Friday, August 15, 2014

There are a lot of good things on the internet, but the comments often aren't one of them.  A bunch of people, many of whom I assume are middle-school boys, feel the need to viciously attack anything they don't like in the most violent and sexist ways.  There are sites that make comments actually work, where discussion can happen constructively.  But there are a lot of boys who see anyone, especially women as a threat that needs to be harassed, objectified and silenced.  Insane children think that only boys play games and that women should be excluded, when in fact almost half of all video game players are female.
I'm a straight white man.  I don't ever get rape or death threats online, no matter how much anyone disagrees with me.  Women, LGBT people and minorities do every day.  The only solution I've got is I'm going to teach my 2 sons that that behavior is unacceptable. I hope other people have good ideas for broader solutions.  I think some of them are in these articles:

Friday, April 18, 2014


I wanted to make a note that John Scalzi wrote an essay that clarifies something I've been trying to sort out about discrimination.  In particular the idea:

that in order to participate in discrimination, one has to actively and with malice aforethought choose to discriminate — in order to be sexist, one has to be sexist, in other words (or to be racist, one has to be a racist; in order to be homophobic, one has to be a homophobe, etc). 
And, well. No. In fact, you don’t actively have to go out of your way to discriminate in order to participate in discrimination — that’s kind of the point. Some of that is already built into the system that everyone is part of. You get it, positively and/or negatively, no matter what; everyone does. You may then also decide to support discrimination in one way or another, and that’s the thing that changes you from being (for example) sexist to being a sexist. But to deny that baseline discrimination we all deal with because you’re not by your own lights actively trying to promote that discrimination is silly. It’s there, it’s real and it’s measurable, and you take part in it, one way or another.

This is the difference between institutional racism and personal racism that people tried to teach me some time ago and I knew then I didn't understand yet.  An individual can hate black people and actively yell at them or otherwise try to make their lives worse.  But our entire community works together to put together a police and judicial system that systematically is biased against black men at every decision point.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Microaggressions matter

In a lengthy discussion, the new york times discusses how there are more conversations about microaggressions going on, especially on college campuses.  (I assume both of you know that microaggressions are the little offhand comments and looks that aren't overtly discriminatory, but come from prejudices assumptions.

One of the pieces objecting to the concept is titled "you could be a racist and not even know it".  This is, in fact, the point.  For the most part, racist talk is unacceptable in our society now.  But many people say things that are offensive in their ignorance, even if their intention is not to be hurtful.  Someone saying you only got into your college because you're black is pretty racist, but "where are you from" as a coded question about your ethnicity is still hurtful.  I only get asked that because of my unusual name, and even then, people ask where my name is from, not usually attributing qualities to me.  Because I'm "white".

The conservative objection is that people who are angry all the time need to toughen up.  That the world isn't always nice and taking offense when none is intended is just making things difficult, and censoring the rest of us.  I think a good counter point to that is this comment:

I had a day yesterday that speaks to this so perfectly. First I had to listen to my male coworker - who never shuts up - try to teach me about my own job, then I had to listen to a male faculty member "teach" me (I'm a univ. librarian) about research in his area (already knew 99% of it, but he acted like I was just born), then my male boss decided to blab to me about parenting (I have 3 kids, I know the drill), and finally I get home and my husband blabs to me endlessly about why the Cosmos show is so important and that if I understood astrophysics like he does, I would agree with him etc etc f-ing etc. I felt like screaming and/or running away by 9 pm. I AM SO SICK OF MEN TEACHING OR TRYING TO TEACH ME SHIT. But wait, if I get fed up and react at all, I am just a hormonal wench who can't control her mood(s).
This is from an article about how women are harassed and insulted whenever they show expertise in a traditional male area.  Music, computers, video games, carpentry.  "Let me carry that for you."  The point being that the occassional offensive or hurtful remark should be something you can shrug off, but when you get it from everyone, every day, it adds up.  People who are being hurt are speaking up, telling the oppressor to shut the hell up and no you can't touch my hair.  And there's nothing wrong with it.