pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
A footnote on the Ginger Snaps thing. If you left that post thinking "man, I want to see werewolves used as a metaphor for something, but I don't want it to be adolescent sexuality, and I want it to be done perfectly.", I cannot recommend Susan Palwick's short story "Gestella" enough. It is about female obsolescence. You can read it in Palwick's anthology The Fate Of Mice, every bit of which is worth reading.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Ginger Snaps is an extended werewolves:puberty/sexuality metaphor. I'm usually annoyed by overt metaphors, but in this case I think it worked, it part because it was so full of context. The relationship between the two leads is wonderfully nuanced right at the outset,* to the point I think you could base a more talky movie on it all by itself. So when menstruation/werewolfization changes it, it actually means something.

Recently I've talked a lot about how comedy can be used to breech people's defensiveness on sensitive topics to get them to hear points of view they otherwise wouldn't. Ginger Snaps does something... similar? opposite? Basically, I can see myself taking someone who was well meaning but clueless and obstinate** and telling them "you remember how Bridget felt when werewolfism led her sister to push her way? Yeah, puberty can do that all on its own, and it feels exactly like that."

Scare wise, it's okay but not astonishing. It started me and scared my hilariously easy to terrify boyfriend. Most of the actors are great, although one of the two leads is either mediocre or has too strong a theater influence. It is not a great sign that I thought this movie came out 15 years before it actually did. And yet, it did some really difficult, important things that very few movies even attempt, and it did them really well. And its mediocrities hew very close to genre standards. So I'm going to say it's definitely worth watching but I hope that 50 years from now it's interesting as an example of where our culture was at the time, rather than a classic.

*It's also got some brilliant examples of how girls use sexuality/fear of sexuality to police each other, which you do not see very often.

**Again, when obstinance costs you your well-meaning card is a tricky subject.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
The idea that women are allowed to feel nervous around any man they choose, and to enforce that feeling by telling him to cease certain behavior or exit the premise, has really taken off in certain sectors of feminism lately. It's about time. Women were operating under an obligation to honor men's feelings first and their own second, and that's terrible.

Whenever this comes up on blogs, there are comments that I read approximately as "look, I see why you're upset, and rape is totally bad. But there are lots of not rapists, and have you considered that they will be hurt when you reject them? Could you maybe not reject anyone unless you're sure they're a rapist?" These people are assholes. But their abundance has led to an unfortunate tendency to dismiss a man's reactions to rejection as whining at best, and predatory at worse.

That's unfair. For an extreme case see "Trayvon Martin and I Ain’t Shit" by Ahmir Thompson, a black musician. Thomas achieved a lot of artistic success and was invited to a lot of elite, mostly-white spaces. He turned down the invitations because he knew his presence would make people uncomfortable and didn't want to/didn't want to see them react to him like that.

I mean, that is a crazy way to live. Seriously, imagine a life in which you think of other people's safety and comfort first, before your own. You're programmed and taught that from the gate. It's like the opposite of entitlement
My friends know that I hate parking lots and elevators, not because they are places that danger could occur, but it's a prime place in which someone of my physical size can be seen as a dangerous element. I wait and wait in cars until I feel it's safe for me to make people feel safe.

You can say that people feel unsafe around Thomas for bad reasons (skin color, size, hair style), and feminists are talking about good reasons (boundary violations), but that's not right. What I want to fight for is specifically the right of people to not have to justify why they don't feel safe around someone, and have that honored without friction. Women are imperfect, and I will not stand to see their rights dependent on their perfection, so that will include bad reasons. But supporting that will inflict hurt on people like Thomas, and that's not right.

Women's feelings of unsafety are legitimate. Thomas's feelings of isolation and dehumanization are also legitimate. Having the right to our feelings does not give us the right to have other people react the way we wish. Which, coincidentally, is what we've been trying to teach creepy men about women: you can want her all you want, but you do not have a right to have that desire welcomed. We're allowed to be obviously creeped out, we have a right for men not to treat us safely even if we are not being nice, but we have no particular right for them to like it.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
No Seriously, What About Teh Menz raises an excellent point about fashion:
Fun fact: while femininity in general is more work than masculinity, not all feminine things are more work than masculine things. For instance, sundresses are often cheaper than blue jeans, just as comfortable (or even more comfortable when it’s hot out) and even less work (you don’t even have to bother with a top!). I suggest that chill girls who are one of the guys and don’t give a crap about their appearances consider working some sundresses into their wardrobe. (Of course, if you have considered it and your answer is ‘I don’t want to,’ no worries. Wear the things you like. All I’m asking is that you consider whether you’d like more things than you currently know you like.) Unfortunately, for the time being, dudes wearing a sundress will be taken as making some kind of Grand Statement about Gender Roles or what-the-fuck-ever. But if you’re in a social situation that means you won’t be criticized for it, try it! The goal here is that feminine things will have an equal place in the I Don’t Give A Fuck About What I Look Like place.

I have two anecdotes and am on strong enough medication I don't feel the need to create a strong narrative flow, so here it goes.

One is a conversation with my friend Andrew. Andrew is a straight, cis, male, who once spent *many* minutes complaining about all the comfortable clothes he couldn't wear without it Becoming A Thing. The ultimate prize was wearing sundresses when it was hot out. Up until that point I only wore skirts or dresses as an excuse to wear bright shiny tights, but he raised some really good points about comfort level, and I upped my sundress ownage significantly over the summer. Bonus: because there are fewer dimensions to worry about, it is significantly easier to find skirts that work with my body shape, relative to shorts. A side effect of this is that I looked a lot more feminine, but it was not the goal.

I had another friend, Sandy. Sandy is a very butch lesbian. If you looked at her hair, you would think "my is that butch." I have very traditionally feminine hair- long, straight, silky. Due to some excellent genes, it takes no work for me to get it this way. Sandy spends orders of magnitude more time and money getting her hair to look butch than I do getting my hair to look feminine.

Okay, third node. Watching Say Yes to the Dress and the Avon Lady in Pink Ribbon Inc, I was struck not only by a certain female archetype. These women are older- 40s and 50s- and wear a lot of makeup. It does not look good, because it looks completely unnatural. What's conveyed is not "I'm pretty" but "I worked very hard." It's a statement about how important she thinks looks are. It also seems to indicate a desire to be or appear to be in control , especially when combined with Lady Politician Helmet Hair.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Squid314 has a really interesting, informative series up on privilege and dating (start here). Commenting on it is weird for me because he is the only person I haven't met in person, whose blog I read, who also reads my blog. There's a range of things that would risk being hijacking, antagonistic, or patronizing if I said them in a comment on his blog, but saying them here seems like talking behind his back knowing I'm going to be overheard. I hate both of those feelings and am hoping I can dodge them by acknowledging them.

One of those things is: the series is very very good and I learned stuff reading it + its comments (where you will occasionally see me). I had objections along the way but I bit my tongue because I wanted to see where it was going, and for once that policy was vindicated, because he acknowledged every argument I was going to make but one in the final post. Go into it expecting an exploration of how an important problem feels from a particular point of view, and you will be well rewarded.

The third post talks about the opposing paints men face when asking a woman out. I think that context plays a bigger role than he allows for (in that post. The position evolves), but I also recognize that context is a German word meaning you're screwed. Teaching/learning context is very, very hard, and it's made worse by fear, which is what you feel when you know there is a ton information you are expected to know but don't and no one will tell you what it is. So to help out, I thought I would share my patent-pending 100% no fail never creepy way to hit on anyone

Write down your number on a scrap of paper, or have a card handy
"Hi, my name is Name. [Specific compliment]. I would love to take you out for a drink some time. If you are interested, here's my number"
Give them the number you have already written down, and walk away.

Let's break this down.

First, you are identifying yourself. That removes a layer of creepiness even if it's only your first name and they have no way of verifying it, because humans are not very bright.

The compliment is the one thing that is there to increase your success rate, rather than decrease creepiness. It is also the only place you can screw this up. "I am really interested in hearing more about this topic you are clearly an expert at" is good (note: only if it's true. Lying is wrong, and if you're turning to me for dating advice, you are not skilled enough anyway). "Those are cool earrings" is okay. Looks in general are risky. "You have lovely eyeballs" is a terrible. Basically, the more control the object of your affection has over what you are complimenting, the better.

Specific is important as well. At this point I am as averse to "you are so smart" as I am to "you are so pretty" because the men who say them are equally likely to be looking for trophies. The final straw was when the "discreet, generous businessman" messaged me on okcupid letting me know he was only interested in "smart, beautiful, intelligent women". That's a tangent, but it has annoyed me for a while and I'm glad to have an excuse to vent.

Then you are clearly stating your intentions. This helps with the asking out because it makes you look confident and secure and straightforward about articulating what you want. Being able to communicate what you want without making it someone else's problem is an attractive skill. And if you do go out, it saves you from spending the entire time wondering if it's a date.

Then you are giving all the power to the recipient of your interest, and making it abundantly clear that it is their decision. Rejecting people is unpleasant, you are showing consideration for their feelings by making it as easy to reject you as possible. As a bonus, this gives you a little more freedom to flirt up until that point, because you are giving them a clear yet no-pressure opportunity to express their disinterest later.

A variant is to give them your number as they are leaving, rather than you. A farmers market vendor used this on me and it was totally fine, because I was leaving and he was clearly stuck in his booth.

"But if I make it easy to reject me, won't I get fewer dates?" Maybe. Probably, although not as fewer as you would think. But don't you deserve a date who likes you enough to take affirmative action to see you?

"But what if they really wanted to call, but lose the number through a series of tragic accidents?" That is a risk. It would suck if you really liked someone and they really liked you and yet you did not go out because their roommate helpfully put their pants through the wash with your number in a pocket. But this is a price you must pay to avoid any chance of being creepy.

And it is *really* hard to be creepy doing this. You can be *mystifying*, and you should probably not use at work or funerals until you have some skill at reading people, but unless you well and truly fuck up the compliment, you can walk away knowing that you did everything right.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Autism and Oughtism has a post about how she feels her son has covered an ever shifting third of the house in invisible red paint. She can't see it, but he can, and he gets very upset when she touches or moves anything he's painted red. It wouldn't be so bad, she could just memorize everything she wasn't allowed to touch, except he keeps painting new things, and sometimes he paints things she really needs to touch at some point, like lightswitches. It was, as you can imagine, incredibly stressful to live with.

Women deal with this, in less obvious forms, a lot. Don't be a slut, but don't be a prude either. Don't be mean, but be a tease. Don't be fat, but don't ever admit to putting any effort into being thin. Don't be a moocher, but don't make more money than your husband. To be fair, the opposing paints are often being applied by different people, but all that means is there's no one person to yell at for the whole mess. The paints are often applied and enforced by other women, not men, which makes almost 0 difference to how frustrating it is.

In the form of "creepy", women finally have gotten their own paint. For once, we don't have to give a powerpoint presentation to justify our feelings, we can just call someone creepy, get the behavior change (or at least sympathy) we want, and move on with our day. Has the paint been used against certain men unfairly? Against men who were not only not safety threats, but obviously not safety threats? For very bad reasons, like race or class or trans-status? And is it being disproportionately applied against people who were already low on the totem poll? Yes. That is human nature. We kick down, and we're not known for surgical use of new tools. That's why we're outsourcing surgery to robots. Additionally, there is genuine ambiguity. Perfect use is an unreasonable expectation, and "you can only have your reasonable request if you've behaved perfectly" is something women hear a lot and are just not in the fucking mood for now that we have our paint. Lastly, sometimes we're using a dirty trick to get a fair outcome.

Mindy Kaling has a story in her book, Is everyone hanging out without me, about going to a photoshoot and finding racks and racks of clothes that were half her size, and one mumu that fit her. The photographer assumed she'd wear the mumu. She used the closely related "I only feel comfortable in" paint to make him more or less destroy a really nice designer gown so it worked on her in the photos.* It was unfair to make the photographer feel like a subway flasher when he hadn't violated any sexual boundaries. On the other hand, Mindy Kaling was the same size she had always been, which is a fairly common size, and it was bullshit of him to bring a bunch of clothes that didn't fit her to an event that was in large part about putting her in clothes. Could she have gone all fat acceptance on him? Sure. But it would have cost a lot of energy, probably wouldn't have worked, and could easily have gotten her a reputation for being difficult, with long term career implications. So she used the one weapon she had that, for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, carried no retaliation risk.

"No retaliation risk" is another way of saying "no way to fight back", and it does suck to have people use weapons you can't fight against. That is why we get so upset about the slut/prude/fat/anorexic/rude/tease/gold-digger/bitch paints. Moreover, in a world that is constantly insisting we justify our feelings, it is really nice to be able to tell my friends "he was creepy" and have it just be understood.

The paint doesn't even always work. Which only makes the overuse issue worse, because we get used to hearing people dismiss the creep label even when it is used against really legitimate targets** and that makes us insensitive to complaints when it genuinely is misused. This is not unique to feminists or women or the creep paint, it's what human beings do.

So, commenter on No Seriously What About Teh Menz: you are correct that creep "is a stronger way of saying “I don’t like that guy” without giving any information about WHY he’s considered a threat". You are simply incorrect in your belief that anyone owes anyone else an explanation for their disinterest.

I am going to preemtively concede that men have a bunch of contradictory paints to cope with too, and that the creep paint feels like it conflicts with some of them (even though I think there's a third way not banned by any paint). I don't believe this changes my argument.

*If I understand correctly, they ripped it open from the back and sewed in several new panels. It would look hideous in person, but photographed well from certain angles.

**Seriously, read that post, men are dismissing their girlfriends complaints about men who sexually assaulted them in front of a witness.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
What is the cost of asking someone out? We claim it to be nothing- "they weren't going out with you before, they weren't going out with you now"- but that is clearly bullshit. I know it looks like humans make up things to be stressed about for no reason, but that turns out to very rarely be the case. The popevopsych* is that the other cave men will know about your rejection and it will lower your social standing, but that doesn't make sense to me either: all the other cave men knew you weren't having sex with her before too.

So what additional information is conveyed by asking? That you are interested, which prevents you from telling the other cave man that she's just not your type. Okay, that's fair, no one likes being vulnerable. But also that you thought you had a good enough shot for it to be worth risking that vulnerability, and you were wrong.

This explanation makes a lot of sense to me, and not just because my friend just had to talk me into asking for something (non-romantic, non-sexual) from someone (who I did not regularly interact with) with the phrase "It's not presumptuous to ask." Human beings do not like it when other human beings cheat the hierarchy. It also explains a lot of stuff that otherwise looks quite ugly, like men cheerfully accepting "I have a boyfriend" but not "I'm not interested." "I'm not interested" doesn't have to mean "you were wrong to ask me out", and it would be a better world if we could decouple those, but it is heavy with that implication. "I have a boyfriend" has no such sting.

Also worth noting, fear of seeming presumptuous is exactly what keeps me from responding to subtle "I'm interested" cues with explicit "I'm not" words. What if he wasn't interested, and it was all in my head? I would have to be an arrogant bitch to have so grossly misinterpreted overtures of friendship or simple politeness as interest in me. Interestingly, I get at worst a mild version of this when asking men out, whereas it can approach near-pathological levels when rejecting them.

So the stigma attached to "presuming" someone could be interested is clearly serving no one's interest. Not even the super hot people, if the beautiful women complaining that no one ever approaches them are to be believed. I want to talk about the system that led to such a stigma against presumption, but honestly I've just barely got my head around the smaller issue and I can't hold any more thoughts.

*which is a totally different thing from actual evolutionary psychology which is a perfectly useful line of investigation in science.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Wikipedia before I got there:

In June 2011, Watson described an experience at a skeptical conference, concerning an approach by a man in an elevator, who invited her to his room for coffee and a conversation late at night.[19] In a video blog, among other things, she stated that incident made her feel sexualized and uncomfortable and advised, "Guys, don't do that".[20] Her statement sparked a controversy among the skeptic community.[21] Her critics said she was overreacting to a trivial incident, most notably Richard Dawkins, who wrote a satirical letter to an imaginary Muslim woman, sarcastically contrasting her plight to Watson's complaint. This in turn caused him to be criticized by those supporting her on the issue, including several figures in the community.[22][23] Watson announced that she would not buy or endorse Dawkins's books and lectures in the future.[22]

Wikipedia after I got there:

In June 2011, Watson described an experience at a skeptical conference, concerning an approach by a man in an elevator, who invited her to his room for coffee and a conversation late at night, after she had talked extensively about disliking being sexualized at atheist conferences.[19] In a video blog, among other things, she stated that incident made her feel sexualized and uncomfortable and advised, "Guys, don't do that".[20] Her statement sparked a controversy among the skeptic community.[21] Her critics said she was overreacting to a trivial incident, most notably Richard Dawkins, who wrote a satirical letter to an imaginary Muslim woman, sarcastically contrasting her plight to Watson's complaint. This in turn caused him to be criticized by those supporting her on the issue, including several figures in the community.[22][23] Watson announced that she would not buy or endorse Dawkins's books and lectures in the future.[22]

See if you can spot the difference
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Attention women: if you don't react to a joke the way Michael Ian Black wants you to, you are a bitch. Actually, you're worse than a bitch, but Comedy Central beeped out the rest of it. But whatever it is, it's pretty bad

pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
The hypothesis in yesterday's post has some additional implications.

First, guilt free dumping might lead women to prefer assholes for casual sex. Any sexual encounter carries some chance of the other person falling for you. Telling decent people you don't reciprocate sucks. Reciprocating when you're in a bad place for it- coming off a serious break up, about to leave the country, questioning your gender identity- sucks. Assholes are both easier to tell to fuck off if they fall for you and less likely to engender reciprocation. This plan is not without costs, but on the margin it will lead to more casual sex for assholes than you would otherwise calculate.

Second, the urge to keep harmony and avoid disappointing men could easily lead to a reluctance in women to make the first move. I'm operating off a small set of data and I'm very interested in hearing other people's experiences (on both sides- this one may not be so gendered), but I've noticed that men tend to take me asking them out as a sign I am Definitely Interested, as opposed to interested enough to want more data. They're less responsive to implicit cues of subsequent disinterest and less likely to solicit explicit ones. Now, I'm a grown up and I can give explicit instructions without being asked. But the work involved means there's a rather large margin where I would say yes if asked (who knows, he might be really interesting 1:1) but won't ask myself

Worse, there's a cascade effect. When I encounter someone I am definitely Interested in, I have less practice asking men out than I otherwise would have, so I'm worse at it. If my experience and reaction is widespread (and I think it is), it's self reinforcing.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Just finished I Think We're Alone Now, a documentary about two mentally challenged individuals obsessed with pop star Tiffany. It is one of those excellent examples of how studying a severely broken system can give us insight into systems that we think are healthy but are actually subtly broken.

At first, I had a real problem with the way they listed their subjects as "Jeff Turner, suffering from Asperger's syndrome, and intersex Kelly McCormick", because it seemed to imply that Kelly's intersexuality caused her inappropriate behavior the way Jeff's Asperger's caused his. I have no information other than what was in the documentary, and being forced to grow up as the gender she no longer identifies with clearly has left McCormick with emotional problems, but I highly suspect that her worst, weirdest behavior has a lot to do with the traumatic head injury they briefly mention. Implying intersexuality was the cause was a slight towards intersexuality.

But thinking about it: Asperger's isn't a particularly good explanation for Turner's problems either. See this brilliant comment on Captain Awkward. Autism spectrum disorder sufferers may be crap at detecting nonverbal or otherwise implicit cues, but the good eggs respond to this by getting really good at Using Their Words. It may feel awkward to people used to accomplishing the same thing implicitly, but the good intentions are abundantly clear.

To take a non-Tiffany example from the doc: a well intentioned, up on the latest in gender expression person will make a best attempt to figure out what gender a person identifies as without explicitly asking, to avoid making them self conscious. This isn't always possible, and it's usually better to err on the side of asking rather than being wrong, but in many cases it's trivial even when someone's gender identity seems pretty at odds with their appearance. ASD people will have more trouble with this than most, will be worse at intuiting someone's gender identity, and depending on the person may go through a phase of "but The Rule is Penis = Man.", but once you explain "People's chosen pronouns override the ones they were given at birth, ask if you have any doubt.", ASD should in some ways make them more amenable than neurotypicals to just accepting that and moving on.

In contrast, when Jeff meets Kelly, he decides to use the pronoun "he", because "I see him as a man, and that's the advantage of hermaphrodites: you get to choose." That's not Asperger's, that's being an asshole. And while AS could explain Turner missing the cues that Tiffany was clearly uncomfortable with the amount of physical affection he was inflicting on her, it does not explain why he persists in insisting he had an absolute right to wait for a teenage girl holding a sword. Or that any time you need to dodge security guards to do what you you're doing, people will be upset. That is something AS people are capable of understanding if they want to.

Cut for rape triggers )

Ultimately, the scariest thing in I Think We're Alone Now is that there are people behaving as badly as Jeff Turner all the time, but because they pick weak targets and have the social skills to keep the focus on their feelings, they face no consequences.
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Hugo Schwyzer's Jezebel column this week is on "Orgasmic Meditation" as offered in seminar format byOne Taste. Never has my ambivalence towards him been so strong.

I wrote out more, but it really didn't add anything beyond the contents of this list:

  1. worst. title. ever.
  2. argh stop making my orgasm into a thing for other people. In fact, stop making it a thing
  3. really? 1/4 of the visible portion of the clitoris? that's it?
  4. I like this part about making men less emotionally fragile, but do not trust them on the implementation
  5. phrasing the manifesto as "I apologize for not expecting more from you" seems to undercut the point
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I watched (500) Days of Summer mostly because commenters at Captain Awkward kept bringing it up. There's always a lively debate over whether it's the epitome of the manic pixie dream girl problem, or a criticism of same. Having just watched it, I don't see how there could be any debate: this is a very intentional criticism of men who fixate on women as the solution to their problems.

My argument for this has nothing to do with the main character's (Tom's) relationship with the cipher he's projecting his need for validation on (Summer), and everything to do with Tom's relationship with his sister (Hit Girl Rachel). Rachel is 12 years old, tops. Tom's age is never given, but he's been out of college for a few years, so this is a minimum 12 year age gap, probably more. Despite this, and despite having absolutely no information on the specifics, Rachel immediately knows 1. what the problem is and 2. how to help him through it. She clearly knows how he could fix it, but that he wouldn't take her advice even if it was offered. Think it can't get more damning than a 12 year old girl recognizing all the patterns in your life that you're too stupid to see? How about making her bike through traffic after dark with no lights in order to rescue you? And that's the opening shot of the movie.

If I was going to criticize the movie for anything, it would be the absence of any example of emotionally healthy masculinity. The only thing Tom's friends can do to help him is call his sister, we never meet Summer's husband, the only man who makes an attempt to grapple with emotions is his boss and that goes... not great. I don't think the movie is saying all men are emotionally incompetent, but I can't prove it, and I think someone to contrast Tom with would have made the point more clearly.
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When I played D&D, the players were never less than 30% female, and often 50%. Nonetheless, 100% of the GMs were male. Bias can be subtle, but I know the people well enough to assert that the explanation was not simple sexism. But if you asked each player when they started, women never said earlier than college, and men never said later than middle school. The men had 10 additional years of learning to GM before the women even knew something was there. DMing is a skill gained in part through practice, and while a woman could choose to put that time in, she'd have to spend a lot of time doing it, and convince friends to spend a long time playing a boring, frustrating game before she got good. As a person who has tried to do this, I can tell you that you give up pretty quickly.

There's also a pretty clear pattern among my social groups, in which women have close friends of both genders, and men have close female friends. My hypothesis is at the time girls were learning whateverthefuck skill it is that lets you deepen a friendship's emotional level, boys were being discouraged from doing so, due to homophobia and gender policing. We mock the emotional viciousness of tween girls, but the fact is that a lot of that stems from their social-emotional reach exceeding their grasp, and mistakes hurt.*

So by the time you get to college, or even high school, girls have more emotional-social skills than boys. Even a boy who has conquered all homophobic culture and gender policing, and wants deepen his friendship with another boy who's done the same, has to overcome both his own ineptitude and that of his partner. Whereas the girls are just sitting there, with their improved articulation and listening skills. ** Worse, it's is self-reinforcing, as close friendships with girls relieve the pressure that might drive them to take some risks with boys, and friendships with boys give girls the skills to work with someone at a lower skill level than them.

This isn't a total explanation of course, and there are female DMs who started playing at 8 and straight men who have deep emotional friendships with men and only men. But don't underestimate small, cumulative pressures.

*They are also experiencing adults making their lives horrible. My tiny ninjas dodge most of that crap because the school has set up the system properly.

**I feel like a concrete example would be helpful here. Emotionally close friendships are based in part of a delicate dance of reciprocal self-disclosure. There's some skill involved in that: estimating the importance of what your friend disclosed, determining an appropriate disclosure about yourself, disclosing it, recognizing if you're being sharked or this simply isn't a person you want to be close to, appropriate follow up...
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My tiny ninja's are exclusively female and fall in the 11-14 age range, but recently I worked with a different class that was mostly male, ranged from 6-13, and probably had a lower average SES. This has led me to the realization that martial arts is good at teaching kids two very different things: how to find their voice/stand up for themselves/assert that they deserve space/have self confidence/leadership/etc, and respect for authority/how listen to orders/temporarily subsume their individuality to a larger cause/how to respect when others take up your time/sit down and shut up/followship/etc. You have to admit, that's a pretty neat set of life skills for one activity to teach, especially when you consider that we're also teaching them left from right.

Individual results may vary, and I'm working from a small sample size, but I'd say I do a lot more voice finding in my middle school girls' class, and a lot more respect mah authoritay in the elementary + middle school co-ed class. I find the voice finding way more rewarding, but I think everyone enjoys coaxing a kid to kick harder over yelling at a kid to stop kicking other children in the head after class. You don't have to be all mean, and success is more tangible.

But it still makes me nervous. To explain why, I need to take a major digression to A Song of Ice and Fire, of which I have just finished book two (A Clash of Kings). One of the main characters is Arya Stark. I started disliking her fairly quickly early on because we're so clearly supposed to love her. Arya is awesome and eats bugs and plays with swords, unlike her helpless sister Sansa who only cares about romantic stories and dancing and marriage. Sansa is clearly a stupid girl and we hate her.

But I think Arya's sheer awesomeness may be blinding people to the fact that she, for example, has people who annoy her killed. Or casually kills a guard who was on her side in the war, but would have stopped her from stealing some horses. If one of the not-awesome male characters killed someone on their own side, we'd find them monstrous, but it's Arya, so it's cool.

The thing is, given the choice, I'd much rather be Arya or have her as my daughter, than be or birth Sansa, who is an idiot.* But as a teacher, I seem to prefer teaching the Sansas to fight to teaching the Aryas to seriously, stop stabbing people, or at least do so more strategically. Which is, in some ways, reinforcing the value of being Sansa. Having spent some time complaining that my high school resented me because they had a saving people thing and I didn't need to be saved, this feels hypocritical. I worry that I enjoy teaching my girls violence because they're so cute when they do it, and that by teaching them a skill that requires cuteness to be socially acceptable, I'm inadvertently reinforcing the cuteness>

Digression the third: One of my mom's better parenting moments was when she told me (age five or six) that you don't get strong, assertive women from cute, compliant girls, and my parents were going for the strong assertive woman. I forget what the context was, my first guess is I mouthed off to a teacher, and I think but don't remember for sure that the lesson was "seriously, don't do that one thing you just did, but keep the spirit that led to it, and if you screw up again, no biggie." Seven or eight years later she added some subtlety to this, noting that the costs for being too assertive are immediate and obvious, but the costs for not being assertive enough are dispersed and delayed. So better to start off too assertive, because you'll correct faster and suffer less in the long term, even if right now it feels like you're being punished.

So I want to create an environment where my students can not only become strong and assertive, but one where it's safe to overshoot, while at the same time remembering that assertiveness and aggression are not the same thing. Without letting them hurt their fellow students, physically or emotionally. And still be fun to teach. While coping with the fact that they still don't know left from right.

*This is false. Were I an actual noblewoman I would undoubtedly prefer my daughter be like Sasnsa, because the culture will crush Arya and she would bring shame upon our family. But as a modern woman, go Arya!
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
There's a category of progress that is "you know, it would be better if this didn't exist, but if it does, it should be distributed equally." For example, it would be nice if no one felt pressure over their looks, but having both sexes feel it is in some ways better than having just women feel it, because then we aren't penalized on the job for the extra time it takes. It's not ideal, but you go to culture war with the army you have.

It is in that spirit that I say: Bridesmaids and Baby Mama are not particularly good movies, and are so much more predictable than movies about things never before featured in movies should be, but I am glad they exist, and I sort of wish I'd paid money for them.* I will give a dollar to support movies that show women's primary goal as something other than a man, even if they both did incidentally pick up the perfect man. It helps a lot that both films genuinely had their moments, and Bridesmaids had Melissa McArthy, who needs to be given several movies right now.**

*One was library, the other was Redbox with a promo code.

**I liked her on Gilmore Girls, but she had more to work with here and she has a range that should be standard for actors but sadly isn't. I may need to check out her suspiciously awful looking current series, Mike & Molly, or at least leave it running on my computer while I'm at work.
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I dislike the practice of women changing their last name upon marriage, but only in the aggregate. In any individual case, I can see the merits: yes, it is lovely for both of you to have the same last name, and practical to have the same last name as your children. Changing both your names to something new would be inefficient*, and of course your name is the less interesting/harder to spell/more associated with an asshole father/would cause no end of problems with your in laws/has less professional significance. The fact that some of these reasons are near-opposites, and that somehow men never have abusive fathers they want to distance themselves from, indicates to me that in the aggregate what we're seeing is a society that devalues women's names relative to men's, but in any individual case, it's an individual case.

I am not so sanguine about cases in which the woman, and only the woman, hyphenates her last name upon marriage. Hyphenating everyone's name solves the symbolic problem wonderfully, albeit at the cost of a lot of practical problems**. But using the man's name alone for him and the kids, and tagging it onto the end of her name says to me "we recognize that her losing the name she's had since birth would have had unacceptable practical costs, but we still wanted to mark her as his property."

I'm sure there are many wonderful people who nonetheless made that decision, and I'm not calling them evil or misogynistic, but I am saying I don't see a work around for how problematic the symbolism is.

*Although I find it hypocritical to say the symbolism of having the same name is important, but the symbolism of one person bearing 100% of the burden of that is not.

**I may just be bitter that my last name (which I got from my dad) is too long to ever consider hyphenating. Many people's hyphenated names are shorter than my non-hyphenated name.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Watching Teen Mom, just to see if I missed something book store clerk was implying, and I'm actually sort of impressed. The two moms with relationship drama are boring, but the other two couples show two things I rarely if ever see on television: the aftermath of adoption for the birth parents, and woman-on-man abuse.

I'm not sure what I can say about the adoption couple besides "suck it, people worried about post-abortion syndrome". We tend to whitewash how wrenching it is to give up your baby, and the show does a great job of demonstrating how much they love their daughter and haven't stopped being her parents. The (most) heartbreaking part is that both of their parents attacked them for the adoption before and after because "all you need is love." and continually telling them how awful it is that they gave the baby up.

You actually start out sympathetic to the woman in the other interesting couple- she's trapped inside with their baby all day, she wants to get her GED, her fiancee is unsupportive. But over two episodes you see her get more and more demanding, more and more hostile, ending with (in ep 3, which I'm watching now) her grabbing his throat and slapping him. And you can see how even though he's significantly bigger than her, he feels absolutely powerless to do a thing about it. And how she pulls all the classic abuser moves ("you know I didn't mean to hit you, right?") even though she's not only smaller than him, but completely financially dependent. Where else do you see that, ever?

I know reality TV is a misnomer and I have no idea what's actually happening, and their voice overs make me want to stab the TV, but these are important stories that TV never tells, even if they're not strictly factual.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
20 minutes into a documentary is too early to have an opinion, but I'm too angry to finish it without getting this out, so:

In Hugh Hefner: Activist, Playboy, Rebel, multiple people claim that Playboy was about celebrating and promoting the fact that women like sex tooo(r depending on whose talking, that good girls like sex too). 98% of my knowledge of Playboy comes from watching The Girls Next Door and I know basically nothing about early Playboy, but I'm pretty sure this is bullshit. Or rather, it's not as good as the people saying it think it is.

Good would be celebrating women enjoying sex on their own terms. What Playboy celebrated, through its policy of including a hint of a man in every pictorial, and striving for centerfolds that had normal day jobs and "the girl next door" look,* was the idea that just around the corner was a woman who met a very specific standard of beauty that would love to do exactly what you loved. I don't want to say ingenue and sexual agency can *never* go together, but I am pretty sure that ingenues en masse don't promote agency. I also get the feeling Playboy didn't/doesn't think woman who liked sex were particularly choosy about who it was with, although I can't tell you what I'm basing this on.

To do it the right way, you'd have to find women who were enjoying sex on their own terms and just photograph them doing what them enjoy. Or here's a really radical idea- share it in a way not designed purely for men to jerk off too. Possibly you could hire some female writers. I'm just spitballing ideas here.

It's entirely possible the idea that the woman should enjoy sex too was revolutionary. I believe that no one can be more than a certain amount better than the time they're born in, and we should celebrate people who approach that limit, even if they look awful by today's standards. Much like I'm glad Howard Stern exists, providing the FCC with low hanging fruit that has the money to fight back, I'm glad Playboy was pissing off censors in the 1950s. And I get that it's possible to be an envelope pusher in your 20s and then run out of steam. But Hefner is still alive and every time I see his smug face talking about all he's done for women I want to punch it.

*Jenny McArtny says there's no way she would have been hired if she showed up to her audition looking polished. For a magazine that has always airbrushed photos until they're closer to illustrations, that's a pretty big statement on who is going to be controlling the pretty.


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May 2014

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