Sunday, December 18, 2011

"you should have punched him in the face"

[TW for harassment and discussion of real and imagined violence]

Ok, so I've been known to talk about the time a guy cornered and then leaned over me, so I punched him in the face. Whatever. That was an appropriate action to deal with that particular guy in that particular situation. It had the desired effect of getting him away from me immediately.

Fast forward in time to now. I went to the Opeth concert at the Enmore Theatre on Friday night, and holycrap the audience was obnoxious. People were yelling for the band to "play metal", and other people were yelling at the yellers to "shut the fuck up". People also threw a few bottles onto the stage. I'm not sure whether the "play metal" yellers had been listening to the concert... perhaps they were mis-informed of what "metal" is. In any case, the band usually has a setlist they go through. I suppose some bands take requests from the crowd, but getting mad when they don't play your personal request smacks of an incredible sense of entitlement.

Anyway, the final piece of obnoxiousness that I wanted to talk about was the guy behind me who kept touching my ass.

(Seriously dude. WTF was that about? What exactly do you get from lightly stroking the back of my jeans?)

There are two main questions/comments I've got from people I've talked to about it: Did I report it and maybe I should have hit him. (Is my faith in humanity so low that I'm mildly surprised (and glad) that none of my (male) friends have questioned that it really happened?)

I'm pretty sure that if I'd tried to report that to someone (assuming I knew who to tell and could pick out the random dude standing behind me in the dark), I'd be unlikely to be believed or blown off. Assuming I was believed, if they questioned the guy, he'd probably have sudden onset of amnesia, and/or claim it must have been an accident, because it was crowded and everything. Further assuming that authorities decided to believe me, I don't even know what action is appropriate in this case...

The second common response was a variation on "why didn't you hit him?". There are many reasons for this one; he was much bigger and taller than me, so if he hit me back I'd be in big trouble. Starting a fight with someone stronger than you is generally a bad idea. He may or may not have socialisation against hitting women, however I don't know which, and he was drunk, lowering any inhibitions he might have anyway. Secondly, the crowd was already ready to brawl. I wouldn't want to be the first to start that. I just wanted to watch the damn concert without obnoxiousness from the crowd. Thirdly, where would he go after I hit him? We're standing in a crowd thick with people. If I hit him and it doesn't cause him to leave, then he's... still standing behind me. (Say I hit him, and he's not hurt and laughs it off, and stays standing where he is.) That strikes me as an even less ideal situation than the first. Would he try and goad me into doing it again? If I hit him, what would the response of the combination of his and my friends be (knowing that none of them would have been able to see the ass-touching in the dark)? There are probably more reasons than I can think of for why hitting him would have been a poor move on my part. (Many of them went through my head when I was deciding how I'd respond.)

So what did I actually do? I swapped places with one of my male friends, and my ass was not touched by any assholes behind me for the rest of the concert. Personal problem solved. Cultural problem of entitled douchebags really not.

[H/T to Geek Feminism who had a re-post of a piece on just this sort of mater recently]

Saturday, December 3, 2011


I go to the hairdresser occasionally to get my hair cut and dyed, as one does. I like to dye my hair bright colours, and starting from a black base, the bleach+colouring process is quite drawn out, taking a whole afternoon in the salon. Normally I quite enjoy having my hair played with (probably a throwback when we used to braid each other's hair when I was in primary school), but today I had a weird and unpleasant experience, somewhat reminiscent of this story.

I made an appointment and went to the hairdresser as usual. When I got in, there were a couple of other people getting their hair cut, so I had to wait. There was also a man, perhaps in his 30s (I'm terrible at estimating people's ages), waiting for an appointment. He stared at me when I came in, to the point of discomfort. When I asked him "what?", he exclaimed "she needs a champagne!" and offered me a glass of one. I turn it down, not having had much to eat because I was feeling a little under the weather after going out on Friday night.

After we got moved to the chairs to get our hair done, he makes all sorts of crude jokes about "titties" and his pubic hair. Gross. At some point he asked me if I was religious (huh?), and when I replied in the negative, he says something about how that makes all his jokes acceptable (wrong. I still think they were in bad taste). [TW] Then he went on to talk about how somebody electrocuted their wife/girlfriend and how he thinks they could have got away with stabbing her in any other country (WTF?!). [/TW] I interjected with something like "nobody should get away with that", and pulled out my phone and did my best to ignore his chatter after that. Finally, he left and I was pleased to be left the fuck alone.

Well. It turns out that he paid for my hair cut + colour when he left. I have no idea why he did that (to make up for being an obnoxious slightly drunk jerk? Some misguided attempt at being a gentleman? Was he trying to flirt with me? Was he feeling a bit threatened by an obviously young woman getting a haircut in an expensive salon without an attendant male?). WTF? Obviously I'm not going to accept a ($70) favour from him, and this whole thing makes me pretty uncomfortable, so I think I made the right decision by giving the hairdresser money and telling them to give him his money back. That way it's not my problem any more, in a way that if I had accepted the favour it would be. I'd have to thank him or something if I ran into him on the street (the location he said he lives is near me) and act grateful for his making me uncomfortable. I may need to deal with being called a bitch for not accepting his favour, but I think I prefer that to feeling like I owe somebody something.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


"As hard as you all work to avoid us, guys will do stupid things to get women's attention"

Well, how about this. If I want someone's attention, I don't go and stamp on their toes. I don't do that because it's generally seen as a Rude and Not Nice thing to do. Even if I really want your attention.

When a stranger yelling "nice ass" at a woman is also seen as a Rude and Not Nice thing to do (as opposed to a compliment) to get their attention, we will have made progress.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


The ads I was served for the email notification about a comment on my previous post.

Head, meet desk.

On feminism and privilege

I don't get to not care about feminist issues. I don't get to say "I don't care because it's too hard." I don't get to look away, because these are the things which affect me every day.

I can care about individual issues without a feminist framework, but that doesn't lessen their impact. Without a feminist framework to draw the links between the types of privilege I do and don't have, the future seems bleaker. Without feminism, I see no predictable way to change the way I, and people like meare treated as less every day.

Without feminism, I see no change to the levels of harassment I face online and in meatspace. I see no change in the rates of gender based violence. I see no change in how seriously I am and will be taken as a professional. I see talent being lost at every turn.

Without feminism, I see no point in continuing to live in this society.


I can't opt out of society, and I can't opt out of caring about how it is broken. Especially, especially in the myriad of ways which affect me personally.

You may be able to choose to not care, but make that choice knowing that by making it, you are choosing to be part of the problem. People who are uninformed and perpetuate discrimination are almost (but not quite) excusable, but people who do it knowingly? They are not only part of the problem, but are preventing change. People who know better but do not challenge discriminatory views make it harder for change to happen. People who choose not to care are choosing to continue inflicting pain on others less well off than them, while having the power, time and energy to make it stop, because they are not wasting cycles on fending things off all the time. They are not using extra brain space on predicting whether the people around them care enough about consent not to rape them. They are not the ones fighting stereotypes about being lazy, suspicious, criminal, hysterical or less intelligent. In fact, perhaps because they are not burdened the stereotypes, they may even have a higher chances of actually bringing about change.

Links selected more or less at random from my feeds.

Monday, June 6, 2011


[TW for rape jokes]

It's funny how an idiotic comment from a stupid dipshit can ruin your day. I was having a great time at a judo lesson when a dipfuck pulled out the "it's not rape if you yell surprise!" joke, followed up by "let's just say she woke up and was surprised to be having sex".

I have no idea who the asshole is, but I whipped around and said "that's absolutely disgusting!". He tried to recover by saying something about how that joke is mis-credited. I responded with "I don't care who said it first. That's a disgusting thing to say and you don't say it around people." He spluttered a bit... and I turned back to putting the rest of the stuff back in my bag.

I'm horrified that he thought that sort of joke is remotely acceptable, let alone in a room with several women in it. I'm really glad I spoke up, yet I'm disappointed nobody else who was staring at us for the conversation jumped in to agree with me. I feel like I could have articulated the response better, but I was too shocked.

I just want to shake every person who says it and yell "why?" in their face.

Why? Why do you find the rape of women, especially the rape of unconscious women funny?
Why do you think that the women in the room won't object?
Why do you think that joking about hurting women is acceptable?
Why? Why can't you see that what you are saying is enabling a culture where people think it is acceptable to ignore women's boundaries? Why don't you realise that what you are saying enables a culture where people think that raping a woman isn't a big deal? Why?

Monday, May 16, 2011

The clothing issue: hypocrisy [part one]

Thoughts about clothes: I have many of these, given that the SlutWalk Sydney is impending, but also in general...

On hypocrisy:
One of the things I have been doing at work is gently pushing the people who order our work shirts to consistently order both men's and women's sizes. This is difficult, because all too often we end up with "unisex" sizes, which usually turn out to be men's sizes with a different label. If we're really lucky, there might be a unisex XS which might fit me, but generally it stops at S (which is marginally too big for me and probably some of the women I work with).

I think this is a problem which is overlooked because of the scarcity of women in engineering in my office (~5%), however it has also occurred when women from other departments have been included. It has also occurred in other contexts (our engineering class shirt, band tshirts). The complaint of not getting appropriately sized shirts is also often dismissed as "oh noes, the free stuff isn't perfect". Other arguments against provision altogether have been brought up, such as "economics" of doing a small run in women's sizes (read: it costs too much to be inclusive) etc etc. Another issue I've seen is that women's shirts are sometimes of significantly lower quality, causing the women to choose mens shirts anyway - prompting an outcry of "but see, they didn't want them after all!". Yet another issues I've seen is of the women's shirts having a special "women's design" on them (usually pink, and/or with hearts or flowers), which predictably sell badly/have many left over because many women will find this patronising (woman =/= little girl =/= love of all things pink and pretty), and reject them.

All in all though, I think most of the arguments against buying women's sizes when providing a [team, class] shirt fall rather flat considering a few things: the providers of the shirts usually want to appear welcoming and diverse, and/or want to increase the participation of women in [tech, engineering], are either self-pay or not strapped for budget, and also have at least a few women pointing out that they aren't being included.

Summary; it's actually not that hard to be inclusive when printing shirts. A safe option is to go with the same design, printed on shirts in both mens and womens sizes. Easy.

Anyway, that's not where I was originally headed with this post. For many reasons, I often prefer to wear shirts which are technically "mens" sizes. And so I feel like a hypocrite if I say, "so now I've successfully got these shirts in women's sizes, I actually want one in a men's size". I kind of feel like I'm being a bad leader by not setting an example, and saying "lol! Tricked you!" or something. It's totally not what I've been intending with this - I really do think that being inclusive and providing shirts in all the appropriate sizes (big sizes are often neglected too) is important!

I guess it's a feeling I need to think about and explore more before I can fully unpack why I feel it and decide what I want to do about it. Outside opinions welcomed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I'm a what?

Before I begin this post, I would like to briefly state that I have never formally studied feminist theory or the social sciences beyond the compulsory courses I did in early high school. If something is grossly wrong (which I hope is not the case), I will welcome well-reasoned corrections (i.e. don't just tell me I'm wrong, tell me why I'm wrong).

There has been a lot of talk lately of a certain author of a comic called Dilbert, who goes by the name Scott Adams. This Adams recently wrote a blog post, on the request of his readers, about a concept called Mens' Rights. Unfortunately, he did it in a way which was insulting to pretty much all of humanity, and unsurprisingly triggered a shitstorm. From what I can tell, some people have been nasty to Adams in return, rather than refuting the many incorrect "facts" which he presents. I personally don't think he necessarily deserves to be called names for believing commonly believed stereotypes about men and women, even though his use of said stereotypes is odious. That being said, his childish copy-paste reaction on a number of feminist blogs which critique the original post, and his blanket dismissal of other people's feelings and opinions on the matter deserve the utmost contempt.

Adams is of the opinion that his original blog post mocks the "Mens' Rights Activists" (hereafter referred to as MRAs). And so it does, to some extent. By calling them "pussies" and not saving their energy for more important battles. And then he justifies this by suggesting that you deal with women in the same way you would a petulant child demanding candy or a flailing mentally disabled person who hit you in the face. He says that he's not comparing these groups of people, but then compares them again, repeating that you should deal with them in "disturbingly similar" manners, justified by saying that you should only fight in battles you know you're going to win.

Er. Pardon me, Scott Adams. This paints women as irrational beings which men can only deal with by ignoring as much as possible. At risk of being dismissed by critics for being hysterical, this shit really pisses me off.

Women are adults, and deserve equal treatment with other adults in the human race. Treating women like children because "it's just easier that way" is a kind of cop-out, don't you think? I don't have any studies, but I would think that treating women like the fully rational beings they are would actually be easier for everyone - they would no longer have to deal with the frustration of constantly being reminded that they are considered less-than because of circumstances they have no control over, and everyone would be less likely to need to deal with the messed up relationships which result from systemic power imbalances like this.

Let me re-finish Scott Adams' statement on battles.

"If a woman tells you that she's earning 80c to your dollar, you don't argue with her." You do something about it. You don't save your energy for more important battles, because this one is important (and contrary to popular belief, you can care about multiple issues concurrently). That may not be the path of least resistance, because social change is difficult. But instead of just resignedly saying "life is unfair", you can vote for political parties which prioritise gender equality. You can excise language which uses the feminine as an insult from your vocabulary (because a girl being called "such a girl" shouldn't be insulting!). You can support girls in pursuing careers traditionally reserved for men (which are also better paid). You can support equalising the pay rates of traditionally "masculine" and "feminine" professions (because teachers are surely as important as lawyers). You can support women you know in negotiating better pay or getting promoted, and you can do equal work in your home so the women in your family don't take on a "second shift" which might prevent them from committing to their outside employment fully.

Even if the beginning of Adams' original post is ignored, on the grounds that it is the opinions of the MRAs he's mocking (and in the interest of making this post slightly shorter), not only does the original post insult women, it also insults men. Saying that men are apathetic, brow-beaten and constantly desirous of sex is pretty insulting to them. I, for one, know that they are certainly capable of more. That's not to say that there aren't real societal problems which men also need to navigate - such as uneven prison sentencing, toxic definitions of masculinity and parental rights - but Adams' post manages to trivialise those issues as well, using examples like who gets served first at a restaurant or opening jars.

Now that I've done an incomplete analysis of Adams' original post, lets move onto his response to the responses his first post got from around the internet.

He begins by explaining how his post was supposed to be funny, and how everyone seems to be worried about issues he doesn't think are important. Next he claims that people were "changing its context" by taking it too seriously, and how he didn't realise how seriously people would take it. He continues by dismissing everyone who was offended by it as excessively "emotional" and accusing feminist bloggers of being combative ("the with us or against us instinct took over"), and finishes off by dismissing people who were offended by it as being merely offended "by their interpretation" of it.

I'm pretty sure his post is essentially based on excerpts from derailing for dummies 101 - let me recap.

It was just a joke on the internet!
I made it because I was sick of all these people complaining about how they've been discriminated against in some way ("I'm been experiencing a wicked case of "whiner fatigue."")
Don't you have more important things to worry about ("THOSE are problems. Your thing: Not so much.")

Adams clearly has a low opinion of people's ability to change their opinion on things/analyse to their environments ("I don't believe humans can be influenced by exposure to better arguments") - maybe he's projecting - so he claims he's just presenting a "different" opinion, since exposure to a broad range of ideas is supposed to be good for you. See also "But being offended is good for you!".

People dissected the post and analysed it - and in doing this they apparently inflated how clever they were - see "You're being too intellectual/not intellectual enough" ("...crowed that I don't understand how the Internet worked, I would politely suggest that perhaps I do.") He claims that they wouldn't be able to understand the post because their analysis of it "changed the context", by which I suppose he means "you're interrogating from the wrong perspective".

He also protests his being labelled an asshole, and in the same sentence accuses people (feminists?) of stereotyping all men as such ("I was presumed an enemy and labeled a misogynist. I was also labeled an asshole, which I have come to understand is a synonym for male") - see also "But I'm not like that, stop stereotyping!".

He characterises all the responses around the original post as people getting "excited" about it, and states the oft-repeated "fact" that emotions destroy rationality. See "You're being over emotional" and "You've lost your temper so I don't have to listen to you". I suppose he wouldn't agree with me in my belief directed emotion is actually conducive to motivating one to change one's circumstances.

Finally, he repeats his assertion that men are apathetic except when it comes to dealing with each other  (wtf?), uses the feminine as an insult (again!), and apologises without actually apologising - he apologises on behalf of women for getting their own interpretation of his post wrong (wtf), and even manages to get another little jibe in at feminists in the last sentence ("even feminists..."?).

As far as I can tell, both posts are rehashing some pretty insulting existing stereotypes about men and women, and the second was "la la la I'm putting my fingers in my ears and I'm not listening to other people telling me that I'm wrong and I'm certainly not apologising to you people for being offensive even though I know I was being offensive". I'm hearing a man who is both aware that he is not engaging with his critics, and is also unwilling to engage.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

rape jokes

So, a dude I know re-tweets a rape joke on twitter, and I call him out.

He responds with

"I'm sad the joke offended you. I also believe that my 30+ followers are smart enough to know I despise rape. I do have a dark humour though. It's why I like cyanide and happiness. I did read the blog post [you linked me to]. I've read similar articles in the past. I agree with them.",

then totally un-ironically links me to this video.

My response: "Who is hurt and erased by that joke? It's not rapists. Thanks for the backhand compliment on my intelligence, btw"

So. Dark humour. Dark humour differs from straight forward obscenity in that it is more subtle and does not necessarily have the intent of offending people. In obscene humour, much of the comedy is elicited through shock and revulsion, whereas dark humour often includes elements of irony, or even fatalism. Topics and events that are usually regarded as taboo, specifically those related to death, are treated in an unusually humorous or satirical manner while retaining their seriousness; the intent of black comedy, therefore, is often for the audience to experience both laughter and discomfort, sometimes simultaneously.

To talk further, one must know the original joke. TW for discussion of rape, obviously.