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July 20, 2010


And as schroduck said, “for each woman who wears the veil, either she’s chosen to, or she’s being forced to.” If she’s chosen to, then there’s a fuckton of hypocrisy in saying “You can’t wear that now, we’re going to fine you a hundred and fifty Euros.” If she’s being forced to, then “banning it victimises her further”.

What happens if she is being forced to, and all of a sudden she isn’t allowed to wear it anymore? Do you really think the Muslim religious leaders and the abusive husbands of the world are going to say “Oh well, we had a good run. Enjoy your feminist awakening, dear!”

A burqa is at most symptom, not the problem itself. Banning it in hopes of giving oppressed women freedom is like curing tonsillitis by giving someone cough drops. The thinly veiled xenophobia France has displayed on this issue astounds me. They’re doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.


ACS fails

July 14, 2010

The latest issue of C&EN (Chemical and Engineering News, the magazine published by the American Chemical Society) has a lot of interesting numbers, the results of an ACS employment survey of it’s members. Now, this magazine is sent to ACS members, which are, you know, scientists. Educated types. People who appreciate and understand data. The magazine often discusses in depth recently published research on a variety of chemistry topics. Yet in giving this survey, they gave no mention of which numbers were statistically significant, or a margin of error, or even the response size for each number. Which means that you can’t draw reliable conclusions (although the attached article does a good job trying anyway). I am displeased with them. The numbers are interesting. I’d love to give you a post talking about them. But I’m sure that conclusions can’t be drawn on many of them, because of small numbers. Grr.

useful information – photography and civil liberties

July 14, 2010

I didn’t know this, but it seems like useful information to share. Apparently, the police have no right to confiscate your camera, even if you’ve photographed or recorded a crime. They can ask for contact info so that they can use it as evidence in court at a later date, but they can’t take it away from you without your permission. There’s a .pdf linked about halfway through that’s a good breakdown written by a lawyer of what you have the right to do with a camera.


July 8, 2010

Alright here’s a link to the evolutionary psychology article I mentioned in the last post. I’m putting it here because I’m curious about what other people think, Katie and Erik especially since I know you are both more informed about this than I am, though all voices are welcome. I’ve never been comfortable with evo-psych. It seems to make sense, but I’ve rarely seen evidence that backs up the claims. Also, the claims tend to rub me the wrong way. But I readily admit that I’m a layperson in this area (and I’m not so much willing to get a degree to be able to understand it well), so I guess my most firm opinion is to give it a decade for the hype to settle and see what the experts decide.

my bubble and several other semi-related thoughts

July 8, 2010

I really was going to get stuff done tonight. I was going to get a whole bunch of work done planning TA training for the new grad students. But I figured I’d just pop online a moment to see if there were any good updates to peruse. Geek Feminism has a new linkspam up, and I’ve gotten buried in links. Oi. Seriously, I just keep clicking on links as I read, even though I know it’ll just take longer, and I hate myself every time I click on one, but here I go again. Oh good, that one turned out to be a dud link. Alright I’ve got it down to four tabs…two…alright well one is staying open because I want to peruse that blog more, and one ’cause it’s about evo-psych and to keep an open mind I need to read that with free time. So now I’ll blog. Yes, this post was written while I read, can you tell?

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut there’s some great reading. And one post in particular has gotten me thinking, even though I’m only halfway through it. The post discusses how geek culture and feminism collide. This quote really made me think:

But I didn’t, because being silenced like that is so…horrible. I felt powerless. I surround myself by supportive and non-asshole people, so I’d almost forgotten what being silenced because I’m a woman felt like. I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to talk to people who will, as soon as it’s convenient, completely invalidate my speech and my experiences. And my attempts to elicit sympathy were read as crazy-talk, hysteria, not-important. So I left.

Because I don’t see it any more. I don’t watch tv. I hang out with very liberal progressive amazing people. I live in a world full of academics who are usually too busy to bother being asshats. Heck, I’ve gotten to where I enjoy my safe bubble so much that I consciously avoid conversational topics around certain people. I like not getting pissed at the world. I like being able to be happy and feel safe that I won’t be insulted randomly while trying to enjoy myself or do my job. It’s great. But it really is a bubble. I don’t watch tv in part because commercials drive me up a wall; sometimes because they’re boring, but other times because the advertising makes me angry/nauseous/sad. I hang out with liberal progressive people in part because I know that they’re safe to talk to, and usually won’t attack me for disagreeing. Straying outside of this bubble will make the world much more frustrating, and scary sometimes. I know this, but I tend to forget it because I’m so protected right now. Then again, all I have to do to remember it is read the comment section of any blog without strong moderation. Extra points if it’s a woman writing about feminism. (Check out just about any obviously feminist post on Thus Spake Zuska for an example of what I mean, and I’m pretty sure she moderates reasonably well.)

On a semi-related topic. I tend to assume that the real asshats, the ones who say the worst violently misogynist shit, that they are young men. The stereotype is a fourteen year old who’s just discovered that he can swear online and no one will know. I tend to assume that they’re young men (at least under thirty) and that real grown up men aren’t like that. Except, that shit happens on NYTimes and These are not websites that bored young people peruse for mischief, are they? Who are these trolls?

There is this idea that anonymity will benefit women who are victims of online harassment. First because it will stop people from being quite so mean. I give you Ctrl-Alt-Del’s comment on that: “A Troll By Any Other Name…”. Secondly, real names are, well, real world names. They mean that the harasser can find you. I’ve heard that people are being panicky when they say that…here’s the results of some quick googling. I’ll omit full names because that would be ironically irresponsible of me.
Me: the real me shows up on the first page of results
Erik: first hit
Ned: first hit
Alejandro: doesn’t show up for his full name, but he’s the first hit if you add the city
Julia: first hit is her old lab, as well as two others that associate her with UCI
Shawn: first hit
Mayukh: first hit
Joonhee: doesn’t show up for his full name, but he’s the first hit if you add the city
Tatyana: first hit
Nick: doesn’t show up for his full name, but he’s the fourth hit if you add the city
Fawn: first hit
Megan: took more than thirty seconds to find
Tivoli: first hit
Now, granted, not all of these hits are that useful, though many link us to our current school and department. Also, we’re grad students so maybe we have higher than average web presence. But my comment by Megan’s name was serious: this was thirty seconds or a minute on each name. I’m sure if you tried, using just the info on this blog, Google, and the willingness to call or email people to try to find me. (Please don’t; that’d be creepy. Also, I’m pretty sure everyone reading this already knows me.) When people say they don’t want their names out online, they really mean it. When they say they don’t want cities out online, they really mean it. Yes, a truly determined troll could probably somehow get the information illegally using just a forum username, no matter how good you cover your tracks, but why should we hand it to them? Why should we make it take a thirty second Google search to figure out the address of the building we work in? (Btw, basically this whole paragraph is motivated by those idiots at Blizzard that have decided that effective moderation is too much work and are instead forcing users to post real names in an ill-conceived attempt to reduce trolling.)

Finally, the I linked above recently did an interview, and had this quote that made me laugh a lot: (laugh in a sad “it’s either laugh or be angry” sort of way)

If I complain about the complete lack of plot in Avatar, for example, I’ll hear murmurs of consent in a room full of geeks. If I say Avatar is inexcusably racist, however, that same room will suddenly get defensive.

So that was an interesting post. Also, I thought I should tell you, I acquired two new tabs to read while writing the rest of this. But I’m gonna post now. Wish me luck in finishing the reading before bed.

when humor goes wrong

July 7, 2010

So, I read a lot of blogs. This shouldn’t surprise you. I read a lot of liberal blogs. Progressive blogs. Feminist blogs. Queer blogs. Blogs that advocate for issues that most people have never even considered being something you advocate for. Unsurprisingly, the people on these blogs are often angry about something. Often that something is an attempt at humor in the mainstream media, which they found offensive. Almost every time, if they do manage to get a response, it’s “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to offend you.” Which, fyi, isn’t an apology. (the right answer is: “I’m sorry I did offend you.”) But anyway. My thought of the day is this: they really honestly didn’t mean to offend. The reason they did is that they weren’t considering a wide enough audience. To white people, a joke that plays off of Asian stereotypes is often funny; to an Asian who was taunted with that stereotype in grade school, or yesterday at work, this is often a heck of a lot less funny. To men, a joke that depends on women not enjoying sex might be funny, but it’s probably less funny to a woman who has heard that seriously from a previous boyfriend (or parent). It’s also not funny to people who are aware that, while these things haven’t happened to them, they’ve happened to people them. Not every Asian got teased for being Asian in elementary school, but some did. Same goes for women, and a lot of other groups. Thing is, I understand the instinct. Around women, I have told (and occasionally still do tell, though I’m trying not to) jokes that were pretty sexist towards me, and we all laughed and laughed. It was funny for us. It’s less funny for a man to hear that joke though. (Now granted, I do think it’s different for a woman to tell a joke about men then for a man to tell a joke about women. But that’s another post.) Because I like and respect men, when I think of jokes I now do my best to take into account if the punchline of my jokes means laughing AT men, as opposed to laughing with them. And that’s the difference with a lot of the humor that gets ranted about on progressive blogs. Yeah, it’s a hilarious article about Asians invading your small town if you’re white. It’s a sad attempt at racial humor that really just ends up racist if you’re Asian. If I assume the people hearing my joke (or for that matter, those reading my blog) are just like me, then I have a lot of options for what to say. Taking into account other people limits that. To me, though, that’s acceptable. If I want to be friends/coworkers/family/lovers with people who aren’t exactly like me, then I need to consistently respect these people. If you don’t think it’s funny, then I shouldn’t be saying it. Moreso, I shouldn’t always have to be told that I’ve crossed the line. I shouldn’t say whatever the hell I want and then apologize when corrected; I should figure out about where the lines are on my own rather quickly and then only fuck up occasionally. If I respect people who aren’t exactly like me, then it’s my job to put a good effort into not insulting them. That’s not too much to ask from comedians, or advertisers, or editors, or journalists. And that’s why these liberal progressive communist hippie blogs I read keep harping on this humor thing: if these people respect people like us, they’ll put the effort into not insulting us. If they respect us, they’ll remember that we’re in the audience.
(I’m not bothering to put any links here as examples, because honestly there are too many. Read through back posts on Shakesville, or any of a hundred other blogs. Read the blogarounds on Shakesville. They’re there. All. The. Time.)

great read on same-sex couples/immigration reform

June 30, 2010

This article in the SF Weekley covers a topic that needs more press:bi-national same-sex couples. It discusses attempts at obtaining visas, long separations, couples who’ve decided to live in the states illegally, and couples moving to Canada to be together. I don’t really have a lot of commentary because the idea that this hasn’t been fixed already and is still an issue makes me too angry to come up with coherent thoughts.