Open Thread and Link Farm (feminist geeky stuff edition)

Consider this an open thread; post what you like, for as long as you like, with whomever you’d like. Self-linking is encouraged.

My open tabs today are mostly comics-and-feminism related:

* Girl-Wonder’s newly unrolled Con Anti-Harassment Project. I’m really impressed with the work they’ve been doing in the last month.

* And also check out Digital Femme’s discussion of con harassment and women of color.

* “Female, Muslim, and Mutant: A Critique of Muslim Women in Comic Books.” Part 1 and Part 2.

* Colleen Doran’s sarcastic response to some asshole horrified that middle-aged women attend comic book conventions. (But if you can’t stand even a slight oblique negative comment about Obama supporters, you might want to skip this link.)1

* From Overthinking It, which has a great tagline, an excellent post on “strong female characters” in action movies:

This Super Strong Female Character is almost like a Mary Sue, except instead of being perfect in every way because she’s a stand-in for the author, she’s perfect in every way so the male audience will want to bang her and so the female audience won’t be able to say, “Tsk tsk, what a weak female character!” [...]

I think the major problem here is that women were clamoring for “strong female characters,” and male writers misunderstood. They thought the feminists meant [Strong Female] Characters. The feminists meant [Strong Characters], Female.

* And Occasional Superheroine asks, “Can’t a female character be bloodcurdingly evil but not sexy? Can she express her evil in a way that doesn’t mean really big breasts in a leather outfit?”

* The Hathor Legacy has a really good link round-up of recent blog posts related to The Bechdel Test.

Thanks to Pen-Elayne, from whom many of these links come.

  1. I mentioned that about the oblique Obama thing because I figure it’ll lead to many more people clicking through to Colleen’s post. []
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31 Responses to Open Thread and Link Farm (feminist geeky stuff edition)

  1. I interviewed cartoonist Keith Knight for my blog

    http://bakertoons.blogspot.com/2008/08/interview-with-keith-knight.html

    I write about the Pearls Before Swine sketch that I have.

    http://bakertoons.blogspot.com/2008/08/pearls-before-swine.html

  2. 2
    BananaDanna says:

    Wow. Dude from Colleen’s post says middle-aged women suck because they’re reproductively useless and have borne no children, but he spends the first paragraph slamming mothers with young children. Wha?

  3. 3
    Silenced is Foo says:

    Liked the “Overthinking It” article. Yes, there are a lot of men out there who are turned on by the idea of a “strong woman”… so obviously, a lot of media-moguls will include a “strong woman” as a sex object. Yes, she’s a Strong Woman, but she’s still a sex object, so she exists for the pleasure of the protagonist, and, by extension, the audience.

    And I have to admit, I’m an absolute sucker for that crap. Nothing hotter than a lady with a power-tool.

    But yeah, Sex and the Signal Processing Lab girl was one of the many reasons that Transformers sucked.

  4. 4
    Thene says:

    Combat Queer wrote a post about Female, Muslim and Mutant, pointing out a few inaccuracies in the original post but agreeing with the thrust of the argument.

    I recently blogged about that Hathor Legacy post, and the whole idea in general that economic inequality is just the result of market forces and can’t be fixed; I’ve linked to a few studies that prove that putting more women in important jobs causes those jobs to be performed more efficiently if you measure such things numerically, but people don’t notice this; they rate women poorly even when women outperform men. I think this ties into the Hathor Legacy views on the film industry well – even when films about women do fantastically, the economic boon they provide is ignored or explained away. Four of the top ten (inflation-adjusted) most successful films ever were aimed largely at women.

    I have a hunch (and I doubt I’m the first to come up with this idea) that the higher the cost of entry to a medium, and the riskier its ventures, the more mindlessly conservative it will be in comparison with the real world. Videogames are the worst.

    While we’re on this general topic, Kotaku blogged the PAX panel on gamer girls…I found that an interesting read because I disagree with about 75% of what they said. No, I don’t think games need more romantic/sexual subplots, I think they have too many of those as it is. (NWN2 is mentioned; they said players of both genders were sad about the lack of romance in it but no, no, I maintain it had too much). I am sick to death of seeing women in games presented only as romantic possibilities. I don’t care if other girls dig it, it still sucks. What I never see enough of in games is strong non-sexual bonds involving women – there’s few such f/m ties and no f/f ones. Videogames often feature interesting m/m friendships, emnities, mentor/follower relationships, other hierarchial relationships, or family bonds; that’s why we write slashfic, right? But romantic relationships are generally the only way in which women get involved. This stinks, and I think that by putting a moratorium on romance we’d see much more interesting social and emotional depths to female game characters. (The same goes for action films and other forms of pulp, I think).

    How many videogames Bechdel? I can think of a fair few off the top of my head – the original Tomb Raider, Alpha Centauri, FFVI (though possibly not most other FFs), Baldur’s Gate II… I can also think of a hell of a lot that don’t, even ones with really large and involved storylines. None of the first three MGSs, for instance. (I’ve not played the 4th yet. I’ve always thought the non-relationship in the 2nd between Olga and Fortune is interesting; they have little contact but so much in common). I can’t think of any games that have really interesting f/f personal connections in them. You’d think these game designers wanted us to write all this m/m slash for them, yeah?

  5. 5
    Chris T says:

    I wrote a post on my blog about our 19 year old Pomeranian who we adopted from a senior animal rescue in Mission, BC. Included is video of her doing her stretching routine!!!

    http://shihtzustaff.wordpress.com/2008/08/28/the-inmates-have-taken-over-the-asylum-the-littlest-one/

    On a more serious note, I wrote a post about Hurricane Gustav:
    http://shihtzustaff.wordpress.com/2008/08/31/hurricane-gustav/

  6. 6
    Silenced is Foo says:

    My wife’s opinion on gaming for girls was very simple, but this is a sample of 1:

    a) She’s impatient. While I’ll struggle for an hour or three to get into a game that looks cool, she’s got about a 3-minute span before she’ll simply say “this isn’t worth the trouble”. That really applies to all non-gamers, not just women – but women are, by-and-large, non-gamers. As a gamer, that attitude sounds repulsive… but it’s recreation, so who are we to judge someone for wanting their recreation to be fun from the get-go?

    b) Too “hardcore”. In most (non-Nintendo/Sega) games, the art is all hardcore and gritty and grunting. Grinding metal, screams, rust, muscles, etc. Every game is trying to be Gears of War. My wife loved Unreal Tournament’s glitzy, Star Trek style (and liked the Goth characters) and hated the foul, ugly, intense style of the sequels.

    What’s funny is that this doesn’t apply to subject matter – I’ve seen many ladies go ga-ga over the Grand Theft Auto games. Everybody likes dispatching their opponents with a shower of blood, running over pedestrians, etc. It’s just that it doesn’t need to be a Rob Zombie movie.

    I keep trying to get her to try Super Smash with me, but I think it violates her rule (a), so we stick to Puzzle Bobble.

  7. 7
    Renee says:

    I wrote about a disgusting video game I discovered entitled shooting cunts. So much for our post feminist world.

    Plastic surgery and the Butchery of children talks about the profit that doctors making in Great Britain performing breast enlargements and nose jobs on minors supposedly to end bullying.

  8. 8
    Radfem says:

    I can’t believe my city is so eager eager to hire this guy back after he was acquitted of war crimes in Iraq.

    Actually, it’s the comments he allegedly made that were taped about how he policed the streets that are at issue here as well.

    “I beat the s–t out of them and came up with a reason to take them to jail.”

    I’m also not surprised at who’s leading the charge either. Not at all.

    I’ll be blogging on it again in the next day or so. At least everyone in the article are blog readers.

  9. 9
    RonF says:

    Radfem, I don’t see where that link indicated that the city is eager to hire that guy back. The supporter that’s quoted multiple times represents the police union, not the city. The other people quoted in favor were a single city councillor who qualified his answer and a lawyer whose relationship to the other parties involved was not specified. Everyone else said “He was probationary, so we don’t have to hire him back if we don’t want to.”

  10. 10
    Radfem says:

    The councilman did explain his comments further to me (and explained he had no idea about the alleged comments made by the officer) but the sentiment that’s been coming in so far this morning is that there’s this push to bring him back. But the fact that he raised a conditional issue for a probational officer was interesting given that a probational officer can be fired for no listed reason, being “at will” for the first 18 months of employment.

    I would ask the union guy for clarification but our history’s not that good considering his penchant for harassment.

    The union guy is factually right in terms of the process or lack of one involving reinstatement in this state for probational officers but he’s pushing for it and the police chief is kind of scared of him, I think b/c whenever the guy gets in trouble, he either gets a promotion or a civic award out of it. The union has traditionally welded great power politically in the city though its majority representation on the city council has been reduced after the last election cycle.

    For one thing, in a nearby law enforcement agency, the union and police chief are kind of at war and that’s the fear the police chief has in our city is that the union will push him out. However, the union was split at its election of its leaders (something even the president admits) and it’s not clear whether that’s still a factor in its decision making or not.

    Not that it might even matter in the end b/c the police chief’s powers have been heavily diluted by the city manager’s office which directs him during the past couple of years (which I pretty much got out of the horse’s mouth) and likely will do in this case as well. The city managers who oversee the police department are ex-military and have made traditionally bad decisions involving the police department.

    I only mention ex-military b/c that’s the way it’s slanted in the public. Military veterans want him rehired. Others were concerned like I am about his comments.

  11. 11
    Radfem says:

    I did hear back through email from the police chief cc-ed to every one in City Hall about it being confidential and they wouldn’t engage in any speculation. Not a very good feel from that response at all.

    That’s a bit further than state law allows on these issues but then my city’s attorney has always had that issue with overextending the laws pertaining to peace officer records.

  12. 12
    Bjartmarr says:

    On another thread, Amp writes:

    Punishing rapists is the right thing to do, whether or not it prevents rape. Even if outlawing rape doesn’t change the total number of rapes at all, we should still punish rapists, because it’s just that they be punished.

    This seems a little out-of-the-blue, so I brought it over here.

    Amp, I think you’re completely, 100% wrong on this one. How can you justify inflicting a punishment on someone, without a reason or goal in mind? I don’t see how “because it’s just” translates to anything other than sadism. It’s punishing somebody because it makes you feel good to hurt them.

    That strikes me as a terrible foundation upon which to base a penal system. On a practical note, it is likely to increase the amount of antisocial behavior, because the justice system is more focused on sadism than it is on preventing crime. It leads to a society which maximizes human suffering, instead of minimizing it.

    And that seems pretty well at odds with your positions on practically everything else, so I hope you’ll reconsider this one.

  13. 13
    Thene says:

    If I recall the philosophy of it all, there are supposedly five ‘reasons’ for prison:

    1. retributive justice
    2. protecting the community by keeping criminals out of it for a while
    3. deterrence or other crimes
    4. rehabilitation (LOL)
    5. …I forget the 5th but I swear there is one.

    I think Amp was simplifying these when he said what he said, but Bjartmarr, I also think there is a meaning to ‘because it’s just’, especially if someone’s abused you. And there is something distinctly odd about pro-lifers not wanting to bring women who abort to justice.

    (I should add, I do have an interest in anti-prison philosophies, not least because prison a) doesn’t work at providing #2 or #4 or arguably #3 and b) is so fantastically unjust in and of itself and is a magnifier of other injustices. I do not have an interest in an anti-justice philosophy.)

  14. 14
    Decnavda says:

    #1 is a philosophic value judgement. It is kinda what Amp was arguing. This can only be decided by armchair arguments, as evidence of outcomes is irrelevant.

    #2 is known as specific deterrence. There actually is evidence that specific deterrence works. If I remember Freakenomics correctly, they claimed that the dramatic decrease in crime rates in the 1990s was statistically tracable to three causes – the end of the crack epidemic, the improving ecconomy, and longer prision terms. This does not necessarily mean that the immates immediately begin committing crimes as soon as they get out. Most crimes, or at least most violent crimes, are committed by young men, many of whom “calm down” as they grow older. So taking a person who commits a violent crime at age 18 and locking them away for 20 years instead of 5 years may not just protect society by 4 times as much, but by a lot more, since they will be away during their most violent years.

    #3 is known as general deterrence. To my knowledge, there is not a lot of evidence that general deterence works, but that may just be due to a lack of any “control”, at least when it comes to things that people consider to be wrong universally. Would more people shoplift if shoplifting were perfectly legal? It seems likely they would, but it is hard to know for sure, since there is no jurisdiction were it is legal to make the comparison.

    #4 was originally a PROGRESSIVE idea, and the reason that *progressives* pushed for the creation of prisions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to replace the previously more common forms of punishment, torture and executions. So most original attempts at rehabilitation involved counselling, education, and job training. In the late 20th century, there were many conservative experiments in rehabilitation, usually under the term “bootcamp prisions”. I could be wrong, but I have not heard of any studies showing that any forms of rehabilitation are effective.

    The Fifth reason for prision is general education. The idea here is that by having trials and putting people in prision for long periods of time, we are educating the public as to what is right and what is wrong. I can think of two feminist examples that show how this is different from general deterence and how ist effectiveness is very difficult to measure. First consider men in Egypt recieving several months in prision for “honor killings” of their sisters. Would it help to increase their sentences to several years? Specific deterence seems pointless, as the number of men who commit an honor killing who would “need” to kill another woman in their family is probably quite low. And general deterence also would seem to have little value, as anyone who has succumbed to social pressure enough to kill their own sister or daughter would probably not see the prosect of many years in prision as much worse than going through the act of the crime itself. But perhaps if we started throwing these men into prision for long periods of time, the society would learn that honor killings are horrid, and young boys would learn they should resist pressure to commit them when they are older, and society would stop putting as much pressure on men to do these things. As for the knowing the effectiveness of education, consider trying to determine if sending men to prision for marital rape actually prevents such rapes. To know th effectiveness, we would need to know how many marital rapes occured before it was illegal and after. But how can we know how often they occured before it wasa illegal, when there was no reason to report such an event?

  15. 15
    Thene says:

    Decnavda, #2 only works if you believe that crimes that occur inside prisons – including rapes and killings – are somehow not part of the ‘community’ under consideration. Plus a prison sentence can lead someone to become more involved in crime rather than less. These failures on #2 are much of the reason anti-prison movements interest me – another is that prison privatisation and prison labour are both incredibly fucked-up practices; we might worry about clothes made in sweatshops on the other side of the world, but how many of the things you buy were made by prisoners who were paid little or nothing for their labour?

    I’m thinking that ‘general education’ isn’t a million miles away from ‘retributive justice’ – both are about society making a statement about right and wrong by incarcerating wrongdoers. I guess I think that because the way you put it clarified my belief in retributive justice a little more.

    …And if you think of ‘general education’ in the context of abortion law, isn’t it really interesting that pro-lifers do not want women who abort to be punished? They don’t want to even use the law to deter abortion. They just want the law to say, in big capital letters, that ABORTION! IS! WRONG! It’s a nonsense.

  16. 16
    Decnavda says:

    Interesting. From a purely analytic-philosophical point of view, education is MUCH closer to general deterence than to retributive justice. Since that is where my head usually is, that is the way I was thinking about it. But the way retributive justice is used in the real world, I think you are correct: what those who promote “justice” are trying to accomplish IS a lot closer to education than to general deterrence or to simply trying to balance some imaginary set of moral books. The way *you* put it clarified *my* belief in retributive justice a little more.

    As to a prison sentence leading someone to become more involved in crime, that is probably true in many cases, but as to the overall effect, I would point to the statistics and say that the reduction must more than offset any increase.

    As to prision labor, I must confess to being more of a “free-soiler” on the issue. If we think what a person did justifies putting tem in prision, I do not have much problem making them work some as well. But I am concerned about the depressive effect on outside labor.

    As to counting the crimes that occure inside the prision, I must admit that is a damn good point. I am fine with locking up criminals, and even with putting them to work some. But a known inevitable increase in their victimization at the hands of other criminals amounts to including torture as a part of their sentence, and that is a bit far for me.

  17. 17
    Ampersand says:

    Amp, I think you’re completely, 100% wrong on this one. How can you justify inflicting a punishment on someone, without a reason or goal in mind?

    I have to admit that when I said that, I was oversimplifying for the sake of my argument.

    I can see what you’re saying, and I don’t disagree. But at the same time, punishing a rapist, instinctively, feel less unjust to me than punishing someone for having an abortion.

  18. 19
    Bjartmarr says:

    That was really, really disgusting.

    What. The. Fuck. Is the MATTER with these people?

  19. 20
    Thene says:

    Decnavda – I am in favour of prison labour, but, private companies making profits out of work done by people who are not paid minimum wage for what they do, who in the USA are put in that position by an institutionally racist policing and judicial system? That’s past my line. There is enough work in the world that needs doing for purposes that are not private profit, surely.

    While you’re here, Bjartmarr, what do you think the right thing to do with wrongdoers if, if punishing them isn’t it?

  20. 21
    Bjartmarr says:

    Thene,

    I don’t oppose punishment. I oppose punishment without purpose. If a punishment is likely to reduce antisocial behavior, then I don’t object to it out of hand.

  21. 22
    Thene says:

    So, given a hypothetical crime – some act that we can all agree is wrong – should people who commit this crime be left to do as they please unless we believe that punishing them will directly result in a reduction in the occurrence rate of that crime?

    And if we do just let these hypothetical criminals be, because punishing them is not certain to prevent future wrongdoing…then what do we mean when we say that what they do is ‘wrong’? If you came across one of these unpunished wrongdoers in your daily life, how would you want your society to treat them?

  22. 23
    Joe says:

    Punishment by the state serves a function in reducing individuals desire to punish the wrong doer themselves.

  23. 24
    Sailorman says:

    Thene Writes:
    September 5th, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Decnavda – I am in favour of prison labour, but, private companies making profits out of work done by people who are not paid minimum wage for what they do, who in the USA are put in that position by an institutionally racist policing and judicial system? That’s past my line. There is enough work in the world that needs doing for purposes that are not private profit, surely.

    Yes; I have always found this revolting.

    I do think it is acceptable, within bounds, to require that prisoners work, but it seems clear (to me at least) that the only moral work would be that which benefits society (either society at large, or the specific segment of society against which the crime was committed.)

    Fixing roads is OK, cleaning parks is OK. Building things to be sold on ebay with all profits going to a local food bank is OK. But being forced to work to make someone richer is not OK at all.

  24. 25
    Bjartmarr says:

    So, given a hypothetical crime – some act that we can all agree is wrong – should people who commit this crime be left to do as they please unless we believe that punishing them will directly result in a reduction in the occurrence rate of that crime?

    Well…yes.

    But before you get all down on my ass about how this will result in the collapse of society, I’m going to need you to find an example of one of those crimes, where no punishment exists that causes a reduction in the crime rate. ‘Cause I can’t think of one. ;)

    Far more common is the scenario where several punishments for a given crime exist, each of varying effectivenesses and cruelties. And there is a punishment which we believe is both more effective and less cruel than another punishment, and we pick the latter punishment because our love of sadism outweighs our desire to reduce the crime as much as possible.

    For example:

    * Rehab programs reduce drug use better than prison, but often we choose prison because we think that druggies should suffer.
    * The death penalty is no more effective (and much more expensive) than life w/o parole, but we choose the DP because we think that murderers should suffer.
    * Prison without being raped by one’s cellmates reduces rape (and other crimes, both inside and outside prison) better than prison-plus-daily-rape, but we’re sanguine about prison rape because we think criminals should suffer.

    Punishments should be chosen to reduce crime, reduce costs, and reduce suffering. Maximizing sadism should not be a consideration.

  25. 26
    Robert says:

    Punishments should be chosen to reduce crime, reduce costs, and reduce suffering. Maximizing sadism should not be a consideration.

    Quick, painless execution.

  26. 27
    Dianne says:

    So, given a hypothetical crime – some act that we can all agree is wrong – should people who commit this crime be left to do as they please unless we believe that punishing them will directly result in a reduction in the occurrence rate of that crime?

    Just to go one further, suppose there were strong evidence suggesting that punishing the crime actually increased the occurrence rate of that crime? Would you be willing to allow people who committed the crime to go unpunished in order to reduce the chance that it would occur again? Would the general public?

  27. 28
    Elayne Riggs says:

    A very belated but nonetheless heartfelt thanks for the wonderful plug, Barry!

  28. 29
    Thene says:

    But before you get all down on my ass about how this will result in the collapse of society, I’m going to need you to find an example of one of those crimes, where no punishment exists that causes a reduction in the crime rate. ‘Cause I can’t think of one. ;)

    If that’s the case, why did you take it up with Amp in the first place? If the practical end is the same, does the philosophy behind it really matter?

    As for crimes where the punishment doesn’t cause a reduction in the crime rate – given #2 on the earlier list, the protection of the community from that specific criminal during their time of incarceration – well, virtually all crimes are covered by that #2. (Rape is one of the few exceptions, and given the low conviction rate and the difficulty in recording the rape rate itself (inside or outside prisons), it’s hard to say whether punishing rapists has any direct benefit beyond retribution and, hopefully, that general education there).

    Plenty of crimes are affected by punishments only in terms of that #2. Attempted suicide bombing, for instance; there is nothing in the penal system that can affect the rate of suicide bombing attempts, other than by locking those specific perps up and hoping you never have to let them out. (Which is an interesting question in itself). There’s another few crimes that are only arguably wrong acts which don’t seem to be affected by anything except #2; prostitution, for instance. And the law has a poor record at deterring computer crimes & illegal downloading.

    So there’s quite a bit to choose from if you want to bite.

  29. 30
    Bjartmarr says:

    If that’s the case, why did you take it up with Amp in the first place?

    You…you do realize that I answered this question in the very next paragraph after the one you quoted, right? I brought it up because his assertion betrayed an attitude which, when consistently applied, is detrimental in all the ways I listed (and many more).

    The rest of your post is logically faulty. You claim that there are crimes for which punishment is effective only because the offenders are isolated from the community (fair enough), and from that you deduce that punishment is not effective for these crimes. B does not follow from A; in fact, not-B follows from A.

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