Aftermath.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Today I am even more of a vortex of feels than usual. I’m starting this post not knowing what exactly I want to say, but knowing I need to write, to speak, to share some of the mess inside my head with those willing to listen.

The tipping point, as it so often is these days, was yet another senseless ugly awful horrifying slaughter. 49 people dead in Orlando, more in critical condition, all at the hands of one hateful man. Counterpoint to that, imagines of people lined around the block to donate blood, and people all over the world in candlelit vigil. Political battles raging on social media and the news, full of vitriol and rhetoric. Reasoned responses and acts and words of kindness and love and support and community countering the hate and fear and agendas. I can’t stop crying today, but at the same time I can’t quite lose hope either. Everything hurts right now, but out of some of the pain is goodness. The killing and attacks all over the world fill me agony for the victims. People who come together to rebuild afterward remind me not to give up. There is light in the darkness, and after each time something horrific happens my Mum reminds me to be part of that light. Sometimes that’s all we can do. It doesn’t feel like enough, but to each person who needs to see that light and sees yours, it means the world.

There’s so much more on my mind right now, other things I’ve been dealing with in my personal life, but this isn’t the time for that. Right now, it’s time for mourning, and remembering, and coming together to shine light back into this darkness. It’s time for love is love is love is love. It’s time to fight back, to be brave and supportive and loving and proud in the face of fear and hate and death. It’s time to spread truth and hope and change and love and support and community. It’s time to stand together. It’s time to say NO MORE. It’s past time. This should never have happened. None of these kinds of attacks should ever have happened.

Stay safe. Be the light. Be the hope. Be the love.

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This weekend, on Twitter…

Dear Cyber-Friends,

There’s been a lot to be outraged by recently…

If you haven’t been reading #YesAllWomen on Twitter, please do. It’s made national news, as well it should, and is heartbreaking (in that that conversations still needs to happen) and hopeful (in that since it does need to happen, it’s happening in a beautiful way and seems to be opening some eyes — even if others still seem to be willfully blind). These stories need to be heard, if only so that we know we’re not alone in living them.

But that’s not the topic I want to talk about right now; I’ve said quite a bit about feminism and humanity and my own past quite a bit already, and while it never seems to be enough — since we keep having these problems — I don’t feel like rehashing it at the moment. I’ve been a little too raw the last few weeks to do that.

Instead, I want to focus on something else that happened recently, something that may seem superficial in the wake of such violence and hate against women, but which was still hurtful to people I care about and is still important to discuss for the sake of a part of a culture I dearly love. Actually, what I want to talk about is a much bigger problem, and the thing that happened merely the starting place for my thoughts on something related.

Thus, while it is obvious to viewers of the show I’ll be discussing who is it I’m talking about, I’m not going to name the actors involved. What I have to say isn’t so much about them, as it is about using them as examples of this bigger problem they happen to have illustrated so perfectly.

The context: Two actors, the leading stars of the popular and long-running sci-fi TV show Supernatural, made some comments at a convention a few days ago that have set off quite a reaction and much controversy in the fandom (not to mention PR issues for the show itself). The comments were about a popular ‘shipping of two male characters on the show, one of which one of the actors in question portrays. [For those who don’t speak Fandom Geek, “shipping” in  short-hand for seeing those characters as being in a relationship.]

Some disclaimers and background: I’ve only watched the first few seasons of Supernatural. However, I’m extremely spoilered on the show, and I have friends who are much more deeply involved in the fandom, and have seen all episodes. I speak as someone outside the fandom, but also as someone who understands it somewhat and cares about it. I watched a clip and read quotes of some of comments, and have read articles and reactions in various places online.

The event: They adamantly denied the ship would ever be canon, that it had never been intended to be hinted at, and made it clear that they did not approve of the ship, or think much of the fans who shipped them. They took it beyond simply vocalize their personal opinions and views of how they are playing their own characters, by continually mocked a large portion of loyal fanbase with disparaging remarks about the ship and the shippers, pandering to laughter in the audience about the very idea of a male/male ship on the show, and portraying the whole idea of such a ship into a joke.

The bigger problem: This is not okay. This is bullying, plain and simple.

The actors were bullying on stage, and receiving cheers and applause for it. I was uncomfortable just watching it, much less when I thought about it later and realized what I had actually seen. It was obvious the actors were uncomfortable with the idea of male/male relationships, and seemingly felt the need to air their discomfort to this receptive crowd. Their decision to give voice to such opinions in a public forum not only shows little understanding of how fandoms work in an internet age, but also gives those who would follow in their footsteps a feeling of vindication and permission to continue the bullying beyond the convention, leading to a hostile environment of people attacking those who have been supporting the ship.

This whole situation is deeply problematic on so many levels.

Many if not all of those shippers are people who badly need and want a positive non-hetro relationship involving strong and fully developed leading characters to be portrayed on a favorite sci-fi show. That’s not too much to ask for. That’s something that should already be normalized, yet never has been and is obviously still a long time in coming. This should not be something that gets turned into a joke or a punchline. This is not something that should make those fans the subject of continued online bullying and harassment, something they already had to deal with constantly.

Directly or indirectly, intentionally or not, the two actors have contributed to a culture of bullying, harassing, and threatening “otherness”. They targeted a portion of their own fans and supporters to do it. They have giving an example of behavior to the more privileged fans, showing that it is acceptable to them to continue bullying, harassing, and threatening. I hope that was not their intention, but that was the consequence.

This is disturbing and irresponsible behavior of public figures.

While I can hardly demand someone act or do things in a certain way simply because they are popular — they are still just people, after all, and have all the same rights to autonomy as anyone else — I can and do hope that those who find themselves in positions of influence would have the common sense to use that power with care and humility and at the very least, humanity. Feeding into the culture of bullying is the very antithesis of that hope.

Geek culture, sci-fi culture, and fandoms are already struggling. Not even taking into account how problematic many of the very high quality shows being produced these days are; or the fact that when those shows are called out for being problematic the reactions tend to set off powder kegs of rabid controversy and personal name-calling (at best) more than thoughtful discussion most of time; or the fact that rampant white male hetro privilege is the base norm for pretty much everything ever (even in subcultures); there’s still the basic problem of the people involved.

On one hand, they can be amazing, warm and inviting and supportive; these are subcultures where you can find your tribe and discover people who get just as passionate as you about whatever it is you love. On the other hand, the past and sometimes current reputation is as a hostile, unwelcoming, elitist, boy’s club environment. Both are true right now, and some of the leading public figures within those cultures are working hard to tip the balance into something healthy that can grow and become every greater. Some of those leaders are even white hetero males — the ones enlightened enough to be willing to listen and learn to recognize the problems, and to help try to rid our subculture of prejudices, bullying behaviors, and sometimes even rape culture.

Comments like the ones given by Supernatural‘s main co-stars are exactly the sort of negative setback we, the portion of population who support being supportive and responsible, don’t need and don’t want. There are so many examples of actors who aren’t even part of our culture, who are embraced and beloved by us for being on our favorite shows, and demonstrate such gracious and humble respect for our support — however much they might be bemused or confused by it. It makes me sad that these two men, for whatever reason, can’t seem to have followed in one of those shining examples.

These two actors made a very big, very hurtful mistake. They have alienated and bullied some of their loyal and supportive fans. They have lost viewers for a show that’s been give them a paycheck for the past decade. They have caused a rift, and didn’t seem to care one bit at the time about what they were doing and who they were attacking.

I hope they can see the fallout of this, and realize the full impact of what they did. I hope they can learn and grow from this experience. Even if they never attempt to make up for it, I hope they at least never do something like this again. I hope other actors see the hornet’s nest they stirred up among the show’s supporters and beyond, and take pause to reconsider before making such blunders themselves.

To those who have been impacted and hurt by this, I extend to you my deepest sympathies and many internet hugs. If you haven’t found it yet, check out #USSDestiel for some shipper love and fun from fellow fans. They’re showing off the best of our subculture, by rising from the bullying undaunted to become stronger and even more supportive of one another.

Love,

GeGi.

Talking about Privileges.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Today I want to talk about privilege. I’ve mentioned various types of privilege in several previous posts, so I think it would be good to define and describe it a bit for those readers who may be unfamiliar with thinking about the lenses through which they view and interact with the world.

There are basically as many types of privilege as there are different types of people in the world. To my understanding, “privilege” is just a shorthand way of saying: This type of person fits societal standards of “normal/ideal” in this aspect. Of course, this has a lot of hidden and obvious negatives towards those who are not that type of person, and a lot of hidden and obvious benefits for those that do. Let me give some examples…

Cis-gender privilege: Cis-gender is a shorthand way of saying that the gender of the body (sex) matches the gender in the head (gender). If your body’s gender/sex was born matching with what you know you are inside as a person, then you are probably cis-gender. If there’s a difference (transgendered, genderqueer, genderfluid, androgynous, etc), you are probably not cis-gendered. I use the word “probably” because I try not to tell people they ARE this way or that way due to a definition. I respect whatever label you feel most comfortable with; it’s always your choice.

So here’s a scenario of cis-gendered privilege: you think of yourself as male, and look male, and have always been that way. If someone called “sir” you probably wouldn’t think twice about it. So imagine if you felt exactly the same way about your identity as male, but were born into and currently have a female body? Getting called “sir” would be thrilling, but rare at best. You would be surrounded by constant reminders that you are different, that you are not privileged to the same forms of automatic treatment as the guy next to you. If you are not cis-gendered, your life is filled with battles and struggles on a daily basis, from paperwork to public bathrooms. And it doesn’t usually end even if you fully transition to being perceived by others as the matching gender (called “passing”). The act of trying to pass or transition itself is often a result of being outside the privilege of being cis-gendered, requiring extraordinary amounts of time, expense, effort, and sacrifice.

Male privilege: Those who appear male have crazy amounts of privilege in this society, especially if they are also white (which is a whole other category of privilege, of course). Being female-bodied myself, I recognize and envy their privilege of not living in this society as a women; trust me, it’s often difficult and rage-inducing at the best of times. Men have the privilege of automatic respect, of not being forced in a position of fearing or even preventing rape (note how pretty much all the advice about preventing rape is directed towards WOMEN), of having basically any body type be okay, of having a bad day without getting called a bitch, of being sexual without being called a slut, of basically any less-than-ideal human behavior without being shamed for it. The list of male privilege goes on, but it’s rough being a feminist and talking about this, so I’m going to stop before I induce too much rage in myself.

White privilege: This is one of the privileges I DO have, although I’m currently living in a place where that makes me a minority. Obviously I can’t speak from authority from the unprivileged side of the lens on this one, but I can still think about some of the more obvious privileges I receive from it. This includes things like; media portrayal (my race is not automatically the “bad guy”, or forced into a role of beneficial wise adviser. My race is not restricted to a few portrayals and generalities in news footage, or used for fear-mongering on a daily basis.); how I’m treated in random interactions with strangers (without automatic suspicion, or invasive personal questions.); interactions with positions of authority (I won’t harassed by security, my word will be believed equally against another, I will be trusted, I will get hired.); and so on.

There are many many more types of privilege — straight privilege springs to mind immediately — but these examples should be enough to start helping you to thinking about this issue and see more of them on your own. For the RPG-minded of you, remember that privilege stacks the more of them you have. A perfect example of this is the frequent use of “white cis-gendered straight male” as the automatic assumption in any hypothetical person in a conversation or media. If the hypothetical person is not one of those things, that variation must be stated, otherwise it doesn’t exist. The above described person in real life will also enjoy the most benefits from society, and can basically get away with being completely evil. (Which is NOT to say that all those fitting that description are evil. Just that they could probably get away with it IF they were, based on how many of them seem to when they are.)

Basically all privileges pretty much boil down to how people (including media, ect) treat you based on their assumptions and your outward appearance. This is why the whole mess privilege creates is so inaccurate and unfair, and why it can be so difficult to deal with. It’s something we’re all raised with. It starts the moment we come into this world and are slapped with our first set of labels. From that moment on, we are indoctrinated with the expectations of those labels, and all the privileges and disadvantages that go along with them.

It can be a long hard struggle to fight free of those labels, and the lenses they give the world, but I think it’s worth it. Even if you are the most privileged of people, recognizing your position and realizing what the world is like for others can only benefit everyone. The more we can work towards understanding the world through the experiences and eyes of others, the more tolerance and change we can bring into reality. That’s my dream, anyway.

As always, please leave any comments or questions you might have, and I’ll try to respond ASAP!

Love,

GeGi.

Halloween Approaches!

Yay! I love Halloween… Even if being in Hawaii makes it feel completely unlike autumn to this North Idaho-raised Geek Girl…

So far this month I’ve been busy trying to recover from the complications that happened due to the oral surgery, including an IV totally unnecessarily put into MY NECK, a second infection, and NERVE DAMAGE TO MY TONGUE that could take up to three month to heal, if at all.

You may be picking up on the fact that I’m still a bit upset. This is due to the oral surgeon being a horrible, lazy, trauma-causing person with an awful bed-side manner. Other than that, I’ve been healing quite nicely, and the holes where my wisdom teeth used to be are already down to just slits in the gum.

I’ve also been busy planning my Halloween outfit: 1920’s flapper girl. This is an outfit I’ve been coveting a proper good-quality version of for YEARS. I finally decided to go for it, and am putting it together the funnest and best way I know how: custom handmade myself, crafted from whatever I can hunt down.

It’s going to be totally fantastic! I’ve already got a gorgeous feather headpiece made, and have been practicing the makeup. Other components have been gathered, and all I’m waiting for is my order of black fringe to arrive so I can sew it on. I’m gonna look so cute!

 

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Isn’t it pretty?

 

Having gotten in a sewing mood, and having recently come across a very inspiring website called Trash To Couture, I’ve also decided to start modifying a bunch of my clothes into a more personal and stylish wardrobe. It’s not the first time I’ve done something like this, but it is the first time I’ve done it with something resembling a plan…

And on a professional front, I’ve been settling back into my new job. I started working at a Recycle Redemption Center in town, and it’s been an interesting experience. Most of my co-workers are Philippine or locals — I stand out as the only white girl there. I’ve discovered I can lift (high enough to get onto the scales, anyway) a little over 70 pounds of glass bottles. It’s constant physical labor, constant activity, and hard work.

But I actually enjoy it. It makes sense that I’ve been good at a job like this, given my background of growing up on a farm in the country, in the land of “Work Hard, Play Hard” lifestyles. I come from a different culture than my co-workers, and they find my attitudes and approach bemusing to say the least, but we get along and I’m already called “sistah” by everyone. I’ve been accepted, obvious outsider though I am. It’s a nice feeling.

And while I would never want this as a full-time job, or even long-term employment, because it’s too much wear-and-tear on my body, I’m still really happy I get a chance to do this for a while. I would never have thought to try it, but it fell into my lap when I was job-hunting. It’s one of the most satisfying jobs I’ve had, and it fulfills the piece of me that was always unhappy with my old jobs because they all added to waste and consumption. Working in the food industry will kill your soul if you care about waste, and taking care of sickly indoor plants is gets futile and depressing when you love seeing green living things thrive instead of die.

Recycling is a great counter-balance to that, and working for a recycle center means I get to be part of the solution instead of adding to the problem. It feels good, and it keeps me smiling at costumers even at the end of a ten-hour day. I feel genuinely happy to help someone sort their recycling or give them information about our free e-waste program, because I truly believe that every little bit counts, and I’m keeping a little bit more from becoming trash in the earth.

Book Review: Little Brother and Homeland, by Cory Doctorow.

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[Photo and first part of the review taken from the Photo-A-Day blog.]

Being stuck in bed post-op my oral surgery meant plenty of time to finish my newest book from the library: Homeland, sequel to Little Brother by the same author. Both were excellent reads, very interesting and believable commentaries in fiction form about the United States today, often using true events or creating fictionalized versions of true events.

I read Little Brother first, and enjoyed it. There were a few moments where I was frustrated by choices or believes which the narrator made, but felt those actually made the book stronger, because they were all keeping in with the character of a teenage boy. The other interesting thing about the story was to keep in mind when it was written (about four years ago, I believe) and remember how much has changed since then. The ending wrapped things up a little quickly and neatly for me, which made knowing there was a sequel even better.

Homeland was published just this February, making the events in it that much more immediate and real. It was an excellent follow-up, beginning the story a couple years into the future of the same characters. It showed the fall-out of events, and brought new challenges. The changes in the characters’ personalities and reactions, their growth and set-backs since the last book, all felt real and well thought out, making them even more real. The twists and turns, the challenges and action and motivations, the interactions and reactions, all kept me very engaged with both the plot and the characters. And the ending felt less ‘neat’ that the first one, more of the mess and mystery a real-life ending contains.

Something I loved about both books is the way that Cory Doctorow weaves narration out of both story and exposition equally, creating something both educational, accessible, and still fast-paced. This books make a great introduction to technology, cryptology, practical paranoia, and hacking — both computers and life — and each have excellent afterwords with further reading, websites, and other resources.

Seriously, I’d consider buying the books just for those, if I hadn’t been taking photo-notes the whole time with my phone… Geek Girl though I am, I’ve never been a hacker-type IRL. These books have given me a real desire to fix that problem, pointers on how to get started, and a whole novel of convincing reasons why I should really get on that immediately.

Young People Push Back Against Gender Categories

Young People Push Back Against Gender Categories

My Mum sent me this link a while back, following a conversation we had about same topic. I finally got around to listening to it (I know, I know, I’m a terrible procrastinator), and was really impressed with the positive way they handled this subject for such a short segment.
As a self-identified queer and fluid person myself, I really loved hearing this on NPR, and wanted to share it.

Macklemore – Same Love

This song came on the radio as I was driving home today. I was about to change the station, when the first line caught my attention.

I kept listening, and about halfway through realized I was crying because I couldn’t believe a song this amazing and important was on a main-stream top hits station.

I knew I had to find it and share it.
Please listen.