Posts tagged with "social justice" - Faerye Net 2013-07-24T21:37:25+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Don't yuck my yum: it's all I've got 2013-07-24T21:37:25+00:00 2013-07-24T21:41:05+00:00 <p>I&#8217;ve been thinking about this <a href="" target="links">Zefrank</a> video, the last few days: <a href="" target="links">&#8220;Don&#8217;t Yuck My Yum&#8221;</a>.</p> <blockquote>&#8220;And the Yum getting Yucked is when you like something harmless &#8212; and &#8216;harmless&#8217; is the trick here and leads to my confusion &#8212; when you like something harmless and someone tells you to stop liking it.&#8221;</blockquote> <p>This is, I am sure we&#8217;re aware, absolutely endemic to fandom. <em>That</em> version of the show is inferior to <em>this</em> and here&#8217;s why, I could write a whole book of reasons &#8212; that show was ruined when <em>that</em> person joined the creative team &#8212; why do you like that movie, it&#8217;s so <em>stupid</em>? Tearing down each other&#8217;s likes seems to be fandom&#8217;s favorite sport (too bad, Quidditch is way more fun to watch.) I have very, very, very much been guilty of this, and I&#8217;m sure I will be again, despite any good intentions I enshrine in this blog post. I hope thinking through the implications for this post will keep me on the straight and narrow.</p> <p>I do think it&#8217;s worth a sidebar here: I, like Zefrank, emphasize &#8216;harmless&#8217; here. I keep meaning to write a blog post about consuming and loving media that contains retrogressive tropes and attitudes (spoiler: all media does) and I do definitely advocate talking about that stuff &#8212; criticizing. But there&#8217;s a difference between saying &#8220;this is harmful, we should talk about that&#8221; and &#8220;that thing you like is trash.&#8221; It&#8217;s the difference between saying &#8220;Really? You spend time smelling glue? That&#8217;s&#8230;not really healthy. Let&#8217;s google up why.&#8221; and saying &#8220;Really? You like <em>papayas</em>? But they taste like <em>vomit</em>, and now I&#8217;m going to describe how disgusting they are in detail for like ten minutes.&#8221;</p> <p>Good training for this sort of differentiation is, I think, disliking something terribly popular. When you hate <em>That Space Show Series 4</em>, and so do 75% of <em>That Space Show</em> fans, it&#8217;s really easy to get going on a rhetorical rampage, since you&#8217;ll almost always have backup and a cheering section. When you completely fail to grasp the appeal of <em>Mr. Popular&#8217;s Space Adventures</em>, you soon learn that actually, the fact that you don&#8217;t like Mr. Popular isn&#8217;t very interesting, doesn&#8217;t contribute to the conversation, and is best served by you avoiding Mr. Popular topics entirely.</p> <p>And the point of this post: there&#8217;s one sphere where I think this ability, to suppress the inner grognard whose <span class="caps">SAY</span> <span class="caps">MUST</span> BE <span class="caps">HAD</span>, to skate gracefully away from the target instead of casting Internet Fireball, is particularly important. Characters of underrepresented stripes. Recent internet commentary on a character I really really liked reminded me of the horror of <a href="" target="links">having to argue Princess Leia is awesome</a>. This was in the aftermath of a post about <a href="" target="links">poor female representation in Episode <span class="caps">III</span></a> where I wrote &#8220;I love Princess Leia. She’s one of the most important fictional characters in my life — probably the most.&#8221;</p> <p>People, I have a bracelet with the letters &#8220;<span class="caps">WWLD</span>&#8221; on it. I made that bracelet, myself. As an adult. To remind me to be awesome. When you tell me Princess Leia is a shrill bitch, you tell me my best self is a shrill bitch. When you tell me she&#8217;s unimportant, you tell me I can never be important. When you try to talk me out of loving her, you are trying to talk me out of loving myself. Because I have been identifying with her since before I knew your name. (Guaranteed: anyone I knew before age 2 wouldn&#8217;t pull that shit.)</p> <p>We live on stories, we humans. We eat them and digest them and turn them into muscles and bone. We build ourselves out of what we see, and when we don&#8217;t see enough of the people like ourselves, we resort to writing it ourselves. (See: a certain subset of fanfic.) If there aren&#8217;t characters quite like us, we distort what is there until it&#8217;s enough like us to go on. If the only character like us barely gets any lines, maybe we imagine she or he or they have a huge important story behind the scenes, if only you knew.</p> <p>And having characters be like us is a form of privilege. I know that&#8217;s a fighting word in fandom these days, but it is. If you are a straight white cis dude, you have a million stories to identify with. You don&#8217;t like Indiana Jones? Try Luke Skywalker. Or Bruce Wayne. Or Jason Bourne. Or Jack Ryan. Or Harry Potter. Or Jack Aubrey. If you feel intimidated by hypercompetence, there are heroic everymen or sweet bumbling accidental heroes. If you got picked on in high school, there are the nerds made good, through genius, financial success or superpowers. There are shy heroes, chatty heroes, bookish ones and brash ones for you. This is awesome, and wonderful, and I&#8217;m so glad you have those stories. I love many of them too, even though I can&#8217;t inhabit them the same way<sup class="footnote" id="fnr1"><a href="#fn1">1</a></sup>.</p> <p>I have fewer stories. I go to an action/adventure movie praying I will like the love interest, because usually &#8216;heroine&#8217; is an exaggeration. And&#8230;here&#8217;s the thing. <b>She&#8217;s all I&#8217;ve got</b>. You&#8217;ve heard of the <a href="" target="links">Smurfette principle</a>? There is only one girl. If it&#8217;s a team, she doesn&#8217;t even need her own identity, cuz she has &#8216;girl&#8217;! If I am watching a mainstream adventure/heroic narrative, and it&#8217;s not by Joss Whedon (or is <em>Avengers</em>) that girl is almost always the only one<sup class="footnote" id="fnr2"><a href="#fn2">2</a></sup>. The Main Hero, the Deadly One, the Funny One&#8230;all dudes. And when that girl, that only girl in the world, is smart, self-reliant, opinionated, and a damn good shot with a blaster? I love her forever, for rewarding my optimism, for giving me a story I can make part of me without pain and adjustment.</p> <p>I&#8217;m a grownup now, and it&#8217;s not going to give me much of a skinned knee if you hate my heroines (though, you know, shocking bad form, see above). But this world is full of girls and young women, and those characters they love aren&#8217;t just a yum you&#8217;re yucking: they&#8217;re good, nourishing food they need to grow strong<sup class="footnote" id="fnr3"><a href="#fn3">3</a></sup>. And kids of color, gay kids, trans kids, have even fewer heroes to love, fewer stories to fold into themselves. Let the kids eat. Don&#8217;t tell that girl Katniss sucks. Don&#8217;t tell that black kid Miles Morales is the worst Spider-Man ever. Don&#8217;t take the food out of their hands because <em>you</em> don&#8217;t like it. You don&#8217;t decide how to feed their hunger. They do.</p> <p class="footnote" id="fn1"><a href="#fnr1"><sup>1</sup></a> Let&#8217;s not get too far into literary theory here. Yes, I can sometimes inhabit a male character. But there&#8217;s often a rude awakening. &#8220;Again if one is a woman one is often surprised by a sudden splitting off of consciousness, say in walking down Whitehall, when from being the natural inheritor of that civilisation, she becomes, on the contrary, outside of it, alien and critical.&#8221; &#8211; Virginia Woolf, <em>A Room of One&#8217;s Own</em>.</p> <p class="footnote" id="fn2"><a href="#fnr2"><sup>2</sup></a> Reasonable people can differ on whether <em>Xena</em> is mainstream. But there are of course more exceptions covered by that &#8216;usually&#8217;. I don&#8217;t think I actually wept with grateful joy when Toph joined the hero group on <em>Last Airbender</em> but I think I danced. Representation makes people happy. And lack of it makes them unhappy: I remember a heartbreaking story of a six-year-old <em>Last Airbender</em> fan who went to the live action movie and <em>bawled</em> because Katara wasn&#8217;t brown like her anymore.</p> <p class="footnote" id="fn3"><a href="#fnr3"><sup>3</sup></a> Even when you don&#8217;t think it&#8217;s good for them, try to be delicate, encourage critical thinking, and <em>listen</em>: I have fought down my opinions and listened to a young woman&#8217;s reasons for loving Bella Swan, and gods help me, I learned something.</p> Letter to the Beaverton School District 2010-10-05T12:45:56+00:00 2010-10-05T12:46:32+00:00 <p>As <a href="" target="links">discussed yesterday</a>, here is the letter I am sending to the Beaverton School District Superintendent.</p> <blockquote>October 4, 2010<br /> <br /> Superintendent Jerome Colonna<br /> Beaverton School District<br /> 16550 SW Merlo Road<br /> Beaverton OR 97006<br /> <br /> Dear Superintendent Colonna:<br /> I was troubled to read yesterday about the reassignment of student teacher Seth Stambaugh after he responded honestly to a child’s question about his marital status and admitted that he was gay.<br /> <br /> I attended Beaverton School District schools myself for seven years, and my sister graduated from Aloha High School. My mother was trained as a teacher and many of her friends taught or administrated in the Beaverton district. I care deeply about the district, and I was very disappointed to find out that the district in this case was Beaverton.<br /> <br /> I know that there is more pressure on public schools now than ever. It must be tempting in a case like Mr. Stambaugh’s to assuage a parent’s concerns, especially when Mr. Stambaugh is only a student teacher, not an employee. But I would urge you to overturn the decision in this case, or at least formulate a new policy that would protect other gay teachers from this situation: from being forced to deny who they are or lose their jobs.<br /> <br /> What Mr. Stambaugh said was not “inappropriate.” We allow, if not expect, heterosexual teachers to talk about their personal lives. I could probably tell you the marital status of each homeroom teacher who taught me in Beaverton School District elementary schools. By making the honest answer to a child’s question about Mr. Stambaugh’s marital status “inappropriate,” the District is supporting a narrow view of homosexual citizens, one that says everything they do is “sexual”. If there’s something inherently inappropriate about disclosing your marital status, then why were my <span class="caps">BSD</span> teachers overwhelmingly “Miss” and “Mrs.” rather than “Ms.”?<br /> <br /> By dignifying this parent’s concerns and reassigning Mr. Stambaugh, the district is sending a clear message. That message is that homosexuals do not belong in school, that their very identity is inappropriate. This message is not only being sent to Mr. Stambaugh, to the parents and community: it is being sent to the children. Believe me, they will understand. And when some of those children realize that they themselves are gay or bisexual, they will remember. <br /> <br /> In the light of America’s ongoing epidemic of anti-gay bullying and suicides by gay students, perhaps the Beaverton School District should reassess its policies about the discussion or avowal of homosexual identity. Perhaps Beaverton School District students would be better off knowing that gay children and teenagers don’t disappear, or have to hide, or have to leave the public sphere because they are inherently “inappropriate.” I think they could only benefit from knowing such students can grow up into public-spirited, well educated, unashamed adults like Mr. Stambaugh.<br /> <br /> Sincerely,<br /> <br /> <br /> Felicity Shoulders<br /> Former student of Elmonica and Errol Hassell Elementary Schools and Mountain View Intermediate</blockquote> On making a difference 2010-10-04T17:15:01+00:00 2010-10-04T17:15:57+00:00 <p>I <a href="" target="links">tweeted</a> yesterday about a <a href="" target="links">student teacher being reassigned for admitting he&#8217;s gay</a>. It&#8217;s a story that came to my attention <a href="" target="links">through my <span class="caps">RSS</span> reader</a> but, sadly, is local: the district where this student teacher was originally assigned is the one where I went to elementary school.</p> <p>I wrote a letter yesterday, planning to send it to the Superintendent and post it here, but an attack of cynicism shook that intention. There&#8217;s a lot of easy, feel-good (re)activism that goes on here on the interwebs. You submit your name for an online petition, retweet something, and ta-da! You are an activist! Writing one letter is sort of the same thing: drive-by activism. It&#8217;s shallow, brief, and perhaps accomplishes little but puffing up the letter-writer. Some might say one person picking up a pebble, repeated many times, will move a mountain; but it&#8217;s easier to find historical examples of dedicated mountain-movers pushing boulders over years and decades.</p> <p>But on the other hand, this news story isn&#8217;t coming from another state or another country, the vast hinterlands of Elsewhere that filter through webpages and <span class="caps">RSS</span> feeds into our consciousness. This is where I grew up. This district, thanks to the execrable <a href="" target="links">Measure 5</a> (which my family campaigned against while I was matriculating in that school district, and which is why I ultimately left), is underwritten by Portland&#8217;s tax dollar as well as Beaverton&#8217;s.</p> <p>I&#8217;m not endorsing a proximal approach to morality and politics in general, since all too often that means a cozy sort of privileged insulation. But in this case I think it&#8217;s reasonable: perhaps I can&#8217;t make a difference in every case of homophobic discrimination in the world, or even in America, without devoting my life to it. But this is my neighborhood, this is my home. If I <em>don&#8217;t</em> speak out, I&#8217;m letting this be part of my home without protest: my silence says this discrimination is acceptable. (Just like not voting at all is an extra-effective way of voting down taxes and ruining our schools! That&#8217;s a little <a href="">Measure 47</a> joke for the locals.)</p> <p>Perhaps I look a little foolish, and perhaps I&#8217;m an armchair activist. But I&#8217;m printing out my letter, and I&#8217;ll post it here tomorrow. Because this is where I live, and because <span class="caps">LGBT</span> people live here too.</p> Maleness is the human default 2008-07-29T08:01:26+00:00 2008-07-29T08:02:13+00:00 <p>This may cover an idea very familiar to some readers, but I want to refer to it in an upcoming post, so I here we are.</p> <p>This is one of the unspoken assumptions of our civilization, and one on which a lot of sexism is founded. It&#8217;s so fundamental you might say we inhale it with our first breath, or at least learn it with language. I was brought up by strident anti-sexists, but I learned this principle anyway: men are &#8216;normal&#8217;. Women are &#8216;other&#8217;. I even, as a child, assigned a certain logic to it: Adam first. Eve out of Adam.</p> <p>So what&#8217;s my point here? My point is that there isn&#8217;t actually any logic to this societal assumption (in the absence of religious belief). Men and women are just two human possibilities, neither more natural or &#8216;regular&#8217; than the other. But it permeates our culture: I&#8217;ve heard of medical receptionists whose software is hardwired to always say &#8216;M&#8217; under patient gender unless they manually enter &#8216;F&#8217; (in ob-gyn&#8217;s offices, this is apparently the cause of much grousing). Men&#8217;s products are just &#8220;The Amazing Foo!&#8221; whereas women get &#8220;The Foo <em>for Her</em>&#8221;. Men play fooball, women play women&#8217;s fooball. T-shirt sizes are assumed to be men&#8217;s unless stated to be women&#8217;s. Babies are <a href="" target="links">assumed to be male</a> unless frilled and bowed. Most video games feature male protagonists, and protagonists (and characters in general) in <a href="" target="links">movies and TV</a> are overwhelmingly male.</p> <p>This is a hard slant for many men to notice, I assume because most of us would guess we&#8217;re biased to consider ourselves &#8216;normal&#8217;. Just as a white person might take a long time to pick up on the overwhelming white normalcy in advertising and media, it&#8217;s hard to notice as odd what seems natural from your viewpoint. But women, often subconsciously, adjust to the world which has been written, made and tailored for men. There&#8217;s a whole arm of literary theory about the way women identify specifically with male characters after they&#8217;ve been trained by years of literature and media to do so. I think Virginia Woolf&#8217;s portrait of this dual consciousness in <em>A Room of One&#8217;s Own</em> captures it beautifully:<br /> <blockquote>Again if one is a woman one is often surprised by a sudden splitting off of consciousness, say in walking down Whitehall [stately heart of London], when from being the natural inheritor of that civilisation, she becomes, on the contrary, outside of it, alien and critical.</p> </blockquote> <p>I am not an expert in literary theory, or in gender studies, but I think this simple idea about the world is an important one to consider&#8230;and, as I said, a necessary prelude to a future (geekier) blog post.</p> Hate crimes 2006-10-02T17:18:59+00:00 2008-05-30T13:53:02+00:00 <p>For a while now, I&#8217;ve been struggling with the concept of &#8216;hate crimes,&#8217; as <a href="" target="links">used in American law</a>. Part of my problem is described in the linked wikipedia article &mdash; it&#8217;s one of the areas of jurisprudence which gets most involved with the mindset of the criminal &mdash; not just whether he* planned the murder or knew what he was doing, but <em>why</em> he did it. It&#8217;s a fraught question, because it is nebulous and requires the court to ultimately know the killer&#8217;s motives, perhaps better than he does himself. There is also the issue of thoughtcrime &mdash; most of us don&#8217;t like the prospect of being prosecuted for thoughts, even if those thoughts are, in the case of hate crimes, pretty vile.</p> <p>That, I don&#8217;t think, is quite enough to throw out the concept of &#8216;hate crime&#8217; as an aggravating factor or separate charge entirely. But one thing I find particularly problematic about the &#8216;hate crime&#8217; label is inconsistencies in how it is deployed. For one thing, I think the legal defense <a href="" target="links">&#8220;gay panic&#8221;</a> is pretty much an admission of hate crime, not a defense against it, but that&#8217;s not my main point here. My main point is that certain groups aren&#8217;t protected. Particularly, women.</p> <p>Until today, this thought process of mine about hate crimes and women ended: &#8220;Aren&#8217;t most serial killers motivated by an irrational hatred of women? Why the hell aren&#8217;t <em>they</em> being prosecuted for hate crimes?&#8221; Well, today we have a new standard: <a href="" target="links">A gunman enters a school, has all the boys leave, and starts shooting girls</a>. (Not to be confused with the Colorado school shooting/hostage crisis last week, where the gunman <a href="" target="links">chose certain (mostly blonde) girls as hostages and sexually assaulted them</a>.) Of course, the gunmen in both cases are dead. That&#8217;s pretty much par for this particular course. So we won&#8217;t find out if any DA would consider prosecuting this as a hate crime. But I have a feeling that if the killer had let all the white schoolchildren out of a mixed-race classroom and started shooting at the remaining children, there would be no question.</p> <p>Should &#8216;hate crime&#8217; legislation be used to prosecute such a criminal, if we manage to catch one alive? Or is the entire &#8216;hate crime&#8217; designation too nebulous to remain in the body of American law? I am most certainly not a lawyer, and I really don&#8217;t know. It all just makes me tired and sad. What do you think, reader?</P> <p><small>* I use the male pronoun throughout. At first, I used &#8216;he/she&#8217;, but by the time I got to &#8216;himself/herself&#8217;, it had become ridiculous. Not all criminals are male, not all killers are male. I am adopting &#8216;he&#8217; for ease of use.</small></p>