Archive for the ‘Feminism’Category

Another Invisible Woman on the Internet

The NY Times article that blithely ignored the vast number of women in the history of computing is just the latest event that had me thinking about the invisibility of women on the internet. Wikipedia editors are overwhelmingly male*. The vast majority of tech blogs and photography blogs that I read are written by men. And the media as a whole is overwhelmingly male.

But I wonder how much I’m contributing to this invisibility. I make no conscious effort to hide my gender online. My website has my full name. I often sign blog comments as “Becky” or “Rebecca”. I talk about all sorts of topics online, from politics and sports to breastfeeding and natural birth. Depending on what day you’ve caught me, it could be pretty obvious what my gender is (if you happened to care).

However, my username on Twitter and Flickr and other commenting services is simply “rstanek”. If I use an avatar online, it’s typically a square crop of this picture of the roof of the Pantheon in Rome, not a picture of myself. I have a few other pseudonyms not attached to my real name — including, yes, on Wikipedia — and they’re also all gender-neutral. This was not a conscious effort to “hide” anything — it was just what I felt comfortable presenting online. I’ve rarely had to deal with online harassment, which I’d always attributed to keeping a low profile online and hanging out in forums that are explicitly women-friendly. I hadn’t realized until lately how much of it was probably due to people assuming I was a man in many instances.

How much am I contributing to the invisibility of women online? And how should women balance the visibility issue with the personal comfort and safety issue?

* By the way, that could spark an entirely separate post about how people dismiss online spheres that are female-dominated, but online spheres that are male-dominated are considered a normal part of everyday life.

04

06 2012

Fighting against the mommy wars

When people ask me for parenting advice — oh, don’t look at me like that, expectant parents go around asking everyone for advice — the first thing I always say is, “Even if you don’t know anything about babies, you will know your baby better than anyone else will.”

When the Time cover and article made the rounds yesterday, I was disappointed by much of the reaction I saw to it. I don’t have a problem with the picture on the cover. I don’t have a problem with extended breastfeeding or attachment parenting. What I do have a problem with is the notion that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. I’m not even naive enough to think that what worked for my son (now 2.5 years) is what will work for the next one.

The article came out just in time for Mother’s Day in the U.S. Maybe for Mother’s Day we could all stop judging each others’ parenting styles?

11

05 2012

International Women and Pregnancy

There have been so many frustrating things about the ongoing contraception debate in the U.S. Unfortunately, one of the things that has been lost in the debate — perhaps because it’s been dominated by men — is the basic, basic reasoning behind the contraception mandate in the first place.

Contraception is preventative health care.

I have been pregnant. It was, as these things go, a very easy pregnancy, and now I have a delightful two-year-old to show for it. Yet pregnancy absolutely affected my day-to-day health and activity. Recovering from childbirth affected my day-to-day health and activity. And have I mentioned the two-year-old? He started out as a helpless baby who nursed round-the-clock every 2-3 hours for months.

At the same time, I had every advantage possible: health care, health insurance, breastfeeding guidance, you name it. I was in excellent physical shape when I became pregnant. My husband is (and has always been) an equal partner in housework and child-minding. We were able to take advantage of all that because we were able to plan the pregnancy — we had the resources to make sure that we could wait until we were ready.

On International Women’s Day, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that while pregnancy and childbearing takes a toll on even those of us who are privileged, most women in this world do not have every advantage that I do. It is not a coincidence that contraception is financially out of reach for many women, and half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. Internationally, the picture is even bleaker. Women under the age of twenty who have children are more likely to suffer birth injuries, more likely to die in childbirth, and more likely to become stuck in a cycle of poverty. Family planning gives women personal autonomy when it comes to their health, their careers, and their lives.

Contraception is preventative health care.

08

03 2012

Where are the women?

I have been furious beyond belief at how men have dominated the contraception “debate”. Look, here’s a link wrap-up comprised of articles solely by men! Here’s a Congressional hearing that’s mostly male!

I couldn’t quite pinpoint why these conversations were so male-dominated. I had plenty of ideas, but nothing concrete. And then I read this conversation between David Brooks and Gail Collins. Brooks’ exasperation was a revelation to me. To conservatives, women are problems, rather than people who may or may not have problems. And when you look at it that way, suddenly everything falls into place. Why ask a woman what she thinks when she’s the problem in the first place?

The mainstream media may mostly be buying into this narrative, but women’s voices are out there. Check out the RH Reality Check site, where the vast majority of authors are women. Read Irin Carmon’s work on Salon. Gail Collins is fighting the good fight over at the NY Times, particularly in this column. Finally, the Planned Parenthood Saved Me tumblr is worth a read.

Because I’m not sure which part of this is more disgusting in 2012: that we’re still having this contraceptive debate, or that it’s being dominated by men.

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22

02 2012

From breast exams to the whole shebang

Like many others, I was heartened by the response to Komen pulling grants for mammograms from Planned Parenthood. And so it got me wondering. If we can agree that all women should have access to mammograms, what about access to pap smears? From there it’s not much of a jump to agreeing that everyone should have access to colonoscopies (even if no one really wants a colonoscopy).

Maybe it’s a bit of a bigger jump to note that everyone should then have access to cancer treatment, but otherwise what’s the point of a free screening?

And from all that, for the second time in a week, I can only conclude that universal health care might be the solution to some of these problems.

03

02 2012

Abortion Rights and Fewer Abortions

Today is the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, so Friday’s announcement of nearly universal contraceptive coverage was excellent timing. The most successful way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. Worldwide, the abortion rate is lower in countries where it’s more accessible, as accessibility to abortion is generally correlated with accessibility to all reproductive health services for women.

But back to the contraception coverage: women bear a disproportional financial cost of birth control, and they bear the entire physical cost of childbearing. This is not a move that is unfair to men; rather, it levels the financial playing field for women. I have good health insurance, and yet birth control has been my largest out-of-pocket medical expense over the past decade.

Finally, dare we hope that this is a true, tentative step towards universal health care in this country?

22

01 2012

The Trouble with T-shirts

I tweeted about this earlier, but I’m still mad about the t-shirt I saw FOR TODDLERS that said, “Lock up your daughters!”

"lock up your daughters" t-shirt

Available starting at size 12M! No thank you.


I am aware that it is supposed to be funny. The supposed humor behind the shirt rests on at least one of the following two premises:

  1. There is a double standard wherein it is okay for men to be sexually active, but not for women.
  2. The implied sexual contact is not consensual.

I am not about to support either of those premises, nor am I ready or able to explain any of this to MY TWO-YEAR-OLD. I kind of can’t believe this shirt exists — who really thinks that a kid needs a shirt with this kind of message? (The same people who buy the princess shirts for their daughters? But I think this is a step worse than the preponderance of princess stuff for girls.)

I’m working on another post about how hyper-gendered toys hurts boys, too, but clearly there are some pretty vile messages aimed at boys from a very young age.

(Huh, still mad. Looks like it’s time to shoot off a letter to Hybrid Tees.)

14

01 2012

New Year, New Goals

I did not keep any of my resolutions for 2011. Moving on!

My main resolution for 2012 is to call out anti-feminist concern trolling when I see it. I’m defining that as “criticizing successful women for raising the bar ‘too high’ rather than criticizing the reasons that few women reach a given achievement.”

I think that will keep me busy. Let’s give that framing language tag a workout!

02

01 2012

Double Dose of Sexism

Had I only encountered one blatantly sexist incident online today, I probably would have bypassed it. But as I saw two, I am now annoyed enough to present them as Exhibits AA and AB in what could be a never-ending series.

  1. I’m a big fan of The Online Photographer (TOP) blog, whose resident curmudgeons (I mean that in a good way) have an incredible amount of enthusiasm and experience. In the most recent Random Excellence post, Mike said:

    I’ve been accused of featuring too many female photographers in my “Random Excellence” posts (which, as longtime readers know, means randomly encountered, not that their excellence is accidental).

    Okay. Hold up. Too many female photographers? I went back until June 2009 in the archives, and tallied up 53 male photographers and 9 female photographers. Only 15% of the photographers featured in “Random Excellence” have been women, and somehow that is too many? Maybe the complainers meant to say, “You haven’t featured enough female photographers,” or, “I hate boobies!” (I have commented on the post, asking/hoping for clarification, but my comment is still in moderation.)

  2. The Ada Initiative is trying to increase the number of women in technology (particularly the various open source communities). Their biggest achievement in 2011 was probably getting large conferences to adopt an anti-harassment policy. They’re fund-raising for 2012, and their funding push has been picked up by a lot of tech and geek blogs*: Boing Boing, Linux.com, and reddit, to name a few. So hey, let’s see how it’s been ranked by reddit!

    … only 58% like it. Okay, then. I know I go around clicking “dislike” on every fundraising cause I see! Especially if it’s trying to encourage members of an underrepresented minority in X to pursue X, while also trying to improve the climate of X for everyone! THAT’S CRAZY TALK.

Let me emphasize that these are both general-interest websites. These comments were not complaints about women invading a forum on prostate cancer. These were comments complaining about women existing in the population at a proportion higher than ten percent.

I’m not going to highlight every instance of sexism on the internet. That would make this a very long and boring blog, and send my blood pressure through the roof. But here is your occasional reminder that as soon as women come out of the woodwork, there will be people complaining about their mere existence.

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* NO ONE TELL ME IF SLASHDOT PICKED IT UP. I swore off Slashdot comments several years ago**, and haven’t looked back since!

** Okay, the first time I swore off Slashdot comments was in, like, 1999. But I have stayed firm since 2007!

14

12 2011

A one-sided balance is no balance at all

I’m always delighted to see studies showing that men do an ever-increasing share of housework and childcare. My husband and I do equal amounts of both in our household nowadays, and it’s nice to know that we’re not an anomaly in this way. (We perhaps are anomalies in our lack of multitasking — in particular, I am completely incapable of it — and so our time spent multitasking is far, far below the average.) However, two recent events at work have reminded me that we still have a long way to go when it comes to the work-family balance:

  1. At work, there is a long-running speaker series called Women We Admire, “in which women [...] share their insights about career, workplace challenges and work-life balance.” These are all accomplished women who are at the tops of their fields. Yet at the recent talk I went to, the audience was at most 10% male.

  2. I am also starting an affinity group at work for other parents — there aren’t a ton of people at work with young kids (let alone in the Bay Area), and I thought there could be a lot of interesting, focused meetings. What schedule flexibility do we have? How are the labor and delivery departments at the various hospitals in our different health care plans? What on earth do you do with school-aged kids in the summertime? The sign-ups are finally starting to roll in, and so far only two men have signed up. TWO.

To be fair, the majority of my co-workers are women. But men are underrepresented in both cases above. Apparently, when a woman works outside of the home, there’s a work-life balance she has to achieve. When a man works out of the home, it’s business as usual!

How can this be changed? Is the framing language the problem? Or is it another symptom of the bigger problem — that women’s issues are considered to be “special issues”, and not issues faced by, you know, HALF THE DAMN POPULATION?

05

12 2011