New Auction / the Future of Music

Since my first two auctions are done tomorrow, I just put up number 3. I’m trying to figure out how to stagger them. It’s a new and different phenomenon for me to think a week ahead. I don’t know how to add a “buy it now” button. I suspect it costs extra. Using eBay actually adds a fair bit of overhead in cost and time. Also, it adds some overhead for the commissioner in that they need an account and then they wait. I’m weighing my options in whether I should move to a shopping cart model instead. Given the low cost, I think this time overhead is probably a large disincentive. It seems like a $14 commission is an impulse buy for most. Also, I’m unlikely to gather a biding war or anything.

The future of music, of course, is not a one-size-fits all model. Other options include things like the Buddha Machine (Is there really a little Buddha inside? I should take mine apart.) The music is inherently in an object, thus making it something other than being (only) data. The Women Take Back the Noise compilation is also, similarly, the music of the future. The packaging includes a little crackle box, in the shape of a flower. The music inside is Creative Commons licensed. The goal of the project is greater exposure for the artists participating, and I think their design achieves that goal well. the crackle box makes the object itself something tangible to buy. However, the data on the disks is still shareable. This gets the widest distribution possible, since people who want something they can hold get such a thing, and they also get something they can share. The more people have the disks, the wider the likely sharing of the data encoded on them. Very smart.
It’s also taking a subversive look at femininity. The packaging is all bright colors and there are flowers on the CD, but the contents is noise. This subversiveness both challenges and reinforces a gender binary in that it defies expectations by containing noise, but supports the binary by encoding the gender of it’s participants with flowers. I think it’s really great and I wish the participants the very best of luck. I’m also really glad I’m not on it, because of the flowers. Traditional, even if subversive, symbols of femininity make me very very nervous. There’s a group of women in the San Francisco Bay Area who don Betty Page wigs and wedding dresses for all their gigs. Some of these women are really punk rock. It’s a really smart way to make comments on the expectation of gender. But for myself, I can’t embrace it even ironically. There is absolutely no way I could stand in front of people in long hair with a dress. That’s my own issue. But I often feel kind of left out. I don’t get any sort of male privilege as far as I know, but I feel really uncomfortable participating in actions designed to raise the status of women as anything other than a consumer or spectator. A group called Fresh Meat has just issued a Call For Work by gender variant artists. I hope they want sound installations too.
In other news, the little woman in off in California chopping down trees (it’s like anti-arbor day there) and I lost my cell phone, so theoretically I should be getting lots of things done, like my new Michael Savage piece and my super nifty code for HID and wii in SuperCollider, but um, yeah.

Blog against sexism Day

Today is blog against sexism day 2007. (Un)coincidentally, it’s also International Women’s day.

Blogging against sexism is as obvious as blogging in favor of breathing. Sexism sucks. I think all civilized humans can agree on that. But if we all agree, why does it still exist pretty much everywhere? And what exactly do we mean by sexism anyway?
I think a lot of people view sexism in much the same way as they misunderstand racism. (White) people have the mistaken idea that racism is an emotion. In this view, racists hate black people. But let’s look at Strom Thurmond. This guy had an affair with a black woman and had a daughter by her and made sure to look out for his daughter during his entire life. It’s possible that he loved his mistress and his daughter. Similarly, many sexist men love their wives, mothers, sisters, daughters too. Heck, I love my dog. For real. She’s great. The best dog ever. No where near my equal in anyway, and possibly an emergency food source in the case of horrible disaster, but I love her.
My mother loved me. She thought she was doing me a favor by giving me a bunch of chores (and she was, but she wasn’t doing my brother the same favor . . . nor my dad). I had to wash dishes and clean bathrooms and vacuum and do normal kid-level household chores. But I complained, because my chores were ongoing whereas my brother got to do fun things like mow the lawn – which only needed doing once a week. My mother explained that when I got married, I would be responsible for all the cleaning and cooking and she was trying to prepare me. Because men and women have different roles in life, or did when she came up, pre second wave feminism.
Obviously, emotions like love and hate are related to sexism only in extreme cases. So sexism isn’t an emotion. What is it then? It’s both personal and systematic. Both reinforce and propagate each other. Personally, it’s gender essentialism. The belief that women have some sort of distinct role. The lowering of their horizons. Binary oppositions invite ranking and comparisons. When you create an essentialist gender binary, you put one group over the other and then compare them. Women lose every time. That’s systematic sexism casting it’s ugly shadow. When you set women on one course and men on another, men win and women lose.
Systematically, it’s the organization of society in such a manner as to favor men at the expense of women. Now some of you might be thinking to themselves that not all differences between men and women are socially constructed. Cisgender men don’t get pregnant, but cisgender women do. Well, that’s true. But the huge life-time earnings hit that American women take from getting pregnant is a social decision and thus is constructed. As is health insurance not covering birth control. As is women doing most of the labor in the world but men owning most of the resources. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN states, “Women produce between 60 and 80 percent of the food in most developing countries and are responsible for half of the world’s food production . . ..” But “[n]ot even 2 percent of land is owned by women . . ..” and “[f]or the countries where information is available, only 10 percent of credit allowances are extended to women . . .” while at the same time “[t]wo-thirds of the one billion illiterate in the world are women and girls.” The list goes on, but it’s depressing. ( )
In the US, women do most of the household chores and tend to earn less than men. Household chores are labor, although unpaid. But why do women earn less? Because they tend to be in fields that pay less than men. Why do these fields pay less? Because there are women in them.
More and more men are becoming nurses. The pay is rising. The prestige of the job is growing. When computers were first invented, software was an afterthought. The hardware was cool. The first programmers were all mathematicians who had to program extremely head-warping algorithms to compute stuff. It was much harder than it is today. But it was low status. Almost all of the first programmers were women. Gradually, engineers started to realize that the software was more important than the hardware. As programming became more socially important, the number of women declined in relation to the number of men. Now some folks wonder if maybe there’s a math-based biological bias that makes women unsuited to programming. Try again. It was Grace Hopper who invented the idea of high-level computer programming languages (and Cobol and Fortran).
Ok, so there’s a wide social bias that sees women as inferior, forces them to do more labor and yet keeps them in low economic rungs. And maybe the US isn’t “ready” for a woman president. And this is a worldwide problem. So what to do about it?
1. Make healthcare free. Cover contraception, abortion and prenatal care. Cover everything.
2. Paid maternity and paternity leave. Free childcare. Allow flexible work schedules. Shorter work schedules too. 40 hours a week is unreasonable. 2 weeks of vacation a year is absurd.
3. Free education. As high as you want to go and can go.
4. Mentorship. Match women, POC and other minorities with more experienced people in their field, who can help them navigate their way up. Also, start this mentoring early, maybe in college or even before.
5. Recordkeeping and outreach. You should know whether or not your place of business or university is reflecting the diversity of your region. If it’s not, then it’s time to do some outreach. Send out representatives from your company into the community, to job fairs to schools. Pick representatives who reflect the diversity that you are trying to mirror.
6. Consciousness Raising. How are things divided up in your own, personal life? Is it fair? Does it reflect exterior income inequalities? See your household income as joint rather than seeing incomes as separate. Separate incomes mean that the lower paid person might be pressured to quit or go part time in order to economize on paid services. This has lifelong repercussions on earning ability. (see Do you see women as having different roles than men? What? Why?
These suggestions would benefit the majority of people in the US. Free healthcare helps everybody. Changing work-related penalties for having kids helps everybody. Free education benefits everybody. It’s an error to see this as a zero sum game. As our fearless leader says, we can grow the pie higher.
These changes create opportunity for women (and other folks) while removing penalties unfairly placed upon women. It moves childcare from the realm of chore to the realm of paid labor, thus increasing the economic participation of caregivers. This isn’t a complete list, but it’s a start.

There are people who are not normal, who have a confusion in their head, and they think they’re a man even though they look like a woman.

SAVAGE: Portland, Oregon, [caller], KXL, you’re on The Savage Nation.

CALLER: My wife was sitting on the couch with our 7-year-old daughter when Etheridge got up and did her piece thanking her wife and four kids, and our daughter looked over at our — at Mom and said: “Was that a man?” And how do we answer our kids when we’re forced to [sic] — this homosexuality upon us?

SAVAGE: I will tell you how you answer it: You say there are people who are sexually confused, who think that they’re men when they’re women. They’re not normal. Normal people are not like that. Normal people are like Mommy and Daddy. Mommy and Daddy are normal. There are people who are not normal, who have a confusion in their head, and they think they’re a man even though they look like a woman. That’s what you have to say to them otherwise the child will grow up confused.

Previously on the same broadcast:

ETHERIDGE: I have to thank my incredible wife, Tammy, and our four children, Becky and Bailey and Johnnie Rose and Miller, and everyone —

SAVAGE: Turn it off. Get her off my show. I don’t care what her name is. I don’t like a woman married to a woman. It makes me want to puke. How’s that? I want to vomit when I hear it. I think it’s child abuse. That’s my opinion — one man’s opinion. If it’s illegal, tell me it’s illegal to have an opinion in America. Maybe I can be excommunicated for having an opinion.

I want to puke when I hear about a woman married to a woman raising children because, frankly, I think that it’s child abuse to do that to children without their permission. What does a child know? Ask them when they’re 16 whether they want to be raised by two lesbians or two men. What are the two men doing behind the other wall? You think the children don’t hear it?
It’s fair to wonder why I am reprinting hateful garbage on my blog. Before I answer that, I’m going to add even more hateful garbage:
“The only thought that pops in ur head when u think ‘feminist’ is a fat, manly, tall lesbian who wants to take control over everything….”
” I don’t want this blog to be about the fact that I’m NOT one of those angry, hairy, lesbian feminists.”
“Maybe she had some notion that feminists are all lesbians, have hairy legs, and hate men.”
“Despite how ‘feminists’ have been portrayed, most of us don’t hate men. We aren’t hairy, unwashed, bosom sagging, shrill harpies who want to destroy families.”

Well, that was fun

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a hairy-legged lesbian.
What’s the common thread here? Gender normativity. Lesbians want to be men. Feminist are lesbians and want to be men. None of these people are conforming enough to gender stereotypes. I’m not going to go dig up comments on the other side of this, but it wouldn’t be hard to find examples of men getting called “fags” regardless of their sexual orientation, but because the speaker feels they insufficiently conform to gender stereotypes. Men are men and women are women and people who seeks to redefine or expand those roles clearly want to change their sex and that’s a bad thing.

What started this

I heard the Michael Savage rant and I winced. Yeah, there are lesbian-IDed folks who do want to be men. Augh, it’s all true! But then, I thought of the lavender menace. Some feminists really are lesbians. Augh, it’s all true!
The problem isn’t that some feminists are lesbians or that some lesbians are ftm or anything like that. The problem is the insistence that there’s something wrong with this. The insistence that gender normativity is right and good and natural and all transgressors, no matter how small or minor their transgression are unnatural and bad and wrong.
Lest this all be too obvious to justify the mad amount of quoted text, I want to go on to address radfeminists. (Doesn’t it sound like it should be the “fun” kind of feminism what with “rad” and all. It’s not.) Some straight women thought the way to address the charge that all feminists were lesbians was to throw them out of their groups. The lavender menace had to go. Not that there was anything wrong with lesbians, just their experiences and socialization was so different, they should respect the space needed for straight women and butt out. This is why lesbians are not allowed access into the Michigan Women’s Music Festival.
The same reasoning is used to exclude mtfs from women’s spaces right now. When you classify trans people as their assigned-at-birth sex, you’re agreeing with Mr Savage. Because you are denying the legitimacy of transition. Saying that mtfs are men who want to be women is awfully similar to saying that lesbians want to be men. In both cases, the possibility of successful, intention transition is dismissed. In both cases, transition is condemned. In both cases, gender is seen as essential. And really, when Michael Savage and radfeminists are agreeing on something, there’s is something going woefully wrong. This guy makes Rush Limbaugh look moderate. I used to joke that if Reagan said that oxygen was important for breathing, I would start demanding definite evidence for the oxygen thing, because he’s wrong so much of the time. I can’t agree w/ him on anything. Double that for Savage.

Blog For Choice Day

So I’m blogging for choice. As I see it, the anti-choice arguments that are stated tend to fall into a couple of camps. One is “accepting consequences for your actions” So if you accidentally cut yourself and don’t wash it and it gets infected, you should be denied medical treatment because it’s the consequence of your actions? Or does this just mean that unwanted pregnancy is a punishment for having sex? Babies aren’t punishment! Or at least, they shouldn’t be. Also, medical care is a good thing. Being able to interviene in the course to change the outcome of an earlier action is a good thing.

Another argument states that fetuses are people with certain rights. There are actually two halves of this argument, the first of which centers on the personhood of a fetus. Whether or not a fetus is human is absolutely not a question. But being a person is more of a philosophical issue. In the past, even babies weren’t really people and it was ok to leave them out to die of exposure. Now, I think we’re all pretty much agreed that babies are people and therefore have the rights of people. Some want to extend personhood back before birth. But how much before? In it’s article on the Immaculate Conception (of Mary), the Catholic Encyclopedia states,

The term conception does not mean the active or generative conception by her parents. Her body was formed in the womb of the mother, and the father had the usual share in its formation. The question does not concern the immaculateness of the generative activity of her parents. Neither does it concern the passive conception absolutely and simply (conceptio seminis carnis, inchoata), which, according to the order of nature, precedes the infusion of the rational soul. The person is truly conceived when the soul is created and infused into the body.

Personhood occurs with the creation of a soul. This occurs after fertilisation. In a reversal of course, Catholics have since decided that it happens at the same time as physical conception. More than 75% of conceptions do not make it to term. They imagine an afterlife full of “people” who never lived. Who never even got past a few cell divisions. This seems strange to me. Furthermore, if every conception does indeed create a person, then the rhythm method of birth control kills many, many people. It tends to result in conceptions that are either to early or too late in a cycle to survive. It’s one of the most zygote-killing methods of birth control. Given that, the church can’t possibly both believe, honestly, that personhood is conveyed at the moment of physical fertilization AND that the rhythm method is the only moral method of birth control.
At no point during a pregnancy is a fetus treated as a person by the church. No name. No ceremony. No recognition of death (by miscarriage). If they really thought it was a person, baptisms (necessary for admission to heaven – the unbaptised can only get to Limbo) would be given at the first positive pregnancy test. The church does not in any way act as if fetuses are people.
I’m inclined to argue that a fetus is not a person. Personhood occurs at birth. But this is moot, given the second half of the personhood argument, which is that fetuses, if they are people, have certain rights.
People who argue that fetuses have rights are not arguing that fetuses have the same rights as other (actually born) people, they want to argue that fetuses have a great deal more rights. Specifically, fetuses have the right, in this argument, to compel their mothers to provide them with use of her body and organs.
(the following argument is borrowed) Imagine that you’ve been kidnapped. You wake up in a strange place to find yourself hooked up to a lot of medical machinery. Lying in another bed next to yours is another person. That person is also hooked up to a bunch of equipment. Your captors explain that this other person has no liver and will die without access to a matching liver. Yours matches. Therefore, they have attached your liver to him through the medical equipment. You must remain that way until a liver donor can be found for him and he is able to survive on his own. they expect the wait to be nine months.
If the sick man is unhooked from you, he will die. Are you therefore morally obligated to provide him with use of your liver for nine months?
Some will point out that the kidnap victim had no agency in her situation and thus this differs from somebody who is accidentally pregnant. However, then the argument is no longer about the rights of persons, but rather is about accepting “responsibility” for actions and was addressed in the first argument. Legally and morally, no other person can force you to provide use of your liver. If fetuses had that right, they would have more rights than other people and their rights would drastically decrease upon birth. They would have far more rights than their mothers, who are unarguably people. Fetuses would not be people, they would be super people. This is obviously in error.
What could be the motivation that people might have in trying to confer fetuses greater rights and personhood than their mothers? One obvious answer is to seek to control sexuality. This again ties back into the “consequences for actions” argument. However, I think it’s only a subset of the answer.
There are those who firmly believe that people do not “own” their own bodies. In this belief system, (some) body modifications are a moral evil. Biology should be destiny. This world-view is strongly associated with sexism. If biology is destiny and pregnant women lose rights to their person, then male superiority is implied. Furthermore, people who use their bodies to do thing like have same sex encounters are defying their biological destiny and are thus also committing a moral evil. As are transgender people, crossdressers and especially transsexuals. Thus supporting choice and the body ownership it implies is essential for queers. If pregnant women don’t own their bodies, neither do we. None of us. Even straight men with very minor kinks or who have “illicit” sex are committing the “evil” of acting as if they own themselves.
Choice benefits everyone.
Finally, those who reject biology as destiny are people and should be treated as such. Rights to medical care. Rights to just try to get a damn haircut without being stared at. Etc. I’ll march for choice so my pregnancy-prone sisters can safeguard their rights and mine that are implicitly threatened too. Will they stand up for me?

Freedom Machine

Last night, over dinner, the subject of bicycles came up. Who invented them? “It was the Dutch, certainly” asserted the Dutch woman. “No, I think it was the British” said the Brit. Nicole thought it was Americans. I thought it might be the French, given the large section on bicycles in the Musée d’Arts et Metiers.

After reading the wikipedia article, well, it’s not so straightforward, but it seems like Nicole and I were both right. I remembered this morning that there’s a plaque in New Haven, Connecticut which says the bike was invented there. What’s more interesting though, is the bike’s feminist import.
The big wheel bicycles were considered inappropriate for women (and were also very dangerous), but in the 1880’s, an English inventor came up with a “safety bicycle” which had pedals, a chain, small tires: the modern bike. “It was the first bicycle that was suitable for women, and as such the ‘freedom machine’ (as American feminist Susan B. Anthony called it) was taken up by women in large numbers.” The wikipedia article goes on to state,

The impact of the bicycle on female emancipation should not be underestimated. The diamond-frame safety bicycle gave women unprecedented mobility, contributing to their larger participation in the lives of Western nations. As bicycles became safer and cheaper, more women had access to the personal freedom they embodied, and so the bicycle came to symbolise the New Woman of the late nineteenth century, especially in Britain and the United States. Feminists and suffragists recognised its transformative power. Susan B. Anthony said: “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” In 1895 Frances Willard, the tightly-laced president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, wrote a book called How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle, in which she praised the bicycle she learned to ride late in life, and which she named “Gladys”, for its “gladdening effect” on her health and political optimism. Willard used a cycling metaphor to urge other suffragists to action, proclaiming, “I would not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.”

And then, alas, bikes fell out of favor in the US, replaced by cars, and the status of women dropped. But then, “In the late 1960s . . . bicycling enjoyed another boom. Sales doubled between 1960 and 1970, and doubled again between 1970 and 1972.” And continued to grow while the second wave of feminism was also getting going. Coincidence? A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Take that bike away from the fish and give it to the woman, it’s her freedom machine.
Um, seriously, biking has a number of leftist benefits, but perhaps among them is some sort of inherently democratic, egalitarian nature. Bikes to do not seek to dominate and control in the manner of cars. They are self-propelled and thus reliant only on the rider for power, but at the same time, close to the terrain. Power without dominance. Maybe bikes are inherently feminist.

Miss Manners on Baby Showers

Showering a Relative

Dear Miss Manners:
My Daughter-in-law is expecting her first child. I have a shower planned for her, because her only sister, her mother and her best friend live in California. My son is an only child so I am not able to put a daughter’s name on the invitations as many of my releatives and friends have done in the past for showers both bridal and baby. Will it be in bad taste is I put my name on the invitations? My husband feels we should do this if that’s what we’d like to do. I feel a bit uncertain.
Gentle Reader:
Showers are tricky, and a lot of people get caught up in them. The word “shower” is used here as in “to shower with presents,” making this the only form of gorwn-up entertainment at which a present is mandatory. Therefore, such an event is not properly given by any member of the guest of honor’s immediate family – daughter, sister, mother, or mother-in-law. However, since your relatives and friends have been making mistakes about this right and left, Miss Manners suggests you do not worry about it and go ahead and give your party. If you want to be perfectly correct, call it a tea, not a shower, thus establishing that you wish to bring joy but not bounty to the family.
Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior 1979. p.22

Sexist Showers

Dear Miss Manners:
You seem intolerant – and justifiably so – of nonsense masquerading as corectness. But what about sexism and opression disguised as polite tradition? I’m referring to wedding and baby showers. Do these traditions not have considerable sexist and oppressive components? Are they not designed to reinforce women who accept the roles society deems most acceptable for women, rewarding them with vacuum cleaners, kitchen utensils, and baby paraphernalia when they assume their rightful roles as wives and mothers?
Are you sympathetic to such thinking? How should a person with such views respond to an invitation to attend a shower? A simple “No, thank you” seems too unfriendly, or, worse, cheap. A political discusion is probably counter-productive.
Gentle Reader:
Few of our social institutions can bear severe philosophical scrutiny. Neither can using an invitation to participate in other people’s pleasures as an opportunity for dampening them with one’s disapproval. It is not impolite simply to decline an invitation that goes against your principles, provided you do not explain the fact.
In the matter of showers, things are changing. Miss Manners can’t help but noticing that your signature indicates that you are a man, and pointing out that a few years ago, you would not have been invited to showers. Presumably, the bridegroom or father will also be a guest of honor at such a shower, and your presents should be given to both husband and wife. Vacuum cleaners and baby clothes are not, in themselves, sexist objects. They become so when it i presumed that only the woman should put them on the rug or the baby
Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior 1979. p.23-24

Miss Manners on other showers

For the Bridal Couple

Dear Miss Manners:
In recent years, the prospective bridegroom has been present at all bridal showers that I have attended. Lavish as these affairs have become, am I wrong in assuming that they still should be considered “girl parties,” with all the appropriate gushing, giggling and gossiping? The man must be bored to tears. Is it an omen of things to come? Will the bride-to-be soon be expected to pop out of a cake at the stag party and have to listen to raunchy jokes told over a few steins of beer? If one, why not the other? Do I sense a double-standard here, and if so, why? Are all the traditional bastions of ettiquette crumbling like a house of cards?
Gentle Reader:
Cards don’t crumble. However, Miss Manners does not mind if some customs do. The gender-seperated wedding party, based on the idea that the bride and the bridegroom have opposite notions of social fun and are bored senseless by each other’s friends, is not a tradition that Miss Manners is going to go to a lot of trouble to rescue from oblivion.
Not that she objects to it. giggliness and raunchiness are all right in their place, and sharing a session of one or the other with compatible souls of one’s own gender is al very well. The specific bridal customs you mention often overdo things, with an unpleasant emphasis on materialism for the ladies and unacceptable forms of entertainment (such as ones that end in the bridegroom’s being arrested) for the gentlemen. For this reason, and because of the increasing tendency for friendships to be formed on the basis of common interests regardless of gender, the sort of divided party you mention is becoming less and less popular. So be it.
Miss Manners’ Guide for the Turn of the Millennium 1989. p 573-573