Feminist Link Round Up 12.25.14

This is ‘artistic rape’, terrorism

So said pop artist Madonna following leaked demos of her new album.

After tracks purportedly from an unreleased thirteenth studio album leaked to the internet, Madonna took to Instagram to decry her treatment as “artistic rape.”

“These are early leaked demo’s half of which wont even make it on my album the other half have changed and evolved [sic]. This is a form of terrorism,” the “Like a Prayer” singer wrote in a caption on Instagram. (Update: On Wednesday afternoon, the singer deleted the post.) In another caption, Madonna wrote “Thank you for not listening! Thank you for your loyalty!”

Diminishing the severity of rape by comparing it to the theft and online leaking of an artists album? That’s Rape Culture.  Rape is one thing: non-consensual sex.

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 Female MIT Computer Scientists host Reddit AMA session

Needless to say, many of the responses demonstrated the necessity of feminism.

As computer science PhD students, we were interested in fielding questions about programming, academia, MIT CSAIL, and how we got interested in the subject in the first place. As three of the few women in our department and as supporters of women pursuing STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics], we also wanted to let people know that we were interested in answering questions about what it is like to be women in a male-dominated field. We decided to actively highlight the fact that we were three female computer scientists doing an AMA, to serve as role models in a field that’s less than 20 percent female.

As it turned out, people were extremely interested in our AMA, though some not for the reasons we expected. Within an hour, the thread had rocketed to the Reddit front page, with hundreds of thousands of pageviews and more than 4,700 comments. But to our surprise, the most common questions were about why our gender was relevant at all. Some people wondered why we did not simply present ourselves as “computer scientists.” Others questioned if calling attention to gender perpetuated sexism. Yet others felt that we were taking advantage of the fact that we were women to get more attention for our AMA.

The interactions in the AMA itself showed that gender does still matter. Many of the comments and questions illustrated how women are often treated in male-dominated STEM fields. Commenters interacted with us in a way they would not have interacted with men, asking us about our bra sizes, how often we “copy male classmates’ answers,” and even demanding we show our contributions “or GTFO [Get The **** Out]”. One redditor helpfully called out the double standard, saying, “Don’t worry guys – when the male dog groomer did his AMA (where he specifically identified as male), there were also dozens of comments asking why his sex mattered. Oh no, wait, there weren’t.”

As for the question of whether we brought this treatment upon ourselves by mentioning our two X chromosomes, it is well known people give women on the internet a hard time whether they call attention to their gender or not. And as one redditor says, “Gender neutrality and a push for equal rights is prevalent precisely because men and women have fought for it to become a topic of discussion.”

The dynamics of our AMA reflects gender issues that lead to disparities in who chooses to pursue careers in STEM fields. People treat girls and boys differently from an early age, giving them different feedback and expectations. There is strong evidence that American culture discourages even girls who demonstrate exceptional talent from pursuing STEM disciplines. For those few young women who continue to study science or engineering in college, there is still a good chance that they will leave afterward. There has recently been much discussion about how tech culture causes women to leave “in droves;” the “leaky pipeline” phenomenon of females choosing to stop pursuing careers in STEM is a well-known problem.

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 President Obama strikes a blow against gendered toys (Video)

“You know what? I just want to make sure some girls play some ball,” President Obama said as he knocked out the idea of gendered toys at the annual Toys for Tots volunteer event in early December.

In her opening speech, Michelle Obama welcomed her husband and promised to “break him in slowly” on his first visit. The president got right to work as he sorted toys into separate bins for boys and girls at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C. A basketball, tool kit and tee ball game went straight into the girl bins as families looked on.

“I’m just trying to break down these gender stereotypes,” he said.

Ooh, palpable hit. With the power and privilege the President has, he ought to help shatter gender stereotypes more often.  Here’s the video:

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 Brave Iranian woman defies Iran’s ban on dancing in public

Posted earlier this week on the Facebook page My Stealthy Freedom, the grainy video shows a young Iranian woman dancing like Taylor Swift at an awards show to a song by the British pop group Little Mix in the middle of a subway car.

In any other context, this energetic display would be of little note. But this dancing is political: It’s an act of protest against Iran’s strict laws prohibiting dancing in public. Not only does she dance in public, but she continues to do so even after her hijab slips from her head. The woman therefore ends up breaking two Iranian laws, one against dancing in public and the other against appearing in public without her head covering. 

My Stealthy Freedom is run by Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, who spoke to the Independent about the video as well as the growing cultural war in Iran. “Every day in Iran there is a cultural war between the Iranian government and young people. … If you live as a free person in Iran you are living as a criminal every day.”

“Facebook and social media is showing a hidden face of Iran that is never seen in the media,” Alinejad, who lives in the United States, continued. “It allows Iranian people who have never had a voice or a chance to speak to form their own media.”

Alinejad — a well-known activist — said she was initially reluctant to post the video in light of the recent punishment of the six Iranian youths who made a video dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy” this past spring. In September they were each sentenced to six months in jail and 91 lashes. Alinejad told the Independentshe published the video on Facebook because the young woman’s face was blurred, making her unrecognizable in a court of law.

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 Let’s talk about female masturbation

A competition in Sweden has renewed debate over what is still one of the most stigmatized subjects of modern sexuality: female masturbation.

The competition is centered on declaring a new name for female masturbation, and the winner will be selected from over 1,000 entries in June 2015. While the competition represents a step in the right direction toward legitimizing this healthy sexual act that remains taboo for women, its mere existence underscores a universal insecurity surrounding the issue.

Research backs this up: Some people believe it’s actually impossible for women to masturbate, while others think it happens too infrequently to warrant any discussion. Meanwhile, a survey of 20,000 people conducted by the Australian Study of Health and Relationships shows that most women refrain from masturbating, arguably largely due to embarrassment and discomfort caused by the stigma around it.

“Less than half of all women aged between 16 and 69 said they had masturbated in the past year, and for girls aged between 16 and 19 the figure falls to 30%,” the Brisbane Times reported. “By contrast, a resounding … 76% men engaged in self-pleasuring.”

Here’s the point:Women need to get over ourselves when it comes to getting off.

Which is why the Swedish competition is such good news — naming the act gives it credibility. “When it comes to masturbation,” Kristina Ljungros, spokeswoman for Swedish Association for Sexuality Education, said, “People mostly think about just men doing it, and we don’t think of it as common for women. If we don’t have a word in the language, how can we even talk about it?”

Some would argue the existing stigma can be traced back men’s desire to control women’s sexuality. Masturbation inherently removes men from women’s lives, making women independent in a way that still makes society uncomfortable. Even A-list women celebrities are castigated for too outwardly displaying sexuality — as recently as last year, Miley Cyrus and Beyoncé were criticized for the odes to female masturbation they conveyed in “Adore You” and “Rocket,” respectively.

But while female sexuality is threatening to men because it is seen as aggressive, female masturbation is doubly threatening because masturbation is seen as an act only men do. Furthermore, masturbation is evidence that women do not need men for sexual pleasure — not surprising when statistics prove that women only climax 64% of the time during heterosexual, vaginal sex.

“Stigma around female masturbation is part of a longer legacy of stigma against displays of autonomous female sexuality,” Amber Jamilla Musser, assistant professor of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, told Mic.

Culture has long declared women should only exhibit passive, responsive desires when it comes to sex. Early psychiatrists turned this into a medical truth by labeling female sexuality, and masturbation in particular, as a psychological disease most clearly with “female hysteria.” These psychiatrists, Musser said, “hinted at independence from men and the potential participation in a sexual underworld of lesbianism, masturbation and miscegenation.”

Reading the above and knowing there are pissants who don’t accept that Patriarchy is a thing…argh!

Feminist Link Round Up 12.25.14