Author Archives: Brett K

The Mary Sue

So Geekosystem recently announced the upcoming launch of its sister site for ladies, hilariously (to me, at least) called The Mary Sue, and readers are… skeptical, to say the least. Some good points were made:

“I find the idea that I experience Star Wars or video games differently because I need tampons to be more than a little insulting.”

“Wow, really? It hadn’t occurred to me that THIS site was for men. I thought it was for GEEKS.”

“Why this need for gender stratification? I’m female and perfectly capable of enjoying geekosystem. I loved how there were male and female contributors here and how gender isn’t made a big deal out of, I’m offended that you feel the need to cordon off girl geeks from guy geeks.”

Not to mention the highly unfortunate copy in the site’s description: “an entertainment/news site for the the geeky girl, from the ones who love The Lord of the Rings but have never actually read the books, to the ones who want to know which movie stars are going to be at Comic Con, to those planning out their Minecraft cross stitch samplers.”

Really? Movie stars? That’s what you think we’re into? Sure, cross-stitching is totally rad, but you might want to save the semi-ironic stereotypes until after you’ve proven that you’re savvy enough to get your own jokes.

Now, unlike some of the less optimistic commenters, I think that a site for geeky women could be pretty awesome. Women, after all, tend to be systematically excluded from a lot of nerdy communities, both on- and offline, and we need our own spaces just to make up for that. The thing is, though, that this doesn’t seem to be the point of The Mary Sue at all. Geekosystem isn’t much of a community, so there isn’t much to be excluded from. It’s also about as “general interest” as a site could get without being (which I love, so STFU), and if its editors think that geek girls aren’t interested in inanimate objects that look like faces or suitcases filled with brass knuckles and whiskey, then I definitely don’t trust them to run a site for us.

On the other hand, there are some interests that are… specific to geek women, if not exclusive to us, that Geekosystem might shy away from talking about for fear of being deemed “gay” or “girly” by its less open-minded readers. And having spaces of our own does allow nerdy women to deconstruct the sexism and misogyny that run rampant in a lot of geek communities. But the fact is that we already have communities in which to discuss these things – from slash fiction to, well, the potentially oppressive nature of slash fiction – and they tend to do so in much more depth than I’d ever expect from a website that consists mostly of image macros and YouTube videos.

The question is, then, is The Mary Sue going to be Geekosystem-lite, with less science and more pictures of Tahmoh Penikett, or is it actually going to be a space in which lady geeks can form a community free from the shit that we deal with in the dudeosphere? And, perhaps more importantly, do we need either? Because there are plenty of spaces in which to discuss geek culture’s gender problems, and if I want to see Mr. Penikett take his shirt off, well, I can just watch Battlestar Galactica reruns. And more than anything, I really, really don’t want to see Geekosystem turn into a boys’ club. There aren’t nearly enough woman-friendly sites outside the feminist blogosphere. There’s an ongoing assumption that most sites that are not specifically for women are dudes-only spaces, where misogyny is king and if you don’t like it then you’re a humourless bitch. Having a women’s “sister site” only reinforces that assumption. And while Hipster Gandalf is awesome, I don’t think he’s awesome enough to make wading through sexist comments worthwhile.

In conclusion: The Mary Sue will probably be pretty great, but you know what would be even better? Cross-stitch patterns on Geekosystem.


Humanity Card: Revoked

What is it, exactly, that motivates women to have late-term abortions? I’ve always believed that it was a number of factors. A late discovery of the pregnancy, lack of access to abortion services, fetal abnormalities discovered in the second or third trimester – all could potentially play a part. Or so I thought.

Turns out I was wrong. According to conservative blogger Ace of Spades, women get late term abortions for one reason, and one reason only: because they feel like it. In an attempt to refute what Jill of Feministing wrote about the horrific Kermit Gosnell case Ace states:

I think that almost all of the women in question just showed up for a late-term abortion because they decided they wanted a late-term abortion. I do not believe literally hundreds of women all received the rather rare diagnosis of your-life-is-in-danger-if-you-carry-to-term. In fact, I would hazard a guess that exactly none of them did.

Which makes sense, right? It’s happened to me so many times – I wake up one morning, and I think “Hey, carrying a fetus for two trimesters has been fun and all, but undergoing a painful, expensive, risky, possibly illegal, and definitely hard to obtain procedure is so much more hip and modern than giving birth.” I guess that’s my irrational lady-mind at work again. I mean, George Tiller risked – and eventually lost – his life defending women’s right to have late-term abortions just for fun.

If you’re following that logic, then of course abortion access needs to be restricted. Women obviously can’t be trusted to make their own decisions. If we start giving them free reign over their bodies all hell might break loose. Which is why no one has been born in Canada since 1988.

Seriously, what is this, I don’t even.

The Triumphant Return

I’ve missed blogging. The last six months have been tough, and the lack of inspiration and/or consistent internet access made it almost impossible for me to write. Now that I’m back in Canada, and (sadly) back in front of the computer for 8-10 hours a day, that will definitely change.

Those of you who have been around the feminist blogosphere for more than a week are probably familiar with Privilege Denying Dude. I was a huge fan of the meme when it was first created, and followed the ensuing drama with an enthusiasm that I usually reserve for TV shows set in space. At the time, I was also in France, researching eighteenth-century political culture. It is possible that I had far too much time on my hands. That is the only explanation that I can provide for what I am about to show you.

So without further ado, and with apologies to the Marquis de Lafayette (he just has such a great face!) I give you…

Privilège Denying Dude.

(Eleven more after the jump.)

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Sometimes I’m the Problem

When the #Mooreandme campaign first got started, it was accompanied by a request for donations to RAINN. RAINN is probably the most prominent anti-sexual assault organization in the United States, and I’ve always been a big supporter of theirs, and I intended to make a donation this year. All was well until someone commented that RAINN might not be the best organization to support because they partner with organizations that deny services to trans women. And I thought, great, there trans women go again, overreacting and ruining everyone’s activism by making it all about themselves.

And then I thought, what the fuck.

Trans women are not the problem. RAINN is the problem. The fact that people who claim to be feminists, who claim to be helping women, would actively deny services to trans women – that is the fucking problem. And I’m the problem, too. I’m the problem because I’m so comfortable in my little cis privilege bubble, that when someone points out transphobic tendencies in an organization that I support, I get mad at that person, and not at the organization and their cissupremacist bullshit. That right there is privilege at its finest: getting annoyed with a marginalized group when they have the gall to point out that maybe they should be treated like people.

Granted, those thoughts of mine lasted about thirty seconds, after which I realized just how ridiculous, and transphobic, I was being. And after those thirty seconds were up, I got angry, and I directed that anger at the people who continue to promote the idea that trans women are women. Because that’s stupid, and it’s wrong, and it hurts people. And by dismissing trans people’s arguments as trivial or overblown, I hurt people too.

I admire the work that RAINN has done, and I hope that the controversy generated by the #Mooreandme campaign will force them to take transphobia more seriously. If they do, they will definitely have my support. This year, though, I will be donating to the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre instead.

Consent Matters

MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNING for this entire post, including links.

A lot has happened in the last six months. The relationship I had been in for two and a half years ended. I lost my job. I stopped blogging. I spent three months in Paris, before running out of money and coming back to Toronto to crash on my sister’s couch and beg local businesses to hire me. I tried, and failed, to start blogging again. And then, to top it all off, two days ago a prominent third-wave feminist argued in a televised debate that I was not “really” raped.

I started this post several days ago, before the Wolf/Friedman debate took place. Like many feminists, I’ve been following the Assange case for a while, but I deliberately avoided discussing it. Better writers than me (and I should include a thank you to Sady Doyle, who is absolutely incredible writer and, from what I’ve seen, a pretty fucking amazing human being) have taken it on, and personally, I didn’t have the energy or the courage to engage with something so huge and so polarized. What I did want to write about, however, was Edmonton’s recent anti-rape campaign, which was briefly covered on a few blogs some weeks ago. The Don’t Be That Guy campaign is one of the first I’ve seen to fight sexual assault by placing the responsibility on men not to rape, rather than on women to avoid all contact with alcohol/taxi cabs/skirts/other human beings to protect themselves. Specifically, the campaign tells men that taking advantage of intoxicated women is rape. It may not seem like much, but it’s a pretty big step forward, and I am grateful that it exists.

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Anti-Choicers Think Botched Abortions Are Awesome

By now I’m sure most of you have read this awful story, about a 13-year-old girl who was hospitalized after self-inducing an abortion with a pencil. The 30-year-old abuser whom news stories insist on calling her “boyfriend” has since been arrested on charges of rape and “concealing the death of a child”.

Everything about this story is absolutely horrifying. As Jill at Feministe points out, it is an awful reminder of just how far we still have to go before abortion is really safe and accessible for everyone. I can only hope that this girl will make a full recovery and live a long, happy life free of abuse and unwanted media attention. I also hope that the other girls and women who find themselves in similar situations have better access to reproductive health care, and to supportive families and communities, and don’t have to take such desperate and dangerous risks in order to maintain some semblance of bodily autonomy.

Not so for Bryan Kemper. This so-called “pro-life” activist wants to remind us that, while rape is bad and stuff, this girl is still an evil baby killer:

“I am sure this story probably has most people wanting to vomit and cry at the same time as their hearts break for this little girl. I would also guess however that many of those same people would not even bat an eye if her method of killing her child had been a RU 486 prescription from the local Planned Parenthood,” Kemper said.

“I would goes as far as saying many would praise her for making such a brave choice,” he added. “The method of killing the child should not matter.”

Apparently, all of us pro-choice folk think that rape is totally okay as long as rape victims have safe abortions (because don’t forget, being pro-choice means you think that everyone should have abortions all the time). I mean, if we really cared about this kid, we’d want her to be forced to undergo nine months of pregnancy and risk her life giving birth to her rapist’s child, right? Right?

And it doesn’t stop there:

“If the girl had gone to Planned Parenthood he would probably still be raping her as I doubt they would have turned him in,” Kemper explained.

Like, this girl had had a regular, safe abortion and hadn’t had to go to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, her rapist would never have been arrested! That’s right: lack of access to reproductive healthcare stops rapists.

Hey, I have a better idea. How about we stop fucking condoning rape and making excuses for rapists and telling women what we can and cannot do with our bodies? That would involve acknowleding that women matter more than the contents of our uteri, though, and I don’t see the “pro-life” crowd adopting that idea anytime soon.

Listen, if I worked at a Planned Parenthood, and a 13-year-old girl came in after being impregnated by a 30-year-old man, of course I’d want to find the child rapist piece of shit who had been abusing her, and have said child rapist locked up for the rest of his pathetic worthless life. But the fact is that this girl probably didn’t get a safe abortion precisely because she was afraid of her abuser being reported to the police. If patients’ confidentiality isn’t respected – even when those patients are obviously experiencing abuse – the most vulnerable members of the population will avoid seeking care when they need it, and many will die or suffer permanent damage as a result. Abuse is complicated, and it cannot be prevented by infringing on people’s privacy, or by denying their rights. Even when those people are children.

I’d go on, but Jill says it much better than I ever could:

We fail girls all the time. We put girls in impossible, heart-wrenching positions. We give girls little autonomy and few options, and then we’re surprised when they act like animals caught in traps.

Predators like Michael James Lisk, her “boyfriend,” are entirely responsible for the crimes they commit. But this girl needed a safety net, and she did not have one.

ETA: Apparently Pennsylvania, where this took place, has a parental consent law for minors seeking abortions. Yet another example of how these laws only put girls at greater risk. (So yes, Jill Stanek, this is your fucking fault.)


This might be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen on the internet.

The world would be a much, much better place if these were real.

(Via Sociological Images.)

An Open Letter to Stephen Harper

Mr. Prime Minister,

What, exactly, are you trying to achieve? I suspect that your goal is not to be seen as a misogynist or a bully, or to alienate any voter who happens to have a uterus – which is too bad, really, because if that was the case, you’d be wildly successful. Is this some kind of show of power? Are you trying to sneak your religious beliefs into policy decisions without anyone noticing? Or did you really just want to tell the women of the developing world to drop dead? Whatever your intention, Mr. Harper, you’re not doing yourself, or your party, any favours.

Let’s start with the basics: According to a Conservative party spokesman, “Canada’s contribution to maternal and child health may include family planning. However, Canada’s contribution will not include funding abortion.” [source] First off, may include family planning? Maternal and child health are nearly impossible without family planning of some kind. Women’s ability to take care of ourselves and our families depends on our ability to control our fertility. Second (and listen closely, Mr. Harper, because I get the feeling you weren’t paying attention the first 500 or so times you were told this), abortion is family planning. It’s not a separate category. Like contraception, it allows women to decide whether to have children. I think what your MPs were trying to say is that Canada’s contribution will involve the types of family planning that you approve of, and that aren’t too expensive, and that don’t upset your delicate conservative sensibilities.

Abortion is a last resort. It’s used only when something has gone wrong, when other methods have failed, or weren’t available in the first place. No one – least of all low-income women in the developing world – is having abortions just for fun. We have abortions because it is absolutely necessary, for us or for our families. When abortion is legally, geographically or financially inaccessible, women die. This is what you have committed yourself to. You and your party are allowing women to die because a necessary medical procedure doesn’t sit right with your ideology. I hope you’re proud of yourselves.

I doubt that Senator Ruth had your blessing when she told Canadian women’s groups to “shut the fuck up” about abortion, lest you and your cronies turn this into an Issue, but she was right, wasn’t she? After all, you folks do have a pretty nasty history of cutting funding to anyone who speaks out against you – including fourteen women’s groups that had the nerve to get worked up about you thinking that women’s rights are optional. The message was clear: shut up, or we’ll shut you up for good.

You know what? I dare you. Make this an election issue. Ignatieff would love that. Your stance on reproductive rights has held you back from gaining a majority in Parliament so far, and if you push it any further, you won’t even have a government. Personally, I’d be fine with that.

You know this, of course, which is why you’ve always stopped short of an attack on Canadian women’s reproductive rights, and which is why you’re cutting funding left and right instead of engaging in any sort of debate. Senator Ruth, for all her lack of tact or compassion, was right about another thing: this isn’t about Canadian women’s health. It’s about the health of women who are far less fortunate, and far more vulnerable. Unfortunately, it turns out that women don’t just get angry when our own rights are being violated. We get angry about human rights violations, like, all the time! Even when the people affected are in other countries! You made this an issue, and the Canadian people are going to hold you accountable.

As a Canadian, I’m ashamed to have a prime minister who thinks women matter less than the contents of our uterus. I’m ashamed to have a government that thinks it can intimidate women into submission. I’m ashamed that, with Canada’s reputation for humanitarian work, you think that it’s acceptable to pick and choose the types of medical care that disadvantaged women are allowed to receive. This is a disgrace. Feminists around the world are beginning to hear about it, and you continue to dig yourself deeper and deeper.

If there’s one thing I can promise you, Mr. Harper, it’s that we will absolutely not shut the fuck up.

Brett K

Marvel: SVU; or, Why I No Longer Read Superhero Comics

Joey Comeau is my hero. Like Captain America, except feminist (and Canadian).

Have you started reading A Softer World yet? If not, what is wrong with you?

This Just In: Conservative Government Hates Women, No Longer Feels Like Being Subtle About It

Fuck you, Stephen Harper.

(Yes, I’m still around; I’ve just been crazy busy these last couple of weeks and haven’t had much to write about. I promise I will eventually get back to writing posts whose contents are longer than their titles.)