Othering and Projection: Chinese is confusing vs. Chinese are confused

In English, a person says, “It’s all Greek to me,” when they do not understand the words of someone else. In Greek, when a person does not understand, they say it sounds like Chinese. Many languages have an expression that names another language as epitome of unintelligibility. It turns out that in a directed graph, most languages converge on Chinese as the unintelligible language.

Directed graph shows various languages as nodes with arrows pointing at other languages, eventually pointing to the 'Chinese' node. The 'Chinese' node points to 'Heavenly Script'.

This is understandable. Chinese writing, especially Traditional Chinese, is very visually complex. Chinese characters are logograms, which makes learning how to read Chinese difficult.

However, there is a difference between finding Chinese writing confusing and alleging that Chinese people are confused.

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This is an example of sexism in tech recruitment.

This is an example of unconscious sexism in tech recruitment that assumes that women are bad with math and computers.

A public transit ad shows a brain with two hemispheres. A box pointing to the left hemisphere asks, 'Can you solve one of our puzzles?' A box pointing to the right hemisphere asks, 'Can you explain it to your mom?' Text at the bottom says, 'We're hiring hackers with people skills. itasoftware.com/careers' There is a real yellow sticky note stuck on to the ad that says, 'My mom has a PhD in math.'

The yellow sticky note says, “My mom has a PhD in math”.

Close up of yellow sticky note that says, 'My mom has a PhD in math'

I am not a mother, but if I reproduced, I would be.

The job ad is also based on the same stereotype of female technical ineptitude as “So simple, your mother could do it”.

Original photo by Jessie Bennett (via Sociological Images and Geek Feminism Blog)

If tech discussion was really about tech, it wouldn’t be sexist.

Cross-posted at Geek Feminism

There is sexism in tech culture. However, I continue to love tech, because I think of the sexism as a separate, unnecessary appendage to pure tech. I cannot think of sexism as intrinsic to or inevitable in tech, because then I would be either self-hating, or I would have to give up my love for technology. Maybe my personal ontology is compartmentalized thinking in order to survive as a woman in tech, but I think it’s also true.

Some people argue that for tech to “attract” women, the culture needs to be broadened to include humanistic aspects. However, this proposal may derive from the implicit sexist assumption that men really are better at tech, and women really are better at the humanities.

Actually, what I hate most about tech news sites is that when I go there for technology news, there are off-topic comments about love and relationships. It’s typically men discussing being single; having trouble with women; being Nice GuysTM; giving advice about what women really want; talking about how women have it easier; bragging about how even their grandmother/mother/wife can use technology X; and other sexist generalizations about women. In other words, the idea that pure tech scares away women, that tech culture is currently free of human influence, is a product of male privilege and the inability to recognize that the state of being male is not the state of being neutral.

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White racism creates more sexism in the world.

In What does cultural competence look like? resistance of Resist racism discusses the problem of “cultural competence” through learning cultural “facts”. A recurrent problem with this is that white people often use some “fact” they learned in a text about how a non-white group allegedly behaves to stereotype individuals of that demographic.

Ironically, the racist stereotype that non-white people are more sexist than white people can actually result in white people acting sexist towards non-white women specifically.

For example, in my immediate family, my father is the only male. We are Chinese. A white man had dinner with us, and asked my father about our family’s position regarding a common political debate. My father is conservative, so he offered his standard conservative reply, which was incongruent with the rest of us, who were on average left of liberal. After hearing my elderly father’s opinion, however, instead of turning to us and hearing ours, the white man was satisfied with my father’s answer and began discussing another topic.

This white man assumed that there was no point in asking about our thoughts, because we were Chinese daughters and a Chinese mother, so our opinions must match that of my Chinese father. Before this incident, I had never had the experience of being shut out of a political debate because of my gender. Ironically, it was the racist stereotype of Chinese women being submissive to Chinese men that actually resulted our political voices being silenced.

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White women are stereotyped differently from Black and Asian women.

Abagond describes the Three Bears Effect:

The Three Bears Effect is the name given by Aiyo at the blog Black British Girl for how whites stereotype blacks and Asians as opposites while putting themselves in the middle as “just right” – like in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”.

For example, black men are stereotyped as having big penises but not much intelligence while Asian men are the other way round, leaving white men in the middle as “just right”.

It works so well in America that in most cases you can tell what the Asian stereotype will be by taking the opposite of the black one:

  • If blacks are cool, then Asians are nerdy.
  • If black women are disagreeable, overbearing and loud, then Asian women are sweet, submissive and quiet.
  • If blacks are lazy, then Asians are hard working.
  • If blacks have a lower IQ than whites, then Asians have a higher one.
  • If blacks have a higher poverty rate than whites, then Asians have a lower one.
  • If blacks have less education than whites, then Asians have more.
  • If black women are “mannish”, then Asian women are “ultra-feminine”.


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(Female) Geek = Geek^2

Over at Geek Feminism, Metaneira explains why Team Unicorn of G33k & G4M3R Girls fame are doing it wrong. The “G33k & G4M3R Girls” music video, stereotypically, portrayals female geeks and gamers as sex fantasies of male geeks and gamers. Metaneira writes:

From the very start, Seth Green asks, “Hello friends… don’t you want to meet a nice girl?” The video is not aimed at the women it is purporting to celebrate: it is straight-up pandering to the largely sexist, male-centric geek subculture. It is geek women served up for the male gaze on a shiny latex platter. This is not empowering. […] It isn’t really about geek women at all — it’s just about how men would want to have a smoking hot girlfriend who can talk about Star Wars and play D&D with them.

It’s a pretty good post, and she relates the video to a general pattern in geek culture, where straight male geeks express positivity towards the idea of “geek girls”, but only so that they can get girlfriends:

And I’m tired of a subculture telling me that the only way I can belong to it is if I offer myself up as a sex object to the men involved. […] my status as a female in this male-dominated space was always underscored: my Otherness had to be reinforced at frequent intervals. I didn’t really belong.

Serendipitously, a few days later, I came across this song written and sung by Marian Call and made into a YouTube video by mercutio531. I thought it was an “answer” to the G33k & G4M3R Girls video at first, but it was actually uploaded a long time ago and written years ago.

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Howto: Stop Worrying About Female Brain Hard-Wiring and Get Smarter

This post was originally published at Geek Feminism.

This Ask a Geek Feminist question is about stereotype threat:

What can I do when stereotype threat is playing games with my head?

To give an example, I once had to take an IQ test at school in seventh grade. One section of the test included rotating three-dimensional objects in your head. The test was designed so that each section starts easy and then gets progressively harder. It is supposed to get so hard that there comes a point where you can’t continue any longer and then the tester stops that section of the test. On that section of the test, I managed to hit a window on the score because I got to the very end, having correctly answered all the questions in the object rotation section. The tester, who did these tests for a living, was astonished and he said he had never seen anyone come close to getting all of them.

As an adult, I heard the stereotype that women cannot rotate three-dimensional objects in their head. I heard it many times. Since I started hearing that, I have lost my ability to do so. I’ve tried some rather basic tests on this skill and I can hardly do any of them.

What can one do about this sort of thing?

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