Sociological concepts are controversial in the skeptic/atheist community. Many of its members don’t think of sociology as a “real” science, or otherwise dismiss the claims such a peculiar field makes as not holding up to the scrutiny expected in biology, geology, or physics. Criticisms of important sociological concepts like privilege tend to rely either on argument from personal incredulity or on hazy readings of introductory philosophy texts.
The funny thing is, philosobros who think they can undo sociological privilege with binary logic or harsh skepticism about the motives of other humans have only a few pages to flip before their own sources turn against them. Equally basic philosophical concepts and discussions underpin major sociological findings, and remind us to be aware of the limits of our own knowledge in other ways.
Continue reading “Quale’s Privilege”
This week, I expanded my blogging horizons by giving my readers the option to ask me questions they’ve been curious about. The result was a mix of questions about me and things they hope I write about at greater length in the future, and it’s been fun to read and to contemplate.
Continue reading “Ask Alyssa Anything”
It is not possible to run out of reasons to love Steven Universe. This show’s explicitly queer representation is staggeringly high for a show as mainstream as it is; its psychological depth is impressive; it tells us forthrightly and aggressively that our genders should not constrain our possibilities; most of the characters are women or people of color (and largely voiced by people of color); there is a plot arc that is unambiguously about consent and another about being willing to seek comfort from one’s friends in crisis; onward and onward.
It’s also an impressively diverse treatment of immigrants’ and refugees’ feelings about the place they used to call home.
Spoilers out to episode 83 follow.
Continue reading “Immigrant Gems”
Bra sizes are a notorious quagmire. Like everything else in feminine clothing, it relies on a close match between specific items and specific wearers but isn’t priced or made available in a way that actually enables that kind of tailoring, and the end result is that different regions, times of day, brands, weather patterns, and Pokémon swarms all seem to influence how well a particular bra fits. Getting one’s bust sized is as much art as science, and that gets messy for bra wearers whose proportions are at all unusual and/or who have reason to be wary of or insecure around common sources of this information.
I’ve been on estrogen for seven months. I have experienced breast growth since before that, during the month I was on spironolactone alone. My bust is currently substantial enough that I’d need a binder or similar tool to hide it, or a heavy coat in whose fluff it could vanish. It even clearly looks like something in a (padded) bikini, when most bathing suits reduce one’s apparent heft fairly dramatically.
Getting a handle on my bust size has been a long-term challenge. One problem is fairly obvious: I’m still growing, and very well might be for a year or two to come. Another is that, between being a two-puberty transgender woman and having mild kyphosis, my upper back’s shape and proportions are somewhat confusing for me, let alone for erstwhile sizers. But growth is an incremental process past the literally-overnight that got me started, and even my curious posture isn’t that much of a mess for standard bra patterns.
So I’ve gotten sized. A bunch of times.
Continue reading “Sizing or Bust”
Tortured analogies between transgender people and people who pretend at a different racial background than their own are so banal that they feature in South Park’s warpath against people like me. They have been made by every professional transantagonist at some point to declare people like me as invalid as Dolezal’s claim to blackness, and by Dolezal’s defenders to claim that recognizing the offensive absurdity of her blackface routine is the same as denying the legitimacy of trans genders.
I’m not even pretending at a neutral introduction. This analogy is sickening on multiple levels, and I am tired of it.
Continue reading “Stop Comparing Rachel Dolezal to Me”
This year will most likely be the last year that I attend the Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology’s yearly symposium. This small-scale conference is advertised internally, and draws its attendees almost exclusively from the two university biology departments that comprise the OCIB. As a graduating Ph.D., I’m unlikely to either get those advertisements or have the open schedule required to be present on subsequent occasions. It has served as a way for biology students at the two departments to meet and get to know one another, for people to become familiar with the research going on elsewhere at the Institute, to practice for higher-stakes presentations at larger conferences, and to attend curated talks from well-credentialed and diverse researchers in various related fields. I have never found attendance at the OCIB Symposium to be wasted, not even the year where they got that weirdo suggesting we start using Aristotelian teleological models to better understand parts of biology.
(For those not in the know, those models also underlie much Christian philosophy and therefore Intelligent Design.)
This year, though, was marred by two instances of tone-deaf, science-illiterate microaggression that only get to keep the “micro-” qualifier because I’m not prepared to accuse these two speakers of deliberately attacking the autistic and transgender communities. Yet.
Continue reading “Some Thoughts for the Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology”
Outside viewers might find the idea of pan-PoC spaces confusing. Surely, the experiences of people of South Asian, aboriginal Australian, Korean, Caribbean, African, and African-American descent are far too distinct to function in a single environment meant to recognize and validate them all. To a point, this is an accurate observation, and there is much that is not shared between East Asian, Amerindian, and Arab racialization, not to mention how most racialized groups are still at least a step higher on colonizers’ racial hierarchy than people of African descent. But there is also a great deal we all have in common. Some forms of racialization are nigh-universal, including fetishizing exoticism and making fun of our food before it becomes “trendy.” There are also, perhaps more importantly, things that members of virtually all immigrant or otherwise marginalized communities have to deal with from each other, which outsiders often struggle to understand.
Immigrant communities are clannish. Between racism and homesickness, they collect in particular neighborhoods and avoid entanglements with the white majority in particular and with members of other ethnic groups in general. They become preoccupied with maintaining culture in the face of others’ hegemony. They receive their children’s inevitable non-member partners, who don’t speak their language, place social values in the same order, or reminisce fondly about the same food, with suspicion and resentment until they somehow “prove” their worth. Some take this further and develop a siege mentality, in which any display of weakness, vulnerability, or information about how the community operates that outsiders can see is beyond the pale. Especially in communities that already prioritize appearance and internal competition, this is an easy trait to develop.
It’s also a pattern that could not more easily conceal and enable abusive behavior than if it were designed specifically for that purpose.
Continue reading “No Honor amongst Family”