Tag Archives: women

Covering the Hijab at the Rio Olympics

Past weeks have seen the internet come to blows over pictures from a women’s volleyball game between Germany and Egypt. This picture:

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Now where most sane folks would see a simple game of beach volleyball, the denizens of the interwebs have managed to read in some fantasy about a clash of cultures- “the free and civilized West against the superstitious, primitive savages of the East.” Comment sections have been flooded with everything from sarcastic half-jokes…

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…to open propaganda.

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“Because I, from the comfort of my armchair, know this athlete’s situation better than she does.” -Idiot Commentor

There’s been snide comment after comment directed not at Doaa Elghobashy’s performance in the game, not towards her assertion that what she wears is her own damn business, not towards her teammate (Nada Meawad) who doesn’t wear a hijab…

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And I think it’s because people aren’t actually angry about any of that.

For all the sanctimony, the issue at hand seems not to be with mandates or even just pressure to wear the hijab. It has nothing to do with standing up for women- on the contrary. I do think that the extreme contrast between Elghobashy and her German counterparts hit a nerve that most people didn’t realize they had. I think it does forced folks to ask themselves some truly uncomfortable questions about why they actually watch the sport.

I’m talking about this:

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Now I seriously debated putting that picture up, but as cringingly uncomfortable as it is, I think it speaks volumes about our culture. Continue reading

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Sorry, Clinton- These Are The First Women To Have Run For President

“Here’s the thing about Hilary- you don’t have to like her, but you do have to admit…”

If I had a nickel every time I heard those words I’d probably be rich enough to pay Clinton’s speaking fees. And that was before her official coronation nomination on July 26th. Now the news, the papers, and the internet is awash in varying degrees of jubilation and grudging respect.

“You don’t have to be happy about her, but you do got to admit that it’s pretty historic that there’s a woman running for president.”

I don’t.

In spite of the Democrats’ latest attempt to rewrite history in their favor, Clinton is not the first woman to have run for president. Hell, she wasn’t even the first female candidate to be nominated this year.

So again, I don’t need to admit ****.

There are scores of women who have boldly run for president, have done so before Clinton, and have done so on infinitely more admirable platforms and causes. It is these women who should receive our recognition- and of the 30+ or so candidates in American history, here are just a few of the highlights:

cynthiamckinneyCynthia McKinney

Presidential Bids: 2008

Party: Green (Formerly Democrat)

Notable Achievements:

Introduced legislation against the Iraq War (the one that Clinton voted for), as well as the impeachment of George Bush and several high ranking members of the administration. McKinney additionally attempted to introduce bills to halt the transfer of arms to countries with poor records on human rights (another dissimilarity with Clinton). Perhaps most impressively, McKinney managed to get herself arrested during a humanitarian mission to Gaza in 2009, after the aid ship Spirit of Humanity was boarded by Israeli forces (this being, of course, the same apartheid regime that Clinton has pledged her unconditional support to). Continue reading

Why TF2 Doesn’t Have Female Characters [And Overwatch Does]

I’ve played 31 hours of Overwatch to date. Now that pales in comparison to the 322 I’ve clocked on Team Fortress 2 [often shortened to TF2], but the former has only been out since late May and I’ve had the latter for several years now. There’s time to even the scales, is all I’m saying.

31hoursNow those 31 hours may not communicate this this very well, but I am all about this game. As a self-proclaimed Blizzard [the studio behind the game] fanboy who has spent actual cash money on every one of their recent releases save for World of Warcraft I’ll admit that I was already primed for it, but where Diablo III: Reaper of Souls languishes half-finished I don’t see any excitement drop-off in sight for Overwatch.

Counting herself as a fellow member of the game’s 10 million or so players, Polygon contributor Susana Polo’s interest stemmed from a different place. To wit, the presence of so many playable female characters was a huge draw for her in spite of not being “a big shooter fan”. While as a whole the its roster is startlingly diverse [it ostensibly only has four Harveys; see here for an explanation of the terminology] it’s Polo’s perspective, primarily her comparison between Overwatch and Team Fortress 2, that I want to focus on.

Comparing Apples Blues and Oranges

Her article has its foundations in a conversation she had with a former co-worker, namely regarding the fact that “It’s shitty that Team Fortress doesn’t allow you to play as a woman”. As another class-based shooter with a focus on objectives over kills juxtaposing the two only makes sense.

Team Fortress 2 was released by Valve in 2007. The game offers a total of nine different classes to choose from, most of them White, all of them male [as far as we know]. While there has been much speculation about the Pyro [who is fully masked] being a woman there has been no confirmation from developers at this point.

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Overwatch has 21 heroes, with Blizzard already teasing another on the way. Of these characters eight of them are female. While not as close to 50% as the actual number of women in the world, it should be noted that of other 13 two are Omnics [robots] and another is a hyperintelligent gorilla.

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Now what we could do is chalk up the creative decisions made by the studios as simply matching the current climate surrounding consumer expectations. While female gamers have always existed it’s within recent years that they’ve become more vocal and made their presence more known, something which the industry appears to have tuned in to.

Given that TF2 was created nearly a decade ago maybe we can cut Valve a little bit of slack for merely keeping up with the times, such as they were. Having made that decision let’s instead change gears and ask a different question: “Why hasn’t Valve added female skins to TF2 in the nine years since it was released?” Continue reading

Does the Reaction to the Stanford Rapist Signal a Cultural Shift?

By now you’ve probably heard that Stanford student Brock Allen Turner was sentenced to only 6 months in prison for raping an unconscious woman at a party. You’ve probably also heard his father shamelessly attempt to downplay Turner’s actions as “20 minutes of action”.

Hopefully, you’ve also read the letter written by the rape survivor. In it, she breaks down many of the myths around rape, myths Turner’s defence used to attack her testimony and represent Turner as some kind of victim instead. Her heartbreaking personal account has broken down the defences of almost everyone who has read it (except Turner and his father, it would seem). According to Buzzfeed, one of the main sites to release her letter, her words have “gone viral” in a way few conversations about sexual assault ever do.

And as the word has spread, almost everyone has gotten behind this brave woman. Her story has brought light to the problem of systemic injustices, like light penalties for many cases of sexual assault and disproportionate penalties based on racial or economic background.

More than anything her story has prompted a united public outrage. Every comment I have read expresses distain and anger towards Turner and sympathy for his victim. Even internet trolls who would normally find a reason to challenge the victim’s story (i.e. some members of the Men’s Rights Reddit page) admit that “outrage over this issue is legitimate” (although their comments inevitably lead back to criticizing feminism).

In some ways it’s encouraging to witness the attack on Brock Turner. It seems like we’re experiencing a massive shift in the way we talk about rape and sexual violence. As this story has unfolded we’ve seen few if any attempts to slut shame or victim blame in the media or public conversation.

As glad as I am that this conversation has come out in favour of the victim, I can’t help but wonder if the public condemnation of Turner actually signals for a yearning for justice, or if perhaps other factors are at play. I’ve been struggling with two questions in particular. Continue reading

Violence And The Feminine Mystique (This Is Why We Can’t Have Terrible Things)

Well, readers, it’s another sweltering day in June, and here in the trenches of the culture war accusations of “misogyny” and “political correctness” are being fired back and forth. And what’s that out there in the middle of the no-man’s land? Well, it’s the photo that started this latest skirmish:

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Image retrieved via Telegraph.com, fair use

That right there folks is a billboard for X-Men: Apocalypse, and it’s got more than a few people upset. So much so, in fact, it’s being reported that Fox has issued an apology for the ad– caving to arguments made by some that the advertisement promotes misogyny.

And in all fairness, they are some compelling arguments.

Now ads featuring violence towards women exist, as evidenced in Jean Kilbourne’s famous documentary Killing Us Softly. Critics of this ad have cited (though I am paraphrasing for the sake of space) that the inundation of these images in our society leads to the normalization of violence. Show enough ads featuring women getting choked out and people will start assuming that it’s the natural way of the world.

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Image retrieved via BusinessInsider.com, fair use

Even if the person doing the choking is the bad guy (and Apocalypse is), the simple fact that it’s a yet another man committing an act of force on a women should be enough to elicit outrage from us all.

Like I said- a compelling argument.

Let me tell you why it’s bull****. Continue reading

If Protecting Women Against Sexual Assault was the Point, Bathroom Preference Wouldn’t Be Our Main Focus

The bathroom use of transgender people has been a topic that’s hard to avoid, especially on social media. Here in Canada, the following video began to circulate after Alberta’s 61 school boards decided to “revise regulations and hash out new policies by March 31 to protect the rights of LGBTQ students and teachers, support gay-straight alliances and create a safe learning environment.”

And in the U.S., the American Family Association recently began a boycott of Target after the organization stated that transgender visitors should be allowed to use the bathroom they feel most comfortable in. Meanwhile, several States have attempted to pass bills that would force “transgender people to use restrooms that don’t match the gender they live every day”.

Along with the debate, a variety of memes have popped up on both sides of the conversation. While it irritates me to see the particularly popular Chuck Norris-themed meme belittle transgender experiences, I thought trans activists were easily holding their own in the meme department by reminding readers of how difficult it can be to spot a transgender person, and therefore how ridiculous it is to police who enters which bathroom.

Unfortunately, there have already been several cases of bathroom policing, where women who aren’t deemed feminine enough are challenged for entering their bathroom (as might be expected, the video below includes some strong language).

Continue reading

Making is a Click Away: 3 Kid-Friendly Maker Projects I Can’t Wait to Use in a Classroom

I’ve always felt like STEM was out of reach for me. It wasn’t that I felt locked out of the party, like many women throughout history have been, I just never thought I would actually enjoy a job in any of those fields. Much like our guest writer Emily explained, I love the idea of more women working in STEM… but other women, not me. Just the thought of sorting through code or equations when I could be reading or writing makes my eyes glaze over.

Luckily, over the last couple years, I had the serendipitous opportunity to work at a lab that combines the hands-on approach of maker culture with consideration for the humanities. This job forced me to approach a lot of tasks that I had never really encountered before, but it allowed me to do so from the perspective of a humanities student. We were prototyping, yes, but with the goal of understanding more about history, culture, and theory. My experiences at the lab gave me a whole new level of interest in the field of STEM and, while I still don’t feel like it’s the field for me, I feel confident enough to approach coding or engineering for some very (VERY) basic projects. It’s opened the door to ideas that once felt impossible to even consider.

I’m particularly excited to learn about the accessibility of maker culture because I recently decided to pursue a career in teaching. The more I learn about in the world of making and prototyping, the more excited I am to implement these approaches when teaching.

Building Circuits

If you look up the basics of circuit building online you will probably find a page that highlights all the tools and parts you will need to build a basic circuit. While this is incredibly helpful, for someone like me it’s also overwhelming. Even when approaching a much more accessible tool, like Arduino, circuit building can seem like something only experts should do.

That’s why I’m so thankful for kid-friendly tech companies who want to make this process simpler and more interesting for kids (and those of us with a child’s attention span for detail).

The first time I tried circuit building was with a Makey Makey, a kit that easily assembles into a simple circuit and allows you to use a variety of household items as computer keys (like food, pencil markings, and play dough).

I also brought it to work with me when I was running a summer kids program and got the kids to assemble it themselves. They loved the experience and were full of questions about why and how we could turn cucumber slices into a piano keyboard. I can only imagine how a simple circuitboard like the Makey Makey, or circuit stickers like those at Chibitronics, could make simple physics that much more exciting to learn. Continue reading