that men are hurt by society is not, as some writers would have you believe, brand new. It is, in fact, a thing: a well-studied thing. Feminists have an acronym for that (the Patriarchy Hurts Men Too), and there are several social science journals dedicated to men's issues. Typically, however, the journals are generally about gender issues, since there's plenty to study.

Unfortunately, most people don't know this. The study of the ways society hurts men falls in that unfortunate part of the Venn diagram of disciplines between feminism/gender studies, shit we aren't supposed to talk about as a society and men aren't supposed to acknowledge their problems.

In this case, gentlemen, feminists really are your friend. Let me tell you why.

First, let's start out by dispelling a few ideas. Feminists are not female supremacists. There are people, some of them women, who believe that it should be women's turn to fuck shit up (be in leadership positions everywhere, always, things will be perfect then.) There are people, some of them feminists, who want to move away and make women-only colonies where they can discover who they are without respect to what they feel is a society dominated by a male bloc, which they will magically not struggle with once there's no men in the area.

This view is fantastic, as in the product of wish-fulfillment fantasy. It has elements of truth in it: demographically, white dudes are in positions of power much more often than not. Feel free to google the demographics of CEOs, the House and/or the Senate here in the US to confirm this. Count heads, instead of looking for a single woman to prove there's no problems. Many women have been badly hurt by a society which treats us like objects and ignores our humanity and agency in some key ways, and don't feel like they'll ever be able to get their needs addressed.

The fantastic bits, of course, are the ones in which women magically fix everything by being uberbosses, that society's influences can be dispelled just by getting away from society, and that men are not also wounded in the process. The nasty bit is thinking of it as a competition: if only I was the boss, I'd do it right all the time.

No. No you would not. We replicate society whether we want to or not, and it's a lot of effort not to keep replicating society. You see, we internalize it.

That competition for the win is central to why the study of how men are hurt in society falls into the center of that Venn diagram. Feminists have a concept called the kyriarchy. In plainer English, it's the idea that bad shit happens to people in multiple ways, and it's possible that people take a dump on you in one way, and like you in another. Think of it like this. Very few of us are going to win the lottery and/or have been born into enough affluence to ensure you never have to work. Assuming you have to work, you're at a disadvantage compared to people who have more money than you. They can afford a lawyer, have more time to workout, aren't in debt, have more disposable income, etc. However, it may be that you benefit another way: you may be straight and/or conventionally attractive. If that is true, you may be poor, but you don't have to worry about being beat up because you're gay and people don't constantly comment on your ugliness. Does being straight and attractive automatically cancel out not having enough money to pay your bills?

Not really, despite all the stories about using bewbs to get things. It's possible to experience different kinds of oppression and different kinds of advantage, and they really don't cancel each other out. They're situational.

Don't think of that as a 'win'. It's not a competition. If my rights are respected, it does not mean you have no rights left. We don't have to compete to be heard. We can help each other.

It is true that some people end up in shitty positions more often than others. For this reason, feminists are your friends: they catalog the ways some people gain advantages in society, and try hard to find ways to even that shit out.

For men, this means that you have something to draw on when you want to talk about being hurt by economics, or by orientation, or by toxic expectations of masculinity. For women, it works much the same way. Feminism gives us a framework to talk about being treated like a walking pair of tits all day, or being told we are less capable or intelligent. Feminist theory also gives you a battle plan for dealing with it as a society.

Seriously. Feminists do a LOT of critical theorizing about how society hurts people, and a lot of pressuring social institutions to keep up with that kind of thing.

Unfortunately, gender is treated like a species difference. Men are from some place and women are little green aliens, or something along those lines. Men are supposed to automatically know what's going on and be in control and women are supposed to pick berries and shop. Men don't talk about their problems; that would make them like a woman or something.

Let me extend my hand to you, reader, as a feminist scholar. That Venn diagram you're stuck in, where you can't talk about the ways you've been hurt in society, where it's almost always your fault something went wrong--- we have words for that. We have strategies for dealing with it, and we hate it, too. We're stuck in our own versions of it, after all.

Instead of assuming that all feminists want is to hurt you, try us out. Sure, we have our cranks and our shitheads. The stakes are really high, and if we're competing, we can't afford to be wrong.

If we're competing. We don't have to be.

Please, go to google scholar and check the theory out. Remember: I can be wrong, you can be wrong, and I'd like to think we can agree society can be wrong. But we don't have to be aliens to one another.

For Your Aural Pleasure: 9

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 4:43 AM

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Figuring out you're poly, the awkward way

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 5:22 PM

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In high school, most of my friends were male. For reasons I didn't really understand, I tended to attract the attention of nerd boys en masse. We were all awkward; me because I had no clue why they seemed to want to be around me. They were awkward for their own reasons, many times because, like most boys their age, they weren't sure what to do with me either.

Two boys my age were rather persistent at asking me out. I wasn't sure I wanted to date either of them, but I enjoyed spending time with them. Because of social conditioning, I kept expecting them to take control of the relationship, and they were both waiting for me to let them know what I wanted, the original awkward stalemate in relationships.

I enjoyed listening to them talk, liked feeling the desire in them both which lay safely unexpressed, though I wasn't sure what to do with them. I was not, at this point, a virgin, but my experience with sex had been fairly submissive, though not out of preference. I hadn't had any more 'normal' relationships, only possessive, aggressive, dominant boyfriends who were older than I was.

Daddy issues, table for one, please. I came by it honestly.

Hanging out with these boys was oddly refreshing, if sometimes frustrating. What were they looking for, exactly? Who was driving this car, anyway?

I alternated days hanging out with them during the summer, titillated by being the focus of desire. My family, of course, espoused the opinion that I needed a revolving door on my bedroom. No proper girl would hang out with two boys at once.

One of the days I was supposed to go out with one of the boys, the other called me. I told him I was hanging out with another person, and he said to bring them along.

I did, warning him that it was another boy. He paused, briefly, and told me to come anyway.

In his bedroom, they eyeballed each other, unsure what to say. I didn't know what to say, myself. What were we all going to do? Normally, I watched movies with both boys, or went hiking, or ran errands for their parents, or just hung out in the park, talking and playing on the equipment.

Neither boy had ever tried to force me into any sort of position. I felt it was a shame, not yet understanding the need for consent, and the idea that I could be an agent in my sexual life.

I sat down on the edge of his bed, scuffing my feet on the carpet. There was something about having them both in the same room, something about them both standing there, looking at each other and looking at me. Something I didn't quite have words for, but that was oddly comforting. I wanted them to both cuddle me. I wanted one of them behind me, and the other in front of me. I wanted their arms wrapped around me. I wanted to feel safe.

The boy whose house it was cleared his throat.

"So, I guess we should watch a movie." He reached over to the television on his chest of drawers and flicked it on.

"Sure." I scooted back on the bed to allow other people to sit there. After a brief, very tense moment, they sat down on the corners, knees and torsos turned away from each other. I scooted back to the headboard, mounding the pillows behind me.

To this day, I can't remember what the movie was. I was too busy watching those two boys, sitting on the edge of the bed, my heart hammering in my chest. The boy whose home it was drifted up the bed, to curl up beside me, eventually moving so that he was spooning me, his breath in my hair and arm wrapped around my torso.

I could have died of pleasure, right there, my breath stuttering in my chest. The second boy turned his head, seeing the two of us, and stood up, turning to face us. I opened my arms.

"You can come here, you know."

I could feel the boy behind me tense up, body rigid with the question.

The second boy blushed, and came forward, to lie rigid in front of me. Over my head, they stared at each other.  I made a pleased little moan, and snuggled down between them.

"God, I feel so damn safe here, between the two of you." And I did feel wonderfully safe: completely, totally, encircled with warmth. Why shouldn't it be, I thought. Why shouldn't I be able to come to bed and sleep between two others, to be a part of something larger than the relationship my parents battled through?

The silence stretched like taffy, sticky. The second boy coughed and said, "I'm just going to... go."

I made a sad little whine, I'm afraid. "Why?"

"This is too weird for me."

Behind me, the boy whose house it was relaxed a little, arm tightening around my waist. We lay there, air conditioner kicking on in the tense silence, as the other boy left. He said nothing. I said nothing.

I had no idea what to say, what to do about that desire. Was it immoral of me? Was I terrible person for this desire, the desire to be a part of something larger than two?

Was I a terrible person for wanting to be touched like that by these boys, so unlike the men who dated me before?

It's taken me some time to believe that it's okay for me to want that. And still, in idle moments, I occasionally ask myself-- am I ethical?

That was, I'm afraid, not my most ethical moment. Am I ethical now?

To the best of my ability, I try.

The Pleasure of Leisurely Learning

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 1:42 PM

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The semester has been over two days. Enough rest, it's time to crack the C book.

The older I get, the more intellectually restless I am. I'm oddly discontent to have single specialties, or just do one thing; for this reason, my breaks tend to be full of reading something new, trying a new style of cooking, picking up fragments of a new language, practicing a skill I have.

People I know roll their eyes when I talk about my plans for the summer break. Why, they ask, don't you just stop for a little while.

The answer is that this is what I desire to do.

It's very different than the semester. The semester is full of competing demands: this is due 5 pm tomorrow, this is due 6 pm tomorrow, that is due 1 pm Thursday, etc. I can't enjoy what I learn, nor properly test it out. Each goal is followed by the next, and the next, and the occasional nasty surprise.

I can get up, drink a cup of coffee, open a book on philosophy, or in this case of programming, and read at my own pace. If I can be allowed to concentrate on a subject, that's frequently faster than I would for a class. At my own pace, to nibble an idea and then bite it. To take it in, turn it over, to find the assumptions which tie it together.

To touch the mind of the author in his or her words-- I don't believe in telepathy, but this is what I'd imagine it to be like. To see some trace of the author's desires, their hopes and the way those things have affected their message.

I suppose I can blame the love of learning on so many years of being forced to learn by hiding under the table in the public library and reading things forbidden to me. Books on human anatomy, books of human sexuality, science texts, philosophy and anything I could drag off the shelves. I lacked the ability to make a narrative or sense out of the information I read, but, like a miser hoarding gold, I kept reading.

There is no pleasure quite like knowing the answer to a question. Even if I did not dare raise my hand and answer a teacher, nor an adult, the child me loved the fact that I knew. No one could take knowledge from me, even if they could force me not to express it (by beating me, or the sandpaper of being told that I was stupid and could never expect to be anything.) I could treasure knowing, even if I could not share.

And now I can share. I can't convince everyone I understand, as some people are just not going to take it from me, but if I am listened to, I can show people what I understand.

I can share my treasures with anyone who will listen.

I still collect books. I lend them out, as well. With rare exceptions, I can't bring myself to throw anything out (Christian fiction/nonfiction go right into the dumpster.) Moving my apartment is 1/2 books and bookshelves.

I want to tell people often that it's a luxury, this learning. College is a luxury. My book collection, a luxury.

Learning to program in another language-- this, too, is a luxury. I am grateful to crack that C book, to be able to learn something else. It is, in a real way, a profound pleasure.

For Your Aural Pleasure: 8

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 9:17 PM

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I should know better

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in | Posted on 9:08 PM

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Sorry for the low posting rate. The semester just ended and I went out last night and tried very hard to kill my liver with a friend. Alas, my liver and I still live, and no one is sorrier than me (mah head, mah head.)

However, I am done with the semester, so I have nothing more pressing waiting for me than the C book I'm planning on getting through and hopefully hearing back from the internships I applied to.

Which is good, considering the state of my head.

The Microscope

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 10:55 AM

1

Before Christmas, sometimes, my father would take us to Toys R' Us and tell us to give him an idea of what we wanted. He walked me to the ubiquitously pink Barbie aisles, or to the stuffed animals, and tell me to pick one. The minute his back was turned, I'd slip around the corner and head for the science toys, in the blue section of the store. He found me staring longingly at the microscopes, the long boxes for telescopes in gray and blue with stars emblazoned across the corners of the box.

"Why in the world would you want that? What do you think you could do with it?" He genuinely sounded confused.

"I want one. I want a microscope." My fingers started to wring, pressure whitening my joints.

"Yes, but what could you do with it?" His hands drifted to his hips. "What would a girl want with that sort of thing?"

"I don't care. I want one anyway." My lower lip started a slow slide out, less intentional than in the fear that this was trouble, that I was about to be punished again for something I didn't quite understand.

"Why don't we go over here, to the makeup. You'll like the makeup."

"I want a microscope."

"Did you want a Christmas gift?"

".....Yes."

"Then let's go look at these toys."

I dragged my feet back to the Barbies, a situation which repeated for three years before finally, under the tree, a thicker box. I made a habit of getting up at 3 am the day after the presents appeared and carefully peeling the tape open slowly to avoid tearing the wrapping paper, to see what I was getting for Christmas. I also opened my brother's gifts and told him what they were, out of the mistaken assumption that he disliked surprises as much as I did.

Under the holly wrapping paper, the pebbled gray corner of a box I recognized instantly. They had gotten it, the kit with a microscope and slides, a scalpel and a tiny vial of solution to 'fix' the slides. The other box under the tree contained a starter chemistry kit.

I couldn't sleep the rest of the night, wriggling with excitement.

When I was allowed to open the gifts, I was giddy with the desire to dissect everything in the yard. I threw on pants and promptly gathered samples from the trees, the roses, the grass, the holly bushes under my window, bits of cloth from dish towels, samples of cat hair, my own hair, a scab from my skinned knees, and then, a tiny cut to see the bowl shape of my blood cells.

With the chemistry set, I promptly exploded a test tube and permanently dyed my carpet, ceiling and walls a violently turquoise color. I lost the chemistry set that day.

I lost the microscope as a punishment. It makes a sort of sense: if a child is being punished, remove something they love.

I never got it back, a theft less of the object than of curiosity and desire. The science toys were replaced by more Barbies, by makeup and my mother dragging me to Mary Kay sessions so I could discover my colors and to etiquette classes to learn to be more lady like, set up as the real goal of my life, in opposition to a 'childish' desire for the microscope, to explore.

When I entered college, I poured longingly over the degree plans for computer science, for engineering and finally, longingly, for math. After all, I was only a woman, not manly enough to be able to do these things I love. Only men could learn about science, could be allowed the microscope, the computer, to tinker with engines and parts. I sat in front of one of the ponds on campus, catalog in hand, and stared at the water. I knew I what I wanted to become, that I wanted a graduate degree.

But I thought it was obvious: the only field I could do anything in was English, or the Arts.

After all, I was a girl.

Get yer science out of my classroom

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 9:45 AM

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This semester, I took the first in a two year series of statistics courses for the sociology PhD at my institution. The professor and I did not get along, but her comment to me about what should not be in my paper was, as they say, the straw which broke the camel's back.

She has not been alone in asking me to tone down the science and math in my papers, but this marks the first time that a professor in sociology has outright told me, personally, to stop writing papers which are so 'sciency and mathy'. She did so in front of the entire class, calling my name to remind me to tone it down.

My partner, a physicist, has told me several times to remember that sociology is not really a science, though it could be. I've been chalking it up to snobbery on his part; there is a great deal of snobbery in the hard sciences about any discipline which studies humans. Some of it is a general discomfort with studying anything as variable as humans. Some of it is methodological, since social scientists do not always operate within the same lab strictures, performing observational studies in nature, as it were. Social scientists also make certain assumptions in the process of using common statistical methods, like OLS or GLS modeling, which assume things which have to be proved in the hard sciences: to use OLS, you must assume consistency in error, that there is no significant covariance, and that for all intents and purposes, replication can be assumed to be infinite.

If you're a hard scientist and reading this, no doubt you just shuddered. Me, too, while studying it this semester.

My partner keeps repeating to me that while I may believe I'm learning a science, no one else in my department does. I'm forced to start agreeing. A year into the PhD program at my university, and I've consistently heard conspiracy theories (Western medicine is a racket to hook people on drugs), been told to tone down the science, had to defend the use of the scientific method and had people sneer at me and tell me that I'd be happier working for the defense industry, since I'm so interested in technology. No one knows why I'm bothering to take so many math courses, or why I've been taking programming courses with the CS department.

As I finish up the last paper for that statistics course, due tomorrow, I am forced to reluctantly agree with my partner. I know I'm a scientist, and I'm happy to learn all the maths, perform all the rigor, learn all the technology, etc.

But I'm not sure my department agrees with me.

For Your Aural Pleasure: 7

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 12:58 PM

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Dear Republicans: Kiss my Ass

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 12:54 PM

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These pretty babies are just plain awesome. The graphs posted below, from that link, have made my morning more than slightly amusing. For as much as the Republican party decries Obama's (somehow) massive spending, you'd think Obama was personally overseeing the destruction of the US, practically all by himself. As I'd imagine anyone would suspect, the idea that Obama is spending us to death joins a long list of bullshit espoused by the Republicans.


Thank you, Ed Brayton, for enlivening my day.

Corporations are people are corporations are....

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 11:32 AM

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Both Microsoft and Google have faced recent (and in the case of Microsoft, regular) antitrust probes in the US and EU over business practices which reduce and/or exclude competition. Google, however, has done something interesting in response to the on-going antitrust probes: they hired a First Amendment scholar to coach their filtering of search results as an opinion, defensible here in the US under free speech.

The corporation as individual under the law is actually over 200 years old in the US. The first case in the US to use the idea (and have it recognized as legal by the US Supreme Court) occurred in 1819. The Supreme Court ruled that for the purposes of contract enforcement, corporations have the right to make and enforce contracts. In 1886, the US Supreme Court ruled that corporations were persons for the purposes of the 14th Amendment, ruling that corporations were citizens under the 14th Amendment. The Citizens United ruling in 2010 allowed corporations to handle political donations as a function of free speech. Free speech turns out to be rather important in corporate challenges to antitrust laws in US history, so it's no wonder that in this case, it's being used as a defense of selectively filtering search results.

I find it disturbing, in the form of legal and historical implications, that the First Amendment has become a useful dodge of antitrust laws. Because small companies and individuals do not have access to the same resources with which to defend themselves and compete as larger corporations and/or multinational corporations, competition between larger corporations and smaller ones or citizens do not happen on a level playing field. Antitrust laws are essentially about examining that playing field and policing for cheaters.

In fact, if I had to characterize that playing field, I'd say that individuals start below ground or perhaps hanging off a cliff, the US tendency to believe that the underdog triumphs (if only they work hard enough and are virtuous) not withstanding.

The clear trend in corporatizing citizenship and in using one of the most beloved (if misunderstood) parts of the Constitution to defend an uncritical view of the use of power is very disturbing. How does an individual mount a challenge to that power differential?

The answer, of course, is that individuals cannot. Small businesses are hard pressed to do so; court cases are costly and there's only so long a small business can afford to weather being stalled in court.

I am at least partially comforted that there's been no challenges to the Second Amendment, Third Amendment, or Fifth Amendment. I have reached the age where I have to come to peace with my own relative powerlessness, in terms of resources, but the tendency of corporation behavior to resemble the beloved, if frightening, cyberpunk novels of my childhood is nightmarish, to say the least.