Friday, January 21, 2005

not your ordinary girl

For some reason (perhaps I should blame the president of Harvard?) I've been hearing a lot of sex-based generalisations this week, both on the interweb and in real life. They've been trivial, deeply felt, accusatory, amused and ordinary. They've also -- significantly -- been about a fifty-fifty split, gender-wise, both in source and subject.

Men generalising about women, and women about men, but also women on women, men on men, all grappling for that essential difference ... and along the way, incensing my sense of logic, politics and justice; not to mention poking me, right in my sexual inadequacy.

Because I'm not a real woman, see? Not "typical". Sometimes this is presented as a good thing, but as anyone who has ever been classified as "special" knows, the benefit cuts both ways. And for me, this has meant a lifetime of having my opinions doubly discounted, firstly because they did not match the expectation of the enquirer, and secondly because, having been classed as an aberration, all my opinions could therefore be safely discarded.

And before you start pointing and saying, "self-identified freak!" I have been told this by friends, family, teachers, colleagues, lovers and my mother. Typically, in these circumstances:

Other: "Women/girls are/like/do [x]."
J: (pauses for thought) "I don't do [x]."
Other: "Well, no, you're not a typical woman."
You see, I'm not paranoid. They really are using my (lack of) sex to get rid of me.

Perhaps it's just my uneasy sexual identity, but I've found, even in activities where it's very relevant (e.g. sex) as much variation between members of the same sex as between people of different sexes. That (of course) biological difference and sociological pressure have a profound effect on individuals, forcing them to adopt or create roles in society, but that a) the variety of these roles is staggering, and reducing them to "men" and "women" is a generalisation of questionable value, and b) these roles are not innate or immutable, but a fluid and adaptable social construct. That our desire to see our gender and sexuality as "essential" is related to status games and laziness; wanting the world to submissively rearrange itself around our choices.

... and as far as those sweeping generalisations about men and women go ... well, I think its largely perceptual. Men like chocolate, shopping and shoes. Women like gadgets, cars and booze. What's that? They like different shoes, cars, gadgets? Well, gosh, different people liking different things. Whatever will happen next?

Which I think deals with the politics and justice of such statements. Now for the logic. Pretty flaky logic, if you unpack the statements:

J likes [x], J is female/male, therefore females/males like [x]
or the more complicated but equally suspect:

J is [attribute], I am not [attribute], we are not the same gender, therefore
[attribute] is caused by gender

or the the considerably more disturbing:

My parent/lover/last significant crush object has attribute [x] and is [gender].
You do/do not have attribute [x], therefore you are/are not [gender].

Ahhh, you say, but I'm not basing it on just one person. I'm basing it on all the women I know. Plus, there are statistics to back me up, lots of them. Really, even about the chocolate.

Yes, of course, the statistics. No matter which statistics you're thinking of, they're not actually making absolute statements about the nature of all men and all women. They're saying something closer to "statistics from this study indicate that there is a moderate tendency for men in this particular area to be" or "we find in this sub-group that a higher proportion of the women show a stronger tendency that men to be" ... although such mealy-mouthed mumbling never makes it as far as the headlines, of course.

Now your anecdata, the people you know. Think carefully. How many of your friends are you discounting because they're not typical men/women? How large is the "typical" group you have left? How many in that group follow the rule you just made up? The majority of them, you say?

Two out of three, then.

Oh wait, no. One.

Because it is, very often, just one person that provokes damnation or praise of their entire sex. Cynically, whenever I read these pieces, I always try and sniff out the husband/girlfriend/stalkee whose unresponsive/frivolous/flatulent crimes have opened the floodgates on the well of bitterness marked "other people are not like me".

For me, I'll select T, a young man with whom I was not as good friends as I thought, leading to a mildly-painful falling out. From him I will infer that men are witty, petulant, bibulous, demanding, prone to eating disorders, stylish, snide and obsessed with soap operas.

Not convinced? Well, M, M, M, and T are also men, and they were also like that*, so it must be true.

But there are no universal truths in the inferences you draw from small groups. Or rather, there is one universal truth: that your sample is not big enough.


* No, they are not all gay. They are not even mostly gay.

Monday, January 17, 2005

person mildly annoyed by internet shock

I had a quick scoot around the internet news sites looking to see if anyone had anything better than the conspiracy theory (Six Apart orchestrated the power outage in order to encourage people to use their pay-per-blog Typepad) to offer by explaination. Admittedly, the time difference isn't really in my favour here, but I was mildly disappointed not to find anything, not even from Livejournal themselves ...

Although I did find plenty of news stories, but after Indymedia I gave up as they were all saying the same thing (do feel free to catch the hilarity over on slashdot) which was that sure, some people couldn't publish to their blogs, but these were unimportant people. Women, young people, artists, non-techies. No-one who matters. Heck, isn't it mostly full of Russians?

So, I was mildly annoyed by this. Not very annoyed, because I certainly do have one teenage girl on my friendslist, at least one Russian, some artists, and plenty of women (in addition to people like Kimya Dawson, Momus and Warren Ellis, who I think might be considered to have some mild celebrity status) and I'm well aware of my own unimportance.

Which is, of course, part of the point of having a Livejournal. It's levelling. Because of its low entry threshold, community features, friendslist, syndiction features and sheer pride in its own size, Livejournallers can't help but be aware that they're speaking from within a vast crowd. Even if this isn't always 100% visible from the ivory blogspots (or moveable type swearboxes, or I-tooled-this-myself castles) of the blogging elite (whomsoever they are this week), that's what everyone's doing on the internet.

So go ahead, peer down your nose. If you're short-sighted enough, you might not notice that you're looking at a mirror.

And here's a quick ego test: of the 2470095 active livejournallers out there, does anyone care about your blog enough to have syndicated you?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

yes it is my fault

Well, Livejournal continues to be, well, deader than Deadjournal, in a way which makes me vaguely proud* of my secret defection. Fairly unfazed, I put a link to this place on my cleanskies site, and congratulated myself on my continuity.

Then I checked up on my email, and the last thing that came through from LJ was a message from lj:locura_insomnio, who is one of those "friends" you've never met that LJ encourages you towards. Can't remember why I added him. Something to do with lego, godzilla films and pinhole photography, I think. Anyway, just before LJ went down, he made this comment to an entry in my journal which described how a phone post by lj:benchilada had been recut into a techno track by a DJ friend of his:


Ok, the world is truly insane. I actually have no recollection how I came across your journal, but as I recall I found it randomly and it was interesting so I stayed.

That's not so much odd as it is out of character, but the oddness just happened.

lj:benchilada == old friend of lj:fairyarmadillo == my fiance.

The world is a tiny tiny place!
And then LJ collapsed. I guess it was an exclaimation mark too many.

*Also mildly disturbed.

new gardening trend!

We're going to go for the Titan look! Underground refridgeration keeps the ice boulder garden frosty while a small wave generator keeps the pond of oily organic sludge in constant motion. Relaxing on those cold winter nights....

In other news, don't look at this picture or this might happen. Hmmm, I knew there was something evil about Flickr ....

Monday, January 10, 2005

appearances on television : three

I have friends who dive for cover when people produce cameras. Who bitch about CCTV, attempt to escape google's spidery clutches and get pettish when they spot themselves in the background of your six random party shots on [insert the name of your favourite photo hosting service here].

Not me. As a dedicated resident of the future, I like being photographed, recorded, interviewed and counted, especially by machines. And the ultimate reality-booster (sorry, google) is still television. Unfortunately, my face is a bit distracting, and the colours I wear are too bright, so lurking in the background of shots tends to provoke people into stopping filming. But I have managed to get myself on TV, and this is how:
  • Vox pop. for local news. Asked if I knew what three of the new words from the OED meant, I responded by doubting the word Himbo . (I tend to use the term "haircut" instead.) My puzzled face made it onto local news, co-workers told me the next day.
  • Scene setter for a report on spiralling house prices on Oxford. As the voiceover-man gets stuck into how hard things are for first-time buyers, my worried face swims out of a grim, grey street scene, and almost fills the screen before passing by, excited friends told me the following day. (Hats off to the cameraman, for I never noticed a thing.) My considered response was, "Eh? You watch The Money Programme?"
  • Interview on local television. This was work-related, and barely counts as real television at all. Apparently I looked very professional, compared to the presenters, set, graphics ...
Interesting. I've never actually seen myself on television. Well, that's not really the point. It's other people seeing you.

I was also once interviewed (in some detail) for the controversial late-night C4 show Dyke TV for a documentary about lesbian cartoonists and comedians. They were going to float some of my ruder stuff behind me, so I was shot against bluescreen at a table made up to look like my chaotic workspace. I didn't get any make-up and probably looked quite horrid, but it didn't matter as the show was never screened.

At the time I wondered if it was because I said "f*ck" too many times.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

well ...

mulled wine hazard zoneIt did seem to update quite smoothly. And it encourages you to link like a bloody maniac. The profile function was perhaps a touch wobbly.

I wonder if I'll end up using this much?

Just looked at that cutesly little image icon to see if it's as smooth as the linking. Er, no ... still, that's what your flickr account is for, right?

If in doubt, post a playmobil picture ...


My boss has asked me to tell her about blogs, to which I airily said, yes, suuuuure. After all, I read loads, and I've got one myself, and all that ... except that I don't, really, do I?

I have a Livejournal. And I've never even playtested others (apart from Flickr, but apparantly, that's a game, not a blog) . And that's not a real blog -- as one friend put it "everyone looks down on people who have livejournals". Whether that's because most livejournallers are kids, something I would never have guessed (which, in a sense, is the point of Livejournal), or because of some science vs. arts reason, I don't know.

Some my friends use moveable type so I've heard quite a bit about that. Ditto, which has an enthusiastic convert in pdc. Others build their own, but they can safely be left to that. But my chief blogger friend never discusses her material, only her subject.

Now this, to me, is a good mark in a blog. Endless ramblings about the shortcomings/and or inadequacies (or alternatively, the potentials and sheer awesomeness) of the medium is a surefire way to have me zizzing on my keyboard. But it's kept me a bit ignorant of blogspace.

Right here I want to find out:
  1. How easy is it to make one? Is the interface flexible and intuitive?
  2. How much trouble is it to look after one? Are there big problems with, say, comment spam, for example?
  3. How intrusive is that advertising on the free service? How does the paid service compare?

Or am I just kidding myself over this? Is this just the result of a morning of frustration at the abruptly inadequate pretend-friend-iness of Livejournal leading me to pettishly start a new blog? Anxiety over the sale of Livejournal to Six Apart driving me to poke fitfully at the competitors?

Well, I shoudl probably seed this with some personal information, too. Here's a good one. I just received the Global Youth Work Project update through from a colleague because she felt that the "information and resources relating to tsunami and global poverty" included might be useful.

Top of the list of resources was Oxfam's Dealing With Disasters, which deals with the basics of what makes a disaster, and why poor people suffer more from disasters than the rich. It was also the first educational resource I ever converted for online use. ?Six years and at least two major template changes later it's looking ragged, but I can still see my hand in the graphics.

Looks like, as of today, they've updated to a tsunami-specific activity -- I wonder if that will last as a strategy? There's something to be said for having grouped teaching resources relating to current emergencies.

I sometimes wonder how I ended up where I am, job-wise. Is is a career arc, or is it more like a long stumble backwards into a ditch marked "witter"?