We Need to Talk About Femmephobia

This is one of the essays I delivered to my patrons this month. If you want to support more work like this, and see it earlier, you can sign up here.

Over the last several months, I’ve increasingly noticed discussions about gender and gender oppression happening without reference to femmephobia. I’m sure my attention to the problem is the only part of this that’s new, but the situation is still frustrating. There are too many topics where all we can do is talk past each other if we don’t address femmephobia directly.

Before we can do that, of course, we have to understand what femmephobia is. For a succinct answer, I still like this one from Ozy Franz:

Femmephobia is the devaluation, fear and hatred of the feminine: of softness, nurturance, dependence, emotions, passivity, sensitivity, grace, innocence and the color pink.

There’s more to femmephobia than those examples–love of adornment goes far beyond preference for one color, for example–but the basic definition holds.

Like any of the so-called phobias that come out of bias and feed into oppression, this is significantly more complex than an irrational fear. Hatred is part of the mix, as femmephobia a specialized form of misogyny. Devaluation to the point of denigration is perhaps femmephobia’s most common form. But the fear is there too, though not everyone may fear the same things. Some people may fear the “otherness” of femininity in a world where the masculine is default, while others may fear being “tainted” by femininity. [Read more…]

Secular Women Work: Getting Your Message Out in Spite of a Hostile Press

We have some video conversion and editing to do before we can release all the talks and panels from the Secular Women Work conference. We had several people tweeting the event, though, so I am collecting and releasing Storifies of the sessions over several days.

This panel is the one that diverged most from my expectations as an organizer. All of our panelists are closely associated with “alternative” media, publications that aim for and succeed in niche markets. I expected to hear a lot about how to build and leverage those publications. Instead, I heard solid strategies for using a hostile press to reach untapped audiences.

I couldn’t be more delighted. In many ways, this is harder work, but it also has the potential to reach more of the people who need to be educated or have their minds changed. It’s very good to have understand the considerations behind the work. [Read more…]

The Other Hugo Ballot

One of the biggest problems with the Sad and Rabid Puppies Hugo slates was that slate voting pushed much-loved work off the ballot. That’s a moderate problem for the awards, though I think it became a net positive as so many people signed up to participate in the process. It’s a much larger problem for creators.

One thing the puppies got right is that award winners are often not the most popular representations of their field. Of course, they then turned around and got things desperately wrong by declaring this proof of cliquishness or conspiracy. Unless you have an award that specifically polls your biggest spenders, awards don’t align with revenue. Any time you poll an audience selected for their special relationship to the material, your nominees won’t look like your best sellers. This should be obvious.

It does provide special challenges for those creators who appeal to the specialist market, though. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: A Kiss with Teeth

This story by Max Gladstone was not on the Hugo Award ballot this year. It would have been*, but the puppies’ slates pushed it off. This is yet one more reason I am angry with the puppies.

The teacher waits, beautiful, blonde, and young. She smells like bruised mint and camellias. She rests against her classroom door, tired—she wakes at four-fifteen every morning to catch a bus from Queens, so she can sit at her desk grading papers as the sun rises through steel canyons.

When he sees her, Vlad knows he should turn and leave. No good can come of this meeting. They are doomed, both of them.

Too late. He’s walked the halls with steps heavy as a human’s, squeaking the soles of his oxblood shoes against the tiles every few steps—a trick he learned a year back and thinks lends him an authentic air. The teacher looks up and sees him: black-haired and pale and too, too thin, wearing blue slacks and a white shirt with faint blue checks.

“You’re Paul’s father,” she says, and smiles, damn her round white teeth. “Mister St. John.”

“Bazarab,” he corrects, paying close attention to his steps. Slow, as if walking through ankle-deep mud.

She turns to open the door, but stops with her hand on the knob. “I’m sorry?”

“Paul has his mother’s last name. Bazarab is mine. It is strange in this country. Please call me Vlad.” The nasal American ‘a,’ too, he has practiced.

“Nice to meet you, Vlad. I’m so glad you could take this time for me, and for Paul.” She turns back to smile at him, and starts. Her pupils dilate a millimeter, and her heart rate spikes from a charming sixty-five beats per minute to seventy-four. Blood rises beneath the snow of her cheeks.

He stands a respectful three feet behind her. But cursing himself he realizes that seconds before he was halfway down the hall.

He smiles, covering his frustration, and ushers her ahead of him into the room. Her heart slows, her breath deepens: the mouse convincing itself that it mistook the tree’s shadow for a hawk’s. He could not have moved so fast, so silently. She must have heard his approach, and ignored it.

The room’s sparsely furnished. No posters on the walls. Row upon row of desks, forty children at least could study here. Blackboard, two days unwashed, a list of students’ names followed by checks in multicolored chalk. This, he likes: many schools no longer use slate.

She sits on a desk, facing him. Her legs swing.

“You have a large room.”

She laughs. “Not mine. We share the rooms.” Her smile is sad. “Anyway. I’m glad to see you here. Why did you call?”

“My son. My wife asked me to talk with you about him. He has trouble in school, I think. I know he is a bright boy. His mother, my wife, she wonders why his grades are not so good. I think he is a child, he will improve with time, but I do not know. So I come to ask you.”

“How can I help?”

Vlad shifts from foot to foot. Outside the night deepens. Streetlights buzz on. The room smells of dust and sweat and camellias and mint. The teacher’s eyes are large and gray. She folds her lips into her mouth, bites them, and unfolds them again. Lines are growing from the corners of her mouth to the corners of her nose—the first signs of age. They surface at twenty-five or so. Vlad has studied them. He looks away from her. To see her is to know her pulse.

“What is he like in class, my son?”

“He’s sweet. But he distracts easily. Sometimes he has trouble remembering a passage we’ve read a half hour after we’ve read it. In class he fidgets, and he often doesn’t turn in his homework.”

“I have seen him do the homework.”

“Of course. I’m sorry. I’m not saying that he doesn’t do it. He doesn’t turn it in, though.”

“Perhaps he is bored by your class.” Her brow furrows, and he would kill men to clear it. “I do not mean that the class is easy. I know you have a difficult job. But perhaps he needs more attention.”

“I wish I could give it to him. But any attention I give him comes from the other children in the class. We have forty. I don’t have a lot of attention left to go around.”

“I see.” He paces more. Good to let her see him move like a human being. Good to avert his eyes.

“Have you thought about testing him for ADHD? It’s a common condition.”

What kind of testing? And what would the testing of his son reveal? “Could I help somehow? Review his work with him?”

She stands. “That’s a great idea.” The alto weight has left her voice, excitement returning after a day of weeks. “If you have time, I mean. I know it would help. He looks up to you.”

Vlad laughs. Does his son admire the man, or the illusion? Or the monster, whom he has never seen? “I do not think so. But I will help if I can.”

Keep reading.

*There’s a possibility that without any of the voters who nominated works on the puppy slates, this story would have fallen below the threshold of 5% of total nominations required to be placed on the ballot, but it’s hard to say, as even slate voters don’t appear to have been uniform in their nominations.

“Climate Consensus”, John Abraham on Atheists Talk

There is a much-bandied-about figure in the reporting of Global Climate Change: 97% of climate scientists agree that the science shows that the climate is warming and that the increase in global mean temperatures is due to human activity. This is a strong consensus, and it is based on readings that come from many sources. The temperatures of the ocean and air and the raising of the sea levels all indicate that the level of carbon dioxide and methane are acting as we would expect them to under anthropogenic climate change models. They are wreaking havoc on the natural world and threaten our food supplies and habitable environments. The ice caps at our poles are melting, and the Alps are shedding their glaciers. As a species, we are letting inaction on climate doom us, and we need to make some political decisions as to what we are going to do. Are we going to mitigate the effects of climate change? Are we going to adapt?

Dr. John Abraham is our guest for this show. Abraham is a research professor in thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.  He is a member of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team and has been our guest in shows past. Dr. Greg Laden will conduct the interview.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

Secular Women Work: Fundraising, or How to Ask for Money

We have some video conversion and editing to do before we can release all the talks and panels from the Secular Women Work conference. We had several people tweeting the event, though, so I am collecting and releasing Storifies of the sessions over several days.

Asking for money, even for a project I believe in, is far outside my comfort zone. Obviously, I’ve managed to do it anyway, or we wouldn’t have been able to raise the funds for this conference. Still, it’s something that makes me anxious, and I know I’m not close to alone in that. So we put together a panel for Secular Women Work to demystify and even destigmatize the process.

I knew going in to the this panel that everyone on it had successfully raised money for their projects, so I wasn’t surprised at the practical advice that came out of it. I was surprised and pleased to see that our panelists had a wider variety of experiences than I thought. It’s always nice to be able to see what advice generalizes and what doesn’t. [Read more…]

Steel and Onions

In case you missed it Saturday night, Hugo Award voters soundly rejected at least the tactics of the Sad and Rabid Puppies. No Award won in all the categories only containing puppy picks, and Guardians of the Galaxy was the only nominee appearing on either slate to win an award. Voters in the WorldCon business meeting also endorsed changing Hugo nomination rules to make it much harder for a slate to dominate in the future, though the change will need to be ratified next year.

There has been, of course, much coverage and analysis of the puppies situation in the days following the awards ceremony. It ranges from affirmation of the diversity of the field to vote geekery to distress over the awards being marked by conflict to cheaply theatrical hand-rubbing to “Look at you so-called social justicey people who are willing to deny a woman an award.” File 770 will enable you to read up on this to your heart’s content–and far, far beyond. (If you want to read just one or two posts on this, I recommend starting with Alexandra Erin’s.)

The post I want to draw your attention to today, however, is from Foz Meadows, who writes about peeling an “onion argument”. [Read more…]

Secular Women Work: Taking Over from the Old Guard

We have some video conversion and editing to do before we can release all the talks and panels from the Secular Women Work conference. We had several people tweeting the event, though, so I am collecting and releasing Storifies of the sessions over several days.

We organizers originally conceived of the “Taking Over from the Old Guard” panel as a chance to talk about the challenges of entering a relatively homogenous space and working to make it meet the needs of a broader group of people. This panel was that and more, with panelists talking about developing themselves as leaders and about succession planning.

Kudos to all the panelists, who spoke frankly about their challenges in positions they still hold and communities they still work with, particularly to Heather Hegi, who spoke with her peers sitting in the audience. Also, if more people don’t start asking Amy Monsky to talk at their events, they’re really missing out. [Read more…]

Secular Women Work: The Future of the Movement

The Secular Women Work conference was this weekend. I found it intense and exhausting but very valuable. I’m told that people who weren’t organizing the conference had a different perspective on the exhaustion.

We have some video conversion and editing to do before we can release the talks and panels. We had several people tweeting the event, though, so I’ll be releasing Storifies of the sessions over the next several days.

First up is Debbie Goddard’s talk on the future of the movement and the challenges we face going forward. Goodness knows I’ve been discouraged at points over the last few years, but this talk goes a long way toward reminding me that making a better movement and meeting that movement’s goals is a possible thing. If I weren’t still tired from the conference, it would probably even make me start organizing something. [Read more…]