Monday, May 22, 2017

The dangers of preconceived notions

You can't really help that sometimes you go into a situation with a preconceived idea.

For instance, I expect older people to be less familiar with technology, or I expect that very young children can't read, or I expect that the guy trying to get my phone number at the bus stop is not asking because he thinks we have common interests. All of these assumptions can bite you in the butt if you act on them, and sometimes you can learn to avoid communicating potentially offensive assumptions you have about people, but it's pretty common for those preconceived ideas to be revealed, if subtly, through interaction in ways you may not be aware of.

This is one of the reasons why, when I discuss the importance of supporting asexual friends and family members, I stress education. Because one of the default assumptions MANY people have about asexuality is that it is a phase that will pass, and even if someone who believes that is kind enough to avoid saying so to their ace loved one, that belief will often come through unintentionally in their interactions. We can hear in your voice and your choices of words that you expect us to grow out of it or that you don't believe us. It isn't particularly hard to tell when you're being humored.

Here's another example: an interaction between me and a friend. I had discussed a health problem I sometimes experience, and he immediately started asking me weird leading questions about it. It went something like this:

Him: Did you start noticing that happening at any particular time?

Me: No.

Him: I mean, like, did you make any . . . lifestyle changes around any particular time in your life that might be related to this?

Me: No.

Him: Did you ever think maybe it might've started happening . . . around the time that you became a vegetarian?

Oh, I saw where that was going long before he said it.

I've known for a long time that he thinks vegetarianism is unhealthy and that humans generally "need" animal protein to be healthy. He has said to me before that he thinks vegans "look sick" and that he believes our bodies depend on animal nutrients, and also he has said before that he believes vegetarians and vegans tend to be stuck up and obnoxious about their supposed moral superiority. (I don't know if that includes me.)

So, I've been a vegetarian since I turned twenty. That's seventeen years. My doctor's only comment on the situation has been to say that I should take a calcium supplement because in addition to being vegetarian I am lactose intolerant so I don't get much dairy calcium. He has said nothing about vegetarianism causing the other health problem (which, incidentally, is a very common skin infection that I very likely am more subject to because I ride a bicycle in the heat and then stay in clothes I exercised in). But if you have a preconceived notion that vegetarianism is by default unhealthy, you may be more likely to erroneously blame unrelated problems on it (and ask sort of obnoxious leading questions to annoy your friends).

It gets worse when, say, healthcare professionals allow their very human biases to affect their judgment. It's been studied and found many times over that doctors and other healthcare workers sometimes have alarming beliefs about how one's race affects their pain tolerance and whether a woman's description of her symptoms is accurate. Men in our society, by and large, assume women are overreacting or exaggerating, assigning us "emotional" perspectives that predispose us to illogical evaluations of our own experiences. This translates, in practical terms, to their inherent distrust of women, and their conscious or unconscious tendency to downgrade the seriousness of anything they say, including descriptions of their health problems. I saw one man quoted in an article opining that "women" are just far more emotional than is "logically" warranted, and so when his wife is on 8, he assumes the situation is a 5 or a 6. This perspective has also led many healthcare workers to ignore women's medical symptoms and suggest they are simply excitable, worrying for nothing, overreacting, and yeah, probably just suffering from anxiety.

Going into conversations with people carrying preconceived ideas about their situations can sometimes be helpful, of course. This is why it's an adaptive strategy that humans evolved to have, I imagine . . . it is often useful to our survival if we can make predictions based on snap judgments. We may assess a situation as dangerous in an instant based on a snap judgment, and we may be RIGHT, and if we're wrong about its being a threat, we still survive. It's better, evolutionarily, to regard something that isn't a threat as a threat than it is to assume something that IS a threat will not harm you. We're a suspicious species, with speed of decision being very important to continued existence. But sadly this does not help us make more reasoned decisions rooted in empathy, education, or evaluation of evidence.

As an experiment, a person can make a list of five judgments they tend to make quickly. Maybe you can't think of any at the moment, or they're all really obvious things, so take a day or two to catch yourself making quick decisions based on very little information. Why do you pick a certain grocery line? How do you immediately feel about the car in front of you based on their bumper stickers? When you hear an author's name and you know their demographics, what do you expect to see in their book? If you hear someone watches a certain TV show or listens to a certain radio station, what do you believe you know about them? What about if they shop at a certain store, wear certain clothing labels, or go to a certain school? What do you believe you know about someone if they say they're from the Baby Boomer generation, or they're a Millennial? What makes you think better or worse in an instant about a parent based on their treatment of their children in front of you? What judgments do you make if you know someone posts on Reddit, or posts on Tumblr? If someone subscribes to a certain diet, how does that affect your opinion of them?

The big question is whether these evaluations lead you to trust someone. From the beginning, knowingly or not, people you meet are taking action that either solidifies or contradicts your initial assumptions. How many times might a racist's beliefs about people of color have to be proven wrong before the racist modifies their beliefs? How many times might a homophobe need to meet a gay person who isn't stereotypical before they decide the stereotypes are misleading and reevaluate why they believe them? How many times might a sexist man have to be outperformed by a woman before he stops believing women aren't as good at the job? How many times can you make a reasoning mistake you didn't realize you were susceptible to before you realize you're considering information that doesn't apply? And how often is your trust or mistrust dangerous--to you and to them?

You have to acknowledge that most of these assumptions serve a purpose for you. They make you feel superior to someone, or make you think you're good at something, or make you believe you're being safe or logical because you allow these generalizations to affect your decisions. But think about the times someone else's assumptions about you have inconvenienced you, annoyed you, or even endangered you. Did someone give you terrible service in a restaurant because they have a racist belief that people of your ethnic background don't tip? Did someone assume a person with your gender identity is out to victimize them? Did someone decide to give an opportunity to someone else because they erroneously assumed you weren't physically or mentally capable of completing it? 

And sometimes it's just ignorance, like someone has decided gluten-free food trends are annoying and unnecessary so they ignore someone's request for a gluten-free meal and end up harming them because they have celiac disease. Or someone has decided a black person going into a store open carrying in an open-carry state is somehow more likely to be out to commit a crime than a white person would be if they were doing the same thing, and they call the police and violate that person's rights. Or someone in medicine decides an overweight person's health issues are all a consequence of being fat and refuses to investigate a very serious health problem, instead prescribing weight loss until the person narrowly survives a medical emergency and finally gets a diagnosis.

It's important to become aware of your preconceived notions so you can evaluate whether they're useful to you, and more importantly, whether they're harmful to someone else. The tendency to jump to conclusions and act on prejudice may have been a useful tool of survival in the past, but that is less true now. The best way to educate yourself on these issues is to listen to the voices of those writing about their own personal experiences--like I am with asexuality activism and feminism--and understand how common certain prejudices are and how they affect marginalized populations. You can learn to be part of the solution if you'll do this, but it starts with recognizing that the preconceptions are happening in the first place.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Personal Digest Saturday: May 13 – May 19

Life news this week: 
  • Saturday was intensely productive for some reason. If you consider it "productive" to clean and vacuum my whole house. I'd been meaning to do it for a long time because the hairballs on my carpet were irritating me. (I am the person shedding to make the hairballs, not cats.) I also got my place redecorated (late) for the next season, did laundry, made and ate tofu with sunflower butter, and made some biscotti to give to my mom.
  • Sunday I had my mom over and made her whole grain with chia seed pancakes, did two music covers, and talked to my sister briefly. Sadly, this is also the day when my BFF Meghan's stepdad died. Really really awful. I talked to her briefly in the evening. I also drew a picture of Garnet in golf pants.
  • Monday nothing really happened. I helped my boss with a letter at work, got a ride home, did grocery shopping on my bike, went home, and fell asleep until morning.
  • Tuesday I did a lot of work at the office and got another ride home from my co-worker. I drew some fanart of Steven and Peridot sleeping, and did birthday shopping for Jeaux.
  • Wednesday one of my posts got a feature on the Amino app so I talked to some new people who liked my stuff. I read manga on the bus and ate Five Guys food with Jeaux. We listened to Welcome to Night Vale and watched Aivi and Surasshu, the composers for Steven Universe, revealing the track listing on the upcoming soundtrack which will release June 2.
  • Thursday we had a really long meeting at work. The good: we ordered sandwiches. The bad: the air conditioning was broken, so that three-hour meeting was REALLY HOT. Also the office folks had an interview in the morning, so we're crossing our fingers that we won some work. When I got home I played the ukulele and talked to Victor while drawing my comic, and I posted a fanart drawing of Lapis Lazuli sleeping in a hammock with Steven.
  • Friday at work was mostly uneventful, though I got a bunch of stuff done. I got a ride home AGAIN and managed to get my comic posted while watching Rebecca Sugar, creator of Steven Universe, talk on the New York Times Facebook Live feed.

    Interviews, articles, mentions:


        Reading progress:
          New singing performances:

          This week I performed "My Freeze Ray" from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

           

          New drawings: 

          Most of Garnet's solo missions are probably just
          her sneaking out to play golf in Steven's dad's pants.
           
          Steven's fanart of himself as a girl
          is basically just him with long hair.
          Hooray for Nora Universe.

          A very regimented sleep with Peridot.
          Lapis and Steven in the hammock.



          Webcomic Negative One Issue 0627: "Quieting."






          New videos:

          My latest unlisted ukulele video is "I Could Never Be Ready" from Steven Universe. Very sweet song about the overwhelmingness of becoming a parent.




          New photos:

          Lemon biscotti made for Mom

          Pancakes with strawberries for Mother's Day

          My sunflower tofu--was very tasty!

          Front, February 2014
          Front, May 2017
          Back, February 2014
          Back, May 2017

          Social Media counts:
           
          YouTube subscribers: 5,307 for swankivy (no change), 641 for JulieSondra (1 new). Twitter followers: 862 for swankivy (3 new), 1,334 for JulieSondra (4 new). Facebook: 292 friends (no change) and 208 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 652 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 54 likes for Negative One (no change), 125 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,495 (3 new). Instagram followers: 115 (1 new).

          Wednesday, May 17, 2017

          Wednesday Factoid: Amusement Parks

          Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Do you like amusement parks/theme parks? Do you have a favorite?

          I'm not a real big fan of them, no. But I don't hate them. I can still have plenty of fun at a theme park, and I'll be enthusiastic about exploring what there is to do there, but theme parks are definitely not the thing I would choose to do with a vacation or with the money it costs to go there. I have been quite a number of times with friends and had fun, but that was mostly because I was with them, not necessarily because of the park.

          Disney World with family, 1989

          Six Flags with Laura and Jessica, 1997
          My friend Mikey flipping off a dino at Universal Studios, 2009

          EPCOT with Sarah, 2010
          Star Tours with Eric, 2011
           
          Hollywood Studios with Meg, Katie, Steve, and Jessica, 2011

          Disney parks with Meg's family, 2013

          EPCOT with Meg's family and Victor, 2014
          Living in Florida, I'm basically right on top of Disney, and my friends really like to go to the parks, so I am sometimes invited along.


          My favorite thing about theme parks is usually games and shopping, and probably food too. I don't usually like "fair foods" like funnel cake but sometimes they still have pretty good (expensive) food, especially at Disney. Rides are okay. I'm not huge on rides, especially since they are usually the major attraction at these places and therefore have HUGE lines. But I did have a lot of fun on Disney World's EPCOT ride Soarin' (which simulates flying over a variety of landscapes) and the free-fall ride at Hollywood Studios.

          And even though in general I don't like fireworks because of the pollution and the loud noises, the Disney fireworks are very nice, and I find them pretty inspiring because of the way they remind me of humans' capacity for innovation. 

          For vacations and stuff, though, I would much rather go on a picnic, to the beach, to a vacation home, or on a road trip to see friends. Theme parks being crowded and full of lines to do things I'm not super enthusiastic about does not put them high on my list of favorite vacation pastimes.

          Tuesday, May 16, 2017

          How to Beta: Five Tips

          Okay, so as an author who's participated as a Pitch Wars mentor three different times and as a writer who's given huge amounts of feedback over the years, I'm here to tell you that . . .

          I don't really know any hard and fast rules of how to beta-read a manuscript.

          Haha.

          Thought I was gonna say something sagely and wise there, didn't you.

          But anyway, I HAVE learned a thing or two about how to beta my way, and I figured I can share them with you.

          Thought Number One: Be sure to establish an understanding of your duties as a beta reader with the author.

          Does the author need your notes and impressions by a certain date? What kind of feedback do they need? Are they interested in grammar and punctuation nitpicks, or do they just want comments on the story? Are they trying to get something in shape for consideration by a publishing professional, or is this story for fun? Are they going to be receptive to very large or very critical edits? Sometimes you can upset people or sour your relationship with them if the comments you offer are of an unexpected nature in some way. So go ahead and ask your author what kinds of comments they can use.

          And between you and me (she says, to the Internet), if you're betaing for a newer author and you feel this is more an instructional situation than an exchange of opinion between career equals, you might consider being a little less critical even if it kinda needs it. There is a LOT you can't teach a writer when they're new, and you might as well not kick their heart out from under them. They will learn in time the longer they keep at it, and if you murder their manuscript the first time they ask someone to look at it, they may really be shocked and disheartened.

          As an extra note here: Please, please don't volunteer to beta for someone and then just disappear without explanation. We understand that betaing is generally a free/volunteer service we perform for each other, but if you thought you would have time and you didn't, or you're just not able to complete what you said you would, let the author know!


          Thought Number Two: Give the author some sense of what they're doing right.

          The most important function of a beta reader is to iron out kinks and give impressions, of course, but giving compliments can help a LOT with perspective even as it also functions to keep morale up during a potential pounding. Sometimes if you help a writer see what you're enjoying, they'll get some understanding on how to reinvent the parts of their story that need more massaging (or massive overhauls). And you don't have to do it in a patronizing way, like "this is good, this is the correct way to do scenes like this"; just do stuff like laugh at the funny parts, tell them when you're excited or anticipating the next plot point, yell at the characters when you get caught up in their lives, quote and praise pretty turns of phrase, and definitely identify where the author moved you.

          Do everyone a favor, though, and don't heap praise on them if you don't really mean it just to cancel out whatever bad stuff you might want to say. Here's the thing. It sucks to have to be the one to tell someone that their book isn't ready or that it has a serious problem, but think about the people who have been terrible failures on talent shows who embarrassed themselves in front of a nation. Why didn't some kind soul in their family tell them they can't sing? Why didn't their boyfriend tell them their dance needs more practice? How cruel! It's kinda awful to find some tactful way to tell someone their work needs work--especially if the person believes their masterpiece is an exquisite work of art that needs no improvement--but if that person trusts you as a beta reader, you've got to tell the truth. I would hope that everyone I've betaed for accepts that I've been truthful, and that they can trust me if I say they're ready, too.

          Sometimes authors will take ANY criticism poorly, I'm afraid, and there's no real way to avoid that. There are nice ways to say almost anything, but you will occasionally run into an author who only wants honesty if it's positive. Be ready for that, and if the author defends their choices aggressively instead of taking fair criticism, either gracefully back out of the project or be willing to only give praise for the rest of your involvement, trusting that they will learn the hard way from industry professionals if they won't listen to you.


          Thought Number Three: When something's wrong, give perspective on why you don't like it.

          If you don't like something in the book because of a personal pet peeve, say so. And say it's a personal pet peeve. If you don't like something in a book because it's offensive, or it gives incorrect information, or it's potentially too tropey, or you don't understand the characters' motivations, or you hate a character you're not supposed to hate, or you wanted to see fulfillment of a plot point and you didn't get to, or you're bored, or a character action comes out of left field and makes you feel like you misunderstood them or missed a detail . . . TELL THE AUTHOR. TELL THEM.

          If you just say you didn't like a part, they won't know how or why to fix it, and they'll be disinclined to do so. But if you say WHY, they can learn something, and they have a better opportunity to determine whether your opinion is likely to be shared by others and therefore likely to need attention. But GIVE YOUR THINKING. Your reasoning can help another author SO MUCH. There's a huge difference between something being bad and you not liking the thing, and the author gets to decide how to interpret what you said. And if you, as the beta reader, KNOW it's just something you don't like, you can avoid saying anything at all unless you think it's really important for some reason. What might be better is figuring out what the author is trying to ACCOMPLISH, and measure whether they ACCOMPLISHED THAT, not about whether they satisfied you.


          Keep in mind that if you're a more accomplished author than the person you're betaing for, your words will have more weight, so tread gently. And if you're betaing for someone more accomplished than you, you might feel like you don't have the right to criticize them--which is hogwash. So when you phrase your thoughts as your perspective and avoid making it prescriptive, you can assuage the awkwardness that comes with either side of this issue.


          Thought Number Four: Don't tell them what to do.

          This rides a little on the heels of Number Three: if you give the author perspective on why something of theirs isn't working, they already have the tools on how to fix it. Their instincts, as the creator of the material, are going to be more authentic than yours. And especially if you are the author's mentor or a senior author, they may feel like your word is law. You mustn't abuse this power. Telling them how to fix their book in very specific ways robs them of the experience of developing their own solutions.

          Here's an example. Let's say you have a character who's distant and hard to relate to. Easy way to make the character more relatable? GIVE THEM A COMPANION. A companion can be really helpful in having someone for the character to bounce thoughts off of so the reader can understand them better, and has the added bonus of maybe making the character seem more accessible through the act of showing they at least have one friend. BUT! What if the author conceived this character as having no friends for a reason? What's your REAL problem with the character? It's that you find them distant and difficult to read. What if you say that instead, and the author decides to deal with this by giving the character a journaling hobby so you can hear her thoughts, or by giving her a pet to soften her up? If you plant the idea in the author's mind that the character's best option for being understood is to give her a BFF, the author might not solve the issue in their own way, and you'll have just put your footprint on someone else's work, possibly to its detriment.

          So make sure you tell authors HOW YOU FEEL, not WHAT THEY SHOULD DO ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL. "I got bored during the action sequence," not "put more lasers and near-death situations in the escape." "I didn't really understand how his craft works," not "how about if you make him teach a class on the craft so readers can learn it too." "I got confused meeting all these characters at once," not "delete some of these characters, there are too many."



          And finally, Thought Number Five: Ask questions!  

          And I don't mean leading questions, like "Don't you think this would be better if Protagonist ended up with the OTHER love interest?" Ask them general questions, specific questions, questions about the world, questions about the characters--especially if you feel like maybe the author doesn't know the answers or hasn't thought about why they should have answers. Ask questions! How does that character feel about her sister? What would they wear to a dance? What would they have done if the trial had been decided the other way or if they'd never recovered the treasure or if they'd lost the contest?

          You might consider looking up some questionnaires with prompts for the author to ask YOU as well--exchange a lengthy e-mail, set up a phone or Skype call, whatever works for you--and have a real conversation about the book where questions and answers are exchanged. You may actually want the answers to the questions you ask (and write them down as you read!), or you may just want the author to come up with answers as an exercise. And for the author, they may want to ask you stuff like "where did you put the book down, if you did? did you skip ahead anywhere?" and "was there a character you wished had more time onstage?" and "did you have any favorite lines or favorite scenes?" and "did you like how it ended or would you have wanted it to end differently?" You can ask the author why they chose to do certain things--things you like and things you don't. Ask!



          As a beta reader, you're entrusted with one of the most important jobs in the industry--being a fresh perspective outside the author's head that can help bring a better version of an author's story out to the reading public. Good luck! . . . You'll need it!

          [Goofy writing comics from webcomic So You Write.]

          Saturday, May 13, 2017

          Personal Digest Saturday: May 6 – May 12

          Life news this week: 
          • Saturday was the highly anticipated FREE COMIC BOOK DAY! I met Victor at a Starbucks and we ran into Eric on our way to the first comic shop, Heroes Haven, so he drove us there. We got free comix and also saw Jeaux there! Then we went to Demolition Comics, then Nerd Out Comics, then Green Shift, all on the bus. And THEN we bused out to Brandon Mall! We got all kinds of great stuff and also he bought me dinner at a restaurant, and I got some nice drawings done too. He convinced me to take an Uber home after we got back into Tampa, because it was dark and he was worried about me getting home safe. It was a good day except I was very tired and fell asleep quickly when I got home.
          • Sunday I did my music experiments and more drawings, and watched some cartoon reactions. Mom came over later and hung out a little while I drew.
          • Monday I worked on a letter of response at work and at lunch I drew pictures of Steven Universe episodes. The episodes had already been released the week before on their cartoon app, so I'd seen them, but Monday was the beginning of a broadcast event so I doodled episode-related images of each and posted them to Facebook and Instagram each day around the airing (and also to get my friends to talk to me about the cartoons, haha).
          • Tuesday I had to make a transcript for an interview to help my coworkers so that kept me busy most of the day. Then I came home and Mom came over and took me to Outback for dinner. It was my sister's birthday so I talked to her very briefly on the Facebook video chat! Nice to see her and her son.
          • Wednesday I wrote a letter to Jessie and hung out with Jeaux after work. We ate at Vallarta's and I read him some feminist news. After he left I drew part of a picture for the next day's episode but while looking for a character reference I accidentally ran into another early-release episode on the cartoon app from the next season! So of course I badgered Jeaux to watch it and he did and I ended up awake until after 3 AM because cartoons.
          • Thursday I was SUPER tired because of cartoon fiascos. I ran into a guy I'd met previously at the bus stop and we chatted more about writing and he says he's moving away. After work (and chatting with my first Pitch Wars mentee about cartoons), I went to Fresh Market for special food and invited my mom to a Mother's Day thing for Sunday. And I talked to Victor while drawing my webcomic.
          • Friday at work was mostly uneventful. After work I had to finish my comic and I posted it and just watched cartoon reactions afterwards. 
            New reviews of my book:


            Interviews, articles, mentions:


            Reading progress:
            • Finished this week: The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman. Four-star review.
            • Currently reading: Eyeshield 21: Volume 27 by Riichiro Inagaki and Yusuke Murata.
              New singing performances:

              This week I performed "Babooshka" by Kate Bush

               

              New drawings: 


              Chill wife sleepy pic: It's Sapphire with Steven. I drew some of this on a bus.
              "Poster" for "Lion 4: Alternate Ending."
              "Poster" for "Doug Out."
              "Poster" for "The Good Lars."
              "Poster" for "Are You My Dad?" and "I Am My Mom."



              Webcomic Negative One Issue 0626: "What You Want to Say."






              New videos:

              My latest unlisted ukulele video is "1234" by Feist.


              New photos:

              Selfie with the Joker at Demolition Comics.
              Victor with the Joker at Demolition.
              Victor snapped this.
              Some bus ridin' fools going to Free Comic Book Day events.
              Victor took my pic on the bus on our way somewhere.
              Lookit all those free comics!
              My co-worker brought heart-shaped donuts.
              Random coffee selfie.
              My belly gem thingie came in for the Stevonnie cosplay I'm doing in August!
              (If you've never seen the character, this is Stevonnie.)

              Social Media counts:
               
              YouTube subscribers: 5,307 for swankivy (lost 2), 640 for JulieSondra (3 new). Twitter followers: 859 for swankivy (lost 2), 1,330 for JulieSondra (no change). Facebook: 292 friends (no change) and 207 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 652 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 54 likes for Negative One (lost 1), 125 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,492 (12 new). Instagram followers: 114 (2 new).

              Thursday, May 11, 2017

              Alienated

              One of my acquaintances had something bad happen to her at a convention just recently and out of curiosity I did some research on whether anyone else had bad experiences there. I found one. Except it was the other side of the coin. This guy wrote a very long piece describing a feeling of exclusion and alienation because the con had ~been taken over by SJWs~.

              He described the posters up at the convention outlining the harassment policy and reminding people that touching others requires consent. He described the opening ceremonies including a nod to the Indian tribes in the area. He described the discussions of gender-neutral bathrooms. He discussed feminist panelists.

              And he rattled these off as if it was therefore self-evident that this con was hostile to him because he is a straight white man.

              He specifically said that in the article. That because of these inclusive and anti-harassment perspectives, he himself as a white male was therefore being subjected to hostility, and he felt "tolerated," as though he were one step from being ejected and as though any move to "disagree" with anyone would have him run off by pitchfork-wielding feminists come to separate him forcibly from his penis.

              It is frankly baffling to me that people see "don't touch people without permission" posters and they feel alarm over that--they feel THEY have entered a HOSTILE ATMOSPHERE where their values may be compromised. But no, he said in the article, he does not believe he has a right to grope people without consent--not at all. It's just, you see, the posters announcing this policy do not actually do anything to stop the behavior, so therefore, all they are there to do is function as virtue signaling for leftists. What actually works to stop groping pervs, he says, is slapping them or screaming.

              He says this while noting that he has never been made "a sex object" and has admittedly never experienced the behavior. But my my doesn't he know how you "should" deal with it!

              Not taking into account how people who think they have the right to your body are much more likely to be violent right back if you were to startle them with screaming or actively hit them.

              Not taking into account how people just like him would probably say the harassed party was wrong to turn to violence immediately instead of asking them politely to stop first and appealing to the convention management before resorting to hurting the aggressor or embarrassing him.

              Not taking into account that there is no "right" way to be harassed that results in safe, effective curbing of the behavior in all kinds of instances.

              Not taking into account that those posters don't simply function as "lol look at us our con believes in Consent Culture" but as advertisements that the management knows harassment happens at conventions and has published bold public statements declaring their intention to side with the victim on any incidents. That this space is not a safe one for people to just ~have some fun~ with whoever looks hot. No, posters don't stop assault and rape. But much like they made this guy uncomfortable, they have the power to make it clear where the priorities of the con's authorities lie. If there are attending pervs who are used to getting away with groping people in costumes or rubbing on people in front of them in line and exploiting the event to get some kicks, and they see those signs, they know the con management will not back them up if they do the good-ol'-boy whinge so familiar to many of us: "She overreacted. He couldn't take a joke. I was cosplaying and just doing what my character would do. They misinterpreted what I did. It was an accident. I didn't hurt them. He should loosen up if we're going to have fun at these cons. I was drunk. She was smiling so I didn't think she disliked it. I've done this before and nobody minded." Et cetera. Those posters say we're wise to the excuses, and they do not excuse you.

              Imagine looking at signs like that and seeing hostility toward you and your ideology. Imagine seeing those posters and feeling that you must write an online screed about how you're never coming back to this con because you feel attacked at the very idea that people here have taken a stand against sexual assault.

              He also said the convention is for tech geeks and SF nerds and he doesn't understand why there have to be any panels for BLACK geeks or FEMALE nerds or GAY fantasy because after all these historically MASSIVELY underrepresented and oppressed groups of people certainly have no special need for a panel about what's different in their experience or work, and surely the main point of doing these things is to get off on virtue signaling and to make straight white men unwelcome. Because a panel is carved out for someone who is explicitly not him. Because he's so used to said panels being for and about people like him, and doesn't realize that when they don't name a population it's aimed at, it defaults to addressing and tailoring to people like him. You do not need a panel that specifically discusses male involvement in SF or nerd culture or computers because it has been overwhelmingly male for so long that nothing is particularly unusual or unknown about that experience. If it were to become so, or there was a particular angle that men tie to their masculinity within this experience, it seems like a panel about it would be interesting, but how many men have ever thought it was needed? Until women identified the special challenges of being female in some of these fields and wanted to discuss those, that is. Then people like this guy went, "where's mine?"

              And he not only went "where's mine?" but interpreted others having theirs as an act against him. This alienation he feels is his reaction to having things identified as not for him or as not primarily for him. He found about sixteen different ways to say "not all men" in the post, failing to understand that including a specific group by name is not the same thing as disincluding all men and designating them as not good enough to participate. And furthermore, if it actually IS designed as a space for only a certain demographic to discuss their experience, as some caucuses have been when I've gone to activism conferences, I am not offended that I don't belong in that room. When I went to the asexuality conference in Toronto and there were several caucuses devoted to disabled aces, aces of color, and religious aces, I didn't think, well, where's MINE? Where's a room for ABLE-BODIED WHITE ATHEISTIC PAGAN ACES anyway? Spaces are already readily accessible to me all the time as a person without a disability. I never experience racism. I don't have a need for a discussion about how my religion impacts my sexuality. I went to panels that were relevant to me, and I didn't resent the existence of the ones that weren't about me, nor did I feel that the con's decision to designate these as special minority needs were hostile to me as someone who did not need them.

              I have, however, experienced hostility in plenty of nerdy spaces. As a woman with a fair number of geeky interests, I've been condescended to, harassed, and propositioned inappropriately in places and at events with primarily male participation, and I was certainly treated like I was at best a curiosity, at worst an interloper who should provide some kind of service or GTFO. I've been treated like I had to earn the respect that was given to male participants as a matter of course, and I've had men completely disregard what I said about comics to tell me stuff I already know until I become so obnoxious and unpleasant in showing them my knowledge that they decide I'm a bitch. (Meanwhile if any other guy came up to them and started interrupting them or assuming they didn't know what they knew, they'd think that guy was a jerk. But some dudes by default assume women do not have their knowledge, or that if they do, they're a rare exception.) So if I'm in a space that not only declares its support for me but has panels about my specific experience, I think "Okay, this is a place I belong."

              It's really, really gross to me that someone sees explicit inclusion of someone else as a warning sign that they themselves are therefore not invited and must be explicitly unwelcome. 

              It's like if a meat-eater went to a restaurant and saw that there was a vegetarian section on the menu and decided that meant it was hostile to meat-eaters, or interpreted the restaurant owners as judging him for eating meat or declaring a preference for vegetarians. 

              Without understanding or acknowledging that outside of this space and at most restaurants, it is harder for vegetarians to find food appropriate for them; without understanding or acknowledging that in most places they just assume you eat meat and are happy to cook your food with meat products unless you make special arrangements; without understanding or acknowledging that most of the menu is still for them and doesn't have to be designated "for meat-eaters" because you can see it is for you because it is steak; without understanding or acknowledging that you still have many many dishes you can eat and that you can even eat the vegetarian ones if you like what they're offering. (I guess a restaurant analogy for the ones that are like specialized panels just for certain populations might be like if a restaurant offers gluten-free products, but specifies that they have limited resources and therefore only offer these alternatives to people with gluten allergies or intolerances.) 

              It speaks volumes that someone who has always been catered to in these spaces feels that something is being taken from him if others are explicitly invited to share it (and are reassured that roadblocks to their enjoyment of it in the past may be lessened or eliminated). It's an attack on them and a limitation of their freedom to have opinions, and it's part of a leftist takeover that just won't let them live.

              I gotta say I was amused when the guy also admitted that not a soul harassed him, questioned his politics, or asked him to leave a space. He just imagined that they would do so if he opened his mouth. And he resents that the kinds of antifeminist and anti-inclusive language he'd like to feel free to use would seem hostile to us. It's like the religious folks who claim religious discrimination when they aren't given the freedom to treat gay people as second-class citizens. YOUR freedom is not being infringed upon because we made the world safer for someone else and your definition of freedom has always been contingent upon being free from having to think about or consider them.

              It's vile.

              Wednesday, May 10, 2017

              Wednesday Factoid: Everyday Superpower

              Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What's your everyday superpower? (e.g., a thing you do at parties, a talent that impresses people, or a special skill others rely on you for)

              I guess an easy answer for me is typing--I'm faster than almost everyone I know (and with the ones who might be close to my typing speed, it would be a bitter contest to prove who's faster). Recently, when I was looking for a job, one of the requirements to apply was submitting a recent typing test. I did so during the wee hours of the morning, and the company called me a few hours later, interviewed me, and offered me a job the same day. (I didn't take the job but ya know. Fun story.) 

              But I think a better "everyday superpower" for me is probably remembering stuff. I don't do memory tricks like reciting pi or spitting out what date something obscure happened, but I'm the go-to person for remembering kind of miscellaneous everything. My friends and family ask me for random facts, vocabulary words, people's names, passwords . . . but more than that, I always know where to find things if I have to get them for someone. (And sometimes I'll just know it. Like, you want that recipe? I could send you the link, or just write it down for you right now.)

              To be honest, I mostly just use it for cartoon trivia. ;)