#WomenInScience Day

Yesterday was Women and Girls in Science Day, which I only found out when it was almost over.

In the spirit of my work, here’s an article via The Atlantic, The History of Women in Science is Hidden in Plain Sight.

Over the last few years, a team of students led by Emilia Huerta-Sánchez from Brown University and Rori Rohlfs from San Francisco State University have been searching through two decades’ worth of acknowledgments in genetics papers and discovering women who were never given the credit that would be expected for today’s researchers. They identified dozens of female programmers who made important but unrecognized contributions. Some were repeatedly thanked in the acknowledgments of several papers, but were never recognized as authors. They became literal footnotes in scientific history, despite helping to make that history.

“When Emilia and I look at our elders in population genetics, there are very, very few women,” says Rohlfs. “But there were women and they were doing this work. To even know that they existed is a big deal to me.”

That seems to be the key – to even know that they existed. I know every time I find out about a woman in a field of science previously understood to be all male, I have Feelings, and it always feels like a big deal.

And I wish it wouldn’t.

Better Examples

That poor Gillette ad got a lot of comments of all kinds. This morning I read another commentary, mostly due to the title – Why The Gillette Ad Isn’t Just About Boys and Men – It’s About My Three Daughters, Too:

When it comes to female characters, our daughters (three of them: ages 7, 5 and 2) have much more choice than when I was growing up in the ’80s. They are fans of Merida from Brave and Moana from, well, Moana, both girls who push back on what their societies expect of them. They just discovered the newly re-launched Carmen Sandiego with its kick-ass female lead, and Doc McStuffins is always a solid choice.

But when it comes to male characters, most of them consist of lightly camouflaged stereotypes of the “strong man” trope. Both Moana and Merida’s fathers are large, physically strong and are chiefs of their tribe. They only reluctantly give up their conservative views about their daughters by the end of the movies. Merida’s brothers (triplets) are always portrayed as fighting or eating, a classic example of the “boys will be boys” trope called out in the Gillette spot.

And good luck with anything from the past. Our daughters recently watched the Christmas classic Home Alone, where Kevin McCallister takes his queues from the male characters he sees on TV in gangster and western movies. “It’s my house and I have to defend it,” he concludes, setting the stage for the violence to come.

I know this is something that our very own Giliell has been saying from time to time, and I can only agree, so it was nice to see it in writing: choices for girls have broadened into the traditionally ‘masculine’, but boys have not seen that same expansion into the traditionally ‘feminine’ space.

But that article pointed me towards another mencare (I did, I really did!) product company out there, with a much better ad: Harry’s.

Harry’s, another razor company, has an ad I really like but hasn’t seen nearly as much fanfare as the Gillette ad. In fact, I believe it works better in actually changing our views of men.

… Says Joseph Wilson at the CBC.

Is he right? Well, the ad features Ludacris (of Fast and Furious fame, there he is in the back!):

A very masculine set of movies, I’ll tell you, and I’ve seen them all. But Ludacris, one among the manly men, does things a little differently in the short video. I think I like it:

Whether you prefer Harry’s method or Gillette’s, both are much-needed in the dialogue about masculinity. One for calling out the bad behaviour, the other for just plain showing the better example. More, please.

(No song today. I had some ideas, but I think this time I will leave it at that.)

 

And the prize for a complete lack of self-awareness goes to…

…this TERF. It was a usual argument about how horrible it is for trans activists and allies to be fed up with Graham Linehan because of frozen peaches, when the following exchange occurred:

Terf: Grand, so, but sure we’ll be pushing them into the sea this year so we won’t have to worry about them much longer but read a load of liberalism because that’s what’s coming next hopefully… (emphasis mine)

Other person in the conversation: i have literally no idea what you’re talking about.

Me: I’m not sure, but it sounds like a threat to me.

I mean, how could I take somebody talking about pushing trans people into the sea so they don’t have to worry about them as a threat, given the rampant violence, be it structural, administrative and literal, against trans people?
Apparently this upset her a lot.
Terf: Always with the drama. Into the sea, it’s a metaphor.

Me: Get lost, it’s an imperative.

Apparently, the fact that “get lost” is an imperative was, no pun intended, lost on her. Anyway, I was done, but she obviously wasn’t.

Terf: No, that would be we MUST push them into the sea.
Terf: ps and anyone who would take a statement like ‘we are going to push them into the sea’ literally must have a very flat sense of language or need their head examined imho. Unless they were German and in the vicinity of Dunkirk in the early 1940s…
Note the not so subtle ableism… She tweeted this at me a full day after I told her to get lost, which shows that apparently she really couldn’t let go. To be honest, I had already forgotte who exactly she was when she tweeted this.
Me: You seem upset.
Terf: What an odd thing to say…

Lady, you keep tweeting at me after a full day…
Me: You come back a day later after I told you to get lost. Maybe upset is the wrong word, obsessed fits better. I repeat, get lost.

Terf: That seems a little extreme – obsessed by what?

One thing, it’s “obsessed with”. Second thing, look at this. Somebody has told you twice to leave them alone and you keep replying, but think that “obsessed” is extreme.
Me: You’re still talking to me after I told you to get lost, twice. Go learn to respect some boundaries.
Yes, I was getting annoyed. Why is she still in my mentions? What is so difficult about leaving somebody alone? We’re strangers on the internet, we do not have to come to any kind of solution, so why not just respect the other person’s boundaries, no matter what you think about their position?
Terf: I’ve been pursuing a fairly common line of reasoning about a form of leftist smear-journalism, providing examples when requested and other reading material – that’s all fairly normal, isn’t it?
No, lady. In the offline world you’re the dude who keeps following me down the street, nagging and nattering and insisting that they’re totally rational while I’m trying to walk away.
Terf: But you accused me of making a threat, I explained that it wasn’t a threat but a metaphor – I’m allowed to defend myself, and obliged to reassure you that it wasn’t a threat, aren’t I? And then you say I’m upset and obsessed – I assure you I am not.
This is my favourite one as it is so fucking entitled that the whiniest white dude could learn something. Note the words. A stranger has told her repeatedly to stop bothering her, but she thinks she’s allowed to keep talking to me, even obliged by I don’t know what to keep talking to me regardless of whether I want to hear her. My wishes, my personal space, my agency to decide to whom I talk and to whom I listen has just been completely negated.m Because she thinks she’s got the right to talk to me. Terfs love to accuse trans women to be “entitled men” who “disregard women’s spaces and boundaries”, but look at this textbook example of not taking no for an answer. I have a feeling that this has something to do with the fact that many Terfs (especially on Twitter) believe that no cis woman could ever agree with trans women and that they speak for all cis women, so therefore I must be trans. I mean, after all I put my pronouns in my bio and I have a tortoise as a picture. This one is an annoying case, but one of the more harmless ones. Anyway:
Me: Get. Lost.
Terf: You accused me of making a threat, which is untrue and unfair and not supported by any evidence. I’d like to give you a chance to apologise…
This is getting rich. Now she’s the wronged party (perpetual victimmobile).
Me: Get lost, this is the textbook definition of harassment.
 
By now I was getting into teacher/mum “I told you no five times already and I’m getting angry” mood.

Terf: Accusing someone of making a threat for no reason could be said to be harassment, and then not allowing them to defend themselves but adding further charges. But lets leave it at that, I think the point about smear tactics is well made and I wish all you all the very best.

Terf: (ps just for completeness – accusing someone of harassment who is trying to defend themselves from a false accusation you yourself have made is itself harassment) atb.
Well, a girl can dream, right? But we leave on the note that I am the real harasser here. In conclusion, there is absolutely no difference between Terfs and their new best friends, the christian right. They will both whine about free speech, by what they mean “being owed a platform and nobody is allowed to talk back”. They will both bother and annoy and harass you. they will not take a no for an answer. They will ignore women’s boundaries and wishes. And then they’ll complain about how they’re the real victims here.
TLDR, Terfs are right wing bigots and assholes, don’t be one.

 

Not a Solution

To be honest, it’s a serious medical condition, but I can’t help but feel a smidgeon of envy:

A woman in China is making headlines for a rare type of temporary hearing condition that makes her unable to hear men. According to the Daily Mail, the patient, only identified as Ms. Chen, woke up one morning and couldn’t hear her boyfriend speak.

Unfortunately, the condition seems to be brought on by a lot of stress and fatigue:

The night before, Chen felt nausea and suffered from a ringing in her ears. She was also under a lot of stress, working late and not getting enough sleep. Chen thought little of it and went to sleep as usual before waking up with the condition.

Doctors were initially puzzled by her symptoms, but she was eventually diagnosed with “reverse-slope hearing loss, in which she could only hear high frequencies.”

[…]

Dr. Xiaoqing believes fatigue and too much stress may have contributed to Chen’s hearing loss and expects her to make a full recovery.

I’m glad to hear, but perhaps in the meantime, someone can invent a certain type of earphones that produces the same effect? I’d buy a pair and wear them at work. It won’t stop the mansplaining, but it might buffer enough sound to reduce my annoyance.

Crimes against mankind: fat women existing

Let’s get it out of the way, right at the start: I’m fat. That is a simple statement of fact. I’m not a bit “on the chubby side” or have “womanly curves”. Actually, I find such statements pretty offensive because they imply that being fat would be a horrible thing (it isn’t), but I’m not (I am). Listen, everybody with eyes to see knows I’m fat. this is not a moral statement. This does not tell you much about who I am or what I do. It has absolutely no relationship to my character.

Yet, when you’re fat, especially when you’re a fat woman, your weight is everybody’s business, usually under the guise of being “concerned” about our health.

So, Nike creating a range of sportswear for fat women should be universally lauded because it will encourage us to finally take up that exercise you’ve been bothering us with for the last few decades, right? Right?

Comments on the picture:

You don’t have to be so PC, Nike, this is trying too hard, fat isn’t pretty nor healthy.

Another guy, Aaron,  feels obliged to explain this to us in detail:

Nike have officially just lost my respect and cracked other the PC brigade of having to keep people happy (sic), next you all will be supporting severe obesity where people can’t walk or get out of bed lol health and facts have literally gone for all you snowflakes. So we want people to be happy with their weight, even if it causes cloths (sic) higher blood pressure, diabetes, sever (sic) difficulty in breathing and lazyness (sic), is this what you loneys (sic) all support because if so then you’re supporting a person’s insecurity to try feel proud of themselves but really hate every inch of there (sic) body and emotionally eat themselves fat, and you still support it, anyone who supports this is the reason, and proof that this world is losing touch with keeping healthy.

I don’t know, but it seems like Aaron is a bit, uhm, emotional about a clothing line for women. Especially given that this is sportswear, so it’s actually designed for people who want to, you know, exercise. But Aaron’s (and other guys’ anger is well justified, because if we make clothing that fits fat women (somehow fat men are of little concern even though statistically, there’s more of them), they may actually feel good about themselves (because nothing can cause grumpiness like an ill-fitting bra) and that cannot be permitted. Because as Aaron and every other dude like him knows, we’re categorically miserable. Really. We may seem to live happy and productive lives, have friends, lovers, lots of fun, but as Aaron knows, we’re actually just faking it (you cannot be productive anyway because fat people are lazy, don’t you know?).  The obvious solution for this is that we just stop being fat. Somehow. While please not existing in public, because that really offends dudes like Aaron. No exercise and sports either, because somehow that supports us in being fat. Sorry if that logic escapes you. It’s because you’re a woman, or fat, or both, or neither. Don’t ask me, I don’t make the rules.

Or maybe we just see Aaron for the sad entitled prick that he his, feigning concern for our health while being very upset about a company selling clothing that makes it easier for fat people to actually exercise and do something for their health*.

And  I’m sorry I have to say it, but Aaron, you should have sat still and paid attention in your English class.

*And no, exercise is not about losing weight. Exercise is good for you. Go find something that you enjoy and that makes you feel alive. Forget about your weight.

When you don’t have enough hands or faces to palm.

American politics have a serious side effect of headaches from shaking them or facepalming constantly over here in continental Europe (made worse by the weeping over the Brits), but sometimes it’s just bizarre.

Have you heard about that big scandal involving Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Well, hold on fast, because these revelations will break your heart. When she was a teenager, she danced and had friends.

Here is America’s favorite commie know-it-all acting like the clueless nitwit she is…
…High School video of “Sandy” Ocasio-Cortez @AoDespair

And then there’s Elizabeth Warren. Did you know what she did? She drank beer on Instagram!

I hope I have now thoroughly ruined your new year with these groundbreaking revelations of human women doing normal human things.

 

Tummy Thursday: Gumbo or what makes an easy meal

Since I told you all in depth about our New Years Eve dinner, here’s the recipe for my American main course.

I searched the internet for a gumbo recipe that seemed doable and delicious and then had a trial cooking.

The first problem was to get some sausage that resembles Andouille. As you can see at that link, there is a sausage called anduille in France, but it sounds very different from the creole version and actually I detest it. I decided to go with smoked polish sausage that was very hearty, but did not have caraway seed (Eastern European sausages often have generous amounts of caraway seed and I don’t like that either). I think it made a great substitute and got used both times.

Next was the okra. I had never used okra before, and I even went to a Turkish supermarket to get some fresh okra especially for this, but, let me tell you, they aren’t called “slime fruit” in German for nothing. The little “stars” looked nice, but I don’t think they added much taste and really, I can do without the added consistency of slime, so they got left out the second time.

I changed the seasoning somewhat, leaving out the “hot sauce” but adding a “Cajun” spice and pepper mix that I quite like and the result was simply to die for.

gumbo

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is the trial version before i added the shrimp.

Making the gumbo got me thinking of how the idea of “easy meal” probably changed with women’s work shifting to the outside (I hate the insinuation that housewives “didn’t work”. I want to to see those people scrub the laundry). I can imagine that for a woman who had to do all the chores and probably some farming on the side, this gumbo would have been an “easy meal”. Sure, the roux requires a bit of your attention, but you can use that time to chop your veggies. Then you just hang it high above the fire or put it on the side of the wood stove and go about your day and do your work, while the meal is cooking itself. And you can make a big serving and don’t have a lot of dishes afterwards. Perfect meal for getting your family through a busy workday.

Nowadays, the idea of making something that needs to stew for three hours screams “festive meal” to any person who work outside.

 

Remember Montreal

As chigau pointed out, it’s been 29 years since the École polytechnique massacre in Montreal, yet the story is all too common almost 30 years later. A white man who thought the world owed him a certain place went out to kill women, because he thought they were taking what was rightfully his, denying him his due.

While the event shocked not only the Canadian public, the ideology that led to it is far from eradicated. From Elliot Rogers over the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High to Alek Minassian killing women in Toronto, the pattern of entitlement and violence continues. And these are only the cases that make headlines, the cases where the victims were more or less randomly chosen. It doesn#t even get into the thousands of cases where men kill their (ex) partners or just a woman they hardly knew for turning them down.

And whenever these cases happen, the discussion is the same: mental illness is blamed*, women themselves are blamed. It’s a well practised dance around the violent misogynist mass murderer in the room.

This is why on this day of all, I have no moment of silence, but loud anger. For all of our sisters who have died and who will still die at the hands of men who think they are owed the world, and at the words of those who always have more empathy for the murderer than his victim.

 

*Before somebody feels the need to mention that X, Y, and Z had a history of mental illness, spare yourselves the time, I’ve got none for that discussion. While mental illness may make it easier for those men to turn to more extreme actions, it didn’t instil a hateful ideology into them and no mental illness ever forged a gun.

Teacher’s Corner: Come for the stress, stay for the misogyny!

It’s an open secret that female teachers often have a harder time than male teachers*. Not because we’re worse teachers, but because society tells kids, especially those assigned male that men have to be respected and women not so much. This is especially obvious when there are serious clashes, like it happened today.

As usually, the matter at hand was pretty unimportant. During class one boy put a handkerchief in front of his mouth, like the bad guy in  western. I told him to put that thing away and that if I saw it again that day I’d confiscate it. As the bell rang for recess, he had that thing in front of his mouth again and I told him to hand it over, which he did. But the hanky wasn’t his, but a classmate’s, who now protested loudly. Now, since he knew what would happen if I saw that thing again and still lent it to his classmate, I saw no reason to hand it back there and then. I told him he could pick it up after the 6th lesson, as it is usual in our school when we confiscate things. I had momentarily forgotten that they only had 5 lessons that day, but before I could correct myself, he yelled “are you fucking kidding me?”

I told him that I had just been about to correct myself, but for that disrespectful yelling, I would stand by lesson 6. Now, many of our students have problems with the difference between owning something and possessing something and the right to use something. They keep thinking that us taking stuff away from them for a defined period of time is theft (sadly many parents think the same). So the kid tried to threaten me with calling his mum who would pick it up for him! I called his bluff and invited him to do so. After lesson 6, because then I would have time to talk to his mum.

At that point he yelled the German equivalent of “go fuck yourself, bitch!” Well, he got part of what he asked for, I called his mum and told her to pick him up because he could no longer participate in school that day. I still have the handkerchief.

What was kind of surprising was my internal reaction. I’m used to a lot. Again, I work with kids with many issues in a neighbourhood with many social problems and I don’t take their shit personal. If they yell at me I usually shrug my shoulders, wait until they calm down, tell them about the consequences and move on. And I’m also not angry with that boy. He actually apologised and I accepted it, but for 5 minutes, I was completely shaken. Not because a kid had yelled at me. Or insulted me. But because for those words that cause a gut reaction in me and many other women, because we know that they are so often accompanied with violence. Because they are meant to put us into our place, to make us afraid. Just for a moment he succeeded. And there are no equivalent words that would do that to a man.

 

*Exceptions apply. I once had a male colleague who had serious problems with a class with whom I went along fine. One of the boys in his late adolescence chose that particular colleague to have his dominance fights with.

Maybe he should have grabbed her by the pussy instead?

By now you have probably heard of The Incident. Depending on whether you’re a decent human being or a Republican, the actual incident is that the White House tried to forcefully remove the mic of a journalist because they didn’t like what he said and then banned him from the White House, or the real incident is Jim Acosta “laying his hands” on a young intern (who is, by pure coincidence female, white, young and pretty).

Sarah Sanders has tweeted about it several times, stressing the “disrespect” towards the “young woman” and “young women” working in the administration, mimicking feminist language and concerns for the treatment of (young) (professional) women at the hands of older men.

She also shared a clip showing him making a “chopping motion” towards her arm. Only that the video came straight from Infowars (and we all know how much those people care about women) and has a few curious differences to the original:

The intern’s reach for the mic is slowed down, and the “chop” motion is accelerated. Here’s an annotated side by side comparison:

Further analysis: video is absolutely doctored. You can see the edit when the clips are side by side and slowed down to quarter speed. See for yourself:

 The dishonesty of the Trump Administration knows no limits, as shown again, but let me make one thing clear: Even if Acosta had made a “chopping motion” he wouldn’t be the one who’s wrong here. He was talking, she tried to physically remove the mic, very eager to please her betters. She was the one making aggressive moves towards him. And also: fuck you, white women who sell out on basically everybody to lick spittle and get the rewards of being the chill girls of the Trump Administration. You work hard to remove women’s* right to their own bodies. You work double time to disenfranchise black women. You work extra time to rip babies out of their mothers’ arms and lock them in cages. And you all work for a man who is proud of sexually assaulting women. You don’t get to talk about respectful treatment of women.
*and others capable of gestation.

Teacher’s Corner: Toxic Masculinity

Well, this Wednesday there was a particularly rough fight at my school, and while this one escalated rather a lot, fights between the boys are in no way rare at my school. Quite often, I’m puzzled about what they actually want from me when they come complaining, and you never actually get to the bottom of the matter. You get different versions, depending on whom you ask, and usually they cannot even agree what started that particular fight. You get stories that sound like the clans in Asterix in Corsica going back weeks and months (with different versions for each chapter in the saga!), but the patterns of the fights are usually pretty much the same.

They start with some trivial matter like brushing past each other, somebody calling somebody else’s friend fat, or somebody looking at a girl that somebody else is interested in. This will often already start on the bus to school. Insults are traded, challenges are made. People push each other. Friends get involved. Until, at some point, one of them utters some magical words like “son of a whore” or “I fuck your mother”. Then the one insulted feels justified in starting a real fight, seeing himself as the victim*, and the other one feels like the victim because he’s the one being attacked.

Being the innocent victim who only reacted is very important because then you cannot get into trouble. Or at least in their mind you should not get into trouble. Because it’s not their fault, right? The fact that they all regularly get into trouble is totally unfair. Because in their mind, they did not have another choice. Because in their world, a world of adolescent boys trying hard to be a particular kind of man, losing your face or being seen as weak is the worst. Much worse than fucking up your education.

When trying to get to the bottom of the fight on Wednesday I asked the kid what the fight was actually about. He didn’t really have an answer. Many stories from last year and some minor stuff and somebody insulting his friend. I asked the kid why he didn’t just ignore that shit and either walk away or call a teacher. His answer was true and the actual problem: “If I do that they will say I’m a pussy!”

Our problem is not the two kids who had a fight on Wednesday. Or the ones from Monday. Nor the ones who’ll get into a fight next week. Our problem is a micro cosmos steaming in toxic masculinity. And so far i don’t have a solution because sadly, my solutions are worthless. Most of my colleagues are female, we cannot solve the boy problem, because we cannot enter their world. We’ll need to find some men, men of a similar social background, who can teach them how to be cool, and that being a man doesn’t mean getting into fights every day. I worry about our boys. They’re still kids, and so far the consequences are small, but if they keep growing up like this they’ll get into trouble. They’ll hurt their own chances, and they’ll hurt others. they’ll hurt the women and girls in their lives, directly and indirectly. they aren’s Donald Trumps or Kavanaughs, with enough money and connections to get them out of trouble and up the social ladder. They are already on the bottom rung, fighting many social disadvantages.

As a feminist I’m often accused of “hating men and boys”, but I swear that nobody hurts them as much as the people who go “boys will be boys”.

*This is regardless of whether the boys are native Germans, kids of immigrants or recent arrivals from the Arab world. I once had a boy trying to beat up another kid for “insulting his mother and his family”. When I asked that second boy what he had said, it turned out that the first kid had hurled those insults hoping to provoke the second kid to start a fight. That second boy was rather cool and just said “same”.

When Captain America comes to the aid of James Bond…

The day before yesterday (or yonderday as I’d like to call it because why, English, why), British supervillain extraordinaire Piers Morgan, armed with supreme stupidity, verbose bigotry and lots of poop to fling tweeted a pic of Daniel Craig doing one of those normal thing people do like taking the baby for a walk to play Pokémon Go. OK, I made up the Pokémon part, but apparently, an image of a dad doing dad things was really too much for poor Piers.

Oh 007.. (sic) not you as well?!!! #papoose #emasculatedBond

The tweet got picked up by Chris Captain America Evans who rightfully called out Morgan for his attempt to literally shame a man into not caring for his child.

You really have to be so uncertain of your own masculinity to concern yourself with how another man carries his child. Any man who wastes time quantifying masculinity is terrified on the inside.

And for once, go read the replies which are full of dads posting pics of them carrying their kids.