Jun. 10th, 2013

I am a middle-aged software geek. While I occassionally write essays for publication, they are composed in a traditional fashion - written and polished in private, submitted to a close friend or two for review and feedback, and then sent to my target publication. I'm reasonably competent at this - but blogging is a different skill. While a blog could be carefully composed in private, then published whole, the medium strongly suggests making the development process a bit more public, or even a lot public. And when the blog is also seen as a kind of journal, as compared e.g. to a journalist's regular weekly column, there's still more reason to "publish" material that's still raw and unpolished. There are also advantages to getting feedback, when the goal is to think things through.

On the other hand, this journal is public, by design. That gives the potential for feedback from folks who aren't at all sympathetic, and have little or no disincentive for flamage. That gives me a strong urge to attempt perfection, so that anyone who reacts nastily must clearly be a troll, suitable for moderation. Except that's not how these things work. Sometimes strongly worded disagreement is merely disagreement, and sometimes it's even right. Of course trolls exist, and may well be attracted to anything labelled "feminist," but this blog will be useless if I react to tactless feedback as trolling, particularly given some of what I expect to be saying. and there's also a strong risk that if I wait for perfection - which tends to include fully thought-out ideas - very little will ever get written.

So these posts are going to start out raw. They'll be edited to correct obvious mistakes, particularly typos, but changes and corrections to ideas will be done as comments on comments, showing the process. And as for trolls - if I'm so unfortunate as to attract them, I'll use appropriate technological techniques to reduce their impact, and keep on trucking.
By the definition quoted in my profile, I am a feminist. But that's not the definition I've encountered, in too much of my life. Nor does it precisely describe my position, at least in terms of focus.

From where I sit, it's not a good thing to force people into categories. This includes pushing little girls to be "feminine" and little boys to be "masculine". It includes treating people differently because of these forced or irrelevant categories. And the more there's a size and power imbalance involved, the worse it is.

It's also, at some level, inevitable. The human condition is such that we tend to think in categories, judge people based on first impressions, and try to "help" those we care about in ways that may in fact be toxic. After living in the United States for 20 years, I catch myself reacting differently to black strangers than to white ones, as well as reacting differently based on clothing, behaviour, apparant age, etc. etc. I've got these summary expectations that tell me things - not necessarily accurate things. And if those expectations tell me "this person is likely to be a bore with nothing in common" or worse yet "this person is likely to do unpleasant things to/at me", I'm likely to take evasive action almost automatically. I can override these not-so-brilliant ideas [some of the time, at least], and I can certainly keep my mouth shut about my immediate reactions [most of the time] - but I can no more turn them off than I can fly to the moon without appropriate equipment. And as far as I can tell, the same is true for every other human being. We form expectations, based in part on experience, and in part on borrowed experience (things we've been told), and we're very likely to act on them.

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