Today in Misogyny: Geek Culture Edition

[Content Note: This post contain transmisogyny, transphobia, the disappearance of female programmers, sexual objectification of women, rape, sexual assault, and rape culture, as well as links to images of objectified female bodies.]

Living as a nerdy woman with a deep love of geek culture, it sometimes amazes me how much I can bear to participate in a culture which has so many people yearning to remind me that I don't belong. Let's take just three examples from this week, shall we?

1.Wired magazine lets us know that the secret to successful programming is in the length of one's beard.

Writer Caleb Garland takes us on a HIGH-LARIOUS tour of the development of some programming languages, checks out some pictures of the programmers, and offers up the conclusion that what is really necessary to writing a good, long-lived program is having a long beard. There's even a cartoon chart of beard length matched with programming languages.

Shakers, I give you Grace Hopper, one of the key players in the development of COBOL:

[Image by James Davis via Wikimedia Commons]

I get that this post is a JOKE HA HA CANT YOU FEMINISTS TAKE A JOKE? But the fact is that jokes like this serve as a perfect example of microaggressions: the "small" shit that constantly reminds women, trans*men, and insufficiently masculine others that we don't belong in the geek domain. And even if women, trans*men, or others who don't or can't grow beards should happen to develop one of the most important languages in the history of computing, we will be erased or explain away as an "exception that proves the rule" (Garland's actual words for Hopper). Good to know!

2. DC's Catwoman cover reaches new heights of sexual objectification.

Margot Magowan has a great takedown of this ludicrous new cover that manages to simultaneously give a view of Catwoman's enormous cleavage and her sharply defined buttocks, possible only if her spine were replaced with adamantium rubber.

I get that it's too much to ask that one of the relatively small number of female characters who headline their own comic could be treated with a modicum of respect. I get that DC doesn't give a rat's ass about the readers who have stuck with its titles because when their female headliners are well-written, they serve as genuinely empowering, intriguing figures who offer a break from aggressively enforced gender binaries.

But lots of people are pointing out how extremely laughable all of this shit really is. So, if you don't mind your motto being "DC Comics: We Are Ridiculous Ass-Clowns And We Don't Care!" by all means, carry on!

However, let's get it straight: this is yet another aggression, a reminder to every single reader that no matter how daring and brilliant a woman is, no matter how compelling her story, she's really only the sum of her pornified ass and tits.

3. Lara Croft fends off rapists "like a cornered animal." Or, maybe not.

Here's the deal: David Rosenberg, executive producer of Crystal Dynamics' Tomb Raider enthused recently to Kotaku that Lara would encounter "island scavengers" who made rape threats. And this would somehow be a great point of character development because “She is literally turned into a cornered animal. It’s a huge step in her evolution: she’s forced to either fight back or die.” So, uh, survivors of rape and sexual assault are animals? GOOD TO KNOW. And in other helpful stereotypes, all a person needs to do is fight really hard and they can stop rapes. ALSO GOOD TO KNOW! Wait, actually not good to know at all--just another dangerous myth of the rape culture, one which ignores the reality wherein those who "fight back" are likely to be framed as aggressors, and where those who choose not to resist as a survival strategy (or for whom physical resistance just isn't feasible for whatever reason) are liars who really wanted it.

As Alyssa Rosenberg notes:
The fantasy of being powerful enough to repulse any attack is a compelling one, but it stops short of placing responsibility where it actually belongs: with rapists. And it’s much more compelling—and less exhausting— to dream of living in a world where you are never threatened than it is to dream of constantly fending off attackers.

Apparently there was enough pushback regarding these statement that the head of Crystal dynamics studio issues a clarification claiming it was a a "misunderstanding." As Kellie Foxx-Gonzalez points out, it's pretty hard to believe that when an executive producer explicitly and clearly talks about rape, it's a "misunderstanding." But okay, player.

Further, the use of rape (or threatened rape, or other sexual assault) as an experience that turns one into a superhero is so incredibly insulting to the millions of people who have experienced it, it's hard for me to even fathom the callousness, the cruelty, of making it a trope in a videogame. No, fending off an attacker didn't turn me into a badass fighter, sirs. It turned me into a fucking mess who blamed myself for getting into the situation. Putting it in a game as a plot device, as a problem to be solved, as points to be gained, is yet another microaggression. Rape isn't some weird, exotic threat. It's an everyday threat that affects women disproportionately, whether because we have experienced it, or whether because we live in a culture that is saturated with it.

Here's Foxx-Gonzales:

The odds of women being trapped on a remote island and forced to fight their way off and hunt animals and murder people in order to survive are probably pretty slim. But 1 in 5 women will be raped in their lifetime in the United States. With those odds, sexual violence is not a theme to take lightly, and certainly not one to tack on to an origin story in order to force Lara Croft to become a fighter. Crystal Dynamic developers, rape is not a plot device– rape is a reality.
Yes, it remains a real fucking mystery why geeky women and girls, trans*men, and/or rape survivors would feel excluded by any of this. I guess we are just looking for something to complain about.

[Hat tip to Shaker Mod Scott Madin and my friend JBH for links.]

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