I’m upset at culture.

c'mere, culture, let me hug you

Let me rephrase that. I am *furious* at culture. I am pissed off that I can’t go play, that it has so much to do with gender roles, and so little to do with the actual people involved.

First, let me set the stage: most of my interactions are within geek subculture. There are certainly some appalling gender ratios in most geek space, with “Sausage Fest” being a common term. That’s fine. I get along better with people who have been socialized to be outspoken, physical, and crass – ie, more masculine than feminine types. And I’ve talked before about constructing Safe Space. And long ago (so long ago it was on LiveJournal) about being a being in a woman’s body who also happens to be precocious, comfortable in sexuality, and tactile – and the assumptions that go along with that (that assumption being that I Want To Bone You — I don’t). But it’s come up again – the falsely inverse-d relationship between sexuality and respect. Something I said in a recent interview (published soonish, methinks):

I think it’s totally appropriate to find intelligent people attractive, and that the best potential dates ARE your equals. The issue is that there’s this separation of sexualization and respect. They should be completely¬†independent¬†OR have positive correlation, but instead they seem to have a negative correlation in our culture. IE, if someone finds me hot, they are also likely to care less about listening to my ideas. For me, it boils down to consent. If I consent to being hit on by someone I am also attracted to, that’s awesome. If someone continues to hit on my after I have made it clear I’m not interested (either in them, in dating within that social group, or in dating in general), then it’s *not* cool.

What brings this up is being a “free agent” in my social groups has meant that some people have turned their focus on me. And while I’m flattered by the attention, it kind of sucks socially. The attracted people who don’t know me well either discount my ideas in lieu of trying to get into pants, or the idealization of physicality trumps the interest in ideas. Those who know me AND like those ideas tend to play a game, knowingly or not, about declaring intellectual territory via sexual or romantic advances on me. And those who actually like me and my ideas and who don’t play those games I STILL can’t associate with because the social response has to do with the first two sets of people (see me with partner, either discount any brainmeats I have or assume I’m at play in a game).

Respect for people while sexualizing them is only difficult because our culture makes it so. Beauty vs Brains is, clearly, a false dichotomy. But it’s one we still have to deal with while we murderize it. And I have no idea how to live my life in a way that tears down those stigmas while not being (non-consensually) objectified.

Monkeys piss me off. Maybe I shouldn’t listen to Sex At Dawn as I do my dishes and walk around Seattle. Gah!

What I can do right now is work on having more women in geek space. I feel like brute-forcing the problem, to say it in a very awful way. Care to join me?

the verbage of comfort

There was recently a thread on the Jigsaw mailing list (daVinci) about reclaiming the Monday Math-Meet-Up. Horray! The goal was to have a more approachable set of topics, rather than esoteric and difficult. The first name thrown out was Math Porn. Most people were very into the idea of the event, but there was some back-and-forth about the name.

Just to be clear – I adore both Maths and Porn. But a maker space is not the place for such a name. The argument was basically that the name was very clear about the event being fun, accessible, and enjoyable. It would also be sure to attract a very specific group of people – those who were advanced enough in their understanding of society and the like to find the name amusing.

My response was as follows:

Yes, it would bring in a more specific group. But here’s the thing.

Women and minorities are appallingly underrepresented in geek communities. And it’s in part because many geek men (usually upperclass white dudes) do things like have specific panels for “women in tech” or crack jokes about sex in the openings to their talks. Makerbots are commonly named after women because “they’re full of glitches and problems.” Porn is stimulating, porn is fun, but porn is also a convoluted term to use in the context of larger society.

While I know that you are of the dark-humor persuasion (like myself) and understand that pornography tends to be an indulgence in intellectual wank sessions, the majority of people do not know that.
A pasty-making class is ok. DIY strap-ons are ok. It is very clear what people are signing up for, and it is indicative of subject matter, not the approach. Math Porn is not clear what environment people are entering into, and while I fully invest in the transdisciplinary ideology of Jigsaw, going the route of tried-and-true alienation is not acceptable.

I had also had a conversation with a gentleman today who is designing a new bike (450cc at about 80lbs – get your head around that one) and how it was more accessible to women. He also did a fantastic job of making it clear it wasn’t “For Women,” for that makes female-identified individuals feel pandered to, and men won’t buy it because they are insecure in their sexuality and feminity is seen as a bad thing.

When you make a separate space for us, you alienate us. When you tell us what we want or need, you belittle us. And when you expect all women to be “post-sexism,” you are being blind to what our everyday existance is like. Yes, things are better. But these places that are meant to be inclusive, meant to give people a handle on their own lives, and certainly to be a safe space, to treat exchanges oblivious of history and context is still an asshole move.

Some awesome stuff to imbibe: