A 101 post (of sorts)

“Feminist, Fangirl, and Maker of Fine Omelettes”

This was for quite a long time in the “about me” section of my blogger profile and so is probably familiar to some of you.

One of the things I fangirl is the internet. I have a crush on the internet. I love that it’s this huge, chaotic mess that allows for things like serious groundbreaking academic work, and really perverse football slash, and LiveJournal communities dedicated to pictures of baby animals.
Back in February, Amit Varma wrote this gloriously geeky article in the Indian Express:

The blogosphere is a meritocratic space. Each blog finds the audience it deserves. If you like economics, you’ll find tons of good economics blogs, often much better than anything you’ll see in the mainstream media, because they’re written by specialists, not generalists. You want gardening? Literature? Technology? You’ll find content in any niche you can think of.
There is a lot of junk on the internet, but readers navigate through it easily, and soon settle on a few sites they regularly visit. Information percolates so quickly that a good new blog doesn’t take much time to build a readership. You write something nice, people who like it link to you, their readers check you out, and so it grows. Marketing and hype are generally wasted, and everything is viral. If you provide compelling content, readers come. If you write rubbish, readers go. Competition is the best regulation.

And this exemplifies the stuff I love about the internet. Who wouldn’t be excited by a system that has space for pretty much anything, that is completely free, where your rewards are based purely on merit, and the like? The internet is really very sexy.

But then there’s the “feminist” thing too. I’ve been female on the internet for some years now. More, I’ve been a female who blogs under my real name. There’s a reason comments on this blog are moderated. Then there was the Kathy Sierra incident. It seems (cue shocked gasps) that the internet does not exist in a vacuum. How about race? How about that bloggers’ lunch with Bill Clinton in Harlem that somehow only white people attended?

Apparently some of those nasty meatspace power dynamics have cunningly leaked in here too. Who would have thought? And they’re there affecting who gets heard, and by how many people, and by which people, and yes, who gets book deals. And so on.

What I’m saying, or should be, is that it’s inevitable for people who are naturally excited by concepts/ideas to focus on the concept itself and stop noticing the cultural context within which the idea exists. But only if they’re the people who that cultural context is made for, who are not constantly alienated by it.( Note how I cleverly do not use that word.) Except you can’t separate things from their contexts because their contexts inevitably influence them.

Which brings me, inevitably to the Open Source Boob Project. I was going to say a lot more about this when it happened but was lazy and by the time I started lots of other people had said it for me. But to me, this is a classic case of the sort of thing I’m talking about. A world where sexuality and bodies aren’t stigmatised? Undoubtedly a good thing. Approaching women in a male dominated space and asking them if they’ll consent to participate in a Social Experiment where people can come up to them and ask to touch their breasts? Um.

Context. It’s important.

And so are omelettes.

8 Comments to “A 101 post (of sorts)”

  1. Why did the Social Experiment only work one way? If it was an equal exchange, there should have been an offer for..er, equal invasion of male privacy. I am surprised that none of the men thought it even necessary to offer such an option. I am guessing it would have mostly been rejected, but my point is, the option did not even seem to have crossed their mind…

  2. absolutely unbelievable. and just the sort of thing i want to read about in minute detail before a paper on the nineteenth century novel.

  3. In Amit Varma’s essay, one should replace the concept of merit with that of popularity. Amit’s blog, while enjoyable, is popular because its posts are bite-sized, funny and light. Admittedly, they’re also sharp but if he wrote longish essays instead, he wouldn’t have a tenth of the readers he does. This is a fact he seems to ignore in almost all of his posts on this topic.

  4. Lekhni – I think other people who were present clarified in the comments (which I didn’t read the whole of, admittedly. Too long.) that men were also up for touching. Which doesn’t change the fact that asking women in such a space (or in most spaces that I can think of, really) and asking men bring with them completely different sets of baggage. And isn’t it telling, if men were available for touching, that the original poster doesn’t even mention it? And that he chooses to call it the Open Source Boob Project? It’s all just headbreakingly stupid.

    Anon – Oops. I’m not a huge fan of the 19th century novel as it is, so you have my sympathy. :)

    Anirudh – I suppose the sort of things I’m drawing attention to in this post are partly what makes popularity not necessarily merit based.
    Amit’s posts are very readable, and that’s an entirely good thing. I require readable material online far more often than I require intellectually rigorous stuff (I am an intellectual midget). short-light-sharp may just be the ideal format for writing. :)

  5. Hey :)
    I was wondering if it’s OK if I put up a link to your blog from mine? My blog is not very big, or very popular, or even very old, but I like your blog, so I hope it’s not a problem…
    I’m putting the link up now, and if there are any objections, I’ll remove the link.
    Good luck

  6. >Who wouldn’t be excited by a system that has space for pretty much anything, that is completely free, where your rewards are based purely on merit, and the like

    Sounds like you’d like the The Culture.

    Random curiousity- even read Banksie?


  7. mixedblessings – of course!

    r- (which r are you? are you an r I know?) I have been given quite a bit of Banks to read by a friend but haven’t actually gotten round to it. He remains in my (growing, eek!) to-read pile.

  8. No, I don’t think we’ve met. Just an occasional visitor to your blog. [resists pro-Banks rant]
    I prefer not to say which r I am. I creep around the internet making random comments and frightening small animals and children.


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