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Data analysis of The Simpsons

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 29, 2016

Simpsons Data

The Simpsons is the longest-running series in primetime TV history. The show’s 27 seasons hold much potential treasure for data scientists. Todd Schneider downloaded the scripts from every show and analyzed which characters spoke the most and where. The results reveal a heavy focus on Homer and a large gender imbalance in terms of dialogue.

The colors of the bars in the above graphs represent gender: blue for male characters, red for female. If we look at the supporting cast, the 14 most prominent characters are all male before we get to the first woman, Mrs. Krabappel, and only 5 of the top 50 supporting cast members are women.

Women account for 25% of the dialogue on The Simpsons, including Marge and Lisa, two of the show’s main characters. If we remove the Simpson nuclear family, things look even more lopsided: women account for less than 10% of the supporting cast’s dialogue.

See also Film Dialogue from 2000 screenplays, Broken Down by Gender and Age.

We Work Remotely

Trump paid the stereotype tax in the first debate

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2016

Jeet Heer writing for The New Republic: Clinton Proved Trump Is a Man You Can Bait in a Debate.

In her acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, Hillary Clinton called out Donald Trump memorably, saying, “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” The insight that Trump is easy to provoke formed the core of Clinton’s successful strategy in the first debate on Monday, as she repeatedly incited the Republican nominee to both adopt an off-putting aggressive tone and to make a series of damaging self-admissions.

This reminded me of poker player Annie Duke’s explanation of how she used the gender stereotypes of her male opponents against them.

I figured it was part of the game that if somebody was at the table who was so emotionally invested in the fact that I was a woman, that they could treat me that way, that probably, that person wasn’t going to make good decisions at the table against me. So I really tried to sort of separate that out and think about it from a strategic place of, how can I come up with the best strategy to take their money because I guess, in the end, isn’t that the best revenge?

Trump sounds like he’s a combination of the angry and disrespecting chauvinists:

VEDANTAM: She says she divided the men who had stereotypes about her into three categories.

DUKE: One was the flirting chauvinists, and that person was really viewing me in a way that was sexual.

VEDANTAM: With the guys who were like that, Annie could make nice.

DUKE: I never did go out on a date with any of them, but you know, it was kind of flirtatious at the table. And I could use that to my advantage.

VEDANTAM: And then there was the disrespecting chauvinist. Annie says these players thought women weren’t creative.

DUKE: There are strategies that you can use against them. Mainly, you can bluff those people a lot.

VEDANTAM: And then there’s a third kind of guy, perhaps the most reckless.

DUKE: The angry chauvinist.

VEDANTAM: This is a guy who would do anything to avoid being beaten by a woman. Annie says you can’t bluff an angry chauvinist. You just have to wait.

DUKE: What I say is, until they would impale themselves on your chips.

Although I suspect his chauvinism is only part of his poor debate showing…his insecurity is off the charts as well.

A list of nonbinary gender identities

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2016

From the nonbinary.org wiki, a list of gender identities that aren’t male or female.

transgender is an umbrella term for all genders that go beyond society’s ideas of gender, which includes some kinds of binary gender people. Some call their gender identity simply “transgender,” as a nonbinary identity itself.

genderfuzz. Coined by lolzmelmel in 2014. “having multiple genders that are fuzzy and blurred together, making it impossible to identify each one individually or separate one from the rest. alternative names: blurgender (not to be confused with genderblur)

cosmicgender. Coined by dragon-friker in 2014. “A gender so vast and complex that you are only able to process a small bit of it at a time. like viewing the night sky through a telescope you cannot hope to see all of it at once however you may gain more knowledge about parts of it the longer you focus on one part. may contain any number of sub genders within it that may present themselves to you. it is infinite in its possibility. name from the vast reaches of space filled with things we cannot begin to imagine.”

hijra. In south Asian countries including India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, the Hijra are people assigned male at birth who have a feminine gender expression. This is a very ancient tradition. Today, Hijra are legally recognized as a gender other than female or male.

nocturnalgender. Coined by passengender in 2014. Any gender that feels more intense during the night, “but weak/nonexistent when it is light out.” Syn. batgender, owlgender, moongender. Counterpart: flowergender.


Update: Sam Escobar answers some frequently asked questions about non-binary gender.

The gender binary separates those who identify as male or female, simple as that. Non-binary genders, however, don’t fit neatly within these two-they can be a combination of male and female, a fluid back-and-forth, or totally outside of the binary. Cisgender people, on the other hand, are folks whose identities align with the gender they were assigned at birth.

(via @djacobs)

10 things to know about Japanese street fashion in 2016

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2016

As you can tell from whatever “outfit” I’ve extracted from my closet and placed on my body each morning, I know close to nothing about fashion. But I love reading about it. This piece about circa-2016 fashion trends in Tokyo neighborhood of Harajuku is interesting in many ways. Take the first section on Genderless Kei and Kawaii Boys.

Genderless Kei

Though the Kawaii Boys’ styles vary, the most popular look is childlike rather than traditionally feminine. These are not crossdressers, most of them are not gay, and they are not trying to look like — or pass as — women. They are specifically aiming for a happy fun Genderless style. That said, none of these new generation of Kawaii Boys are afraid of incorporating traditionally female fashion elements and makeup into their looks.

When I typically think of genderless fashion, I think of someone dressing “in between” the two dominant genders in relatively nondescript drab clothing that leans masculine. So it’s interesting to see the different approach described here…men wearing traditionally feminine clothes to average out as genderless.

As odd as it sounds, Japanese-ness is also making a comeback in Japanese fashion:

Fashion designers may have finally gotten his message, as we’ve never seen as many Japanese characters in street fashion as we did in 2015. The kanji print boom was just one of the many signs that young Japanese creatives are looking inward as well as outward for inspiration.

The classic Japanese sukajan (souvenir jacket) has been ubiquitous on the streets of Harajuku and in vintage shops since the end of summer. As Spring approaches, the low cost trend shops are well stocked with souvenir jackets as well. Influential indie boutique and underground Japanese brands are offering t-shirts, bags, dresses, and accessories printed with messages in kanji, hiragana, and katakana.

The post also delves into economic and city planning territory with sections on tourism and gentrification. (via @moth)

Paying the stereotype tax

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2015

I love this piece from NPR about how poker player Annie Duke uses her male opponents’ stereotypical views of women against them.

I figured it was part of the game that if somebody was at the table who was so emotionally invested in the fact that I was a woman, that they could treat me that way, that probably, that person wasn’t going to make good decisions at the table against me. So I really tried to sort of separate that out and think about it from a strategic place of, how can I come up with the best strategy to take their money because I guess, in the end, isn’t that the best revenge?

She noticed there were three types of chauvinist players and approached each with a different strategy.

VEDANTAM: She says she divided the men who had stereotypes about her into three categories.

DUKE: One was the flirting chauvinists, and that person was really viewing me in a way that was sexual.

VEDANTAM: With the guys who were like that, Annie could make nice.

DUKE: I never did go out on a date with any of them, but you know, it was kind of flirtatious at the table. And I could use that to my advantage.

VEDANTAM: And then there was the disrespecting chauvinist. Annie says these players thought women weren’t creative.

DUKE: There are strategies that you can use against them. Mainly, you can bluff those people a lot.

VEDANTAM: And then there’s a third kind of guy, perhaps the most reckless.

DUKE: The angry chauvinist.

VEDANTAM: This is a guy who would do anything to avoid being beaten by a woman. Annie says you can’t bluff an angry chauvinist. You just have to wait.

DUKE: What I say is, until they would impale themselves on your chips.

I got this link from Andy Baio, who also linked to the video of the specific match referenced in the NPR piece and noted “Phil Hellmuth attributes all of Annie’s wins to luck, all of his own to skill”.

Their life without gender

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 10, 2015

Tyler Ford

Tyler Ford was born a girl, transitioned to being a man in college, but now identifies as an agender person.

I have been out as an agender, or genderless, person for about a year now. To me, this simply means having the freedom to exist as a person without being confined by the limits of the western gender binary. I wear what I want to wear, and do what I want to do, because it is absurd to limit myself to certain activities, behaviours or expressions based on gender. People don’t know what to make of me when they see me, because they feel my features contradict one another. They see no room for the curve of my hips to coexist with my facial hair; they desperately want me to be someone they can easily categorise. My existence causes people to question everything they have been taught about gender, which in turn inspires them to question what they know about themselves, and that scares them. Strangers are often desperate to figure out what genitalia I have, in the hope that my body holds the key to some great secret and unavoidable truth about myself and my gender. It doesn’t. My words hold my truth. My body is simply the vehicle that gives me the opportunity to express myself.

Ford uses the “they”, “them”, and “their” pronouns to refer to themselves. (Is it themselves? Or would it be themself? English is a relatively young and fluid language but even it can’t keep up.)

Amazon drops gendered categories for toys

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2015

According to a friend of someone on Amazon’s taxonomy team, Amazon has removed the gender taxonomy of toys and games. Here’s the before and after:

Amazon Gender Toys

That’s not to say you still can’t shop for boys and girls toys on Amazon (jeez, those pages bum me out), but taking it out of the standard list of categories is a nice first step.

Now, how about you do something about this Amazon Mom thing? What’s wrong with Amazon Family?

The sameness of Pixar’s women

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 24, 2015

For years, one of the knocks on Pixar was the lack of main characters who are women in their movies. 2012’s Brave and this summer’s Inside Out have addressed this criticism to an extent1. But Alex of every flavored bean noticed that, in contrast to the diversity of male faces, female characters in Disney/Pixar’s recent movies all have the same face.

Pixar Female Faces

Boys in animated movies have faces that are square, round, skinny, fat, alien-looking, handsome, and ugly. The only face that girls get to have is some round snub-nosed baby face. That’s not right.

Great observation.

Update: This piece has generated some interesting comments on Good, including this one from Dan Povenmire, co-creator of Phineas and Ferb.

This is idiotic and obviously written by someone who (A) can’t draw and (B) has an axe to grind. The female characters they show have very varied faces. Yes the face shapes are all softer feminine shapes, but they purposely didn’t include female characters from those same movies with less feminine faces, like Edna Mode in The Incredibles, or the Witch or the Cook in Brave, or any of the older female characters, like the fairy godmother, or… whatever. All the princes and male romantic leads in these movies have the same face shape as well but NO, she takes old men and villains and comedy relief characters to “prove” how sexist animation is. This is just stupid.

If you want literally dozens of examples of other characters omitted from the list see the other comments below.

(via @ckoerner)

  1. Although the gender stereotypes on display in the first trailer for Inside Out is not helping matters.

Ten hours of walking in NYC as a woman

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2014

A woman recently took to the streets of NYC and walked around for 10 hours. She walked behind someone wearing a hidden camera that captured all of the catcalls and harassment directed toward her during that time…108 incidents in all. This is what it’s like being a woman in public:

At The Awl, John Herrman notes the parallels between a woman on the streets of NYC and a woman spending time on the internet.

But the video works in two ways: It’s also a neat portrayal of what it is like to be a woman talking about gender on the mainstream internet. This became apparent within minutes of publication, at which point the video’s comment section was flooded with furious responses.

A typical post in the YouTube comments thread:

are you fucking kidding me “verbal harassment”? most of all the guys called that woman “beautiful” or said to “have a good day”….it would be harassment if the guys called that woman a “hoe” or “bitch”…you are a fucktard.

On Tumblr, Alex Alvarez neatly dispenses with that sort of “logic”:

To anchor this more concretely, consider the behavior of the men in the video. Take a look at how they seek the woman out to wish her a good morning, despite her not having made eye contact or shown any interest in talking to them. Take a look at how they’re not wishing a good morning to any other person, particularly male people, also walking around. The woman is walking directly behind the man filming her (the camera is hidden in his backpack), and not one of the men shown in the video are seen to be greeting him and wishing him a good day. Just her.

Why is this?

It’s because they don’t care, really whether she has a good day or not. What they care about is letting her know that they have noticed her — her hair, her face, her body, her outfit. They want her to notice that they’ve noticed, and they want her to notice them, however fleetingly.

Gender roles and monogamy in The Hunger Games

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 04, 2013

Linda Holmes writes about the gender roles of the main characters in the Hunger Games movies and how unusual they are for a mainstream blockbuster film.

But one of the most unusual things about Katniss isn’t the way she defies typical gender roles for heroines, but the way Peeta, her arena partner and one of her two love interests, defies typical Hollywood versions of gender roles for boyfriends.

Consider the evidence: Peeta’s family runs a bakery. He can literally bake a cherry pie, as the old song says.

He is physically tough, but markedly less so than she is. He’s got a good firm spine, but he lacks her disconnected approach to killing. Over and over, she finds herself screaming “PEETA!”, not calling for help but going to help, and then running, because he’s gone and done some damn fool thing like gotten himself electrocuted.

Mimi Schippers, riffing on Holmes’ piece, argues that Katniss is such an interesting character because she’s not tied to a particular gender…she’s the “movie boyfriend” with Peeta and the “movie girlfriend” with Gale.

Forcing Katniss to choose is forcing Katniss into monogamy, and as I suggested above, into doing gender to complement her partner. Victoria Robinson points out in her article, “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” that monogamy compels women to invest too much time, energy, and resources into an individual man and limits their autonomy and relationships with others. What Robinson doesn’t talk about is how it also limits women’s range of how they might do gender in relationship to others.

It also limits men’s range of doing gender in relationships. Wouldn’t it be nice if Peeta and Gale never felt the pressure to be something they are not? Imagine how Peeta’s and Gale’s masculinities would have to be reconfigured to accommodate and accept each other?

Maybe this is why the end of Catching Fire (minor spoilers!) — Katniss as the cliched irrational hysterical woman who can’t be trusted with information — felt so out of place compared to her gender fluidity throughout the rest of the movie.

Dolores T. Vollmann

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 14, 2013

Prolific and celebrated writer William T. Vollmann is a “devoted” cross-dresser.

Mr. Vollmann is 54, heterosexual and married with a daughter in high school. He began cross-dressing seriously about five years ago. Sometimes he transforms himself into a woman as part of a strange vision quest, aided by drugs or alcohol, to mind-meld with a female character in a book he’s writing. Other times it’s just because he likes the “smooth and slippery” feel of women’s lingerie.

He said his wife, who is an oncologist, is not thrilled with his outré experiments and keeps her distance. “Probably when the book comes out, it’ll be the first she’s heard of it,” he said. “I always try to keep my wife and child out of what I do. I don’t want to cause them any embarrassment.” He asked that his wife not be interviewed for this article.

Vollmann has collected self-portraits of himself as his female alter ego in The Book of Dolores. (via @DavidGrann)

Raising a “gender creative” son

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 06, 2013

Matt Duron is a self-proclaimed “guy’s guy” who has a son who is “gender creative” (love that phrase) and wants to be treated like a girl.

My wife also gets a load of emails from people asking where our son’s father is, as though I couldn’t possibly be around and still allow a male son to display female behavior. To those people I say, I’m right here fathering my son. I want to love him, not change him. My son skipping and twirling in a dress isn’t a sign that a strong male figure is missing from his life, to me it’s a sign that a strong male figure is fully vested in his life and committed to protecting him and allowing him to grow into the person who he was created to be.

I may be a “guy’s guy,” but that doesn’t mean that my son has to be.

More parents like this please.

An analysis of gender on Twitter

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 13, 2013

A study of 14,000 Twitter users was published recently (pdf) by a trio of linguists and computer scientists (Bamman, Eisenstein, Schnoebelen) that looks at the gendered expression of language online.

Female markers include a relatively large number of emotion-related terms like sad, love, glad, sick, proud, happy, scared, annoyed, excited, and jealous. All of the emoticons that appear as gender markers are associated with female authors, including some that the prior literature found to be neutral or male: :) :D and ;). […] Computer mediated communication (CMC) terms like lol and omg appear as female markers, as do ellipses, expressive lengthening (e.g., coooooool), exclamation marks, question marks, and backchannel sounds like ah, hmmm, ugh, and grr.

Swears and other taboo words are more often associated with male authors: bullshit, damn, dick, fuck, fucked, fucking, hell, pussy, shit, shitty are male markers; the anti-swear darn appears in the list as a female marker. This gendered distinction between strong swear words and mild swear words follows that seen by McEnry 2006 in the BNC. Thelwall 2008, a study of the social networking site MySpace produced more mixed results: among American young adults, men used more swears than women, but in Britain there was no gender difference

I don’t want to draw too many conclusions from a single study especially one that, in my opinion, makes some questionable methodology choices (people who follow or are followed by more than 100 people are excluded from the study?) but the results point to an interesting evolution in conversational, public speech.

Update 2: Tyler Schnoebelen, one of the study’s authors reached out to clarify. The study says “we selected only those users with between four and 100 friends”, with friends being defined not as people you follow, people who follow you, or even mutual follow backs. They poll accounts and if you and someone else mention each other with a separation of at least two weeks (to eliminate one-off convos with strangers), then for the purposes of the study you and the other person are defined as friends. And they’re looking to isolate people who have between 4 and 100 of those friend connections.

Now that that’s clarified, that seems a really reasonable way to try to determine friendships on Twitter.

Update 1: David Friedman reminded me of a post he did on telegraph operators in 1890 and how female operators have a different and identifiable transmission style.

It is a peculiar fact also that an experienced operator can almost invariably distinguish a woman’s sending from a man’s. There is nearly always some peculiarity about a woman’s style of transmission. it is not necessarily a fault. Many women send very clearly and make their dots and dashes precisely as they were intended to be made. It is impossible to describe the peculiarity, but there is no doubt of its existence. Nearly all women have a habit of rattling off a lot of meaningless dots before they say anything. But some men do that too. A woman’s touch is lighter than a man’s, and her dots and dashes will not carry so well on a very long circuit. That is presumably the reason why in all large offices the women are usually assigned to work the wires running to various parts of the cities.

Male-to-female transition time lapse video

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 16, 2013

By now, you’ve seen a billion instances of people taking daily pictures of themselves and editing them into time lapse movies set to music. Well, this one is a bit different. It features an unhappy young man who, over the course of three years, transitions into a more confident and happy young woman.

This video makes me happy. And there are dozens of other examples and tutorials on YouTube of people switching sexes. What a boon for those who struggle with their sex/gender to be able to see other people who are going through and have gone through similar situations.

Portraits of Albanian Sworn Virgins

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 11, 2013

Sworn Virgins of Albania is a project by photographer Jill Peters documenting Albanian women who have chosen to live as men for cultural reasons.

Sworn Virgins

As a tradition dating back hundreds of years, this was necessary in societies that lived within tribal clans, followed the Kanun, an archaic code of law, and maintained an oppressive rule over the female gender.The Kanun states that women are considered to be the property of their husbands. The freedom to vote, drive, conduct business, earn money, drink, smoke, swear, own a gun or wear pants was traditionally the exclusive province of men. Young girls were commonly forced into arranged marriages, often with much older men in distant villages.

As an alternative, becoming a Sworn Virgin, or ‘burnesha” elevated a woman to the status of a man and granted her all the rights and privileges of the male population. In order to manifest the transition such a woman cut her hair, donned male clothing and sometimes even changed her name. Male gestures and swaggers were practiced until they became second nature. Most importantly of all, she took a vow of celibacy to remain chaste for life. She became a “he”.

(thx, tiffany)

Did Caster Semenya deliberately throw the 800 meters?

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 13, 2012

From Slate, some speculation that Caster Semenya sandbagged the 800 meter final in order to avoid further gender-related scrutiny.

After the race, track and field aficionados questioned her tactics. The BBC’s David Ornstein said it appeared that Semenya “had more left in the tank.” His story quoted BBC commentator Kelly Holmes, who won this event in the 2004 Olympics, suggesting that Semenya hadn’t made her best effort: “She looked very strong, she didn’t look like she went up a gear, she wasn’t grimacing at all. I don’t know if her head was in it, when she crossed the line she didn’t look affected.” Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated senior writer Tim Layden tweeted that Semenya “seemed oddly disengaged most of race and not tired at end.”

I watched the race and Semenya’s finish was odd…she made her move super-late and was moving at a tremendous pace when she crossed the line. Had she worked her way up to the front before the final turn, she may have beaten the field by several lengths.

Update: Here is a more nuanced analysis of Semenya’s effort in the 800 meter final.

Perhaps there is nothing to her performance other than that she runs a more even pace than her rivals.

A comparison between her semi-final and this race is interesting in this regard. In that semi, she went through 400m in just over 58 seconds, 600m in about 1:28 and then closed the final 200m in 29.5s, looking like she had something in reserve.

Tonight, she went through 400m in 57.69s, then through 600m in about 1:27.1, and then closed in a touch over 30 seconds. My point is, her performance in the final was slightly faster at every stage than the semi, until she closed slower over the final 200m. To finish SLOWER than she did in the semi implies that she has little reserve and that she is closer to the limit than she looks. She wasn’t actually that fast over the final 200m, it’s just that everyone else was very slow!

(via @andrewsmit)

Pixar’s gender gap

posted by Tim Carmody   May 05, 2011

Persephone Magazine’s Stefan on “The Fall Of The Female Protagonist In Kids’ Movies,” specifically the last fifteen years of CGI animated film:

Think of all the female protagonists in Disney musicals. There are quite a number, almost as many as there are males—Cinderella, Belle, Ariel, Pocahontas, Mulan… the list goes on. Now think of female protagonists in Pixar movies.

There aren’t any. Not a single one.

This claim’s hedged a little bit, pointing to The Incredibles’ Elastigirl and Wall-E’s Eve as “strong, memorable female characters.” I’d say these two definitely count as protagonists, but there does seem to be something of a two-to-one rule: Finding Nemo’s Dory is a great protagonist, but she has to be paired with Marlin and Nemo (and Gill, and Crush…) The Incredibles is almost balanced. Almost.

Note that Stefan is far from the first person to point this out: these are just the links from the kottke.org archives:

Stefan thinks it has to do with the shift in animation from human characters (and their attendant romance plots) to the animals, toys, and robots that dominate Pixar and co. There’s something to that — a new research paper shows that not just in movies but in children’s books, animal characters are much more likely to be male than female:

The tendency of readers to interpret even gender-neutral animal characters as male exaggerates the pattern of female underrepresentation. The authors note that mothers frequently label gender-neutral animal characters as male when reading with their children, and that children assign gender to gender-neutral animal characters.

Here’s a different interpretation. Pixar’s movies are usually not just focused on men, but specifically on dads. Finding Nemo and The Incredibles are the best examples of this, but even Up and Ratatouille traffic pretty heavily in father issues, if not fatherhood outright.

Traditional Disney movies were really kids’ fantasies, even the ones seemingly targeted for boys, like The Jungle Book or Robin Hood. Pixar seems to have realized that if you can get the dad to come to the movie and love the movie, the whole family will come. Maybe more than once. And they’ll probably buy the DVD and the video game, too. That’s the formula.

And of course, it doesn’t hurt that the people making the movies are largely dads and young men who seem to probably be working out some issues with their dads. Pixar’s John Lasseter has five children, all boys.

They’re great movies. I love them. But I can’t deny that’s partly because they’re made for me.

(Via @araqueltrubek)

Update: As many people have pointed out, Pixar has a forthcoming full-length movie, Brave, about a Scottish warrior-princess. It was slated to be directed by Brenda Chapman (Pixar’s first female director), then was replaced by Mark Andrews, with Chapman as co-director.

Also, my friend (and former student) Kaitlin Welborn nails me: I used “protagonist” in its debased modern meaning of “sympathetic character”/”agent for good,” not its original sense as the first/primary character of the drama — which is also just a better definition. In this sense, the protagonist of Finding Nemo is definitely Marlin, The Incredibles Mr Incredible, Wall-E Wall-E, and so forth.

I also agree with Kaitlin that Stefan also overstates how much of a substantive change there’s been from the hand-drawn Disney animated films, and Pixar/Dreamworks’ computer-animated films.

First, there’s the obvious point that the older Disney movies were pretty ideologically screwed-up. I think this is well-known. And well before Pixar came along, Disney was already moving towards male protagonists: Aladdin, The Lion King, Hercules, The Emperor’s New Groove.

I’ll stick by my main point, which is that 1) an overwhelming number of Pixar movies focus on dads and fatherhood (biological or symbolic) and 2) this is not an accident.

Caster Semenya cleared to compete

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 07, 2010

After sitting out 11 months awaiting the results of gender testing, runner Caster Semenya has been cleared to compete in IAAF-sanctioned competitions. For some background, check out this New Yorker piece on Semenya from last November.

The nature (or nurture) of gender

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2010

A great article on gender and children and the tough choices parents have to make when their children show signs of being transgender.

A recent medical innovation holds out the promise that this might be the first generation of transsexuals who can live inconspicuously. About three years ago, physicians in the U.S. started treating transgender children with puberty blockers, drugs originally intended to halt precocious puberty. The blockers put teens in a state of suspended development. They prevent boys from growing facial and body hair and an Adam’s apple, or developing a deep voice or any of the other physical characteristics that a male-to-female transsexual would later spend tens of thousands of dollars to reverse. They allow girls to grow taller, and prevent them from getting breasts or a period.

Caster Semenya, something magnificent

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 25, 2009

Ariel Levy did a piece on runner Caster Semenya for the New Yorker this week. Semenya’s competition eligibility is up in the air because the IAAF (the worldwide governing body for track and field) can’t decide whether she is a woman or a man.

She didn’t look like an eighteen-year-old girl, or an eighteen-year-old boy. She looked like something else, something magnificent.

Love that quote.

Pixar’s princess

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2009

Two movies from now, after Toy Story 3 and Newt, Pixar is *finally* releasing a movie with a female main character. The only problem? She’s a princess.

I have nothing against princesses. I have nothing against movies with princesses. But don’t the Disney princesses pretty much have us covered? If we had to wait for your thirteenth movie for you to make one with a girl at the center, couldn’t you have chosen something — something — for her to be that could compete with plucky robots and adventurous space toys?

Disney’s princesses do have us covered.

Pixar: no chicks allowed

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2009

We’ve been over this before, but with Wall-E’s recent win at the Oscars, it’s worth mentioning again: Pixar movies don’t have any good women characters.

Ratatouille: Male rat (Remy) dreams of becoming chef and achieves his goal even though movie sidetracks to cover ludicrous and unnecessary romance between humans part way through. This is the kind of shit that bothers me: Why is it important that the rat have a penis? Couldn’t Remy have been written for a female lead? Why not? Collette’s right — the restaurant business is tough for women, especially when even the fictional rat-as-chef barrier can only be broken by a male character. Female characters: Colette, that old lady with the gun, um… maybe some patrons?

More than a Token score: 1/10. ZOMG, we have one female character. We’d better make her fall inexplicably in love with the bumbling Linguini, stat!

Somebody who’s imaginary

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 14, 2008

Transgender Americans are finding increasing support for their gender identities in unusual places: the so-called red states. In a small Colorado city, parents and the school administration were initially upset with the transition of a student’s gender from boy to girl, but other students were not.

But on the first day of school, nothing happened. No flood of calls, no angry protests, and no bullying. Michelle was “happy and shocked” that M.J.’s classmates seemed to get it. When one student made a mocking comment to another using M.J.’s former name, one eighth-grade boy dismissed him with a simple insight. “That person doesn’t even exist anymore,” he said. “You’re talking about somebody who’s imaginary.”

(via clusterflock)

IDEA 08: no girls allowed

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 31, 2008

This continues to be annoying: yesterday’s IDEA conference had 12 speakers, all men. Blech. The Web 2.0 Summit has the same problem. And I stopped updating this because it got too depressing.

Interview with Mad Men’s creator

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 24, 2008

Great interview with Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men. Gender roles are a big focus of the show, something that wasn’t necessarily apparent in the first two shows when I thought it was going to be some sort of lopsided misogyny-fest.

And the big intellectual skirmish going on was “Is it great that we’re so different, men and women, or is there no difference at all?” No difference at all is where is started. Let’s have equality and legistlate it like that. And then it became so much more complicated when you added sex to it and biologically the relationship is always sexist in some way. What’s sexist in the office is fuel in the bedroom. We’re wired that way to some extent. Women become more aggressive and it becomes strange for men.

(via fimoculous)

All-maleness strikes again

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 05, 2008

William Drenttel opines on the all-white-male jury of an Adbusters design competition:

Nearly a decade into a new century, I believe it is unacceptable for a design organization, foundation, board of directors, magazine or other enterprise, to mount an initiative with an all male panel of judges — or, put another way, “white, native English-speaking men from the U.S., British Isles or Australia.” Such behavior is no longer acceptable and should not be tolerated by a community of designers (or any other community). Designers around the world should just say no.

Female leads are difficult to find in blockbuster movies.

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2008

Female leads are difficult to find in blockbuster movies.

It’s been awhile since the last conversation

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 19, 2008

It’s been awhile since the last conversation about gender diversity at web conferences. Here’s a particularly high profile example of more of the same: Google’s just-announced Web Forward conference appears to have a single woman speaker out of 38 total speakers.

Observation effects

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2008

A recent study shows that when Tiger Woods plays in a golf tournament, the other players perform worse than they do when he doesn’t play.

Analyzing data from round-by-round scores from all PGA tournaments between 2002 and 2006 (over 20,000 player-rounds of golf), Brown finds that competitors fare less well — about an extra stroke per tournament — when Tiger is playing. How can we be sure this is because of Tiger? A few features of the findings lend them plausibility. The effect is stronger for the better, “exempt” players than for the nonexempt players, who have almost no chance of beating Tiger anyway. (Tiger’s presence doesn’t mean much to you if the best you can reasonably expect to finish is about 35th-there’s not much difference between the prize for 35th and 36th place.) The effect is also stronger during Tiger’s hot streaks, when his competitors’ prospects are more clearly dimmed. When Tiger is on, his competitors’ scores were elevated by nearly two strokes when he entered a tournament. And the converse is also true: During Tiger’s well-publicized slump of 2003 and 2004, when he went winless in major events, exempt competitors’ scores were unaffected by Tiger’s presence.

Research papers with a woman as the primary author are more likely to published if the author’s gender is unknown.

Double-blind peer review, in which neither author nor reviewer identity are revealed, is rarely practised in ecology or evolution journals. However, in 2001, double-blind review was introduced by the journal Behavioral Ecology. Following this policy change, there was a significant increase in female first-authored papers, a pattern not observed in a very similar journal that provides reviewers with author information. No negative effects could be identified, suggesting that double-blind review should be considered by other journals.

When watched, squirrels fool would-be nut thieves by pretending to bury nuts.

In the journal Animal Behaviour, biologist Michael Steele at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania examines squirrels’ caching of nuts. While the furry-tailed creatures made a show of digging a hole in the ground and covering it with dirt and leaves when watched, one time out of five they were faking and nothing was buried.

The squirrels’ deception increased after their nut caches were raided.

Jen Bekman updates us on how Carson

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 05, 2007

Jen Bekman updates us on how Carson Systems is doing on their efforts in gender diversity for their conferences. A: Much better. Whereas their Feb07 Future of Web Apps event had only one woman speaker, their upcoming London event features eight women. See also: gender diversity at web conferences statistics from Feb and Bekman’s list of women speakers for your conference.