j4: (blade)
I tweeted about this last night but it's so rage-inducing that I think I might have to post about it too. Here's the text of the latest email from Bounty (these are weekly emails for "Your baby at n weeks", but after about the first 10 weeks they stopped being about baby's development and started being about why you need to start waxing your legs again... OK, so you can probably guess I'm not the target market for this stuff anyway, but here goes):

Eat, drink and be merry

This week, we're focussing on food.


We're talking about both you and your baby's tummies. So first, here are some superb tips on how you can get a yummy mummy tummy.

Your baby

We've got some great advice on how you can help your baby to eat sensibly and enjoy their food. But if your baby's refusing food, or eating less, the chances are that everything is absolutely fine and there's no need to be frustrated.

Your baby's first teeth are either here or well on the way. Which is perfect timing for their developing taste for lumpier food.

So we start with "Eat, drink and be merry" (yes, I know this is just a sub-editor's autocomplete tic from "Eat", but still: let's be happy about food), but immediately go on to "how you can get a yummy mummy tummy": that is, obsess about your figure. Bit of a contradiction here, maybe? OK, so they don't actually mention the d-word, but let's face it, if you tell people their figure is all wrong, they're likely to think about dieting.

Having tried to make mums feel bad about their figures, they then remind them that they're supposed to help their baby "eat sensibly" and "enjoy their food". Now, this may be a bit of a radical suggestion, but: maybe one way to help your baby eat sensibly and enjoy their food would be to eat sensibly yourself, enjoy your food yourself, and generally model sensible behaviour?

Now, in fairness to Bounty I should point out that while in my opinion they clearly imply dieting, they don't actually say anything about it: the "yummy mummy tummy" article is actually about muscle-toning exercises. So that's OK then, surely? I mean, doing your pelvic floor exercises is sensible, right? (At least, if you don't want to spend the rest of your life doing a little wee every time you cough, sneeze or laugh.) So here's the beginning of the article:

Exercise for new mums

Size zero A list mums may be all over the front pages, but in real life your tummy might not spring back to its pre-baby state easily.

However, the good news is you can get trim and toned without getting a personal trainer or going under the knife.

Fortunately, nature can be kind as well as miraculous, and your muscles will regain a lot of their tautness naturally, especially after your first baby and if you’re reasonably fit and a healthy weight. However, for the rest of us, a bit more effort may be required.

Targeted exercise is the only way to de-flab your abs without resorting to surgery (and better for you all round, not to mention a lot less painful and non-invasive).

There's a lot of subtle linguistic sleight of hand going on here, a sliding and eliding of subjects that I'm strugging to put my finger on. Let's see if I can pull it apart a bit.

So, we start off by invoking the "Size zero A list mums" and then pretending we're not talking about them at all; we're talking about "real life", where you can "get trim and toned without getting a personal trainer or going under the knife". These are things that the celeb mums might do, but because we've stopped talking about them by this time and started talking about "real life", they're presented as realistic options that "you" would have thought of already -- that is, options that you should have thought of already, because your body is All Wrong -- had Bounty not come along and told you the real solution.

Then we're told that "nature can be kind as well as miraculous, and your muscles will regain a lot of their tautness naturally" -- two references to nature, to make it clear that this is all nice stuff they're talking about -- "especially after your first baby and if you’re reasonably fit and a healthy weight. However, for the rest of us" -- because most of you aren't fit enough! And you're TOO FAT! -- "a bit more effort may be required." Just a bit more effort, that's all. What kind of lazy person wouldn't put in just a bit more effort (that's more than 'doing nothing because miraculous Mother Nature will sort it all out', I guess?) to look good?

"Targeted exercise is the only way to de-flab your abs without resorting to surgery (and better for you all round, not to mention a lot less painful and non-invasive)". Silly you for thinking about surgery! You were thinking about surgery, weren't you, because you're THAT UGLY. What? You hadn't even considered surgery? Oh dear. Well, don't worry, dear, you don't really need surgery. You just need to do "targeted exercise". That's not targeted at getting you healthy and active again, it's targeted at giving you a flat tummy. The sort of flat tummy that 17-year-old girls WHO HAVEN'T HAD BABIES have.

So it's a funny definition of "good news" they're using here: as far as I can work out the "good news" is that you need to be "trim and toned" (why?), you need to "de-flab your abs" (why?), but it's OK, you don't need to have surgery (surgery! for fuck's sake!) to get there. Well, hurrah! Break out the bunting!

Even worse, look at the comments on that article: people are going to Bounty for medical advice:

"Whens the best time to start doing sit ups after giving birth? I'm confused because my family and friends are telling me different things! One told me you can do sit ups more or less straight away and another told me not until six months as your stomach muscle don't recover from pregnancy till then. Any one got any tips? xx"

"how do i tone my belly after having an emergency c section...? Or atually when can i start toning after an emergency c section? I had my baby son 13 weeks ago. Please advise needed........ xx"

"Anyone got advice on how soon after the birth I can return to running and / or circuit training? I ran up to 12 weeks pregnant and did body pump and walked for up to an hour right up to the birth. I have had episiotomy and stiches which seem to be healing well. I am also breastfeeding."

It's frankly terrifying that people are trusting Bounty -- who exist solely to sell shitloads of plastic tat to mums by making them feel guilty, by making them feel that if they don't buy all the plastic tat then they JUST DON'T LOVE THEIR BABIES ENOUGH -- with questions like these, rather than asking e.g. the NHS. Ask your health visitor, ask your doctor; even ask your mum or your friends -- at least if they're wrong they'll probably be innocently wrong rather than trying to sell you dieting aids or exercise equipment.

You might well ask me "why did you sign up for these emails then, you silly moo?" Yes, you might well ask. I signed up with Bounty for the packs of freebies and the special offers, because I STUPIDLY FORGOT that free stuff which wastes your time and makes you angry is NOT ACTUALLY FREE. While we're on the subject of those freebie packs, let's remember that Bounty have somehow wangled it so that Important Government Information on how to claim your Child Benefit is stuffed in the pack of advertising and marketing samples that they give you when you're IN HOSPITAL, ie probably still woozy from being stuffed full of drugs and confused from being SHUNTED AROUND LIKE A PIECE OF MEAT, and therefore not in the best frame of mind to go through a bagful of rubbish and filter out the Important Government Information; but obviously it's as important for women to be aggressively marketed at by the makers of unsustainable disposable rubbish as it is for them to collect the benefits to which they're entitled. Yes.

Oh, the Bounty freeby pack also included a can of DIET COKE. I thought this was nothing do with mums/babies but now I realise OH WAIT they mean you can have caffeine again but YOU'RE FAT! GO ON A DIET EVEN THOUGH YOU JUST GAVE BIRTH 2 HOURS AGO!

If I'd seen this stuff before giving birth I'd have pushed that baby out in 10 minutes flat, with no drugs except RAGE.

Sorry about all the CAPITAL LETTERS. I blame coffee, lack of sleep, and Caitlin Moran.
j4: (knitting)
Tomorrow we'll hopefully find out whether the baby is an alien or a predator a boy or a girl. So far I have been told that:

* it'll be a girl because everybody I know has had girls recently
* it'll be a boy because everybody I know has had girls recently
* it'll be a girl because you get more morning sickness with girls
* it'll be a boy because of the position of the bump
* it'll be a girl because of the position of the bump
* it'll be a boy because 'boy' scores more in Scrabble

So that's two answers from people who don't understand probability, three answers which sound to me more like superstition than something which is backed up by any actual research (though I'm happy to be proved wrong), and [livejournal.com profile] invisiblechoir being silly. :-)

Two of my colleagues have a bet with each other about which it will be. I don't stand to gain any money from this bet myself, unfortunately. On the other hand, since earlier today one of them couldn't remember which way he'd bet (he'd decided at the time by tossing a coin) I don't think he's taking it that seriously. The other one asked me if I'd tried putting a toad on the bump to predict the baby's sex (I'm not sure quite what one is meant to do with the toad, or wait for the toad to do...?), so I guess he's not wholly serious either. I hope.

I confess I'm keen to know the answer, not least because referring to it as "it" feels awkward. Yes, I may get flamed for Gender Fail, but I'm afraid we're just not progressive enough to try to bring the child up without any awareness of the existence of sex or gender, and let's face it, there's a staggeringly high chance that it will be biologically male or female. Also, I'm going to have at least one more scan after tomorrow's, and I don't want to have to "look away from the screen now" for fear of spoiling the result -- I want to see what's going on! Basically, in most cases I will generally choose the path of More Information.

We also want to start thinking more seriously about names, and it'd be useful to narrow down the choices a bit. Other tactics for narrowing-down include: avoiding names with ambiguous spellings; avoiding extremely long names; avoiding alliteration; and summarily rejecting every single name that appears on this site. So that's a big 'no' to Breckin, Maxigan, Skyler Alexander, Cam'ron, and Kaytaquana. Suddenly, my silly suggestion of naming my child Badger doesn't seem all that ridiculous...
j4: (bicycle)
Further to the ongoing conversation about whether the battle for gender equality is all done and dusted, you might want to read this depressing article about being a female cyclist.

For what it's worth, my own experience is that most of the verbal abuse I get on a bike these days seems (insofar as I can decode the grunting and hooting of overexcited primates) to be aimed more at cyclists than women. Though I guess I might not get so much of that if I was/looked male -- but that's impossible for me to tell, I have no plausible way of pretending to be male while cycling.

(To be fair, I should also confess that I do my own fair share of shouting, but only at idiots who are actively endangering my life by flagrantly disregarding the rules of the road -- and idiots come in all shapes/sizes/genders/vehicles.)

On the positive side, there is some evidence to suggest that drivers give female cyclists more room when overtaking them. Though now I wonder whether (as the researcher hints) that's because they think female cyclists are more likely to behave unpredictably, or just because it's so much harder to look up someone's skirt when they're disappearing under the wheels of your white van. :-/
j4: (fairy)
[The subject line is to be sung to the tune of "Women and Men" by TMBG. I hope you enjoy this earworm as much as I am enjoying it.]

I rambled a lot in a response to a friends-locked post by [livejournal.com profile] monkeyhands, who said I should post my response somewhere everybody could see, or more precisely, "I would like to see you turn this stuff into a proper LJ post where people who aren't my friends can read it. But I realise you have Important Very Hard Coding to do. :) " But because I'm a Modern Woman and I can have it all, I got today's not-actually-that-important-but-entertainingly-Hard Coding out of the way (still whittling away at the XSLT to turn docx into TEI XML and back again without loss of style/formatting information - today's problem: right-to-left text in Arabic), done my volunteer shift at the Oxfam bookshop, and am now posting this stuff as well, go me. So anyway, I reposted the comment below, wholesale and unedited, and hopefully it makes enough sense without the full context. And then I went and rambled some more after that, too.


I should point out that the "geek as a gender" thing is not mine originally -- see explanation here.

geek work environments seem more meritocratic to me and I’d like to find out more about why that is

A couple of factors which I think may be relevant:

* geeks usually have some experience of talking to people in online chatrooms etc where you don't always even know somebody's gender. (This is a mixed blessing as some people just default to assuming people are male if they don't know their gender... but then that can be even more educational if they find out the truth & are forced to reassess their assumptions as a result.)

* geeks have often had some experience of being laughed at for being socially awkward, ie for failing to conform to rules that they didn't accept and don't understand. So when they get a chance to construct a micro-society for themselves, it may have fewer 'secret' (implicit) rules of interaction (and more explicit rules, and more insistence on codifying the rules - again a mixed blessing).

* related to the above -- programmers are used to 'communicating' (with computers) in a language which doesn't really have tones of voice or nuances; a language where if what you 'say' does the right thing, then at some level it's good enough. (There may be a more concise way to say the right thing, or a way to avoid having to say the right thing more than once, or a way that "just seems more elegant".)

In practice, I think it's often just substituting one set of implicit expectations for another, though. :-/

Also, there's a risk of a "geekist" attitude along the lines of "nobody who isn't a geek can possibly have anything worth contributing", the sort of attitude that refuses to acknowledge that things like literature and art and kindness can possibly have any value to society, because you can't express them in equations. But that's kind of at the extreme end of the geek spectrum.

“oh, they’ll be expecting me to buy the birthday card because I’m the only woman here”

I do get some of that, but I don't know to what extent that's because I'm female and to what extent it's because I'm probably the most sociable member of the team, the one who's willing to talk to people. (I mean, I'm not ruling out the fact that being sociable is related to being female, nature/nurture/Nietzsche/quack, but I am certain that being female is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for being sociable.)

E.g. the year before last I got asked to organise the team's Christmas meal, which involved talking to people & asking them what they wanted to do and blah blah blah then ringing the restaurant and booking the table and getting people's menu choices. I don't like trying to guess stuff when I can ask the person who knows directly (and I work with people who do not worry too much about being socially gauche), so I asked my line-manager whether he was asking me to do the "social secretary" stuff because I was a woman; he looked pained, reminded me who else was on the team, & asked if I could imagine any of them organising a social event. I had to concede that he had a point. :-} I guess that's a bit of the "oh just give it here" problem, & maybe we should be trying to teach the less-sociable people to socialise, but that's problematic (morally and practically) too.

As you say, though, it's hard (maybe not always possible) to disentangle the sexist expectations from the other social/cultural assumptions -- and we have to be able to make some assumptions otherwise we'd go mad trying to analyse each social situation from first principles every time. On the other hand I think sometimes it's important to ask people about their assumptions. But that's often hard.

I don't know. I can only really talk about how I do things, and then only anecdotally, and a lot of it comes down to chance and selective memory, and social interaction is experimentally unrepeatable, and and and. And I'm not saying that because it's difficult to untangle we shouldn't try to untangle it, but my coping strategy (imperfectly implemented) for my own life is to focus my limited energy on fixing things I stand a chance of being able to fix; so I can't do anything about being female, but I can do lots of other things to try to work better with people and persuade them to work better with me.

Anyway. I should do some work otherwise I'll just be reinforcing the stereotype that girls just sit around posting to LJ when they should be working. :-}


So much for the comment. Then I realised that in my list of disintegrating statements I didn't say much about my stance on the f-word. I don't tend to describe myself as a feminist; but then, I also don't tend to describe myself as a human being. I've said before that "All I know is that whenever I express sentiments that distinguish me from a feminist I get called a doormat", but that's just being facetious and doesn't really explain the problem.

I certainly don't think feminism is "over" or has "done its job"; I think there is still a sickening amount of inequality in the world, a lot of it relating to gender and sex and sexuality, because those are things that are important to people, and people commit terrible atrocities in the name of things that are important to them, and telling people they shouldn't care about those things is a rubbish way to fix that problem. I do think there's an enormous amount of cultural baggage associated with the word "feminism", not all of it helpful, and I think it's at best disingenuous to pretend that that baggage doesn't have any effect on how people react to the word. (At worst you're basically telling people "You mustn't accept the labels that the patriarchy imposes on you ... but how dare you refuse the labels that we impose on you?" which is a bit like telling women whose husbands are beating them up that they'd be much better people if they let another woman beat them up instead.)

I also don't see how "I'm a feminist and I'm not going to stand for your sexist bullshit" is actually a stronger statement than "I'm not going to stand for your sexist bullshit"; in other words, if you're fighting for the cause, I don't think it matters if you're not wearing the official uniform. In fact, I think sometimes the uniform gets in the way, because if you're always wearing the uniform, people start to see you as a role rather than a person, and that's not helpful if you're trying to get them to see you as a person and stop categorising you in according to their perception of your role. I'm not saying that there's no place for labels and causes; I'm just saying that there is also a place for action outside the labels and the causes, and that failing to wear the official uniform every day doesn't make you a bad person, and that "if you're not for us then you're against us" is a pernicious lie.

And talking of uniforms, I know I am just awkward and contrary, but to me the famous feminist tshirt has the unfortunate subtext of suggesting that a feminist has to dress in the wearisome conformity of the "alternative" subculture, the confrontational slogan tshirt, only available in I'm-only-wearing-black-because-they-haven't-invented-a-more-tedious-colour, only available in stare-at-my-chest-please. Where are the feminists wearing suits and ties, the feminists wearing actual uniforms, the feminists in spacesuits, the feminists in Laura Ashley dresses, the feminists wearing tracksuits, the feminists wearing silk negligées, the feminists wearing nothing at all, the feminists who are not even looking at the camera?
j4: (fairy)
[livejournal.com profile] 1ngi wrote a good post about the way sexism hurts men too. This isn't at all a response to that post, I'm just using it as a jumping-off point.

I find that I mostly only think about gender roles in relation to me (rather than as some kind of abstract thing) when other people voice their worries, and (possibly because of this) most of my angst around these issues is kind of second-order angst: I'm a female programmer and I'm not particularly feminine, will this encourage people to think that (or think that I think that) female geeks can't be femme too? If I want to have children, will feminists tell me (as they have in the past) that this is letting the sisterhood down? (I already know that if I do have children everybody will tell me I'm doing something wrong, and hopefully by then I'll have learned not to listen to them.) If someone asks me "As a woman, what do you think about..." am I overreacting if I give them the three-page disclaimer about how I'm happy to answer for myself but while my biological sex and my gender are a part of that they're not necessarily the most important part and I don't regard myself as particularly representative of Womankind and certainly wouldn't want to think that I was being assumed to speak for anybody other than myself of any gender? If someone tells me that I am being discriminated against at work because of my gender, and if I don't feel it or see any ill effects then that just means I've been stunned into submission, are they in fact full of shit?

Anyway. I find it hard to synthesise the things I notice about my gender, gendered reactions, sexuality etc into any kind of coherent whole. So instead, a series of disintegrating observations about myself... )

gURL power

Apr. 8th, 2008 11:14 pm
j4: (regex)
I saved this as a draft, and forgot about it. For those of you who are watching today's episode of [livejournal.com profile] j4 before going back and catching up with the last few weeks', the quick summary is, I had to talk to some student about 'geek culture' and how women are from Visual Basic and men are from Modula-2. (For those who are watching next season via bittorrent -- does it rain at Glasto 2008? And incidentally, Does She Ever Actually Shag Him?) Anyway, here's the (slightly tidied up) version of what I wrote:

Well that was pointless. I talked to this chap, he didn't seem to have very much clue what he was doing, he looked about 14 and frankly terrified of me, but I tried to answer his questions without too much handwaving/ranting, and filled in his survey, and let him take a picture of The Geek In Her Working Environment, har har. My god, though, my desk is a mess. Coffee and books and a DVD and some half-wilted roses in a vase and biscuits and a contact juggling ball and a stuffed badger and a waving maneki neko and biscuits and speakers and torn-off pages of my poem-a-day calendar (Robert Frost's 'Fire and Ice' yesterday, ace stuff) and cherry 7Up cans and heaps of paper and a hairbrush and a load of books on Ubuntu, XSLT, Perl, SOAP, and Web Design. He asked if he could "observe me working" for an hour, and I panicked and said no. For one thing, I'd have to get my office-mate to agree to it, and for another thing, well, just NO. Also, no.

vignettes of office life in which our heroine isn't as funny as she thinks she is, and tries to turn little thoughts into a big picture )

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of the user-agent string as a metaphor for gender.
j4: (oxford)
My post about intelligent writing for women seems to have started a bit of an argument; apologies to those whose comments I haven't answered as a result.

This afternoon some student wants to interview me about "geek culture" and "the IT profession", for his research. He says "I am especially willing to interview you to find out why IT is still a male dominated territory". Hmmm. I'm keen to find out:

- what he defines as "the IT profession"
- the extent to which it is still "a male dominated territory"
- whether he's asking men about the gender balance in IT, too

I fear it will be too much of a digression to start going on at him about the idea of geek as a gender.

FWIW I don't feel that I'm not a woman, or not female, just that gender really isn't the most important filter for my personal or professional interactions with other people -- geekiness (for want of a better word), literateness, and (now I come to think about it) age all feel like much stronger factors. (Of course, that's when you pull the false-consciousness card out of your hat, and say "ah, there seems no gender because it is all gender! And AS A WOMAN you can't be expected to see clearly that your femaleness informs everything you do at a subconscious level". The only winning move [and I'm not talking about fluttering my eyelashes here] is not to play.)

Lots of other half-formed thoughts, the clearest of which is "why on earth did I say I'd talk to this chap in the first place", which isn't very helpful. :-/


Mar. 21st, 2008 05:50 pm
j4: (oxford)
In the US earlier this month, a group of women announced that they were launching a website for women over 40, called wowowow.com (a play on "women on the web" — an address that, tellingly, they had to buy from a porn site). [...]

The wowowow launch is yet another sign that women are offering up intelligent online content that stands in stark comparison to the narrow focus of many of the women's magazines to be found on the news stands. Wowowow's content moves from high culture (an interview with avant-garde artist Laurie Anderson), to economics (an interview with eBay's out going CEO, Meg Whitman) to politics (one of the recent "questions of the day" was "Which four women would you like to see on Mount Rushmore?" The results were: Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B Anthony, Rosa Parks and, to the evident surprise of some, Hillary Clinton).

The Wow Factor, Guardian G2, 21.03.08

I don't normally seek out women's magazines, web content for women, books for women, and so on; but I noticed this as I was flicking through G2, and decided to have a look at wowowow.com, just out of idle curiosity. (No, I'm not going to link to it; not because I don't want to worry my pretty little head about hyperlinks, but because I don't really want to give it any more googlejuice.)

So let's have a look at this intelligent content. Starting at the top left:

* Star signs
* "Hair day weather" (it's a really good hair day in Rome, apparently)
* Navbar: Home | Conversations | Posts | The Women | Question of the Day | Change the world
* Latest posts (top of the list: "A how-to video made for the technically challenged")
* Today's feature: "Question of the day: what are you doing for Easter?"
* Poll: If you could choose only one, the beauty aid you can't live without
* "She Said He'd Be Sorry" (Fiction: He said she was plumpish. And it was true. She was fattish)
* Question of the Day: "If Senators Clinton, Obama and McCain were cars -- what would they be?"

I actually can't bear to read any further down the home page, let alone click through. And even letting the content (if you can call it that) speak for itself, the design of the site is scrappy and amateurish (though the five powerful women who threw $200,000 each at the site "hired five full-time, web-savvy members of staff", the Guardian tells us). No, that's not me-as-a-woman saying that I don't like the colour because it doesn't go with my shoes; that's me-with-web-hat-on saying "for god's sake, somebody hire them a web designer -- or maybe, since half of the site seems to be glorified blogging, just get them a LiveJournal and switch them to one of the nice default skins." Hell, everybody expects magazines to have advertising, so they could have had a LiveJournal for free and spent the hundreds of thousands of dollars on hair and beauty treatments.

I honestly don't know what intelligent writing for women would look like, or rather how it would differ from intelligent writing (which seems to be pretty scarce in the magazine world anyway) for any other variety of adult; but I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't be limited to horoscopes and hairstyles. There is practically nothing that I can think of that I'd want to read about that has any inherent femaleness to it, anything that would make it belong specifically in a "woman's magazine" rather than, say, the Guardian magazine. The only "women's magazine" I do buy is slightly naughty ). I don't think that really counts as what the Guardian means by intelligent content.

I'm currently reading Ulysses. Is that a woman's book? Yes I said yes.

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