Tagfeminism

Four More Reads on Rage Killing and Misogyny

Rage Killings in the Neoliberal World

UCSB: A Terrible Lesson in Digital Dualism and Misogyny

Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

Dudes, Stop Putting Women in the Girlfriendzone

Let’s call the Isla Vista killings what they were: misogynist extremism

I’m reluctant to write about , because the media needs to stop inspiring copycat murders and because of the amount of confusion and misreporting that surrounded the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords.

But I think the issues Laurie Penny raises in her piece on the topic are worth discussing. Penny notes that this wouldn’t be the first time that a sexually frustrated man has used feminism as an excuse for a killing spree:

In 1989, 25-year-old Marc Lépine shot 28 people at the École Polytechnique in Quebec, Canada, claiming he was “fighting feminism”. Fourteen women died. In 2009, a 48-year-old man called George Sodini walked into a gym in the Pittsburgh area and shot 13 women, three of whom died. His digital manifesto was a lengthier version of Rodger’s, vowing vengeance against the female sex for refusing to provide him with pleasure and comfort. Online misogynists approved.

Up ’til now companies like Twitter haven’t taken seriously the threats and harassment that misogynist activists terrorize women with. Penny writes:

For the countless women and girls who have come to live with harassment as a daily cost of being in public and productive while female – let alone while feminist – the tragedy at Isla Vista has been a chilling wake-up call. I know I will never be able to tell myself in quite the same way that the men who link me to two-hundred-post threads about how I ought to be raped can’t actually hurt my body, no matter how much they savage my peace of mind.

We have been told for a long time that the best way to deal with this sort of harrassment and violence is to laugh it off. Women and girls and queer people have been told that online misogynists pose no real threat, even when they’re sharing intimate guides to how to destroy a woman’s self-esteem and force her into sexual submission. Well, now we have seen what the new ideology of misogyny looks like at its most extreme. We have seen incontrovertible evidence of real people being shot and killed in the name of that ideology, by a young man barely out of childhood himself who had been seduced into a disturbing cult of woman-hatred. Elliot Rodger was a victim – but not for the reasons he believed.

Full Story: New Statesmen: Let’s call the Isla Vista killings what they were: misogynist extremism

As to how much blame to place specifically on the “men’s rights activists” (MRA), “pick-up artists” (PUA) movements, I’m reminded of Leon Wieseltier writing about the idea ofcollective responsibility vs. individual responsibility in the case of Jewish and Islamic terrorism:

If the standpoint of broadly collective responsibility was the wrong way to explain the atrocities, so too was the standpoint of purely individual responsibility. There were currents of culture behind the killers. Their ideas were not only their own.

I’d also like to echo Chip Berlet’s comments on Democracy Now following the murder of George Tiller in 2009:

I don’t think the issue here is urging the government to expand its repressive powers. I think that’s a mistake. I think what we have here are groups of criminals and criminal individuals who need to be pursued and prosecuted, as appropriate.

And I think it’s important to understand that, for many years, clinic violence was not treated with the same aggressive attention by the federal government and state governments as other forms of vandalism and violence. And I think that that’s because the anti-abortion movement has a very large political and religious constituency that makes it very difficult for state and federal officials to try and actually enforce the existing laws that they should be doing.

See also:

The Failure of the FBI’s Right-Wing Terrorist Infiltration Program

What Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto Has to Tell Us About the “Lean In” Era

Haley Mlotek writes:

I cannot abide by that tone claiming ladies are just in this together: girls nights and other segregated socializing, grouping us by the most tenuous links, like that I was born with a vagina and live as a female-identified person, and that’s enough for the publishing industry to feel confident that Sandberg will speak to me. There’s a special place in hell for people who sincerely say, “Listen up, ladies,” which must be the last thing you hear before you enter the underworld, and, “We’re all in this together,” the first after passing through the rings of fire.

Haraway, by contrast, writes that “there is nothing about being ‘female’ that naturally binds women,” a welcome reprieve from a false sisterhood. In 1985, decades before Sheryl Sandberg left Google to work for Facebook and asked us to make similar leans in our lives, Haraway warned, “Work is being redefined as both literally female and feminized, whether performed by men or women. To be feminized means to be made extremely vulnerable; able to be disassembled, reassembled, exploited as a reserve labour force… leading an existence that always borders on being obscene, out of place, and reducible to sex.” The cyborg that Haraway wants to be is “an imagination of a feminist speaking in tongues to strike fear into the circuits of the super-saves of the new right. It means both building and destroying machines, identities, categories, relationships, space stories.” I would rather be that cyborg than ban bossy.

When I consider what a woman is — or what a woman should be, according to the peanut gallery offering helpful suggestions at a reasonable price — I wonder, like Donna Haraway, if the category we call woman is not already some sort of cyborg, a hybrid body made up of organic material and the implanted subconsciousness of those voices telling women how to behave, how to be better. These suggestions seek to make women robotic in their uniformity; voluntary Stepford Wives.

Maybe, instead, we should think of our consciousness as a circuit board that we are in control of. Instead of being something that must be formed, we can hold ourselves as individual units open to being rewired, to adapting to new advances, and not simply mechanisms who are in need of constant repair from some sort of patriarchal tool box.

Full Story: Buzz Feed: You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine

(via Today in Tabs)

What It’s Like to be a Woman at a Comic Book Shop

woman-in-comic-shop

Read the whole comic by Noelle Stevenson.

(via Metafilter)

Previously: If Male Superheroes Were Drawn Like Female Superheroes

Mindful Cyborgs: A Look Back at 2013

For our New Years special episode, our new co-host Alex Williams joined Chris Dancy and me for a reflection on our most popular episodes of 2013. Here we are talking about episode 12, our interview with feminist activist Shanley:

CD: Klint, did you . . . we had Shanley on. She’s one of the shows we’re going to talk about in a bit but you saw some of the things that happened at conferences. Defrag opened up their conference with a whole section on there will be no talk of this and there will be no [00:08:05]. Conferences with disclaimers, there’s a O’Reilly conference coming up called Solid and when you apply one of the things they ask you is are you gay, black or are you one of these things that we don’t normally have on stage because we’re going to instantly give you more credit in consideration.

When I filled out the Solid to speak at Solid, I thought to myself wow, this is kind of crazy. What did they call it back in the 60s and 70s when they moved people through government ranks because they were minorities? Affirmative action. There’s digital or affirmative action happening. It’s just really strange.

AW: Digital affirmative action, yeah.

KF: Yeah. It feel like it’s really late for it to be happening. When you said affirmative action happen everywhere else decades ago, there’s also an argument to be made that things are actually -

CD: Worse.

KF: – worse outside of the tech industry but I’m glad that all these things are getting more attention. I don’t know how it’s all going to play out but there’s definitely a strong reaction against all of it as well. The more women that speak out the more just misogynistic douchebag guys also like react to it and actually kind of double down on being pricks and I don’t know where it’s all going to end up. I don’t know if there’s a better way of addressing the issues.

I think that a lot of times people get carried away with attacking individuals over tweets rather than thinking more about the big picture but at the same time usually people need to be called out on for what they say. So, I don’t know

Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: The Beginning — A Look Back at 2013

Since recording the show, Shanley has launched her own tech publication Model View Culture. You can read an interview with her about the new endeavor here.

On Race and Sexual Violence in the Works of Alan Moore

Let’s get something out of the way upfront: I don’t think Alan Moore is a racist, homophobe or misogynist. But some of his works — particularly League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Neonomicon — have issues. Although it might seem silly to go after Moore when there are much worse offenders both in comics and other media (not to mention actual rapists), Moore’s work is a good case study of how even the most well intentioned, progressive writers can screw-up matters of race, gender and sexuality. And because he is perhaps the most highly regarded writer in comics, there’s a trickle down effect from his work. Moore refuses to listen to his critics, but maybe other writers can learn from his mistakes.

Last week Pádraig Ó Méalóid published an interview with Alan Moore in which he asked a few questions about sexual assault in his comics in general and specifically about his inclusion of Golliwog in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier.

Moore’s response is long and vitriolic, and misses the point entirely.

I can understand why Moore is so bothered by accusations of racism and sexism. He’s an old hippie who has put more consideration to identity politics and representation into his work than most comic writers of his or any other generation. He’s taken other creators to task for their sexism and homophobia. But even though he’s written some strong women and minority characters, he can and does get it wrong sometimes, and his reaction here is disappointing — not least of all because of the rhetorical style he employs.

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This isn’t ‘feminism’. It’s Islamophobia

Laurie Penny writes:

I am not writing here on behalf of Muslim women, who can and do speak for themselves, and not all in one voice. I am writing this as a white feminist infuriated by white men using dog-whistle Islamophobia to derail any discussion of structural sexism; as someone who has heard too many reactionaries tell me to shut up about rape culture and the pay gap and just be grateful I’m not in Saudi Arabia; as someone angered that so many Muslim feminists fighting for gender justice are forced to watch their truth, to paraphrase that fusty old racist Rudyard Kipling, “twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”.

We are the fools, if we believe that accepting aggressive distinctions between nice, safe western sexism and scary, heathen Muslim sexism is going to serve the interests of women. The people making these arguments don’t care about women. They care about stoking controversy, attacking Muslims and shouting down feminists of all stripes.

For decades, western men have hijacked the language of women’s liberation to justify their Islamophobia. If we care about the future of feminism, we cannot let them set the agenda.

Full Story: The Guardian: This isn’t ‘feminism’. It’s Islamophobia

I dislike the term “Islamophobia,” but lacking a better term, I can’t help but agree — even though of I’ve been guilty of this in the past.

This form of hijacking is especially common in the atheist community, with the likes of Richard Dawkins and Pat Condell using it to dodge criticism of the community’s own treatment of women.

See also: American Muslims Have Mainstream Values and Honor killings and “crimes of passion”.

Mindful Cyborgs: Power and Privilege in the New Working Order

This week Chris Dancy and I talked to Shanley, a tech product manager and feminist in the Bay Area, about sexism and micro-aggression in the work place.

KF: How can people be more aware of what’s going on there? I mean, one of the things I was wondering about when I read it is how often managers are really intentionally doing this because I imagine there’s some element of desire to be the boss and express power in those ways but I’m guessing actually that there’s a fair amount that’s completely subconscious and that if managers were more aware of they actually would perhaps not do these things.

First of all, do you agree that some of it is unintentional and secondly like how can people become more aware of this stuff?

CD: One of the things I heard Shanley you say was when I become or when we become managers the things we observe so I think to Klint’s question is some of this just kind of picked up like lint on your mind because you’ve watched people manage?

SK: Yes absolutely. I think we tend to emulate what we see around us, we tend to try to emulate and live up to the mythologies around us. I think that most this type of behavior is not conscious at all. No one is sitting there thinking how can I make my team feel bad, how can I make them feel inferior, how can I make them feel less than … but there’s something amazing about that realization because it starts with this realization that like managers have a profound impact on the lives and experiences of their teams.

We know this is true because when you ask people about bad managers that they’ve had you see the tremendous negative impact that managers can have and not just affecting you as an individual but ask someone’s partner, their friends about the bad managers they’ve had and they’ll give you an earful too. And then you talk with managers and they have this really strong desire to really help their team but there’s a disconnect going on there. When you can sort of star in this shared position of being like okay, like this is a really powerful space, the space of interaction is really powerful. It’s something that sometimes goes horribly wrong but no one wants it to you and how can we sort of start from that position of like good intention but more awareness and honesty.

As always, you can find it on Soundcloud, iTunes or Stitcher, or download it directly.

Show notes and transcript are here.

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The Problem with “Strong Female Characters”

Sophia McDougall writes:

Sherlock Holmes gets to be brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius. Female characters get to be Strong. [...]

Chuck Wendig argues here that we shouldn’t understand “strong” as meaning, well, “strong”, but rather as something like “well-written”. But I simply don’t think it’s true that the majority of writers or readers are reading the term that way. How else to explain the fact that when the screenwriters of The Lord of the Rings decided to (clumsily) expand Arwen’s role from the books, they had her wander on screen, put a sword to her boyfriend’s throat and boast about how she’d sneaked up on him? (It took Liv Tyler to realise later “you don’t have to put a sword in her hand to make her strong”). Why else did Paul Feig, as Carina Chicano notes here, have to justify the fact that Bridesmaids hinges on a complex, interesting female character who appeared rather weak?

And even if this less limiting understanding of “strong female character” were the common reading, doesn’t it then become even sadder and even more incomprehensible that where the characterisation of half the world’s population is concerned, writing well is treated as a kind of impressive but unnecessary optional extra?

Full Story: New Statesman: I hate Strong Female Characters

It probably goes without saying, but part of the problem here is that “strong” almost always equates to a certain set of characteristics we problematically associate with maleness: physical strength, aggression, competitiveness. Maybe raw intellect, if the character is a detective or scientist. Women get to be “strong” only by exhibiting these traits, not traits labeled “feminine,” like empathy, expressing emotion. This leaves us not only with one-dimensional “strong female characters,” but also reinforces unhealthy expectations that being strong or “tough” means suppressing emotion and winning in fights. This is understandable to some extent — action movies are about violence, not nurture. But there are writers who pull it off. Fringe‘s Olivia Dunham is tough and smart, but also involves her emotions with her work, which, as she points out on the show, actually makes her a better detective.

Compassionate Takedown of Pickup Artististry

Glenn Fleishman explains the “pickup artist” (PUA) community, and the recent controversy about a PUA book on Kickstarter that advocated sexual assault:

PUAs aren’t typically an overlap with the frat-boy stereotype of athletes and aggression. Rather, PUAs are social misfits who appear to be incapable of reading and responding to social signals. Just as the Ana subculture arose on the Internet extolling anorexia, which is medically and socially unacceptable even as the body image associated is perpetuated through media, the PUA subculture seems to thrive because it’s found a home in which such discussions are encouraged and cultivated.

And it is undeniable to these men that women meet other men and then, immediately or after a number of dates, engage in sexual concourse with them. Why not them? It must not be their personality, pheromones, conversational style, or appearance. There must be a secret that some men have that they have missed, and thus a culture of tips, tricks, and strategies develops. [...]

Mutually consensual behavior initiated by either party isn’t assault, of course, nor does it have to be spoken aloud. But it requires the ability to read signals and respond to them to know whether consent exists, and to stop — not “escalate” — when there’s ambiguity. This category of book provides the excuse for consent to men who can’t read signals. The book is advising sexual assault under the guise of something the woman wants but can’t ask for. That’s not consent.

Full Story: Boing Boing: Kickstop: how a sleazebag slipped through Kickstarter’s cracks

Something that’s bothered me lately about many critiques of internet subculture I’ve read recently. For example, Stephen Bond ‘s rants about skeptics and the Less Wrong community. He wrote about skeptics: “You’ll quickly find that the majority of visitors are not drawn there by concern for the victims of irrationality, but by contempt. They’re there to laugh at idiots.” And: “The average skeptic has little time for spreading the word of reason to the educationally or intellectually lacking. His superior reason is what separates him from the chumps around him, and he has no interest in closing the gap.” But Bond seems to fall quickly into a similar trap: he bashes skeptics and Bayesians, decrying their lack of ethics and implying his own moral superiority (someone on Metafilter suggested that Bond did this on purpose to parody those communities). There’s no compassion, no insight into why someone might become swept up in these communities other than “because they’re assholes.”

It’s a hard impulse to shake. It’s easy to get so angry at someone — internet scammers, religious people, pickup artists, libertarians, whoever — and end up seeing them as something less than human. I’ve done it many times right here on this blog. It’s hard to be compassionate or to see what attracted someone to this point of view. But that’s incredibly important not just to help win people over — which is very hard — but to help others understand the culture that you’re critiquing and why they are wrong. “They do these things because they’re assholes, and they’re wrong because they just are” isn’t a compelling argument. I think it’s why so many people have trouble with Evgeny Morozov’s work. Morozov doesn’t, at least in what I’ve read of his work, ever stop to ask why someone might believe what they do. He takes it for granted that everyone he criticizes is either a fool or a charlatan or both. It wears thin quickly, not just because it’s mean spirited but because it doesn’t read as a well-rounded critique. It reads as a rant meant solely for those who already agree with him, as a chance to make fun of the chumps who have bought into the “solutionist” ideology.

Fleishman doesn’t go easy on the PUAs, but he does explain why what they do is wrong, why someone might try it anyway, and why the people involved in it don’t realize what they’re doing is wrong. That makes it a far more powerful critique than most of what I’ve been reading lately.

If you want more info on the PUA culture and methodologies: The Observer’s review of Neil Strass’ book on pickup artistry and Jeff Diehl’s article on “speed seduction.”

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