Rethinking Diversity Panels

In the last week and a bit, it seems everyone is writing about rethinking the value of diversity panels. That isn’t to say it’s a new topic. It’s not even close.

It is, however, in the public eye at the moment. The painful absurdity at Gen Con’s “Writing Women-Friendly Comics” panel. Wes Chu being out of place at a diversity panel at Sasquan just a few months after talking about having been removed from a panel he was suited for to be placed on a diversity panel. General talk about supporting diverse writers in the wake of Sad and Rabid Puppies having “accidents” all over Hugo Awards ballots. All these have put the topic firmly in the public eye, and folks have plenty of good things to say on it.

As someone who just organized a conference at which all the speakers and presenters were women or genderqueer people, I generally agree with these assessments. We worked hard to match people with topics that reflected their expertise, not their marginalization, keeping “minority provides free education” duties to a minimum. Our priority was to highlight their other skills and interests. [Read more…]

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…]

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…]

Readings in Sex and Gender

There have been plenty of people who appear to want education and/or debate on the topics of sex and gender recently. I’m not going to give you debate, in part because this isn’t my field. I don’t know enough to make any debate produce anything useful.

Education, however, I can help with. If you want to understand sex, gender, and how debates over both have been used against trans people, you’d do worse than to read these free, online resources. And even if you do want debate, you want to be debating from a place of education, right? [Read more…]

What Is a Blogger to Do?

Okay. This can’t affect the outcome for the individual in question vis a vis the network anymore. Time for some answers. What do you do, as a network-entrenched blogger:

Street scene in black and white with yellow caution sign saying, "Quiet Zone".

“Quiet Zone” by CPG Grey, CC BY 2.0

When you see a colleague react to being told they’ve retweeted people who advocate for the exclusion of trans women from radical feminist spaces and women-oriented services (also known as TERFs) with blocking, hostility to being given this information publicly, and discussions on their Facebook page about how “TERF” is a term used by younger feminists to invalidate older feminists?

When you see them tell someone that some people would look at his gender nonconformity and tell him he is trans, however he identifies?

When you see them repeatedly deride feminine-identified clothing, grooming, and verbal expressions?

When you see them publish a post that ambiguously blames either a trans woman or the magazine telling her story for putting pressure on women to perform femininity, then have them argue to you specifically that trans women bear a responsibility not to do this?

When you see them link and quote from a post that says trans women aren’t women because they don’t have a common girlhood with cis women?

When you see them link to a trans person and say, “See? This is what I was saying. Why would you be upset with me”, when it wasn’t what they were saying at all?

When you see them flat-out deny that the people who call them trans-antagonistic or even a TERF in response to posts like those have any history to base this judgment on (despite having seen some of it yourself)? [Read more…]

Not Yours, Not Ever

I want to bury my head in work today, to let myself grieve last night’s murders in Charleston at my own slow pace. I can’t, though. Why? Because the homicidal white supremacist whose name should be forgotten in favor of those of his victims tried to pass off some of the responsibility for his act onto me.

Sylvia Johnson, who is said to be a relative of Pinckney, said that she spoke with one of the female survivors.

“She said that he had reloaded five different times, and he just said ‘I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go,'” Johnson told WIS News.

No. You don’t get to do this. [Read more…]

On Nail Polish and Looming Trivialities

This didn’t go in yesterday’s post because I only saw it the once, but while we’re on the topic of the terrible arguments that happen when cis feminists insist on using trans people as their springboard for gender theorizing, let’s talk about this:

Bruce Jenner told Ms. Sawyer that what he looked forward to most in his transition was the chance to wear nail polish, not for a furtive, fugitive instant, but until it chips off. I want that for Bruce, now Caitlyn, too. But I also want her to remember: Nail polish does not a woman make.

That’s from that horrible New York Times article that I don’t feel like linking again. Instead, have a link to a piece by a trans man who does a good job of bringing many of the assumptions buried in that article to light.

Why is this argument bad? [Read more…]

Let’s Stop Exercising Our Gender Anxieties on the Backs of Trans People

Note: Before thinking I’m talking about any specific person in this post, understand that I made a deliberate choice to read almost entirely commentary by trans or genderqueer people on Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out, both before and after the Vanity Fair cover. The exceptions would be this piece by Alex on affirming people’s looks, which I quite enjoyed and tend to agree with, and this mess from this morning that several people were shaking their heads about on Twitter, plus a couple of points I’ve argued on Facebook. While I’m not linking specific examples here, any behavior or argument I talk about I’ve seen from at least two sources. No one is uniquely bad at this.

This is a “we” observation, where “we” are cis feminists, mostly female for reasons that are probably obvious, mostly white for reasons I could only offer unhelpful speculation on. We’re people who see a trans person in the spotlight, usually a trans woman, and discover that we have things we must say right now about gender.

I understand the impulse. We already have a good bit of data and theory on gender. It’s a huge part of our lives. It’s a hobby horse for many of us. Trans people talking about being trans makes gender very salient. A trans person can feel like an amazing data point: how they’re treated, how they express gender, or even how they conceptualize their gender in opposition to all the messages they receive from society.

I get it. I’ve been there. Really, when I say this is a “we” observation, I very much mean myself. Still, as I reread that old post, the most important words it contains are “Then I told myself to shut up.” I’d like to encourage others to join me on that. Here are three big reasons why. [Read more…]

Religion as an Introduction to Privilege

This is another of the sessions from FtBCon3. Lyz Liddell of the Secular Student Alliance gives a great primer here on privilege, and she does it in a context that movement atheists should generally be able to understand. The talk is titled, “Identifying and Addressing Christian Privilege in Intersectional Spaces”.

I think it’s not a coincidence that just a couple months later, the SSA announced it was working to address privilege more generally. If you’d like more information on where their focus will be and how they mean to get there, I interviewed August Brunsman on Atheists Talk on that topic a few weeks ago.

In Praise of Yoga Pants

It’s the new “Leggings aren’t pants.*”

I’m not talking about the moral panic that sees girl wearing yoga pants sent home from school for “distracting boys” or lawmakers proposing to imprison women who wear them in public or people who insist you have to be a certain–small–size to wear them. Those are all appalling, of course, and activists are on those problems. Objectification and fat-shaming are things we understand pretty well.

I’m talking about this weird idea we seem to have collectively adopted that wearing stretch knits on our legs and asses somehow means that we’ve “lost control” of our wardrobes, and by proxy, our lives. [Read more…]