A Virtual Feminist in Second Life

I’m going to start with an old riddle, one that stumped people not too long ago. In short form: A man and his son were in a car accident. The boy was rushed to the hospital and required emergency surgery to save his life. The surgeon looked at him on the operating table and said “I can’t operate on this boy, he is my son!”. How is that possible?

I’m sure you know the answer. It’s a puzzle that we feminists used to pose to illustrate a problem.

Twenty three years ago today↑ a man shot and killed 14 women, injured 10 more and 4 men, because the women were studying to be engineers. His conversations with the victims and his suicide note explained his hatred for feminists.

The next day a man who tried to bum a cigarette off me said “I could just pull out a gun and shoot you now, bitch”. Seems over the top doesn’t it? However, that type of language and aggression is something women are used to.

Being a feminist has never been a culturally popular thing to be labelled. It doesn’t seem like something that would scare others as much as it does. You’d think that almost a hundred years after women were tortured in prisons↑ (in both the UK and North America) for wanting the right to vote that events would have led to a calm expectation of women being part of everyday life in all areas of society.  In the 60s people figured it was done, over, the issue was laid to rest: You’ve come a long way baby!↑

Being a feminist just means that I see the world full of individuals – my gender shouldn’t affect opportunities or pay scales or profession. I might get mad at some things, but I don’t consider myself an angry, strident, militaristic being intent on restricting the rights of others.

An unfortunately large percentage of the population is frightened though↑. Most of them (although not all) are male. I’ve seen idiotic situations over the years. Debates went on forever about an Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution – arguments against it included the insistence that there would be no more separate men’s and women’s washrooms↑. Really! Of course it would also destroy the family, but everything does that.

Daco Monday (moderate)

I bring all this up partly to honour those who came before and who lost their lives. I also have been thinking about this because of a recent discussion/brawl/scandal that is present on and off of the internet. It turns out that geekdom is just for boys. I’m not speaking here about the gaming industry↑ boys wrestling with their perception and treatment of women (something I hope is fixed by their passage through puberty), I’m talking about who gets to be an actual geek↑.

One of the ironies about the whole debate is that the world is much the same as it was. It was the loud voices of women in all stages of suffragism and feminism who wouldn’t allow the issue to die, but it required the voices of men to make the changes happen. The voices being listened to right now, in the online debates, are male. I applaud them and someday they’ll make progress occur. It would be nice, though, to think that eventually voices wouldn’t require a specific gender to be taken seriously.

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  1. I can’t pass this by without comment. (I’ll ask for forgiveness in advance.) Some people would call me a feminist, some wouldn’t. Personally I don’t have time for it as a label, but don’t let me hear anyone try to tell me that there is any kind of work I shouldn’t do because I’m “just” a girl. (Let me tell you boys, if you haven’t figured it out yet, women as a group are the superior half of the species, so you may as well quit butting your heads against that particular wall. I so love men, but facts are facts.) I deserve to be treated with respect, and I treat myself with respect. Is that feminist? Cool. … I clicked on the link to read the article about whether women should be “allowed” to be geeks, and it pushed a hot button. My first reaction was, “Who is this guy? I was a Dungeon Master when this pimply guy was sucking on his binky!!” (I still have a couple of D20’s hanging around in my jewelry box. They’ll probably end up as earrings.)

  2. Oh, I know the answer to that riddle… the surgeon is the man’s husband, and the boy’s other father.

    Um… what? That’s not the answer you expected?

    *sigh* You traditionalist closed-minded homophobic swine!


    PS: Hey, I could have said that the car accident involved passing into a parallel universe, and the surgeon is the parallel-universe replica of the father.

  3. I read my 15 year old son( he still likes it when I read articles to him) the “who gets to be a geek article”, he was whooping and laughing and shaking his head” what a sexist jerk, Mom!” The mater is an old feminist-trekkie- dungeon master -book nerd, his beloved Grandma is a retired engineer, who is all revved up about finally getting an i pad, and the teachers in his favorite subjects, math and science, are also of the femine persuasion. He had their Christmas gifts picked out in November. The world HAS changed, still not enough to be good enough for my boy, but I am still loud and fighting! It will be!

  4. caramia Mizin

     /  December 6, 2012

    Always a delight & pleasure to read your blogs Honor, long live geeky women!!!!
    Keep that digital fountain pen flowing Honor.

  5. Certainly women can be geeks, but only in the US and a few other countries. We must be careful about cultural imperialism. For instance, in Germany they’re gieken (I think). In France, guiques. In Finland, giiket. Etc. But I have to qualify what I said about the US, because in Maine, they’re called Senator: http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/ingame/world-warcraft-playing-candidate-wins-election-1C6892843

    I never did meet a geek girl I didn’t like. (The converse isn’t true, but that’s another matter!)

  6. Elyen Zlatkes

     /  December 6, 2012

    Woot, great post! I’m from Maine and, though not in her district, glad to know the WoW player won!

  7. Thanks for this post, I was living in Montreal on that fateful day. I had just graduated as a forest engineer from U. of Toronto. I’ll never forget coming home after work and watching the reporting on the news. I’ll never forget the feeling of disbelief, frustration, fear. If anything, these types of events make me even more determined to pursue non-traditionally “feminine” interests. I’ve been a serious geek since the early 90’s, I work in multimedia now, and am starting to cast serious glances at the gaming industry. :)

    • Yay – do some research before you get there so you’re not surprised. There a are bunch of threads/stories etc this year – sexual aggression at some conferences, blatantly sexist behaviour at some companies. I emphasize “some” to all of it – it just doesn’t seem woman friendly at the moment. I went there/did that in consulting, go triumph over the pimply faced gaming bastards. :P

  8. Thanks for the warning. I’ve been following a few blogs in this area, notably the border house. I (think) I understand where they’re coming from — truth be told, I don’t play any of the mainstream core games where they experience the abuse. I don’t relate to those games. I don’t have the competitive drive, nor the reflexes. I tried playing WOW for a bit and quickly gave up. I kept getting killed. LOL. I have enough stress in my day-to-day life. I play to relax.

    That’s why I’ve always liked Second Life, though I haven’t been very active there in the past 4 years, and why I will miss Glitch so much after this weekend (preparing now for the final countdown on Sunday). As an older gamer (north of 50), I’m really interested in where this industry is going. It’s also why I’ve just registered to the Game Design Expo Industry Day on January 19 (http://gamedesignexpo.com/) in Vancouver. It’ll be interesting to be around what is considered mainstream (young-er) gamers, and hear what people in the industry are saying.


    Liz (in RL)
    Maxie Mostel (in SL)
    MaxieMo (in Glitch)

  1. A Virtual Feminist in Second Life | Virtual Corporality | Scoop.it

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