Posts tagged with "society" - Faerye Net 2012-09-10T12:53:14+00:00 Felicity Shoulders I am not a Puzzle Box 2012-09-10T12:53:14+00:00 2012-09-16T22:50:43+00:00 <h2>Background</h2> <p>There&#8217;s been a lot of talk recently about sexual harassment at spec fic conventions, and in fandom generally. <a href="" target="links">A case of harassment at Readercon and mishandling of it</a> brought this discussion up from a simmer. There have been amazing related posts like Captain Awkward&#8217;s <a href="" target="links">response to two letters about creepy acquaintances</a>, which did a great job of explaining the links between seemingly innocuous creepiness and obvious sexual threat. Another great one was John Scalzi&#8217;s <a href="" target="links">Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping</a>, which tried to address the defensiveness from many male geeks on the topic and show that not being creepy isn&#8217;t rocket science. That defensiveness is predictable: it&#8217;s a dynamic I, and probably most geek feminists, are familiar with.</p> <p>This is all happening against a backdrop of gender- and race-fail in fandom, backlash against women in fandom (have you heard of <a href="" target="links">&#8220;fake geek girls&#8221;</a>?) and of course, the charming War on Women in the wider world.</p> <h2>Metaphor</h2> <p>A long time ago, I used to hang out on a discussion forum for gamers, in the general geekery section. There were recurring discussions about geek gender relations &#8212; about straight male geeks&#8217; sexual frustrations, and about female geeks&#8217; profound discomfort in many situations. In short, the same topic online fandom is mulling over now, with the same cast of characters and list of motivations and conflicts.</p> <p>This is the metaphor I came up with then, to explain why I (and other women) get creeped out, and how behavior some men think is innocuous seems creepy or even threatening to the recipient:</p> <center><strong>Some men see women as puzzle boxes.</strong></center> <p>As far as they&#8217;re concerned, inside every woman, there&#8217;s a tasty Sex Treat&trade;, and there&#8217;s <em>some way</em> to get it out. Some combination of words, of behaviors on the man&#8217;s part, some situation will pop that box open and <em>the treat will be his!</em></p> <p>Like every belief, this one has implications and consequences. A puzzler may continue to try and try and try to get a woman to sleep with him, testing different approaches and permutations, sure that the perfect solution exists &#8212; when in fact, he&#8217;s just being terrifyingly persistent in hitting on someone who he&#8217;s already completely alienated. He may learn generalized techniques from pickup artist websites or books, which make perfect sense to him because they use the same sort of puzzle/treat logic &#8212; and then find that real women he interacts with don&#8217;t respond as he anticipated, or even get offended, when he tries out his new techniques. A frustrated puzzler may stay in a platonic relationship with a woman hoping to stumble onto a way to get the treat, when he isn&#8217;t interested in the friendship for its own sake.</p> <p>And here&#8217;s the thing. While she may not know what to call it, a woman can often sense that a man believes her to be a puzzle box. He&#8217;s breaking Rule #4 in <a href="" target="links">Scalzi&#8217;s post</a>, &#8220;Acknowledge that other people do not exist just for your amusement/interest/desire/use.&#8221; He is talking to her, but <em>thinking</em> about how to get her Sex Treat&trade;.</p> <p>There are two big problems with the Puzzle Box model of woman. The first one you can probably guess, and I&#8217;ve just implied it when I note that women can tell a man&#8217;s thinking of them that way:</p> <center><strong>Women are people, not puzzle boxes.</strong></center> <p>Women don&#8217;t like being treated as interchangeable, or as the means to an end, or an obstacle in the way of someone&#8217;s desire, any more than anyone else would. Most puzzler-types would scoff at the idea that they&#8217;re treating women as interchangeable, but no, the fact that you value the sex treat or the victory more highly if the box has an attractive exterior, or if it hadn&#8217;t been opened before, or if it was particularly tricky, isn&#8217;t flattering. You are treating a sentient individual as an instance of a game. It&#8217;s disgusting.</p> <p>The second problem is a little more subtle, but its power is why I like this metaphor so much (besides the precise way it describes the feeling I get when a guy is talking to me but his brain is obviously listening to imagined tumblers in my locking mechanism).</p> <center><strong>Sex is not an item.</strong></center> <p>Sex is not a treat, it&#8217;s not a prize: it&#8217;s an activity people do <em>together</em>. When a man (or anyone else) focuses on it as an object to win, he is constructing his sexual world in a flawed and unethical way. If all that matters is that he <em>wins</em>, that he finds a way of <em>getting that treat out of that woman</em>, then the quality of her consent doesn&#8217;t matter to him.</p> <p>I&#8217;m not trying to be hyperbolic here, and I&#8217;m not trying to be vituperative: but logically, the Puzzle Box approach is on a continuum with rape. Each puzzler has a toolbox they use to approach a new puzzle box. One has flattery, pokes at self-esteem, dares, intense eye contact. One also uses <a href="" target="links">pushing of physical boundaries</a>, false teaming, buying her a couple of drinks, telling her she&#8217;s leading him on and owes him sex. One also uses the implied threat of his large and imposing frame, isolating her, getting her drunk. One also uses drugs, and social threat, and his strength and greater weight&#8230; You get the picture.</p> <p>When a woman senses a man sees her as a puzzle box, <em>she does not know</em> if he is a harmless guy with some stupid notions, or a self-taught pickup artist steeped in internet misogyny but who has a rudimentary ethical compass, or a guy who will rape her if he has plausible deniability but not otherwise, or <a href="" target="links">that self-aware serial rapist who posted on Reddit</a>.</p> <p>She doesn&#8217;t know whether he&#8217;s just going to annoy her with a constant attempt to load his save-game and retry with a bunch of corny lines and pushy suggestions; or stalk her on the internet trying to figure out the cheat code to open her pants; or grope her in an attempt to break her boundaries; or rape her. She does not know what he&#8217;s willing to do to get the treat. All she knows is that he sees her as an obstacle and her sex as an object. And why the fuck would she want to spend any time with him, even if he&#8217;s harmless, knowing that?</p> <h2>Takeaway</h2> <p>If you&#8217;re reading this and you have a puzzle box mentality, it doesn&#8217;t mean you&#8217;re a bad person. I&#8217;m not saying you&#8217;re a rapist when I say this mentality is part of a continuum with rape &#8212; I&#8217;m saying you&#8217;re part of a society which enables and includes rape. We all are. We don&#8217;t grow to adulthood in individual stasis boxes, creating all our attitudes ourselves. The idea of women as puzzle boxes &#8212; which is related to the ideas that women don&#8217;t actually want sex and just have to regulate men&#8217;s access to it, and to the idea of women as the sex class, the people whose bodies <em>carry</em> sex and <em>mean</em> sex &#8212; is embedded deep in our culture.</p> <p>Stop thinking about sex as a prize. Start thinking about it as something fun you&#8217;re doing with someone else who wants to have fun too. Don&#8217;t think of consent as something you can win either &#8212; or as a lid you&#8217;ve managed to get open. Consent should be desire and enthusiasm. Consent should be active and joyful. <a href="" target="links">It isn&#8217;t complicated.</a> You&#8217;re not looking for a cheat code, or a combination, or a series of moves that reveal the shortest way to the end of the puzzle. You&#8217;re looking for a human who wants to have fun with you &#8212; which actually makes this <em>way easier</em> because you can have fun with people before sex <em>ever comes up</em>, so you don&#8217;t even have to focus on sex as a goal. Fun is your goal &#8212; your fun and other people&#8217;s, which can be mutual and amazing!</p> <p>I think most of us would rather live in a world of people than of puzzle boxes, anyway.</p> <p><strong>Edited 9/16 to add:</strong> <em>Comments on this piece are now closed due to the time constraints of my offline life. Thank you to everyone who contributed and shared!</em></p> The 5 Stages of Street Harassment 2012-07-18T21:08:58+00:00 2012-07-18T21:09:40+00:00 <p><strong>1. Denial.</strong> Wait, did someone just say &#8220;<span class="caps">PROSTITUTE</span>!&#8221;? Was that the word? Was it that guy? Was it to me? No, surely I misheard. Let me just listen to the extremely disturbing replay in my head a bit, I&#8217;m sure it wasn&#8217;t that. Or to me. Shit, it really was.</p> <p><strong>2. Fleeing.</strong> Doooon&#8217;t look over your shoulder, fast fast walky walky fast, car around the corner, no one following me, it&#8217;s just nerves anyway. It&#8217;s a beautiful day, you&#8217;re no less safe just because someone reminded you it&#8217;s an ugly world.</p> <p><strong>3. Victim-blaming.</strong> Holy shit, is my bra showing? No, it isn&#8217;t. Also, what the what, Felicity, you&#8217;re a feminist. Cut that out. It&#8217;s about him, not you. [Ed: I bet you want to know what I was wearing. I would too. Because it&#8217;s how we make sense out of this crap, and unfortunately, shift the blame.]</p> <p><strong>4. Stubbornness.</strong> Stop, stop, <em>stop</em> looking in the mirror and checking your outfit for sluttiness, Felicity. You&#8217;re a feminist. You know that this is about that dude and his feelings about women, and the Patriarchy and its inability to allow women to just <em>be</em>, summer clothes and all, without carrying the signification of &#8220;<span class="caps">SEX</span>&#8221; around their necks like a burden and target. That guy is an enforcer. A creepy, crunkle-faced enforcer who wants you to be ashamed of wearing a tank top on a sunny day. He doesn&#8217;t get to win.</p> <p><strong>5. Blog fodder.</strong> Just another lovely reminder, folks! Patriarchy Makes Every Day Special!</p> 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> Zeitgeist in the machine 2010-06-13T00:04:57+00:00 2010-06-13T00:48:55+00:00 <p>You know how you&#8217;ve never heard of something, and then you hear about it seven times in one week? I used to think it was largely psychological &#8212; you wouldn&#8217;t have noticed the extra instances until you had a context and a reason to remark them. (In fact, there&#8217;s a psychological term for this impression: the <a href="" target="links">Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon</a>, a learned psychologist informs me.) But I think it&#8217;s also partly real, an effect of zeitgeist, critical mass of relevance. Or as we now say, of something being <a href="" target="links">&#8220;trending&#8221;</a>.</p> <p>I had an interesting experience along these lines recently. I had seen the cover of <a href="" target="links">Janelle Monáe</a>&#8216;s first album <a href="" target="links"><em>The ArchAndroid</em></a>, but I hadn&#8217;t really registered it until I saw a link round-up on <a href="" target="links">Racialicious</a> with two links to blog posts about her, one of which had an embedded video. Long story short, I ended up buying both <em>ArchAndroid</em> and her earlier mini-album and loving both. (While I mostly use this as an example, I do recommend checking her out: her voice is as versatile as her songwriting talent, and her album is catchy but smart, eclectic but cohesive.) I <a href="">tweeted about it</a>. This was June 7.</p> <p>On June 9, I noticed her <a href="" target="links">uh, imprint</a> had retweeted my tweet, as they do most mentions of her, and that their most recent retweets mentioned that her name was trending. And now <a href="" target="links">she&#8217;s showing up other places</a> I wouldn&#8217;t have expected. The weird part here is that her album came out <strong>May 18</strong>, and it&#8217;s getting this body of attention now. One of the original two articles I read was complaining that no one was noticing her album &#8212; that it didn&#8217;t have &#8216;buzz&#8217;. A week later, I think that&#8217;s no longer the case. And that&#8217;s what is so odd about trending topics. There is now a metric for buzz.</p> <p>It used to be that zeitgeist lived up to its ethereal name (&#8216;geist&#8217; is literally &#8216;spirit&#8217;), but now we have to some extent bottled that genie. As we analyze, capture, track and archive more and more about our lives &#8212; where we go, who we like, what we watch and listen to &#8212; there will probably be other moments like this, when the intangible becomes suddenly concrete. Perhaps some of them will make us nostalgic, but perhaps it&#8217;s a good thing. That blogger complaining that Janelle Monáe didn&#8217;t have buzz was creating buzz. She was one (big) rock hitting more pebbles, and the hillside moved. We can measure this buzz because all of our voices contribute. There&#8217;s something charmingly democratic about it, even if it means the world is that much more mechanical.</p> How to tell a 28-year-old from a kid (a remedial guide) 2009-02-04T21:20:55+00:00 2009-02-04T21:24:25+00:00 <p>I realize that in our youth-obsessed culture, a twenty-eight year-old (well, 27 and fifty weeks) is expected to giggle with girlish glee when a strange man thinks she&#8217;s young. But there is something in a solicitor saying &#8220;Are your mom and dad at home?&#8221; that gets on my nerves. The feeling that the hipster on the stoop is not part of the reality-based community, perhaps, or the fact that the question clearly dismisses me as a potential source of help to destitute orphans or environmentalists &#8211; dismisses my agency, as it were.</p> <p>Therefore, I offer the following tips, fully cognizant of the fact that they rely on generalizations about what kids and teens are like versus what adults are like. In fact, some of them wouldn&#8217;t have held true for me at 14 (and I do realize I&#8217;m wearing a shirt I already owned at that age.) Regardless, please read on, charitable clipboarders of the world. Read and consider.</p> <p><b>Observe interrupted activity</b>. Is the woman wearing an apron or overalls? Does she have a dust-rag stuck in her pocket, or is her face or shirt covered in flour? Juvenile humans tend to have more success avoiding homely tasks such as cooking or cleaning than do the fully grown specimens, and they less often have specialized chore-clothing for these activities. If there is evidence you have interrupted the subject while reading, does the book appear to be an introductory textbook? A weighty Russian novel? Use your skills of inference.</p> <p><b>Listen to the music.</b> Holst art songs are more likely to belong to a twenty-eight-year-old than to a teenybopper. If it were Beyoncé, I admit that might be a poser. But in general, Miles Davis means adult, Miley Cyrus means pre-teen. Got it?</p> <p><b>Assess bosom size.</b> You heard me. I have it on good authority that heterosexual men are skilled in observing this area without appearing to do so. So use your peripheral vision and your judgment, and remember that while many grown women wear A-cups, not too many eleven-year-olds sport Cs.</p> <p><b>Consider which way you want to err.</b> I have never heard a fourteen-year-old annoyed by being thought to be grown up. I am not the only twenty-something, however, who is annoyed at being written off by people who came around to bother <span class="caps">HER</span> in the first place. Being thought too young to buy alcohol means you look like a young adult; being thought too young to hear a spiel on beach clean-up is a little insulting.</p> <p>Do I really think this blog post will make a lick of difference? No. But I have hereby tried to meet them halfway, and I&#8217;m therefore allowed to indulge in any hijinx I may please in future. Next time I come to the door in an apron and a <span class="caps">BUN</span> (pigtails I can understand, but a <span class="caps">BUN</span>?) and get asked whether my parents are home, there will be sport.</p> Graceful exit 2008-07-28T08:03:10+00:00 2008-07-28T08:05:36+00:00 <blockquote>A long time ago we used to be friends,<br /> but I haven&#8217;t thought of you lately at all&#8230;<br /> <strong>-<a href="" target="links">The Dandy Warhols</a></strong></blockquote> <p>I&#8217;m back on <a href="" target="links">the friend thing</a>.</p> <p>If social networking had a cheesy 50&#8217;s film strip, the narrator would say, &#8220;Never again will you have to wonder what happened to that guy from math class. Never again will you lose track of that one <em>really cool girl.</em>&#8221; It&#8217;s an excellent theory &#8211; as we diffuse across countries and hop oceans, friendships can be preserved, connections strengthened despite distance. You can reconnect with people you thought you&#8217;d lost.</p> <p>But on the other hand&#8230;do you still like each other? You remember drifting out of friendships during high school as your interests and personality changed. How much more have you changed since then? If you still click, that&#8217;s amazing. But maybe that one <em>really cool girl</em> from high school doesn&#8217;t like me anymore. Maybe your drinking buddy from college has changed religions and given up on pop culture. It&#8217;s hard to rule out until you&#8217;ve had a good look at each other&#8217;s Facebook profiles, or until you realize you&#8217;ve been &#8216;networked&#8217; for six months and realizing you haven&#8217;t a word to say. And then there are the people you meet, the new friends, who you don&#8217;t end up seeing again. You move, they transfer schools or break up with your friend, and there they sit on your &#8220;Friend&#8221; list, someone you met twice and liked. Forever.</p> <p>When I am thirty, how many <a href="" target="links">Facebook</a>, <a href="" target="links">goodreads</a>, or <a href="" target="links">Jyte</a> &#8220;friends&#8221; will I have, and how many of them will really want me on their list? But on the other hand, who wants to &#8220;defriend&#8221; someone on Facebook, thus transforming the world&#8217;s most passive communication device into something a bit passive-aggressive?</p> <p>I propose a tapering mechanism. If someone doesn&#8217;t look at my profile, click &#8216;more&#8217; on my book reviews, or otherwise exchange digital high-fives with me for six months, let me fade off their list. Maybe the system can warn them first, ask them quietly if they really want me to go. Not with a plonk but a whisper, I will fall off their friends list, off their updates and off their radar. And if they ever wonder, &#8220;What is up with that weird Felicity girl, anyway?&#8221; they can search for me anytime. They can read my blog, shrug, and move on. We aren&#8217;t friends anymore, and that&#8217;s okay.</p> Respecting your elders 2007-05-11T14:17:36+00:00 2008-05-30T14:02:24+00:00 <p>I&#8217;ve long been locked in a quandary. Due to certain circumstances, I am often on the receiving end of the most appalling rightwing <a href="" target=links">glurge</a>. I know some of you, my friends, have a similar problem. This stuff ranges from the merely insipid to the racist, the sexist, and the appallingly regressive. And whenever I find these things in my inbox, I want to protest. But I never have.</p> <p>Why don&#8217;t I? It&#8217;s partially politeness. It&#8217;s partially an unwillingness to vent the torrent of my spleen on sweet little old people, however wrong-headed. We are taught, after all, to respect our elders. They&#8217;ve lived and suffered and so on and so forth. But isn&#8217;t this just a sort of ageism? If a 30-year-old sent me this, wouldn&#8217;t I feel honor-bound to tell him or her off? Are we really respecting our elders, or are we assuming their brains are atrophied, their ideas are fixed, and they are so intractable that hearing their worldview challenged will harm them?</p> <p> I don&#8217;t think older people are feeble-minded, stupid or inflexible. I know and love a woman who changed her political party in her 70s, after all. So can I in all conscience say that I am respecting these other elders by being dishonest?</p> <p>It&#8217;s a hard question for me, all the harder because if I upset them, I&#8217;m not the only one who&#8217;s going to have to deal with the fallout. I have been trying to deal with it by ignoring and not reading, but occasionally I fail, or I assume something will be innocuous that actually contains a subtextual cylinder of nerve gas. The attitudes and strictures that are being so gleefully embraced and trumpeted are not new. They&#8217;re as old as fear, conformity, and the valuing of comfort over individuality and liberty. They are nestled down deep into psyches and hearts, protected by layers of religion and social convention. There is nothing I can do to budge them or fight them. But don&#8217;t I owe it to myself to protest? Wouldn&#8217;t I like someone to tell the footsoldiers of orthodoxy that we aren&#8217;t all like them? Wouldn&#8217;t I like that someone to be me?</p>