Earlier this year, I read an essay called Shining a Light on Cutoff Culture. It’s almost four thousand words long and before I was halfway through, my shoulders were drawn up around my ears and my head was vibrating with ill-defined rage. Fortunately, Captain Awkward chose to tackle it on her blog and helped me pinpoint exactly why this essay made me so deeply uncomfortable. It took me a long time to sort my thoughts out on this one, but here is my letter to the man who wrote that essay.
You claim to be trying to shine on a light the dangers of cutoff culture. But here is the thing.
Most women do not live in a cutoff culture. Far from it. Let me tell you a bit about the kind of culture women live in when it comes to dating, relationships and sex. Your essay extrapolated from an example from your own personal experience, so I’ll give you one from mine:
Hi everyone! The fields of the link farm have lain fallow for a while, but they shall be all the more fertile for it and a new crop of feminism shall grow strong and abundant in the furrows of this newly-ploughed metaphor.
That is to say, the draft email where I keep interesting links (Iol, what are bookmarks) has become nothing short of unwieldy, so here’s a bumper crop of stuff I read recently (or not so recently) that I found thought-provoking. All of it is articles. In no particular order:
The Twitching of Democracy Could Twitch Plays Pokémon hold the answer to reinvigorating our broken systems of democracy? I have no idea, but fortunately my friend Tadhg decided to grapple with that very question in his latest blog post.
Rage Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum Women in general, and feminists in particular, are often accused of overreacting or being excessively angry in response to relatively innocuous things. Kameron Hurley does a great job of explaining that a) seemingly isolated incidents are often “blown out of proportion” precisely because they are not isolated incidents and b) anger is actually a necessary tool for changing the status quo.
Should “potential fathers” have any say in abortion? A thorny issue, but this is why I love reading Aoife O’Riordan on reproductive rights; she brings a level on incisiveness and clarity that I would never arrive at on my own and her conclusions always center the needs of the pregnant person above all else. And as a fellow native of a country where abortion is illegal except in the most extenuating of circumstances, her insight is valuable to me on a personal and political level.
Bi-Erasure and The Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank may not have identified as bisexual, but the fact that her diary was originally scrubbed of homoerotic material prior to publishing is symptomatic of a society that is still profoundly uncomfortable with fluid sexuality. Solomon Wong illustrates how this relates to modern bi-erasure and why young bi people need more mainstream narratives that acknowledge their existence.
Bros before Rogues Nicholas DiSabatino asks if the X-Men franchise – despite reams of excellent source material – is getting steadily worse at portraying women as well-rounded characters… or indeed, portraying them at all. (Hint: Yes.)
Why Marketers Fear The Female GeekDisruptive innovation is one of my favourite marketing concepts. It basically means ripping up the rule book and throwing all the data out the window in order to capture (or recapture) a brand new market through bold and original strategies. And this, argues Anjin Anhut, is exactly what videogame companies need to do if they want access to the wallets of the fifty percent of the population they’ve been systematically alienating for the past few decades.
The Night I Kissed A Rapist In this simple personal account, Jan DeVry explores her firsthand experience of discovering that a rapist can be a well-liked, charismatic man with whom you have strong chemistry.
Seeming Female: Gender in Digital Space So at this point we all know that Fake Geek Girl is largely a myth, the fever dream of an adult nerd with a subconscious desire to punish all women for that one time a hot girl ignored him at summer camp. But the always excellent Foz Meadows posits an interesting theory: what if she does exist? What if she exists and what if she is a literal invention of male gamers? “What if the respective myths of the Fake Geek Girl and Fake Gamer Girl are actively being perpetuated, not through the whore-user predations of evil ladies, but because a cynical, sexist subset of male geeks are using stereotypical, strawman portrayals of women to manipulate their peers?” It sounds far-fetched, but the numbers add up and the performance of gender in digital spaces is a strange and elusive beast.
When I was ten, our teacher held the girls back at break time and solemnly informed us that we were due to start bleeding out of our vaginas any day now. If this happened while we were in school, we were to tell NO ONE but immediately locate the nearest female teacher, who would provide us with something to soak up THE SHAME OF OUR WOMB. She did not actually say that last bit, but even at ten years-old, I felt it was strongly implied. This was my first introduction to periods.
When I was fourteen, our science teacher skipped over the chapter on the reproductive system. She told us it was very unlikely to come up in our exams next year, and even if it does, you’ll have lots of questions to choose from so you can just skip it. I stared at the diagram of the penis in the book for a while. There was no diagram of the vagina, only the ovaries and uterus.
The same year, a lady from Tampax came to speak to us about periods and gave us heavily branded booklets about growing into our new bodies. At this point, I was wearing a C cup and I’d been using tampons for over two years, so it felt a bit belated. Nobody had any questions at the end of the talk.
When I was seventeen, we had forty minutes of “Health Ed” class every two weeks. There was no syllabus, but our teacher was smart and engaged. He led a lot of interesting discussions – about drinking, drugs, smoking, bullying, about stress and good study habits, depression, body image, more drugs, more bullying – but something was notably missing from the laundry list of things seventeen year-old girls typically worry about.
And that was it. I could definitely blame this on growing up in Ireland, a country so deeply steeped in Catholicism that it’s difficult to find a school where saying prayers in morning assembly is not the norm. But a friend of mine also went to an all-girls convent school, and she did have a sex ed class. Which apparently involved trying to put a condom on a banana with one hand.
I’ve started thinking about the sex education I wish I’d had. I even went as far as drafting a syllabus, because I’m obsessive like that, but I will not inflict it on the Internet because I’m not an educator and also it’s five pages long. But I will show you my wish list. Because maybe it’s just my inner Hermione Granger talking, but I do wish there’d been a class.