Carmen Berenguer wins Ibero-American Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize

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Happy Poetry Month! Congratulations to Carmen Berenguer who has won the 2008 Premio Iberoamericana de Poesía Pablo Neruda.

I am very happy for her!

And for everyone who will now read her marvelous poems!

It makes me extremely happy that work so radical, experimental, feminist, and wild, has been recognized and honored.

carmen berenguer

“Es una sorpresa por la poesía que yo hago, que de pronto puede ponerle trabas al entendimiento y al sentimiento. Mi poesía es sonora, interna, musical, digo cosas increíbles”, comenta. “Soy una mujer combativa, vengo de los conventillos, de la pensión y esos argumentos hicieron que me fijara en las injusticias”, agrega.

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It’s a surprise because of the poetry I write, that can suddenly put up blocks to understanding and feeling. My poetry is echoing, internal, musical, I say unbelievable things. I’m a fighting woman, I come from the projects, from poor neighborhoods, and that background fixed my thoughts on injustice.

Berenguer often breaks words and form, with poem titles at the bottom of pages or strangely broken across two pages, like this:

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and she ranges into concrete poems in her early work such as Bobby Sand desfallece en el muro as well as in later work such as the poem typeset to look like the Chilean flag. You can see a glimpse of that poem above.

I have translated some of her work over the last few years.

So far, I have spent the most time reading A media asta and La gran hablada. While I love her short poems, I am most fond of her longer work which sprawls and rants and sobs and screams across the page, long poems that build me up to a peak of understanding. It is not “leaping poetry” in the way that Bly meant, with graceful elisions. It is broken, unclear, obstructive, difficult, obstreporous. And, that is suitable, that is what is right, when you write about political violence, about gendered violence, about bodies, oppression, about Chile under Pinochet, as Berenguer does.

Carmen Berenguer

That is what I love best in poetry. I love when it has physicality, when it fights with sense, when it has elbows that stick out, when it feels like wading through mud or struggling to make my own broken body act and endure. It is poetry that rewards effort just as bodies do. Really kick ass poetry, seriously ass-kicking, rejects easy understanding, the facile Hmmmm and nod of agreement. It is perturbing! Bothersome! Berenguer’s work is all that. I think of her work as mixing up the neobaroque/neobarroso with écriture féminine.

I want to quote some of her poems and post my translations, but I am trying to get them published in journals at the moment. So here are a few excerpts. This is from “Bala humanitaria”, “Humanitarian bullet”.

…..Ese dardo
Penetra rompiendo la piel disparado a cien metros
Rompe la piel en sugundos el dedo gatillado
Rompe el silencio y lo dispara
Ondas sonoras irradian el campo comprometiendo el sonido
Interlocutor del suave murmullo El dardo penetrando
Los ojos abiertos y un ojo semicerrado afinando la puntería
El hombre acaricia el gatillo con deseos
…..
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….. This shaft
Penetrates breaking the skin shot at a hundred meters
Breaks the skin in seconds the trigger finger
Breaks the silence and shatters it
Sonorous waves irradiate the compromised field of sound
Interlocutor of the smooth whisper The shaft penetrates
Open eyes and a half-closed eye sharpened the aim
The man caresses the trigger with desires
……

Here I thought for a long time about how to translate “dardo” and though “dart” or arrow would be more literal, I think “shaft” gets the phallic imagery properly into the poem. It is important because it is a poem that links rape and violence, that takes a gendered view of the sort of violence that can consider it right to make international law about the correct way to kill people with proper bullets. The lines on penetration and holes are not an accident… Further, I would say that it is good to note how Berenguer speaks about sound, about echoes and fracturing; this comes up elsewhere in her work and I think it is right to think of it as the Howl, as the song of the poet, the fundamental sound, poetry, art, creation — broken deliberately in order to reveal multiple truths. So, this is a poem about international politics and humanitarian bullets, violence; but it is also about gender, violence, rape; there is an industrial note, recalling thoughts of metals and mining, global industry; and it is also about words, poetry, logic, speaking, art, creation. That is the kind of poem I can get behind, 100%.

I feel inspired to go work on my translation of “Mala piel” now… and will post some excerpts from it later this month.

a media asta

It is maybe just a particular pleasure for me that poems like this have been honored in the name of Neruda. While I love Neruda’s poetry very much and honor him, I have some difficulties as a feminist with the way he writes about women’s bodies and how they become his male dominated metaphor of art and life and love, his landscape to traverse and discover and see. In fact, Neruda-worshiper Robert Bly is just the same for me sometimes with his graceful, easy “leaping”. For me as a poet, having spent years thinking about this in the way that poets do: I say fuck the leap. It is like cheating. Get your feet on the ground, dudes! Stay in your body! Go fast, but stay dirty! Thus it is particularly sweet to me, for a fantastic strong political woman who writes from and of the body, who makes words really embody, to win a prize named after Neruda.

Links:

* YouTube: el ojo no es un territorio, a video-poema.

* Palabra Virtual: The text of selected poems including a small fragment of one of my favorites, “Mala piel”, and a recording of “Desconocido”.

* YouTube: Berenguer en Chile Poesía

* Chilean wins Neruda Prize for poetry

* Carmen Berenguer, Ibero American Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize – with brief
intervew.

* Pablo Neruda Prize 2008 to Chilean poet

Highly trained girl-monkey sys admin bait


geeking at the conference
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry

I was saddened and angered recently at a geeky gathering, to hear a very annoying and sexist story about women at techology conferences. A young man was talking to another guy and a couple of women who also looked to be in their 20s. He was laughing and telling a story with a tone of “Wow, listen to this hilarious amazing thing!”

According to this poor little dude, it is hilarious that it has become common that at sys admin and other tech conferences, big companies send women in undercover to do stealth recruiting. His story laid out how the big companies “specially train the women to sound like they know what they’re talking about”, priming them with lessons in the correct use of technical jargon. They send sexy women who are basically “high class call girls” to flirt with the valuable (assumed unquestioningly to be male) sys admins and programmers and get their information, and to figure out which ones are good and know their job. Then the Trained Monkey Fake Sys Admin Whores pass that information on to their superiors (also assumed in the story to be male) who actually know what computers are, for them to do intensive recruiting.

“Hahahaha!” laughed the young women at the party.

“Wow, hahahah!” laughed the guy listening.

“It’s totally true!” said the young spreader of poisonous, sexist, urban myths. “I even know guys who have slept with them!”

Oh for fuck’s sake. Let’s just undermine the legitimacy of technical women at conferences just A LITTLE BIT MORE with our messed-up “booth babe” stories, shall we?

If this even had a grain of truth to it, what would it sound like, framed differently? “Some companies send technical recruiters to technical conferences.” That’s it. There is nothing newsworthy there. I mean, DUH.

But, as soon as there are WOMEN in the story, it is given a misogynist spin, which is assumed to be hilarious and titillating and to make the listener feel superior. Because the technical recruiters are female, they are sluts, or “call girls”; definitely sexually available and exploitable. Because they are female, they are assumed in the story to be ignorant of computers, technology, sys adminning, and programming; any knowledge they DO have is “fake” because it is is artificial “training” given to them as a thin veneer just to mask their real goal which is sexual predation on the sys admins, run by mythical “big company” pimps.

I was super amazed to hear this crap coming out of someone’s mouth, at a party which was chock full of skilled, amazing, geeky women, and men who are sweet feminist allies. But, on the other hand, I was not amazed, because this is exactly the sort of thing people say all the time about, and around, technical women, or any women in male-dominated fields. It is part of the background of undermining and de-legitimizing women, that poisons the fucking air we breathe, that makes people assume we suck, that makes us women have to prove ourselves in every new professional context, to everyone we meet, that means we have to be 10 times better than a man in a comparable context before other people believe in our professional credentials.

Just think about that next time you hear a bunch of dudes arguing about why there aren’t more women in programming and engineering, and, quit looking for your biological explanations, and go check your own assumptions, and the kind of stories you tell and tolerate in your communities.

If babies were all considered disabled

This morning I woke up thinking, “What if babies were treated as the disabled are treated?”

What if infancy was medicalized the way that old age is medicalized?

Pregnancy would be an embarrassing, extended disaster. It would mean a person was about to go down to the very bottom of our economic system. You’d be quarantined in your home by governmental order. In order to go out in public, you’d have to prove you don’t have a dangerous infectious disease that makes your stomach swell up. You’d get doctor’s signatures send in forms to your insurance company and the government to declare you were pregnant, and every couple of weeks you’d have to renew those forms.

Glossing over labor and delivery, let’s consider what happens when you’ve got a baby. It can’t walk! It can’t eat food! It’s disabled, poor thing. It needs special nutritional supplements that can only be prescribed by a doctor. It also needs a special device called a stroller which costs maybe five or ten thousand dollars. You’d apply through Medicare to get one. Maybe they won’t approve one for use outside the home! There’s stroller stores, especially online, but wow, would you buy a Bugaboo stroller that cost $5000 without getting to see it first and whether it would be good for your situation, or would fit in your car or whether you could lift it up? By the time your prescription for the “stroller” had been approved by doctors and you’d proved through several insurance company and social worker home visits that you indeed had a baby, and by the time the stroller arrived, your baby could walk. Oh, you could rent a basic stroller from a medical supply store for 10 bucks a day, but it would be MADE OF LEAD.

In some ways you feel that the doctors and social service agencies have a bit of an attitude that if they delay long enough, the problem will shift, and disappear. Just as they act like older people or people with disabilities are going to die soon anyway, so why are they fussing so much about having this wheelchair, or ventilator, or home health care? If they wait long enough, the problem will disappear.

Instead of this medicalized model of the distribution of goods and services, we have Babies R Us, giant stores full of shelves where you can try and buy all manner of highly specialized products for babies. In fact this industry is fairly new. It was created when companies realized that babies change their requirements and abilities every couple of months and that there were people who would buy all new junk for them. Instead of carrying babies in slings or on our hips and requiring that cars have seatbelts, we have 3 different sizes of car seat and a million varieties of strollers good for differerent ages. We have cribs and playpens and Pack-n-Play and Exersaucers and those bouncy things that go in doorways.

Disabled people, and older people, are a similarly lucrative market. The way the market is utterly sucks. There is no Crips R Us or Spazzmart where I can go browse the shelves of fascinating bright colored crap. INstead, I was at a sort of auto body shop warehouse wheelchair store, with a couple of mechanics who order stuff off the internet for me and who guard the knowledge of how to fix wheelchairs jealously.

You can order wheelchairs off the Internet these days but wheelchair stores haven’t change their model of trying to make a profit. And from what I can tell they are failing to make much of a profit. Or if they are it’s at the top and the store doesn’t reflect it.

Seriously, it’s as if we all bought our cars from the skankiest auto repair shops, and there weren’t really any sorts of customizations or accessories we could put on them. There wouldn’t be any auto parts stores. Right now, I can think of at least 3 big auto parts stores within a mile of my house, and every hardware store, Target, and drugstore has an aisle of junk to bling out your car.

I put my hope in the baby boomers; as they all age, they will expect to be able to cruise the aisles of the CripMart and get flowered cane tips and colostomy bags to coordinate with their power suits.

26 million Americans have a severe disability. 1.6 million people use wheelchairs, and I’d bet my boots that many more people would if they could: if using a wheelchair was shown as useful, cool, empowering, for real, and if old people didn’t have to jump through 20 million hoops to get decent ones that don’t weight a hundred pounds. Instead, older people limit their activities and hide their struggles, ashamed, and scared to let anyone see that they might need help, because our system of “help” is so demeaning, dehumanizing, and awful that they’ll rot in an armchair in front of their televisions for 10 years till they die rather than admit that they might need a walker. It’s not stupid pride. It’s a reasonable fear that they will lose whatever independence and autonomy they still have.

I was talking with people about this who argue that maybe the market is limited, so companies don’t think they can make a profit. But it’s not all that limited. There’s something like 5 million babies born every year, and look at that market in baby stuff. If you look at who’s elderly in the U.S. Census the numbers are completely crazy. And in fact… even if you assume that disabled and elderly people are not going to be able to afford to buy this stuff, they’ll have relatives who might be able to.

Having there be real competition to build and sell this junk will help bring the prices down. In 1984, there was no market for “mountain bikes”. Now there’s shops with them everywhere. Though I couldn’t find how many are sold in the U.S. in a year, I wonder how those numbers compare to the potential wheelchair market? My point is, someone is missing a giant capitalist opportunity.

How hard it was for me in the 90s to get my first wheelchair! On the advice of a social worker, I stole one from the hospital, the one I was in as I sat in her office crying and she told me she couldn’t help me because my diagnosis wasn’t solid. My second wheelchair, that I got from a fellow student: one with good insurance. The way that if you have a nice chair, other disabled people look you up and down and guess, “Car Accident?” because only people with good insurance can have nice wheelchairs, and good medical insurance is so very, very rare, while car insurance companies for some reason are likely to be more decent and pay up for wheelchairs promptly, covering the entire cost. The few decent wheelchairs that exist are passed from hand to hand, often through charitable foundations.

Ruth, at A Different Light writes very well about civil rights, human rights, and disability, for example in A Matter of Life and Death.

Then we have people who say they want to die because they cannot get out of their homes because there have been In Home medical equipment restrictions or they can’t afford medical equipment. Their wheelchair breaks and they can’t get another one so they are immobile. This leads to depression. Perhaps their caregiver is an aging parent who can no longer care for them – or dies. All of these changes make disabled peoples’ lives unmanageable and can make suicide look like a way out.

In the last week or so I read through all of Ruth’s archives on this blog, and through some of them on her other blogs. She makes many good points about the consumer model vs. the medical model: try here in Seeing advocacy as a tool and in On distancing from the disabled.
I realized over this past week how the medical and charity models are related — and how wrong they are.

Let people choose for themselves what they want and need!

If you would like to do a useful thought exercise, extend my stroller model to thinking about chairs and cars. People sit in regular chairs: office chairs, kitchen chairs, armchairs. There is no reason that they have to. You might argue if you were from another culture that it would be healthier if we sat on the floor or learned how to squat on our heels. (And they’d generally be right). Likewise, if we just walked places, or ran, or biked, we wouldn’t need cars to get to work. Yet… wanting to sit on a chair or ride in a car does not make a person “disabled”. But even people in dire poverty are often able to scrape up enough money to have a car and certainly to have chairs. If those things were only available to people who have the health insurance of the insanely privileged, our entire societal structure would weaken. I’d extrapolate this to say that if we made it easier for the disabled and elderly to get assistive technology and mobility devices, it would strengthen our entire society.

Pissed off cyborg in your face


New!
Originally uploaded by cdent

If this round of wheelchair use keeps for for much longer, then finally everyone in the known universe will have gone through their awkward reactions and I can stop having the most annoying boring conversation ever.

Here is something I wrote for WisCon. If only I could have forced all 1037 people there to read it.

A quick lesson in wheelchair manners:

1) Please ask before touching!
2) That goes for pushing the chair especially.
3) My lap is not your shelf.
4) I’ll ask if I need direct help.
5) “Would you like help” is fine, good manners; “Here let me do that for you” while doing it already — is not. I value my abilities.
6) Walking beside me is nicer than walking behind me; then I can see you.
7) Coming down to my level for conversation is extra polite, thanks! Looming over me especially from behind… not so much.
8) Think of the chair as an extension of my body or personal space, treat it as such.
9) Thanks for unblocking my path so I don’t get trapped, much appreciated. Move your backpack out of the aisle.
10) Really, please don’t move the chair! I wouldn’t pick you up and move you, would I?
11) Please don’t bump it either, it’s annoying and often it hurts me.
12) Let’s talk about science fiction and feminism instead of wheelchairs and disability and pain, once we get past introductory chit chat.
13) No I don’t really want to listen to your process your feelings and fears about disability unless we’re already friends.
14) No I don’t want your medical advice unless I ask for it.
15) If I ran over your toes, my bad, I’m so sorry
16) I’m not here to satisfy the whims of your curiosity. Why do you need to know? Why do you want to know? Could you possibly put off finding out till you know me better?

Clip and save!

Because that was the polite part. Here is the rude angry in your face part:

What ‘s wrong with you? Why are you in the chair? Oh my god WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU? Is this temporary? Is this permanent? Did you break your leg? Did you go to the doctor? Did you get an MRI? What exactly is wrong? You sure get around well, how did you learn? When will you be out of the chair? Are you sure? I’m so sorry! Are you in pain? Are you going to die? You sure look comfortable. Wow lucky you, you get to sit down while we’re all standing in line. OMG are you OKAY?

(Answers: Nothing, what the hell is wrong with YOU? So that I can get around. I was born and then grew up, what happened to you? I don’t know. I don’t know. No, but I can tell you really really really want me to have broken my leg. What do you think, do you think I went to a doctor, but that’s not what you’re asking, you’re asking what my prognosis is. Do you want to help diagnose me? I don’t know but I have some possibilities which we could discuss exhaustively OR we could have some other more interesting conversation. I learned last time I was crippled which was around 93-98 with varying degrees of disability, oh that surprises you, check your assumptions at the door; oh by the way you seem to get around really well for someone with their head up their own ass. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m sorry too, for your mama for raising someone so rude and boring, I’d rather be crippled than be a drip like you. Yes I am quite likely in a considerable amount of pain, and you know what, I also was in varying degrees of physical pain when you saw me walking around, why must you bring it up? Yes I’m going to die and so are we all and so are you, especially, about 5 seconds from now. If you want to try being as comfortable as I am I can beat you up right now and stab some daggers into your back. Uh yeah lucky me I have run out of sarcasm to even throw at this one, o falsely jocular person. Yeah, are YOU okay?

Hey you know what, world? Let’s have a conversation about your painful struggle with your own hemorrhoids. Because apparently your head is up your ass. That must be really painful for you and I really admire how you deal with the challenge!

Every time I go out in public in a crowd I get totally fed up. I’m really sick of being the crippled girl. It was a relief last night to scoot over to the couch for a bit and have the pressure off me, the pressure of being looked at and stuck in that box in people’s minds.

You can see their faces as they think “Wow… that could happen to me.”

Pain is annoying and tiring and distracting, and I have very much valued the times it goes away (rare) and that it doesn’t interfere with physical function too much. However, it is not new. It is also not the end of the world.

Limited mobility is annoying and distracting and inconvenient and sometimes isolating or frustrating but you know what… the worst part of it for me so far is the way it makes people act like dumbasses.

I’m off to write a really dumb Mary Sue-ish science fiction story where everyone slathers pity on the people who can’t interface with the cyborg telepathic alien hovercraft symbionts and are doomed to dreary, unassisted, bipedal motion.

Increasingly upset about the mean kids

This keeps getting worse and worse. I had read in several places that Maryam Scoble was “mentioned in meankids.org” but that’s got to qualify as one of the worst euphemisms ever. “Mentioned”? For god’s sake people. It’s one of the nastiest pieces of racist, misogynist, cruel, psychotic garbage I’ve ever read. It’s not snark and it’s not satire.

I’d like to know exactly who wrote it. I’d also like to know who thinks it’s funny. Go on, sign your names and stand up proudly to defend your brand of humor. Cowards.

What a fucking outrage. I keep trying to calm down and have perspective, and to say what I’ve got to say about being fearless and not letting this panic people into demanding more closed spaces and less free speech, and I still think that, but then I get mad all over again, and am feeling in the grip of that particular internet outrage obsession where I want to check technorati every 15 minutes and see what else has been revealed, and now that I’ve read this I’m back to square 1 of boiling over with rage.

I’m going to go read Pandagon and poke around in the feminist blogosophere because I think I’m only going to find the rage I need to inhabit there. Maybe Twisty Faster will write something. Tennessee Guerilla Womenzuzu at Feministe

I know that there are people who wish this would blow over. But I think we need to look at the ways racism and misogyny are connected here. I’d like us (“the blogosphere”) to reject racist hate speech very firmly. Fine, let there be free speech and let it exist in some nasty little dark corner of the web where the white power insane-o people lurk. But not anywhere that we approve of and link to, not in our own tech blogger communities.

I think it’s fine for us to do this. I am a harsh critic of my own community as well, as you can see if you look at my calling-out of misogyny from people who came to BlogHer when a bunch of women I consider friends and colleagues talked misogynist smack about the BeJane women from some Microsoft blog, using the rhetoric of woman-hating against them. That wasn’t okay with me either, so I pointed it out.

I’ve been the target of dumb internet name-calling and yeah it bothered me and I whined to anyone who would listen. Yet at the same time I was kind of amused. It never crossed the line into completely cruel. It was just a bunch of people calling me a dumbass. And there was a level on which I not only didn’t mind, I kind of admired them on the principle that I like polemics, I engage in them, and it’s only fair that I be the target of them sometimes, and without polemical writing everyone would be wishy washy and boring and there’d be nothing to take a stance against. However, the instances I’ve seen so far from meankids.org cross the line from satire, humor, and polemics into actual insanity.

Here is a further thought.

Rage and powerful writing can combine to create calls to violent revolution. For instance, the SCUM Manifesto. Calls for violence attempt to justify extreme actions. I don’t agree with violent revolutionary methods. Yet in then 90s when I was about 20, I re-published, in a tiny xeroxed zine form, The SCUM Manifesto, because I felt that the rage that led to that call to revolutionary action was important and should be heard, though I arrive at a different conclusion than Solanis did and would like other people to agree with me and NOT to go off shooting. Yet I think that reading it has value; it can help people to understand a particular moment in history, a rant and a manifesto that was important, and a rage against injustice. Reading it helped me understand my own feminist rage against injustice. I realize that many people might disagree with me here, but I feel it’s important. The point now of my own linking to the archived version of the racist hate-filled diatribe against Maryam is not to promote it or to harm her. It’s to document a phenomenon, now, that many people don’t understand exists. I’ve heard so many white guys and some white women say that there is no particular racism or sexism in the tech industry. What a laugh! There totally is. The people who think like this, we have to expose their hate, and “name the problem”, so that we can resist them with firmness and unity.

I would rather that the post about Maryam had never been written, and I feel sorry for the hate-filled, bitter loser who wrote it. His rage, I’m guessing, must be against people like Kathy and Maryam because they’re popular. How shallow! Get over it! Some people are popular because they’re nice, funny, fun, warm, and did I mention nice? To look at someone who is loved, and full of love themselves, and to feel the need to tear them down — for no reason other than perhaps the suspicion that others might be nice to the “popular” person in an ass-kissing way and might not critique them honestly on a professional level — is cruel and evil. It is not in any way “speaking truth to power” — the illusion I suspect that misogynist person, or community, was entertaining.

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Patriarchy exists and we're kicking its ass

My blood is BOILING WITH RAGE from reading about the threats and extreme harassment that people made against Kathy Sierra.

And I wish I could ride in on my warhorse and help fix it, but I can’t. I’m not even surprised at the threats and harassment. That stuff and real life acting out of it happens every minute of the day. The surprising thing is someone speaking up *in public* in her own voice, unmediated.

Kathy rocks for speaking up. She rocks for calling this out and exposing it on her blog. She rocks for calling the cops and the FBI, and for saying so. She wasn’t shamed into silence or afraid of being called “too sensitive” or “humorless”, two things which often stop women from speaking up. I admire Kathy’s strength. I imagine the moment after she wrote that post, when she was looking at the “Publish” button and wondering whether to push it. I’m glad she did. I’m inspired, and I take her public response as a good example.

My immediate, visceral reaction is this:

You know what, jerks, bring it on. I’m not afraid and none of that shit will ever, ever, shut me up.

I really like what Dannie Jost said in Kathy’s comments:

On the grand scale of things, this is very unfortunate and totally unacceptable, it is however necessary to continue the fight which is nothing more than a fight for human rights and dignity. Learn to deal with your fear, do not let them win…

Molly Holzschlag added in the same vein:

I’ve always believed this is a self-correcting community. Well folks, we need to correct this absolutely unacceptable, abusive, illegal and heinous behavior.

Kathy, your community is with you. Your abusers will not win this one, oh no, unless they are ready to take on the rest of us, who greatly outnumber these sick and twisted people who are obviously jealous of your success.

Keep being yourself, don’t stop and let the bastards EVER win.

Thanks for those thoughts, Molly, I knew I liked you!

I’d like to link out further to reclusive leftist, who describes the exhaustion we experience as women bloggers:

Every time I read somebody saying that patriarchy doesn’t exist anymore, feminism’s won, etc., etc., I think, try being a feminist blogger for a while. Or if you already are a feminist blogger, wait a bit until the shit finds you. Or try doing online research on anything connected to feminism and find yourself shoulder-deep in a slime pit of woman-hating so toxic it makes you want to weep with fear and despair.

I do feel that fairly often — but in this case, am more angry than despairing.

Some commenters mentioned a book called “The Gift of Fear” which sounds interesting but also maddening. I get the idea it’s to tell women that if they start feeling afraid they should pay attention to that and get the hell out of dodge. SCREW THAT. Like we need any more “chilling effect”? How about a book called “The Gift of Total Rage” or “The Gift of Collective Action To Overthrow Patriarchy,” suckers. To hell with fear.

Now let’s kick some ass.

I’d like to make a call to action. When this kind of shit happens, we’ll call it out and document it in public. Call it in the moment. Call it in front of your coworkers. Call it if it’s major or if it’s minor, it’s all part of the same spectrum of misogynist behavior. How about just saying, once in a while, right in the moment if you can, “That’s not funny,” when it’s really not. Say it crosses your boundaries. Say it’s not acceptable to you. This takes practice, but with time, we can all do it and find strength in numbers.

Update: Really good post from Min Jung Kim, It’s awful, yes. I’m happy to see people like Robert Scoble and Mike Arrington speaking up in support of Kathy, and considering the times they didn’t speak up. So I hope they hear Min Jung’s points about the pressures on women to be anonymous online, and in particular, Asian American women:

it is also important to be quite clear that this is not the first time this has happened.

It’s just the first time it’s happened to someone that you know.

You see, I’ve known several other women (specifically Asian American women bloggers – Comabound, BadGrrl, C., A., J.,N, etc) who have had to pull down their blogs, shuttle from one domain to another, remain utterly anonymous, password protect their sites, or give up their online communities altogether. The list is longer than I’d like.

Why? Oh yes, stalkers. Rape fantasies. Obsessed emails. Comment trolling.

Threatening notices. IM harassments. Flowers sent to your work office. Etc.

I’ve gotten them all too.

This is NOT NEW.

We could also do well to think about the reaction to this situation and what was the blogosphere-wide reaction to that dude who was harassing Lynne D. Johnson so bad a couple of years ago? (Here’s some links on that incident: Hip Hop Hates Me; krispexgate; That damn lesbo; xxl mag online.

My own reaction at the time? Did I say anything? I can’t remember. Makes you think doesn’t it?

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Misogynist stereotypes on Valleywag

I don’t care what Sandy Montenegro Littlefield is actually like; I don’t know her, and I’ve never met her. Also, I am not intrinsically fond of superwealthy society people. Who knew that “Gentry” magazine even existed! Not me! Gentry. Wow. Weird. Lifestyles of upper class philanthropists; really beyond my comprehension – they’re like aliens.

Anyway. Gossip is fun and I love to hear it. Dirty gossip is great. I would love to see Dirty Friendster with all the possible totally sophomoric sex gossip charts of who slept with whom and who just made out in the conference room.

That said, I think that Valleywag’s post on Littlefield deserves to be called out on its misogynist rhetoric about Ms. Littlefield. The article says she “used to go to tech conferences in search of husband material” and, worse:

She’d arrive on her own and return on someone’s private jet. She is absolutely gorgeous in person, but I don’t think it took people too long to figure out she was a gold-digger.

I’d like to look at what stereotypes this gossip plays into and what reactions it can possibly evoke.

Here, who a woman sleeps with or marries is used to throw her competence as a tech executive into question. It is strongly implied that she is not a real geek, or maybe has no “real” skills at all other than her looks. When an article like this gets written, it also by association casts aspersions on all women in tech. Would this article be written about a man, a senior executive? Would there be any equivalent way to devalue and slander and ridicule a man?

It’s very strange because while men are always whining about reverse sexism, and how everything should be genderblind and we should all just be human and be judged on our skills and not our gender… Then they whip out this sort of rhetoric and use it against women. The stereotypes are built in and waiting, ready to be used against any woman, from the most successful and visible to the least important. As women, none of us are immune to being objectified by exactly the sort of rhetoric used against Ms. Littlefield.

Notice the way that the quote above suggests that Ms. Littlefield habitually went to tech conferences alone and then left with different rich guys – and that she went to the conferences solely for the reason of wanting to pick up rich geek guys. And also implying that’s how she got her jobs – by being a jet-set slut.

Again, I’m no expert on the upper class. But don’t quite a lot of rich people work off their personal networks and backgrounds and friendships? The woman has an MBA from Harvard and she speaks five languages. What’s so odd about her getting a good executive job? Didn’t like 5 gazillion MBAs descend on Silicon Valley during the boom? Why shouldn’t one of them be a multilingual cosmopolitan Guatemalan beauty queen from Harvard?

But no… instead Valleywag points to Montenegro’s past achievements as a beauty pageant winner and the fact that she’s from Guatemala as something further to objectify and sexualize her. Then they make fun of a newspaper article quoted on her homepage that calls her a “Latina who defies stereotype.” (See Common stereotypes of Latinas for more explanation.) Hey, if you are a Latina who defies stereotype, and you’re a successful senior executive in high tech, and a VC person and a bigshot international philanthropist, why not be proud of it? Valleywag evokes a stereotype in response, and stuffs her right back into it.

Waaah! Women in tech are toooooo sexay! That sucks! It ruins our whole homosocial male bonding geek guy thing! Get them out! Or, quick, give Sandy a reverse makeover, a pair of glasses with electrical tape on the nosepiece, and some penny loafers!

Everyone needs to keep in mind that when women, sluts or not, sleep with geek guys, it might just be because they like geek guys a lot. Sleeping with geek guys doesn’t invalidate one’s geek credentials. It’s not like they have to be *rich* geek guys and the women have to be brainless bimbos going after their money. Trust me, geek guys, you are often super cute all on your own. It’s the devastatingly sexy unhealthiness caused by hours of late night hacking, and how you get all passionate about open source, and the way that you probably got pushed around by those jock dudes in the locker room long ago. We love it. It gives you a mysterious aura, like consumptive bohemian poets from 1890 who smoked too much opium and thought they were in touch with the Divine. Heterosexual nerd chicks go for that kind of thing. It’s completely natural.

Anyway, Valleywag tries to preempt any criticism by saying they don’t really care, and they don’t think Montenegro is “evil”. Just mockable. Misogyny is automatically funny. Sexy women are automatically dumb golddiggers. We’re supposed to read that post and laugh and nod knowingly… as if we know the type. Do we really? Or do we know them from the idiotic stereotypes made up by and perpetuated in Hollywood movies?

It’s not uncommon for writers to evoke sexist and racist stereotypes for a cheap laugh. But not all of us are laughing when we read that stuff. Instead, we’re pissed off and alienated. Or we might respond by laughing at the writers for their cluelessness.

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Excellent feminist rant on being "of a time"

I really enjoyed Ide Cyan’s “Timeless” on the Feminist SF blog; it’s a polemic on Time and social change, and was sparked by Ide’s notice of the ubiquity of the defense that a sexist or racist or otherwise annoyingly biased person was a product of their time. This sets up a framework in which “now” is seen as a product of progressive linear evolution with Now and Us ethically on top. I agree with Ide Cyan that this is a false construction, a construction in which Time stands in by a trick of rhetoric for individual responsibility and agency; a construction that is deeply harmful.

The part has become the whole.

It’s very, very convenient. It’s very, very easy. And it means the oppressed vanish in a puff of rhetoric.

Her concluding paragraphs using synechdoche and the body (namely, assholes) was hard-hitting, outrageous, and deeply funny!

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Dear Urbana Slam Poets and Bowery Poetry Club

Dear “Big Mike”… at the Bowery Poetry Club

Fuck right off.

No I will not take off my shirt or show you my ass for your polaroids. Skeevy asshole. I”m so happy to go back to San Francisco and say goodbye to the Bowery’s poetry scene… Where they knowingly tolerate blatant sexual harassers in their scene.

Dear women in the Bowery Scene and people who aren’t misogynist fuckheads, I feel sorry for you that you have to put up with that kind of thing. Why do you?

Dear mc dude of the Urbana slam team, nice job of laughing off sexual harassment to my face. Also thanks for letting me know that “that guy hangs out here every single day at the poetry club.” I’m sure everyone just thinks he’s SO funny and such a character!

Dear guy working the door… I thought you were laughing with me and were complicit in my fool-baiting. “Thanks” for then when I confronted the dude about his fucked-upedness, then acting like you didn’t hear anything wrong… And for saying that you didn’t hear anything hostile. Because we all know that asking all the women in a cafe or a poetry reading to take off their clothes for a camera and if they have any “intimate” piercings or tattoos is just totally FRIENDLY… It makes women feel all appreciated and welcome and stuff…

Oh also? The tempting offer of a free copy of your book in exchange for the polaroids of my naked body… not tempting at all.