Webcomics I’ve read to completion

I’m really into webcomics.  I like the art, the writing, the humor.  I appreciate the low barrier to entry, which means all the stuff that people complain there isn’t enough of in movies or TV (like queer representation) is available in webcomics in abundance.  And I like how a good webcomic develops its story at a trickle pace over the course of many years.

Of course, the problem is that sometimes a webcomic stops before finishing, or I stop reading before it finishes.  When a webcomic is done well, the journey is worthwhile even if you don’t make it to the end.  But still… it’s nice to make it to the end.

I have a list of webcomics that I read to completion, and I’d like to share them.  Most of these, I read many years ago, so I won’t remember all the details, but the fact that I can say anything is a testament to their value.  And if you’d like to relive the experience of getting webcomic updates at a trickle pace, I recommend Comic Rocket, which keeps bookmarks, and generates customizable rss feeds.

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Paper: On the Racialization of Asexuality

Every month I repost an article from my archives.  Since this week is Ace Week, I thought it might be appropriate to repost one of my articles about asexuality.  This is a fairly recent article, from 2018, summarizing an academic paper from 2014.

I borrowed a copy of Asexualities: Feminist and Queer Perspectives, which is an anthology of scholarly articles published in 2014.  Sennkestra wanted to write summaries of each chapter, but ran out of time, so now I’m doing that.  For the first chapter, I selected “On the Racialization of Asexuality“, by Ianna Hawkins Owen.  You might remember the author from our interview with her several years ago.

In the introduction, Owen says,

Many authors have claimed, in one way or another, that “little or no” scholarly attention has been directed to asexuality in humans prior to the twenty-first century.  In response to such observations, I offer that asexuality as a concept has long been invoked in the study of race.

So what you can expect from this article, is the reinterpretation of historical images and ideas as “asexual”.  Now, this is something that ace activists commonly complain about in  academic approaches to asexuality: using overly broad definitions of asexuality in order to include historical examples that at best are irrelevant to the modern day, and at worst are basically stereotypes.

But this is different!  Owen writes about historical stereotypes and misunderstandings of asexuality, and explicitly describes them as such.  Then she shows evidence that these misunderstandings still influence reactions to asexuality today.

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Cancel culture and celebrity worship

“Cancel culture” is an alleged pattern in progressive spaces, wherein people boycott the work of someone who is said to have done something problematic. For a mainstream perspective on cancel culture, I suggest The New York Times, and for a perspective more critical of the concept, I suggest The New Republic.

I won’t review all the arguments surrounding “cancel culture”, but will draw a comparison to the adjacent concept of “callout culture”. Callout culture is also an alleged pattern in progressive spaces, but instead of boycotting problematic people, it was about the harassment of problematic people. Callout culture was extensively discussed circa 2015, when I made a linkspam about it. My feelings about it were mixed at best.

Whatever my feelings about “callout culture”, I feel that “cancel culture” is simply an inferior concept. Compared to harassment, boycotts are less obviously bad, and obviously less bad.

Furthermore, where the target of harassment could be anyone, the target of “cancellation” is almost always cultural creators who are very popular and successful. Their supposed punishment, is that they become less popular and successful–and yet they are still more popular and successful than either I or most of my readers. “Cancel culture” completely centers the top 1% of cultural creators. It is, essentially, a complaint that the gods among us are sometimes granted slightly shorter pedestals.
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Link Roundup: September 2019

Announcement: I’m taking a blogging break.  I’m doing a thing for the next two months, and I’ll be around but I don’t know how busy I’ll be.  When I return depends on how busy I am.

Plug: The weird world of asexuality Google Alerts.  It’s just an entertaining list of the weirdest articles I’ve found mentioning asexuality.

Men | ContraPoints (video) – Natalie talks about the need for a men’s movement that is actually good.  TBH I’m not keen on the specific content of the video, but it’s at least a decent conversation starter, and the inspiration for a few recent blog posts.  I also created a “male feminism” category to collect my writings on the subject.

The part I’m not keen on is the large emphasis placed on Natalie’s personal experiences.  Yes it’s good to recognize the special insight that trans people have into comparisons between gendered experiences, but I’ve definitely heard trans experiences which were diametrically opposite to hers.  I also have to say that I have never felt that people were scared of me, and I would absolutely hate it if anyone complimented my appearance on the street.  She’s clearly just sharing her personal experiences, but I feel the narrowness detracts from the video.

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Towards a harmless masculinity

“Toxic masculinity” refers to harmful forms of masculine expression, such as violence, aggression, aloofness, and the policing of other men’s masculinity.

Here, “toxic” is a restrictive adjective, which is to say that “toxic masculinity” refers to the subset of masculinity that is toxic; it does not mean that all masculinity is toxic.  Nonetheless, this is a common point of confusion, perhaps because there’s little visible discussion of what might constitute non-toxic masculinity.

So I’d like to explain my ideas about what non-toxic masculinity should look like, on an abstract level.  An outline:

  1. Toxic masculinity should be contrasted with “harmless masculinity”, not “virtuous masculinity”.
  2. Harmless masculinity is mostly a matter of aesthetics.
  3. Masculine aesthetics can also be toxic, but I argue that they are not necessarily so.

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Origami: Orthogonal maze

it's not really a maze, since there's no clear entrance or exit

Orthogonal Maze, designed by Erik Demaine, Martin Demaine, and Jason Ku

Okay, so it’s not much of a maze, but you know, it could be.  There are detailed instructions on how to fold any orthogonal maze, and even a web-app that will generate crease patterns for you.  I gave it a go, with a small (15cm) square of paper.  I wasn’t going to manage much of a maze with this size, so I just made something symmetric instead.

My impression is: it’s hard!  I’m not confident I would be able to fold a larger maze by this method.  The issue is that some of the maze components are really difficult to fold, and some of the others pull apart too easily.  I think if I wanted to fold something larger, I’d try to workshop the design a little more, or find a different method.  But I also made this years ago, so maybe if I tried again I would be better at it.

What is a “positive male role model”?

On the subject of how feminism can do better to help men, one suggestion I’ve heard many times, is that we need to provide better role models for men.

Honest question: what does that even mean? I don’t understand what “role model” is, why I would want one, or how it would solve anything.  To me, “Who are your role models?” is a writing prompt they give you in elementary school, which was endlessly frustrating and never made the least bit of sense.

My frustration is compounded when people go on to suggest specific celebrities to be role models.  For example, “Terry Crews is a great guy, and a great model for 21st century masculinity.”  So, I know Terry Crews as someone who has done work against sexual violence, but that doesn’t make him a role model to me.  I’m confused about how that would even work.  Are you suggesting that I follow news about Terry Crews and imitate what little I can glean of his viewpoints and habits?  The solution to the crisis of masculinity is… more celebrity news?  Color me skeptical.

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