New FeministIre post: Debating Abortion in TCD


My latest post over at Feminist Ire, Debating Choice at TCD is a review of last week’s abortion debate in Trinity.

I expected the usual suspects and more of the same- accusations flying from all sides, a lack of common ground so extreme that it’s surprising that we’re all technically speaking the same language.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Check out the rest over at FemIre

Also, have a super bonus pic of me and fellow-FemIreist Ariel with Feministe‘s Jill Filipovic, who was a guest speaker at the debate. And who was brilliant. Us bloggly types are super cool, yo.
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Also in FeministIre this week, Wendy asks What Happens to the Victims of sex trafficking. An excerpt:

there seems to be this assumption that if sex traffickers can’t get their victims into Sweden, they’ll just give up and go home. Why would that be? There’s nothing special about sex trafficking into Sweden that would lead traffickers to make a career change if they couldn’t do it anymore. So what would they do instead?

Definitely worth a read. TW on both of those links, by the way, for talk of misogyny, sexual assault & trafficking, and associated unpleasantness.

A Linkspam To The Past


Since I disappeared from the internet for a while, the first few links here are going to be ancient history. Things which are multiple weeks old. Several decades, in internet time.

I still think they’re worth sharing. And want to do so before everything in this post becomes truly paleolithic, so it’s going up today instead of on schedule, next Wednesday. Because it’s my blog, and I can.

 

Geekery and the Humanities: A defense of the humanities, of subjectivity, and why they’re as much a part of geek culture as the STEM fields. Also, why Sheldon is a dick.

I’m not anti-logic or anti-science; I do think these things are valuable, but they can only be convincing and powerful when they take into account emotion and the humanities (for lack of a better term). None of these things work best on their own. Which brings me to my real argument: the idea that the humanities are less important than STEM is an idea that geeks need to drop, because the humanities are constitutive to geek culture, just as much as science, technology, and math are.

Why Does She Stay With That Jerk? TW for domestic violence. Holly Pervocracy looks at reasons why people she met through her work in the ER stayed in abusive relationships. I’m not going to quote anything specifically, so I can keep the TW at the other side of the link. It’s essential reading, though, if you’ve ever wondered why people stick out relationship abuse. On a similar note is autumn whitefield-madrano’s post over on Feministe,  “I Can Handle It”: On Relationship Violence, Independence, and Capability. This post is a lot more personal- it was a lot more difficult for me to read, because of this. It’s her story of what it felt like for her, from the inside of an abusive relationship.

Cisgender News is the best. If you’ve ever facepalmed at how trans people are discussed in the media, you’ll love it. If you haven’t, then you should probably read it anyway to get a snarky, snarky feel for how messed-up it is. Then you too can facepalm!

Rebekah Wade – a cisgender woman who has now quit as News International chief executive – not only conquered the macho cis world of tabloid journalism to become its queen but did so with astonishing speed. What was behind her rise to power?

Rebekah Brooks – as she started to call herself following a second marriage – courted power but avoided publicity.  She started receiving female hormones via her ovaries during her first puberty, and intends to continue with them.

And now for something a little more current.

I’m an atheist. Is that a problem? Kate Hilpern writes about being an atheist godparent. What does being a godparent really mean? Is it as much a purely religious role as the church would have you believe? Is it okay for atheists to participate in religious baptisms?

some will say I have no integrity. As its name suggests, a spokesperson from the Church of England points out, at the heart of the role is a commitment to support someone in the journey of faith. An atheist can be a wonderful influence in a child’s life, but being a godparent is to be a representative of the religious community and an example of godly living (which is why they should be baptised and preferably confirmed), in addition to supporting them socially.

I’m an atheist. I’m a godparent as well. When I was asked to be a godparent I was still technically a member of the Catholic Church, not having yet registered my apostasy, but was a nonbeliever. The reasons why I happily went into a church, crossed my fingers behind my back and took part in that ceremony? Because I was incredibly honoured to be asked. Because my own relationship with my godparents has always been about love, not doctrine. Because there are very few people who I’ll engage in Catholic ceremonies for- and my godkid’s dad is one of them. Am I entirely happy with that decision? I have no idea.

Finally, today’s Awesome Person Of The Week is Sally. Who has a thing or two to say about being described as a precious pearl. Or a lollipop. And also a few things to say about preventing sexual assault. (Hint: not assaulting people is a good start).

Enjoy!

Questions


In the past week, hundreds of people have wished me ‘burn camino’ and ‘buenos dias’. Tens have asked me where I come from, what language(s) I speak, where I’ve walked from. Where I’m going to today, where I hope to walk to eventually, how long I’ll be walking. Whether I’m walking with friends or alone. Why I decided to walk the Camino.
Not once has anyone commented on my being a woman walking alone. Not once has anyone suggested that walking for hundreds of kilometers alone through the country leaves me in danger of anything other than sore legs, insect bites, uncountable blisters and an increasingly odd sense of social interaction.
I can’t explain the freedom in that.

These fearless women?


My feeds today seem full of stories about Afghan women. Afghan women in jail,  Afghan women’s feminisms.

This is awesome. Sharing the voices of marginalised groups? A Good Thing.

But here’s the thing. What are depicted here is one of only two archetypes I’ve ever heard of of Afghan women. They’re either entirely bowed-down, oppressed and defeated, or they’re fearless, passionate fighters for justice and equality.

Don’t get me wrong: stories about fearless, passionate fighters for justice and equality are awesome. I love reading that stuff! It’s inspiring. It makes me want to get out there and do something.

But if the only stories we tell about Afghan women (and, it seems to me, Arab women and non-Western women in general) follow these two archetypes, aren’t we missing out? Are we doing anything more than just following the same tired old Orientalist script? If Afghan women are always either fighters or defeated, are we really seeing them as people? And if we do not see them as people, what right have we to their stories?

Geeky enough for you?


Reading a recent post over at Geek Feminism about geeks and geek-adjacent women and the perception of women as un-geeky when around (particularly male) geeks, I appear to have been struck with yet another minor identity crisis.

You see, left to my own devices I have plenty geek cred. I really, really like the analytical, theoretical aspects of my field. The last time I decided I needed a new hobby (last week) I ended up with a giant book of calculus, a pen, several sheets of paper and a cheerfully furrowed brow. The time before that, I decided to learn a whole new language partly because I wanted to see how my brain learned to deal with communication happening with entirely different senses and body parts to the ones I was used to. I describe knitting as ‘fluffy algorithms’. I cheerfully own my cognitive biases and will equally cheerfully point out yours. I’ve spent years working in a library, for Pete’s sake. Oh and yeah, I spend way too much time playing video games and like collecting dusty old sci-fi books. I hear that counts as well. But here’s the thing. I live with an origami-wielding statistician* and the McGyver of computer science**. Compared to these people? I am, as The Statistician describes, Little Miss Girlie-Girl Popular from the planet SocialConventional. Her words, by the way, not mine.

Reading over that post at Geek Feminism, there seems to be an undercurrent that in order to be a geek, one has to be a techie. Now, I’d always seen geekery as being less a specific interest and more a way of doing things. I see geekery as being that tendency to get really-really interested in things, the desire to take things apart (literally or figuratively, depending on context!) and see how they work, the constant hankering for more knowledge and more understanding, the peculiar and unique interests. Normally, but not exclusively, existing alongside a reasonable dollop of having been That Geeky Kid.

Now, I know that there’s a lot to be looked into about how women’s geekiness is devalued when it happens to exist adjacent to an also-geeky man. But they’re doing an awesome job of that over at Geek Feminism. What I’m curious about here is this: what does the word ‘geeky’ mean to you? How do you define it? Also, how do you define not-geeky? I’m interested!

*Check her out, by the way. She doesn’t post often, but when she does it’s gold.

**He claims to be a recovered engineer, but we have significant doubts.

Unconscious Prejudice and Climbing Shoes.


Yesterday, me and my entirely lovely housemate C were in the unfortunate position of having no option but to go shopping. In Dundrum town centre. On a Saturday afternoon. Yes, it was every bit as bad as you think. But we’re recovering nicely.

One of the things that we needed to do was buy some climbing shoes for C. She knew precisely what she wanted the shoes to do, she had been to all the outdoor shops in town to no avail, and the only thing left for it was Dundrum, where there is a very lovely Snow & Rock where she got some perfectly good climbing shoes* a while back.

It was late-ish by the time we got there. There was only one person working in the climbing section, who was busy discussing shoes with two guys when we got there. We figured the polite thing to do would be to wait for him to be finished with them, and in the meantime we had a bit of a browse around. C tried on some shoes that were already out, I checked out some climbing books.

Those guys took ages to pick out their shoes. No biggie. They’re pretty specialised kinds of shoes, it makes sense that people would take a while picking them out. When the sales guy walked past us (frequently- we were between the other customers and the storeroom), we tried to catch his eye to indicate that we were about when he was done with the others. But he didn’t seem to pick up on us. Odd.

It took them about a half-hour to pick out their shoes and go. When they were gone, the SG came by where we were waiting again- but didn’t interact with us at all until C asked him if she could try on some shoes. He looked up, surprised, and said that the shop was closing now.

C told him that we had been here waiting for a half an hour while he was with the other guys. Again, surprise. And then, “Oh, I thought you two were here with them!”

Let’s go over some things, shall we? We entered the shop at a different time to them. We didn’t say hello to them or talk to them. We spent our time in a part of the shop several metres away from where they were trying on shoes. During this time we picked up shoes, C tried shoes on, and I browsed climbing gear. During the half-hour we were waiting, we didn’t interact with them in any way.

But we were two girls, they were two guys, we were in an outdoor shop- so I guess we must be their girlfriends?

After that, the SG was more than polite. He wasn’t patronising in the slightest. He asked C what kind of shoes she wanted and for what kind of climbing. They discussed it, he made recommendations, she compared a few different shoes, and twenty minutes or so later we left the shop with a brand new pair of lovely shoes to climb in. He treated her like just another climber, he was very professional. And once he realised his slip-up, he did let us stick around in the otherwise-closed shop for as long as it took.

And that is what unconscious prejudice looks like. People who don’t know that they’re prejudiced. Those of us who, when we’re aware of it, treat people equally. Who, quite likely, act in an egalitarian manner the vast majority of the time in our circles of friends and family. Who don’t see ourselves as sexist, or racist, or homophobic or ablist. But lurking in our subconscious, there are so many tiny ways that we can’t get past our conditioning. Conditioning, often, by equally well-meaning people.

It’s why it’s so dangerous. Unconscious prejudice lives in the cracks between the actions that we’re aware of and the things we do automatically while our minds are elsewhere. It’s in the snap judgements that we have to make hundreds of times a day to function in large-scale societies. And because it’s in the things we are unaware of, the things that we don’t even remember doing, it’s incredibly difficult to do anything about. And it does have real-world effects. While that incident yesterday was only a small thing, it’s one of many. It’s one of many that was notable enough that me and C both remarked on it. It’s ordinary enough that we were both able to come up with several similar instances and patterns that we have grown to expect. The vast majority of which are carried out by people who don’t know they’re doing them. And none of which are those which I’m sure we carry out ourselves every day, in a throwaway comment here, an extra few seconds of attention there. Innumerable tiny things.

By the way, before I finish: I’m not saying anything against Snow & Rock, or the salesperson there yesterday. Like I said, he was entirely professional, and they had some great shoes. I’d recommend the place, in fact. I’m just using one instance to illustrate a widespread phenomenon.

 

*Which have now been passed on to me. Yay! No more climbing failing abysmally to scramble up a wall in trainers!