"Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess." – Donna Haraway

Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

Why I Can’t Fist Pump with Meryl and J-Lo

Women in the audience reacting very enthusiastically

Reactions to Arquette’s Acceptance Speech

You know what they say about the road to hell…

In this case, the intentions under scrutiny are those of Patricia Arquette calling for wage equality at last night’s Academy Awards.

Many have identified Arquette’s backstage remarks as the moment that they noticed a problem with her message. The privileging of white womanhood was certainly very explicit backstage. But to be honest, she lost me when she was still on stage. When she said, “We..have…fought for everybody else’s equal rights.” She read that from something she penned in advance.

Cut to me in my living room: *face-palm* I was immediately reminded of the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag and the critiques of racism within white feminism. As implicitly biased as Arquette’s onstage remarks might have been, that piece of paper she held in front of her is a problem for me. For that paper implies contemplation and composition. And in all of that contemplating and composing, she does not seem to have questioned what she meant when she said the word “We.”

Yes, wage equality is a critical issue. But it is clear from her remarks both onstage and backstage (included below for those who did not see them) that Arquette’s “we” is white women. You pretty much have to not be paying attention to not realize that the wage gap is even more egregious for women of color. And from your position of relative privilege, it shows an extreme disconnect from the reality if you are willing to ask that people of color prioritize gender over race, and that LGBTQ folks privilege gender over sexuality, in the fight for equality. That is not a sacrifice that you get to ask for. Ideally we are fighting on all fronts, but in reality, that is not always the case. And you don’t get to demand this.

There are those who say that Arquette should not be “torn down” for her remarks. Or that people are overreacting.The truth is, she had a pretty big megaphone last night and she got it wrong. So yes, we can recognize her intentions, but we get nowhere without willing to be thoughtful about why good intentions don’t lead to equality for all.

Brittney Cooper’s response in the following tweets has started people posting to the #askawhitefeminist hashtag

I started a Storify of tweets and posts inspired by Cooper’s hashtag and also connected to Mikki Kendall’s hashtag #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen that started back in 2013. As time allows, I may get over to Storify to update with new material, but I can’t promise.

So here’s what I found so far:

Bummer. After a good 30 minutes of fighting with it, I’ve learned that non-VIP users of WordPress.com can no longer embed Storify into their posts. Here’s a link instead: https://storify.com/purplekimchi/askawhitefeminist-responses-to-patricia-arquette

**Edited to Add the text of Arquette’s backstage remarks:

“It’s time for women. Equal means equal. The truth is the older women get, the less money they make. The highest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households. It’s inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we don’t. One of those superior court justices said two years ago in a law speech at a university that we don’t have equal rights for women in America and we don’t because when they wrote Constitution, they didn’t intend it for women. So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women. It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.

The Trust Challenge | Addressing Anti-Feminist Violence Online

via The Trust Challenge | Addressing Anti-Feminist Violence Online.

Check out (and please vote for!) FemTechNet’s proposal to develop educational materials for addressing online harassment. The proposal reads,

Members of FemTechNet, a collaborative feminist network, propose to curate best practices and educational content for communities responding to anti-feminist violence online. This curated collection will be published as an open-access digital book, utilizing the Scalar platform. A year-long schedule of in-person and virtual events will support the creation, dissemination, and use of this resource. Our collaborators include industry professionals, local and national non-profit groups, networked advocacy communities, and U.S. universities and colleges.

And then, when you are done with that, considering coming to visit UT Dallas in February when Anita Sarkeesian will be speaking as part of the Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology speaker series.

Upcoming Panel on Transgression, Gender Disturbance, and Feminist Sci-Fi Futures at #NWSA2014:

I am very excited to be presenting at the National Women’s Studies Association Meeting, Nov 13 – 16, 2014. Below you can find our panel description and abstracts of our individual talks.

Conference Theme: Feminist Transgressions Subtheme: Technologizing futures

Panel Title: Transgression, Gender Disturbance, and Feminist Sci-Fi Futures

Keywords: Intersectionality, Technology, New Media

Science fiction and other speculative genres engage technological imaginaries to problematize social ills and elaborate possibilities for change. Historically associated with men ─ dominated by white cis male authors and related to so-called “masculine” subjects of science and technology ─ science fiction has been troubled with colonial, sexist, and transphobic content. However,  feminist, queer, third world women, and women of color authors and artists also mobilize the conventions of the genre for critique, activism, and imagining new worlds. This panel brings together early career academics working in diverse areas of critical media and technology studies as scholars, activists, and makers. The panelists offer intersectional, queer, and transfeminist readings of literary and new media texts that emphasize their relevance to contemporary political and social issues including gender and sexual identity, neocolonial police states, reproductive rights, and others. The panel explicitly addresses the conference theme of “Feminist Trangression” by analyzing disruptive feminisms in literature, new media, and real-world activism. These texts subvert generic conventions to perform transformative critical interventions. Offering a multi-layered approach to “Technologizing Futures,” this panel examines media and genre as technologies themselves that are often used to enable but also sometimes fight against white cisgender heteronormative futurity. It explores material technologies ─ including both existing technologies/platforms (Youtube, Twitter, music videos, and video games) and imagined future technologies (robotics, androids, and clones) ─ that offer critiques of how feminist technologies can subvert and disrupt hegemonic futures. (more…)

Thoughts in Response to “What It’s Like to be a Woman Making Video Games”

“Feminist Heart Stickers” by Etsy user PixieandPixier

Whitney Hills has a Kotaku post titled “What It’s Like To Be A Woman Making Video Games.”

Someone posted it to my Facebook feed this morning. Be warned that the comments contained a lot of people being dismissive of her experiences.

There were a few things I’d love to discuss that I want to highlight from the piece.

At the end of the article, Hills writes,

“Most people have good hearts and really DON’T want to offend. But when men feel terrified of offending the women they work with, it only contributes to our sense of isolation and inequality. “

It immediately called to mind the experiences I wrote about in my post “A Cautionary Tale of Bro-havior and Benign Intent” I think this is the same problem that many feminists have started to approach by using humor. I was recently looking for feminist stickers or window decals on Etsy for my new office and came across the stickers pictured above. I particularly like the yellow one that says “Feminist killjoy.” Jokes about being a humorless feminist or a feminist intent on sucking all the fun out of the world seem to be one way of acknowledging that people can be…made uncomfortable by trying to moderate their behavior? That was really the best description I can come up with. This is my fundamental issue with people who talk about being “politically correct” as well. Those striving for “political correctness” seem to often be more concerned about not getting in trouble than by actually treating everyone with respect. I’d love to hear what people think about this. Is a good heart a good excuse? Should we be concerned that people are “terrified” of not offending and therefore expression may be constrained? Are we falling back into some trap of expectations of appropriate behavior if we put the feelings of the offenders above our own? Can discomfort be powerful? Or are we fooling ourselves to think that acting “PC” will translate to actual respect?

In addition to the issue above, I was really struck by the commenter who suggested that because she had never felt the same way, Hills’ experience and interpretation of her own experience was “ridiculous.” You see this argument a fair amount in talking about harassment or even isolation in tech or computing spaces. “I have never seen it, therefore it does not exist!” (one example). There are two lines along which I am thinking about this. One one hand, this woman is attempting to provide alternative viewpoints on the experience of women in the video game industry. Where this breaks down is in her declaration that Hills’ framing of the issue is ridiculous. Isn’t it possible to provide alternative views while acknowledging that not everyone may have the same experience? It reminds me of the young child, who thinks you cease to exist when they cannot see you. Hills could just as easily reply that she has not seen the kind of equity and easy camaraderie described by the commenter, therefore it is the commenter, not she, who is ridiculous. My temptation would be to reply that I am glad the commenter has never experienced this, but that just means that she is lucky, not that Hills is wrong. I mean, in both cases, we are talking about anecdotal evidence.

Except when we aren’t. Hills doesn’t invoke any statistical data but there is plenty out there to suggest that young women have the perception that if they enter computing fields, they will face isolation, discrimination, or harassment (http://www.aauw.org/research/why-so-few/ and http://www.girlscouts.org/research/publications/stem/generation_stem_what_girls_say.asp to get you started). And of course, there is also the issue of implicit bias where the person who has a good heart does not even realize they are reinforcing gender disparity*. No matter how often discrimination or isolation occurs (and the statistics bear out that this does happen a lot), so long as the dominant cultural narrative is that it happens, this has its own power. Earlier this week I was reading the chapter “Fashion and Gender” in Joanne Entwistle’s The Fashioned Body. On page 175 Entwistle is describing a new form of masculinity that emerged in the U.S. in the 1980s that was more image conscious at the same time that it was more caring. In response to media debates about whether this man “actually exists,” Entwistle reminds readers that there is never a 1:1 correlation between representation and reality and that “representations have their own reality” (175). At the time it struck me that this was also applicable to the questions of whether the brogrammer actually exists (much like a hipster, few if any will admit to being one). And I believe it applies here too. Do we need different strategies for addressing the representational narrative of disparity than the ones we use on “actual” instances of disparity?

So many questions come out of Hills’ Kotaku piece. I’d love to hear what others think. In the meantime I am going to order some “feminist killjoy” stickers so I can declare it loudly and proudly.

*I did it myself earlier this week on The Spiral Dance‘s Facebook page by assuming a programmer who wrote a letter defending her daughter was male. Even though she says twice that she is a woman. I will probably remain embarrassed about this for months, years, even a lifetime! But I left it up both as a mea culpa but also as a reminder to myself.

Tangible Harm? This is so Much Bigger Than One Tweet About Quvenzhané Wallis

I am pretty sure I rolled my eyes when I heard that Seth MacFarlane was hosting the Oscars. I don’t “get” Family Guy. Not even the Star Wars episodes. When Tina Fey and Amy Poehler did an amazing job at the Golden Globes, the prospect of MacFarlane hosting the Oscars seemed like an even worse choice. Rather than watch alone, my partner and I made a few dishes named after cheesy movie title puns and had a few friends over. As a result, I pretty much stayed offline much of Sunday. MacFarlane was predictably awful, but watching was made better by doing so with friends.

I signed on to Twitter this morning and it turns out that MacFarlane wasn’t the worst thing about the Oscars this year. Instead, the worst thing has been the media’s treatment of Quvenzhané Wallis. Where to begin?

Well, this rundown of the situation by Arturo García at Racialicious is a pretty good background primer.

As others have pointed out, white child actresses have never been subjected to this kind of treatment. The tweet from The Onion was reprehensible. After the apology, as people continued to discuss the incident, the following appeared in my tweet stream:

apology-tweet

(more…)

Happenings of Interest

I had hoped to blog about these two things before I went out of town for another conference, but with the end of the semester also looming, my to-do list was overflowing.

Rather than let them sit and wait until I return, I thought I’d draw your attention to a couple of items that I have found interesting over the last few weeks;

  • #1reasonwhy
    • Game developer Luke Crane tweeted to ask why there weren’t more women in the gaming industry. The hashtag #1reasonwhy has been used to track answers. As is often the case when people attempt to bring attention to gender disparities in this arena, many of the responses are quite misogynistic in and of themselves. But for the most part, the chorus of answers has been honest and productive. These tweets prompted the derivative hashtag #1reasontobe to explore the positive reasons that women choose to work in the industry.
  • Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology
    • The Fembot Collective have published the first issue of their new journal, Ada. I look forward to delving into the first issue and will post a review once I return from the conference. They have some really cool themes coming up, including one on feminists of color.

As I said, I will blog about both of these more fully when I return. But until then, happy reading!

 

RE-blog: Bollywood Primetime: Can One Big Dance Number Smash Racism? | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture

Bollywood Primetime: Can One Big Dance Number Smash Racism? | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture.

I don’t watch Smash, but I found Sayatani DasGupta’s post on Racialicious really interesting nonetheless.

She reflects on depictions of Indian culture in U.S. mainstream media and the influence of Bollywood on Western perceptions of India. Through multiple missteps, the makers of Smash flubbed an opportunity to portray Indian culture in a nuanced way.

It’s a really smart piece.

Blinking Dresses and Robot Girls in Perfume’s Spring of Life video

Perfume 「Spring of Life」 (Teaser) – YouTube.

H/T to the Craftzine blog

This is a teaser trailer for a new song from the Japanese pop group, Perfume.

I agree with Brooklynn at Craft. This color changing dress is indeed cool. As is the song. What I find most interesting, however, is that the dress is placed on bodies that are robotic and puppet-like. So far the characters are shown in fairly passive positions, not doing much more than the Geminoid-F mannequin android about which Janet M. blogged at Fashioning Circuits last month.

It is unclear whether there will be a longer video released with the song. From this brief teaser it would seem that the portrayal of cyborg-femininity is one that is passive and devoid of power. The beats are played out in luminescence across a body that cannot even meet the gaze of the camera.

Can’t we do better than fantasies of pretty, puppet-like women in flashing dresses? To what end should a dress blink? And how can we leverage the electrified garment to challenge mainstream representations of passive femininity?

Cross-posted at Fashioning Circuits.

Ken Jeong Photobombs Kate Upton’s GQ Photoshoot

I originally blogged this over at Fashioning Circuits, but I think it also fits here:

 

As a result of this project, I have been thinking a lot about fashion magazines, including men’s magazines. So when someone on Facebook shared this video, it immediately caught my eye. It is a GQ.com post about Ken Jeong photobombing Kate Upton. Before I’ve even had my morning coffee, I find myself contemplating raced and aged bodies, the artificiality of photoshoots, and all sorts of other things.

http://www.gq.com/video/videos/ken-jeong-kate-upton-photobomb-video

Jeong is clearly leading us on, asking us to believe that he was not invited. In fact, the multiple takes of his jump into the pool, wearing different shorts each time, suggest that the folks at GQ are having a laugh.

But what is it about the video that makes it funny? Pulling from Naomi Woolf’s The Beauty Myth, the main source of yuks is that Jeong is intruding into the creation of beauty pornography, causing a humorous disjunction. He is not supposed to be there. But why does his intrusion cause laughs rather than ramping up the sexual tension? For instance, even when Jeong is in bed with the couple, the viewer is never led to believe that this could turn into a menage à trois. If you think I am making too much of it, consider how the screen capture below would be different if it were the male model posing as Jeong does

Image of Jeong with Upton

Ken Jeong Photobombs Kate Upton

There are two factors that account for the humor in the video. The first, and less insidious of the two, is that he calls our attention to the absurdity of this type of image. Note the moment at around 01:00 when Jeong playfully bites his own bra strap. It looks ridiculous on him, but it is not at all inconceivable that we might see a shot of a woman doing this in any number of men’s or fashion magazines (commentary about a woman consuming the accoutrements of her own sexuality will have to be saved for another post). (more…)

Gamasutra: Arinn Dembo’s Blog – Gamazon: ‘Feminist Whore’ Powers Activate.

Gamasutra: Arinn Dembo’s Blog – Gamazon: ‘Feminist Whore’ Powers Activate..

Read this. Now.

This issue and the blog response were brought to my attention by my friend and colleague Amanda Phillips.

And if you’ve any doubts about the pervasiveness of these attitudes and the need for ongoing, thoughtful discussion about gender, just take a gander at the comments.

One of my favorite moments, in response to a commenter who insists that nobody would be upset if the gender-roles were reversed, is by the original post author, Arinn Dembo:

“Since offensive terms were not applied equally, since we aren’t working in an industry with gender equality in the workplace, and since we’re not getting into what characters deserve to be called (only what they are called) we’re having the discussion.”

Engage in hypothetical response all you want, the reality is this is the thing that happened and that needs to be addressed.

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