Group Projects: Not Always Fun

This year, I’m taking one year-long module called Practical and Applied Statistics. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin – the aim is to turn the students into people who can actually write a report, rather than just being able to crunch the numbers. One of the projects is a group project. There’s five people per group, all randomly assigned (as far as I know, anyway). Together we have to design an (extremely simple) experiment, write a protocol, conduct the experiment and write up a report. It’s frustrating, because the experiment is so simple – we’re growing plants – but it’s a good experience.

But we don’t know each other well, my group. Sometimes that’s good – it means there’s no friendships to be ruined! – and sometimes… it’s not so good. I made it clear that I’m not straight last Tuesday, in an episode that involved one of the guys in the group grumbling about having to grow plants, and then talking about how none of us were “lesbian tree-huggers”. I’m not explaining it very well, but it didn’t seem to be intended maliciously, just thoughtlessly, so I cheerfully came out and left it at that. Sometimes, a little embarressment is all that clueless guys need to stop them saying inappropriate things. Sometimes.

Tomorrow was the deadline for the protocol, and we pretty much did all the work for it over the last three days. So, by today, tempers were fraying somewhat. Which is probably why he repeatedly called the computer “gay”. And it’s entirely why I, after the third or fourth time, turned round and snapped, “you need to stop that. Just stop.” He looked a little scared, it stopped the conversation momentarily, and we carried on, minus the “gay” slurs.

The good news is that, after we’d finished the work and submitted it electronically, he asked to speak to me privately, and apologised for not thinking that I might not like him saying those things.

The sad thing is, I don’t think he realises that he ought to modify his language no matter who he’s talking to.

Words of Wisdom from my Mother

“Just because somebody belongs to a minority group, that doesn’t mean they’re capable of rational thought”

I’ll have to make this into a sampler, I think, and hang it on my wall, so that the next time I’m shocked to hear (for instance) that a group of lesbians have told a bisexual woman in a relationship with a man that “as soon as [she] finds a nice girlfriend, [she]’ll become a real lesbian” I can look at it and keep calm. Instead of (for instance) telling the lesbians that, if that’s true, all they need is a good boyfriend each to make them into real straight women.

Ever Get A Feeling Of Deja-Vu?

Recently, in Rachland:

J: Well, to be honest, I’m still a bit disappointed that you’re not taking my name.

Me: Huh. To be honest, I’m still very disappointed that you’re not taking mine.

It is for reasons like this that I suspect we will just have to live in sin. Imagine trying to plan a wedding with those kinds of conversational snippets. Perhaps I shall have a housewarming instead. God knows there’s more to celebrate about owning your own home than there is to celebrate about rampant displays of heteronormativity. And besides, at the moment at least, home repossesion is less likely than divorce. Hurrah!

(One article in the Guardian from February says that “1 in 290 borrowers had their home repossessed in the fourth quarter of last year”, and another, from last year, says that “The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found 45% of marriages will end in divorce before a couple’s 50th anniversary if 2005 rates continue”.)

Comment Moderation

It’s not something I do often, mainly because I’m not famous enough online to attract A-grade nutters.

However, I came back from my Christmas break to find a couple of comments waiting for me. To this commenter (since it does seem to be a real person), I’d like to say a few things.

1) What the fuck makes you think I’m remotely interested in your sexual preferences?

2) If I thought feminism was about prescribing who I could or could not have a sexual relationship with, for what length of time I could have said relationship, or what I chose to call it, I would never, never identify as feminist.

3) I was not aware that a “feminist dream” existed. Is that like the American Dream, only less capitalist? And how do you have this dream? Is it something to do with the Feminist Hive Mind (TM) ?

4) If you want your comments published, I suggest you read the comments policy. If you just want to get some hatred out of your system, I reccomend swearing at the mirror for a while.

Assuming Assumers

So, I was at a housing fair today, collecting leaflets, free pens and chocolate.
It’s November, but apparently house-hunting season is already on for next July.

As I went round the stalls, I was talking to a number of different people about the options they might have for couples.

Specifically, I told them that “my partner will hopefully be coming to live with me”.

And they all, to a person, responded by referring to J as “he”.

Some people who read this will know that J – the partner – is indeed male. But I didn’t tell them that. And my hands were covered by the sleeves of my hoodie – no sign of any ring to help them in their assumptions.

It was infuriating me by the time I left the fair – and they weren’t even wrong. I don’t want to begin to think of how angry I’d be if J had been a woman.

Although, I wonder how I would have felt if they’d refered to J as “she” instead. Would it have been better or worse than if they’d called J “he”, and if J had been a woman?

They would have still assumed my sexual orientation, or the gender of my partner, or both, and they would still have got it wrong.

I don’t know. I just know that having J’s gender assumed so constantly in conversation made me very uncomfortable. Why couldn’t they have just referred to him, like I did, by saying “your partner”?

Troll Poking – A Bit Like Bear Baiting, But Legal

So, a couple of days ago I promised you the story of the Troll. I’ve now sorted out my coursework for the week and done my washing, so what better way to celebrate than to mock the unfortunate?

As I mentioned last time, his statements boiled down to:

“because I, personally, have noticed that more men than women attend Laser Quest when I am there, this must mean that men, on average, are more aggressive than women.”

But this doesn’t give the whole picture.

He started out with the hilariously bad generalisation of:

“because…. [etc] … this must mean that all men are more aggressive than all women, and women are not aggressive.”

Being the mathematician that I am, this was almost boringly easy to refute. I am a woman; I had just come from sword-training. I am quite clearly aggressive and, as I am a woman, this disproves his statement. Yawn.

So, he revised it to the statement I initially linked to. Hurrah! I thought, a modicum of sucess. The rest should be easy.
…… Not so much.

Having conceded his wording was shit, he then proceded to argue in such a way that I was able to play Bingo* while he did so.

Sadly, his statements have appeared (in modified forms) on so many different bingo cards that I couldn’t win using just one.

“…But I’m the only one here [as a white, straight male] who’s being objective – you just can’t be”

“You haven’t proved to me why my [completely unfounded] statement is wrong”

“I’m a feminist too! Just not, you know, radical.”

“Hah! You’re so gay!” [to the man arguing with us]

“I don’t see gender”

“But it’s our genetics that make us this way [male or female]!”

[also, I feel it’s worth mentioning that genes =/= chromosomes. And therefore his statment was not only inane, and present on many Bingo cards in the form of “biology”, but factually wrong as well.]

“Yes, I think I’ve probably said in the past that I don’t see colour”

“I hate the way people [who aren’t white, straight, male] have to talk about their “oppression” all the time. I don’t think it’s productive.”

The problem was that pretty much everything he said was bollocks. And no, I don’t think I need to prove it. I think it’s fairly bloody obvious.
Also, he suffered from verbal diarrhoea. I don’t think he expected me to lean forward, glare and say loudly “are you going to let me finish my sentence?”. And then, when he carried on talking, to tell him in no uncertain terms to STFU. In fact, I may have actually said “shut the fuck up”.

To be honest, I’m pretty much past the stage of being shocked that people think and act this way. I know they do. I see it online all the time.

What did annoy me was that he claimed to be feminist, when he was clearly no such thing.
Oh, and him accusing me of having “no knowledge of feminist literature” because I had not read one book by Judith Butler.
At that point, I started shouting at him. I reeled off – very loudly – a list of books and people that I read or have read. Kate Harding, be proud, you were on the list. Even though, as we all know, I am Kate Harding! Cunt was also on the list, which – unsurprisingly – made a fair few people turn round and stare. Troll looked embarressed; I did not. Victory for Rachel!

I know, in the end, that I did not change his mind. I also know that he was intellectually dishonest and blinkered to the point of blindness about his own privellege. So I think I’ve decided that I don’t really care. You can’t win ’em all. But it did bring home to me the importance of feminism in my life. And, you know, the way that the arguments that I make, make sense!

*By “Bingo”, I mean the sets of cards entitled “Anti-Feminist Bingo” and the like. Links to bingo cards are best found through The Curvature, which has the largest list I’ve yet come across.

On A Different Note

Although Fannie has got this story covered (she also promises a follow-up post), I couldn’t help noticing this quote:

The plaintiffs contended that this state’s statutes contravene
the state constitutional prohibition against sex discrimination
because those statutes preclude a woman from
doing what a man may do, namely, marry a woman,
and preclude a man from doing what a woman may do,
namely, marry a man.

Now, that is quite a cool and groovy argument, I feel.

A Perfectly Normal Conversation

Yesterday, I went to see my sister at her uni. Mum brought my brother up and we all went to have pizza. So far, so normal. Until….

Sister: “I bet J’s glad you’re in a flat with all girls”
Me (thinking that she means, ‘so he can ogle’): *glare* “no”
Sister: “no, not like that, just, you know, because there aren’t any guys there…”
Me (getting that she means ‘so there’s no competition’): “well, that doesn’t stop me coming on to the girls, does it?”
Mum: “….. are we talking theoretically here…?”
Me: “um…. no….”
Mum: “so, are you trying to say that J is a woman?”
Me: “No!”
Mum (thinks about this for a while): “oh…..”
Me: “anyway…. what are your flatmates like?”

Fun times.
For the record, I am not coming on to any of my flatmates. That would be strange.

How to Filter Out The Fools

When asked what societies you’ve joined over freshers’ week, tell them that you’ve joined the feminists and the LGBT soc.


Then procede as appropriate:

a) If they give you funny looks, run away, or start their next sentence with “…. I joined the Christian Union…” you may as well filter them now.

b) If they say “oh, are you a lesbian/ feminist then?” or “well, that’s not really my thing, but each to their own…” treat them with extreme caution; they will most likely say something you don’t like later on, or be boring as fuck.

c) If they look interested, or start their next sentence with “wow, cool” you’re probably ok. For now.

I’m going cautious generally anyway, mainly on the grounds that everybody I speak to seems to be of the opinion that the people you make friends with in your first term are usually the ones you spend the rest of the year avoiding.

Also, on a completely different note, I’ve found HellOnHairyLegs.
She is awesome. I’ve been going through her archives (as one does…!) and I just found this. Can’t only be me that goes “YEAH! What she said!! I would have written that myself, if only I could’ve been so articulate!!”

I’d trade the power of SEXAAY for respect.

I’d trade the ability to wear skirts AND pants for the ability to feel safe while wearing them. I’d like to feel safe in just one place, whether it be school, the street or at home.

I’d trade your payment for my meal for the right to my own uterus. I’d like the right to control my reproductive health, no matter where I happen to live.

I’d trade.

News From Sheffield

1) I mainly like my new doctors’ surgery.
For one thing, they’ve moved with the times and you can book an appointment at any time of day or night online or on their automated phone system, unlike my old surgery, who would only give appointments to people who rang on the day, at 8:40 AM, and kept ringing until they got an answer.
The new people have lots of nice leaflets, a pharmacy right next door and are generally shiny and wonderful. Even the doctor I saw was a very nice woman. And she gave me my pills with no fuss at all.
On the other hand, she also looked me up and down before saying “and it looks like you’re taking good care of yourself”. I slightly let her off because she was checking my blood pressure at the time so she might possibly have been referring to that. But then again she might have been referring to the fact that, due to my genes, I’ve escaped the Obesity Crisis TM. So I’m a little cross about that, because as we all know, there is no known way to make slim people fat.
(Thanks to Shapely Prose, by the way.)

2) I’ve found the Sheffield Fems!!!
This is a good thing and means I might get to meet Laura Woodhouse, who to me (being a baby blogger and all) seems almost like a celebrity. Except cooler.
Also, they meet in an old-man pub. I’m not sure why I like this, other than the fact that I might actually be able to hear them.

3) I’m feeling generally rather more aware of being feminist.
Partly because of (2) and partly because I keep getting flyers for things like “Sk00l Disco!!!“.

This is not a good thing as it means I then stomp around the flat, muttering darkly about flashing my breasts for free drinks.
Oh, and the boys on the ground floor have put up a “hot or not” wall. I was not impressed.
And people keep refering to female students as “girls”. We’re all over 18, dammit! Call us ladies if you have to refer to us like that, or otherwise STFU.

4) During Fresher’s Fair, I got a few bazillion leaflets about Teh Sex. I even got a couple of condoms. But despite talking to the lovely people at the LGBT stall, I have found no dental dams.
In fact, the only place I’ve even found them for sale (in real life) is Amora in London.
Maybe it’s because they’re seen as a thing that only lesbians need use, or maybe they’re just not seen at all. But really, even if you’re in a heterosexual relationship, you might feel the need for them. Perhaps we all need to be better educated?
On a somewhat related note, in one of the many packets of freebies, I was presented with a condom and a packet of ketchup. I am now hoping like crazy that nobody gets drunk and mistakes the ketchup for lube. Because that could be painful.

Anyway, but in general I’m settling in and am fairly cheerful. And I’m actually quite enjoying the challenge of cooking with one small saucepan and a wok. My flatmates are getting used to me chatting about feminist things, and have taken my crazy metal side in their stride (there’s an indie/ metal night on every Thursday, and they were initially a bit surprised to see me demonstrate the finer points of Gothic Dancing. My personal favourite is the move called Kick The Evil Hobbit, which involves holding both arms out at about waist-level, the better to hold on to the Hobbit’s ears, and kicking!)

Oh, and I’ve found a new saying. Sheffield being so hilly, I’ve heard many, many variations of
“I walked 5 miles to school and back, uphill both ways“!