Thursday, March 21, 2013

A few things this week

I FUCKING LOVE SCIENCE facebook page is administered by one person and that person is a young woman. She has just started a twitter page, and this is what 'outed' her gender. Predictably, the flood of comments have been along the lines of 'Wow a chick, sexy' / 'You're a hottie!' / 'I can't believe you're a girl. And you are cute too!!!'

I know I was guilty of something similar myself a couple of years ago when Alex was commenting on another blog. A few of us thought she was a guy because she always talked about science and tech stuff and seemed really really smart (and she is) - her mentioning getting drunk and getting into fisticuffs when she was younger also I think cemented our ideas, it did mine, so that when it was revealed Alex is female, I was embarrassed and felt like a tool.

So I can understand that default thinking: guys are good at and talk about maths, science, technology. but it's changing, and this is fantastic. What's not changing are the comments - sexist comments - that are proliferating when something like this happens. It's a shame and it's disappointing and I wish it didn't happen. They are being challenged on twitter and facebook and even in the mainstream media but it just makes other young women out there [probably] think: Yeah, so why would I put myself out there, you cop this shit.

So instead of people focusing on this

Genetic testing of giant squid corpses discovered all over the world has found that not only are they all the same species, they have surprisingly low genetic diversity. This suggests that some time in the recent past they were pushed to the brink of extinction, but managed to rebound and are now found throughout the worlds oceans.

and this

it's all about this

11 Mar
just discovered who you are and what you do :) Happy birthday! Q.question: how do you feel when ppl just assume you're a man?
It used to get to me, but it's happened so often I just laugh it off. People are more surprised when they find out I'm English!

Image will appear as a link
  1. now that I already guessed. Anyway, you do a really important job, and I just wanted to say thanks.
  2. Cause us English women know nothing of the sciences & should be good cottage pie makers?

and this

EVERY COMMENT on that thread is about how shocking it is that I'm a woman! Is this really 2013?

Check IFLS facebook and twitter. Have a look at the difference in comments and responses, compare when she was on facebook as just a genderless sciencey person and now that she's on twitter with a pic and a name and a gender and all that comes with that. I'd love it if this turned out to be a science experiment, a la all this interest and news is generated, it puts the IFLS stream in the main, and then it's revealed that it's a nerdy dude whose thesis is on sexism in science or something like that. How awesome would that twist be? Somehow, I don't think that's what's happening. BUT IF IT WAS?

Oh PS, I also meant to say: I'm going to LA and New York on the Easter weekend. Just came up, all random and spontaneous, decided yesterday that yep, Imma going. Moved a few appointments, it's the first week of the school holidays so I wasn't teaching. It's a whirlwind 6-day trip, flying biz class which is a little bit excellent and spesh, and plan to walk the Highline in Soho and do some shopping in LA (and maybe one of those tacky Hollywood bus tours that drive past famous people's houses. I've always wanted to do that.) So yeah. I'm also going to meet my agent, so that's exciting too.


magical_m said...

Ooooh - enjoy NYC! The High Line is awesome. Every time I walk it, I fall a little bit more in love. Also, make sure you pay a visit to The Strand. Best bookstore ever. Plus, no trip to my spiritual home is complete until you've had a hot dog from Gray's Papaya. I'm drooling just thinking of it. Coffee when you get back and we can swap stories. xx

Melba said...

Oh, coffee for sure m_m. Don't have much time in NY at all but am determined to do the Highline. Will try to squeeze in The Strand too, thanks for that tip. And the hot dog, will put on the list, triangulate those three things.

Mr E said...

If it's not too late, try to switch flight from LAX to SFO, it would mean adding an internal leg to SYD, but trust me it will be worth it. LA is a shit hole. Imagine Moorabbin enlarged to a hundred miles across, that's LA. SFO is also the home of Brian, maker of world class Martinis and his traditional aproach to preparing Absynthe is a wonder to observe. SFO is a wonderful town.For shopping Union Square beats Rodeo Drive / Hollywood Blvd hands down. Also a great place to score Cocaine at bargain basement prices.

Anonymous said...

Have fun in The States. Looking forward to hearing about it when you get back.

About the stereotypes thing; I think it's a good example of how sexism doesn't have to be malicious or cunty. It just comes about naturally when you're culturally conditioned to expect certain things. And then, if that conditioning is widespread ('cause it's cultural, right?), it becomes a self-fulfilling perpetuation, um, thing (bare with me, I didn't get to bed last night). Sadly, this just seems to be how it is. Hopefully this can be changed for the better. But it's going to take time and a lot more of this shit will probably have to be gone through. But really, what are the alternatives, right?

Wonder how many "show-us-your-tits" comments she got?

And I hope you don't still feel bad about that mix-up thing from ages ago. Believe me, for me, it wasn't a big deal to begin with.

Oh, wait, here's a question for you; when you're writing, right, and you need to make-up a minor character to fill a functional role in the story, what's your start point on design, and what's the process you go through to determine sex, colour, age, etc? Not insinuating anything about you. Just think it's an interesting question for any writer.

Also, I've fucking loved Gallium since the first time I read about it in a chem textbook I nicked (library didn't let you borrow academic stuff for some reason).

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squib said...

NY biz class, meeting an agent... that does it, I'm jealous

I'll think of you while I'm freezing my arse of glamping in East Lothian (I thought it was spring, apparently not)

The number of houses in which I've seen the ubquitous pink room for girls, blue room for boys, feck. I like pink but not *that* much. And you can bet it doesn't stop with the colour of the walls. Girl gets nail art studio, boy gets microscope

Anonymous said...

Squib, I find myself rousing more and more on my nieces and nephews who carry on with all that "that's a girl colour"/"that's a boy's toy" bullshit. I'm getting to be known as Grumpy auntie Awix.

And what the hell is glamping? What is it about Scotland? You've been over there for, what, just a couple of months and already you're starting to talk like my great (great?) auties who nobody could understand?

squib said...

Glamping isn't Scottish, you silly. It's glamorous camping, made so by the fact that your tent may have bunting or a chandelier or something *fancy*

In our case, we have a tent with a stove, Belfast sink, and a bed in a cupboard. We will also be hiring our own private chicken coop with 2 hens. Yes, I am serious

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Anonymous said...

That certainly does sound fancy, Squib. You must have a decent sized tent; is it one of those ones with a floor? The bed-in-a-cupboard I think I get (you mean it folds out, right?); and you're planning on eating the chooks?

squib said...

Pretty decent - fits a double bed, sofa bed, bunk bed and cupboard bed. I haven't eaten a chook for 25 years

Hey, maybe you and Melbs and I all come from the same clan, way back when

Anonymous said...

Well, a good chunk of me maybe does. There's another bit that was apparently nabbed off a Polynesian island, some more that made its way over from China when it heard there was gold here and I think anthropoloists reckon the rest might have wandered down through South-East Asia about 40,000 years ago. The Scottish bits are supposed to come from Argyll though, if that gives any clue.

So, if you're not planning on tucking into those birds, I'm gonna guess you must be mad keen on fresh eggs? If that's the case, I hope you get a couple that at least lay well.

Also, 25yrs? Are you a veggo (I know Puss is and I thought there was someone else) or is it just chook you don't fancy in particular? How do you feel about duck? I only ask because suddenly I'm reminded of the days when I used to go camping with my folks and we'd catch wild ducks. Ah, those were the days.

squib said...

I'm pescatarian. It's a bit of a cop-out and I wear leather shoes

Argyll, no

Anonymous said...

When you say "cop-out", do you mean you do it for ethical rather than taste or health reasons? And is it more that you don't like the killing of animals or the way they're killed?

Melba said...

Mr E all good tips, espesh the Martini & Absinthe meister. Unfortunately I can't make any changes, I'm going with my pal (he'll be working, serving me champers on the way over and back and on the flights to & from NY) but I've never been to SFO and would love to go. What you say about LA being a shit hole is funny because last week as Clokes and I drove north for family dinner with his parents, we were going up Station Street from Northcote w/ Heidelberg West on the right-hand side and he said: This is LA. This is what it's like. It's shit. But that's where the flight is going and I'm happy to check it for a day or so. SFO would be preferable but unfortunately...

Next time! Also on Martinis, we went to a cocktail bar a couple of weeks ago, NBHD Neanderthal. Just an unassuming little shop front with too-cool hipsters at a front table, with their Apple laptops and fucking plank skate-boards BUT the guy behind the bar made me the best Hemingway daiquiri (I'm not a sweet cocktail person; this was to die for it was so beautiful) AND then a really dry martini with the lemon twist. It was gorgeous too, and they were reasonably priced. The dude is really into bringing cocktails to the people. (They're in Commercial Road, Prahram and I suggest that be our next catch up place... Fuck beer.)


I would love to be in a clan with you and squib, Awix.

I also love the way the comments have been racking up here while I've been busy WORKING AND STRESSING OUT AND REALLY TIRED FOR ALMOST THE WHOLE WEEK.

No news anyway other than that but I'm happy it's Saturday.

And how about Thursday or whenever it was with the politikas?

Alex, your question about minor characters - my answer is: I don't know. And I don't go about it by creating someone to fulfil a function, which means sometimes there are redundant characters that 'don't do any work' but I like having them there anyway. They always add something even if it's small. They just come in the writing of it, it's all just imagination and fluid, but I can say that I am inclined to write characters that I know and that are 'from my world' - possibly for authenticity reasons, possibly for 'my worldview' reasons. I can't imagine writing an Aboriginal character, only because it would fee fraudulent. However if I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with Indigenous people, either urban or rural (urban would be more interesting) then I *might*. When writing male characters I think of them as human but with some dude characteristics that I've observed and experienced through my life while living & loving dudes.

I know the show GIRLS copped flack for not having any black people as characters, and for it being non-diverse - if that's what you're getting at I'd be happy to have a convo about it cause I have some strong ideas about that.

For me though with my writing, it's about trying to be authentic but that doesn't always mean 'writing what I know best' cause imagination comes into it too.


And on the topic of GIRLS, has anyone been watching it? I need to debrief, I watched the final three eps of Season 2 last night and they were fantastic. Esp the last one. Just wow. I can't wait to watch them again with subtitles cause I miss so much of the dialogue.

Anonymous said...

I have this strange feeling that when Mr E sees this, there's going to be cracks involving clan spelled with a "k" (tastefully and cleverly done, of course).

Yes, I was trying to get at the idea of diversity in fiction and would like to hear your views. However, I was trying to get at something kind of specific. What I meant by "minor character" was, like, if you had a major character who goes to a certain shop a number of times during a story, you need to have a shop keeper; but they're not really involved in the story proper, they just need to be there. Anyway, the reason I ask is because I've noticed that if someone asks me to draw a person, with no extra information, my automatic reaction defaults to an athletic, caucasian bloke in his twenties. I can't think of any reason for me to do that other than that it's generally what I used to see in books when I was learning the details of anatomy. But maybe it's wider than that. So I wanted to know if you had an automatic default for "nothing" characters.

I hope your busy, stressful week was at least productive (and hey, only about 3 spam comments for the week). And Thursday's politics, bloody hell. Do you reckon Labor's actually going to sort themselves out or are they going to keep going until they've completely devoured themselves. I actually spent all of Thursday night talking with a Chinese bloke I've been doing some work for (he's trying to expand his business into Oz and was only over for a few days). Between his and my spoken English, it turned into quite a long, laborious conversation, and I think I spent about two and a half hours trying to describe to him how the Australian political system works and what the power struggle within the government actually meant (or didn't mean) from a practical standpoint. Also, I learned that if you tell a Chinese bloke that you don't drink alcohol and he says "Oh, okay, we have grace instead", don't be surprised if he comes back with a bong and a bowl of hash.

squib said...

I don't like the killing of anything but I'm not militant about it. I get that life works like that, things getting killed by other things, over and over

Anonymous said...

Yes. Not surprising with my upbringing that I'm fine with the idea of eating animals. Having said that however, some of the stuff you see in abattoirs and factory farms still turns my stomach.

Anonymous said...

Hey Melbs, just thought I'd let you know that your Yahoo Mail account seems to be up to no good again. It looks like me, your ISP mail account (I recognised it since you've sent me stuff from there before) and someone with the initials WM (I won't write their full name here for obvious reasons, but you probably know who) have been sent a link to some dodgy looking site spruiking diet pills. You might want to let WM know not to follow it.

Melba said...

Maybe I'll just close that down... I changed the password last time. I don't use it much. Sorry for inconvenience and thanks for letting me know.

Funny but I don't know who WM is... will delete the account, if I can.

Anonymous said...

Did the email I'm talking about actually arrive at your ISP email address? If not, perhaps something else is afoot.

Anonymous said...

It was simply titled "[]".

Anonymous said...

It seems WM is a "Guest Services Coordinator" for one of the biggest law firms in the world. Interesting.

Melba said...

I cancelled the account and deleted everything which means all our emails Alex, goneski. Luckily I saved off your feedback for the book.

I did get some sort of email notification to my Melbourne Girl account that had [] (or as you put it above.)


WM might have been the baddie? I don't know. Anyway that account was annoying. I have a gmail account somewhere but don't know the login/password.

Anonymous said...

WM might have been the baddie?

Maybe, and maybe it's coincidence, but it's also possible MW might have been the real target too. I haven't double checked any of this and I might have some wires crossed, but it looks like MW is not only an employee of a very big law firm but the ex-wife (and dupe) of a deadbeat Pommy duke and former associate of former singer Michael Jackson.

Weird, indeed.

Melba said...

Oh I know now who WM is. I got an email to that yahoo account via this blog from a woman once bigamously married to Lord Alexander Montagu. I mentioned him once ages ago on this blog, saying that I knew him and his bro and sister as kids, we hung out a bit down at Barwon Heads when I was growing up. We went to the circus - twice - I went to their house - once - and it was during that time that Alex stripped off and lay on the couch and made me feel uncomfortable. I was about 11. Alex lived/lives in the States and yes, his kid used to 'play' with Michael Jackson. (I learned all this when I read up after I'd gotten the email.) ANYWAY this woman emailed me asking if I knew more about The Lord. I don't think I even replied.

Here's that post:

Before you started reading my blog... oh there's a whole world there Alex.

Anonymous said...

That's the one. It also means that it was probably just a coincidence.

I should go back and read all your old posts at some point. Don't know if I'll be able to resist the urge to comment sporadically though.

Melba said...

It would be hard work to go through them all Alex, there are a few and most are shit. Some good ones though.

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I Have Writes said...

Sorry to wade in nearly a year late on this one, but I think that while you definitely have a point on gender stereotyping in the scientific arena, you've not picked a great example of how that stereotyping is played out.

I'm Jake by the way - the guy who asked Elise the question about how she dealt with people assuming she was a man.... but my query was intended to place sole focus on the fact that she was a woman who gained near-overnight success in a socially recognized male dominated arena. And yes, these things should be highlighted. Not because there is anything amiss with the idea of a scientifically literate woman - history has provided us with plenty of those - but because it takes a remarkable woman, such as Elise to utterly destroy ingrained preconceptions so that we have no alternative but to move forward.

And so all I really wanted to know was: How did she feel to be at the epicenter of that movement? Why is that not a valid question?

I still follow IFLS, and every post I read not only provides me with greater understanding of the world around me, but also fills me with hope that we (society) will one day normalize the experience of learning these things from a woman.

.... but its a bit hard to fit all that into 140 characters on Twitter, so I made do with what I had.