Makers Season 2

A while back I wrote about the first three episodes of Makers: Women Who Make America.  Thankfully, the show is back for a second season on PBS.  You can watch it for free on the PBS website (check  your local station’s website).  So far this season they have run episodes titled Women in Comedy, Women in Hollywood and — my favorite — this week they ran Women in Space.

My preschooler found the Women in Space episode just as riveting as I did, so these are mostly good for family viewing and all ages.  There are a few fairly rough moments in the Season 1 episodes detailing the history of the women’s movement, and the comedy episode doesn’t bleep out everything completely, so parents should be the judge of what very young ones see.

I just can’t get enough of the women in this country who blazed the trail into space and will probably watch the latest episode at least a couple more times.  Up next is Women in War, which is another topic that is very close to home.  Can’t wait to see it.

If you haven’t watched any of the episodes yet, they can each be watched alone, but I recommend watching Season 1 in chronological order, and season 2 in any order that strikes your fancy.  Enjoy, and let me know what you thought of them in the comments!

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Reasons Why I Love Geena Davis

In between my much-more-serious-than-usual series of posts about combating sexual assault, I’d like to intersperse some more positive posts.  Today I just want to point out that I adore Geena Davis.  She is not exactly a STEM female role model, but she is a terrific role model overall for young people, and actively working to improve the world by using her voice to call out the rampant sexism in the U.S. media.

If you’ve never heard of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, you should check it out here.  The institute points out the disparity in on-screen representation between men and women, as well as how the women are represented.  Following their tagline “If she can see it, she can be it,” the institute pushes for more positive role models and realistic representations of women in all forms of media.

But other than her really great works with the institute, Geena Davis has a lot going for her in the awesome role model department.  Here are just a few of the reasons why I love her (yes, I know I’m resorting to a ‘top 10′ list… sorry, it’s been a busy month):

10. She takes action rather than just talking (see: the institute she formed).

9.  She is seriously talented.  From A League of Their Own to Thelma & Louise to Beetlejuice, she plays diverse characters really, really well.  I’d even argue she made the best out of her script in the incredibly campy cult classic Earth Girls are Easy.  And of course there’s that Oscar and that Golden Globe and… well, yeah, a lot of awards.

8. Did I mention A League of Their Own?

7. She goes for the great roles, even if they are controversial.  She goes for the fun and interesting roles, even if they are not ‘good career moves.’

6. She is a member of Mensa.

5. In addition to fighting inequality in the media, she fights inequality in women’s sports.  She works with the Women’s Sports Foundation to support title IX.

4. She is an activist with more than her own institute and core interests.  She’s worked with USAID, Dads and Daughters, and more.

3. She doesn’t just support sports for men, she’s also a competitor.  She’s a highly-ranked competitive archer and has been in the sport since way before it was cool in the wake of Legolas, Katniss, Merida, Hawkeye, and the Na’vi taking to the big screen with their bows in the last decade.  I mean she’s seriously competitive – she took up archery in 1997 and made it all the way to the semifinals in the trials for the U.S. team for the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics.

2. She was a believable, tough, highly effective President in Commander in Chief.  The role fully embodied “If she can see it, she can be it.”  Every person who saw that show saw that it was not only possible, but a really good thing for a woman to be president.  And she won a Golden Globe for the role, plus a bunch of nominations for other awards.  That show was canceled way too early.

1.  She somehow manages to do all of the above while also being a mom of three, avoiding most of the major pitfalls of fame, surviving more than three decades as a successful actress in Hollywood, and… being really, really funny.  Seriously, check this out:

Ok, ten is more than enough.  That’s plenty of fangirl-ing for today.  Now I recommend you go watch Geena Davis as the President of the United States… I’ll apologize in advance for the fact that you will get completely hooked and then wonder why there are suddenly no more episodes.

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Abuse, Assault, Personal Safety, and What Everyone Can do to Fight Rape Culture. Part 1: Statistics

Trigger warning: sexual abuse, sexual assault.  This is an important but difficult topic.

I spent the past week in training to become a sexual assault victim advocate.  It’s something I have gradually been getting more involved with over the years – last year I did a ‘train the trainer’ program and learned how to train my coworkers on sexual assault prevention and response, as well as prevention of sexual harassment.  This year I volunteered to get even more involved.

The week of training was tough, but so very important.  It made me angry, sad, and exhausted.  There is an awful lot of evil in this world.  But I also feel empowered now, knowing I have some tools to help people – if only just a little bit.  Even if I’m never called on to be an advocate, I at least want to continue with outreach and education.  Caveat: I am not a professional.  I am a lightly-trained volunteer.  But I will check and provide sources/links for everything I post.

Since there is so much information to share here, I will split this into a series of posts intended to give readers some tools and resources for both preventing assaults and how, if the worst should happen, to help yourself or your loved one.

First, since I am a STEM-oriented person, I’ll share some highly disturbing statistics about sexual assault in this country (source: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) website):

  • 1 in 6 women in the United States will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.  Only 40% – less than half – will report it.  When you add in the other forms of sexual assault (groping, unwanted touching, molestation), this number doubles – about one in three. 
  • 44% of victims are under age 18, and 80% are under age 30.
  • Approximately 1 in 33 men in the United States will be raped and somewhere between 1 in 6 and 1 in 10 will be in some way sexually assaulted in their lifetime.  Very, very few of them report because of various stigmas and social pressures, so we don’t have a terribly good idea of the actual numbers.
  • Three percent of rapists ever get jail time.  That means for every three rapists in jail, ninety-seven rapists are out there, free to rape again.  Most of them are not convicted, and therefore not registered sex offenders, so you won’t know who they are.  Of those who do see jail time, half are arrested again within 3 years of being released.
  • Someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S. every two minutes.  So in the time it took you to read this post, at least one person was assaulted.
  • The ‘stranger in an alley’ or ‘masked man jumping out from a bush’ thing is a myth – most rape victims (about 2/3!) know their attacker.  And more than 50% of rapes occur within a mile of (or in!) the victim’s home.

This is a rough subject.  So why am I telling you all this?  Well, this is a blog with a lot of info about parenting, equality for women, and pushing for a better future.  I can’t really think of anything that is more applicable right now.

We live in a rape culture.  It makes me angry, and pretty terrified.  It ought to make you angry, too.  The odds say you personally know several people who have been raped, including someone very close to you (remember, 1 in 6, and probably even more than that since so few report!).  Most likely those friends and loved ones have never told anyone what happened to them.

As we go through this series of posts, I’ll include resources for educating kids both on respecting other people’s bodies, and how to respect and protect their own bodies.  If we are going to change this culture and reduce those painfully, ridiculously high numbers, it has to start with today’s parents.  I hope you’ll help me in the fight to wipe out sexual assault and abuse.

 

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Glaringly Awful Example of How Early the Gender Gap in STEM Starts

So apparently the Carnegie Science Center of Pittsburgh is stuck in 1950.  An awesome facepalm moment was realized in the form of their recent STEM workshop offerings for kids in scouting.

Their workshop offerings to Boy Scouts: Chemistry, Cub Scout science, Webelos Scientist, Webelos Engineering, Engineering, Astronomy, Cub Scout Weather, Robotics. Their workshop offerings to Girl Scouts: Science With a Sparkle. Where they learn about the chemistry involved in – wait for it – cosmetics.  Yep, cool stuff and lots of options for the boys, makeup for the girls.  And no, the girls are not allowed to attend any of the workshops for boys.

Way to go, guys.  Carnegie Science Center’s excuse was that they didn’t get any signups from troops when they offered the same courses for girls and that they had to make the name of the class something that would appeal to girls.  Why on earth do science workshops need to be gender-segregated?  Um… how about a schedule of workshops simply for ‘scouts’, geniuses?   Then you could include Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Camp Fire kids, Navigators, SpiralScouts, Pathfinders, etc.

Read the Jezebel article here for more info.  Actual course descriptions below.

 

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Review: Lightspeed Magazine’s special “Women Destroy Science Fiction” issue

I’m calling this a book review because this special issue is about the length of a book.  The whole thing stemmed from yet another high-profile case of rampant sexism in the sci-fi community this year, in which a bunch of whiny men complained that “women are destroying science fiction.”  Well, this naturally caused some backlash, not to mention many people pointing out that a whole bunch of the best sci-fi and fantasy coming out right now is by women.

Examples?  Lois McMaster Bujold and her big stack of Hugo awards and best-sellers.  Elizabeth Moon.  Connie Willis.  Anne McCaffrey.  Ursula LeGuin.  J.K. Rowling, who was told boys wouldn’t buy books written by a woman.  Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice winning both the Hugo (fan-voted) and Nebula (peer-voted) awards this year.   I could go on and on.

But I don’t have to, because the lovely people at Lightspeed magazine did it for me.  They decided to push back against the ill-informed haters and create a special issue written and edited entirely by women.  And they called it the Women Destroy Science Fiction issue, which is just really cool.

Let’s just say it’s a resounding success.  They received over 1000 submissions.  The issue contains fiction – both new and reprints, non-fiction, interviews, articles, you name it.  All of it is high-quality and it was so well-received that they are now making a Women Destroy Fantasy and Women Destroy Horror.  Women are writing in every genre, and they are writing good stuff.

As to the special issue itself?  All good stories.  The intro alone is highly entertaining.  A few of the stories I didn’t particularly care for, but that’s normal in an anthology-type book or magazine.  I especially loved the variety in the issue, though.  The stories ranged from hard sci-fi to the whimsical and fantastic.  The reprints included some very well known short stories.  There was also a great collection of personal essays, some interviews, and even podcasts if you listen from the website link or get the ebook version.

I quite enjoyed the flash fiction section, since that’s not normally a story length I read much of, so it was new and enjoyable.  The reprints were some fairly famous classics, which got me to finally read the fabulous “Love is the Plan the Plan is Death” by James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon).  Who, as you can tell from that last sentence, had to write as a man in order to get published back in the ’60s and ’70s.

My least favorite was probably Each to Each by Seanan McGuire – not because it was a bad story, but because it’s one of those things where stories/movies/TV that deal with your profession (the Navy, in this case) have to be spot-on or they rub you the wrong way.  Just ask any medical professional who has tried to suffer through watching ER.  The story was good, and creative, but from a standpoint of women serving in the Navy I found it pretty unrealistic.

The novel excerpt from Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold got me hooked, and so it has now been added to my “to be read sometime soon” list, hopefully to be reviewed here at some point.  Her fantastic huntress character definitely made me want more.

The interviews section is tremendously special.  It was enlightening to read some of the stories from women who were pioneers in the genre – what they dealt with, what has changed, and what (sadly) hasn’t changed much since they started writing and interacting with fandom.  The personal essays were a great mix of experiences, some sad, some empowering, all quite powerful.

I always like stories that make me think, or look at something from a new perspective.  Two of the best stories from that aspect were “Like Daughter” by Tanarive Due, and “Walking Awake” by N.K. Jemison.   Without giving too much away, “Like Daughter” explores an aspect of cloning I had never thought about before, and  “Walking Awake” is a darkly disturbing cautionary tale one a scientific advancement terrible people could abuse.

I found “The Sewell Home for the Temporally Displaced” by Sarah Pinsker to be utterly charming.  “Cuts Both Ways” by Heather Clitheroe contained the coolest bit of new technology.  “In the Image of Man” by Gabriella Stalker is a very interesting perspective on where American culture might be headed.  “A Word Shaped Like Bones” by Kris Millering was probably my favorite story, and you’ll just have to read that one – any attempt I make at describing it would probably ruin it.

Overall, this is one I can highly recommend – you may not enjoy every bit of it, but I think you will find within this special issue something new, something that will make you think, and definitely quite a few things you like.

 

 

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This Year’s Flame Challenge Winners for “What is Color?”

I have really, really badly neglected the blog lately.  I am very sorry to anyone who actually looks forward to reading this on a regular basis for that neglect.  My lame excuse is some incredibly crappy personal stuff and much craziness at work… which all means I haven’t found much awesome stuff to share here lately, or had the energy to write about what I have found!

I hope you’ll bear with me and keep reading here, though, and I promise some good things are coming this week.  Those good things will be in the form of a new STEM female role model post, a book review, and today’s topic: the latest Flame Challenge winners.

If you missed my first post about Alan Alda’s flame challenge you can read it here, but in a nutshell he started this great annual competition a few years ago to explain a specific concept in terms an eleven-year-old can easily understand.

The entries in written and video categories are vetted by scientists and judged by actual 11-year-olds.  The challenges are questions that on the surface seem easy, and you think to yourself, “Oh, everyone knows what that is.”  But when you try to actually explain them using words in any kind of coherent manner, they are hard.

Previous years’ challenges included What is a flame?  What is color? and What is time?

This year, the question was What is Color?  The winners this year, both amazing women who work in STEM fields, are science communicator Melanie Golob for the written category, and physicist Dianna Cowern in the video category.  Here are the winning explanations:

Winning “What is a Color” entry by Melanie Golob

And now I’m totally hooked watching Dianna Cowern’s other awesome science videos.  You should check out the rest of her down-to-earth, quirky, and highly accurate science videos at her Physics Girl channel on YouTube.

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The nasty backlash against Tropes vs. Women’s Anita Sarkeesian illustrates just. how. bad. it still is out there for women

This is not the first time a woman has gotten some nasty threats for daring to point out sexism on the internet.  But it’s the first time the police have taken the threats against Anita Sarkeesian so seriously.  She ran a new series of “Tropes vs. Women” on website Feminist Frequency and got death and rape threats for doing it.  Let me repeat that.  She pointed out some of the (glaringly obvious) rampant sexism in some popular video games and then many, many disgusting, horrible excuses for human beings then made death threats.  And they made terribly explicit rape threats, and then even more threats against her family.  Lots of these threats.  To the point where even the police, who usually shrugged off such threats and told her there was nothing they could do, told her to leave her home.  Because some of these lower-than-the-stuff-pond-scum-won’t-even-feed-off slimy losers posted her address and other personal info and made seriously detailed and horrific threats.

Just read about it here if you want more details.  I’m too angry to type any more about it.

And if this doesn’t make you angry, you need to check yourself.  Think about whether you would a) want your daughter/wife/mother/female friend exposed to something like this, and b) if you would want any male you are remotely associated with in your life, let alone related to or responsible for raising, to be the kind of person who would post such things.  This is not what human beings do.  This is what sick, twisted, low-life creatures do.  And it happens all the time.

Bravo to Anita for having the bravery to point out sexism, and I pray she is safe today and that they find a way to catch these offenders.

Also, her videos are really good.  Watch them all at Feminist Frequency or the first part of “Women as Background Decoration” below.

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Hugo Award Winners

If you’re looking for something new to read/watch/listen to/look at, I recommend checking out the newly-released list of Hugo award winners just announced at this year’s WorldCon, Loncon 3:

2014 Hugo Award Winners
Best Novel: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
Best Novella: “Equoid” by Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
Best Novelette: “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com /Tor.com, 09-2013)
Best Short Story: “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
Best Related Work: “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative” by Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)
Best Graphic Story: “Time” by Randall Munroe (xkcd)
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
Best Editor – Short Form: Ellen Datlow
Best Editor – Long Form: Ginjer Buchanan
Best Professional Artist: Julie Dillon
Best Semiprozine: Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, and Stefan Rudnicki
Best Fanzine: A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher
Best Fancast: SF Signal Podcast Patrick Hester
Best Fan Writer: Kameron Hurley
Best Fan Artist: Sarah Webb
The John W. Campbell Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2012 or 2013, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award): Sofia Samatar

I would like to point out that seven out of seventeen awards went to women this year.   I see that as continued proof that, despite what a few obnoxious grumpy old men whined about recently on the internet, women are not destroying science fiction.  Except, you know, when we want to ;)

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Two Wins for Women Today

First, the Lego “research institute” set is so awesome, it sold out in three days.  I’m glad I ordered mine the second they came out, because my daughter is completely enthralled.  We’re stretching it out and building one of the sets each night as a treat after dinner.  Toy manufacturers just got a very clear message that there is huge demand for better toys for girls.  I’ll bet the pink and purple “Lego Friends” sets made to sell on the “pink aisle” didn’t sell out in three days!

The set is marked “10 and up” but like most toys, it’s probably over-estimated to keep them safe from lawsuits.  I would say a much younger kid could build this alone.  There are a lot of the absurdly tiny Lego pieces in the set, so it’s actually a good activity for a parent and a four-year-old to build together.  I read the directions and act as coach/director, and she uses her better-sized little fingers to put the tiny pieces together.  

Second, if you didn’t see it in the news, a woman won the Fields Medal today for the first time in history.  The Fields Medal is awarded every four years, and only to mathematicians under 40.  Today it was announced that this year Stanford’s Maryam Mirzakhani won.  From what I understand, for mathematicians it’s sort of like winning the Nobel Prize and the Olympics rolled into one. 

So, yeah… it’s a great day, ladies!

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Longing for LonCon3

Clearly I need to figure out some way to either 1) make way more money or 2) get paid to go to cons.  Because I would pretty much give my right arm to be one of the people headed to LonCon3 right now.  London is this year’s location for the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon), home of the Hugo awards, a global collection of amazing geeks, and much mischief and fun.  Alas, a trip to London was not in the budget by a long shot.  

We did still get to go to the North American Sci-Fi con in Detroit DetCon1) so I can’t complain.  Much.  But I will be following the events in London with much jealousy and longing!  Someday… someday, Gadget, I will make it to one of the overseas WorldCons.

Can’t wait to see who the Hugo winners are this year – and who wins the bid for 2016, since there is some fierce competition between Kansas City and Beijing, the first-ever bid for a location in China.  Fun as Beijing would be, I’m hoping for Kansas City – that one is a do-able distance- and budget-wise and could be combined with visiting family in the area.  The site for 2015 has already been decided (Sasquan, in Spokane).  Not sure I’ll be able to get time off for that one, but certainly will try.  Otherwise our one con next year will probably be LosCon.

Are you going to London?  What are you looking forward to most at LonCon3?

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