Posts concerning feminism


17:39 27 Oct 2013

I’ve been blogging regularly since 01 August 2006: every day for that first year, five times per week for four years after that, and at least once per week since 01 August 2011. Now it’s time for a break.

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Too Few Good Men?

00:03 19 Mar 2012

I don’t usually comment on vapid “lifestyle” articles, particularly when they’re also year-old Wall Street Journal op-ed pieces, but Kay Hymowitz’s “Where Have The Good Men Gone?” has recently been shared by at least two friends and appears to need refutation.

Unfortunately, while it annoyed me greatly on first reading, further readings exposed a lot of difficulty in discerning what arguments it was making—mostly it’s composed of cultural buzzwords, snobbery, socially conservative hankering for the mores of yore, and the anecdata-driven slandering of an entire generation of males.

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23:51 04 Sep 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

Last week there was a significant amount of internet outcry over a post by Alyssa Bereznak about two dates she went on with Jon Finkel, a former Magic: The Gathering world champion. Bereznak called him out by name, and made clear that she had no interest in dating him because he was a former MTG world champion who still played the game. She also did more than that, and it’s the more that I’m looking at in this post—that, and how a defense of Bereznak by Sady Doyle at Tiger Beatdown misses the point and perpetuates the core problem with the original post.

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Musings on Women’s Sports

19:58 26 May 2011

Over the last week I guest-blogged at CrossFit KMSF, providing some wordiness to go with the workouts (which I didn’t create) while Kat was away. It’s not the first time I’ve done that, but this time I decided to follow a theme for my posts, which was “athletes I admire”. The list was:

That list is fine, and while it’s hardly exhaustive, definitely covers some athletes I consider important. However, when coming up with who to put on it, I realized that I had a lot of trouble with female candidates who weren’t tennis players.

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My Reaction to “40 Things People Need to Stop Saying”

23:18 28 Apr 2011. Updated: 18:16 29 Apr 2011

In my Twitter feed yesterday I found a link to “Privileged Musings: 40 Things People Need to Stop Saying”, an article at Womanist Musings. The intent of the piece is narrower than the title suggests, in that it’s primarily concerned with discussion in that community rather than more generally, but I was interested in it anyway since it concerns regulation of expression.

Overall the list is concerned with statements defending or perpetuating prejudice, arguments that have been addressed numerous times before (or are just inane). However, it doesn’t explain what’s wrong with them, even briefly, which is a mistake for two reasons: one, it would make the list much more useful and effective; two, writing such explanations would have made clear which things on the list were questionable, as some of them certainly are.

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The “Dickwolves Thing”

22:43 06 Feb 2011

This is a post about humor, taste, rape, offensiveness/offendedness, and limits on discourse, all centered on a three-panel webcomic about video games.

It’s rather long; I meant it as a tighter, more abstract, discussion of the points above, but got pulled into a lot of the specifics as I went through them.

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Justice Aphorism

18:51 27 Dec 2010. Updated: 02:24 28 Dec 2010

“The story is told of a Chinese law professor, who was listening to a British lawyer explain that Britons were so enlightened, they believed it was better that ninety-nine guilty men go free than that one innocent man be executed. The Chinese professor thought for a second and asked, ‘Better for whom?’”

I came across this in Eugene Alexander Volokh’s “n Guilty Men”, which I was reading as a result of a longer post I was writing about the problems of dealing with allegations of rape; the question that the apocryphal Chinese professor is disingenuously raising (i.e. whether it’s really better for a society to err on the side of innocence in such matters) is quite central to issues arising out of trying to deal with rape, in evidentiary terms. I bit off a little too much in that post, which is why you’re not seeing it now.

There’s also the question of whether any kind of enforcement mechanism solves more problems than it causes, but rather than ponder that right now I’m instead pondering the injustice of my having to get up in the morning to play Twilight Imperium.

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14:49 26 Dec 2010

There’s a lot to chew on in the WikiLeaks/Assange rape allegations issue, but here are the points uppermost in my mind:

  • While it’s certainly possible that the credibility of the WikiLeaks organization might suffer if Assange is in fact guilty of rape, the question of his guilt in that matter is entirely irrelevant to the morality of what WikiLeaks has done already and to its mission.
  • It’s impossible to tell at media distance whether or not Assange is guilty.
  • I strongly doubt the rape allegations are the result of a “CIA plot” (or equivalent). (Which is not to say that the allegations haven’t been put to use by similar actors, but that’s not the same thing.)
  • It’s wrong to vilify (or out) the accusers.
  • Regardless of the validity of the initial accusations, it seems clear that the legal machinery involved in pursuing Assange is operating quite differently than how it would if not for political considerations—clearly not every person accused of rape in Sweden is treated as he has been.
  • Assange fighting extradition to Sweden is not an indicator of his guilt or innocence in this matter; the same applies to other legal maneuverings his defense team might undertake.
  • Regardless of how this issue plays out, and of how central Assange may have been to the project so far, WikiLeaks clearly needs to decentralize its staffing; having one key figure who reputation is linked to that of the organization seems like too much of a weakness.
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“Strong is the New Skinny” Versus Bridalplasty

23:50 09 Dec 2010. Updated: 08:43 10 Dec 2010

I first came across the “Strong is the New Skinny” concept via CrossFit channels a few months back. The first thing I saw was just the original T-shirt image, and I thought it was a great slogan. I got a little carried away and thought it represented a movement coming out of CrossFit that had found a fantastic way to challenge prevailing norms of female beauty.

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Positive Reinforcement Versus Stereotypes

19:41 30 Nov 2010

In some settings, at least, it looks like positive reinforcement can win. A Colorado physics lecturer had his students do writing exercises designed to aid their sense of self-worth, and these exercises significantly reduce the performance gap between the genders.

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Courtney Stoker, Patriarchy, and Geek Misogyny

22:26 23 Aug 2010

This is one of the better discussions on prejudice in geek culture that I’ve come across: “Courtney Stoker on Feminist Geek”. I like where Stoker is coming from—perhaps unsurprisingly, for like me she has an academic background in English literature and is also a science fiction fan. But she is far more community-oriented than I am; despite the fact that my geekery goes back decades and despite my involvement in something like Fantasy Bedtime Hour, my engagement with science fiction is primarily either private, or shared through meatspace discussion, or expressed on this blog. None of those things are involvement with large-scale communities such as those Stoker is discussing.

One of the reasons this particular interview with Stoker is important is that she sensibly addresses the influence of anti-geek prejudice on male geeks.

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Nurture, not Nature

22:54 22 Aug 2010. Updated: 10:54 22 Oct 2014

I’m posting a link to this article primarily because the article agrees with me: “Male and female ability differences down to socialisation, not genetics”—I’ve believed for years that behavioral differences between genders (or between other sets of people, really) are due to cultural and social factors, not differences that are somehow “innate”. That article is a good summary of scientific findings that back up my belief.

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Women’s Tennis Should be Best-of-Five

22:09 14 Mar 2010

How long should tennis matches be? At the Grand Slam level, five sets. That’s the traditional answer, and all of the best matches I’ve seen have been five sets long. That’s long enough to be challenging, but not so long as to be ridiculous.

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Kate Harding Talks Sense on “Hook-up Culture”

23:55 28 Feb 2010

Articles bewailing “these kids today” (or especially “these girls today”) seem disturbingly frequent at the moment, and it’s not clear to me whether there’s a real problem of some kind or it’s just pundits waxing wroth about the next generation Doing It All Wrong. I suspect it’s both: the sexual culture out there is problematic, although not necessarily for the reasons you hear about, and most of the pundits are really talking not to the next generation but to the next generation’s parents. This article by Rachel Simmons is an earnest but fairly typical example; this response by Kate Harding is worth reading. I don’t think Harding says anything revolutionary—she just says a lot of things that seem like common sense to me but which often get lost in the noise.

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Confidence, Status, and Women Undermining Women

23:20 01 Feb 2010. Updated: 23:31 03 Nov 2010

Recently Clay Shirky wrote “A Rant About Women”, a piece essentially claiming that women needed to act more confidently, even or especially in situations where confidence would be unwarranted, in order to be more successful. There’s more to it than that, but that was what I took as the core message. I think there are some valid points in there, but I also think that Shirky radically underestimates the ways in which women are frequently punished for acting confident, and that he appears to assume that a system which promotes self-aggrandizers is something that we all (not just women) should accept as the natural way of things.

I might write up a longer response to “A Rant About Women” at some point, but right now I want to bring some attention to a piece that’s probably more important than my response.

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Rape and “Compulsive Heterosexuality”

21:26 18 Jan 2010. Updated: 14:14 25 Jan 2010

This post at Yes Means Yes! is an excellent overview of how the profoundly unhealthy culture of American high schools socializes boys to have negative and domineering attitudes towards women. The post is a review of Dude, You’re a Fag, an academic study of student ethnography and behavior at a Northern California high school. While the degree to which the behavior in the school is typical can be debated, it certainly seems to me that it’s certainly not a total aberration. I think a key paragraph is this one:

[Male sexual aggression in this context] has little to do with sexual orientation or desire and everything to do with a gender performance that positions the boys in relation to other boys.

I don’t think this is all that controversial, but I do think it’s important.

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Serena Williams’ Fine

15:09 11 Dec 2009. Updated: 18:59 12 Dec 2009

Serena Williams was recently fined $82,500 by the International Tennis Federation for the actions leading to her exit from this year’s US Open. The ITF fine is in addition to the $10,500 she was fined by the USTA soon after the incident.

The fine from the ITF is the largest ever in tennis, and there’s significant controversy over the whole affair. I’ve read quite a few claims that racism and sexism are key drivers for the decision to fine her so much. I’m somewhat skeptical of those claims.

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Bullying: Just a Hunch

15:39 03 Dec 2009

I’ve come across what feels like another wave of articles related to bullying recently. I previously wrote about my thoughts on institutional responses, but this time my focus is on some of the causes, as well as how technical rules are unlikely to eliminate the problem.

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Gay Rights and Imperialism

17:15 25 Oct 2009

The essay “Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse in the ‘War on Terror’” examines the now-conventional idea that Western respect for the rights of women and gays drives concern for oppressed groups within other (especially Islamic) cultures, which in turn serves as a justification for imperialist projects.

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Because Possessions Don’t Really Need Names

23:37 13 Aug 2009

The title is somewhat inflammatory, and look, there’s nothing wrong with someone taking their partner’s name when they get married. There are plenty of practical reasons to do so, and it’s an individual choice in any case and doesn’t require justification.

However, pressuring women to change their last name when they marry is another matter, and I find it both disheartening and surprising that 70% of Americans think that women should take their husband’s last name when they marry. I just don’t think there should be any social pressure to do so. It gets worse, too.

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Wimbledon, Women’s Tennis, and Sexism

22:24 30 Jun 2009. Updated: 23:42 03 Nov 2010

I commented on Sunday that I’m not as interested in women’s tennis as in men’s tennis. I’ve been wondering why the disparity is so significant at the moment, as this hasn’t always been the case for me. While that was on my mind, Wimbledon and the BBC decided to throw this into the mix:

A BBC source said: “It’s the Wimbledon play committee, not us who decides on the order of play. But obviously it’s advantageous to us if there are good-looking women players on Centre Court. No one has heard of many of the women now, so if they are pretty it definitely gives them an edge. Our preference would always be a Brit or a babe as this always delivers high viewing figures.”

Huh, well, that’s to be expected from a channel trying to boost ratings, I suppose, but surely the organizers of the most revered tennis tournament in the world would have no truck with such an approach?

[L]ast night, the All England Club admitted that physical attractiveness is taken into consideration.Spokesman Johnny Perkins said: “Good looks are a factor.”


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Some Thoughts on Racism and Science Fiction/Fantasy

17:16 13 Mar 2009

I’ve been reading a lot about this recently. I’m not sure why, although some of it is due to looking around for info around when I was coincidentally writing up my Fantasy World Sketch. Some of it is due to just happening to run into the edges of a larger discussion taking place mostly on LiveJournal.

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Oh, That’s Okay Then

14:34 03 Aug 2008. Updated: 12:37 15 Mar 2009

The West is still quite awful about gender equality in many ways, but it seems that post-Soviet Russia is far, far worse. A 22-year-old St. Petersburg executive had her sexual harassment case thrown out because, according to the judge, “[i]f we had no sexual harassment we would have no children”.

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