bechdel’s law

A couple of days ago I was reading Thus Spake Zuska, one of the many science blogs I consume most days. Some mornings while reading, it’s as if I wake up wondering what that rough sensation is on my face and discover my head is being rubbed forcefully into the synthetic carpet. Oh sexism…

The followup the her first piece, displayed both an American regionalism that comes up in feminism often, which I find difficult, but ignoring my own provincialism for a moment, the problems she brings up of straight white males who whine, “Where is the [meeting/retreat/study room/pizza party/program] for white men?” and the overt sexism, racism and homophobia behind it is one that is a thread through far too much of my own life and those around me.

I also finished Charles Stross’ Palimpsest today, (spoiling my later this week reading when Wireless arrives). I was thinking, while reading Saturn’s Children earlier this week on why he is one of my favourite writers, and in no small part it’s because he creates convincing, believable, female lead characters. That he does this in science-fiction is doubly impressive. He also writes on the importance of such female roles, citing Bechdel’s Law, a post I often think of.

My last time in Vienna, staying in a woman’s apartment whom I never met, I plundered her books. Much excitement. I was rather tired in the evenings though, and amused myself with comic book lesbian porn and Dykes to Watch Out For. There is a rule, which should be a standard, not just in writing or film, but as the bare minimum for judging whether an effort is being made to stymie the monotonous objectification of women. Charles uses it to critique his own writing, and reading it should be mandatory, either in words or in comic form

1. Does it have at least two women in it,
2. Who [at some point] talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man.

Some time ago – almost three months in fact – Smashing Magazine published a piece called Group Interview: Expert Advice for Young Web Designers, sixteen ‘industry leaders’ brought together and none of them female. (Not so) anonymous (berlinerin) said,

Couldn’t you find even one female designer for your panel? While they may be exceptional at design, there are few enough role models for young female designers and students as it is.

Secondly, there is no way of discerning how the experience for a female designer might differ simply because there is a complete lack of representation.

Please try harder.

Today, much to my delight, appeared: Women in Web Design: Group Interview. Much enjoyable reading and some new designers to follow, one who is an ex-dancer even.

A strange question asked of the women but not of the comparable previous interview with the men, How do you handle the pressure of deadlines and find time for your family? The use of headshots to illustrate the article instead of the usual design portfolio shots (though the editor did explain his reasons for doing this, which I don’t find fault with), and… suddenly I am back thinking of Zuska and in complete sympathy with her when she says, “I’m fucking angry”.

I would rather spend the next half hour getting ready for yoga than analysing all the comments to this article from sexist hetero males, so better to go and read Zuska and Charles and Alison. It is an endless tedious oppression having to share the planet with a minority who ruin it for the rest of us.

So what does a comic book author and a rule about which movies to see as a feminist dyke have to do with web design, underrepresentation of women and harassment in the workplace?

Hint: it’s not about comparing women to minorities, it’s about examining the systematic disempowerment of half the human population on the basis of an accident of birth.

— Charles Stross