Quickies

Quickies: Misogynist geeks, young feminists, and vampirism

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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  1. Another element of the geek misogyny, usually manifesting in that part of the backlash that takes the form, “Do we have to talk about this again?” or similar comments: Majority voice bias.

    It’s pretty well-established that when you have a culture where there’s one group that is dominant, other voices tend to be perceived as taking up more time than they actually do–the very rarity of the voice makes people remember it more. So in male-dominant spheres, if 20% of the comments are by women, many members of the group (including other women) will perceive the balance closer to 50/50. You have to pretty much show them video of the conference or whatever to get them to admit otherwise. This gets amped up further when the content of the comments is novel; if ten guys write to a comic book forum about the plot-twist of the latest issue, and one woman writes in a similar length comment about how the female love-interest was treated like dirt, to the guys it looks like half the conversation was about sexist portrayals.

    It doesn’t make it better, but with borderline cases (rather than the hardcore misogynists) you can sometimes get them to back off a bit by pointing out where their perception is askew.

    1. Here’s something relevant to that I found out just today. There’s an online ‘zine dedicated to gay erotica, or at least smut, that I know some of the editors for. Now it should be noted that a lot of the writers and editors are women, although not exclusively of course. About once a year or so, they have a special issue that’s dedicated to female-female smut.

      One year they did two special F/F issues in the same year. They did the same number of M/M issues as usual, so it wasn’t at the expense of those. in the words of one editor, “We immediately got comments about, ugh, why are all the issues about women now, when are we going to get m/m issues again?”

      And this is in a queer-friendly, largely female space that prides itself on diversity. If it happens in that context so easily, I’m not surprised how prevalent it is in the wider culture.

    2. Not to mention the “Why won’t you date me?” stupidity. (*slips into DM voice* Mayhap because thou asketh that question, methinks?) For those unaware, the “Why won’t you date me?” stupidity arises from the notion that no non-nerdy woman would want a nerdy man, ergo nerdy women must pick up the slack. It’s stupid, immature, and objectifying.

      There’s also a conservatism to it. Many of these people are still surprised that girls play video games, and then they’re surprised when someone points out that women’s clothing is about more than picking up men. (When we’re talking about hazmat suits or armor, no, fanservice is a Bad Idea all around.)

      And the ‘fake nerd girl’ meme. Guess what? I haven’t memorized fifty years of Doctor Who line-for-line either.

  2. Amanda,

    I’m hoping someone makes a movie about Clair Patterson and his conflict with the lead industry. I think it would be very interesting and would also be especially relevant now that we’re having to fight big oil in order to fight climate change.

  3. I haven’t seen this week’s episode of Cosmos yet (thanks Tivo for making it so easy to record worthwhile programming “for later” while watching mind candy), but last month’s Skepchick (and Boston Skeptics*) Book Club book, The Poisoner’s Handbook had a chapter about the conflict (in the early 1920’s) between Standard Oil and DuPont’s Ethyl Corporation joint venture and the New York City medical examiner’s office. See: Gettler, Alexander O. and Charles Norris. “Poisoning by Tetra-ethyl Lead: Postmortem and Chemical Findings.” Journal of the American Medical Association, 8 (1925).** (Behind a pay-wall, but you can read the 1st page for free to get a sense of it. I think many public libraries subscribe to JAMA and may have it available. Or read the Book Club book:-) Four Ethyl Corp. employees were taken to the hospital in New York and promptly died within a few days in October 1924, which was how the New York MEs became responsible for the investigation.

    According to The Poisoner’s Handbook, after Norris and Gettler agitated to get the Ethyl factory (right across the Hudson from NYC) shut down, the company hired a team of scientists from Harvard to do a white-washed study exonerating the chemical, resulting in 50 years of massive pollution before it was finally phased out starting in the mid 1970’s.

    P.S. Another good show based on a Book Club selection, Your Inner Fish, is currently airing on PBS. I highly recommend it.

    [*] Obligatory plug.
    [**] Probably the 2nd oldest article I’ve ever linked to online.

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