miss_s_b: (Politics: Post Feminism)
I'm not actually sure whether I realised I was a feminist first or a liberal. Logic would say feminist, but it doesn't really matter. Why not?

Because both my feminism and my Liberalism spring from exactly the same point. Every single person I have ever met has been an individual. Everyone has a unique perspective and a unique set of experiences, and I love that. I love that everyone I meet has something new to teach me, and I love learning from them. And therefore I loathe all the nasty little systems of social norms that try to quash that individuality and force people to conform. To put people into neat little boxes and label them so they can be sorted and dealt with without ever having to ask them what they think.

The patriarchy is one such system. It labels women and men* and tells them that this is what you must do to be considered a real woman or a real man. It takes unique individuals and judges them, and in most cases, whatever your gender, it finds you wanting. I'm not a real woman because I wear trousers**. [personal profile] matgb is not a real man because he's really good at childcare and likes cooking. My transwoman friends are not real women because they were born with penises. My genderqueer friends are not real people because they don't express their gender according to society's norms.

Fuck. That. Shit.

This is why I get annoyed when people say that feminists are anti-men, or imply that feminists want to do men down. No. Really, no. I'm a feminist because I want all people of all genders, and none, to be free to behave as they want***, free from the strictures of conforming to the rigid gender norms of society, just like I'm a Liberal because I want all people to be free to behave as they want free from the strictures of all the other forms of oppression, both big and small, that are enforced on us to varying degrees every day.

But it's also why, as a feminist, I detest ideas that are designed to make politics easier "for women". Because they, too, treat women and men as homogenous groups and the average man/woman as representative, when in reality the Venn diagram of the genders looks more like this:

Venn Diagram
The pink group is men, and the small pink dot is the average man.
The blue group is women****, and the small blue dot is the average woman.
The grey group is people who eschew gender expression, and the grey dot is... you get the picture.

The point is that any one individual may be further from "normal" (i.e. average) for their gender or lack thereof then they are for "normal" for another gender. I'm a woman, I definitely am, but in terms of that diagram I'm somewhere over the far left and covered by all three colours. And any individual you meet is going to be floating somewhere in those clouds, but the likelihood is that they are not really much like the average person of their gender. So treating ALL women (or ALL men) as though what works for the average will work for them? It's self-evidently bloody stupid*****.

We are all individuals******. And the ONLY way to achieve true social justice, to smash the patriarchy, and to make sure everyone gets the opportunities they deserve no matter what their gender, age, race, no matter what their quirks or eccentricities, is to treat every person as an individual. That way all the intersecting privileges and oppressions that we are almost all of us subject to can be taken into account, and the way those things affect all of us as individuals can be taken into account, without anyone suffering for being on the "wrong" side of a percieved social norm.

Rant over.



* and you must be one or the other; genderqueer people? You don't exist
** OK, there are LOTS of other reasons I am not a real woman, but that was the first one that came to mind
*** within the confines of the harm principle, obviously. Because if you're harming others you're taking away their freedom of self-determination.
**** the women group os slightly larger because there are slightly more women than men, not just because my mouse hand slipped in paint or anything ;)
*****An example I came across recently was that some events in politics are better "for men" because "men have deeper voices" and thus we need to rebalance this to make it better "for women" who have "higher voices". Now if you only consider the averages, this almost certainly applies. The average man DOES have a deeper voice than the average woman. This is irrefutable fact. But an individual man can quite conceivably have a higher voice than an individual woman, and so the effect of such a rebalancing on those individuals would be to skew things in favour of the man, which is the exact opposite of the effect that the person proposing the rebalancing wanted.
****** don't think I can't hear you Monty Python fans at the back going "I'm not!" *severe face*

On Consent

Saturday, January 25th, 2014 11:58 am
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
I thought, it appears foolishly, that consent was a simple thing. If you wish to physically interact with another person, you get their informed enthusiastic consent before doing so. This did not seem to me to be controversial. After the news stories and the reactions thereto of the last couple of weeks, I'm not so sure. So here is a very basic primer on consent for the hard-of-thinking.
  1. If you wish to interact physically with another person, ask them first.

  2. Ask as specifically as possible, so there are no misunderstandings about what is (or is not) being consented to.

  3. Consent does not have to be verbally explicit, but that does not mean that you can assume it's there. If in doubt ask, don't assume.

  4. Consent can be stopped or withdrawn at any time, and if it is stopped or withdrawn you stop what you are doing immediately.

  5. If they say no to anything you suggest, that is not consent.

  6. If they look horrified, move away, can't maintain eye contact, or otherwise display a lack of enthusiasm for the prospect, that is not consent.

  7. If they are too drunk/stoned/otherwise incapacitated to know what they are doing, that is not consent.

  8. If they are dressed in a particular way, that is not consent.

  9. If consent is given in response to some threat you have issued or implied, or any other form of duress, that is not consent.

  10. If you have had consenting physical interaction with a person before, this does not imply that future physical interactions are automatically consented to, nor does it give you a free pass to escalate interactions to new heights.

  11. If you are unsure about whether or not consent has been given, err on the side of caution and don't do anything. If the person you wish to interact with is enthusiatic about interacting with you, they will let you know.
None of that strikes me as being particularly difficult. It's about respecting another person's right to determine what happens to them. The fact that some people struggle with this is profoundly depressing to me. Surely physical contact is better when all parties are happy and enthusiastic about it happening?

ETA: inevitably the first response to this (on twitter) was "But what about x, y and z situations?". There is a reason I put "very basic" at the top of this post. Obviously there are situations in long-standing relationships or BDSM play where some of these rules need to be applied more flexibly. I would contend, however, that (just to pluck a random example out of the air) in the bar at Lib Dem conference with people you do not know well and don't have an existing relationship with, all of the above needs to be cast iron.
miss_s_b: (Innuendo: cybersex)
I am quite willing to believe that some sex workers are exploited, coerced, and mistreated. Human trafficking is a terrible thing, and should be stamped out. Modern slavery likewise. But when somebody says that the ONLY reason for a sex worker to go into sex work is coercion and/or desperation, that makes me a bit uncomfortable to say the least.

The idea that no woman (because when people say this, it IS usually about women) could go into sex work voluntarily springs from some very sexist (and quite modern) assumptions:
  1. Women do not like sex as much as men*
  2. Therefore if a woman Does It with a man she must be doing it for some reason other than enjoyment
  3. Love is an acceptable reason, money isn't
You all know how I hate it when we are treated as members of our group first and individuals second, so I'm not going to labour that point, but... some people have high sex drives, some people have low sex drives, and those things are not always congruent with gender.

It is entirely possible that some women go into sex work voluntarily, and enjoy it when they get there. In fact, more than possible, it's true; you can find myriad testimonies from such women on the internet and elsewhere. And to dismiss them with "oh well they don't know what they are saying", which is normally the next step for people who think all sex workers are coerced? Surely I don't need to point out how patronising and sexist THAT attitude is?

TL;DR version: I am a sex positive feminist and I don't think feminists who aren't know what they are talking about.



*Anyone who thinks all women have lower sex drives than all men needs to be introduced to me, and then to have a gentle chat with some of my partners, only one of whom comes anywhere close to having my general level of sex drive.
miss_s_b: (Politics: Post Feminism)
You guys all know that I self-identify as feminist. I am very pro-equality. And yet, and yet... The subject of positive discrimination has been raising it's ugly head again, and it has been a while since I fully elucidated how I feel about it. The first time I posted substantively about this was in July 2008 and my views have shifted slightly but not much since then, so this is going to be basically an update of that post from 08, edited for more current examples and to remove some of my own bad wording*

Why I am Against Positive Discrimination

This list is presented in what I feel to be order of importance of the arguments.
  1. The argument from perpetuation. This is the big one as far as I am concerned. It's the practical argument. Positive Discrimination doesn't work, and worse than that, it makes the situation continue. Using discrimination to fight discrimination is like fucking for virginity. It doesn't even stop specific instances, and it definitely doesn't get to the root cause. It's salving a symptom, while leaving the disease utterly intact. We need to fight discrimination, not perpetuate it.

  2. The argument from individuality. Positive Discrimination treats all women and all men (or all racial groups, or all LGBT+ folk, or whatever) as representatives of their group first, and individuals second. You don't have to have known me for very long to know how far I am from the average for women in many, many, many areas. I firmly believe that it is perfectly normal to deviate from the norm. I am an individual. I am not there to be a tick in the box of a diversity agenda, and I believe that each individual has experiences and needs which are individual to them and not predetermined by any visible physical factor.

  3. The argument from equality of opportunity. AKA two wrongs don't make a right. If you discriminate in favour of some groups, you necessarily discriminate against others. This is manifestly unfair, and unfairness is in fact, what we are arguing against here.

  4. The argument from mediocrity. If you discriminate in favour of one group, you are promoting people who may not be as well-qualified or capable simply because they belong to the group in question; I thought this was what we were fighting against? Positive discrimination led directly to Hazel Blears being in the cabinet. Is anyone apart from Hazel herself really convinced that this is a good thing?

  5. The argument from resentment. Linked to the above: every person who gets a job due to positive discrimination has to fight the perception that they only got the job because of the group that they belong to, however well-qualified and good at the job they turn out to be. They are hamstrung before they even begin, and face resentment that no person should face.

  6. The "Sins of the Fathers" argument. Positive Discrimination means that some people will suffer through no fault of their own, but because they were born to a privileged group. This is manifestly unfair.

  7. The argument from commonality. Just because someone has similar physical features to you does not mean that they will be of the same views as you, have the same experiences as you, or understand you any better. I believe that Julian Huppert understands me better and does a better job of representing my views than Nadine Dorries, for example.

Really, it all boils down to the fact that if you use positive discrimination, you are accepting that the ends (greater diversity) justify the means. By that logic, you should also accept torture, pre-emptive invasion of other countries, etc. etc. This is not, in my view, how a good liberal should think.

I also hate the slippery euphemistic re-naming of it as "affirmative action" or "positive action", like that changes what it is. I don't think that one needs to have the same attributes as someone else to be able to have empathy with their situation, and I don't think that one needs to be a member of a marginalised group to understand that marginalising people is bad and wrong. I don't think a person's attributes qualify them to represent me, I think their brain does. Selecting women because only women can represent women is as bad, in my view, as suppressing women because only men are smart enough to decide what's good for us.

Diversity is not an end in itself. It's a means to an end of fairness.

Now, I'm not saying that women (and other marginalised groups) don't face structural and institutionalised inequalities; I know they do, and I rail against them regularly. But to say we can solve all that by using positive discrimination is like saying you can cover third degree burns with a bit of make-up. It doesn't work (or if it superficially appears to, it doesn't work for long) and in the long term it makes the problem worse by preventing actual solutions from being used, because look, we've solved it. I want discrimination solved. I really really do. And at bottom, that is why I am against positive discrimination.



*eurgh unchallenged and innate transphobia and gender binary shit. I HAVE LEARNED SINCE THEN, oh internets. But note that I don't censor my learning process...

Further reading, should you wish it (some of it sweary, and some of it still containing unchallenged gender binary. Must update that Venn Diagram):

My original post on this subject from July 2008
On having A Minister For Women from Oct 2007
Two linked posts on biological determinism from June 08
AWS selected MPs Vs non-AWS selected MPs from Oct 08
On having a "women's policy" from Jan 09
On the actual Women's Policy Consultation from March 09
On supposed male allies wishing to be spoonfed women's views from July 10
On how one grows up with expectations of what one's place should be from July 11
There's a fuckton else in this area on both of my blogs. Go look for it if you want to.
miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Vinny P)
Still not dead.

Diet going reasonably well (see sidebar) although I am having to resort to things like creme fraiche instead of cream and similar. I had strawberries and creme fraiche at work yesterday and Brendan asked me how it was; I explained that it was like having a wank because you can't go to the orgy, in that it scratches the itch but is just not the same. The pain in my abdominal region isn't gone but it is reduced, so the diet is having the desired effect.

Am coping reasonably well with doing armpits for August, although I am looking forward to the first of September and shaving again. My pit hair is very weedy and thin, but I still feel really weird with it there. It's been an interesting psychological experiment for me in how much patriarchal norms have infected even me... I was going to do a picture but I figured I'd ask if you guys want to see one first. It feels a bit weird to be putting pictures of my armpits on the Internet.

Climbed Pen-y-Ghent with Holly, my dad, Roxy and Spike today. Having done Malham earlier in the month I think we're probably going to make it a reasonably regular thing. It's good for all of us and Holly likes getting out into nature. She wants to do Ingleborough next. Doggies loved it. Spike is now asleep on my feet and Roxy is dying on the other sofa.

Oh yeah, and the nominations are now closed for the LDV awards. Any of you who have been daft enough to nominate me might like to note that I've changed my blog title after nominations have closed but before the awards because I'm evil. Anyone who can identify where the new one comes from might win a prize. those of you who follow me on twitter might have an unfair advantage in that regard...
miss_s_b: (Who: Maxil (pillock))
There's a simple reason for that: twitter's misogyny problem is society's misogyny problem. The only way to solve it is to make misogyny have worse consequences than non-misogyny. This is not going to happen any time soon.

The current furore has arisen over a(nother) high profile lady being shocked at the level of abuse women who dare to speak out against misogyny get heaped upon them. Why is anybody still surprised by this? Hell if I know. More saliently, why is anyone still daft enough to blame the medium? Before twitter there were forums, usenet, anonymous phone calls, poison pen letters... probably cave paintings, in which some insecure lonely arse decided that the best way to make himelf feel powerful was to belittle someone else. Humanity has been dealing with hurtful communication since communication began. If "stop communicating" was the answer, it probably would have worked by now.

The problem with the suggested solution is that, like Cameron's porn block, it's not a solution but a sweeping under the carpet. Reporting an abuse to twitter, even if it worked as the people suggesting it hope it might, will not change the mind of the misogynist, nor show him the error of his ways. It merely pushes the problem out of sight, off twitter. It won't stop the misogynist finding other outlets for his poison - email, say, or letters.

Say twitter DID install a "report abuse" button. They're not going to have moderators look at every report, they can't afford the staff. So what will happen is they will set a number, like they have for report spam, when if x number of people report it, the account gets suspended. Now, if you're a troll who is trying to upset someone, all you will do at that point is set up another account. You won't have used an account you are attached to for the trolling because you'll know it could get suspended. The other thing a troll could do is set up multiple accounts, and simply click "report abuse" on every one of the target's tweets until THEIR account, which they are likely much more attached to, gets suspended. You see the thing about trolls is, they see it as a game. Put a challenge in front of them, and it's just another level to work out how to get through.

A report abuse button which is easy to click on is easy to click on for EVERYBODY, not just those who are genuinely being abused. So the EDL will probably click on it for the English Disco Lovers. And homophobes will click on it on the accounts of gay people. And TERFs will click on it on the accounts of transfolk.

If you want to actually stop people being abusive arseholes, making twitter install a report abuse button is not going to do the trick, and will have all sorts of nasty unintended consequences. What MIGHT do the trick is the sort of real world consequences which fell on the head of Paul Chambers after the twitter joke trial, but even that, I would suggest, is a road we do not want to go down. The rozzers would swiftly be snowed under if every abusive tweet were reported and our justice system is already creaking after this government's "reforms".

No, I'm afraid the only solution is to make this kind of behaviour socially unacceptable among the peers these idiots are trying to impress. And that's not easy, and it will take effort from all of us. I'll not be holding my breath.
miss_s_b: (Default)
miss_s_b: (Feminist heroes: Liz Shaw)
Today's news that we're going back to all-male icons on our currency reminded me that I meant to blog about the dearth of lady Who writers (covered here and here, among other places).

[personal profile] magister and I have been chatting about this, and we reasoned it's no good moaning about a lack without suggestions so we thought up some.

I'm only going to give you two of the names we came up with because I'd like to see if other people find this as easy as we did.

1, Tanith Lee - from the fantasy/SF/horror side of things, but has written for TV before (Blake's 7)

2, Sally Wainwright - from the TV side of things, but Who when written by writers from outside the box has been great lately (thinking particularly of Vincent and the Doctor here).

Who would you lot suggest?

Ada Lovelace Day

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 01:04 pm
miss_s_b: (Politics: Post Feminism)
As usual, I have been vacillating about what to post for this year's Ada day. I toyed with the idea of posting about the frankly awesome and criminally underrated Pat Moss, because being a racing driver is TOTALLY a STEM career, right? And then I thought maybe I should give signal boost to the excellent Little Miss Geek project. But then I thought about what Ada day is for. Ada day is meant to highlight women in STEM careers who should be an inspiration to the kids of today. And I thought about the people who inspired me when I was a nipper. Aside from my dad, they were mostly people on telly - in terms of science this was Patrick Moore, yes, and David Attenborough, and Terry Nutkins... But also Judith Hann and Maggie Philbin. There were mainstream women on the telly doing science when I was a kid.

There's less of them these days, mainly because science telly has been marginalised in the same way that music telly has - ghettoised into seperate channels and post watershed. But there is a lady who occasionally pops up who I think is amazing, so I'm going to blog about her.


(Image from The Indy)

This is Doctor Maggie Aderin-Pocock. You may recognise her from a number of appearances on the telly. I know her best from James May's Things You Need To Know About... where she appears on a regular basis as a talking head. She's currently a space scientist, but her degrees include physics and mechanical engineering, so she's really useful as a talking head on pop science programmes because of her breadth of knowledge.

Maggie is a fantastic communicator, explaining sometimes quite complex scientific concepts in a friendly and accessible way, but I think the thing I love best about her is a her enthusiasm. She's such a geek! She loves her subject, and communicates that love and joy and enthusiasm in the same way that someone like David Attenborough does, and it's infectious.

I'd love to see her get a primetime science slot. She's smarter and sexier than Brian Cox, and less curmudgeonly and a better communicator than Patrick Moore. And, unlike many of the women discussed for Ada Day, she's here, and available now, and not dead and too late to do much about thanking. So, thank you, Maggie, for all you've done so far; and here's hoping you get to do lots more in the future.

For more about Maggie, check out her profile on the Eden Channel, at The Royal Institution, and her programme on Desert Island Discs.
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miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Judge Death)
Most of the entries I have seen for this month's women in comics carnival have centred on USian comics. This is not surprising, given how UScentric the comics industry is in general. I want to highlight some of the female characters that have been central to my comics upbringing here in the UK. This list is by no means exhaustive, it's just a random gathering of some of my favourite girls.
  1. Venus Bluegenes (2000ad) Tough as nails soldier. Originally introduced as a supporting character in Rogue Trooper, but quickly got her own strip. Venus is powerful and strong, but she's not masculine with it.

  2. Minnie the Minx (The Beano) Enfant terrible since 1953, Minnie hates snobbery, instinctively rebels against authority, and defies gender stereotypes. She's fabulous.

  3. Hilda Margaret McGruder (2000ad) Her long reign as chief judge in the big meg, and her slow and painful descent into mental illness after being the most capable chief judge the city ever had make McGruder a fascinating character. Plus, ladies with beards are awesome. I'm sorry she's gone.

  4. Granny (the Beano) When I was a regular Beano reader, mumblemumble years ago, Dennis the Manace's Granny got her own strip called Go Granny Go. In it she caused WAY more trouble than Dennis ever managed, by virtue of being an adult, and was generally a kid's version of the Hell's Grannies from Monty Python. Complete with motorbike.

  5. Durham Red (2000ad) The vampire bounty hunter that they didn't rip oiff for Rayne in BloodRayne, honest guv. Her current position in canon is somewhat unclear, given that her origins have been declared non-canonical, but given that she's going to be returning to 2000ad later this year, I'm sure we'll find out.

  6. Dinah Mo (the Dandy) Mechanically adept and tomboyish, Mo is the Dandy's version of Minnie the Minx. But where Minnie is a more traditional child rebel, Mo, by virtue of the time of her creation, is much more geeky (not that she'd ever let you call her that) and into technology.

  7. Cassandra Anderson (2000ad) Yeah, you all knew Cass was going to come up at some point, didn't you? One of the hands-down most popular characters 2000ad has ever produced, Cass is the yin to Judge Dredd's yang, and (like Venus) although she's tough and battle-hardened, she never becomes blokey or masculine.

  8. Tank Girl (originally Deadline, occasionally 2000ad) From wikipedia: She is prone to random acts of sex and violence, hair dyeing, flatulence, nose-picking, vomiting, spitting, and more than occasional drunkenness. Er, yeah. I've even got the hairdo. We'll leave it at that, shall we?

I'd also like to mention (again) that 2000ad is doing really well on the leading females front right now, with Age of the Wolf and Grey Area, and Judge Beeny playing the lead role in Dredd at the moment. So, you know, if you have a spare two and a half quid a week, and you're vaguely interested in comics, and you want to support British industry... well, there are worse ways to spend your money. And all this is my way of saying that I can't actually pick a favourite story starring a woman without feeling that I'm doing a disservice to all the other ones I love. But I guess, if I was pushed, it'd be McGruder and Dredd, in the Cursed Earth, bringing rough justice to the Muties and giving McGruder one last hurrah rather than the compulsory euthanasia she'd been slated for. Yes, McGruder was completely batshit by this point, but she was still awesome.

(and composing this entry has successfully distracted me from the unfolding horror of the budget, right until the email from Nick Clegg just landed in my inbox - a budget we can be proud of Nick? REALLY?)
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About This Blog

picture of Jennie Rigg

Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.






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