sasha_feather: the back of furiosa's head (furiosa: back of head)
I am signed up for one panel (as a panelist) at WisCon. Come see me if you like!

Power, Privilege, and Oppression (Feminism and Other Social Change Movements)

Description: We will discuss types of harassment such as gaslighting, stalking, bullying, concern trolling, sea lioning, etc. We'll discuss ways to respond to harassment both as victim/survivor and what to do if you recognize yourself as a perpetrator.

Location: Caucus
Schedule: Fri, 1:00–2:15 pm

One thing I hope to discuss in this panel is the power of language which is something I love talking about.
sasha_feather: Big book of Lesbian Horse stories book cover (lesbian horse stories)
1. what are the words you do not have yet? [Or, “for what do you not have words, yet?”]

Those things that are small traumas, "it's not really a trauma but"; like microagressions but not so micro.

More words for coming out: are you coming out to yourself? to others? Are you in the long process of de-brainwashing yourself? Are you still de-brainwashing yourself after years and years? Do you hear a song on the radio, a love song without any gender specified, and assume it's about straight people?

More words like "Hangry", which is a good word; I'm cranky because I'm hungry, I'm cranky because I'm in pain; I'm cranky because....

More words for different kinds of love. Love is love doesn't work for me. I like distinctions and nuance. Love for the world; love for nature; love for friends; love for fandom; sudden and gradual loves; ones that fade and ones that endure. And what are things that help make love happen? What are those things?

Words for surviving, for getting through, for recovering, for dealing with shit that you have to do but can barely get yourself to do.

And more words for physical, chronic pain, which is so boring, and so difficult to describe.
sasha_feather: Cindi Mayweather (janelle monae) (Cindi Mayweather)
Saw this on Tumblr and posting it here as a writing / blogging challenge:

The Audre Lorde questionnaire to oneself.

1. what are the words you do not have yet? [Or, “for what do you not have words, yet?”]

2. What do you need to say? [list as many things as necessary]

3. What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? [List as many as necessary today. Then write a new list tomorrow. And the day after.]

4 If we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language, ask yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” [so, answer this today. and everyday.]
sasha_feather: Black, white, and red image of woman with futuristic helmet (Sci Fi Woman)
Thanks to Gregg Beratan on Twitter for this idea.

Spoon Theory is useful to many people as a measure of energy and fatigue. It is difficult to wrap your head around what chronic pain, fatigue, and illness are actually like, and I say this as someone who has them. We all tend to normalize our experiences and we think that everyone around us must feel like we do-- and yet other people are somehow accomplishing more. So spoon theory is helpful in validating our fatigue and providing the phrase "out of spoons".

Yet a limitation of this theory is that it's a deficit model: It assumes that something is wrong with us, rather than something being wrong with society.

Instead of saying "I'm out of spoons," try saying "The world needs to give me more time to rest" or "Accommodations for my fatigue will help me accomplish this task."

The deficit model is the dominant narrative of illness. And it can be seductive: it feels like there is something wrong with me. But the social model of disability states that it is society that disables us-- that it is moral and normal to need more time and more support and more rest.
sasha_feather: Cindi Mayweather (janelle monae) (Cindi Mayweather)
I come by my interest in language honestly. My mom said the other day, when she hears the term "boots on the ground," she thinks they should change a few letters so that it's "Blood on the ground."

sasha_feather: "The heroine's achivement of autonomy and self-actualization was the point of the narrative" (heroine)
Content note for discussion of cursing, violent language, rape culture.

Read more... )
sasha_feather: "subversive" in rainbow colors (subversive)
So sometimes around the internet I run into this Problem statement:
Something terrible happens in (usually the South or SouthWest).
Some people will respond with "Why do people even live there?" or "just let them secede".

I find this so problematic in so many ways.

-- These folks are essentially writing off whole swathes of people and places. There are many activists working hard to make those places better. There are people all over the country who *can't* move away and who don't want to. There's history and culture and resources in those places and why would just let the haters have those things? And even if the good folks were to move away....

--Assuming that where you live is better is so wrong.

In the important essay I, Racist by John Metta, he quotes his sister:

“The only difference between people in the North and people in the South is that down here, at least people are honest about being racist.”

--White people where I live (Wisconsin) are sometimes smug and think that there isn't racism here. But Wisconsin is the worst state for mass incarceration of black men and Native American men (source: NPR 2013). And we're the worst for having a gap in graduation rates between black and white students (source: Madison newspaper 2013). It isn't different in other parts of the country. Racism is everywhere. It's in your hometown.

--This framing falls into "us vs. them" thinking. "Those racists over there" are the problem. I was taught that as a white person growing up in a racist society, I *am* racist; it's what I do about it that matters. I must actively combat racism within myself. That is where I begin.
sasha_feather: Max from Dark Angel (Max from Dark Angel)
I said earlier on twitter that I hate the internet meme-speak that goes, "you're all fired for not telling me about" X thing.

I could probably write hundreds of words about why I hate this phrase, some of which have to do with how I was fired and how horrible an experience that was. Some of which have to do with guilt, and entitlement, and how instead we should be supporting each other.

I'm going to skip over that and say: thank you to all my friends, acquaintances, and internet strangers who alert me to cool things. Thank you to those of you who post reviews, recs, and anti-recs of media in your journals and on Twitter or Facebook or Pinboard or anywhere else. Thank you to those of you who maintain and moderate communities, web sites, and blogs such [community profile] fancake and Geek Feminism. Thank you to people who run fan works challenges. Thank you to those of you who code, or work on anti-spam, or tag wrangle for these websites that I use and love. Thank you to people who help run conventions.

You're not hired, or fired, because most of you do this for fun-- without any kind of material compensation. I don't consider it your job to tell me about something that I could, after all, look up myself (but it would take a ton more time, and I might never find that awesome fic!). You do this to contribute to your community, and because you feel passionate about the things you like and love, and I appreciate and value that.

Just so you know, I would never fire you. ^_^
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
So people on Twitter have been like, "Say it with me, vaccines do not cause autism." Which is all well and good, but for years I've been thinking that the better strategy is to completely separate the words. Don't even say them in the same sentence at all.

Think word associations. Remember those Wordles that were popular a few years ago, that make an artistic picture of all the words in your document or story? They are a word association picture. By putting words into the same sentence (even with a "does not equal/cause") you are associating them.

Instead substitute things that are like are equal.

So, associate vaccines with, say: normalcy, goodness, hygiene, civic duty, scientific development, the fight against infectious diseases, etc.


Associate autism with good things like equality, support, creativity, love, life, diversity, justice.

Just don't put them in the same sentence.
sasha_feather: Black, white, and red image of woman with futuristic helmet (Sci Fi Woman)
Occasionally I wonder if maybe I *am* the language police! Maybe I *am* too sensitive and it's not my job to tell other people how to talk or write, etc.

A few things reassure me.

One, lots of other people pay just as close attention to language and its political uses as I do, and some of these people blog about it. Some people blog about things I've never thought about, so maybe the things I notice are worth writing about.

For example:
Dave Hingsburger: Non-traditional doesn't mean unimportant.

The term I use, I insist that others use when they are speaking with me about someone they support is: non-traditional communicator. (As opposed to "non-verbal".)

Lydia Brown: Why the term 'psychopath' is racist and ableist. (Note: this post contains some upsetting language.)

Antisocial Personality Disorder, the diagnostic category that comes closest to approximating the lay definition of psychopathy, is most often a tool for criminalizing poverty, blackness and brownness, and disability. It is the diagnostic label that legitimizes non-compliance as a mental health problem.


Two, I find language and its uses fascinating. I will think about it anyway, so I might as well write about it.

Three, there are some phrases I use that make sense to me because not only do they seem like more accurate metaphors, they make the world a little kinder to live in.

For instance, when we speak of "lowering barriers" or obstacles, that seems kinder and easier than "overcoming obstacles". Lowering barriers is a group effort, a structural accomplishment that is done by many and benefits many. It agrees with the idea of the social model of disability. Overcoming obstacles might take teamwork, but it tends to focus on one person's drive, ambition, and success, and falls in line with the "supercrip" stereotype.

The same is true of interdependence vs. independence.

Language is subtle and it influences the way we think about ourselves and our world.
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
Today I read an obituary which said, despite the person's chronic disease, "he rarely missed a day of work."

As someone who has often called in sick, I'm always bothered by this common phrase; it praises people who put work before health. Not just their own health, but the health of others: coming to work while having a communicable illness puts others at risk too.

This phrase serves to enforce our place in a capitalist, production-oriented society, where work is the most important thing, and health and rest are distant followers. Workers are granted sick days, but to take them is some sort of indulgence rather than a necessary part of being a human being with a body. We also forget that sick days are something that unions have fought for.

Because I'm always sick to some degree, I often struggle with deciding whether I am sick "enough" to call in, sick "enough" to stay home and rest. Typically I will feel guilty if I call in sick, even though my body demands rest. Having a chronic illness means that I need much more rest than the average person, and something like a migraine or cold will add to my need for rest. Language valorizing people who don't call in, ever, doesn't help to alleviate my guilt.

As I saw someone say on twitter: self care is a radical political act.
sasha_feather: Simon Pegg from Hot Fuzz holding a gun looking tough (hot fuzz)
I hope you all know by now that language and its effects are an issue near and dear to my heart. Language can be hostile or welcoming, centering or othering. This is particularly on my mind as I look at various "accessibility" policies for conventions in the SF/F world.

I am creating List of such conventions for the Geek Feminism Wiki. (This was inspired by their List of cons with anti-harassment policies.)

First, why is it helpful to have such policies online?

Because information is good access. The more information you can provide to people, even if it's to say that there are barriers to access, the better people can plan for their trip.
Secondly, if people have to ask to receive information, that in itself is a barrier. As many of us with anxiety, fatigue, or other disabilities know, it can be difficult to make that phone call or send that email. A lot of us are used to dealing with people on the other end of the line who aren't our allies and might make our lives more difficult when we ask for information.

As and someone working access, do you really want to give out the information again and again? Why not just do it once, and then point people at your webpage or printed materials?

I know there are some conventions that have had good access but don't have their policies online. Open Source Bridge, I'm looking at you. :)

Other conventions have their policies online (good!) but then make all kinds of mistakes with language. They send signals that they really don't want PWDs to attend at all, that they think people are faking disabilities in order to get good seats or other services (no one does this! seriously), and otherwise hostile language.

Several of these pages use the term "special needs". I don't think very many people on this planet have special needs. Most people have the same needs, it's just that some of us need accommodation in order to enjoy the same events at conventions, like getting to the programming rooms in a timely manner, being able to move through the hotel, being able to understand what is going on, being able to visit with friends, etc. I realize special needs is an introduced PC term for disabled people, but I am just not sure that it fits or is accurate. It makes it sound like disabled people want "more" (like champagne) when what we really want is the same stuff as everyone else (water in a glass we can hold).

Whenever you want to say or write "special needs", I suggest you substitute "accommodations" instead.

Let's Break down some of the specific policies and why they are problematic:


"We will have the Con schedule in large print available (to be read at our table or we can email a copy to you to print or download to your screen reading device)

If you have low vision, you better have a device for reading the program. Otherwise, you have to sit at the registration table to read the program! It's apparently too hard for them to print off a few more copies for low-vision attendees. (Remember, this is a for-profit con.) I really don't know why you would want people clustered around your reg desk that way.

We offer 5 stickers for badges, based on needs:

Wheelchair seating: for our wheeled folk, of course.
Chair in Line/End of Row: for non-wheeled folks with mobility impairments.
Proximity/ 50 ft. to Screen: for visual/lip reading access.
Sightlines: for access to the interpreter, safe space for working animals, and certain other unique situations.
Medical: This sticker is merely a place to put emergency information if you have a medical condition that the EMT needs to know about before they put you in the ambulance. It does not entitle you to any other services.

A person has to out themselves in order to get any of these services. It's right there on one's badge: everyone you interact with at the convention then knows you are a disabled person. It also positions whoever gives the sticker as an authority. I know a lot of people with mild hearing loss who don't consider themselves disabled, but who might benefit from line-of-sight seating. Such people wouldn't want to get a sticker even if they might use an otherwise reserved chair.

One important thing to remember: we will do our best to make sure events are accessible to you, but that does not mean we guarantee you a front row seat, or head-of-the-line privileges. If you are going to a very popular event, you must get there extra early to get a good seat, just like everyone else. The accessible seating will not be in the front row.

I guess if you move slowly, are delayed by crowded elevators, etc., you are screwed. Several other websites said this. Maybe these conventions should put a cap on their membership? (Oh wait, DragonCon is for profit.)

Phoenix Comic Con This is the worst one.

You get a special badge! Lucky you.

But the badge doesn't get you:

· Early access to panels and special events
· Guaranteed access into special events, photo ops, autographs, or panels.
· The ability to skip lines

So fuck you I guess! Especially if you are someone who can't stand for a long time!

Service Animals are always welcome at the Phoenix Convention Center. Animals are sometimes questioned if the need is not apparent, so we suggest attendees carry documentation with them for their companion.

Does anyone know if this is actually illegal? It sounds illegal to me. [eta: it is, see comments] Then again, it's Arizona... I don't think "welcome" means what they think it means, also, to be pedantic, you won't get very far questioning an animal!

Some of the other policies are much better, including for ReaderCon, FogCon, and Arisia (and WisCon, but no need to toot my own horn--plus, I always want to improve.) Some suggested bits of activism for those involved with conventions, or even those who aren't but who can do emailing:
*Encourage Conferences and Conventions to develop Access policies and list them online. Professional and Academic conferences, trade shows, etc can be included here.
*Encourage those with bad policies to improve them.

Comments and suggestions welcome.
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
Thanks to those of you who took the poll and/or left comments! I ended up going with green tone outfit and no hat. Well, I wore a stocking cap because it was a whopping -1 F (-18 C) when I left the house. I had time to comb my hair a bit before the interview. Anyways, the interview went fine.

I watched most of the inauguration the other day. I quite liked it but here is a rhetorical thing that some people have pointed out on Twitter:

Regarding fair pay for women: "Our wives, mothers, and daughters..." This excludes women, making men the rhetorical "we", and also reduces them to roles in relation to men.

Response from Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) on Twitter: "As an experiment, I'm going to start referring to men as "our husbands, fathers and sons." Just to see if anyone finds that a little weird."

Regarding LGBT rights: "Our gay brothers and sisters": Similarly, this excludes gay people by making straight people the "we/our". It also excludes people who are queer but do not ID as gay.

Obviously I'm very happy the president is acknowledging these issues. But here is another way to phrase it which I learned from WisCon activists:

"Those of us who who are gay..." "Those of us who unfairly receive less pay due to the simple fact of being women in society..."

Very. Simple.
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
I really appreciate that [ profile] hc_bingo has changed its prompts to reflect events rather than identity categories (for instance "loss of vision" rather than "blindness").

Thanks, mods.
sasha_feather: German volleyballers hugging, totally hot (slash dudes)
So the AP has decided not to use the word "homophobia" any more, but to go with words like "anti-gay" instead, apparently, which has prompted some discussions around these terms. Whatever your feelings, I would like to remind you of one of the best Onion articles of all time:

Revolutionary New Homophobia Immersion Therapy Involves Lowering Patient into Tank of Gays
sasha_feather: "subversive" in rainbow colors (subversive)
The "Ehrmagerd" meme needs to die.

Perhaps it is making fun of the way certain disabled people talk, in which case it is mean-spirited and ableist. Perhaps it is making fun of Valley-girl speech, in which case it is misogynist and still mean-spirited.

I am not humorless: I love memes; I just think they work best when pointing fun at those in power, not those who already lack power. In other words, I don't like it when humor is use to reinforce existing oppressive structures.

Feel free to link this post.


Sep. 4th, 2012 01:15 am
sasha_feather: "subversive" in rainbow colors (subversive)
I apparently have a lot to say today-- that's because I've had three days off in a row and finally feel rested.

Instead of saying "it's not a choice", which I think you all know by now that I have a problem with, I propose we say that being gay/queer/whatever is "not negotiable".

I got this idea from an interview with Tyler Clementi's mother. She also has some other wisdom to share in this article, although it is painful to read.
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
I had a rather involved, mostly non-heated argument (as much as I can be non-heated in an argument) with a friend the other day about language and I'm still thinking about it so I want to write it out.

My premise is that if you are a gay man, don't say "ew" or other such words in describing your reactions to women's genitalia. At the very least, be more tactful, because it's just rude to refer to someone's body that way. (I got him to agree on this point). Furthermore, you might think it's just about your own personal reaction, but we live in a misogynistic world, and your reaction is colored by structural misogyny. My friend didn't agree with me on this point, but I still think I'm right.

I didn't say it quite so clearly in the actual argument, of course! This is one of the reasons I stopped reading Dan Savage's column: I got tired of him saying things like this, of him not getting it, not understanding the power of language. Writers in particular, you think they'd understand. But a lot of people don't make that connection between "my personal opinion" and "systemic oppression".

Then I got to thinking today about how I don't ever hear lesbians refer to men this way. I can only think of once-- in the pilot of "The L Word," when a woman says, "Ew, I can't believe I used to swallow this stuff," when referring to the semen she's using to try and get pregnant. And that's the one and only instance I can think of. In fact most of the lesbians I know read and write m/m slash fanfic, which celebrates male anatomy, and celebrates queer men. This may be due in part to our own internalized misogyny, or it may not be, but it's interesting to notice.
UPDATE I am wrong about this last part apparently!
sasha_feather: drag queen with red boot (kinky boots)

28: Dressing to make a statement
The Rotund, Sarah Emrys, Laura, Beth Shupe, Betsy Urbik

Mostly a very good panel. Panelists spoke a lot about Steampunk and Lolita styles. Gender and class were discussed. Style is one's personal expression; fashion is the culture's moment. Fashion's major purpose is to signify gender and this is why people can get angry at those of us who dress outside traditional gender types. The Rotund talked about dressing as a fat person and dressing "agressively". She talked about getting sent home from work once because of what she was wearing (a professional dress that showed some cleavage), implying that her body was unacceptable. One panelist talked about dressing in a Victorian style to express a type of femininity that is both visible, but not sexually available. Ageism and classism within Lolita were brought up. Some people brought up that white men in particular tend to limit themselves style-wise. It'll be nice when men can wear feminine styles more openly.

One hiccup when a panelist did not understand cultural appropriation at all!

I know most of you get this but let me explain! When one culture is colonizing, they have the power to appropriate, to pick and choose elements from the colonized culture.

The colonized culture cannot appropriate from the dominant culture. If they are taking elements from it, they are either assimilating, ie trying to fit in, or they are transforming, turning one thing into something else. Or perhaps they are doing something else! But it's not appropriation.


After this I hosted the first-time WisCon dinner, went to Opening Ceremonies, then went to the Vid Party. For me, the most fun part of the vid party was the sing-along with captioned vids.
sasha_feather: Legend of Korra promo  (Korra)
to gay bait, verb: when a (generally) straight person awkwardly tries to figure out your orientation by repeatedly bringing up "gay" topics and asking weighted questions.

This can be done non-awkwardly, or incessantly and annoyingly.


sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)

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