Open Thread: 101 Questions

It was asked earlier in the year that we hold a "101" thread for people who have questions about feminism, racism, ableism, fat acceptance, etc. and who would like to genuinely learn without derailing a 202-level conversation. So here is an open thread for people to ask question. Please use the appropriate Trigger Warnings on your questions so that people may decide whether to read a comment or skip over. Anyone can leap in to answer, but no one needs to feel obligated to do so.

For the 202+ levelers, feel free to use this thread to talk about things that have been on your mind with regards to privilege and isms.



Michael Mock said...

Heh. I saw the title, and thought - "Ooh, 101 questions - one for each Dalmatian!"

Sorry, I'll try to be relevant later. But a link to Scalzi's Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is.

Michael Mock said...

...might be a good place to start. (Why yes, I do need coffee so I can remember to finish my sentences.)

Heqit said...

Oh, perfect timing! My parents asked me a 101-ish question recently and I didn't know the answer. So: in general usage, is it more correct to say "Hispanic" or "Latino"? Are they synonymous or do they have distinct meanings? My gut feeling is that Hispanic is still OK, but that Latino is becoming preferred, possibly because of the connection between Hispanic and ( TW for ethnic slur) 'spic' - but I don't really know.


ZMiles said...

I'll be willing to answer questions about atheism/new atheism.

I can also answer questions about being a grad student, for those interested.

Dav said...

Well, hello, new best friend.

Are you in the sciences? Because I'm trying to set up rotation options now, and I think I'm developing severe paranoia about Picking the Wrong PI.

Also, I need to buy pretty much a new wardrobe. What sorts of things should I definitely have? How should I dress? How does one learn to give a kick-ass seminar? How do you network if you have an introversion percentile of 99.9?

And I'm sure I'm missing important stuff, because I don't know the right questions to ask. Unleash your wisdom!

(And I'll be gone a bit while you do, because I have to look at yet another apartment/house/duplex. Hopefully this one doesn't have cockroaches in the sink!)

Fitcher's Bird said...

Not sure if it fits here, but technically it's even lower than 101. I'm writing some reading comprehension exercises for an audience of primary school children based on a series of novels. Questions involve not just understanding the text but also encouraging empathy with characters.
The villain in one book engages in some pretty clear-cut victim-blaming of the people he robs. This is also the only book so far that engages in anything approaching sexual violence, as he (approx 14 years old) blackmails a female contemporary into a date. (No actual sexual violence or even unwanted physical contact occurs, and I don't think the subtext is intentionally there. They go out to dinner and he then locks her in the garage to prevent her warning the hero.)
I feel this is a good opportunity to start to unpack any problematic attitudes the audience of pre-teen boys may have picked up. Any advice on how to do so would be gratefully received.
One question that I'm not too happy with so far is:
4. “They were asking to be robbed.” This attitude is known as victim-blaming. Whose fault is it that the [football]club was robbed – the club or the burglar? Why do you think so?

Will Wildman said...

I have a trans* question regarding terminology I've been puzzling over for ages and getting nowhere with, so let's give this a shot.

TW: Misgendering

I think I'm clear on basic stuff - a trans man is a man who was misidentified at birth as female, presumably due to biological factors, usually because they have a body that is normally associated with women (although this could be more complicated if they're physically intersex in some way). So the usual shorthand way of referring to such a man's physiology would be 'female-bodied'. Except that I also think I've heard that there's a trend among some trans* folks of rejecting this framework, and to instead conclude that, for example, [they are male] + [this is their body] = [this is a male body]. And I can roll with that too, but it means that 'male-bodied' no longer works as a shorthand for describing the body type commonly associated with men, and I've been wondering if there's a good replacement term. (Or are trans folks fine with terms like 'male-bodied' for trans women and I'm just misinformed?)

Yamikuronue said...

Can I ask a question about triggers or is that OT?

ZMiles said...


I'm in electrical engineering. I've had a very good relationship with my PI. When selecting one, here's what to keep in mind:

1. Will you be able to do work in the area you're interested in? Look at the webpages of the PI's students and see what they've published on. (No publications is not a good sign unless the professor is very new). See if there's anything close to what it is you want to do.
2. What else will you have to do in addition to research? Some PIs are flush with funding and can put you on a research grant. Some will have you TA. Some will have you sign up for grants that require non-research work -- our lab has a lot of 'outreach' grants that involve the students involved going to local schools and conducting lessons, or developing lesson plans. Additionally, you'll probably be asked to do demos, and as a new student, possibly tech work. Depending on how willing you are to do this could influence which PI you want. You can find this out by talking to the PI's students and finding out what they have to do.
3. When will you be able to start your research? Obviously, you'll probably spend some time learning the ropes. But some labs are very heirarchical, where the new students basically assist the older ones with their research (in what is, optimally, a mentorship relationship). Others allow new students to begin doing research as soon as they learn the ropes. You can best determine this by observing the lab and seeing, basically, what the new students are doing vs. the older ones.
4. Do you like the management style? Some PIs won't talk to you for a month and let you do your own thing. Some talk to you multiple times in a week and provide constant feedback. Both have pros and cons, but if you get a PI with a style that matches what you like, you'll be a lot happier. You can learn their style by talking to both the students and the PI.

Those are the things that I would keep in mind.

As for dress, it depends on the lab. I've never been in one where anything more than T-shirts and jeans were required on a day to day basis. However, I know that a few labs might be more formal, requiring, say, white button-shirts and slacks or khakis. You'll want at least one suit for demos and presentations to bigshots.
Note: if you're in a lab involving fieldwork, chemicals, or pretty much anything besides a computer, your daily clothes should be things you don't mind getting messy or damaged. I've never heard of an advisor requiring semiformal wear in such a lab; T-shirts and jeans are your best bet (chances are you'll need closed-toe shoes, though).

For seminars, your best hope is to sit in on a few. Some from your department to learn the school's style, some from your advisor, if he or she offers them, to learn what he or she likes in a presentation. Hopefully, previous seminar presentations will be backed up somewhere in the lab, so look at those. For general tips, I'd recommend reading books by Edward Tufte, who describes in detail how best to use figures and tables to communicate information in an efficient and clear manner.

Networking: the easiest way is to get on cites like LInkedIn and Try to go to department mixers and socials as well; your fellow grad students will be your colleagues in a few years, so it can be good to get to know them in a casual and non-competitive environment. Eventually, you should be going to conferences; try to strike up conversations with people presenting similar work as you, or who just interest you. Some advisors will introduce you to important people and potential colleagues; if that's important to you, ask the students in the labs you're considering how often that happens. Some advisors will also send you all over the place to give presentations and demos, and this can also be a form of networking.

Mary Kaye said...

Not a current grad student, but I mentor a lot of them:

If by "rotations" you mean one-term stints in different labs to see where you might settle later, don't sweat too much: normally you do a couple of these and if one doesn't work out that's okay. Picking your actual thesis advisor is a much bigger deal. I'd focus on two basic questions: does the research really interest me, and am I comfortable in the lab? If you don't have the chance to do a rotation in the lab, do anything you can to spend some time there before deciding. Even with good will on all sides, a serious style clash will make it a very long 5 years. I did nine months with someone I really like, but she is a meticulous, methodical perfectionist and I am...not. I would have been very unhappy as her graduate student. (25 years later I still wince when she critiques my teaching--we ended up in the same department.)

For seminars: My department has student talks with pre-talk faculty coaching and post-talk audience comments. I strongly recommend trying to set this up for yourself if your department doesn't normally do it. You will in general learn a lot faster with coaching and feedback. If your faculty don't do this sort of thing, try forming a graduate student "club" that hosts practice talks and provides feedback. It's worth its weight in gold. (And you get some networking on the side.)

About introversion: You can ask your adviser for help--mine required me to go to conferences and then introduced me to people and prodded me to stay engaged. Painful but productive. I also did similar things for myself, and still do: "At this conference I will require myself to ask three people out for lunch." I found it helpful to assess how much socializing I could stand and then try to do it productively. If you just try to be social all conference long you may burn out.

It also helps to go to departmental seminars in your area (though you have to watch out--at my institution you can go to talks all day, every day, but then you get no work done). The more names, faces, and research topics you have heard about, the easier it will be to enter into conversations and make connections.

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Religion / Atheism Ignorance

ZMIles, I frequently try to include atheism as an option in posts when I talk about religion, and I'm never quite sure if I'm phrasing things properly. I can't think of a good example off the top of my head, but if you ever see me stumble in the future, I would greatly welcome an email from you telling me how I can phrase things better in the future. It's something I worry about a lot.

Ah, one example would be using "(non-)" before "religion" to indicate Religions + Atheism. As in, "so apparently if you're a member of any other (non-)religion than Cthulhuism, you're destined to be eaten". Or I might say "any other religion (or lack thereof) than Cthulhuism". I don't know if either or both of those are correct or insulting or appropriate and I'd appreciate any education you could give me on any community standards fir phrasing, if there are any available.

Thank you.

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Victim-Blaming, Home Invasion, Animal Violence

I wonder if you could find a way to emphasize that VM is a no-win solution because it essentially begs the questions.

Didn't lock the front door? Asking to be robbed.
Locked the door, but didn't have home security system? Asking to be robbed.
Had home security system, but didn't have trained attack dog? Asking to be robbed.

Etc. It's not JUST that the responsibility is 100% on the perpetrator and not the victim (though that should be taught too), it's also that VB is essentially unfair because you can use it ANYWHERE. As a child, I was very sensitive to unfair things, so that might make an impact?

Laura G said...

This is one that I doubt has any one right answer, so I just want to collect as many "good" answers as possible.

As a white person, when I write, my protagonists also tend to be white, because that is a perspective I know I can replicate fairly. But I don't want to whitewash, and I don't want to fall into a "sidekick of color" trap, and I don't want to appropriate anyone's culture in an unfair way. And given that my options are "have a white cast," "have a multicultural cast that includes white people," and "have a cast that does not include white people," I'm afraid I'll do one of those things no matter what I do.

Other than accepting that I *will* screw up, offend people, and have to mea culpa for the rest of my life, what are some other options?

("Nothing I do will ever be good enough, and no matter how hard I try I will fail," happens to be one of my triggers, so I really don't want to accept that if I don't have to)

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Misgendering, Misothering

I would like to know the answer to this as well, and I'd also like an extended answer for Otherkin if any could answer. If someone identifies as a fox or a mermaid, how does one respectfully reflect that in conversation as well as the fact that their body doesn't match? I'm very concerned about getting terminology right.

Ana Mardoll said...

Go ahead. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Discrimination Against Transgendered People, Rape, Patriarchal Religions

I've seen some issues in the pagan community where rituals have been marked as "women only" because the participants were trying to mark out a safe space for people with cis-women bodies (sometimes specifically because of trigger issues coming from backgrounds of rape and/or highly patriarchal families/religions), and there have been issues because "Woman" does not automatically equal "Cis Woman Body". I'm wondering if there is a way to phrase "cis women bodies only" for something like that in the future and if such a goal is even worth pursing in light of the discrimination factor against transgendered people. As a rape survivor, I have confused thoughts on this matter and I would be grateful for any education offered on the topic.

Ana Mardoll said...

(Laura, what genre are you writing? It may be easier to avoid the appropriation of other's cultures if you're world-building brand-new fantasy/sci-fi worlds.)

Laura G said...

Oh, the world-building fantasy I feel pretty much ok with (His skin is darker than mine? His family emigrated from the south and mine emigrated from the north. Now let's stop talking about meaningless stuff and go overthrow the corrupt government!). It's the near-future sci-fi and urban (vaguely suburban?) fantasy I worry about.

Will Wildman said...

Leaping in on atheism - "religion or lack thereof" is a good phrase. I wouldn't find "(non-)religion" to be othering or whatever, but I would be confused about how to parse it - my instinct would be to read it as saying "any other things which, like Cthulhuism, claim to be religions but are not". I do get what you're going for, but it's not intuitive for me.

You seem to be fine on other counts - the most common thing in misrepresenting atheism is talking about it like it is a belief system, which you don't do, and since you're clear on that, I think most other principles follow naturally. (Specific types of atheism can be philosophies/beliefs, but the overarching concept that links them isn't.)

Yamikuronue said...

TW: Triggers

I've been wondering for a while: what counts as a "trigger" exactly? What is it like, what symptoms mark an experience as "the experience of being triggered"? Is it always an experience that falls under the umbrella of a PTSD flashback experience, or can it be more subtle? Would exhibiting disproportionate learned response that was developed originally to cope with a worse situation experienced in the past count, or is that another phenomenon entirely?

Aidan Bird said...

I can answer your question since I'm up to my ears in trans* everything.

First off, the problem of female-bodied and male-bodied opens the door to misgendering of the trans* person's gender identity. "Male-bodied" is not a term that most trans* woman are okay with, and most find it upsetting, especially considering it is often used to examine their bodies far more than cisgender people's bodies. It also makes the assumption that males have a specific set of body parts, which is not inclusive of anyone who identities male and doesn't have that specific set of body parts. This is one of the many reasons why "male-bodied" and "female-bodied" is considered to be highly upsetting to a great many people in the trans* community.

Instead, the term is cisgender. Cisgender means that your gender identity matches the sex you were assigned at birth.

TW: Discussion of body parts

Now, to be clear, the sex you were assigned at birth is determined by doctors when you are born - they determine this by looking only at your genitals. So for cisgender males, they typically have penises, testosterone as their main hormone, and often larger amounts of body hair. For cisgender females, they typically have vaginas, breasts, less body hair, and estrogen as their main hormone. However, not all females and not all males have these characteristics, which is why trans* people in particular and their allies began to reject the "male-bodied" and "female-bodied" terms, for they were not inclusive of all female or males. The use of the term cisgender was created to avoid the problem with the use of "non-trans" and/or "real women" and "real men" and/or "genetic female/male." These terms normalized cisgender people over trans* people, making them seem less normal and more abnormal, which in turn can easily lead to oppression of trans* people.

So in summary, it's better to just use the term cisgender.

Also, I can answer any trans* questions for people. If you'd like, I can go through an in-depth definition of the various components of gender to help with the basic understanding of trans* 101.

Will Wildman said...

White guy here, but as this is something I have been (and remain) concerned about for my own writing, I would share something I've heard from PoC folks talking about representation - sometimes part of the problem is the assumption that one can't accurately write a character because of their apparent differences. I think it was in discussing the all-white cast of Girls that someone said something like 'The problem isn't that I don't see myself in these characters because of their skin colour. I do - we share the same thoughts and experiences. The problem is that when the writers look at me, they see my skin colour and they don't see their characters in me.'

Which I took as advice and admonition to write a diverse bunch of characters as best I could, and try to keep informing myself, but not to get completely stuck on fearing that I was being appropriative or inauthentic. Humanity is simultaneously both so diverse and so uniform that if I write a character of any demographic, if I have written them with thought and respect, I'm accurately representing someone out there.

Will Wildman said...

TW continued: Misgendering, body parts

Thanks for volunteering, Aidan - but I'm totally clear on the definitions of cis and trans. I'm more wondering if there's a useful term for the body type typically shared by cis women and trans men (or that of trans women and cis men). I recognise that there are plenty of variations, but it seems like these are common enough that we ought to have terms for them. As delightfully Buffyspeak as it is when my friends talk about 'uterus-havers' as an inclusive group, it seems like there's a gap in terminology.

ZMiles said...


I'm not aware of any consensus in the atheist community (although now that you mention it, I really want to know if there's a good word for that too). I've seen "any religion, or lack thereof," a couple of times, and it's the best way I can personally think of to phrase that. When talking about people, I'm partial to "theists and nontheists" when discussing a mixed group of believers and atheists. ("theists and atheists" can be seen as excluding agnostics; I'm not aware of anyone excluded by "theists and nontheists," although I could be wrong).

Ah, now you've got me curious too. If I do find a better phrasing, I'll post it here. :-)

Aidan Bird said...

I'm a rape survivor as well, and this worries me a lot because I can't help but feel it is a bit discriminatory. So I am going to approach this the best I can with an open mind.

TW: Discussion of Transgendered People, Rape, Patriarchal Religions, Discrimination

First, bear in mind why, I find this problematic. I'll start with some questions so I can better understand what you are asking here.

Number 1: There are some pagan trans* people, and do they have a safe space for rituals if they are not allowed in these cis-woman ones?
Number 2: Some trans*women undergo surgery where their genitals are reconstructed and they look very much like a vagina - are these people still to be excluded? How would you determine ways to deal with the body parts of a person? Isn't that another way of othering them?

Number 3: I was classified at birth as female by my doctor. However, my gender identity is genderqueer. I have not undergone any sort of transition whatsoever. How would I fall into any such determination if I was apart of that religion and wished to take part in such a ritual? Since my gender identity is not cis woman, but I am not a cis or trans* male, then do I have a place in such a religion?

One of the things I find problematic is that as a rape survivor the policing of other people's bodies can be used against me by people claiming to want to help me and other rape survivors. The language used for rape survivors is not very inclusive to be honest, and I often find it hard to find any safe space to talk about this sort of issues (regardless of the topic). Am I triggered by certain body parts? Yes. I am. However, I cannot justify this as a reason to policy another person's body - especially if I do not know for sure if they are also a rape survivor who may or may not be triggered by the same triggers as me (or even triggered by their own body!). And so, if I police their body to try to carve out a safe space, am I hurting them and destroying any sense of safety they have? Am I painting the picture that they - especially if they are a survivor - are not welcome even in a rape survivor group? I can't help but think of these questions, regardless of their context, because I've had people policy my own body due to my androgynous gender presentation, and this has led to me realizing that I don't really have any safe spaces in which to discuss this topic in person. If this can happen to me, who else can it happen to?

This is an incredibly fine line to walk, and I can't help but worry for it is all too easy to just slam the door in the face of trans* people - providing them with no safe space of their own, especially if they are apart of the religion in question and wish to participate in the religion in question.

I see this problem as two-fold: rape survivors do need a safe space. However, at the same time, trans* people being excluded is also highly worrisome, for they often can be rape survivors themselves and they may not have any safe spaces whatsoever.

What are your thoughts?

Aidan Bird said...

However, not all females and not all males have these characteristics, which is why trans* people in particular and their allies began to reject the "male-bodied" and "female-bodied" terms, for they were not inclusive of all female or males. The use of the term cisgender was created to avoid the problem with the use of "non-trans" and/or "real women" and "real men" and/or "genetic female/male."

Whoops, totally misworded that sentence. It should read: The use of the cisgender term was created to avoid these problems as well as the use of "non-trans" and/or "real women" and "real men" and/or "genetic female/male."

There, corrected.

Aidan Bird said...

That's the problem, Will. There are no good terms. The English language doesn't have any because all the terms they do have are highly restricted to just cisgender people and have been used throughout history to other trans* people.

Some trans* activists have recently coined and been using the term: CAFAB/CAMAB. These mean: coercively assigned female/male at birth." The reason the term "coercively" is used is because when a person (either cis or trans) is born they do not have the ability to articulate what their gender actually is - the doctor just assigns it based on whether or not the genitals more closely resemble one gender norm over the other gender norm - and since we live in a gender binary, there are only two gender norms: male and female. These trans* activists would prefer the use of these terms if you have to refer to the birth-assigned sex of a trans* person's body. Yes, it is awkward, but it's the least likely to hurt and/or cause the other person to feel erased. Also, it is inclusive to cisgender people as well because they - just like trans* people - are assigned a sex at birth by someone else, so this classification still fits them as well.

This is the only term I can think of that won't be harmful.

Ana Mardoll said...

My thoughts are confused and muddled in the extreme.

I am a solo-practitioner, so I have only heard about these issues arising from second and third-hand sources. I *assume* that the "Women Ritual!" planners simply weren't aware of the existence of non-surgically-altered (<-- is that the best way to phrase that??) transgendered people, which is itself highly problematic. Possibly, as you suggest, there could be a "separate but equal" ritual that is the same ritual as the one in the "Women Ritual!" but for all body types, but that still smacks of discrimination to me.

My initial thought is that "Women Rituals!" should be open to all self-identified women, regardless of body appearance. However, I do recognize that some of these rituals are conducted "sky-clad" (i.e., in the nude) and I can understand why some women in our "1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted" rape culture might find a room full of naked appearing-to-be-male bodies to be highly triggering.

So I have no answer to this problem whatsoever. It's one of those "when triggers overlap" issues, in a way.

Aidan Bird said...

Thank you for explaining your thoughts better.

I am unsure if my thoughts have given you any insight, other than describe in details more ways to find this issue problematic.

Considering that for trans* woman in particular, transitioning their body to align with the gender identity of their brain is paramount, and so for them, their body could very well end up looking like the "expected cis female norm." However, what if they are not through with their transition? What if they are just starting? Once again, we come to the problem of policing bodies, which as I explained in my last reply, I find pretty problematic.

I don't know if there is any other way to handle this other than to have people sit down, to discuss these issues respectfully, and to allow trans* people to have a voice in these discussions. There must be a way for all people to respectfully find a way for everyone to participate and still feel safe, but to find that route, people have to be willing to sit down, to put aside their biases/prejudices, and to really listen to all the people there. Doing something like that is always hard to do, but how else can such a group find a way to be as inclusive as possible so that all women - regardless of whether or not they are trans or cis - can participate fully in their religion?

Ana Mardoll said...

It's just so sad and frustrating how the kyriarchy/patriarchy hurts cis-women and transgendered peoples to the point where we even have this problem. All the sobs. :(

Aidan Bird said...

I agree. : (

Will Wildman said...

That's about what I thought - thanks very much again, Aidan.

TW - body parts, reproductive rights

It would be nice to have a more complete language, but also - on further reflection - it occurs to me that in a lot of contexts, the use of such terms would mostly be euphemistic. E.g., when talking about the wave of restrictions on health services related to reproductive parts in the US over recent years, people ignorant of trans* stuff will talk about it as a "women's issue", dismissing trans men who are equally affected in every way, and while having a word for 'bodies common to women and trans men' might be useful, specifying that it's an issue for everyone with a uterus is hardly more costly in terms of words used, and speaks to the exact situation rather than making vague reference to some aspect related to some type of body.

(It probably is relevant to draw the line connecting 'discrimination against women' and 'discrimination against people with uteri', but I would imagine the degree of overlap is clear to everyone honestly looking at the situation.)

Brin Bellway said...

I'd also like an extended answer for Otherkin if any could answer. If someone identifies as a fox or a mermaid, how does one respectfully reflect that in conversation as well as the fact that their body doesn't match? I'm very concerned about getting terminology right.

Depends on what sort of phrasing you're looking for.
There's the "-kin" suffix, so instead of saying "She identifies as a fox" you can say "She is foxkin."
I get the impression that the use of "human-bodied" is generally acceptable.

("Misspeciesing" still sounds weird, possibly just because of not being used to it, but it's at least fairly easy to parse. "Misothering" doesn't make any sense.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank you, Brin.

(I will try to use mis-species-ing next time. I was thinking that the "other" in "Otherkin" could be "fox" as in "foxkin" or "mer" as in "merkin", so I thought calling a "foxkin" a human would be "mis-othering" them, since "human" would be incorrectly filling the place of the "other".)

I still have a lot to learn, I see. Thank you for helping to educate me.

cjmr said...

Is there anyone here who can answer early-disseminated Lyme disease 101 questions?

Brin Bellway said...

You're welcome.

I will try to use mis-species-ing next time.

As far as I know, there isn't already a (relatively) common and accepted word for this. I can kind of understand the line of reasoning for "misothering", but at first glance it confused me.

(Looking back on that post, I'm not sure if I made it clear that "She identifies as a fox" is a fine way of phrasing it, just not the only way.)

Silver Adept said...

@Ana re: Otherkin

Of course, as with other things, if you referred to, say, a therian as Otherkin, they might be offended. Terminology its always tough.

TW for cisgenderism and transphobia

Re: Women Only ritual space:

I must, unfortunately, disabuse you of the idea that organizers are always simply unaware of trains*

Majromax said...

How does one learn to give a kick-ass seminar?

As a recently-finished grad student in Applied Math, I can give a few bits of advice here:

0) Have slides. If you're in a department that uses LaTeX, then Beamer is your friend. If not, try to find a Mac to use Keynote; I find Powerpoint a last resort. Beamer's good about enforcing this, but if you're not using LaTeX also remember that you want little to no visual clutter -- that means no fancy fonts, no Comic Sans, no distracting backgrounds, and no animations that aren't scientifically relevant.

1) Remember, your slides are your outline, not your talk. They serve to keep your audience grounded in what you're speaking about at that moment, to show graphics, equations, or figures that you can't really describe, and to show spatial relationships. In short, they're there as the supporting material for visual learners. Never read your slides.

1.5) Keep your talk on-time. Ending late is bad because much of your audience has somewhere else to be; ending early is awkward. After a couple talks, you'll get a sense of how quickly you speak and how much time a typical slide covers. My own, personal rate is about 1 slide/minute, consistently enough that I typically don't rehearse for things like conference presentations.

2) Follow the equation half-life principle, which I think I coined in my group: for each slide full of equations, you will lose half of your audience. They'll tune out and never tune back in. Talks are always an overview, and slides are the overview of the overview. If you must have equations, then at least talk about the equation, such as discussing the physical significance of each non-obvious term.

3) Pretty pictures are your friend, but remember that some projectors are lit by candlelight and are projected on toilet paper. That is to say, use high contrast in your figures, and especially use thick lines on line-graphs. If you use MATLAB, it's a particularly vile culprit: the default "green" line (plot([0,1],[0,1],'g-')) is such a wimpy light green that it's essentially invisible on white. When in doubt, put a figure up on your monitor, make sure the room lights are *on*, and try to read it from the other side of the room. Things will seem big to you at your desk, but the average audience member is half the room away.

Aleph-naught) Remember, especially when you're talking about your own work, that you are the expert in the room. Other people may be more qualified than you and they may certainly have insights you haven't thought of, but you're the one who's spent the last few months doing whatever it is you're presenting. More than anything else, figuring this out helped calm my presentation nerves tremendously.

Gotchaye said...

One quibble: the proper balance between outline and talk for your slides depends on the audience (and the speaker). I've presented at conferences where only half the audience was made up of native English speakers, and likewise I've attended talks given by speakers who had substantial difficulty communicating in English. When this sort of mismatch is expected, I think it's best to put many more words on one's slides. Not paragraphs and paragraphs, but you can't count on everyone being able to follow what you're saying aloud.

And I very much agree about equations. I want to throw things when some jerk puts up some absurdly long equation and quickly lists off what each term is. I'm not going to remember that by the time you finish talking about your method and finally start showing results! Sometimes you've got to show an equation, but in general you should either be flashing it up on the screen for two seconds ("look how complicated my work is!" or "all of you should already be familiar with this.") or it should be so important to understanding what you're doing that it's worth spending a substantial portion of your talk discussing the equation.

Ana Mardoll said...

I am very distressed to hear that. I feel that sentiment is simply inexcusable. :(

chris the cynic said...

I assume I should know because everyone else seems to, but when did the asterisk appear in trans*, why is it there, and what does it mean?


Trigger warnings for transphobia and discussion of rape

I first learned about womyn born womyn polices when I read an article about, I think, The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival which, despite a press release to the contrary, is still operated on the principle that anyone who wasn't identified as female at birth is not allowed in and if they somehow make it in they are to be kicked out upon discovery.

I've tried, and cannot locate the article.

Anyway, the justification given for the policy was that since a large percentage of women in general have suffered sexual violence at the hands of men, and since a larger percentage of transwomen have suffered sexual violence at the hands of men, the latter should be told that they're not really women and are in fact men and their presence might be disturbing to the real women so get the fuck out.

I wish that were hyperbole, but that's basically the justification given. I paraphrased slightly and added the word "fuck"*, but unless my memory has utterly failed me that was the justification. It really seemed to be a pretty straightforward, "Some of us have been abused by a group we aren't a part of, more of you have been abused by that same group which you also are not a part of, so we're going claim that you are them and kick you out."

Also every "women" should be a "womyn" but I swear every time I try to type that word I put the Y in the wrong place, so I reserve it for proper names and policy titles.

Anyway, the article was very good, if rather depressing. The author of the article viciously attacked the justification on various fronts. As I recall there was personal testimony** and statistics and analogy and morality and various other things. It was a very convincing argument against such polices. The depressing part was that it had to be written and that, even as you read it and were convinced, you knew that such polices will not stop any time in foreseeable future.

[Added] Then again I didn't think Talackova would be allowed to compete, and she was. Got the rules rewritten in the process. So maybe I'm overly pessimistic on this point.[/added]


* I don't know about anyone else, but for me the inclusion of profanity there takes some of the edge off. It really seems to be the least offensive thing in that paragraph to me.

** The author was a transwoman and a sexual assault survivor.

Dav said...

Thanks, y'all.

I'll definitely look at Beamer - all I've ever seen used is Powerpoint, though. The equations thing is awful. I think the bio equivalent I've seen is charts and charts of data with the arcane squiggles of the presenter intact. There is no way to parse that without help.

Three rotations seems ridiculously restrictive: I like *all* the science! (Okay, not really. But too much to distill down to three labs.) I want to try all the cool subfields that I haven't had a chance to test out! I think I'm having trouble coming to terms with the idea that I can't at least touch on all the fields I like, or even all of the labs in one of those fields. (Yes, yes, the tragedy of Too Many Options. Weep for me.)

I'm also considering teaching options: we're not required to do it, but I am interested in academia (depending on how the world looks when I graduate). I could get a teaching credential - basically take a class or two on pedagogy and T.A. a few courses. I'm not sure if my time is better spent honing my speaking skills (especially for general audiences - maybe volunteer at a science museum or something so I get used to presenting to lay audiences) and research, though. Thoughts?

Dav said...

Oh, oh, also:
Foreign language?

I know English is the Language of Science, but I'm essentially monolingual. Worthwhile to study another language? If so, which? (I'd kind of like to do an international post-doc, so maybe that would direct my choice?) More and more science is being done in China . . .

I don't want to spread myself too thin, but this is the first chance I've had in years to focus intensely on *my* stuff, and get paid for it, so I want to milk the university for every scrap of opportunity I can. So, uh, I can present them in a good light, of course.

Dav said...

"Some of us have been abused by a group we aren't a part of, more of you have been abused by that same group which you also are not a part of, so we're going claim that you are them and kick you out."

Some days I really hate people.

depizan said...

I'm not quite sure what these questions qualify as, but I have them, so I might as well ask them.

If one is not a woman, but has a woman's body, what is one in regard to "women's issues": a woman or an ally? Or does it depend on the issue? I ask because I always have trouble taking part in such discussions because I can't decide. And the rules for discussion are very different depending on what you are.

How the frack does one handle describing what would be characters of different ethnicity if one were writing on earth when one's not? Or rather, how does one do so in a way that doesn't make white Caucasian the default?

ZMiles said...

Seconding everything Majormax said, and adding a few comments of my own:

1. If at all possible, go to the seminar room beforehand and try out the equipment. It's much, much easier to get your resolution and monitor alpha levels squared away, go back for that adapter you didn't know you'd need, and dig out the sound jack from the rat's nest of wires beneath the podium when you aren't supposed to have already started.

2. Check your sound, and normalize it. All your audio clips should be at about the same volume, unless a difference in volume is the point of the clip. (Because of the nonlinear way in which the human ear hears audio, you'll probably have to do this manually; I'm not aware of any good way to automate it). Listen carefully to make sure you aren't distorting, and also check to ensure you can hear the clip clearly in the back of the room.

3. Know your audience and scale your talk to suit them. A general audience will probably want a higher-level view than a panel of experts.

As for TAing or research, it depends on what you want to do and where you want to go after grad school. If you want to head to an R1, research is probably a better use of your time, but if you'd prefer a teaching college, TA experience can be invaluable. If you're not sure, it wouldn't hurt to try to get a lab where you could do some of each, so you could figure out what you wanted to do.

Jennifer Kouba said...

Chris: "Trans" with no asterisk can sometimes be used as/interpreted as meaning "trans men and trans women," and so trans* is often used to clarify that one is talking about a much larger group, including not only trans women and trans men but also genderqueer people, intersex folks, crossdressers, etc. etc. As I recall, the basic reasoning is that an asterisk in the computing world is a "wildcard" that can represent anything, and so trans* indicates that one is talking about a large and varied group rather than a specific subset of that group.

Trigger warnings for transphobia and discussion of rape:

The whole womyn-born-womyn nonsense becomes even more appalling in light of the fact that this exact reasoning is used to deny trans women access not only to rituals or festivals, but to many women's shelters and rape crisis centers. Trans women in difficult situations can and do find themselves homeless and without support because of these policies. I can understand not wanting to trigger people and am quite understanding of the fact that it can be difficult to help trans women and not trigger people at the same time, but categorically refusing to support members of a marginalized group is not an appropriate solution.

Evan said...

Three questions:

* How widely-used or widely-preferred is "womyn" v. "women"? I've seen a few people arguing in favor of the first, but I've seen a lot more feminists using the second.

* For that matter, is it still considered offensive to use the terms "white" or "black" to refer to race? I've heard them used a lot in common speech, and I never heard anyone (even black persons) objecting. Of course, I don't know whether they were actually offended.

* As Laura asked above - When I'm writing contemporary or vaguely-set-in-the-past stories, I feel so nervous every time I consider introducing a person explicitly of a different race than me (I'm white/Caucasian/whatever-you-want-to-call-it). I feel that if I ignore their culture, people will think I'm overappropriating or disrespecting the real culture; but I feel that if I try to, I'll end up painting a caricature and people will be even more offended. The thing I've usually done is avoid the question by simply not mentioning people's skin color... how is this?

Laiima said...

I've got lots of questions!

Where can I learn about Otherkin?

I'm a solo practitioning Pagan who is nominally part of a coven and afaik, we would never be doing anything skyclad. Is skyclad really a thing that Pagans do? I read about it in Drawing Down the Moon 25 years ago, but that was before I knew that 'real people' were Pagans.

I'm starting to publicly identify as genderqueer/nonbinary, but I was identified as a girl at birth. I like my body fine - I don't see any need to change it, through surgery or whatever other options there might be. But does that mean I fall within 'transgender'? If my visual presentation gives people the impression that I'm a cis woman, but I'm not *trying* to look like one, am I 'passing'? If I am, is that something I shouldn't try to do? Lots of people I know don't realize there are options beyond the binary - what can I do beyond wearing a sign?

I have similar concerns with depizan. And am now wondering about my own lifelong feminism. Am I now 'an ally' rather than a feminist, since I'm not a woman anymore? Feminism itself seems part of the gender binary. (Not sure yet if I want to raise all of these kinds of issues on my own blog. At least one family member reads it, and I'm pretty sure she has no idea what queer/nonbinary means).

Laiima said...

Spouse had Lyme disease for the 2nd time just recently. What kinds of questions do you have?

Dav said...

How widely-used or widely-preferred is "womyn" v. "women"? I've seen a few people arguing in favor of the first, but I've seen a lot more feminists using the second.

These days, I mostly encounter "womyn" from a particular group of radical feminists who tend to be most closely tied to second-wave radical feminists, particularly some of those in the separatist movements. (This is one of the reasons you'll often see calls for womyn-born spaces.)

This has meant that this particular form of feminism has not kept pace with other segments of feminism. In short, they're often incredibly transphobic, and I've generally found them very scornful of bisexuality/pansexuality as well.

In short, it's a danger signal to me, in the same way that a casual mention of misandry is a danger signal. It's not 100%, but I've found a really high correlation with bigots.

Laiima said...

I've been buying We'Moon calendars for about 10 years, and have even submitted material to them. They are very women-only; not sure their policy on trans women, but I'm pretty sure they don't accept material from cis men. I wonder if I'm no longer eligible to submit stuff to them.

chris the cynic said...

The only time I've encountered "womyn" offline was when a professor was talking about her days as a student. There were multiple puns involved. Notably the Womyn's Center (which didn't let men in, not even into the words) had been set up in a building that was directly across from and the mirror image of the Mail Center (where all of the mail for her university was delivered and sorted.)

It was interesting to hear her tell about it, but it was told entirely in the past tense. She doesn't spell it that way now.

Rachel said...

A note on CAMAB/CAFAB-- these terms were originally used in the intersex community, most of whose members were, indeed, coercively assigned a sex at birth when their genitals were surgically altered to more closely resemble those of one binary sex or the other. Thus some feel that referring to transgender (but non-intersex) people as CAMAB or CAFAB is appropriative.

I've seen AMAB/AFAB (assigned male/female at birth--same thing, but no "coercively") or DMAB/DFAB (designated male/female at birth) suggested as alternatives.

depizan said...

The thing I've usually done is avoid the question by simply not mentioning people's skin color... how is this?

The problem is, most people will just assume the characters are all white then. And probably light white at that. I'm currently trying to figure out in my current writing how to describe a character who'd be somewhere in the Hispanic/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern skin color range if they were from Earth and a character who'd have Asian features if they were from Earth. But as neither of these characters is from Earth...

sptrashcan said...

So, I have a general acceptance maybe one oh twoish question. What's the step after "get learned" and "don't be a jerk" and "don't sit quiet when other people are jerks"?

Silver Adept said...

I'm adding a +1 to everyone who has mentioned "womyn" as mostly being used in an exclusionary context, and the festival chris the cynic mentions is the one I was thinking of earlier.

Also, @chris the cynic -

Is this article, by Serano, the one you're looking for? Rethinking Sexism - How Trans Women Challenge Feminism (It's a librarian Thing - someone puts a challenge in front of us to find things, and we weave our magics to make search engines, interfaces, and databases tell us what we want to know.)


Re: Otherkin: Well, it looks like these might be good start-points for you - The Otherkin Alliance has a fairly extensive FAQ about Otherkin and at Wulf Howl/ their Otherkin Beginner guide is a terms and definitions list. Sometimes, trying for encyclopaedic knowledge is like trying to keep water in a sieve. That Wiki, unfortunately, is no help at all in this case.

Everything past this point is solely My Opinion and Experience - salt to taste, palatability, or cuss me out for being an [expletive] [pejorative], all the same.

@Laiima -

Re: Skyclad - It Depends, not just on the tradition, but the individual group, and might even depend on the ritual, from what I have gathered in talking with various Pagans.

Re: genderqueerness

It's my personal belief that "passing" is an indicator as to whether or not you look like one of the gender binary or not, and the pejorative-ness of the word depends on the speaker and the context. As for identification, aside from hanging a sign on yourself, a lot of the genderqueer people I talk with have a preferred set of pronouns that they will gently or firmly insist others use around them. As for dress, they try to dress the way they feel - whether that's toward a more androgyne look or one of the gender binary.

@depizan and @Laiima

Re: Feminism and Women's Issues

My personal definition of feminism is that a feminist is someone who works to advance the cause of women, regardless of gender identity or physical sexual characteristics. Being genderqueer should not have anything to do with whether one is a feminist. As for the question of what "women's issues" are, I might take a fairly literal stance on that - if it is an issue that will affect women primarily (and "women", in this case, is anyone who identifies as such), it is a "women's issue". My definition is more expansive that the societal one, I think, as "women's issues" are usually restricted to those things that affect women and are related to the physical or sexual characteristics of women or economic or cultural issues where women are in an unequal position.

The general advice I've heard about those kinds of discussions where it might become important are the same kinds of issues one might have when discussing Privilege - listen lots, speak when appropriate, apologize if offensive.

cjmr said...

Well, one of them was: Can you get this more than once? I think you just answered that one...

Another is: How long before walking up the stairs/going to the end of the driveway for the mail/standing in the kitchen cooking for 30 minutes doesn't require a 30-minute lie-down to recover from?

Mahahri said...

TW: Ableism

Is "wacky" an appropriate substitute for "crazy", or is it also offensive? Also, what's an appropriate/legitimate use of "crazy"? Or is the goal to replace the word in all situations? I'd appreciate any useful starter links anyone could provide on ableism.

chris the cynic said...

Is this article, by Serano, the one you're looking for?

No. I think the article might have dropped off the face of the web because if I remember correctly it had "womyn born womyn" and the name of the festival in the title, so it should have been very easy to find, yet it doesn't seem to be.

It didn't have nearly as much history, it wasn't a post about how things got the way they are but instead where they stood now. For example, as I recall, it didn't look at the forces within feminism that led to the policy, it looked at the stated reasons for maintaining the policy in the here and now.

I think it was a post on a blog that was primarily about LGB issues with the transwoman making the post being either a guest blogger or a contributor rather than the blog owner. That I'm less sure about. It's not a blog I followed, and I don't remember how I came across the post.


That was an interesting article though, thanks for sharing it. Based on it, it seems like the policy is even more misnamed than the bad assumptions in "womyn born womyn" let on since it apparently lets in anyone who was assigned femaleness at birth even if they happen to be male or otherwise not be women. I did not know that.

Ana Mardoll said...

Am I now 'an ally' rather than a feminist, since I'm not a woman anymore?

I haven't read the whole thread yet -- just woke up -- but I want to strongly voice my very strong opinion that *anyone* can be a feminist, regardless of anything (sexual orientation, gender orientation, religion, whatever).

Basically, this. But more so. :)

Anonymus said...

tw rape, discrimination against transgendered people

I think "cis women bodies only" is problematic because transwomen need to be included in female only spaces. If the issue is rape triggers, well, transwomen are even more likely than ciswomen to be sexually harassed and to be survivors of rape. they are our sisters and they belong in our women's circles. transwomen don't have male privilege. if it's triggering for cis women who have been assaulted, well it's also triggering for transwomen to be excluded, and it is often dangerous for transwomen to be lumped in with the men (which is where they'll end up if they're excluded from the women's area), and I think that someone being in actual danger takes precedence over someone potentially being triggered by something.

I think the best replacement for "female-bodied vs. male-bodied" is "female-assigned" or "male-assigned". That is, if you're talking about what they were assigned as at birth.

Aidan Bird said...

@ Rachel: I was unaware of this; thank you for explaining. I was under the impression that the term was a general term for all people with the reasoning that since everyone was assigned a gender at birth, then they were all coerced into that gender. Thank you for clarifying its actual origin.

AMAB/AFAB works fine as an alternative.

Aidan Bird said...

@ Laiima: Just wanted to let you know that I relate to your questions and thoughts on genderqueer. I personally identify as genderqueer myself. I also was assigned female at birth. For the most part, I am fine with my body, though I really, really wish my voice wasn't so dang high - learning how to pitch it lower is hard because my vocal chords can only go so low before it's painful. I have some other slight dysphoria, but nothing that wants me to transition to really anything.

Personally, I consider myself falling into the transgender category. This is because transgender itself is often defined as just an umbrella term that encompasses anyone whose gender identity does not agree with the sex assigned to them at birth. From my understanding of the term, genderqueer people, neutrois, transsexuals, cross-dressers, and even drag kings and queens all fall under the transgender category. Whether or not you accept this definition is up to you, but I find that I don't mind it. I know for a fact I'm not cisgender at the very least.

Finding a way to comfortably express yourself is kinda hard. I tend to wear more androgynous clothing and try to pitch my voice a bit lower when speaking. The problem with this is that people start to try to label me as male, which is fun at times, but frustrating because our society just doesn't recognize any non-binary genders. Going toward a more androgynous look does tend to cause people to stop and really think about what gender you are. However, it also can mean you'll experience more harassment. I've had people call me an 'it' or 'thing' to my face because they couldn't classify my gender into male or female.

I also try to find safe people that I can hang out with as friends. My partner is really good at using the gender neutral pronouns for me, which is pretty exhilarating in my opinion, but it's really hard to get others to recognize them. I generally try to promote the zer/ze set or else suggest the singular they/them. It's actually kinda cool at times when she uses these pronouns for me in public. Sometimes we get negative reactions, but other times we'll have people stop and ask polite questions. Sometimes those people may even try to use the pronouns for me when I encounter them again, but this is usually much rarer. The most common questions asked is why am I using them, and what is my real gender. Asking about my "real gender" always angers me greatly, for my real gender is neutral - it's not male or female.

So this is what I've done to try to express my gender identity in a comfortable manner. This is just from my experience, so I don't know if it helps you at all.

Aidan Bird said...

@ Depizan: Lately, I've been subtly describing every character's skin color, hair color, eyes, and any prominent features in their face or body structure. I do this for all character regardless of their race, so that I can avoid the whole only non-white character's having their skin color described. I don't know if it works well to solve this, but I have been told by a few of my beta-readers that it helps them visualize the characters better.

I also, try to avoid, using any ethnic terms to describe the features as well since most of my characters aren't from Earth. So I focus on describing the shape, the closest color match to the skin, hair, and eye colors, and so on and so forth.

Creating a lot of diverse characters in my stories is one of my main goals (for it just makes sense considering how diverse humanity is), so this discussion is really interesting to read.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'd love to see a sample of how you do this, because this is basically my goal -- describe All The Colors -- but it's hard to do so without falling into packed-full-of-connotations (sallow, swarthy, etc.) or purple prose (chocolate, ivory, etc.).

Evan said...

Yes, I'd love seeing it too. I'm really bad at physical description, but you're probably right that a lot of people will automatically think "white" unless specifically told otherwise. (Let alone all the other ways improving might lead to better stories!)

Re cultures - I guess I just need to research, then?

Aidan Bird said...

It's super hard to do, to be honest. During my editing phase, I often will spend a good hour pouring over one or two sentences that contain some descriptions and ponder the best way to handle those words. Lately, I've been making long lists of words that describe colors and various hues of colors. This helps a bit, having that list nearby. I'm also of the mindset that the description shouldn't be the sole purpose of the sentence.

For example: "His ebony skin seemed almost greyish beneath his golden-brown eyes. I wondered if he had slept at all last night, or if he'd spent most of it awake, like I had." I agonized over the word choice here, and I'm still unsure if it's the best possible choices, but at the same time, describing the skin aided in my description of the main character recognizing how tired he was.

It's something I've noticed when I sit and think about my interactions with people and watching people interact with each other - we often rely on body language a lot, and how someone looks (or acts) can cause another person to wonder if they are tired, feeling okay, and so on and so forth. So I try to incorporate that into my writing - describing how the person looks as well as any body language. It really helps me picture the scene better in my own mind, and so far my beta-readers tell me that it really helps them feel like they're in this scene, watching it come to life.

Whether or not this is a good compromise, I'm still not entirely sure, but it seems to be working to some degree at least. Though I'm always striving to improve myself and my writing craft, so maybe me or someone else will find a better way to accomplish this.

Aidan Bird said...

Oh, here's another example that's more focused on hair. Context: The main character is pretty upset and trying to avoid thinking about what happened. "I grasped one of my curls between my index and middle fingers. I could see the blue-violet strands intermixed with a few white hairs and a thick set of reddish-brown hairs. The combination gave my hair as a whole a rather muddy reddish color, but in the light of the sun, the blue-violet strands seemed to shine. I pulled on the curl until it stung my scalp and then released it. The wind blew it away from my face."

By the way, it was Tamora Pierce that gave me this idea. She really, really describes the person in depth regardless of their race. She describes the shape of their brow, the tilt and depth of their chin, their eyebrows, eyes, nose, body structure (shoulders, length of arms and legs), skin color, hair color, and type of hair. She does it by inserting it in gradually, though to me it is a lot of information to come at me in the span of a few paragraphs. I like it because it helps me visualize the characters and it's used to consistently so that all races are described equally.

I've tried to slip the description into the body language, action, and so forth to avoid any description dumps. I like having more subtle description, but sometimes it does make sense to slip in a bunch at once. I suppose it's all about experimentation in the end.

Silver Adept said...

@Chris -

Ah, nuts. Thought I had a good one there that I could add to the List of Miracles.

@sptrashcan -

From what I've gathered so far, the next step past those points is, "Treat people like people. If you screw apologize. Use someone's preferred forms of address where possible. Realize that not everyone has the spoons to educate you at the point of your offense. Oh, and don't make it about you when it clearly isn't. (That one usually ties into apologies.)"

There will be times when it all goes to hell in a handcrafted handbasket. Gods know how much I've messed up, whether called on it or not. But we persevere and learn, and highly, we never make the same mistake twice.

chris the cynic said...

It might not have been what I was thinking about, but it was a good read.

Jadagul said...

On languages and grad school: So much of this depends on your field and what, specifically, you're working on. From what I understand, most science papers these days are written mostly in English. An most papers in my field are written mostly in English. But in the sub-sub-subfield I'm actually working in, about half of them are written in French. That's not something I could have told you before I picked the field, but it means I'm winding up having to learn French when I hadn't expected to (and that no other language I could have learned would have been a substitute at all).

depizan said...

Half of my problem may be that I struggle to work in character descriptions at all. (Although I recognizing people if I see them frequently, the people-identification part of my brain seems to work very slowly and imprecisely. This causes enough trouble in real life, never mind when I'm trying to write about people. *sigh*)

I can try to hunt for more words, though. I'm currently far more comfortable assigning colors to non-humans than to humans, mostly because I'm confident there aren't unfortunate implications hiding in the word choices.

Ana Mardoll said...

BDZ, there's a lot about this comment of yours that is making me uncomfortable, and I'm honestly wanting to ROT13 it, but I'm not in a place where I can at the moment. Briefly:

1. Your uses of the term "propaganda" above make me very uncomfortable as it seems to imply bad faith or non-belief. In the one case, of indoctrinating children and in the other case of not feeling as though their personal gender were coercively assigned, which some people actually do and it's not our place to tell them they shouldn't feel that way.

2. Your explanation surrounding cisgender looks very close to 'splaining to non-cisgendered peoples unless I'm misunderstanding something. I'm particularly uncomfortable with the clause trying to use 'cis' to describe a group is technically true, but absurd, when iiuc it was the trans* community who came up with that term to help educate cis peoples and to help de-otherify trans* people. In which case, it looks like you, an apparent cis person, are telling the trans* community what terms they should and shouldn't use and why. That makes me very uncomfortable indeed.

3. Note that "I know I'm going to be jumped on for this" and variants thereof are expressly prohibited by the comment policy (See #2) because it stifles conversation and pre-supposes bad faith.

4. There is a great deal of difference between asking for more information if the poster can and is able to safely give it versus a crisp "citation needed", which sounds very much like a demand that people drop everything to go research stuff on your behalf. This isn't, after all, Wikipedia - it's a casual discussion board. (Now, maybe you were using it as a means to mock the magical explanation given by the ritual organizers, but in that case your word choice makes me uncomfortable for other reasons. -- i.e., there would seem to be some hinting that magic is silly and that even attempting to explain/cite any belief about magic is an exercise in folly.)

5. Your explanation of magic is almost certainly 'splaining, which seems like the second time this thread. If you have no personal experience with magic or with paganism, you should not attempt to explain how those things work to people who do. (Who are already participating in the thread, no less!) Asking for clarification is fine; telling us how our religion works when you are not a member is not. This is a safe space board for all religions or lack thereof.

6. As an addendum to your "no,no,yes", since the question hasn't been answered in more depth yet, I might as well weigh in. Though I have no experience with it and therefore didn't speak to it before, I do think there are some mentally ill people who are reclaiming the word "crazy" for purposes of education and explanation. However, as with most word reclamation efforts, if you're not a part of the affected group, you shouldn't participate.

As an example, Melissa McEwan frequently uses the term "crazy" to unpack why society commonly uses it and why it shouldn't. Which, obviously, wouldn't be possible if the goal was to NEVER use the term at all. Link, link, link. But, again, reclamation/explanation/education are to be approached with caution -- see last night's metapost about posting on this board.

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank you for the ROT13. I'm on a LOT of drugs right now and may be reading things very wrongly. I appreciate you being so accommodating for me.

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank you for your ROT13'ing, your use of trigger warnings, and your elaborated explanations of what you meant. I'm still not entirely sure I agree or understand what you mean in all cases -- for various reasons -- but I really do appreciate your being willing to clarify for me and I apologize for the misunderstanding on my part. Thank you. :)

swanblood said...

I'm a little late, but, about otherkin:

Chasingcaribou's "Otherkin Newbie Pack" is very useful. It is more updated than a lot of the otherkin FAQs out there, that were often made in early 2000s and were very ableist.

I personally don't mind "human-bodied", but, mostly because there is not a better word for it. There's no good way to say "someone has this body type but that doesn't mean anything different about their gender/species identity". Apart from necessary things like "human-bodied", I don't wish to be called "human": "person" or similar words are fine.

It's a very difficult subject, but I appreciate a lot that people are trying to learn about it.

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank you very much for those definitions -- that helps me a great deal.

Ana Mardoll said...

Crossing threads with the trans* discussion, would "human-assigned" be preferable than "human-bodied", do you think?

Smilodon said...

This is an awesome thread - I have a question I've wanted to ask for a while.

TW: Rape, victim blaming.

I find it hard to navigate the line between "being careful" and "victim blaming". This comes up most often in my interactions with a teenage girl who I am doing my best to help through some parts of life. When she's considering entering a dangerous situation, I warn her about avoiding dangers that can lead to her being a victim of violence, and since she's a girl, this usually means avoiding getting raped. My question is - how do I instill in her the skills she needs to be safe, without instilling a sense of victim-blaming? I also want to avoid scaring her - I want her to be brave, independent, empathetic, and careful. But I feel like I'm constantly selecting "careful" when I warn her.

For example, "Ok, you're thinking of going to that party where there will be drinking. Watch your drink at all times. If you put it down by mistake, leave it and get a new one. I had a friend who had her drink spiked and ended up in hospital." How do I tell her that message while also saying "99.9% of men will not spike your drink. Also, my friend was totally not to blame for what happened, and everyone was really supportive afterwards. But, still watch your drink."

chris the cynic said...

It's kind of different isn't it? People get assigned to male or female, people get assumed to be human. As far as I know no one ever delivers a baby and says, "It's a human!" because the assumption is that there's nothing else the child could be.

Assigning sex involves making a determination*, in some cases using surgery to enforce that determination, assuming humanity is something that probably doesn't even occur to the doctor or parents on a conscious level.

The process by which people are labeled human seems notably different from the one by which they are labeled male or female.


*Sometimes notably wrong.

chris the cynic said...

First my post disappeared, now it's back. So disregard this post.

Aidan Bird said...

You're very welcome. If you want anything else defined or clarified, let me know.

Brin Bellway said...

As far as I know no one ever delivers a baby and says, "It's a human!" because the assumption is that there's nothing else the child could be.

Dad wrote a post on his blog once about how when he was asked "Do you want a boy or a girl?" he answered "human". They thought he was joking, but he was glad to see that it was indeed a human baby, and he was proud of his part in accomplishing this feat of new humanity.

The baby he was talking about grew into me*. I found it amusing.
(Still, I suppose he's right. He got a human baby. Nobody said anything about longer-term.)

*The blog post was written long after the fact.

Fitcher's Bird said...

Thanks for the advice Ana and BaseDeltaZero. As I will have no opportunity for follow-up and other questions have been fairly straightforward, I'll stick with the "Character did/says this. What do you think and why?" approach I've been treating other topics with and hope that it starts some kids questioning their assumptions.

Ana Mardoll said...

Moderator Notice

BaseDeltaZero, I am removing this comment of yours for the time being while I go take a nap.

I want to strongly express that the purpose of this "101 Questions" thread is for Privileged People to ask questions and to allow Marginalized People to answer those questions at their leisure and according to their spoon budget. The whole point being that many PP commenters on this board *do* have these questions, but they aren't always aware how to find the answers and they are polite enough not to demand answers from MPs who may not be in the mood or have the spoons.

The point of this thread is most definitely NOT for Privileged People to *argue* with Marginalized People about their answers, or try to prove them wrong, or use exceedingly loaded and disrespectful terms like "fallacious", or to "sorta disagree" with peoples' identities, or to openly muse that you're "not sure what to think on the subject" of their identities as if this is all just a distant, hypothetical, armchair discussion for the Privileged People in the room. Because that is absolutely not what this thread is for.

The Marginalized people here who have been kind and brave enough to give answers deserve the utmost respect, kindness, and gratitude from the Privileged People for taking the time to educate us. If anyone here does not know what to think on the subject of transgender or otherkin or anything else, it is not appropriate to work out those feelings "out loud" in this thread or to try to "guess" definitions and/or argue about whether the given definitions are appropriate. This thread is for asking polite questions, listening to the answers, saying 'thank you', and then going off to quietly think about what has been learned.

I am now going to go take a nap.

BaseDeltaZero said...

Fair enough. I suppose I reflexively posted without duly considering the place... I'm very argumentative at the best of times. I'll curtail my commentary until a more appropriate time. Which may or may not happen here.

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank you. I absolutely understand learning by debate and arguing -- I have a streak of that as well. It just doesn't work well in safe spaces and I appreciate you respecting that for me. :)

Aidan Bird said...

Thank you, Ana, for maintaining safe spaces so wonderfully well.

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank you. I try. My thinking is that about 1% of the Internet is Safe Space (or so it seems to me), and I'm trying to grow that a little. I need it too, to be frankly honest. :)

unbeliever536 said...

Gender/Sexuality 101:

What are the differences between genderqueer, questioning, and intersex? Are some or all of these terms interchangeable? Is there a sort of sliding scale? Does it just vary from group to group?

Will Wildman said...

Not at all interchangeable, no. 'Genderqueer', as I understand it, can refer to anyone who doesn't particularly identify with either of female or male identities. I'm pretty sure 'questioning' is for people who may have a specific identity, aren't quite sure it's right for them, but aren't yet ready to identify as something else yet (say, a person who has thought of themselves as a straight male, but who is still trying to figure out whether he might be bisexual).

Those are both mental qualities. 'Intersex' is a physical descriptor that might not affect a person's gender or orientation at all - wikipedia's page seems to be a pretty good place to start:

unbeliever536 said...

Thank you muchly.

Silver Adept said...

I suppose it's kind of a meta-101 question, but how do you know when it's okay to talk, especially if you're a person of privilege? Given that you have some knowledge on the subject at hand and are presumably able to avoid the common pitfalls that privileged people make on the subject, is there any way of being able to make a reasonable guess as to whether your voice will be welcome in the discussion? Or whether it will be okay to ask for a clarification, even if it seems 101-ish, without invoking the wrath of the thread?

Maybe more simply, is there a way to tell when making a comment will be discussed and when it will result in being told to go back to noob school or Privilege Space without the comment being taken into account?

Ana Mardoll said...

Do you mean when asking or answering?

When asking, I think it always goes a long way to say "I'm not 100% familiar with the terminology here, so please help me if I get something wrong".

When answering, I think it goes a long well to say "Well, this has been my experience [wth disability], but keep in mind I have [financial] privilege and many people do not."

Silver Adept said...

Mostly with asking rather than answering, but thank you for the advice on answering, too. It's mostly the question of when it seems like a good choice for the lurker to actually start being a commenter or throw their hands up and say "time out! What is going on, please, for the non-educated?"

Ana Mardoll said...

Ah-ha, I see! A "guidelines for 101 questions", eh?

Off the top of my head:

1. Google first. Probably that won't answer the question entirely but it may be enough that a re-read of the thread makes it all clear. Particularly annoying when Google DOES answer the question perfectly fine and it just looks like someone was doing Privilege Babying.

2. Ask nice and realize you're asking for peoples' time and spoons and acknowledge that explicitly. As in, "Please don't feel the need to stop the thread on my account, but if anyone would be willing to explain, I would appreciate it, ...."

3. Don't offer off-the-head guesses for what various terms might mean because they're almost always wrong and usually (inadvertently) insulting. (This is a fine line between embracing ignorance and clarifying that "Google said..." which will usually soften the blow because then we can all point and laugh at Google.)

4. Don't preemptively argue why think something is a bad idea / bad term because that argument is necessarily coming from ignorance and maybe be wrong and inadvertently insulting. Plus, it makes listening harder if mentally there's already a "no, that's silly because" argument forming in the head.

Other than that, I think 101 Questions are usually fine. The only times I've gotten all Captain PissyPants (I think) were when #1-4 were breached, usually in the same post.

Silver Adept said...

Thanks, Ana. The question is a bit broader still (and tells me how poorly worded it is) - seeing how you handle it is still very informative. Is there any advice to give about how to gauge whether Space X is going to be friendly if there are no explicit directions or designations about whether 101 will be okay and/or whether someone potentially of privilege will be welcome to speak?

Will Wildman said...

Maybe I'm missing something here, but it seems like the simplest tactic would be "Hi, I have what might be a really basic question; would folks here be okay with my asking it (from my privileged position) or should I look elsewhere?" I have a hard time imagining anyone reacting badly to that, ne?

Ana Mardoll said...

Yes, I'm sorry, I don't understand the question because it seems very broad.

I can only answer how things can be asked and answered in this space *here*. In a hypothetical Space X where there are *no* explicit directions or comment policy then, uhhhmmm, I don't know? I don't see anything wrong with Will's answer, but no guarantees that you won't somehow step on toes or get yelled at. Minority groups aren't monolithic such that they will always respond X to stimulus Y. (As we all know. :))

But I think as long as you're upfront about it being a 101 question, you having acknowledged privilege, and being clear that you don't expect everyone to drop everything and cater to you, that USUALLY will be enough. Most people respect politeness and try to respond in kind (even if it's a gentle, "no, I'm sorry, this is not a 101 space.")

Silver Adept said...

@Will and @Ana-

Thank you both for your responses. The non-monolithic-ness of different groups was sort of the reason for asking. It definitely sounds like the best advice here is to read, lurk, and get a sense for the space before firing off basic qs - it's always possible that what you wanted to know will already have been answered by the time you want to ask.

Now that I've thought about the question and the responses some, maybe what I actually wanted to know its if there were terminology shortcuts that would be helpful in gauging the friendliness of the space, but that still runs into the problem of "not all spaces are alike and may differ on their terminology usage."

Thanks again for your help. Maybe next time I can come to the focused question faster and with less confusion for everyone.

Anonymous said...

content warning: 101 question about race, hair, and appropriation

Is it appropriation for white people to wear cornrows? I've done some serious googling and I've found people saying that they think it looks ugly on white people or that they don't think white people's hair is the right texture for it, but despite searching, I haven't found people expressing that they felt it was appropriation or that they felt insulted by it -- the comments I found seemed limited to aesthetic preference. The reason I'm asking is that I have seen discussion that white people wearing locks is appropriation because the Rastafarian movement is a space that black people have carved out for themselves and it's inappropriate for white people to invade that space. I am not trying to start a discussion about locks -- I don't have them, I am not black, and I respect that a lot of voices on the internet have expressed that they they are harmed by white people wearing locks. Cornrows are another style that look great with black hair and as someone who has not experienced racial discrimination based on my hair texture, it may be that the arguments against locks on whites apply to cornrows on whites too, but on the other hand, cornrows don't seem to be tied to the Rasta movement the way locks are. I realise that black people are not monolithic and that there is probably not a group opinion on this, and I'm sure there are some blacks who don't care whether whites wear locks or not, but I'm not asking for a consensus -- if even a small number of black people would be offended by my wearing cornrows, that's good enough for me.

So, cornrows? Can I? I know how to braid them myself and I like the way it looks on me, but I can stick to white hairstyles if cornrows are a problem.

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