You belong to society

I’ve been unable to continue ignoring a notion that most people I see in online debates about gender1 carry, which is that those in these debates do not think they impact society, and subsequently have no individual responsibility towards it. It is simply a soup of which they are a part, where they are a stone — immutable to the broth around them, of no consequence to the overall flavor.

Let’s talk about emergence, here from the Complex Systems perspective, as the interaction between the parts and the whole. “Can’t see the forest for the trees,” as not being able to see the big picture because one is so focused on the next-scale-down of units (trees), despite these composing the next-larger-up scale (forest). Each has different behaviors, which slightly or drastically effects the other. Or, “the devil is in the details,” in which the opposite happens, the smaller-scale being skipped over while the next-larger-scale is focused on. You’ll note that these things matter to each other. They influence each other. In many circumstances, these two scales are caught up in creating each other in at least some small way2. To claim that one is more important than the other glazes over this connection. Plus, the math doesn’t work out right.

Let’s talk about values. I would like a just and equal world. I bet most of the people I talk to would also like some version of this. Some folk hold other amazing core values such as inclusion or empowerment. Here’s the thing to understand: anyone you interact with3 will be holding something like this inside of them. Maybe not so explicitly, maybe not as an active part of their interactions, but it is there.

Let’s talk about fault. The people that got us to where we are now were doing the best they could under the circumstances. Maybe some were malicious, but generally. they were just surviving. People in power tend to want to continue doing well. People who are out of power generally make do, though they’re likelier to have a generally more shitty time. Inequality makes both sets unhappy. It’s not the fault of the people in power that the structures which allow them to be in power exist; it’s not the fault of those out of power that they were born into a setting that keeps them out of power.

Let’s talk about responsibility. While no one currently alive is to blame for history, we are currently building the next generation’s history. Hell, we’re building our own. And we have a responsibility to act in a way which upholds our values, rather than shirks responsibility as bizarrely tied to fault. I don’t want to take the responsibility to respond kindly to this person because their upset is not my individual fault. I don’t want to help clean up after dinner because not all the plates are my fault. I don’t want to take responsibility for mending the rifts in society because they’re not my fault4.

In each of these, it is not just what you are asking for yourself, but what you are changing in the people around you. When a child is being surly, and a parent reacts badly because a nerve got struck5, the wrong lesson is being imparted. It’s not about the parent’s feelings in that moment. It’s about how the child learns how to react to someone expressing their feelings in a not-yet-eloquent way6.

Sometimes taking on this responsibility to society means shutting up, even when you’re right. Sometimes taking on this responsibility means speaking up, even when your voice trembles. Sometimes this means cleaning the common area, even though you haven’t even been around for the past week. It means having differences and resolving them in a way that makes sense for future generations to also resolve them, even if you’re not happy with the results.

When anyone says “my individual experience matters more in this moment than how we as a society deal with moments like these” I see them as throwing a tiny tantrum rather than building a better world. It’s not their fault. Why should they have to do anything to fix it? This is why I continue to think Laurie’s piece is so great and I get filled with rage and bile at StarSlateCodex. This is why I find GamerGaters outright laughable7. This is why I find some of my geek feminism friends so aggravating at points7. In all of this, I see why they’re saying what they’re saying. Of course those feelings are valid. But that’s not the whole point, is it?

Get our shit together. Focus on where we want to be, and manifest that in each interaction we have. This is what I assume most people are doing, and why I’m now so comfortable saying “I don’t like how we’re doing this, can we try another way?”

I don’t like how we’re doing this. Let’s find another way.


1. And race, now, too!
2. Exceptions of pragmatic lock-and-key example, and the theoretical molecule representation of same self model.
3. With incredibly rare exception, not based on if you get along with them or not.
4. Are you fucking kidding me, this is how we get ants.
5. children can be astute little fuckers
6. I am in no way claiming to be amazing at this, merely that I am aware of, and subsequently actively working on, it.
7. “You need to listen to me!” they say, while not listening.

College To Careers

I had the joy of visiting my hometown of Logansport, Indiana recently. In fact, I’m still sitting at the kitchen table, under skylights. Might have just finished dancing like a muppet with my father to adamant piano music. I came primarily to see my parents, but also to see how my aunt is settling into Grandma’s old house, and how the forrest of magical privilege1 is growing. My mother also asked me to speak to the Rotary club. Which is amazing. As you may know, I see service, especially to one’s less-well-off origins, as an important component of maintaining the social fabric.

Which of course meant I couldn’t just talk to Rotary. I also reached out to the high school principal. Could I come and speak to some classes? Some perusal of the high school schedule later, I had some classes picked out. I’d present to the Advanced Placement Speech Class and all of the 8th graders at one of the two middle schools.

First, I landed from Ireland via Chicago2, hugged my parents, took my melatonin, and passed out. I woke in the morning, nervous but excited to head to the high school. I remembered the route from my house, driving my mother’s car like ye olde days.

I sometimes have these dreams where I’m back in high school, and I’m running late. Never naked, I suppose because I don’t care, but often late. Well. That actually happened. I arrived into the parking lot, a full 20 minutes before the class started, to an email that said “Hope you’re ok, sad to miss you in class.” Dear timezones. Dear, dear timezones. Drat.

Rotary was another matter. We ate, I caught up with friends’ parents, I talked about technology and collaboration and disaster response. The response was “we’re still not quite sure what you do, but we’re impressed!” Sigh. I must get better at this! I rewrote the presentation, laid it out differently, and prepared myself for the next day, with 6 rounds of 8th graders in a class called College to Careers.

Then, I took questions. Any question. One class was stuck on “hacking,” one on “celebrities,” but nearly all the questions were good ones. Once it became clear that I mean “any question,” more interesting ones started coming. “Why is your hair blue?” – because it’s supposed to be. “Why do you wear a tie?” – because it looks good. “What’s the worst place you’ve ever been?” – looking for invisible populations in Far Rockaway that we knew would freeze to death because they were scared to be seen. “What’s your favorite color?” – grey. “50 Shades of Grey?” – terrible fanfic of a terrible book. “Twilight?” – yup. *Gasp*

Each class had its own flavor. A blind kid was incredibly adept at translating into “kid speak.” Another, pink hair and poised nature, wanted to know where I went shopping. Two kids and I riffed about motorcycles, and how they were terrifically dangerous and here’s my scar but of course I still have one, but wait until you know how to sit still before you think about getting one yourself. And the instructor was incredibly gracious about me essentially telling kids who had signed up to a class for clear purpose and direction that I was still winging it (and loving it).

It was a great opportunity, and I’m glad to have a better understanding of what I do. Maybe other people will now, too. At least 120 kids out there are thinking that “hack” might not be a bad word.

1. My parents have taken to buying lots on their block that tend to be held by negligent landlords, tearing down the house, and planting trees. While this is a rather strange form of gentrification, as you can still easily get a house in any area of my hometown for under $30,000, I don’t feel so bad about it.
2. The first flight Diggz and I have ever been on together in 3 years of traveling!

Postgeographic Sexuality and Hacker Pants

So I gave a talk at Arse Elektronika and here’s the prezi. I’m pretty damn proud of it.

Video streaming by Ustream
Thinking about the explicit nature of geek relationships (lulz) makes me think about the perception of geeks being socially inept. I don’t think it’s the case. People who tend to be geeks are incredibly cognizant of their interactions with people, pieces, and ideas. It’s that breaking systems means caring less for all the sections of those systems, and seeing the value in social niceties goes away with contempt for anti-intellectual culture.

Basically what I’m getting at is that I’m interested in geek sex. And not just in having it, but studying it! We had a fantastic conversation later in the day of Arse about Citizen Science for Sex Studies. I’m seriously considering doing a full-blown (again, lulz) sociological study on Hacker Pants. I’d want to know about disclosure, dark humor, consent, defining queer, gender roles, etc. What would you want to know about?


I made a post about homophobia and objectification that sparked a small debate/discussion. I’d like to be a bit more verbose now that I’m on a keyboard and have had some thinking time (as well as time to mull over your immediate and interesting feedback).

First of all, it’s important to explain my stance on the gender dichotomy. It’s not the Main Focus, but it was up for debate quite a bit and it does play into the question.
I believe the social situation of gender dichotomy is totally explicable, though not necessarily excusable. It’s not some great conspiracy, nor is it necessarily innate. The line of thought I’m about to take you on I picked up from reading Gregory’s book before its printing, and I encourage you to pick up a copy once it’s officially out.

Gender Dichotomies