You Won’t Believe This One Weird Trick to Combat Sexism (Actually, Lots of Tricks, and Actually, You Will)

Yes, my darlings, in a post full of links to other people’s stuff,* I couldn’t help poking fun at the current clickbait “One Weird Trick” thingies. I’ve been reading stuff with lots of good suggestions (not so much tricks. And who wants to trick people into behaving decently when we can do it by being straightforward?).

Did you love Confused Cats Against Feminism? You’ll also love Disappointed Feminists – and you can be one, too!

My friends piled on their own disappointment as we lamented one sad story of sexism after another. And so, since it was late in the evening when such silly/amazing things can happen, Maria Walters started a Disappointed Feminists tumblr where YOU TOO can share your most disappointing moments in feminism and display your disillusionment.

Ima submit one soon. Don’t let me forget.

Image shows a turtle with its front flippers folded under, looking disapproving. Caption says, "Turtle is not angry. Turtle is disappointed in you."

Let’s go down the list and clear the backlog, here… this piece by Amanda Marcotte is definitely on the read and bookmark list. This is my favorite line:

Let’s be clear: Anyone who accuses you of hating “men” when you are explicitly critiquing misogyny is rather unsubtly arguing that all men are inherently misogynists.

PWND. That’s a thing I find fascinating about these anti-feminists who babble on and on able how men are visual creatures and they can’t help themselves and she shouldn’t have been wearing that because of course men will want to attack her… those folks may think they’re protecting dudes, but all they’re really doing is telling me they think less of men than I do. I mean, people suck sometimes, and they do things that suck, but geez, I have a lot more respect for men than that. I think most guys are quite decent, really, and eminently capable of not being rapey misogynistic arseholes. Funny that so many of the people who think they respect men actually think otherwise.

In the quotable quotes category (ctd.), there’s this stinky beauty from David Futrelle:

The trouble with having your head up your ass most of the time is that when you take it out, people tend to notice the smell.

Heh. Indeed.

And this, which ties the spirit of both above quotes together rather wonderfully:

I mean, what people who blame mental illness are actually saying is that his disinhibitions are the only thing that kept him from being a well-adjusted misogynist who simply spouts harmful and violent speech on the internet… HELLO?!

Have you sampled much MRA babble? It’s pretty much exactly that: a bunch of dudes busily making arguments that they’re not that guy, in such a way that they actually end up sounding pretty much just as awful as the awful person who shat a bunch of misogyny all over the internet, then ran off to do some real-life murderous rampaging. Way to make us think you’re the reasonable ones, MRA dudes!

Here’s a good bit to throw at some jackass arguing that the least quiver of an eyelash by a woman is permission to ravish her, but unless she’s screamed “NO” through a bullhorn and sent a notarized letter advising she does not wish to engage in intercourse with the ravishing party now, at all points in the past, and in all future times up to and including the moment Earth gets fried by the sun, then she didn’t make it clear that she didn’t, actually, want sex:

That’s all I ask: That the standard  being used to say “no” and the one being used to say “yes” are exactly the same. If “no” has to be verbal and explicit, then so should “yes”. But—and this is what I believe—if women can say “yes” by using body language and verbal discourse that is contextual but understandable, such as saying, “Oh god, I want you right now,” then women should also be able to say no by those standards, and stiffening up or making excuses also counts as a no. If you run around saying that women can’t expect men to hear “no” if they don’t say it bluntly, then you don’t get to turn around and say men can hear “yes” if it’s expressed subtly.

Bolded for truth.

Image shows a cat smacking a hand. Caption says, "Sexual harassment cat says no means no."

Along similar lines: this comment by Tony! The Queer Fucking Shoop! on why men whistling at women is No Bueno:

See, I’m different. I think whistling at women is wrong. Our culture sexually objectifies women and treats them as things that exist for the sexual pleasure of men. Whistling at woman doesn’t treat them as a human being you wish to interact with as an equal. All it is is the equivalent of saying “I want to fuck you”, but without words. And women are tired of men doing this. I’m tired of men doing this. Women are not objects. Women do not exist for the benefit of men. Women are human beings, just like everyone else, and they deserve to be able to participate in society to whatever extent they choose without people treating them like they’re things to fuck.

YES. THIS. ^^^

All right, ya ready for your weird tricks to combat sexism and abuse? Sure you are! Here they are:

First, something for the newly-clued guys to remember:

One last thing to note for all of the men out there reading this and saying to yourself “Y’know, this guy’s got a good point,” keep in mind that the women in your life have already told you these things.  You just didn’t listen because, y’know . . .

The whole post is brilliant, and you should read it, especially if you’re just now waking up to the fact that your lady friends have been trying to tell you something.

Now, for your next trick: adding one small qualifier means everything:

Only one thing mars my enjoyment of the World Cup, and it’s the absence of one small word. Just a tiny qualifier in a statistic that really should be corrected as our team moves forward. So I ask the American commentators, please stop announcing that Landon Donovan is the “all-time U.S. leading goal scorer.” He is not. With 57 international goals, he’s not even in the Top Five.

The all-time U.S. leading goal scorer is Abby Wambach, with 167 international goals, followed by Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (130), Michelle Akers (105) and Tiffeny Milbrett (100). In fact, Abby Wambach is the all-time leading goal scorer in the world, among all soccer players, male or female.

[snip]

The male position is not the neutral position. It has a point of view, the male point of view, which not everyone shares, and which is not always superior. Either clarify everyone or clarify no one, otherwise it sends that message that one group is the norm and the other is a deviation, even when “the other” is more successful in the field.

In case you’re pressed for time and don’t click through, the takeaway here is that we need to stop saying shit like “women’s soccer” or “female judge” without doing the same for the men’s versions. Sounds great to me!

And, finally, here’s your lotsa weird tricks for helping women combat online abuse:

The truth is, there are lots of things you can do.  Start by believing women who talk about this abuse and harassment.  Help by saying clearly and publicly “This is wrong. This has to stop.”  Signal boost when women write about the abuse and harassment they face.  When other people make excuses about the abuse and harassment women deal with, challenge them.  Tell them it is not acceptable to minimise or excuse the abuse and harassment.  Campaign online platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and any others to put in adequate security for their users – proper block functions, well moderated abuse reporting systems, clear anti-abuse terms of service requirements and strong anti-hacking/spam systems.  If you know a woman who is being harassed/abused online, listen to her when she needs to vent.  Ask her if she’s OK and if there are any ways you can help.  Often just knowing someone cares and is listening is the thing that is least expressed.  Support her if she goes to the authorities to report it.  Document anything you receive by being associated with her.

If you stumble across abuse and harassment of a woman online, think carefully before you approach her about it.  It is likely she already knows, and is finding it difficult to deal with already.  Be sensitive about it if you do feel you need to raise it.  Stay away from hate sites, use DoNotLink if you must link to it anywhere so the perpetrators don’t get the clicks/revenue.  Report abusive social media accounts.  Don’t blame the victim for the abuse, blame the perpetrators.  Point out the difference between abuse and criticism – sadly it seems a lot of people can’t discern that for themselves.

It has to stop.  Whether you agree with or like a particular woman online is irrelevant.  This is not criticism, this is abuse and harassment.  It is violence.  We know what domestic abuse is, we know what emotional abuse is, we know what sexual abuse is.  This culture of bullying, silencing and harassing women online is just another form of abuse.  And online abuse is no more acceptable than any other kind.

Right, that should keep you busy. And thee shall have some nice pictures soon, as well.

*And yes, this is what you’re getting instead of pictures of Fidalgo Island. We didn’t go to Fidalgo Island because both of us were far behind on sleep and too hot to move. We ate Ezell’s and watched MMA instead. We’re going today instead. Probably. Or maybe just back to Ezell’s because ZOMG best chicken ever.

“This isn’t their problem, guys. It’s ours.”

Comic-Con, mecca for geeks, reflects geek culture – and that includes the harassment (h/t). This isn’t the only event that’s put geeks harassing women who are also geeks in the spotlight recently, but it’s one of the biggest. It’s also seen a cosplayer brutally attacked.

Sexual harassment and misogyny are huge problems in fandom, as evinced by the above. So now seems like a good time to share this bit I’ve been meaning to highlight from Andy Khouri’s Fake Geek Guys: A Message to Men About Sexual Harassment.

This isn’t their problem, guys. It’s ours. We have to solve it.

Sexual harassment isn’t an occupational hazard. It’s not a glitch in the complex matrix of modern life. It’s not something that just “happens.” It’s something men do. It’s a choice men make. It’s a problem men enable. It’s sometimes a crime men commit. And it is not in the power nor the responsibility of women to wage war on this crime.

It’s on us.

How do we fight this war? We stop enabling. We check ourselves and, when necessary, wreck ourselves. Do you know a guy who’s hate-following women on Twitter just to troll them? You check him. Do you know a guy who’s writing disgusting screeds to women journalists because they don’t like the same things he likes? You check him. Do you know a professional whose discourse with women in his field is loaded with gender-specific language and condescension that could enable further abuse? You check him. Are your Twitter followers identifying you as a sympathetic ear for their sexist views? You check yourself. Is your website’s message board a cesspool of ignorance and hate? You check it like you actually give a damn. Do you know a guy who’s sending rape threats to women for any reason? Oh, you report that guy.

The more good people who speak out, the less chance creeps and assholes have to engage in bad behavior. No, it’s not fun. No, it’s not comfortable. Yes, it’s hard calling people out on this shit. But if we don’t, when we could have, we’re enabling that behavior. If you can do so safely, and without making the situation worse for the victim, check the creep.

Image shows a cat smacking a hand. Caption says, "Sexual harassment cat says no means no."While you’re at it, read this post from April 2013 by Meredith Placko.

At DragonCon last year, I witnessed a guy take photos of a girl’s backside at a group photo shoot. So many people were so involved with their own stuff, they failed to notice. But I sat there and watched as several people looked on at this guy and they said nothing. I broke off from my shoot and stood in front of the guy taking the lewd photos and confronted him. He took off before I could get any information about him. The girl had no idea she was even being photographed.

It’s easier to look the other way. Standing up and saying something means you have to get involved, you have to put effort into your actions. You may even come across as the bad guy. But standing up means you may save someone’s day.

And finish off with this post from Sushi Killer, which contains photos much better than my photoshopped jobs, horror stories, and bits like this:

One photographer mentioned that when he is working with a cosplayer and sees someone trying to take a picture of her butt or up her skirt, he jumps in front of their camera, blocking the shot with his own crotch. This draws attention to the pervert and can shame them, while also protecting the cosplayer.

I’d very much like to see more people at conventions intervene when creeps start creeping. I’d like to see this become the norm, until assholes get the message that their assholery isn’t welcome. Let’s make Comic-Con, all cons, and the geek world in general safe for geeks and unsafe for predators.

Image shows two dogs and a baby in costumes. Caption says, "Our costumes are cool, not consent."

Original image courtesy Pets Adviser.

Oh, Dear, the Rifts Aren’t Yet Deep Enough

Sigh. Yet another cycle of asshole atheists throwing feces at those of us who care about doing more than merely shitting on religion. We’ve got the so-called Amazing Atheist stirring up the masses to send ridiculous missives saying, in effect, Atheism Is All So Shut Up and Stop Dividing the Community By Requiring Basic Human Decency!!! And we’ve got Jaclyn Glenn putting up Very Concerned Comments and Videos about how divided we fall and feminists are icky and feminists are sooo divisive… my gosh, color me convinced. Mm-hmmm.

Or, you know. Not.

Image shows a black and white kitten lying in bottom half of an egg carton. Other half is spikey. caption says, Other side wazn't so comferbul."I don’t write about this stuff all that often, partly because I give myself a headache rolling my eyes and then wander off to do something more interesting, like scrub the cat’s water dish, but mostly because other people on this side of the Deep Rift™ do a bonza job of putting this drivel in perspective. A small selection:

Our own Martin Wagner on You NEED to stop doing things to divide the community:

Funny, it’s never the people who are actually making the “community” an uncomfortable and unwelcoming place for women and other marginalized groups who are being “divisive.” It’s never the misogynists or harassers. It’s never the prominent figures who use their celebrity to justify inappropriate behavior, nor the ones who shield them because they don’t want to lose a valuable, popular public speaker.

No, the “divisive” ones are always those who say “Let’s be better than this.”

Funny how that works, innit? I think I’ll stick with the divisive ones, in that case. I like the idea of being better, thank ye ever so much.

Stephanie Zvan assures people like Jaclyn Glenn, who likes to end streams of strawmanning and insults with cries that we all want the same thing, that we don’t, in fact, want the same thing:

No, we don’t want the same thing. I don’t want what you want.

    • I don’t want my arguments to rely on dressing my opponents’ arguments up in a cheap wig and a sneer because I can’t call them ridiculous when they stand on their own.

[snip]

    • I don’t want to benefit from the work of generations while telling the world that I’m not a part of what they’ve done.
    • I don’t want to feel so helpless I throw my hands up at YouTube or Twitter harassment because that’s just the way the internet is.
    • I don’t want to have to make myself look brave by suggesting that people who have stood fast in the face of years of harassment are “pussies”.
    • I don’t want anyone ever to see me conflate caring that people are treated well with weakness.
    • I don’t want to be held up as a “good one” by people who are pretty awful themselves.

[snip]

  • I don’t want anyone ever to see me argue to someone that our mere shared identity is a good way of evaluating how well I work in their interest.

And speaking of lists, Alex Gabriel compiled a doozy, focused this time on how the atheism “movement” treats women, and ends thusly:

When I remind myself and others that the people who carry out the above are supposed to be my allies, I find myself much less worried that I argue with them more than with believers. I’d be embarrassed if I didn’t: if I weren’t so divisive, and there were no rifts between us, I’d be fighting for the same new world they are, and that thought terrifies me. With friends like these, who needs religion?

If colleagues and I are creating the divisions Glenn describes, I’m proud of it, because unlike her I do find them necessary. We all want the same, she says, but I’m less sure: I want a secular movement as accessible to women as men, that challenges religious sexism with authority and isn’t the preserve of powerful men and misogynists. If building one requires rifts today, then like Jen McCreight, I want deep rifts.

I’m not sorry atheists are divided. I’m sorry we need to be.

Which sums up the situation nicely.

Listen: the sides in this rift are not equal. This is brought home to me with renewed force whenever those who want us to shut up start howling about how divisive we are whilst enthusiastically causing strife and pain. I watch their antics and reach for the dynamite, because I’d rather blast through bedrock and split the damned planet than heal any rift between myself and those folks.

Image is a sepia print of a woman in early 1900s attire gazing into the Grand Canyon. Caption reads, "I think we're gonna need a bigger rift..."

Artist’s conception of the Deep Rifts saga wot I made. Feel free to filch. The original image is from here.

They can keep the sexual assaulters, rapists, Randroids, racists, bigots, sexists, and various other undesirables on their side, please. I’ll hang out over here with the social justice warriors and assorted folk with well-developed consciences, thanks. And while I’m sure we’ll cross paths and walk a few steps in the same direction on a few issues, I don’t think I need to swallow my revulsion and lay down my interest in various human causes – such as feminism – in order to help them with… whatever it is they think they’re doing.

As for people like Jaclyn, who believes she doesn’t need feminism despite having to beg other women to make videos so she won’t be left alone and vulnerable in a sea of sexism and people believing she only succeeds because of her looks… well, love, we’ll be here when you realize that, hey, that’s just what those nasty feminists have been working to fix all this time. We’ll be here when you slip up and demand a little too much autonomy and respect from the assholes currently celebrating you because you’re such a cool girl. Feel free to join us when you realize that there’s still a long way to go before there’s anything like equality for women and minorities in this movement, much less this world.

It’s better over here.

“What SPECIFICALLY should I be doing to help?”

I’m slowly wading through the comments moderation queue, and this one from Jenny on the without-their-silence article stands out:

I read both articles. I then asked my husband to read both articles. He did. When he was finished, he asked, “What SPECIFICALLY should I be doing to help?” I didn’t have an answer. Neither article appeared to have an answer.

Is there an answer? If so, what is it?

An answer? No. Many answers, yes. A few from the top o’ me noggin:

Believe women. They tell you things that are hard for you to believe, sure. Shut up, though, m’kay? Listen. Absorb what they’re saying, and understand that the world is a very different and quite often hostile place to people who don’t identify as male. That’s the first, and most important one to start: don’t automatically dismiss our obsession with locking doors, and our (to you) excessive caution, and our endless stories about harassment and assault. You haven’t experienced what we have. Listen to our truth.

And do more:

  • Familiarize yourself with everyday sexism.
  • Did you realize you’re doing sexist things? Stop doing them.
  • Stop using sexist epithets. Substitute non-gendered ones instead.
  • Did you realize your buddies, coworkers, family, random jackasses are doing sexist things? Call ‘em out. Doesn’t have to be a huge big deal: a simple, “Hey, that’s not cool, bro” often suffices.
  • How ’bout some feminism 101, now.
  • Hey, mebbe a little more.
  • You’re at work, and the men in the meeting are talking over the women? Speak up! All it takes is a simple, “I believe Sally was trying to make a point” is usually sufficient to shut the over-talkers up.
  • Did some jackass just claim credit for the idea Sally came up with? Point out it was Sally’s idea in the first place.

You’re doing great! Keep on keeping on:

  • Brush up on Schroedinger’s Rapist. No, look, you know you’re not a rapist. That female stranger on the street has no fucking idea who or what you are, though, and she has to play it safe, so don’t take it personally, m’kay?
  • Pay more attention to your phone, or the scenery, or some other dude than that woman or group of women on the bus or on the street or on the trail.
  • Sure, you can say “Hi.” Make it short and casual, and don’t pursue conversation unless she does.
  • If a woman asks you to leave her alone, do just that, cheerfully.
  • See some jackass pressing his attentions on a woman who’s all but screaming “Leave me the fuck alone?” Distract him. Run interference. You don’t need to be all obvious and heroic. Just ask him the time and start chatting him up.
  • Did you witness someone getting harassed? Stand with them against the harasser, and assure them you’ll be happy to be a witness, if it comes to a report. And follow the fuck through.

Image shows an otter on its back with its front paws up. Caption says, "Woah, back off, bro"

All right! You’ve come a long way. Give yourself a tasty reward. And then go further:

Check your male privilege.

Are you in a position to influence diversity in your workplace? In your social circles? Do it.

Support women and minorities when they try to advance.

Don’t be lazy and stop at the usual suspects when you’re thinking of putting together a team at work, or a list of speakers for a conference. Seek out a balance of folks rather than letting it be all white males with only a token woman or PoC.

Insist that any panel you’re on or workgroup you’re in be genuinely diverse.

And don’t stop just because it’s hard.

I could go on. And on and on and on. But I’m going to turn it over to my readers, now, because they are wiser than I am, and will catch things I’ve missed, and have seen the world through different eyes. They can give you more ideas on what to do. I’m just going to end my piece with this:

Challenge yourself to be better.

And do at least one thing, every day, to make this world a better place.

Image shows several variously-colored kittens and a green parrot walking on a mantle. Caption says, "Itteh bitteh kitteh committeh promotes diversiteh."

“Without Their Silence, Their Ignorance, Their Shrugging Shoulders, This Situation Could Not Continue As It Is”

Miri’s got something to say. If you haven’t heard it yet, go over there and listen. Then tap your friends on the shoulder, and point them toward it. Share it on social media. Email it around to your friends and family and casual acquaintances. The next time you hear a dude sniveling about how women see him as a predator and that’s just not faaiir, tell him to shut up and read. The next time someone in your circle of acquaintance, whether they be man, woman or gender fluid, sneers at women for taking precautions, sit them down and walk them through this paragraph by paragraph. Check for reading comprehension at the end.

Too busy for the whole thing? Set it aside. Come back to it within the next day or two. But take a moment, right now, to read at least this much:

I’m going to go out on a limb a little here and then solidify that limb as much as possible. Men who refuse to take violence against women seriously until it happens right the fuck in front of their faces are as complicit in this injustice as men who commit violence against women. This is not to say that they are as individuals just as bad or just as sexist or whatever. It just means that, without their silence, their ignorance, their shrugging shoulders, this situation could not continue as it is. It cannot continue without the participation of men who commit violence, and it cannot continue without the participation of men who shrug it off or blame the victims or accuse them of “overreacting.” Both of these are gears have to turn in order for it to continue.

If you have to watch a woman be harassed or beaten or raped or almost raped in order to care, that means that even more women must be harassed or beaten or raped or almost raped in order for you to join in the fight against violence against women. If you have to watch a woman be harassed or beaten or raped or almost raped in order to care, that means that women’s personal accounts of violence–which they have little reason to lie about but many reasons to keep silent about–aren’t enough for you. If you have to watch a woman be harassed or beaten or raped or almost raped in order to care, that means that on some level–even if you won’t admit it–you think that there’s some level of “bad enough” that this shit needs to get before you’ll even acknowledge it as a problem, let alone actually do something about it.

[snip]

But what’s it going to take for more men to actively, assertively challenge male violence against women? To shut down other men who excuse it or attempt to exonerate themselves by chanting “Not all men!” as though it were a magic spell? To refuse to support a type of masculinity that glorifies dominance and violence?

If what it takes is personally watching women being victimized by that type of masculinity, we’ve got a huge problem.

Image shows a tawny cat with sea-green eyes holding a paw curled by its face and looking very much like a put-out professor. Caption reads, "U get teh point - right?"

Don’t like women having to constantly be on guard? Do your part to make this a world in which women, trans folk, and other marginalized people can be just as carefree as most straight white dudes. Speak out. Stand up. Make a difference. Right bloody now.

Come help us create a better world.

Hello, World. Still Fucked Up, I See: Elliot Rodger Edition

Not that I expected it to improve dramatically while I was sleeping, but I have to say, a few things we’ve been pointing at and shouting “HELLLOOOO THERE’S A PROBLEM HERE” have been rather emphatically highlighted by certain recent actions. I shall be exploring them in between marathon snooze sessions. In between, we shall have nothing but lovely happy fun picture time round here, because from what I’m seeing, ya’ll could use the break.

So, misogyny. You know, I used to deny there was a problem with that in this civilization. My gosh, I could wear pants and talk about being an astronaut someday, so all problems with equality were solved forever and women who objected to being treated as sexual objects and resented being treated as invisible otherwise were just whiny bitches. Then people like Stephanie Zvan popped me on the noggin and did that thing where the sensei grabs the pupil’s jaw, mooshes their lips into an appropriate representation of their gaping ignorance, and proceeds to forcibly enlighten them. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to realize that you, a woman, are in fact a misogynist? Awkward.

I’m just glad unapologetic feminists did me this favor before Elliot Rodger invested much time and effort into making videos and writing manifestos that explained exactly how his extreme hatred of women was motivating him to go out and kill as many of them (plus their men) as he could manage, then attempted to live his vile dream. Without them, I may have been one of those howling about feminists besmirching the good name of misogyny. Or denying that the call is coming from inside the house. I mean, how dare we take a man at his word, right? He can’t be a terrorist – those are supposed to be foreign, brown, and generally screaming about Allah. Gotta be one of those crazy people, even though the shit he was spewing was separated only be degrees, no kind, from the kind of shit spewed at women by “ordinary men” every single fucking day.

It was comfortable, believing that. It’s not comfortable, reading about a man shooting up UC Santa Barbara and not being in the least surprised, only wondering why it doesn’t happen far more frequently. Denial was wonderful. It made the world look better. It was nice to pretend people like Rodger are anomalies and not depressingly common. But even before the feminists claimed me as one of their own, I’d begun to recognize the truth. I’d had a friend turn into a predator when I turned him down, after all. I’d read the forensic psychology books on the “nice, quiet men” who liked to indulge in a little light serial killing when their terrifying hatred of women overcame their ability to play ordinary citizen. I’d seen the evil that men do.

I just didn’t understand how intimately connected it was to the background sexism of our culture. I just didn’t want to.

Even back in my denialist days, I couldn’t deny that when it came to perpetrator-versus-victim populations, it was an overwhelming majority of men doing the evil, and an overwhelming majority of women suffering the evil. What I could deny was that this was a continuum, from my friends who casually denigrated women (present company accepted, o’ course – you’re practically one of the guys, Dana!), to the domestic violence my mother suffered, to the creeps who let their creep-flags fly, to the rapists and murderers and their cheering sections. It’s so much easier to blank out that grim line connecting the middle to the beginning and end. You certainly take a lot less shit for saying that people like Rodger are just crazy weirdos, total anomalies, rather than taking them at their word and saying that, yeah, this society has a huge problem with women – and while Rodger’s violence was a bit extreme, it wasn’t actually so far removed from the every-day beatings and rapes and murders that men commit.

But nothing improves when we pretend these connections don’t exist. So I shall add my voice to those who have already spoken quite eloquently. I do agree that, yes, Rodger had some serious issues, and that the little don’t-kill-people switch in his brain was broken, and we need to improve the way we recognize and handle people whose don’t-kill-people switches are broken. But I’m also going to mention that there are many people whose don’t-kill-people switches don’t function properly. It’s a damned good idea to work on fixing the bits of our culture that gave them the genius notion that some subset of the population deserved all the hatred and violence their broken little selves could muster.

And pointing out that Rodger’s violence existed on a continuum, that it’s part-and-parcel of the contempt too many people in this world have for women, that it’s not an isolated incident but part of a pattern, isn’t “hijacking” a tragedy. It’s facing facts. That shrieking you hear about hijacking is coming from people who find those facts rather painful. I shall play my tiny violin for them, but not for long – there’s serious work to be done, making this a better world. Perhaps the denialists will be so kind as to join us once they’ve finished being deliberately obtuse.

Image shows the British crown with the words "Keep calm and change the world" beneath it.

Crowdsourcing Books By and/or About Women and People of Color in the Geosciences

You know those moments where you suddenly notice the ism in the background? Had one recently meself. I spent a few weeks going through every single geology book available for Kindle on Amazon. I downloaded a ton of samples. And then I started sifting through them.

I noticed a few disturbing trends.

First, the samples are overwhelmingly by men. Not that this surprises me, but I’d hoped for a larger ratio of women. There were practically none. Hullo, background sexism!

A white peacock's gaudy display overshadows a peahen. Image courtesy Darkros via Wikimedia Commons.

A white peacock’s gaudy display overshadows a peahen. Image courtesy Darkros via Wikimedia Commons.

Second, the samples are overwhelmingly white. Again: disappointed but not surprised. Hullo, background racism!

A black swan lost in a crowd of white swans. Image courtesy Colin Smith via Geograph. Click photo for details.

A black swan lost in a crowd of white swans. Image courtesy Colin Smith via Geograph. Click photo for details.

Third, most of the books by women are either for children, or they’re fiction. That one really got to me. And it got me to thinking of cultural assumptions.

I have to wonder how many books on the earth sciences by women are overlooked by editors unless they’re in the traditionally female-dominated realms of education, or a good lady-like pursuit such as literature?

So I’m sure, although I know of no study that specifically proves, there’s an unconscious bias that editors have that goes some way toward explaining why the kids books and geology-themed fiction are much more likely to be by female authors, and why there are even fewer earth science books by women than I’d expect even with a lower ratio of women in STEM careers.

Even worse, I have to wonder if my unconscious bias has skewed that ratio even more in my samples. I’ll have to go back and look. One of the things I’ve learned palling around with social justice people is that we have to be aware of what our culture has wrought – and mine has so effectively taught me to overlook women that I do it without thinking, even though I am a woman.

Time that stopped. Takes effort, and a conscious commitment to noticing what culture wants us to ignore, aside from a few tokens so it can feel great about itself.

So here’s your mission, should you choose to accept it: if you know of earth science books by women and/or people of color, tell me all about them. Let’s get a list going.

And let’s see about making editors aware of their blind spot. It’s not that they’re being deliberate arseholes (in some cases), I’m sure, but our culture has spent generations telling us that it’s white dudes, usually older white ones, who do the science, so the women and people of color become practically invisible.

We need to be aware of that blind spot, and compensate by actively forcing ourselves to see. Otherwise, things won’t ever change. And people who cold have expanded our vista beyond our imaginings will remain overlooked.

We can do better. We have to do better.

When a Projector is a Projection of Our Fucked-Up Culture

So the thing about having your consciousness raised is that you can’t really lower it again. When your attention’s repeatedly drawn to something important, when people chip through your resistance and decades of cultural conditioning and open your eyes to things you should have seen long ago, you can’t close them again without seeing after images.

Image show a gray kitty with yellow eyes peering over a table with an expression of concern and horror. Caption says, "What has been seen cannot be unseen."Take the fucking projector that has caused a good part of angst in my personal life just lately. Years ago, I’d not have noticed the endless parade of dude stuff. Dude stuff was just fine with me. Who wanted that icky chick stuff, anyway? Who cared if the ladiez didn’t get a look-in – they’d probably choose some awful chick flick thing. Eww.

And then I started spending my time around people who, like fish investigating the invisible medium they swam through, had discovered such things as everyday sexism and microagressions and the billion and one ways we tell women and other minorities they’re second class. I’ve learned about chilly climate and niceness as a tool of oppression. I’ve learned I had a bad case of internalized sexism, and that it’s more common than the common cold, which means any woman I meet could be suffering it, too. I’ve learned that intent is no excuse for problematic behavior. I’ve learned that this same patriarchy hurting me and mine is hurting every gender, including men. And I’ve learned that the incidental shit we surround ourselves with – the jokes, the entertainment, the places we go and the people we choose to see – can have an outsize impact. For instance, that harmless sexist joke told by the non-sexist among us? It could be encouraging the closet sexist in our midst to feel good about himself and fuck women over with a clear conscience, free of social consequences.

Along the way, I’ve had to learn uncomfortable truths about my own sexism and racism and privilege. I’ve had to learn that a person can be the furthest thing from a sexist or racist or other ist, and yet do ist things. I’ve watched people completely fail to understand that, and snivel when they should be solving. Sometimes, I’ve been the sniveler. But I’m trying. Now that my eyes are open, I’m trying to do better.

So the projector, it rankles. It wouldn’t have done before. I’d have been with B: it’s no big deal. Don’t make a fuss. But I cannot in good conscience do that any longer. And every time this shit comes up, when I know I’m going to have to gear up for Yet Another Battle With a Good Person™, I get grouchy and sad and tired. I think of just letting this one slide. And then I think of Jean Valjean:

If I speak, I am condemned.

If I stay silent, I am damned.

So I bloody well speak.

Damn the consequences.

Because this shit matters.

It doesn’t matter to the dudes who live comfortably on top, who refuse to have their masculinity threatened by The Notebook (heaven forfend they should like it). They’ve given the ladies a shot at it! They graciously let us watch So I Married an Axe Murderer that one day didn’t they? Of course the dudes complained and grumbled because ew, ick, wedding dress, but they let us get away with it. And they’re fine with us picking stuff out – as long as it’s kung fu movies, or police procedurals, or shoot-’em-ups, or Duck Dynasty. See – when you ladies are one of the guys, it’s no problem! Fairness and equality for all. As long as you don’t mind seeing your gender represented as nothing but a sex object every time you look up, if there are women on the screen at all. As long as you don’t mind a constant barrage of testosterone. And as long as you understand that your viewing choices can and will be superseded by what anyone with a penis decides he wants to watch at any point during your flick. Move along, no sexism to see here.

They don’t even realize that’s what they’re doing, because no one’s ever shown them. They’ve spent their lives this way, with the women most often letting them have their way, going along to get along. Because lord knows, if you piss off the dude with the projector, he may take his projector and go home, and then everybody suffers. Don’t be that girl.

And it doesn’t matter anyway. Nobody really watches this stuff. We’re busy taking calls! It’s not a democracy! But everybody’s gotten to choose something! You can’t get everybody to agree on everything. You’re making a big deal out of nothing. These are all excuses I’ve had thrown in my face since suggesting that maybe, just possibly, it’s not cool to shut out the women on the team, and I for one will not be putting up with it.

I’ve very likely lost an important friendship with something this bloody stupid as a catalyst. One thing’s for sure: even for women who, like me, don’t usually get a lot of crap for being a social justice warrior, there are sometimes severe consequences to giving the boat even a slight, careful nudge. And you can never tell when the explosion will happen or who will set it off.

My life would be easier and happier if I could close my eyes and soothe my consciousness to sleep again, if I could tell my conscience to shut the fuck up. But that’s what’s brought us here: too many good people unwilling to do the right thing because other good people get nasty, and it makes everyone unhappy for a while, and the consequences are too much for many of us to bear. So, I have a Jean Valjean moment:

If I speak, I am condemned.

If I stay silent, I am damned.

And I decide that being condemned by the people around me, however uncomfortable, is not a patch upon the damnation that will be visited upon me by my outraged moral compass, and that changing this world just a little bit for the better is worth any amount of personal pain and professional discomfort. I do not, to my everlasting shame, always decide to do this. Despite what people who think I’m a loudmouthed crusader think, I don’t always speak. But I should.

And I will. As often as I can, as loudly as I can manage.

And as long as the person I am speaking to, who has the power to fix this, is the personI think he is, the conversation won’t go too badly. He’ll see that these microaggressions are bad things, and that soaking in endless masculinity isn’t much good for the dudes, either. He’ll still say this isn’t a democracy, but it won’t hurt to introduce a few democratic principles into the totalitarian government of our team. He’s already agreed not to stop shows partway through. We will work out further equitable solutions, and considering all three women on this team do actually love kung fu more than princesses, the masculine suffering should be minimal. We’ll have some stuff on with kick-ass female characters, and gays, and lesbians, and transsexuals, and POCs, and even some heart-string tugging things that will get the super-macho among us sniffling about dust in their eyes, and everyone will come out of this a bit better and broader than they came in.

Everyone.

Because this isn’t just about giving the women equal time. It’s also about setting men free from strangling gender roles. It’s about creating a better environment, wherein people don’t have to keep themselves closeted over the things they love for fear of social censure. And it’s about giving people a chance to discover that there are things out there they’ve never suspected they could like, but do, and don’t have to be ashamed about admitting it.

These constant battles are fucking exhausting, and they cost. Oh, they cost. But the price, ultimately, is worth it.*

I do not want to live in a world where, forty years from now, we wonder why we’re still held back by the same old shit.

I do not want to have to look back and say, “Well, because it was because I didn’t do anything to change it.”

Instead, I want to be painting my friend’s grandson’s toenails pink while debating the virtues of the latest Porche vs. Ferrari with an honorary grandniece while she orders something fashionable for her transsexual friend. I want to take them outside to play in a park afterward where kids aren’t busy shaming other kids over their fashion and bodies and lifestyle choices, and sure as shit aren’t concerned about their color or religion. I want a world where people can be people in all their endless variety without being shit upon. I want a world where everyone gets a chance to visit the buffet groaning under the eternal variety of things that make us human, and can pick whatever they want, without shame or fear. Except, you know, for those sexist, racist, and other ist dishes. I hope we’ll have consigned those to the garbage forever by then.

We may never have that world. But it’s a world worth trying for. And even a less-than-perfect version will be wonderful.

 Image of hands of many colors clasped in star-pattern, with a quote by Maya Angelou superimposed:

For a crash-course in social justice, clear your calendar, lay in a supply of coffee and alcohol, and visit these link roundups:

Pharyngula Wiki: Social justice link roundup and Sexism Education 101 Link Dump

Brute Reason:  Social Justice Resources

A+: Education on Social Justice Issues

Geek Feminism Wiki: Feminism 101 

*For me. At this time, in this place, with my privilege, I can bear this cost. Others may not be able to, and it is no shame if they can’t fight the fight openly. Everyone has to do their own math, and decide what they can take, and when for their own good they’ve got to disengage.

Not Acceptable (Aside from the Taking Responsibility Part – That’s Good)

By now, most of you know that Bora Zivkovic harassed several women. He engaged in the kind of everyday sexism that chips away at a woman’s psyche and drops her into a vortex of doubt, disgust, and anger. What he did isn’t as obviously terrible as groping or assault or rape, but it did its damage, and is unacceptable.

Dissapointed cat

This kind of sexism – the inappropriate remarks, the (perhaps) unconscious belittling of women, reducing them from professionals to sexual beings – has no place in this world we’re forging. It’s no more to be tolerated than other forms of degradation. Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any form, perpetrated by anyone. It doesn’t matter how much we otherwise admire them.

Bora’s my blogfather. He gave ETEV a boost onto the public stage when it was just a potty-mouthed political blog taking its first tottering steps into the science blogosphere, and without him, there would be no Rosetta Stones. The online science community is flourishing in large part because Bora was there, tirelessly promoting, prompting, and pushing to make it happen. He understands the internet like few others. He is one of those people everyone knows and almost no one can imagine us being without.

But he didn’t just make a mistake, apologize, atone and change his behavior. He harassed, and kept harassing. From reports of what happened, it seems he was told that his behavior was inappropriate, and continued that behavior with other women regardless. That’s not something we can quietly accept anymore. Not even from blogfathers. Not even from people who have done so much as Bora.

We all of us make mistakes. Sometimes, those “mistakes” are willful, and repeated, and so hurtful that they outweigh the good we do, and we must atone.

This could have been the story of a man who harassed women, then turned on those brave enough to speak out, trying to destroy them. This could have been the story of a man who had to be forced out of positions of authority he was all too willing to abuse. This could have been the story of a long and bitter campaign to bring the victims some measure of justice.

And that would have been easier for those of us who have determined to be silent no more, but owed Bora so much of our success, and liked him so well. Speaking for myself, and myself alone, I know it would have hurt less. So much less. It’s so much easier when pain can be subsumed in anger.

But Bora’s a better man than so many of those clay-footed former heroes we’ve seen revealed as harassers and predators. He’s resigned his position at Science Online, and apologized to the women he harmed,* even giving them plaudits for sharing their stories.

Bora Tweet 1

No need to defend me. Kudos to @monicabyrne13 and @hannahjwaters for having the courage to speak up. I was wrong. I am sorry. I am learning.

I wouldn’t be crying right now, if he’d been one of those who turned on the women who refused to remain silent.

He understands there must be consequences, and isn’t forcing us to impose them. And that gives me hope that this isn’t the end of his story in our community, that he will become part of the solution rather than remaining part of the problem. He did wrong things, and owns them, and doesn’t ask us to forgive or minimize them.

Bora Tweet 2

To friends I let down and perhaps lost today: I understand why. I am sorry. I will miss you.

That’s not something I’m used to seeing from men who have harassed. I’d rather have no harassment, but when there is, I’d like to see more of this, please.

There will be accountability, as there should be. Chances are he won’t be my editor anymore, and that’s what should happen**, although I take no pleasure in losing him at all. The women who spoke out – women like Monica Byrne and Hannah J. Waters – did exactly the right thing. We needed them to, and need more like them, more people willing to stand up and say, “This person with this power did this terrible thing.” It’s so much harder when the person doing terrible things is so well-loved. I admire their courage, and hope others follow their lead, until we’ve changed this world for the better.

And I hope that more of those who have done the damage will have the kind of integrity Bora has displayed. That’s a huge part of being better humans: owning our failures to be the people we should be, and showing that just because you have done some wrong things doesn’t mean you can’t step up and ultimately do what’s right.

A better science writing community can emerge from this. And knowing the people involved, I believe it will.

I shall now return to my costuming, avoid the internet for many days, and cry some more. Please excuse me.

 

*Some of you, doubtless, will point out the inadequacies of his original apology. That’s your prerogative, of course, but I suspect a part might have been played by legal counsel. So don’t expect me to launch into a full-throated condemnation, please. I also will not be commenting publicly on what is not public knowledge. Do not expect me to, and keep in mind that this may factor in to the way I respond to this situation in the future.

**Scientific American is determining the appropriate course of action. They’re not internet-fast, and they sometimes stumble, but I do trust the people there to do the right thing.

 

New at Rosetta Stones: Wherein I’m #standingwithDNLee

So this thing happened where the editor of a sciencey sorta website *cough Biology Online cough* decided it would be hi-larious to call a black woman an urban whore for refusing to write for his shit for free. Punchline? She’s a SciAm blogger, and SciAm won’t stand with her.

I have a thing or dozen to say about that.

I’m ashamed to be a SciAm blogger right now. But I’m proud to be #standingwithDNLee.