Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

 

Edit: I've been informed the specific incident in the link is an urban legend: http://www.snopes.com/media/notnews/brothel.asp - I really should have checked the date, as is good practice in general. However, that article served only as my prompt; the conditions and treatment of unemployed people I wrote about is true and drawn from my personal experience. Original post continues unaltered.

 

According to an article in the (UK) Telegraph, a woman in Germany faces the loss of her unemployment payments for refusing work at a brothel.

The problem here is the way we as a society construct unemployment, not that this time it is a brothel. That just serves as a newsworthy example and perhaps misdirection because of the disgust and contempt we tend to direct at sex work culturally.

Because we insist on treating the unemployed as suspect, as lazy losers and scammers, and because it looks good for organisational numbers to get as much throughput as possible, we require anyone receiving assistance to accept any job offer they are physically capable of performing. So you end up with situations like this, where a person is threatened with being cut off unless they accept a job they personally find repugnant (or soul-killing, or etc.).

Having a quota of documented job applications to meet, and rules like this, meant that when I was actively searching I had to restrict the applications which I thought might get a response to only the positions I felt I wouldn't be trying to then get out of a few weeks later, and then make the rest of the numbers with applications I thought looked plausible but which would not be interested in me as a candidate.

Rules like this led to me saying yes to a lot of offers from the agency I was assigned to, despite believing I would be a bad fit for the job in question, because I was worried my income could be cut off if I refused. This led to me having a whole week of training and a job interview for an area - sales - which I have actually worked in before and found to be a field which- well. I am certainly capable of attempting to sell things to people but I've never actually managed it, and since that earlier position was commission-based I had quit without ever being paid. So I spent the whole time being trained for this interview and actually having the interview afraid that I was going to get pushed into a job I hate and would be no good at simply to get an organisation another "successful job placement" check-mark, while also believing that if I appeared to do anything less than my best to get that job, I could be reported and penalised.

Well, I got lucky that time, and they didn't want anyone from that group that had been coached for the job on offer. But, my point is, the problem here is not that in this specific case it is a brothel this woman could be punished for not working in. The problem is how we treat unemployed job-seekers.

 

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. As usual I'm not doing myself doing anything for it such as attending a vigil. That doesn't mean it isn't an important day to have, nor that somehow the often-vicious murder of people for being who they are doesn't matter.

It is entirely possible that the reason I'm not doing more is that I don't feel vulnerable. Being a white, middle class person who is not a sex worker, I'm not as much at risk of my name appearing on next year's list of the dead as far too many others are.

As much as trans people are subject to violent revulsion in our society, too many of the dead were women of colour, and / or were sex workers for that not to play a significant factor in who is murdered. There doesn't seem much point having the Day of Remembrace without acknowledging this unless we aren't interested in improving the situation; there'd be no such bias in the dead if women of colour weren't already so marginalised in general.

Many others die from the consequences of two prevailing myths: a) that sex worker lives are worthless and b) that all trans women are sex workers. Even if you don't support the rights and freedom of sex workers for their own sake - and you should - the ways we degrade and disrespect people in that field as a society makes easier the mistreatment and murder of anyone who can be lumped in with them.

I suppose that isn't a very effective argument. I doubt there are many who hate sex workers who don't also hate trans people, so they'd be unlikely to support the one in order to incidentally benefit the other. Very disheartening when "Don't perpetuate the conditions which enable the murder of others for their job or identity" is such a difficult proposition to get people accepting.

I am fumbling with this. What am I trying to say? People die because being cis is regarded as the only legitimate, non-shameful way to exist. People die because because white people are treated as more human and deserving than any one else. People die because sex workers are degraded, criminalised and silenced.

If we keep denying each other, there will continue to be a Day of Remembrance.

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

Back in June I got linked to a BBC article, about an autistic boy who died after getting hold of medication from an online pharmacy, and whose parents are now waging a campaign to protect others.

Except, that's not what happened. The photo included in the article is misleading - this was not a school-aged boy, this was an adult, 26 years old. And this does not appear to have been any sort of accident. He had attempted suicide several times before using pills from other sources before finally succeeding. If restrictions had been in place such that he could not order this online, what then? I expect he would have tried some other means to end his life.

Blaming online pharmacies because a suicidal person made use of one to end eir own life seems more an act of desperation than a useful response. While I believe people do and ought to have the right to end their own lives, it would be a far better response to campaign for better mental health services and support rather than pursuing doctors in other countries for not breaking local laws.

I'm also worried the repeated mention of the deceased as being autistic, along with the photo used for the article. It seems an attempt to infantilise him, as if by being autistic he is not capable of making his own decisions. It seems like an attempt to portray this as a tragic accident, rather than a deliberate act.

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

I came across this post and was bothered by it.

Mainly what bugs me is the read I get off it that feminism and capitalism are in necessary opposition. From what I see of capitalism it has no particular call to reinforce sexism or other oppressions[1] and indeed might function more effectively by not doing so. The problem with capitalism perpetuating societal oppressions is I think a matter of historical contingency, and if a hypothetical world without sexism were to invent capitalism I doubt the people of that world would also invent sexism to accompany it.

None of this, of course, vanishes the practical issue of women who claim feminism and vote or act politically against the interests of women generally.

There were also some remarks in a later comment which peeve me in a personal way.

But its time we get back to our roots and say “we are against all oppression, all hierarchy and in support of autonomy, make your politics follow us!”.

[...]

Honestly, we have to ask what feminism is about. Are feminists against all systems of oppression, or just the ones that personally afflict them? Are they only against patriarchy or against other/all forms of hierarchy?

I see plenty of feminists complain about people, often men, saying feminism ought to be renamed something more inclusive like humanism - and rightly so, as typically these proposals exist as part of a pattern of behaviour which has the effect of impeding feminism by refocusing attention on men and the concerns of men (which is strictly unnecessary, since men are also beneficiaries of reducing and eliminating sexism and these attempts are mainly manifestations of the incompleteness of that liberation).

Anyway, my annoyance is the confluence of those complaints with the pervasive attitude I perceive from feminists that feminism is a movement against all oppressions. It is pretty well impossible to untangle one form of oppression from another, but to claim membership of a anti-specific-oppression movement entails opposition to all forms of oppression seems a bit much. I would rather see feminists claim to be for example anti-racism on the basis of being anti-racism, rather than in some way suggesting feminism forms the heart of anti-oppression overall.

Plus, if pressed to identify my values one way I'm likely to answer is humanist, for reasons broader than merely anti-oppression politics. I don't appreciate seeing feminists object to the term humanist yet claim feminism means anti-all-oppressions when it would indeed be a more fitting term for that attitude.

[1] Except I think capitalism would have a difficult time not driving some sort of classism.

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

Yesterday morning I caught a few minutes at the end of a program called Pororo the Little Penguin that at first seemed fairly dead-on in its portrayal of a character with an eating disorder. So, naturally, descriptive triggers follow in the recounting of it.

What I saw started with a pink beaver character (named Loopy according to the Wikipedia article) moping, looking at herself in the mirror and sighing that she is 'chubby'. Then her friends come over for lunch and are enjoying themselves, while she quietly sips a drink through a straw instead of eating. While doing so she visualises herself expanding in size as she drinks, and puts even that away.

While she is lamenting that she is chubby and should not eat or drink anything, her friends are admiring a model in a magazine she has lying around. When they notice she is upset about her weight, they try to tell her she is not chubby but she does not believe them.

And then... it all falls apart. She says she wants to be thin and pretty like the model in the magazine and the polar bear tells her if she wants to be thin she should exercise, and that dancing is great exercise. They all get up and dance happily.

~ fin ~

Speaking as someone who hasn't experienced it first-hand, that seemed an accurate and distressing portrayal of someone suffering from an eating disorder, immediately followed up by what is just about the worst possible response you could give in that situation presented as a permanent solution. From everything I've seen personally and elsewhere, eating disorders pretty commonly include obsessive exercising as part of their manifestation, so advising someone in any stage of one that exercise will solve eir problems is more likely just adding to them.

aesmael: (tricicat)
"I'm arguing about when the "human" begins.  Zygote, Embryo, Fetus... are all stages of human life.  Sperm, egg... are not."

Very difficult to argue with someone who says this with a straight face.
aesmael: (haircut)
Sex?

A while ago I wrote a bit about erotic writing being perceived as less worthy and even shameful, and of resolving to defy that stigma by being not secretive concerning the writing of it. More recently and prompted by conversation I have been wondering if I ought do the same with sex generally.

To be more open? It seems a fair goal to me for a topic that is sold to us as something to regard shamefully and reluctantly. However it is also true (and perhaps because of the ways we are taught to regard it) that sex is thus a subject many would not be comfortable seeing discussed as broadly and casually as other topics... I suspect I would be discomfited by that. Depending also what precisely was being talked about, I would anyway not want to share without discrimination. I think that is not a sharp conflict with a philosophy of openness.

Practically speaking. I had been using a filter for discussing sexual matters, which people had to request access to. I might swap that policy and include people on the basis of whether I am comfortable speaking in front of them - which, mind, would mainly be based on whether I had seen them express an interest in such matters, and those posts would still be behind cuts, and anyone who said they didn't want to see them would be disincluded.

Hm. Does that sound still open? Writing that out I felt it portrayed talk of sex and sexuality as something people need to be shielded from by steps I wouldn't take for just about any other topic. Explicit, gory violence? Maybe, would have to be relatively extreme. And yet there are certainly situations in which writings about sex could cause problems, so if for no other reason than that it makes sense to mark content advisories and give the option to defer access so far as I am able. I cannot after all control the circumstances in which others might read what I write (beyond a line), and it seems a likely enough circumstance that people might benefit from at least a content cut to make them well worth using.

Placing sexual content behind a (labelled) cut, okay. That makes sense. And a filter? Looking at the 'friends list' for my account right now it seems I have purged probably everyone I would be uncomfortable speaking in front of, so for my own comfort I do not currently need to use a specialised filter. And other people probably don't need more than a cut for their own utility and comfort. However, I cannot guarantee this will always be the case. With LiveJournal, everyone I 'friend' for reading also has access to my friends-locked, unfiltered posts and I might at some point subscribe to reading someone who I would not feel comfortable having access to that aspect of my life. Nor can I guarantee there will not be shifts in my comfort levels concerning the people currently flisted. So it makes sense for me to use finer controls than all-access / no-access.

I think attempting a participatory role in decreasing social shame and stigma concerning sexual matters is something worth doing. I am not comfortable talking about all things with all people, and although I think some degree of that is due to socialisation which I have just declared deserves opposition my existing feelings and comfort levels remain. I also believe I have the right to determine when I will push the limits of what I am comfortable with and when I will not, so... we shall see if anything more visible than the attitude with which I approach posting changes. It is not as if this is a subject I write about especially often.
aesmael: (nervous)
Why is it some foods it seems are so dreadfully that merely mentioning them or expressing enjoyment for them gets me warned they 'are fattening'? Do they have some kind of radical, permanent overnight effect on biology? I think if that were the case, in this culture they would be long since banned.

It's very frustrating, that this seems to be the only lens people are capable of viewing food through: 'fattening' (= bad), 'non-fattening' (= good). What ever happened to eating for enjoyment? I don't care if food has been placed into a particular moral category. I don't want to care, and I do believe people's bodies will largely sort themselves out.

But I am not entirely impervious to peer pressure. It frustrates me a lot to look at some food or drink item and have my first thought be "that's fattening". Hard not to, when that is the only context everyone around you regards food in, vocally and frequently. At this point, please consider an additional tear-filled rant at culture and advertising destroying people's ability to enjoy even simple things, and an inability to find escape from it.

At least I can and do still enjoy the 'banned foods', but I'd be happier with that rubbish entirely out of my head.

(cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] feminist_rage)
aesmael: (haircut)

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

This is something which has been going around. I'm not a published writer and I don't know if anyone who might be reading this is, but I think this is important and maybe posting about it will help in some way. So, here is a substantial quote from a post by Charles Stross:

Turning to a different aspect of communications technology, I'd like to pass on a note from Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) (who describe themselves as "a not for profit non-governmental organization that searches for better outcomes, including new solutions, to the management of knowledge resources, as is described in http://www.keionline.org.")

We are distributing a letter (in English and Spanish) to writers, journalists and authors who support the World Blind Union WIPO treaty proposal to improve access to books in formats accessible to people who are blind, visual impaired or have other disabilities.
The World Blind Union has been for years requesting a new international legal framework that will allow them to produce and share accessible formats of books and other written material.

The World Blind Union treaty proposal, formally endorsed by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay is supported by nearly all developing countries and by disabilities and consumer organizations but the position that developed countries, like the European governments and United States, will take next week is still unclear.

Why is it urgent: Next week the treaty proposal is going to be discussed at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. This is the website for the WIPO meeting.

A fact Sheet that explains the treaty proposal is available here (PDF).

They're looking for writers and asking them to sign the petition: interested parties should contact Judit Rius at judit.rius(at)keionline.org. My take on it is that this is an unequivocally good cause, and I'll be signing KEI's letter. One of the big problems with electronic media and DRM is that they tend to lock the visually handicapped out; for example, a common restriction on ebooks is to disable the "read aloud" feature offered by Kindle and other readers. Such behaviour is discriminatory and (in some jurisdictions) illegal, but it's going to be hard to prevent it spreading without something like this proposed treaty.

Quoting seemed the most effective way to communicate this information. I wanted not to misrepresent anything.

aesmael: (just people)
Today has been the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Likely not still that day here, by the time I finish writing this, but it will be elsewhere still. That day set aside for remembering all the people who over the past and previous years were murdered because of cissexist bigotry, for being trans.

The numbers for this year were a bit tricky to access, being in a Word document, but according to the website this year 101 163 people were killed for that particular who they are. If trend from past years hold true (and what I have read elsewhere indicates this is so), the majority of those murdered were trans women of colour. Not white trans women, and not trans men. A lot of the time trans people who are murdered are assumed and portrayed as having been sex workers, whether they were or not, and because of the widespread stigma applied to sex workers this provides cis authorities further disincentives to take these crimes seriously.

A lot of the time people guilty of these murders, if they are charged, use what is called the 'trans panic' defence. Rather than claiming innocence they instead claim the murder of trans people is justified because of how horrifying and disgusting they find it to be knowing a trans person. This gets accepted as valid in court far too readily, even though it is often untrue or very unlikely to be true that the murder was unaware of the person ey killed being trans prior to the act of killing. It tends, rather, to be that "I found out she was trans so I killed her[1]" is seen by many as a fair and logical train of thought. Even people who say the murder was wrong often say the murdered trans person was also wrong not to walk around wearing a sign saying "Trans", as if that would have made eir life so much easier to live, or would be a reasonable standard to require of someone so as not to be murdered.

[1] Actually they don't normally use gendered pronouns. Normally they describe the person they killed as 'it'.

I was thinking, for writing something for this day, about why these murders happen and why they are predominantly of women. The conclusion I came to was a combination of transphobia, homophobia and sexism.

The mere act of being visibly a woman, presenting as female, is seen by many men as a sexual act. An invitation. This is why a lot of men feel entitled to behave aggressively sexual toward women who are not welcoming of this behaviour - because being a woman is itself considered a sexual invitation or come-on.

It is because of transphobia that the genders of trans people are regarded as invalid where the genders of cis people are treated as real. Thus, trans women are considered 'really men' and trans men are considered 'really women'.

When we combine this with cultural homophobia and macho sexism that sees violence as a valid, even imperative means for men to enforce perceptions of their masculinity and 'defend' it from the threat supposedly posed by the existence of queer people and other ways of doing gender, well...

Because a woman in public is by default seen as engaging sexually with all the men around her, whether she wants to or not, and because a trans woman recognised as a trans woman is seen as being 'really a man', the mere existence of trans women is seen as a threat to the sexuality and identity of heterosexual cis men, one to which violence is often regarded as a justifiable or at least understandable response.

Of course this does not explain why white women are less likely to be murdered in this way than other women because my thought process did not include race until after the fact. I have seen however several other writers express that the lives of women of colour are regarded as less valuable than the lives of white women, just as the lives of trans women are regarded as less valuable than the lives of cis women which I can readily believe. It would make sense that the intersection of these two identities would combine to a far higher murder rate as people might believe either they could especially get away with the killing of a trans woman of colour, or that trans women of colour are especially unworthy of life.

Clearly, this needs to change.
aesmael: (haircut)
Accommodation and accessibility are among those mostly unnoticed things. When they are brought to our attention our response might be approving. It might be a scowling grumbling about expense, inconvenience and 'whining'. Might be something else, probably - humans are varied, though sometimes they seem distressingly monotonous.

Perhaps that is a poor preface. I have been thinking about accessibility and the difficulty that is had, the resistance to introducing new accessibility measures and having them implemented and maintained, especially widely. There is a bit of grim amusement in my consideration of that, lately, because really we worked so did so well on some accessibility so far, enough for maybe most of us, but there is so much resistance to going any further with it.

A lot of us with visual impairments have access to corrective lenses. Not all of us; I'd be shocked if easy quality glasses access weren't mainly the domain of middle class and up citizens of nations that call themselves 1st World. We make doors that most of us can reach and open easily. Reaching elevated locations we often put in stairs and expect them to be sized for our common feet and gait. Inside we add illumination, though not all of us need it.

Our signs are displayed in EM frequencies we can see; we use colours we can clearly differentiate as markers. We use auditory frequencies we can hear. We make our clothes out of materials which do not irritate our skin. We provide ourselves with foods which do not make ourselves sick or kill us. We refrain from filling our environments with pervasive, irritating sounds. We do not decorate with odours like onions or faecal matter because these produce adverse reactions in us. We don't use strobe lighting in work environments and consider it a problem to fix when we cannot accurately perceive our environment because of how it is structured. When we build structures we size them so that most of us can get around easily inside and outside, with enough room that we don't become stuck or unable to proceed.

It is a very long list. I doubt I have been anywhere near comprehensive and a lot of people could probably find glaring omissions in what I managed to come up with. The point being aimed at is that humans put a lot of effort into making their environment accessible to a subset of themselves. Comprehensively enough and long enough that most don't realise that a lot of why people with disabilities can have difficulty getting around and accessing things it is because they weren't included among those people initially built their world to suit and now when they point it out and say they want it changed, many see it as an extra imposition instead of a continuation of the work and attitudes that went into making navigating the world so easy for them.

Accessibility isn't something extra. It is the demand an incomplete work be continued.
aesmael: (nervous)
Last night watching Eureka one of the guest characters was supposedly Australian, except his accent was awfully all over the place. Left us wondering why they didn't just cast an Australian for the role. That, and an earlier episode of Frasier reminding that the trend in casting for trans women is cis men for laughs, cis women for pity, gave renewed impetus to write this intended post.

There is a lot of under-representation in our fiction, and in AV fiction often when a member of a marginalised group is depicted the part will be played by a member of a dominant group. Women are usually no longer played by men, although roles are limited. People of colour are usually no longer played by white people (but still too often), although roles are limited and frequent opportunities are taken to white-wash works and replace characters of colour with white characters. Trans characters are nearly always played by cis actors - almost always a trans woman is depicted and if she is an object of humour or ridicule she is played by a cis man; if we are supposed to feel sympathy for her she is played by a cis woman. Disabled characters are played by abled actors faking a disability in most cases.

Consequently many people advocate for better representation, like the outcry against the Avatar movie being transformed from one inhabited by Asian characters into one where a small band of white heroes saves the world (the one being directed by M. Night Shyamalan, not the one by James Cameron, which looks to be Super Space Colonialism anyway), or that people with disabilities and trans people should be cast to play the roles which represent them. I've also seen some backlash against this from among the people in question. At least wert trans people playing trans roles, people have argued that if we have that happening the actors will get typecast as 'trans actors' and their careers will be stalled due to being restricted to trans roles in an industry where there nearly are no trans roles. I would be unsurprised if there were similar protests elsewhere.

I don't think that should be the case though. Would it actually happen? I suppose it might, although given the current situation where cis actors play cis roles and cis actors play trans roles, and so on, it still seems like an improvement over no representation.

What I would like to see, in addition to more representative casting for existing roles is more diverse casting for roles which are not specifically marked as 'minority parts'. I am not inclined to agree that, for example, the aspirational goal for trans actors should be to play cis roles. I don't see any problem with such casting, but nor do I see a reason roles shouldn't accommodate the actors cast for them. It happens a lot in response to protests against things like white-washing of characters of colour, so why not turn it around?

That is, they tend to say "This character doesn't need to be Asian (or disabled, or female, or whatever), the story has universal appeal, so why can't ey be played by a white man?". (and again, often when people are arguing for the universality of a character or story's appeal seems to be when they are reaching for a straight, white, etc. man to represent this universality) So why not the other way round? We don't call straight men typecast if they only play straight men. Nor white men, nor abled men, nor cis men... but most roles are written for them. Unless the story actually depends on the character being one of those things, what would be wrong with casting someone else and tweaking the role to fit? Explicitly not meant to be about turning characters into gimmicks, because being not a straight white abled cis man isn't actually a gimmick, it's being also a normal kind of person who happens to not be that kind, and there's plenty of variety everywhere. Very rarely does the character actually need to be that man, so it is suspicious ey usually is.

Since I don't believe any group of people other than 'talented and / or skilled actors' has a monopoly on better acting ability than others, this leaves the conclusion that there are other factors than 'ability to play roles' involved in why most people we see in films and television aren't women, a third of them don't have disabilities, less than one in ten is other than straight, or why most of all of these people are white. If we were casting strictly to acting ability and weren't so biased in our conceptualisations of what people ordinarily are, I think our working actor demographics would be very different.

And of course, we aren't yet in a position where changing things in the other direction would be fair. It is after all the problem at hand.
aesmael: (haircut)
To describe treatment of a person as reprehensible, often we liken it to accepted ways of treating children. When we think a person's behaviour needs to be more controlled, we liken em to a child.

Because I think how we regard and behave toward children culturally is itself reprehensible I try not to compare others to children in order to dismiss or degrade them. I try not to use comparisons such as 'treated like a child' unless I am also making these points, because I think unexamined, uncomplicated use of those references reinforces attitudes that such treatment is appropriate for children and only wrong when applied to older people.
aesmael: (just people)
Obama lifts the ban on US aid money going to any organisation that provides abortions and the US House of Representatives goes and passes a similar ban on their own people.

It's absurd. Federal money banned from paying for a particular class of medical procedures. Why? It's not illegal, so why is a government being barring itself from funding legal medical procedures? Because a subset of the population has a religious prejudice against it, seems like mainly. Which isn't a very secular way to run a government. Unfair too; no government is making laws based on my religious beliefs, or even- well.

How come? we would ask. How come laws are made on the basis of the views of some sects of a religion but not the views of others? Especially the ones which outlaw personal choices, ones we would expect people who hold a belief in their immorality not to choose.

If this becomes law the lives of many people, particularly poor women and children, will be materially disadvantaged compared to if this does not become law. The gain, meanwhile, is that members of some Christian sects can feel pleased others are being forced to live by their morality, while members of other Christian sects will be frustrated that their morality has been prohibited.

Their are anti-choice non-religious atheists and members of other religions, but let's not pretend this was done to suit their desires.

[Link up top, very worth reading. Post content is different to what I wrote here]
aesmael: (haircut)
I have seen it happen often enough to regard it as a pattern.

People who characterise themselves as parents of autistic children, who appear to regard autism as a debilitating disease to be cured, or a form of poisoning to be cleansed of. They say autistic self-advocates, people who advocate for neurodiversity, they characterise those people as "high-functioning Asperger's" who get through life fine and don't need other than the usual assistance everyone gets, characterised as wanting to trumpet themselves splendid untroubled individuals equal or superior to the rest of humanity. They say that these advocates, in their drive to present themselves as just fine are stomping over the parents' children getting access to services, treatment and cures all as part of their selfish self-aggrandisement.

What do they say? They say wrong, for one. Many autistic advocates are not those who would be diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Many are not verbal, or not always. Many need carers or some similar arrangement. Many, as they have pointed out, are no different in diagnostic status and outward appearance from the children these parents say they are speaking for. So they're not right, when they say those things.

What do they say? They characterise people who do or could have a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome as people who are just fine. People who are utterly unconnected from 'real autism' and who do not experience any problems worth calling 'serious'.

So what they do, in order to protect their children from these people who are advocating that their children (as a subset of neurodiverse people) deserve consideration, access, recognition as valid people, support and all those nifty things, what they do is contribute to a discourse and public atmosphere which makes it harder for people to gain access to support or being taken seriously.

In trying to say "Stop telling me chelating (and other 'treatments') is useless, stop telling me my child is fine and does not need to be un-broken" they end up saying "Shut up. You don't even need or want access / services / accommodation, you have no right to an opinion or to be taken seriously about issues that affect you."

I've written and deleted a lot of concluding paragraphs for this post, mainly because I found all the constructions I attempted to be suggestive that one of those expressions is more or less of a problem than the other. Then I noticed my "In trying to say [...] they end up saying [...]" construction could be read also as implying a progression of reprehensibility. This paragraph is for explicitly disclaiming that meaning.
aesmael: (just people)
Two sorts of things which have been bugging that I think are probably meant to be pro-women.

1) Sitcoms, where a male character expresses something sexist in the presence of women, either who gets mad at him or who the presentation of the show promises will 'get even' with him off-screen. A lot of the time it looks like not 'sexism is bad, don't be sexist' but instead 'everyone knows this but don't say it in front of women because they don't like it' with a side of 'sexism is okay so long as there is comeuppance'.

This dynamic tends to feed the idea that men are socially disadvantaged relative to men because women hold power over them primarily in the form of controlling access to sex (as if sexual assault and rape were not prevalent, and as if these shows do not commonly depict men harassing and pressuring women into unwanted sex and humorous in an 'it's funny because it's true' sense), but also depicting women as generally bossy, controlling and otherwise humorously abusive toward men - showing a social fiction where men are obliged not to express what they consider right and natural and true in the presence of women because women (in this imaginary world) dominate society via various channels of interpersonal coercion.

Despite sending the superficial message of 'don't express sexism', I don't think this is a very feminist depiction.

2) Webcomics, mostly fantasy webcomics in my experience, which seem to be attempting to establish feminist credibility by having characters encounter a bunch of men acting in a strongly misogynistic, derisive way and then having them shown up / beat up / whatever by the heroic leads, often women.

Really, if someone wants to make a feminist / pro-feminist fantasy webcomic I would rather see an example of a world in which sexism is not a problem than one in which our heroes keep beating up the occasional gang of louts who think they're hopeless. As much as it can be satisfying to see expressed sexism flung back in someone's face, I really want to see more examples of worlds where sexism isn't even a problem people have to deal with. Especially since a lot of the time these happenings feel to me, not insincere, but as if these are staged events to establish for us that either our leads are truly virtuous because they won't stand for sexism or, if women, to clarify that they are indeed Strong Female Characters.

It bugs me, and I am having difficulty expressing why. Maybe because when this happens with female characters the only reason they succeed at standing up to the Token Sexist Jerks is because they have some kind of elite ability, and the way the confrontation is framed any random woman would have been cowed or worse - 'confronting sexism is for heroic or elite women only' message. Maybe because I come away with the feeling authors who do this think all sexism is of the overt sort and the way to confront it is by having a bigger stick. Maybe because I get frustrated that so often it seems people can't imagine the idea of a society which lacks sexism, racism, ablism, queerphobia, etc. and thus the only way to have a remotely humanist sort of work apparently is with these staged, stark black hat - white hat confrontations.

Yes, this one gets crossposted to my journal and [livejournal.com profile] feminist_rage.
aesmael: (Electric Waves)

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

Recently the organisation Autism Speaks released another video. You can see it by following this link here. A transcription of the audio can be read here. This is the outcome of "[a] press release [from August that] encouraged families to submit videos of autistic individuals for a PSA that would "shine a bright spotlight" on autism."

Naturally I and a whole lot of other people take issue with this supposed public service announcement[1]. It wouldn't be fair, though, to attribute the views expressed in that video to all members of families of autistic people, nor even necessarily to all people who contributed footage to the final product. abfh|Whose Planet Is It Anyway? points out that people have felt deceived by this request and the results:

Would the contributors to the "I Am Autism" video have agreed to participate if Autism Speaks had admitted at the outset that it was planning to demonize autistic kids as embarrassing burdens who destroy their parents' marriages and dreams?

Well, at least one parent who posted a comment on the video's YouTube page, under the name BarrysDaughter, made it quite plain that she felt deceived by Autism Speaks' request for video contributions from parents. She wrote:

"I do have 2 autistic children and a husband on the spectrum. When they first suggested a video I was eager to send them one till they outlined what they wanted.

My children and husband don't want or need to be CURED what they do want is people to treat them the same as anyone else, stop the bullying and put more staff in schools to support them…"

My problems with the video. It is not addressed to autistic people. Indeed, the request for videos and the result of this request, despite being purpotedly for an autistic advocacy organisation, does not acknowledge the existence of autistic people. They don't talk to autistic people, they talk to the families of autistic people. They don't acknowledge that autistic people may have desires, or acknowledge anything as being a problem for autistic people which those people might want something done about. No, they address the desires of families of autistic people, they talk about what families of autistic people want for their own benefit, they talk about the suffering of people who associate with autistic people, they describe the autistic community as 'people who know autistic people'.

There is a tremendous failure of empathy on display in their selfish wish to eradicate autism from existence. Do not pretend they speak only of those to whom terms like 'low-functioning' or 'severe' are applied when they use words like

"I work faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined. And if you are happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails. Your money will fall into my hands, and I will bankrupt you for my own self-gain. I don't sleep, so I make sure you don't either. I will make it virtually impossible for your family to easily attend a temple, a birthday party, a public park, without a struggle, without embarrassment, without pain. You have no cure for me."

Is there any moderation in that? Any room for them to say "Ah, but we do not mean you who are 'high-functioning'? (by which is meant "Your life is easy, you have no problems and no relevance to this subject, so be silent")" It is a plain statement of what Autism Speaks considers autism to be - a debilitating and horrific condition which must be eradicated. No acknowledgement of the voices of autistic people. Rather, those are described as stolen away, so that others can pretend to know what these voiceless unfortunates want and claim desires in their name.

What they are doing, is not helping. Help would be to reduce the stigma of autism. Help would be to not portray it as some malevolent force which steals otherwise 'normal' children and hides them behind a monstrous facade. Help would be not be not comparing autism to a fatal illness. Help would be acknowledging the existence of autistic adults. Help would be pushing for the ready availability of accommodations that will aid autistic people and others with disabilities. Help would be publicly speaking out against the vast number of sham 'cures' which do nothing, or worse, so that people do not go bankrupt on the false hope of rescuing their family from the hell you have convinced them autism dooms them to. Help would be supporting health care reform so people do not have to worry about going bankrupt for medical reasons. Help would be listening to autistic people instead of speaking over them.

Not all of those things are entirely absent from their website on inspection, but they have a long way to go if they ever want to be a resource and organisation for the benefit of autistic people. Right now they look more like an organisation focused on eugenics to eradicate a segment of the population. I'm sure they don't see it that way. I expect they believe the best outcome for autistic people would be to cease being autistic and eventually cease being born, instead of whatever each autistic person considers eir personal preferred outcome. Accommodation and support I think benefits everyone, while the current state of Autism Speaks' rhetoric does not.

Further responses to this video and the organisation behind it can be found here: http://autisticbfh.blogspot.com/2009/09/solidarity.html

[1] Also annoyed by people who leap on the statement that among faith, technology, prayer, herbs and genetic studies people will also fight autism with voodoo, as something outrageous. Though I would not be surprised to learn either that this was included as an example of desperation, still voodoo despite being a religion associated with black people rather than white is not any more or less silly a thing to call on than, say, Christianity.

aesmael: (it would have been a scale model)

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

Last week I ran into a post that made me pretty angry. It was this post, Race, Gender, and the Oppressive Public Gaze. No, not the bit about the appalling attitudes and actions of the IAAF, the media, and the public toward Caster Semenya and intersex people (which I have not previously written publicly on, but short form: outrageous that she'd be singled out for testing on the basis of winning a race and not looking 'sufficiently feminine' while doing so, plausibly racist that she was so singled out when black women are already made to suffer for not conforming to white standards of beauty, outrageous that the media would refer to her as a 'hermaphrodite' in defiance of their own style guides, painfully ignorant and outright damaging to many, especially Semenya herself who as the linked article states has been placed on suicide watch, that when news of her reputedly intersex biology was leaked to media outlets before she herself was informed, people considered this reason to degender her, call her 'he' and accuse her of cheating even though these days an abnormally well-suited biology seems almost a prerequisite to excellence in world sports, without raising such a storm of ignorance and horrid behaviour in cases that don't concern women and race). No, I had grown accustomed to be disgusted at the behaviour of people around this topic.

It was the middle section that outraged me anew, by referring to what from timing and other details I inferred was this posting in the community , the handling of which had already given me cause for much infuriated anger.

Let us get some things straight. No one has the right to know details of my body, or how it functions, or how I have sex, or what kind(s) of sex I enjoy, unless I choose to give them that information. This is a matter of privacy and personal autonomy. Generally (I am not sure if generally is true, but let's say it is for the sake of rhetoric) people will respect the expressed boundaries of others, and by default respect also the boundaries their social context leads them to believe are commonly in place, although there are some people who take pleasure in violating the boundaries of others as a 'joke' (or for other reasons).

Which leads to another thing. Generally marginalised people are Othered, are treated as something fascinating and alien and not quite regarded by those socially privileged over them as being as fully nuanced and human as those privileged over them regard their own class, in most cases without careful thought and work. Generally, the socially expected default boundaries are weakened or less regarded in the case of marginalised classes of people, as seen with men hollering out sexual remarks to women generally, or white people wanting to touch the hair of black women specifically. It might be because in the milieu they grew up they were trained to regard the boundaries of some sets of people as less than their own, or it might be that their privileged situation leads their curiosity to override restraints behaviour they might otherwise recognise as intrusive and likely unwelcome, because they have the luxury of not considering the situation. Or other reasons I might not have considered.

All this, and disproportion of effect. When you have some noticeable variance from those in power in the wider society you inhabit it makes sense they would be curious about it. Especially when you have been Othered by this society, information about you obscured or unavailable. Especially when you are a relative minority to them, and thus again a novelty to their eyes. Especially again when you are marginalised relative to them, and they are accustomed to seeing your boundaries weaker than theirs, to be overrun without care, or treated as less credible and serious entirely in your expressions of yourself. And because you are yourself, and they are many, what seems to them like a harmless single encounter may be to you an endless feeling grinding intrusion.

So, curiousity is natural, and many in privileged situations would be inclined to shrug it off, based on their own not unpleasant experiences of being its subject. But for someone who occupies a marginalised position in the society they inhabit, they are at particular risk of being subjected to unwanted intrusions and incessant questioning, and generally it is a sign of oppression that people would behave as though they are entitled to details of a person's existence, that they would invade eir individual or collective space to demand answers and be disinclined to respect refusals, or to take under consideration that those they question are likely often subject to this and likely do not want to be subject to it again.

If someone is a member of a marginalised group, it is more likely rude to ask em details of eir existence than it is to ask members of non-marginalised groups about theirs. Boundaries should be drawn wider, not weaker or smaller, and anyone who seeks information from and / or about them ought take much greater care to be respectful of boundaries, which generally means "do not approach them specifically unless you know for yourself the person in question is willing to entertain your request (and friendship is not a guarantee of this - to presume it is would often be a swift way of losing that friendship)", "do not approach them in their own communities or spaces unless those spaces have been established for the purpose of educating outsiders". Or, more simply: If you seek information from or concerning marginalised peoples, particularly about any aspect of their personal lives or bodies, do so only from sources which have been explicitly established as venues for seeking such information. Otherwise it is likely you will be treading on the boundaries of people whose boundaries are frequently trodden on, frequently betrayed, frequently ignored.

All that said, why then am I angry with karnythia concerning eir post linked at the beginning of this one? Because is a writers' information community. Its purpose is for writers who have not been able to find information for their stories elsewhere to seek advice and resources from other members of the community. It is not specifically a trans space, nor specifically a space for any marginalised class of people unless you count writers, which I certainly do not. The poster of the question in question did not so far as we know approach any specific trans person and demand information about or access to eir genitals. Ey did not do this with a trans community or safer space. Ey made a request, in a community purposed for the exchange of information, that if anyone were willing and able to help em produce an accurate and respectful portrayal of a trans man (specifically the one who was a character in eir story) in a sexual scene. No one was hounded or intruded upon by this, and no one was obligated to answer, but if anyone were able and willing to answer that question, to provide advice on an accurate and respectful portrayal, the option was there.

Instead we got a storm of outrage. People saying, effectively, no cis person should ever write about a trans character, they should never, ever request information on how to do so better, that there is no context (other than being, we assume, a trans person seeking information to aid in orienting eir life) in which seeking information about trans people can be anything other than offensive and wrong. People demanding to know why it is necessary for that character to be trans, when as far as I am concerned a big problem is that marginalised persons do not exist in stories unless somehow 'justified' in ways others are not, and that this is a problem which contributes to Othering, ignorance, prejudice and stereotyping which can be addressed in part by precisely the sort of behaviour the original poster has been engaged in. There was some problematic language in the original post (now crossed out and replaced) which was eventually pointed out and explained - those previously attempting to shut down the subject they had inserted themselves into then thanking the person who explained this for doing what they had apparently showed up in order to not do.

This then is continued in karnythia's post. What was a request for information and advice in an open forum intended for that purpose on how to construct a respectful portrayal, if indeed the connection I made between the two postings is a correct one, gets framed as a personal intrusion. The message we are given is it is not okay for a person in a privileged position to seek this information, ever, for any reason, and it is even less okay for them to ever pose that as an active question. We are told that is prurience and the message gleaned from this post and much of the community response is that this information should simply be unavailable concerning marginalised persons.

If this could be considered in aggregate 'the activist position' then I cannot in good conscience assent. I think it an anti-intellectual, simplistic and ultimately harmful position to take. As I said above, I think it is a problem, endemic in the society I am familiar with, that people especially fail to recognise or respect the personal boundaries of marginalised people. I think, because of this tendency, it is moral, polite and pragmatic to take extra care not to transgress those boundaries. As a rule, neither individuals nor communities should be solicited or imposed upon for information by outsiders - the appropriate venues would typically be intentionally informational resources, not people who are already likely frequently put upon by such unwelcome demands.

This does mean I consider the problem in question neither the existence of information about marginalised people, nor that others might have interest in that information. Rather, the problem lies in how this plays out under the various dynamics of privilege / marginalisation which leads typically to intrusive enquiries running roughshod over boundaries. Merely to ask the question or seek the information is not in itself an act of oppression. Behaving as if it is, I think, contributes to the problems of invisibility, ignorance and poor representation I oppose. So reading that I got angry.

aesmael: (haircut)
All those people who feel it important to respond to accounts of trans people existing. To talk about how people should not or should not be allowed to alter their gendered or sexed presentation, to say it is a pointless superficiality, or the 'proper' solution is counselling and whatever else convinces to be happy with things as is, to say trans people are a temporary social aberration who will not exist in coming years, to say there is truly no way for a person to have an innate sense of gender or sex...

All these people I invite to, as the saying goes, 'put their money where their mouth is'. I implore them, please, if to transition is such an irrelevant, pointless, insignificant indulgment of those who don't deserve freedom or autonomy, then let us see them demonstrate how superficial transition is. Let us see them do the transition thing, clothing, hormones, surgery, and show us in statistically significant numbers how unimportant gendered presentation and sexed bodies are to people.

If it doesn't mean anything, if it doesn't change anything, if it doesn't matter, then why not join in? If you are right, it won't bother you a bit.
aesmael: (haircut)
This whitewashing thing, taking stories written by, featuring or about people of colour and twisting them, recasting so at minimum the heroes are replaced with white people and at maximum... well.

It is a pretty pervasive and appalling practice -- the link above is by no means exhaustive.

There are a couple of reasons commonly given to justify these practices. One is to claim it is not the fault of the company producing the work, they are merely doing what sells. Perhaps, but to say "We do this because racism is profitable" is far from what I would consider a laudable business practice, and it doesn't much help the argument that proper capitalism* would eschew oppression because it is economically disadvantageous, either.

Another is to say race doesn't matter, at least to them. Perhaps so, but if it really is the case then why is there a trend to recasting people of colour as white and not so much the other direction? Why change the settings of stories to be white and Anglo if this doesn't matter? And if it matters so little to the people making these things, then why not cater to the people for whom it does matter by leaving the stories, characters, settings, etc. intact? Really, if people don't care about race, then why keep replacing people of colour with white people?

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