So tomorrow is Slutwalk. You’ve probably heard of it, but click here for some of the background if you need.
I’m most interested in the name, as this is the bit that has caused most of the controversy, as Roly Sussex describes here (scroll to the bottom of the article). “Slut” is a term that is bound to offend some people, although they are the people who probably need to be offended.
I take more seriously the complaint by feminists and others that it is a derogatory, misogynist word that should not be promoted, even in opposition to the views it betrays. I disagree. There is a long history of derogatory terms being recuperated by disparaged groups: “gay,” “queer” and “nigger” are the obvious ones, but “methodist” was originally a pejorative term for Wesleyans who took the epithet gladly. When I was at school, no one wanted to be called a geek. That said, I’m still not going to use the word, any more than it’s appropriate for me to use the n-word (see Roly’s comments).
There is no doubt going to be a lot more debate about this movement and its title, and I welcome that, because it will bring a lot of attention to opinions that are easy to hold when the underlying issues are ignored; hard to hold when they are exposed. And the really disturbing thing that tends to go largely unremarked is this: What is the male-equivalent term for “slut”?
That’s right. There isn’t one…
Entitlement and Violence
A friend on facebook today said: “What is it with cretins raping or stabbing women, and setting them on fire?! It’s making me so frickin’ angry. Those who think violence against women is a passe issue? Take copious notes.”
While I certainly agree with her sentiment, I’m inclined to think that the underlying problem is broader than one of gender-related violence, although gender certainly comes into it in many instances.
What I’m about to say is personal opinion formed through thinking about the issues and observing patterns and connections. I don’t have any academic or research backing for this other than the interpretative and analytic skills that I’ve developed over years. Nor am I a lawyer, so I’m using terms with commonly understood meanings, not legal or philosophical definitions.
It seems to me that a lot of violence and injustice (and sometimes just plain rudeness) is born out of a sense of entitlement, and sometimes ownership, on the part of the perpetrator and that this is mostly subconscious on their part. . .
Ada Lovelace Day 2010: Alice Sheldon
Oops, nearly missed Ada Lovelace Day, but it’s still the 24th in some parts of the world, so I guess I’m OK.
Like last year’s post, I’m interpreting the rules of the event rather liberally. My subject was not a scientist nor a technologist, although she did hold a PhD in experimental psychology. And for much of her public career, many people didn’t even realise she was a woman.
Alice Sheldon is, of course, better known as science fiction novelist and short story writer, James Tiptree Jr.
Sheldon was a graphic artist and journalist before joining the US army in 1942 where she worked in photo intelligence, and after the war worked with the CIA for three years, apparently working under cover in the Near East for a time.
In 1956 Sheldon enrolled in a BA at American University, worked for a time as a graduate tutor before graduating with a PhD from George Washington University in 1967. After that she started writing science fiction under the pseudonym James Tiptree Jr. She claimed that she took the name deliberately to hide her gender:
“A male name seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damned occupation.” (Profile, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, April 1983, via Wikipedia)
Follow-up to Why are Women not Blogging Politics
As promised, this is the follow up to my last post on why women are not blogging politics. It has taken so long for me to get back to this, and so much has been written in the mean time, that there is probably not too much more that I can add. Jenny Ejlak, writing in the Crikey Daily Email on 25 August, made the point that I was trying to make so much more eloquently than I managed. Nevertheless, there are still a couple of points that I feel I could reiterate.
My last post was in response to a question raised on twitter by Jonathan Green and was quoted by Possum Comitatus on his blog post on the Crikey Blogs website. On Possum’s blog, Venise Alstergren, comment 86, accused me of “whinging” in what amounted at a personal attack. While the attack itself doesn’t bother me, (my family and I had a great laugh at some of Venise’s more outrageous assumptions), her comment and others demonstrate and raise a number of points that still deserve some attention.
Why are Women Not Blogging Politics?
Today on Twitter, GreenJ, one of the Crikey writers asked “serious question: why don’t women (proportionally the unbalance is weird) subscribe to crikey?” This question was retweeted by Pollytics who took the issue up on his (her?) blog, asking “where are Australia’s female political bloggers?” [oops, just burnt the soup because I’m trying to blog while cooking tea] Some of the people who left comments, especially JaneShaw, Anna Winter, and BH, made similar points to those that I had made on Twitter, but I’m going to repeat them here anyway.
Ada Lovelace Day: Susan Calvin
It’s Ada Lovelace Day and as promised, here is my post about “women excelling in technology”. Because this is Memes, and we have our own interests and perspectives, my take on the excellent female technician is Dr Susan Calvin of US Robotics.
Susan Calvin is, of course, fictional. She features in many of the early robot stories of Isaac Asimov. The author is slightly self-congratulatory about his creation:
You will note, by the way, that although most of the Susan Calvin stories were written at a time when male chauvinism was taken for granted in science fiction, Susan asks no favors and and beats the men at their own game. To be sure, she remains sexually unfulfilled—but you can’t have everything. (Asimov, The Complete Robot, Granada, 1982: 265)
Nice. Women can be as talented and scientifically rigorous as men, but only by suppressing their identities as sexual beings. You can have science or love, but not both, apparently.
Ideas Festival: Office for Women Panel Discussion
For our Brisbane readers…
The Office for Women proudly presents ‘Beyond size 0 – is anything real?’
We invite you to attend an insightful and thought-provoking panel discussion hosted by the Office for Women as part of the Ideas Festival.
“With new technologies, will real women’s bodies be necessary for the future of fashion? And if not, what impacts will this have on fashion, the media industry and women’s health and body image in the future?”
Join us as four expert panellists present their perspectives on the media’s impact on women’s body image and its implications for the future. Panellists include: writer, director and producer Phoebe Hart, Dr Angela Dwyer of Queensland University of Technology, Phillippa Diedrichs of the University of Queensland, and Tracy Whitelaw of MyCyberTwin.
Meshel Laurie, co-host of Brisbane’s Nova 106.9, will MC the session.
Be part of the Ideas Festival and see expert panellists examine the question ‘Beyond size 0 – is anything real?’
Saturday, 28 March 2009
6 pm – 7 pm
State Library of Queensland, Auditorium 2
South Bank Cultural Centre,
For further information visit the Office for Women’s Ideas Festival web page.
Sarah Palin and Class Politics
I was having a debate about Sarah Palin with a self-described conservative friend recently, and he remarked how “the left” (leave that indifferentiation aside for the moment) had gone ballistic in its hatred for her. Not more than the vitriol “the right” reserves for Hillary Clinton I suspect, but I feel he has a point.
Much of the criticism is focussed on her inexperience (a question that must be asked of the Obama camp as well, to be sure), but a certain amount has caricatured her as a red-neck, gun totin’, caribou killing hillbilly. Now the red-neck, gun totin’ brigade has not done a lot for US credibility in last eight years, and I reserve my deepest levels of contempt for people who find it necessary to demonstrate their superiority over animals by killing them with high-power, precision targeted weapons, but I wonder whether the same level of condemnation would be aroused if Palin was male? Larvatus Prodeo canvasses a similar question here, and some of the comments are revealing. “Gun totin’ hick” isn’t a good look in relation to US foreign policy, so why weren’t these accusations levelled at George W Bush, or at John McCain?
Predicably, Republicans are squealing “sexism.” Well at least they’ve learned the word: eventually they’ll realise that a woman doesn’t have to be “one of the boys” to be considered for high office. I don’t think all this criticism is sexist, but there is certainly an imbalance in the progressive commentary, and it wouldn’t hurt their credibility if they examined that. I believe there are more than enough reasons to argue against Palin as VP without descending to class-based stereotypes.
It seems that most commentators have respected Palin’s call to leave her daughter alone. For my part, I’d prefer it if they skipped the hick-baiting, and asked questions about how Palin’s policy of abstinence and narrow definitions of sexual morality will address the problems of unwanted pregnancy, when they don’t even work in her own family.
Unspeak warns of a sickly new euphemism being deployed by anti-abortionists: