Archive for April, 2009


Awesome Web Discovery 7 – Gunnerkrigg Court

Another webcomic! Because at it’s best, a webcomic is pure interaction between an artist and their audience in much the same way as a blog. Only with pictures. And stories. And, y’know, general niftiness.

And so, I’d like to introduce you to Gunnerkrigg Court. Set at an English boarding school, our hero Antimony Carver has been sent to Gunnerkrigg Court following the death of her mother. She soon learns that Gunnerkrigg Court hides a great many mysteries, and some of them may be connected with her parents.

The setting is (again) fantasy, with ghosts and minotaurs and mad science. Siddell does a wonderful job building atmosphere and developing characters, and for every answer we get we’re left with two more mysteries.

Antimony (“Annie”) is a great main character. She can see spirits, which isn’t presented as that big a deal, but her greatest assets are not any sort of superpowers, but her intelligence, her rationality and her kindness.

Best of all, the other main character is Annie’s best friend, Kat, a genius with machines. It’s awesome to see a female friendship front and center of a story.

Read from the beginning at Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell.


Happy Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Of course it’s also Jazz Awareness Month, so I’ll assume that if you’d somehow missed hearing about the former, it was because you were far too busy listening to old Miles Davis recordings.

I’m still fuzzy on what designating a month Anything Month is supposed to do, exactly, except perhaps make you feel better about ignoring whatever it is the other eleven months, because you totally created that themed bulletin board during Anything Month.

But a group in Columbus, Ohio has chosen a slightly different way to mark the occasion… and I do mean “mark.”

The group, which is remaining anonymous but has connections with this website, has been marking locations at Ohio State University where multiple sexual assaults have been reported in an attempt to memorialize the tragedy while raising awareness of the ubiquity of rape.

Is this an awesome form of activist art?

Is it a sensationalist tactic that re-traumatizes survivors?

Opinions are mixed.

A local paper, The Other Paper, put it this way:

The local debate exemplifies a larger, nationwide debate surrounding radical feminist organizations—who has the right to speak on behalf of the women/survivors in question? Do jarring images promote awareness of sexual assault, or merely reinforce fears and existing stereotypes surrounding sexual assault? And should activists censor shock-campaigns to protect survivors emotionally, or do bold guerilla-style actions empower survivors?

(You can read the rest here)

There’s another article on the graffiti at Jezebel too; this one focuses more on the larger context of feminist graffiti art, such as that done by Princess Hijab and others, and if it’s actually effective.

So who gets to speak for the survivors? Do these images raise awareness of the frequency at which rape actually occurs (Dude, multiple rapes happened here?), or do they once again focus exclusively on the statistically insignificant amount of rapes committed by strangers (since you’re much more likely to be raped by someone you know)? Is the good they might do outweighed by the potential for triggering survivors?

As you’re thinking about all of these issues (and please, leave a comment, I’d love to know what you think), I’d like to share one more quote from The Other Paper’s article:

Rape increased in Columbus by more than 12 percent since 2006, even though statewide, crimes of rape decreased by 2 percent over the same time period., according to the F.B.I. crime stats. Preliminary numbers for the first half of 2008 showed a decrease in the number of rapes in Columbus—that was before a serial rapist struck seven times in northwest Columbus during the last three months of last year.

Franklin County [where Columbus is] led the state in the number of forcible rapes committed in 2006 with 676, outpacing Cuyahoga County [Cleveland] by more than 100 and Hamilton County [Cincinnati] by more than 200.

Y’know, in the final analysis (and feel free to argue, I’m still parsing this out) I’m thinking the art is more helpful than harmful. Because if our primary fear is triggering rape survivors with reminders, there’s always Seth Rogan movies, ads for Pepsi, bumper stickers, t-shirts

Hell, at least the graffiti communicates that rape is, y’know, wrong.


Awesome Web Discovery 6 – You Don’t Have to Be Pretty

This essay is easily one of the most powerful, moving, and influential essays I have ever read. I want every female everywhere to have read it. I want it to be required re-reading once a year. I want to have it tattooed on my arm so I can make random people on the street read it.

Now, this may seem strange from someone who writes about pretty dresses (mostly) every day, but: You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

Read the rest of You Don’t Have To Be Pretty at A Dress a Day


Remembering the T in LGBT

An assigned reading on the Gendercator controversy seems especially apt this week, as the feminist blogosphere deals with a transgender boycott of Feministe and the trial coverage of Angie Zapata’s murder trial.

The Gendercator controversy was over the exclusion of a film called the Gendercator from a GLBT film festival a couple of years ago, amidst concerns and protests that the film was anti-trans.  At its most basic, it posits two values against each other:  censorship being bad vs. hate speech being tolerated in a safe space.

At its core, the fight was over whether or not trans gender individuals are seen as full members of the LGBT movement, in spite of their being the T in LGBT.  They are still seen as a “threat” by many radical feminists, who consider them men in women’s clothing, and even go so far as to ban trans women from all-women spaces, like the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which has a “womyn-born-womyn only” policy.

Even those feminists or GLBT activists who see trans gender individuals as full members of the movement may not be full allies.  Trans women often feel that even well-meaning cis women have a habit of drowning out their voices even in discussions started by or directly about the trans women.

Recently, a blogger named Voz called for a boycott of populate feminist blogs Feministe and Feministing (see sidebar for links), since:

“Both blogs have a history of mistreating and disrespecting trans women, and exploiting us for their own ends.
We tried reason. We tried engaging. We tried talking. We went off to r own spaces to heal.
Nothing worked.”

Feministe’s analysis of the boycott, what led to it, and a call for more awareness by cisgender women can be found here.

(“Cisgender” means those for whom the body they were born with matches their perceived gender, and is sometimes shortened to “cis” or “cis females.”)

Two useful blogs for starting to educate yourself about transgender issues are Transgriot and Pam’s House Blend.

If you’re trans gender, of course, you have more to worry about than just derailed comment threads: trans women are still murdered at a disproprotionately high rate, especially those trans women of colour. Their deaths are often not taken seriously by police departments and the media, labelled as “tranny prostitute” murders whether or not the victims were engaged in sex work.

One recent victim of transphobia was Angie Zapata. Her killer, Allen Ray Andrade, was found guilty earlier today of first degree murder, of a bias motivated crime (hate crime), as well as guilty of vehicle theft and identity theft.

At 4:00 PM Mountain time, he was sentenced to life without parole.

During the trial, the defense argued a “trans panic” defense; like the equally hateful “gay panic” defense (used by Matthew Shepard’s killers, among others) it posits that upon finding out that someone else is trans/gay, the accused is immediately driven into such uncontrollable rage/madness that they quite understandably kill the person.

Yeah. There’s something wrong with a world where anyone thinks that this’ll work. Or where it does work.

The defense also made a point of not calling Angie by her name, preferring to use the name she was born with and male pronouns to refer to her, often confusing her family who consistently used “she,” “her” and “Angie” to refer to their murdered loved one. It was all part of an effort by the defense to treat Angie as inherently “deceptive” in living the life she chose.

Luckily, this hateful attempt at blaming the victim failed, and Andrade (who referred to Zapata as “it” in recorded phone conversations played at the trial) will be spending the rest of his life in jail.

This was the very first time in the US that someone has been convicted of a hate crime against a transgendered individual.


Awesome Web Discovery 5 – The Daily Kitten

Let’s be fair.

Sometimes, being an Angry Feminist can get exhausting. What with constantly having to be outraged about Absolutely Everything All The Time, some days it’s a struggle just to roll out of bed, pour organic soy milk over my cereal, feed the cats, and decide how much I’m going to conform to/defy heteronormative Patriarchal beauty standards.

And that’s why I read The Daily Kitten.

The Daily Kitten is a website with one pure, focused purpose: to post a picture of a new kitten every day at t 3.07pm GMT, (10.07am EST).

Because sometimes you just need to look at pictures of kittens.


Awesome Web Discovery 4 – CODEPINK and Activist Knitting

CODEPINK, a women’s advocacy group for Peace, is planning a Mother’s Day protest against war in front of the White House. They’re asking knitters to knit 4″x4″ squares in either bright pink or dark green, which will be pieced together to form a banner saying “We will not raise our children to kill another mother’s child.”

This banner will be hung from the White House fence in conjunction with a twenty-four hour peace vigil they’re also organising.

CODEPINK: A Radical Act of Knitting

If you’re thinking of pledging some squares, let them know by 4 May.


Bringing the War to your Laptop

“I’m female, Iraqi and 24. I survived the war. That’s all you need to know. It’s all that matters these days anyway.”

Thus begins the blog of Riverbend, a compelling first person account of being in Iraq during the American Occupation. She has an amazing voice, poignant, often angry, always worth reading.

It often seems like talk about Iraq in the US is shaped entirely by what the person wants to believe. Whether a surge, for example, is failing or succeeding seems predicated on whether the person doing the telling thinks surges are a good idea or not and not on anything objectively measurable. One side talks about building schools, the other about exploding car bombs. Iraqis are freer. Iraqis are worse off. They love us. They hate us.

And of course, in our rush to talk for the Iraqi people, we’re not talking to them, and worse yet, we’re not listening to them. Which, considering that at least some of what we’re doing is supposed to be for their benefit (after it became clear that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction to blame the invasion on, anyway) is all sorts of Colonialism.

It is a wonderful thing, to be able to go online and gain perspectives from those actually being affected by American military actions abroad instead of taking the government’s or the media’s word for it.

It is a depressing thing, to hear about the harm American actions are causing.

Another highly recommended blog for news from a female Muslim perspective is Muslimah Media Watch. It does a great job of dissecting the fetishization/demonization of the hijab and burqa and the problems with attitudes towards Muslim women, especially the view that they are all in need of “saving” from Muslim men, while still being willing to confront anti-women attitudes within the Muslim world. Check them out the next time you hear about an “honour killing” on the news.