Archive for the ‘i have opinions’ Category

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pro-gaming and physics research: today’s feminist grumblings

August 17, 2011

Today the nerd blogosphere spewed up something many of my followers may find interesting: “All About Eve: the Story of StarCraft 2’s First Female Pro” on the Mary Sue.

(As an aside, can I say how much I adore the Mary Sue?  Because I really, really adore them.  They are like a less prolific, brazenly feminist io9, which makes them a) easier to keep up with, and b) more fun to read.  They also don’t require you to click through on Google Reader like io9 does, another bonus in my book.  Anyway.)

So the story I linked you is a typical tale of a woman doing something pioneering in a male-dominated field, getting slammed by the boys for it, and then having the internet explode.  Interesting if you want to learn more about the Korean pro-gaming scene (which I find endlessly fascinating, especially since I’m related to someone who was formerly a sponsored WoW player), but otherwise it is what it sounds like.  What I really enjoyed about this piece, though (other than when the author linked one of my favorite-ever xkcd comics), is when the post’s author got philosophical.

Excerpted for your reading pleasure (emphasis mine):

In reading about Eve, my immediate reaction was, “I hope she wins the whole thing.” I imagine many of you had the same thought. It was that thought that made me realize that the pressure of needing to be not just “good” but “the best”, while put there by others, is actually I enforce within myself. It comes out of fear. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of having my gender shoved in my face if I lose or screw up. Fear of proving the “girls aren’t as good at games” crowd right.

As of right now, I’m going to stop doing that. Because no, I’m not the best. But I am good. Not at all games, certainly. There are some I suck at (cough, StarCraft, cough). But every time someone says that a girl can’t play, every time that a guy griefs a girl who lost because her gender is the easiest thing to pick on, every time that a girl gets sucked into that angry us-versus-them mentality, we are losing sight of what is good about gaming. Gaming is about fair play and healthy competition and challenging ourselves. And fun, dammit. It’s supposed to be about having fun. There is nothing sportsmanlike or respectable about tearing down a player based on their gender, or their race, or anything else that sets them apart. There is nothing fair about feeling that because you are different, you must work twice as hard to be respected on the same level as everyone else. That is not why we play. That is not what we, as a community, are about.

Gaming?  God, she could have written this about physics.  I cannot begin to count the number of times I had conversations with other women about having to be twice as awesome as the guys to get taken seriously, or to be manlier than the boys to get respect.  All so you can get the cred for being “that awesome girl who does physics.”

Because it always was “the awesome girl who does physics,” not “the girl who does awesome physics,” or better yet, just “that awesome physicist.”  It was rare for me to feel like people had lost sight of my gender — even other women.

And no, this is not universally true.  I have great friends in the field who value and respect me and my work based on me and my work, not my gender.  And in the wide world (now that I’m out of the physics bubble), people are intimidated enough by my having physics degrees that they rarely mention my gender.

But overall, it was nasty in the bubble.  All of the successful female PIs I know work harder than their male counterparts, and a recent study even quantifies that (though the difference is slight).  I am glad to be out, for many reasons — this being one of them.

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the leaky pipeline and why the discussion makes me grumpy

April 4, 2011

This is an ironic title, due to the fact that our water bill was $350 this past month (we had a big leak that we didn’t cause, so the landlord is after the plumber who “fixed” things).  I’m not talking about this kind of leaky pipeline, though I certainly have at great length and with great fury elsewhere.

Instead, I’m talking about the “leaky pipeline” of women in academia, as is Female Science Professor this morning.  She has a new post up regarding the incompleteness of the completion data available for students who enter science and engineering PhD programs, and how it makes it impossible to determine why exactly women are leaving without a PhD (and therefore, what we can do about it).  It’s a worthwhile post if these issues interest you at all.

They certainly interest me, but the discussion also pisses me off.  As a woman who is finishing/leaving/quitting with a master’s degree instead of a PhD (with word choice depending on who you ask or what mood I’m in when you ask me), the whole viewpoint these discussions are framed from bothers me.  Perhaps it’s just due to where I read these things — mostly on blogs published by PhD-holding women with research careers — but the language choices and quiet bias always make me feel like a traitor to the cause.

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local agriculture: sometimes it doesn’t matter

March 9, 2011

Shocking!  A title like that, on my blog?  All of you are busily checking your address bars right now to make sure that yes, indeed, Lady Quantum really is writing this piece.

I’m being intentionally inflammatory here, in the grand tradition of irresponsible bloggers, but it’s also true.  Sometimes local agriculture is an irrelevant or even a worse choice … but it depends on what your values are in terms of food.

Values?  In terms of food?  For many of you reading this, that isn’t an outlandish concept.  For those of you for whom it is, however, let me explain by example and anecdote.  Energy intensiveness — how much energy something requires — is a huge personal issue for me, and it informs many of my choices.  My attempts to cut my energy use are why I refused to get a car for so long, why I was vegetarian for a few years in high school and college, why I piss my roommates off by keeping the thermostat at 60 degrees overnight, and why I reuse yogurt containers until they melt.  Energy intensiveness is something that I try to consider when I buy food, and really, for me, that’s what’s most important, given the non-negotiable boundaries of time I have to cook, my need to eat at least marginally healthy, and my restrictive budget.  Other people I’ve met have vastly different food values.  Prioritizing animal cruelty would mean that you never buy meat, eggs, dairy, or even honey if you’re obsessive; prioritizing water pollution would mean that you only buy organic products, no matter the cost or the distance they travel, to avoid the pollution caused by fertilizer and pesticide runoff.  What you care about can — and should! — inform your food choices, giving you a set of food values.

With this in mind, I was very surprised to read an article today from the Post Carbon Institute titled “Beyond Food Miles.” Based on data from an USDA report on energy use in the American food system, it tears holes in arguments typically used to support buying locally-produced and organic products.

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sigh.

November 2, 2010

I’m a pushover.

Yes, yes I did.

Turns out I was easily persuaded that it’s worthwhile to vote for someone crappy so that someone who’s batshit insane loses the election.  If he even does (I refer here to the senate seat; it’s currently <11,000 votes in sanity’s favor, with about half reporting).  I also went ahead and voted for the other federal seats and governor, too (though I must admit I didn’t have time to do my research about judges and city councilfolk).

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why choose a lesser evil, indeed

November 1, 2010

I am currently doing my last-minute responsible-voter routine, and trying to figure out who, and what, I’m voting for tomorrow.  I have rarely been so unenthusiastic about politics as this research is making me, and I’m seriously contemplating not voting at all.  If I do vote (which I’m likely to do only if there’s not a long line to get into my polling place), I’m unlikely to vote for any candidates for national office, and instead will probably just vote on Colorado’s amendments and propositions, especially to vote against the one that’s a rehash of our 2008 “eggs are people too” garbage.

Yes, yes, I am failing to make a difference with that attitude, and not exercising my rights as a citizen, and disillusioned voters like me are all that’s wrong with the system, blah blah blah.  But seriously, my desire to vote against extreme right-wing folks isn’t even strong enough to make me feel okay about supporting their opponents.  That’s how nasty our election cycle has been here.

The worst culprits, in my mind, are our candidates for senate, Michael Bennett and Ken Buck.  I listened to interviews with both of them on public radio while driving once, and I don’t think either of them said anything in their entire interviews that was inspiring in the least, and hardly said anything that didn’t outright disgust me.  Both of them have run extremely negative campaigns.  Also, almost all of the money for this race has come from out of state, since Colorado is an important battleground for deciding who gets the majority in the senate.  Thanks, the rest of the country, for chipping in your two cents (or 30 million dollars)  to decide who should represent my state!  And thanks, Supreme Court, for making such a disaster possible!  Screw y’all, and screw our senate race too.

Honest-to-god, I’m writing in Cthulhu tomorrow.  I would seriously be happier having an ancient tentacled beast representing me in Washington than either of the two options.

At least Cthulhu is honest about what it stands for.

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somebody is more patient than i am

October 13, 2010

Listen up, dear readers.  Family, you’d better especially listen up.  Let’s talk climate change.

Actually, I’m sending you somewhere else to talk climate change.  One of my awesome ecologist friends has a fabulous 3-post series on her blog that I’ve been meaning to send you to for a month.  Since she’s sending traffic my way today, I decided I should really get off my ass and just link it already.  Even if you’re usually reluctant to challenge yourself on climate change, I think you’ll find it valuable.

The series documents her discussion with a climate-change skeptic aunt, and includes a lot of great layman-friendly coverage of the science issues as well as a very well-documented look at the political issues involved.  In it, she responds to her aunt’s questions in their ongoing discussion, and I strongly suspect that these questions are fairly common to climate change skeptics the world around.   Oh, and she does a fantastic job of remaining calm throughout, especially for someone whose research is directly about climate change.  It’s not confrontational or condescending, in my opinion, and I hope you won’t find it to be that way either.

Go read it already.

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labels are for cans, because sometimes it’s nice to know what’s in them

September 23, 2010

Today is “Celebrate Bisexuality Day” (or Bi Pride Day, or Bi Visibility Day, or any of a handful of other names for it).  I’m celebrating with…a blog post.  Not as exciting as anything someone with half an imagination and any exposure whatsoever to popular stereotypes might suggest, but hey.  As exciting as my life is these days, it seems like a good way to celebrate, and it provides a nice excuse for me to get on my virtual soapbox, too.

So, what is it that everyone is supposed to be celebrating today?  I could throw you a dictionary definition of “bisexuality” and start dissecting it, but honestly I think we’re all on the same page (or at least in the same book): when we talk about bisexuality, we’re referring to something that’s not hetero- or homosexuality, an attraction to more than just men or more than just women.

That definition was surprisingly difficult to keep vague enough to describe the many things people call bisexuality.

Some people who identify as bi say that they’re simply genderblind, “attracted to people, not parts;” for some, they’re into both men and women equally, but only the most masculine guys and femmiest of femmes, “the football players and the cheerleaders.”  Others, contrary to a lot of popular belief, have nothing even approximating an equal attraction to men and women, and I’m not even going to get into the variations on genderqueer and its associated linguistic, political, and philosophical can of worms.  Some bi folks say they fall in love with men but love to sleep with women (and vice versa); others have no experience with one sex or the other, or have no experience at all with either.  And this is just a sampling, really, of the variations I’ve heard.  Of course, this all has a flip-side, too; there are folks who don’t identify as bi who have been attracted to both men and women, along with folks who actively pursue one gender or the other (or both) while professing a seemingly incompatible sexual identity.

Obviously, this is kind of a mess.  There are two main approaches to dealing with it (other than just using the term anyway) that I’ve run across.

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