And not for the strange reason given by this group of female scientists, who believe that, as a spokesperson for the group argued, “making a high profile sci-fi character with a following like Doctor Who female would help to raise the profile of women in science and bring the issue of the important contribution women can and should make to science in the public domain.”
That would be a nice side effect, though calling the Doctor a scientist is sort of like calling Michelangelo an interior decorator: It does a disservice to the work that real interior decorators do, plus it sort of annoys the pig.
No, my reason for wanting the next Doctor to be female is this: It would be really freaking cool. Also really risky, which is something that the writers of the newest iteration of the series have emphatically embraced.
And why is it risky? Because a huge proportion of Doctor Who fans have staunchly refused to consider the prospect of a female Doctor. Typically they argue that it falls too far outside of the canon, or that it’s not possible given the internal logic of the series, or that the change would be so drastic that a female Doctor would never be accepted. Here, let me swipe the two most commonly used protestations away, leaving only one possibility: that fans’ own sexism is what is really getting in the way of their ability to imagine the potential of a female Doctor.
Still, people argue, sex is too biologically ingrained–a trait that goes right down into our–and, presumably, the Timelords’–DNA. Oh, sure, yes, sex is biologically ingrained; but then again, so is hair color and bone structure and eye color and skin tone–but fans have no problem accepting that all of these things can and do change upon regeneration. DNA is rewritten when the Doctor regenerates; by extension, that means that there is no reason why sex chromosomes cannot change.
2. A female Doctor would be too much for fans to accept. People were pissed when Battlestar Galactica returned to TV with a female Starbuck (see here, here, and here), and it ultimately turned out ok (here, here, and here).
You ALWAYS don’t like the new Dr Who. It’s a rule. You miss the last one. But after a few weeks (or less) he’s the Doctor. It’s inevitable.
Every time, there are significant personality changes. Every time, there are significant physical changes. Every time, we get a brand-new Doctor, and we miss the old one until we forget about the old one because there he is, the Doctor, making us want to be extraordinary all over again.
Besides, people have accepted that the Doctor can morph from this:
Would it be such a stretch to imagine the Doctor morphing from this:
Into, say, this?
I’m just saying.
The truth is that it’s hard for die-hard Doctor Who fans to imagine a female Doctor because the Doctor is the one who saves us, who makes us feel extraordinary, who makes us want to be impressive, be heroic, be braver than we would otherwise be. And it’s hard for us to imagine being saved by a woman; or watching a woman who exists outside of sex or sexuality, as the male Doctors typically do; or watching a woman who is smarter, braver, and more confident than anyone else around. It’s not about the show’s logic–the writers have twisted the logic of the show as necessary, and we’ve accepted nearly every twist. It’s not about whether a switch to a female Doctor is just too drastic of a change–today’s Doctor has nearly nothing in common with the earliest versions, and little in common with his immediate predecessors, yet we accept him as the Doctor in the end.
Nope. This is about our own internal sexism, our own cultural misogyny.
Which is why it would be so brave, and so cool, if the writers decided to make the next Doctor a female Doctor.
Here’s why, courtesy of the fantastic webcomic Riot Nrrd:
It’s ableist to call something “lame.” It’s an offensive and marginalizing term, on par with calling something “gay” or “retarded.” Henceforth, I will work to strike “lame” and all other ableist terminology from my vocabulary.
But for today only, we can show the Herald-Times what happens when a news site drops its paywall. Certainly a one-day window can’t be used to show how much more long-term traffic a site gets when people hyperlink to persistently free articles, and it can’t even help show the snowball effect of people sending links to each other, who send other links to others, and so on.
But we can use this opportunity to send as much traffic as possible through the Herald-Times site. Please visit the Herald-Times today and look around. Let them know you’re paying attention; let them know you’d pay even more attention if they dropped the paywall for good.
I’ve been listening nearly nonstop to Emmylou Harris’s 2ooo album Red Dirt Girl. The music shines and shimmers, the lyrics flex and warp, and Harris offers up a twelve-part vision of how we learn to live and love, imperfectly, in an imperfect world.
Here’s Harris performing “My Baby Needs a Shepherd”:
My favorite song from the album is “My Antonia,” a duet with Dave Matthews. I had finished reading the Willa Cather version of My Antonia immediately before hearing this song, and I was touched not only by the tribute to the book but also by how the song is not afraid to extend and alter the story. Click here to watch this song on YouTube.
According to The Political Compass, I’ve become less liberal over the past year on both economic and social issues.
You may know that The Political Compass offers a 40-question test intended to gauge your stance on a range of political issues, from the government’s role in regulating businesses to gender politics and human rights. I took it a year ago and came out as shown below:
The Political Compass: Jenna McWilliams (4/1/09)
Economic Left/Right: -8.38
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.85
Now here I am, a year later, all nationalist and blindly patriotic and wingnutty:
The Political Compass: Jenna McWilliams (7/27/10)
A quick Cartesian calculation tells me that I’ve become 2.435 points more conservative, which sort of confuses me because a quick scan of my politically oriented blogposts tells me I’ve become 8.47 points more mouthy about moonbat-ish issues.
The only thing I can think of is that as I’ve engaged more with political issues, I’ve developed a slightly finer sense of the complexities of these issues. I’ve become a little more pragmatic, a little more focused on how things actually are and a little less focused on how I think they should be.
Which I imagine is the first little nudge toward the slippery slope that ends in the land of right-wing insanity. God help me if I ever definitively end up on the conservative side of politics. If it’s truly possible for a liberal commie vegetarian hippie to flip inside-out, then god help us all.
Recently, while revisiting and updating my blogroll for the move to this url, I decided to add a category I called “academics I sort of stalk.” I imagined this as the place where I would make public, and publicly follow, the thinkers whose work matters most to my scholarship.*
Problem: my “academics I sort of stalk” category is disproportionately loaded up with men.
I work in the field of Digital Media and Learning, and I’m interested in the work of geeky education folks and learning-focused media studies folks. And while loads of these folks are women, online activity focusing on these categories is overwhelmingly dominated by men–primarily by white men. Female (and/or queer and/or nonwhite) researchers are doing lots of important thinking in these areas, but for the most part they’re not doing it online–or, at least, they’re not doing it online as actively, or as persistently, as male academics are. I tried really hard to diversify my portfolio: I scoured my twitter community. I pored over the most recent AERA program. I searched the Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences. I searched through other people’s blogrolls. Lots of female academics have blogs; and lots of those blogs haven’t been updated in months and months.
(And just to head you off at the pass: Yes, I know about danah boyd. Now give me the name of a second woman who is approximately as prominent as boyd; and tell me how long it took you to think of that second woman.)
There are at least four reasons for the continued online dominance of men.
1. Women have to deal with a lot of guff. You may remember Clay Shirky’s “rant about women,” wherein Shirky suggested women who want to advance their careers try to behave more like men. There’s this assertion that bringing more women into the Linux community makes said community not more productive, not more creative, not more dynamic, but more sexy. (Read rebuttals here and here.)
2. Guyspeak (still) dominates. The internet was built by men. The spaces that dominate our online experiences–Twitter, Facebook, Google, Digg, Slashdot, the concept of blogging–were designed by men. The fact that many of these spaces are occupied by equal amounts men and women does not change the fact that male Discourse is the default in these spaces; it’s built right into the very fabric of their designs. To successfully participate, women need to understand the Discourse of those spaces; to maintain a presence in those spaces, women need to engage with and leverage elements of male Discourse themselves. It’s not a coincidence that female social media users tend to be white, well educated, and wealthy–it’s not just a male Discourse, after all; it’s a Discourse that also privileges middle class white people. (See this Pew study of minority use of the internet; this study of internet use patterns among women; and this fantastic piece [.pdf] by Nicole Zillien & Eszter Hargittai on status-specific types of internet usage.)
3. It’s hard to be respected as a female academic. According to this AAUP report, women are less likely than men to be granted tenure; less likely than men to even be hired for a tenure-track position; less likely than men to achieve the rank of full professor; and likely to earn less pay than men once they attain a faculty position. Digital participation does not count toward a person’s tenure status; most tenure committees won’t acknowledge material published online as scholarly work.
It’s probably not much of a coincidence, then, that danah boyd, the one well-known academic who maintains a persistent online presence, is employed not by a university but by Microsoft.
4. It’s hard to be respected as a female academic. The other problem is that the category of “prominent academic” is populated by and large by men. “You could be the female Jim Gee.” “She’s the female antidote to Clay Shirky.” “She’s the female version of Seymour Papert.” How often do you hear: “He’s like a male danah boyd.” “Seymour Papert was like a male Sherry Turkle.” Never, that’s how often.
Even people (like me!) who are actively seeking female academics to stalk struggle to break out of a belief system that values men’s voices over women’s voices. I follow the work of far more men than I do women, and I believe I’m less likely to recognize and value an innovative female academic than I am an innovative male academic. I’m a product of my culture, after all.
So I’d like your help. Who am I missing? Which female, queer, nonwhite thinkers working in Digital Media and Learning belong on my list of academics to stalk? You can, by the way, nominate yourself.
* I am, by the way, fully open to the possibility that the name for this category is offensive to some readers, and I am willing to change it if you would like me to.
Here’s something awesome: A graduate student in school counseling who is publicly and vocally anti-gay is suing her school because university officials dared to suggest she might not be able to effectively counsel gay and lesbian clients.
Jennifer Keeton, a student at Augusta State University in Augusta, GA, has been crystal clear on her views toward homosexuality: It’s immoral, a lifestyle choice, and in direct opposition to her Christian beliefs.
According to the suit, faculty members threatened Keeton with expulsion unless she underwent a “remediation plan” intended, presumably, to increase her acceptance of the GLBTQ community; the Chronicle article offers the following details:
The plan calls on Ms. Keeton to attend workshops on serving diverse populations, read articles on counseling gay, lesbian, and bisexual and transgendered people, and write reports to an adviser summarizing what she has learned. It also instructs her to work to increase her exposure to, and interaction with, gay populations, and suggests that she attend the local gay-pride parade. Ms. Keeton has refused to comply.
The suit argues that Keeton’s personal views toward homosexuality would not interfere with her ability to offer competent counseling to gay and lesbian clients. You can see a video of Keeton explaining her stance here.
Two points: First, if you are so judgmental and bigoted about a group of people that you are simply unable to keep your mouth shut about it, what in the world would lead you to believe you would make a competent counselor to anybody, least of all the people whose lifestyles you unequivocally deplore?
Second, if you unequivocally deplore the lifestyles of an entire group of people, why in the world would you want to counsel them anyway, competently or otherwise?
For goodness’ sake: school counseling. One of the most significant sets of issues young people deal with surround sexuality. Straight, queer, trans, or otherwise, all clients deserve to be counseled by someone who has not already made up her mind about what sorts of sexual attractions, dispositions, and behaviors are moral and which are a Crime Against the Lord.
Why is this woman suing? Why in the world does she even want to be a school counselor?
I was directed to a fantastic set of video resources on Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) through the Extended Mind, Culture, and Activity listserv, which is basically a must-read for anyone involved in educational research. (You know all those really prominent thinkers who publish all those mind-blowingly important articles, and you know how you would kill for the chance to find out more about how they think? The XMCA listserv is your chance to eavesdrop. Regular contributors include Jay Lemke, Michael Cole, Martin Packer, Wolff-Michael Roth, and, sometimes, Jenna McWilliams!)
Among the resources is an introduction to The Fifth Dimension, a project organized by Michael Cole out in California. This afterschool program was designed, as Cole explains, to address two problems:
lack of resources in many communities to provide supplementary educational experiences to school-age children, and lack of resources in many universities and colleges to provide students with an education that will afford them the possibility of small, problem-oriented courses in their major subject that will enable them to grasp the relationship between the theory-driven materials they are exposed to in classes and the practical life to which those theories are directed.
In the book chapter (.pdf) from which I pulled the above quote, Cole explains that psychology undergraduates in many major universities typically have little to no opportunity to see evidence of the ideas they read about, other than perhaps in lab experiments with rats. His bold solution? Toss undergraduates out there with real kids and give both groups the chance to learn from the other. (For more on the Fifth Dimension, read this interesting article.
Why should we care? Because the Fifth Dimension model is informative for addressing what is in my view perhaps the most significant problem in educational research: The institutional disincentive for engaging in community-based activity.
You can’t get tenure for holding public office. You can’t count “helping a school raise funds to stay open” as service on your CV. Nobody cares if you volunteer as an afterschool program facilitator. It’s no wonder that community members in many university towns view researchers as selfish and apathetic about community issues–there is no support for faculty who want to offer their expertise and experience to the community.
Here’s what researcher Katherine Brown says about the Fifth Dimension model:
If you run into a constraint that says you can’t send undergraduates into the community to do the research, [Michael Cole] creates the institutional affordances to make it not only possible but necessary…. If faculty members are discouraged from doing community-based research, he creates environments where it’s then a virtue for them to do this–and that way people are grateful, because they get to do what they wanted to do but were stopped from doing by fusty institutional stagnation.
Aside from the clear learning gains achieved by the Fifth Dimension group, there’s a lot to be learned about what it takes to get people involved in their community–and, more specifically tied to my interests, about what it takes to support researchers who want to extend the notion of “service” to include “service to the community,” and, in so doing, to line up their research interests with their interests in community involvement.
I don’t have much more to say about this yet. I’ll get back to you with details as they become available.
On the one hand, I’m pretty happy about the new Godmarks billboard campaign designed to counteract efforts to depict the Christian god as terrifying and vengeful. Because look:
On the other hand, there’s a problem with fighting back using weapons developed by the enemy. First, it gives legitimacy to those weapons, tacitly making it okay for billboards like this to pepper the highway:
And for politicians to say things like this:
Of course, the idea of using “God’s words” as a tool for marginalizing and oppressing groups of people is not new to the billboard campaigns of the last decade or so. It’s not a new political tool, either, and it’s certainly nice to know that entire masses of people were appalled and outraged that a politician like George W. Bush would dare to claim that he was doing the work of God. A big piece of what made that outrage possible (in addition to the Bush administration’s abhorrent domestic and foreign policies) was the several decades’ worth by traditionally marginalized groups to reclaim religious language, to reclaim the notion of a personal relationship with God–to pick up the weapons of the opposing team.
My previous blog, sleeping alone and starting out early, is dead. I did port the content over to making edible playdough is hegemonic, and in so doing I had a chance to file through the more than 200 posts I tossed up on the internet. Some of them were pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. Because they’re likely to be pretty much buried for good now that my world has moved on, I wanted to highlight my 10 favorite posts from my days at sleeping alone and starting out early. These aren’t necessarily my best posts; they’re just my favorites. I’ve listed them below, ordered approximately according to how much of a favorite each post is.
1. NYTimes headline: When Stars Twitter, a Ghost May Be Lurking. This may be my favorite post, period. I’m sad that it didn’t get much readership. The title comes from a NYTimes article about celebrities who have other people manage their Twitter feeds, but I had hoped the story would be about astronomy. So I rewrote it. I’d be really happy if you took a look.
Leaving aside issues of race–not because I think we should leave those issues aside, but because I’m not qualified to talk about race–we craft a narrative around Belton and Griffin, and it’s a narrative that points to deep class assumptions that hover above issues of gender and sexual orientation. It’s the same sort of narrative that frames, for example, the story of Tiger Woods and his multiple mistresses (“Cocktail waitresses! Pancake servers! Why’s Tiger rooting around in the trash?!?”), our attitudes toward celebrities (“Britney Spears–you can take the girl out of Hicksville, but….”), and the political decisions that undergird our social structure.
It’s easier and simpler to use Belton’s murder as a touchstone for conversations about the state of gay rights in America. In fact, this story, like all stories worth telling, is far more complicated and multithreaded. Like all stories worth telling, the work of interpreting the details is far less clearcut than it seems upon first blush.
On International Women’s Day, I’m calling for more attention to the long revolution, for more attention to the difficult and complicated work of building a movement based on solidarity, mutual respect and support, and making room for a variety of voices, interests, and needs. I’m calling for more attention to the ways in which we hurt each other, diminish the voices of our comrades, use any power we gain individually as a weapon against others who would like a little bit of power too.
4.Excuse me while I go all John Lennon on you. AdBusters had this “one flag” competition intended to establish one flag under which to unite the world. But–oops–every single judge of this competition was a white man. I wrote about this, obviously, but also about how we might imagine a world in which “flag” does not mean “territory” or “ownership,” but something very different:
We say that humans are by nature territorial, and that notions like nations, borders, governments and flags emerged from that essentially human trait. But it might have been otherwise, as the Adbusters winning flag suggests. We can imagine a world in which a block of cloth tossed up a pole means not “this land is claimed for the American government and is subject to its government and laws” but “the swimming pool is now open” or “mitosis has occurred” or “a block of cloth has been tossed up a pole.”
It might have been otherwise, and in this case the flag whose very image is that which means to us the exact opposite of “territory”–sky, the very opposite to us of land–won the contest because it helps us to imagine how it might have been otherwise. In fact, we might say the winning flag is not just the flag itself but the image of that block of cloth against a matching sky.
People drifting and gathering like clouds across the bright sky. No term to describe the notions of “borders,” of “boundaries,” no country or continent, no power exerted by the notion of “patriotism” and therefore no jingoisms, no xenophobia, no need for the complex of feelings and intentions exerted by patriotism as it currently exists in our networks of existence.
5. zomg these guys are so racist. I found some incredibly racist people saying some incredibly racist things on the internet. So I blogged about them:
I just found out about American Renaissance Magazine, a disgusting neo-conservative platform for justifying loathsomely cretinous attitudes toward race clearinghouse for neo-conservative articles that support white supremacist beliefs. I’m finding it impossible, actually, to describe this site in a way that could be remotely considered unbiased, so I’ll just let it speak for itself:
6. Actually, “Snakes on a Plane” wasn’t that bad…jk jk jk. In the dubbed-over cable version of “Snakes on a Plane,” Samuel L. Jackson says this: “I have had it with these monkeyfighting snakes on this Monday to Friday plane!” I found this too awesome to not blog about it.
7. eppur si muove: a defense of Twitter. Galileo was rumored to have said “eppur si muove” (and yet it moves) after being forced by the Church to recant his assertion that the Earth revolves around the sun. This post takes on the general complaint that Twitter is filled up with meaningless drivel, inane babble, and banal missives; I argue that people who see Twitter in this way are missing the engine that keeps it growing and changing.
the dross that exists on the internet has always existed; it’s just that until the emergence of participatory media, the educated elites never had to lower themselves to engaging with it. Lame ideas, poorly designed creative works, ignorant or bigoted political stances, and individual identity work had no avenue for widespread expression, and so the people in charge got to act like none of the above actually existed. And, for all cultural intents and purposes, none of the above actually did exist.
Let me put a finer point on this: The decline-in-quality argument is an elitist stance in reaction to the transformative democratic potential of social media for the unwashed masses. I say this as an educated elite, as someone who has benefited as much as the next guy from the ability to participate in the dominant group’s dominant Discourse.
9. on ageism, sexism, and bad behavior: what we can learn from Dave Winer This guy felt he had been the victim of ageism and lashed out at the world, both on Twitter and on his blog. Which is fine, except that he sort of has a reputation of being a little bit petty and mean when he perceives someone is criticizing him, so this turns him into a little bit of the boy who cried wolf. I wrote this:
There are at least two lessons to draw from the Winer / ageism story: First, that the worn grooves of prejudice and discrimination are so, so easy for humans, flawed as we are, to fall into, and that it is our responsibility to guard against taking that easy path; and second, that bad behavior in communities of practice is still not okay, no matter who you are. The difference these days, of course, is that reputation not only precedes you but follows behind you like a little yipping terrier. It’s getting harder and harder to walk into a room you’ve never entered without everyone noticing the constant bark of that little dog.
10. smacking down Jaron Lanier & ‘World Wide Mush’. Okay, I’ll admit that the main reason I like this post so much is that Howard Rheingold liked it too. But I also think it’s a good example of my position with respect to social technologies. I wrote this:
Lanier of all people should know that the often anonymous, often trivial and often problematic Wikipedia model is only one approach to collaboration, and one that works–and often works very well–for fairly low-stakes and longer-term goals. You don’t cite Wikipedia in a White House briefing on Islam in Nigeria, for example, but you do cite Wikipedia in proving to your brother-in-law that Breakfast at Tiffany’s was released just at the very beginning of the 1960′s, just like you said it was. (Did you get that, Dean? 1961.)
11. how to eat pistachios and where to buy your jeans. Levi-Strauss Jeans Co. created this fake campaign called Go Forth! It was intended to harness the very American desire to travel, to shake free of our moorings, to meet on the road, surrounded by the vastness, and to connect. Anyway, they created this backstory about a prodigal cousin who left gold bars strewn across the country; they had beautiful, touching commercials; and it was all a fake manufactured to sell more product. I got pissed. So I wrote about it.
Thanks. Homeless girls were taught science through the making of edible playdough. This approach led to nourishment of children who were often underfed; it transformed science into something that could help the girls make sense of their communities and lives; and it may not have done a whole lot to arm them against the cultural norms that got them there in the first place. The difference between enabling children to learn and empowering them to resist is the difference between reproducing an unjust culture and working to transform it. You can read more here.