Upstate fucking glory, books

Spring birds are yelling from snowy trees this morning. It’s spring, despite wind, snow, roaring wood stove, and other evidence to the contrary. I’m taking today off of work. I’ve got nine stitches. I can do whatever I want.

I finished re-reading Microserfs by Douglas Copeland yesterday. This book was important to me at a formulative time. It helped convince me it was cool to be a nerd. It introduced other tech-inclined women to my humanities-girdled world. It drew a model of unashamed geekery, separate and outside of a traditionally-female need for perfection and image. It was pretty liberating.

An excerpt:

Susan is 26 and works in Mac Applications. If Susan were a Jeopardy! contestant, her dream board would be:

* 680X0 assembly language
* Cats
* Early ’80s haircut bands
* “My secret affair with Rob in the Excel Group”
* License plate slogans of America
* Plot lines from The Monkees
* The death of IBM

Susan’s an IBM brat and hates that company with a passion. She credits it with ruining her youth by transferring her family eight times before she graduated from high school – and the punch line is that the company gave her father the boot last year during a wave of restructuring. So nothing too evil can happen to IBM in her eyes.

Susan’s a real coding machine. But her abilities are totally wasted reworking old code for something like the Norwegian Macintosh version of Word 5.8.

Thanks for your kind comments last night during my Dark Night of the Beer. Friendly words were unexpected and wonderful. I often forget that there are people out there. Hello imaginary people. It’s as though my fictional heroes (Elizabeth Bennet! Harriet The Spy! Meg from Wrinkle in Time!) suddenly started interacting.

Off to haul wood one-armed and scour Craigslist for cars. What would your Dream Jeopardy! categories be?

Virgin/Whore = Librarian/Librarian

Ah the joy of working in a traditionally female profession around Halloween!

Take your pick, ladies and gentlemen, do you prefer your objectification in the form of Sexy Librarian, or Old Lady Librarian?

Here are the search results from yet another hunt for Librarian costumes. The first two you may familiar with, the last provides a charming alternative.

It has been pointed out in some circles (hi coworkers!) that I have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to the care and feeding of library professionals. Please allow the above image, as well as the profession’s appalling wages speak on my behalf.


Another Extremely Accurate Librarian Costume.

This is the second sexy librarian costume I’ve found. One more and it’s officially a trend.

This one is especially flattering. They call it a “Sexy Secretary” SLASH “Sexy Librarian” costume. Because as you know, the two jobs are interchangeable. Or at least the outfits seem to be.

I love love LOVE that librarians are the subjects of our very own fetish. My mom would be so proud. We should form a labor union, all us sexy librarians, nurses, secretaries, and flight attendants, and charge a licensing fee every time someone wants to objectify us. Like the MPAA for disenfranchised traditionally-female professions. Quick, somebody call Dan Savage!

We do look all like this though. Seriously. Even the dudes.

I will shoot you with my Barbie Gun

Ladies and Gentlemen: I’m coming out. As a gamer.

I game. I play video games. I enjoy shooting digital things. I have the ability to navigate three-dimensional space. There, I said it.
I don’t know what I was afraid of. I’m not going to be stereotyped. As far as I can tell there are no stereotypes of female gamers. It’s not like admitting “Hey you guys I love to shop” or “Gosh I love me some Jesus.” There are no social assumptions about being a female gamer because up to a few years ago, female gamers didn’t statistically exist.

These days however, I’m in good company. New generations of tech-savvy women are reshaping the game industry. According to the charmingly titled 2004 ELSPA report Chicks and Joysticks, female gamers make up 39% of US gamers. We’re only at 25.1% across Western Europe, but in Japan we rule a whopping 65.9%. Plus, in the US, women buy 53% of all PC games. We love The Sims. We love World of Warcraft. We can whoop you at Dance Dance Revolution. Female gamers exist, and we’re starting to eat up market share.

So what’s the problem? Nothing we haven’t handled before. The success of first-person shooters has left the market flooded with Uber-violent 3D games that don’t appeal to women (Well – women who aren’t me. Battlefront, anyone?) And, of course, decades of male-dominated gaming have left a legacy of seriously sexist game characters. Big-boobed wasp-waisted mistresses of the martial arts still grace the covers of RPG manuals and fighting games. I’ve included a few here for your amusement.

In a great article titled Why is my girl repellent chasing off all the hot chicks? Mythago describes the lament of the clueless male gamer: “Why aren’t there more female gamers, especially when we go to such lengths to make it clear they aren’t welcome?” He claims that the abundance of porn ladies gracing video and RPGs sends a simple message to potential girl gamers: “You don’t exist. We only think of females as sex toys.”

This whole rant got started because I just attended a nifty lecture here on campus by Michigan State Communications prof John Sherry called “Sex Differences in Video Game Play: What the Industry Doesn’t Know About Why Girls Don’t Play First-Person Shooters”. MSU is doing some cool cognitive psychology-type research on the relationship between game preference and cognitive abilities. It made me nostalgic for East Lansing, Midwestern accents, and Social Science research with its delightful openness to interpretation. It’s pretty damn difficult to say why most women seem to prefer one type of game over another, but I had a good time listening to the theories.

To finish off, and perhaps cleanse your eyeballs from all those huge electronic breasts, why not have a go at the fully girl-created online game Sissyfight 2000 which lets you become a bitchy schoolgirl fighting on the playground. Scratch, tease, and gang up on other girls, then try and look innocent. Then shoot them with your huge My Little Pony gun.

Maysan Haydar is Cool

My friend Maysan Haydar has always been cool. She introduced me to Bratmobile and Swing dancing back when such things were hip. She got a tongue ring before everyone else. She was the first person I knew to dye her hair purple.

She escaped from Flint, majored in Linguistics and moved to NYC to write for The Nation. Now she’s a social worker. Oh. And she wears the hijab. Here’s an excerpt from an article she wrote for the book Body Outlaws about why she wears the veil, and what it’s been like.

The decorating thing…

Hi there – I’m on vacation. woo. Owl’s passed out next to me in a big long bundle of fur. Thanks for all of the great holiday decorating comments. You guys are hilarious and ever-so-various. I just wanted to follow up, because I think a few folks got the wrong impression about where I stand on this crucial topic. That whole rant? The previous post? About the cookies and the survey and the tinsel? That wasn’t me saying that guys don’t decorate or should decorate more. That would be dumb.

What I’m saying is that asking a woman you don’t know about her holiday decorations is a Gendered Question. This is a Gendered Question because Society (not me! society!) has associated women, fairly or unfairly, with homemaking stuff. This is also a Gendered Question because it is almost exclusively asked about women (and by women).

I, personally, don’t really like being asked Gendered Questions because I would rather be associated with the things I actually care about and value like PlayStation and my Large Cat. Not that any stranger is going to realistically come up to me and ask about any of the weird shit I enjoy. Still, I can dream of a world where people greet each other with a hearty “Have you read Seamus Heaney’s new translation of Antigone?” Or thump each other on the back with a cheerful “Ever considered opening up your 802-11 G wireless network?” I can dream my little holiday dreams.

So good for all y’all decorators and non-decorators alike. Good for all you lads who make with the tinsel, and you dudes who snooze through the whole month of December. Rock on my friends, I wish you a happy break.

Have you decorated your home for the holidays? A patriarchal plot to make me hang ornaments instead of conquering the galaxy

Recently several people have asked me something that strikes fear into my cold and icy heart. The question is innocuous. The question is well-intended. The question makes me want to pull out my big librarian rubber stamp and do some smiting.

The question:
“Have you decorated your home for the holidays?”

No, this isn’t a war-on-Christmas screed, nor is it a rant against bland conversation.* This is about feminism. Specifically, this is about a brand of feminism I subscribe to, the kind of feminism that thinks being a woman really doesn’t require me to do extra crap around the house.

I’ve got nothing against decorating for the holidays. I’ve got nothing against talking about decorating for the holidays. I’ve got nothing against the holidays.** What I don’t like is that the lads seem to be exempt.

I have the good fortune to work in I.T., which means my co-workers are mostly male.*** I took an informal survey of these guys to see how they responded to this particular social pressure. Donning my best “we’re all girls together” face (you know the one) I sidled up and asked innocently “Have you decorated your home for the holidays”

The result? Derisive snorts, awkward this-chick-has-gone-nuts pauses, glassy stares, and one guy actually did a spit-take. Finally one gentleman described his holiday decorations. His wife, it seemed, had done a great job this year.

Fine, maybe it’s the nesting hormones. Maybe women really do love to decorate. Maybe we’re all a bunch of scented-candle-chugging tinsel-hangers. But still, I get all gitchy when somebody just assumes I subscribe to this apparently gender-specific hobby. I mean, hell. I’ve got some garlands and shit, but I don’t enjoy feeling like it’s my venereal duty to start shooting holiday cookies out my oven just because every other woman on the earth seems to be.

I would love to sum it all up for you and present a nice, clear solution to all this damned gender inequity, but I can’t think of one. Just, maybe, the next time you ask someone about their hobbies, try to stay away from the race, gender, and sexual orientation-related ones. Don’t ask the gay man if he enjoys flower arrangement Just Because He’s Gay. He might love flowers but that still doesn’t make it cool. Don’t ask the black woman if she likes collard greens Just Because She’s Black. She may love them (how could you not?), but that doesn’t make you less of an asshole. And dangit, don’t ask me about my dang holiday decorations. Ask me about my Star Wars Battlefront score. I conquered the galaxy yesterday.

*Sure, the world needs conversational crutches. But lately, the holiday decoration thing seems to be as important to office social lubrication as “what are your vacation plans?” and “can you believe how cold it is?” Hopefully, it will never be as important as “here, have another drink.”
**I’ve even got nothing against Martha Stewart. Hell, I dumpster-dive Living from the Borders’ recycling bin regularly.***The inequities of this are so obvious they don’t need to be stated right? Right?