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Gifts for boys – a Tesco Tweetstorm

Image: Twitter

Image: Twitter

Tesco were recently in the news for having a sign which referred to a superhero alarm clock as a “gift for a boy”, and suffered a Tweetstorm of bad press after a complaint from a seven-year-old girl, resulting in them removing it. It was a minor victory in the fight against gender bias and the imposition of gender roles on children.

A quick google will show plenty of sites carrying the story.
Here are a few:
www.bbc.co.uk
www.telegraph.co.uk
metro.co.uk
mashable.com
www.independent.co.uk

And, from the horse’s mouth, a blog post from Karen Cole (the mum of the girl) herself with the background story:
athiefoftime.blogspot.co.uk

My favourite satirical website The Daily Mash were quick to jump on this one with a satirical version:
Angry men have told Tesco to remove signs implying toys are for children
That did make me rather chuckle. 🙂

The Daily Mash’s post might be satirical, but in many ways it is continuing the same theme – toys are toys and should be for everyone. We shouldn’t seek to dictate to people what they should and shouldn’t do, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.

And finally, in the same vein, a cartoon from Chris Hallbeck (used with permission)

Nail polish is for people with fingernails.

Nail polish is for people with fingernails

(Chris has some great gender-themed cartoons. You can search for them by tag by clicking this link)

 

Posted by on 27th November 2014 in Humour, In the News, Opinion

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It’s a man’s world

As many of you will know, I’m the kind of transgendered person who is equally happy (or unhappy) in either gender binary, being fortunate not to suffer from gender dysphoria, so I tend to present in whichever gender will make my life the easiest whilst still making me feel personally comfortable, although my preference is female; if I absolutely had to “make my mind up” and choose just one then I would choose to be female. However, I’m not blind to the fact that this would bring its own collection of downsides – I’m under no illusions whatsoever about the greenness, or otherwise, of the grass on the other side of the fence.

Some might say that this is sitting on the fence, and indeed the same people might also say that a bisexual person should “make their mind up” about whether they are gay or straight too. Quite how they feel about people who own both a car and a motorbike, I do not know; presumably they should “make their mind up” whether they want to drive a car or ride a motorbike since clearly they must make an exclusive choice.

In general, how the duality of my gender works out on a day-to-day basis is that I present as male professionally, and mostly present as female socially with the exception of situations where doing so would be very inconvenient. A good example is when I attend Track Days, where wearing a wig and a crash helmet would not only damage my expensive wig but be a real problem in taking the helmet off whilst leaving the wig on. It’s easier just to attend in guy mode (often with painted nails just to mix it up a bit). But I digress.

Why do I present as male professionally? Well, one reason is that all my professional qualifications, client references, professional reputation, and the like, are all in my birth name. Yes, I could change them all but I would have to undergo full transition in order to do this and live full time as a woman and, as I mentioned above, I’d probably be no happier than I am.

But there is another reason why I wouldn’t want to and that’s because I work in a male-dominated industry: Information Technology.

How it works

“How it works”
(Credit: xkcd.com)

I should note that although it has a reputation for sexism, misogyny and ageism, I’ve been lucky enough never to have personally experienced or observed it; I have cis-female colleagues who are treated completely equally by my peers. In fact my current place of work has far more than I have experienced before, so perhaps this company are particularly enlightened. Also, I think my area of IT is perhaps atypical – developers / programmers tend to get judged by what we produce, and we are always producing. So although I have been quite lucky not to have experienced it, that does by no means disprove it exists – there is abundant circumstantial evidence to say that it’s very real in this industry.

This was brought home rather starkly by an article in The Register today, and which links to an amusing blog post by Pamela Ribon, about the Barbie book by Mattel called “I Can Be A Computer Engineer“.
In this embarrassingly sexist book, Barbie has an idea for a computer game but plans to get two male friends to actually write it for her. But whilst working on her design, her computer contracts a virus so she uses her sister’s laptop instead, which also contracts the virus. So she then gets the aforementioned male friends to fix it all for her, and then takes credit for everything.

That’s the executive summary anyway – I’d encourage you to read Pamela’s article for the full blow-by-blow deconstruct of it. It’s really worth reading and is quite funny too (although if you are the kind of person who is offended by profanity, or whose web filter may be, then be advised it uses the ‘F-word’ a few times, not least in the title).

Suffice to say, it does rather perpetuate the myth that only men can do science, maths and technology. A myth that we all know to be false, but persists nonetheless. It also promotes the rather reprehensible practise of glory-grabbing and claiming credit for the work of others.

Earlier I mentioned that I present as female socially unless it is more convenient not to. Well, I have a confession to make. Sometimes, when I know that a situation will place me in high probability of sexism or misogyny, or would prove to be particularly awkward, I take the easy option and present as male. None more so than when cars are concerned. Lately I have realised that this is rather cowardly of me and that if I am serious about expressing the female facet of myself then really I should do it when the going may be a little tougher as a result, rather than being a fair-weather woman. Otherwise it begs the uncomfortable question as to whether I am just playing at this.

Time will tell how far I will decide to push this – there are certain areas in my life where this would prove to be particularly uncomfortable. It’s probably not appropriate to go into further details on that on a public blog though.


Update:

The Register have posted a follow-up article about sexism in IT, which makes for interesting reading and further illustrates why I take the coward’s way out and present as male professionally.
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/11/27/the_gender_imbalance…


Update 2:

The geek girl backlash to the Barbie book has been swift and strong. Here’s a great article that links to various remixes and rewrites. Some of them are brilliant!
http://www.dailydot.com/geek/sexist-barbie-book-stem-remix-engineer-gaming/

This one is particularly worth reading – https://cfiesler.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/barbieremixed.pdf

 

Posted by on 21st November 2014 in Diary, Opinion, Transgender

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Bollocky

I had my first minor setback tonight.

I went to Salsa classes, which on a Friday is in a different town to the Monday classes but as convenient for me (in fact, slightly more so). The venue is a bar with a function room out back, and as I walked in it wasn’t clear where the class was. But there were a bunch of drunk and raucous guys sat down in the bar area.

The barman saw I was lost and asked me if I was here for the Salsa, and I nodded and he said it had been relocated to the Scout hut a few doors down, so I said thanks and turned to leave.

Well, my voice must have been the ‘tell’, because one of the blokes yelled out “‘Ere, it’s a bloke” and another then shouted “Orright, bollocky?” and then they all started jeering as I walked away. So I turned, gave them a pitying look, loudly said “Well aren’t you a f*cking comedian?” and then carried on walking away to more jeering and invitations to come back and say that again (aren’t men so brave when they’re in a group, huh?), so I flicked them the V’s (which got a cheer) and walked out. Wankers.

I guess all girls have to put up with shit like this from time to time, but it did seem particularly horrid and bullying. I wasn’t hurting anyone and I didn’t pose a threat to anyone. I was just someone to pick on to make the grunting Neanderthals feels better about themselves. So brave!

I thought I put a fairly brave face on it and didn’t show I was upset, but I was upset inside of course. Especially as it played on my mind after. But fortunately my friend turned up then and gave me some sympathy and moral support. Yay!

Anyway, Salsa classes were brilliant tonight and everyone was so nice there. It cheered me up again immensely.

I always knew I would have to deal with something like this sooner or later, and wondered how far it would set me back. And the answer is ‘not really that much at all’. I wasn’t scared of the blokes; I pity them. I pity their tiny bullying closed minds and the meanness of spirit that needs to denigrate others to feel good about themselves.

So, onwards and upwards. And I have more laser tomorrow. Pew!Pew!

I think perhaps a few sessions of Voice Therapy might be needed in amongst the laser visits though.

 

Posted by on 3rd May 2013 in Diary, Opinion, Out & About, Social, Transgender

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More than a woman

The BBC published a very good article on transgenderism on the News Magazine area of their website entitled Richard O’Brien: ‘I’m 70% man’

Credit: BBC / Tommy Candler

The article, written by Jo Fidgen, quotes Richard O’Brien (of Rocky Horror fame) as talking about the gender spectrum, and how he sees himself as maybe 70% male and 30% female.

However, one part of the article really surprised and struck me. It said:
“O’Brien’s idea of a gender spectrum may sound far-fetched to many, but there is scientific research that backs up his position.”

I’m really surprised that in this day and age, where people readily acknowledge the concept of bisexuality, that the idea of a gender spectrum could be considered ‘far-fetched’. Certainly the idea of a sexuality spectrum is well established, encompassing gay, straight and bisexual. And even then, bisexual doesn’t automatically mean you fancy men and women equally. Surely then, the idea of a gender spectrum can come as no real surprise and is equally logical? One only has to look at the concept of a girl being a tomboy, or describing herself as “not a girly girl”, to see that it is so. And, despite being less socially acceptable to say it, the same is true of men too. However, men have far more pressure (in Western society at least) to conform to a gender stereotype.

Having said that, I read on the news today of Maria Toorpakai; The Pakistani squash star who had to pretend to be a boy. In the area of Pakistan that she lives, it is completely socially unacceptable for a girl to play such sports, or wear shorts, or be a tomboy. She was forced to pretend to be a boy (with her father’s consent and support) and won several tournaments before being ‘outed’. Since then she and her father have had death threats and persecution, just because she doesn’t conform to a gender expectation. I’m both heartened by her and her father’s courage, and dismayed by the actions of their persecutors.


(Please note that the links in this article are to the BBC website and may not be available to you if you are outside of the UK)

 

Posted by on 20th March 2013 in Opinion, Transgender

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