January 2011

The Wikipedia Gender Gap

The New York Times has an interesting article about the gender gap on Wikipedia. (And it's blowing up all over the internet in the typical predictable fashion, of which I have become so very tired.)

Wikipedia has over 3.5 million English articles, and has been ported to 250 languages, but "less than 15% of its hundreds of thousands of contributors are women."

The big thing I've been hearing online today is, "So what?" The biggest "so what" in this is for Wikipedia itself. If Wikipedia wants to become relevant to everybody - and it does - then it needs to have a broad representation of contributors. Having a more equitable distribution between the genders is a great start to this. 15% is pretty bad!

Will "Miss Representation" be feminism's "Fast Food Nation"?

 This documentary on gender equality by Jennifer Siebel Newsom is getting HUGE buzz at Sundance this week. Based just on the trailer and what I have read online, I'm very excited to see it! (Review copies are always appreciated, hint hint to the World At Large.)

The trailer and website for Miss Representation deals with all the stuff we have been talking about, in a clean, crisp, non-judgmental style. It includes a lot of interviews with young girls talking about what it's like to look out at the world and not see yourself reflected back in any meaningful way.

And it lays out the statistics, which ought to speak for themselves.

Rape: Republicans Are Driving Us Backwards

In today's retrograde news, Republicans in the House are moving to redefine what constitutes rape, in order to further exclude victims from getting the help they need.

Currently, women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest can seek Medicaid help to pay for abortions. (Note: this is the only case in which federal funding can be used for an abortion. Don't be fooled by conservatives who are framing this as "tax dollars for abortions." That's misleading.)

But a new bill [Edit: H.R.3., the "No Taxpayer Funding For Abortions Act"]  would throw out several different forms of unwanted sex, and allow abortions only in cases where the intercourse is deemed "forcible rape."

The RailsBridge Workshops

We spend a lot of time talking about women in tech, and how we need more of them. Well, here is a thing: the RailsBridge workshops, possibly coming to a city near you. CRAZY POPULAR. And an amazing way to bring women into the industry.

RailsBridge is a great example of How To Do It Right. The idea is, this is a conference to get women started with super-hot programming-language-of-the-day, Ruby. The conference is aimed at beginners, and welcomes both the "complete programming novice" and the "experienced developer." It's a two-day intensive course in programming in Ruby on Rails.


Intersectionality: A Big Word; A Tricky Concept

I think about intersectionality a lot with regards to feminism, even if I don't always say so. Intersectionality is basically the study of the intersections between different under-privileged groups. Put simply, a lot of people are seemingly unaware of these intersections, or actively dismiss them while promoting the cause of their own.

(One such intersection is between "black" and "homosexual." Black culture has often been extremely hostile to the issue of homosexuality, to such an extent that many gay black men are driven completely underground. There is an entire subculture of black men who identify as straight, but who secretly have sex with other men, colloquially known as "being on the down low.")

Historically, a lot of very prominent feminists have done a terrible job at intersectionality. Major feminist groups and speakers have said racist and homophobic things, and have enacted racist and homophobic policies. Even today, many old-school (a.k.a. Second Wave) feminists not only ignore the issue of transgender rights, but reject transgender people outright.

"Darwin's Rape Whistle" Exasperates

I read a very exasperating and peculiar article in Slate today. I should say up front that I have extremely limited patience for the "it's just biology" argument. A lot of things are biologically hard-wired into us, but we overcome them anyway, as part of the process of civilization.

For example, we evolved to poop wherever we happen to be at the moment. Ask a parent of a small child how much work it takes to train a human being to do otherwise. And yet as adults, by sheer force of habit, we poop in toilets. (Mostly.)

Palin-Bashing: The New Blood Sport

Over this weekend I found myself in the extremely vexing position of defending Sarah Palin.  I dislike Palin immensely, on almost every level.  (Not least because she's the world's worst feminist.)  But she isn't to blame for Giffords' shooting.

Was it tacky of Palin to have published a map with gun sights?  Inflammatory to say "Don't retreat - RELOAD"?  Sure.  But sane people know that she wasn't literally issuing a fatwa against Giffords or any of the other Democrats that she "targeted."

Ah, but there's the rub, right?  What about the bad people?  What if they take her words literally?  Such a thing certainly appears to have happened.  We must blame someone.  WE MUST BLAME.  And Palin certainly makes a good target for that outrage.

Seduction Artist Seductively Shoots A Woman In The Face

Self-described Pick-Up Artist (which is inevitably abbreviated for the internet: PUA) Allen Reyes had a pick-up attempt turn into an argument.  No shock there, given that his advice in re seduction includes gems like "Make the ho say no." 

What is a bit of a shock is that he finished the argument by shooting her in the face.  His 20 year-old target Amber Tripp is in the hospital in critical condition.

What was the last thing Amber said before he shot her in the face?  Did the ho indeed say no?  Did she call him out for being creepy?  Surely this would simply have been an accurate description, given his appearance on this video Jezebel found.  If there's a more accurate word than "creep,y" I can't think of it at the moment.

How To Silence A Feminist

An analysis of the comments I most often receive, both here and in real life.

"It's not as big a problem as you're making it out to be." 

I understand why people want to believe this.  I would like to believe it, too.  Pity it's not true.  We like to think of feminism as something that was necessary back in the Bad Old Days.  And it's true that women have made a lot of gains in the last 40 years.  The most visible trappings of misogyny have been eliminated.  Hooray!

But we're not there yet.  Women are still only worth 77 cents on the dollar on the job market.  Many industries continue to be male-dominated (e.g.  women comprise only 10-30% of the technology industry).  In marriages where both spouses work full time, women still do significantly more housework than their husbands.  (A recent study found that husbands create seven additional hours of housework for wives per week, whereas wives save husbands an hour of housework per week.)


Turns out, women aren't as bad with money as some people apparently think.  Slate has a great article about an author who set out to write a self-help personal finance book aimed at women, only to learn that women aren't actually worse at personal finance than men. 

In most categories, young single women and young single men have equivalent financial savvy.  In some areas, women are actually better than men, in the sense that they tend to invest more conservatively, and therefore lose less money in the stock market.

And yet the publishing industry continues to push these "personal finance for women" books.  This is particularly interesting because personal finance is not an inherently gendered activity.  I can't think of any item of personal finance advice that would be different for women versus men.  Except that a woman's monthly budget might include "tampons," I guess.

We Are All Complicit In Buffy's Rape

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is often held up as one of the great pro-female television shows.  Buffy herself is typically cast as one of the strongest female characters of all time, which is true, although it give the wrong impression to people who haven't seen the show. 

Buffy is human, too.  She's just a teenage girl, and as such she enjoys giggling, skipping classes, and going out dancing instead of staying home and doing her homework.

That lack of judgment, combined with her youth and inexperience, is how she was nearly raped by one of the most popular characters on the show. 

Why Does The Bechdel Test Matter?

It seems like whenever I mention the Bechdel Test, someone scoffs that it's stupid, or that I'm stupid for caring. 

A movie passes the Bechdel Test if it has A) two female characters, who B) talk to each other, C) about something other than a man.  This test is so basic, you'd think most movies would pass it.  But you would be wrong.

Even when a movie does pass the Bechdel Test, it's often by the barest margin.  This is a pass/fail test.  Two lines of dialogue, out of all the hundreds of lines in the script, qualify as a passing grade.