Sexist men assume that female engineers are feminists.

Twenty years ago, a Canadian man, who believed that he was fighting “feminism”, massacred fourteen women at an engineering school.

Some men think that all female engineers are “feminists”, because they find female engineers threatening, not because of any professed political beliefs of the female engineers. Female engineers are engineers who happen to be women; they are probably not doing it as a political statement, but because they enjoy engineering.

Ironically, if the 1989 killer wanted to find feminists, the feminists would most likely be in the social sciences, not engineering. (I find that most engineering students (including female engineering students) know nothing about feminism,* and think that social science degrees are useless.)

Yet even people who are not feminists and not majoring in Women and Gender Studies are affected by sexism and misogyny. In the real world, feminist issues affect engineers, and engineering issues affect feminists. The real world is not divided into separate domains of knowledge.

December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.


* It is also interesting to note that a female engineer and survivor of the massacre had yelled, “We are not feminists!” in desperation during the attack. At the time, she thought that feminists were militant. (via feministing)

* * *

Update: Aboriginal women are five times more likely to die of violence than women of any other race in Canada. Jessica Yee remembers violence against women who are much less likely to be remembered.

In addition, trans women are particularly at risk for hate crimes, and murdered trans women are also much less likely to be remembered than murdered cisgender women.

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How does racism hurt white people?

White people dismiss non-white knowledge before they can question it.

If a white person takes what a person of colour says seriously, it does not imply that the white person does not question the claims of the person of colour. If a white person takes what a person of colour says seriously, it means that the white person does not dismiss the claims of the person of colour. “Dismissing” includes the white person considering what a person of colour has said and then rejecting it because he has never experienced it himself and has never heard of such a thing before, and then reconsidering it later only because enough people of colour started telling him the same thing.

That you have never experienced something yourself is not a valid reason to reject another person’s experience. If you are white and a person of colour mentions something that you have never experienced before, it does not mean that the person of colour must be lying or hallucinating. It could mean that you are not omniscient, and not more knowledgeable about everything than any person of colour. Given these two possibilities—either you are (i) not omniscient and not more knowledgeable about everything than any person of colour, or (ii) the person of colour must be lying or hallucinating—there is a higher probability that you are ignorant about something, and the person of colour is telling the truth and not suffering from hallucinations.

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Feynman gets the wrong idea upon seeing a beautiful Japanese woman.

In Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, chapter Would You Solve the Dirac Equation?, Feynman recounts his first stay at a Japanese hotel in the early 1950s:

I pushed open the doors and admired the lovely garden, and sat down at the table to do a little work.

I wasn’t there more than fifteen or twenty minutes when something caught my eye. I looked up, out towards the garden, and I saw, sitting at the entrance to the door, draped in the corner, a very beautiful young Japanese woman, in a most lovely outfit.

I had read a lot about the customs of Japan, and I had an idea of why she was sent to my room. I thought, “This might be very interesting!”

She knew a little English. “Would you rike to see the garden?” she asked.

I put on the shoes that went with the yukata I was wearing, and we went out into the garden. She took my arm and showed me everything.

It turned out that because she knew a little English, the hotel manager thought I would like her to show me the garden — that’s all it was. I was a bit disappointed, of course, but this was a meeting of cultures, and I knew it was easy to get the wrong idea.

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White antiracists appropriate the words of people of colour to advance their thesis.

When most people imagine a world without racism, they imagine a world that looks very similar to our current world. Indeed, most people think that racism no longer exists today in “post-racial” America or “multicultural” Canada.

However, in a world without racism, people of colour would not be concentrated in subservient positions, and white people would not dominate positions of power. It is not the case that people of colour (e.g., Asians) are serving food to white people because they enjoy being servants, nor it is part of their “culture” to be in the food industry; it is an sign of social inequality that white people are not serving food to people of colour in the same proportion. It is not the case that women of colour are taking care of white children because they are naturally nurturant and self-sacrificial; it is a sign of social inequality that white people are not nannies of children of colour in the same proportion.

Basically, it is not the case that people of colour are underrepresented in the knowledge industry because they could care less about the written word and have a genetic preference for the spoken word. The written words of people of colour are being eschewed because of racism.

This means that antiracist communities should not recreate this same hierarchy in which whites are authorities over people of colour. It is not the job of the white antiracist to extract the words of people of colour, “translate” them into his own words, and “interpret” them within his own framework to advance his thesis. When the white antiracist assumes that the words of a person of colour need to be paraphrased by a white person to count as human understanding about race and racism, it is a reproduction of white supremacy. The words of people of colour are not flora and fauna that need to be recorded and interpreted by a human observer. When people of colour write about race and racism, they are the human observers. White antiracists should not treat the words of people of colour as “raw data” that require intellectual processing.

Unfortunately, too many white antiracists cannot comprehend this.


Related links:

It’s funny to you, because you dislike Arabs.

Does Humor On The Internet Mold Political Thinking? (ScienceDaily):

Jokes are not merely a source of popular enjoyment and creativity; they also provide insights into how societies work and what people think. Humor is so powerful it can help shape geopolitical views worldwide, according to Professor Darren Purcell and his team from the University of Oklahoma in the US.

Their study of humor including the analysis of two Achmed the Dead Terrorist skits, has recently been published online in Springer’s GeoJournal.

[…]

The authors use ‘disposition theory’ – a framework that allows them to understand who will regard which content as funny, and how derisive humor can be seen as amusing – to examine particular types of humor in texts which reflect society’s concerns, developments and relationships, and by extension, the geopolitical implications of these texts. With an emphasis on social context, the theory suggests that the appreciation of humor is dependent, in part, on whether one holds a positive or negative attitude, or disposition, toward the object of humor.

Purcell and colleagues analyze two stand-up comedy routines performed by American ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. The skits center on the character of Achmed the Dead Terrorist, an unsuccessful suicide bomber. The humor plays on anti-Arab/Muslim sentiment. Dunham uses his audiences’ disposition towards terrorists to get laughs, while at the same time challenging his audience members to look at their own views of terrorism, Islam, and American efforts in Iraq.

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Activism 2.0: Fight racism by editing Wikipedia.

Although Wikipedia articles on unfamiliar topics tend to appear reasonable and coherent, they are actually authored by only a small subset of individuals. Anyone can edit Wikipedia, which gives the impression that the content on Wikipedia is a cumulation of public knowledge, but the content of Wikipedia is actually a reflection of a particular demographic that skews white, American, and male.

Some white people who are bothered by racism do not know what action to take to erode racism. However, one thing that anti-racist white people can do is edit Wikipedia to counteract edits by white supremacists, which tend to remain unchecked and unchallenged.

Welcome to Activism 2.0, where the keyboard is mightier than the pen.

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