Women are Not Androids

This morning, as it is Revenge of the 5th, directly following May the Fourth (be with you), I was intending to post a long con recap of Starfest. But as I was getting my second cup of tea in the breakroom, I saw a ticket scroll by and tell a story that stirred something sad deep inside me, and reminded me of some conversations that arose throughout my panels this year.

Trigger warnings for rape possible in this post.

The story that clicked across on CNN was that of a rapist who pled guilty to raping a girl and got a 45-day sentence because she’d had sex before.

Let’s break this down into a totally different analogy for you. I own a home. I have grass, trees, a fence, windows. The house was built a few years ago. Let’s say someone throws a rock and breaks my window, not only shattering the glass but also clonking my 2-year-old-daughter on the head, causing her extreme pain, emotional trauma and possibly brain damage. And then the person who does that admits to a court that he did it, and the judge gives him a slap on the wrist because there was a time (during construction) when my house did not have windows. Without even taking the violence of the act into consideration.

During my panel discussions at Starfest this weekend, we covered Overcoming Barriers in Science Fiction, and Female Role Models in Science Fiction.

A very important part of this conversation revolved around female sexuality. People asked questions about whether a character who was sexualized could be considered a role model. I want to call to mind characters like Bo from Lost Girl, Inara from Firefly. This is very important. In those worlds, those women are portrayed as powerful partly because they maintain control of their bodies and the right to enjoy themselves and others sexually without being persecuted for that right. Bo is a succubus whose powers come from her ability to be a sexual creature. Kinda like a lot of women, actually, even if they don’t realize it.

Women are sexual creatures. Men are sexual creatures. Weirdly enough, human beings still like to enjoy one of our basest instincts: sex. So why are women punished even by other women for admitting to or giving into those desires, so much so that having ever had sex before is enough of a “pass” to ignore the violence and hatred involved in rape?

 Before anyone jumps in with any uneducated rants on how I’m clearly anti-life because rapists make babies, let me turn you toward this amazing article by an ex-pro-lifer, who points out that the so-called “pro life” movement is really brainwashing people to give up a really important part of themselves: the part that identifies as a sexual creature. 

I recently read a comment from a cosplayer in the community who was complaining that skirt length varied depending on who was making the costume. This (female) cosplayer seemed to imply that the length of the skirt showed the personal values of the woman wearing the costume. As though if a woman didn’t cover up enough of herself, she was unworthy of the stipulation that Cosplay is Not Consent. If the idea were true, even a little bit, that covering up stops the power-hungry Other from devouring the bodies of women and getting away with it, then there wouldn’t be rape in countries where women are forced to cover it all.

It’s time to wake up. It’s time to stop telling our girls that it’s OK to judge each other for the sex they want to have. Am I advocating teen sexual activity? Nope. Am I advocating slut-shaming them and telling them they deserved to be raped because they’d had sex before? What kind of twisted crazy is that?

Here’s a thought. This kid is getting beat up in school. Do you tell the kid that they deserved to be beat up because they’d been hit once before?

I want to be able to talk about other big issues, but this keeps coming back. Every day there’s something new about another rape case gone awry because the victim isn’t heard. There was even this wild explosion over anti-harassment policies, new to Steampunk World Fair. Most of those explosions were by men allegedly afraid of being considered “guilty before proven innocent.” Like SPWF is taking away their personal rights by telling them they can’t rape people.

Stop telling girls they deserve to be raped like it’s your privilege to punish people with your penis.

Fastforward a bit. Guys. You should be outraged, because this is just one more case of the world relegating you to the sum parts of raping meat popsicle. Obviously you can’t control yourselves so you get a freebie. Especially if the girl is underaged and sexually active.

Now let’s talk about how to overcome this barrier. Because this barrier starts with you.

Don’t assume that because you’ve never been raped, this doesn’t apply to you.

Don’t assume that because you’re in a good relationship others are exaggerating their problems.

Don’t blame the victim. That only happens in hate crimes. No one blames the victim when their own car gets jacked. Or their house gets burglarized. Why would you blame the victim when their body gets violated, whether it’s rape or racist/homophobic violence?

Do understand that having your very core freedom–the freedom to be able to own your body and be safe within your own skin–violently ripped from you is damaging and terrifying, and that people may not be able to talk about it.

Do be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Do find someone to speak for you, if you are a victim who is afraid of speaking out.

Do realize that the victims don’t need forgiveness, they need understanding.

Do understand that the victims don’t know that they don’t need forgiveness.

Don’t give up on the people you know who have been damaged. A $20 bill is still good even when crumpled.

Don’t ever, EVER say “but he’s such a nice guy…”

Do be aware. Keep your eyes open. Look around you. You can prevent so many bad situations by just saying “Hello” when someone looks uncomfortable around the person they are with. This goes quadruple for science fiction/comic conventions.

Oh and hey, don’t be THIS GUY. If a person is concerned for their own safety, they might have a good reason.

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Frozen: A Whole New World for Disney

So, I know this movie came out a little over a month ago. I should have posted my thoughts then, but since several people have asked me recently, I wanted to open the discussion now.

Many of my close followers know that I was particularly frustrated shortly before Frozen came out because of the crass comments by a Disney lead animator, basically suggesting women all look alike. That’s obviously true with Disney, since all you need to do is change the hair color and the freckles and you have basically every Disney lead female animated basically ever. I was also frustrated because I felt that they weren’t really advertising this movie, and probably because it was more about girls than normal.

But since I am a guilty enjoyer of Disney, I decided to go see it on the day after Thanksgiving anyway.

In case you don’t know, Disney’s Frozen is a liberal reimagining of the Snow Queen story. Basically everything from this point onward will be spoilers. Lots of bullet points and numbered lists here!

The MAJOR issues with this film are also prevalent in a lot of other Disney movies, but here we go:

1.  I have 4 sisters. You can’t take our hair, swap it around, and get a different sister. Women don’t all look alike, seriously. The sisters look exactly alike, but since the animator was whining about that we kinda assumed this would be the case:
AnnaElsa

2. Apparently girls can’t have an interesting story without being estranged from their parents or orphaned entirely. Both parents die shortly in the film, leaving the sisters emotionally stranded and without any adult supervision really.

3. There are NO MINORITY CHARACTERS in this film. AT ALL. Unless we assume the trolls are minority characters, because they are made out of rock so their skin is grey. And they have a shaman. Jamie did point out to me that it’s likely set in Sweden or something and it IS set in 19thish century wherever, so I suppose it might make a little sense for basically everyone to be white and blue-eyed… But really, Disney? The snowman is your token black guy?
*Note that we know the reason this happens is because their market share in Japan is huge, and Japan historically prefers pale characters.

4. The music is weirdly Broadway-esque and consists of a lot of songs about the characters doing whatever it is they are doing. They have interesting music but the lyrics are generally unimaginative and subpar compared to the rest of Disney’s musicals. The song “Let it Go” is the only real exception, though the lyrics are a bit weird there too.

5. All the grownups are all-knowing, and the characters always know what’s happening next. Except Anna and Elsa, who are naive and stupid compared to everyone else, apparently.

6. Not surprisingly, the story revolves around the idea of True Love, Disney’s trademark.

 

My nitpicky and frustrated additions to this list include:
7. The fact that Anna (the redhead) apparently falls in love instantly with the first male she meets outside of the castle. And then they share a really awkward song about sandwiches. This song was probably the main thing that shut down the members of my friends list that hated this film.

8. Both of the female main characters are emotionally stunted and clueless (but this could be attributed to being locked in a castle since early childhood).

9. The second Elsa decides to just be her Ice Queen self, she stops walking like a girl and starts sashaying her hips like a sexy woman–creepy, Disney! This one was really jarring.

10. Why are there so many orphans? The lesson that kids can’t have any adults in their life or they will grow up emotionally stunted seems pretty blaring. Even Kristoff was apparently an orphan, except for his Troll family and his dog-Reindeer? By the way, Disney, Reindeer aren’t that big. I think you meant to make Sven a moose.

11. My least favorite part: Anna feels her “True Love” must save her from certain death and rushes off to get him to kiss her. Because she needs a male to save her, right?

12. GIANT PLOT HOLES like why did Anna need to have her mind cleared of knowing her sister had ice powers?

13. Most frustrating possibly, the fact that all the adults keep telling Elsa that she’s not allowed to have emotions. Any emotions. No feeling, no contact. Otherwise she’ll hurt other people. Is this Disney’s way of highlighting children’s emotional abuse?

14. Anna is obsessed with the idea of falling in love. But most teenagers are obsessed with relationships on some level (male or female) because this is when hormones+society expect us to start being sex crazed. Disney just left the sex out. This did make the first part of the movie REALLY uncomfortable though.

15. I can’t get over how much I feel like the trolls were thrown in to give us a minority character.

16. I have mixed feelings about the Trolls’ song because it seems like it borderlines on encouraging dysfunctional relationships. The song says “we’re not saying he can be fixed, but maybe you can work it out together.” What??

Now let’s talk about what Frozen did right, because there are some things I really appreciated about the movie.

1. First of all, despite being completely isolated and experiencing the boy-crazy-puberty at 16, Anna is actually a very powerful character in terms of her impact. She takes charge of the castle in a time of crisis, refuses to let any adults (even the one she thinks she loves) tell her that she can’t help her sister, and sets out to climb a mountain by herself. She does a poor job of it, but she IS a sixteen year old girl who was raised in a castle. She doesn’t exactly have mountain climbing experience.

2. Elsa refuses to let Anna marry the guy she met ten seconds ago. Because you don’t really love a guy you just met, little sister.

3. Kristoff and Sven keep getting into trouble. Chased by wolves, chased by a giant snow beast. Anna lights the wolves on fire and cuts the rope to save them from the snow golem. She’s quick on her feet and never looks back after making a decision.

4. Anna never knew (thanks to the Trolls) that her sister had ice powers. But when her sister goes a little overboard and freezes everything, Anna chases after her despite having been unable to see her until five seconds before that. Because she can’t let her sister be alone.

5. Elsa is faced with lots of armed bad guys and doesn’t falter. Despite the fact that she’s being hunted by a ton of adult males, she refuses to let them take her down.

6. Disney actually pulled a fast one, because (EXTRA SPOILER) the guy Hans that Anna thought she was in love with is actually the Bad Guy! He’s been plotting to steal the throne and he leaves her to die! I was gleefully pleased by this because “HEY GIRLS, ATTRACTIVE MEN YOU MEET WHO PROFESS THEIR LOVE MIGHT NOT HAVE GOOD INTENTIONS!”

7. The absolute low point of the movie is when Anna feels like everyone has abandoned her and she’s going to die because she was betrayed. The cheerful snowman tells her to buck up and she realizes Kristoff is trying to save her. In normal Disney movies she’d let him come to her, but in this case she drags herself half-Frozen (ah hah) into the snow and tries to find him, despite the snow storm. In other words, she gets off her ass, throws aside her depression and overcomes.

8. And THEN she sees Hans about to kill her sister, the one who pierced her through the heart with ice, and steps in to intervene–losing her chance to get a True Love Kiss from Kristoff and become a Real Girl again.

9. The reason I find 8 so interesting is because Disney broke their own traditional norm of True Love. They let two girls exhibit True Love to overcome “The Curse.” This is awkwardly incesty, but a step toward understanding that the heterosexual norm is not the only valid form of love. When they hugged (and did this weird nose thing that made it look like a preemptive kiss) Jamie got this look on her face, and I was like “Shutup-they’re-sisters-you-creep.” Naturally the whole theater heard me, yikes.  

10. In the end, Elsa realizes that her emotions aren’t what is causing her to freeze everything. She really just needs to overcome her own fear in order to control her powers. Overcoming fear is a powerful message.

11. Elsa doesn’t end up in a relationship! The trailers made Jamie and me think that we were setting up for both girls to have a boyfriend in the end, but Elsa gets to be herself and Queen without interference.

12. It’s about time a recent Disney movie (not Pixar) failed to end in a wedding.

13. The characters were almost all of “adult” age. This is mostly a sign of the times and acceptability, however.

14. Neither Anna nor Elsa exhibit ANY “womanly” characteristics of housekeeping etc. No cleaning, no cooking, no sewing, no painting. Anna is a bookworm with a wild imagination, and somewhat like I imagine Belle would have been if she’d been written with more modern sensibilities.

15. I expected the snowman (Olaf) to be really irritating, and he turned out to just be a cute insightful sidekick.

16. At the very end Anna punches the Bad Guy in the face. Just clocks him one. BAM! She’s got a good right hook.

Ultimately, Brave and Mulan are the only other Disney movies so far that have proven to have strong female characters that take their destiny this much into their own hands. But Brave wasn’t about True Love, it was about family bonds. Mulan had all kinds of other stuff to overcome, and her story was also ultimately about responsibility.  Frozen has the potential to tell girls that it’s OK for them to be themselves and be brilliant and talented, regardless of their circumstances. It doesn’t do the best job of it, but considering Disney’s track record, it’s off to a better start.

Overcoming Sexism in Geek Culture

This past weekend was MileHiCon (MHC), and I experienced a whirlwind of conversations in peak moments. However, I was also on two specific panels back to back that become controversial (by nature), and I want to contrast some of the shared concepts and get my thoughts out on virtual paper. This post likely will be less cited than most of my comments about women’s rights–this is a reaction/conversation post.

The two panels in question were (in order): Overcoming Sexism in Geekdom and Geeks Assemble! (the latter being a panel about whether it’s good that Geek is going mainstream).

On the first panel I was amongst many women plus the brave Dan Dvorkin, who likely expected to be shunned as the only male on the panel. I also found it interesting that every single participant was white and some variant of blonde–interesting because that theoretically focused our specific discrimination complaint to being female, although we had other variance in the group.

Now, there are some things I want to point out about both panels. In both cases someone pointed out that members of the geek culture frequently serve as “gatekeepers” for other members–they feel the need to keep the girls, or the anime geeks, or the goth geeks, or the sports geeks, or whatever kind of geek, out of their area of enjoyment. They pee on the lamppost of their geekdom and expect their loud chest-thumping declaration of adoration to stand for ownership in absence of their creation of the very geekdom/fandom they seek to claim. This very tendency even started a casually loud argument between Aaron Ritchey and me about whether JJ Abrams’ Into Darkness is ruining his childhood or shaping the childhoods of the next generation. I believe that any sci-fi that entrances a new generation is worthy of attention. Just like the Romeo and Juliet remakes that keep causing the grownups to roll their eyes–how else will the new age of technology incorporate the classics?

Someone asked the question “When did Nerds become Geeks?” I answered that it happened as a transition when being a “geek” might mean that you made a lot of money in that thing you were passionate about. It’s the Age of the Geek, so to speak, and smart people are making loads of money on things that probably got them beat up or shoved into lockers in high school.

Now, apologism is high in the sexist anticulture, and I have a particular problem with the way that people (male and female alike) will apologize for the geeky males. “Oh, they don’t know how to act around girls, so that’s why they do those socially unacceptable things.” Yes, absolutely. I always threaten to rape anyone who makes me uncomfortable in a social situation. It’s like a chest bump of love.

In my experience, the reaction I have had from the geek guy community has been that they treat me like one of the guys, or fail to acknowledge my existence. The former is assisted by my appearance (not exactly boobalicious here), and the latter is difficult for most people to do. So when I flare up in a conversation and say “Hey! That was a misogynystic comment! I’m still identifying as female over here!” it’s usually a cold bucket of water over their heads. Sometimes that means I lose the friendship. If I were more traditional (ha, ha) in my mentality, that would probably be enough to keep me from speaking up. But you know what? Misogynyst jokes are just like racist jokes, because they are against an entire group of people. A REALLY BIG GROUP OF PEOPLE.

There was a middle aged white guy in the audience sitting up front, and he had a lot to say. Some of it could have used some social understanding (IE, not making those blanket “well, *I* don’t behave that way toward women” statements), but mostly he was participating despite potential backlash. And he did get it. Someone in the back verbally bitch slapped him for speaking up. Shortly thereafter, someone else went on a tangent about white guy shaming, so called.

So, I guess the definition of white guy shaming is calling out the group (white guys, particularly aged 18-85) for the fact that their privilege is out of control and they’re abusing the system. And then one white guy gets upset, offended, feelings are hurt whatever. And we’re comparing that to slutshaming where a girl thinks she looks pretty and the whole world tells her she obviously is just in it to be a whore. Oh, and she gets rape threats. Bet the white guy gets those too, right?

Someone pointed out that it’s not possible to white guy shame, and I kinda agree, but on this point:
My pointing out that your common white male name on the top of a resume makes you at least 40% more likely to get a callback than my unidentifable maybe-black-maybe-female-maybe-European name does not cost you jobs or even encourage you to change your name to Locutus. You don’t lose anything.
My pointing out that being white and male makes you considerably less likely to be followed around a store by a clerk who expects you to steal does not make the clerk follow you around.
My pointing out that you being a white male gets you a high-five-free-rape-pass (especially if Football is involved) obviously doesn’t limit your opportunities or capability to rape.

Verdict: My shaming doesn’t cost you anything. Shaming is the wrong word. I’m calling you on your historical right to be better than everybody else because culture and society told you you can have whatever you want, and you bought into that malarky when it was bottle fed to you by everyone around you.

But you know what? You’re a grownup now. And now you are required to take action and take responsibility for that action.

My friend Matthew Boroson tells the story of his father who, in 1970s New York, parked by the side of the road only to find a very large angry African-American screaming at his window. “Move this car!” he shouted, over and over. Finally, Matt’s dad rolled the window down and said “What do you want?”
The man said “You parked on my foot!”
Matthew (who wears shirts like “This is what a feminist looks like”) relates this to the so-dubbed Dinosaurs of groups like SFWA, who make the argument that they are old and set in their ways. But even those set in their ways have a social obligation as not-socipathic-members-of-society to stop and listen when someone says “You’re hurting me!”

Someone else made the argument that not every woman feels safe coming out and saying “Stop. You are hurting me.” To that I say that is our responsibility to speak out. If we do not speak out against the attitudes of our peers and those before us, how will our daughters learn to walk with their heads up? But if you are faced with something that you can’t speak out about, it is your responsibility to find someone who can speak on your behalf. We are 51% of the population. We have voices, and if we cry out and let them hear us we will overshadow and drown out the voices of those who try to shout us down.

Another person mentioned that they were upset by a concept called “slobshaming,” particularly when people call out how she dresses at cons. I will agree that, prior to the business conferences I have attended, I previously might have been upset with someone asking me to dress “more professionally.” My issue with this idea is that how you dress portrays what you want other people to perceive about you. That’s your control over the situation. Hygiene is important, and using independence from judgment as an excuse for poor hygiene is just that–an excuse. However, the problem is that “professional dress” is defined completely differently for men and women. Case in point: The KMBS manual for business attire had one page for men and twelve pages for women. Seriously. Lots of “you aren’t allowed to wear this” type images. Really discriminatory, but this IS the company that wouldn’t cover my wife because they didn’t have the funds…11 billion dollar company and all.

This may be one part rant and one part recap.
But it is also me speaking out, and bringing some thoughts into the conversation.

Monday Musings: Forgoing the Shutdown for More Important Conversations

As many of you know, there’s a shutdown going on right now. The media isn’t being as helpful with that as I would like, but I am also getting frustrated with all the finger pointing and blame going on via social media. As usual, there are many people with a “This is both sides’ fault…” attitude, and wrath and destruction rising up everywhere.

This led a good friend of mine, Guy Anthony de Marco, to post this blog about why writers should avoid reposting a lot of politics on their public pages. That started a lot of controversy, so I think Guy took the blog post down (I certainly can’t find it)…If not I’ll update this with a link to that post when he gives it to me.

Many of you know that I wrote my own controversial wrath and destruction about Chic-Fil-A back in the day, last year around this time ish. I’ve pulled that post because it wasn’t particularly kind to some of my family members who do occasionally read things that I write. So, that in mind, this conversation is more expansive and talking less about individuals on a small level.

I was recently asked to speak on a panel about the misogyny present in SFWA and sexism in geek culture in general. Let me give you a timeline of recent events as far as a woman and a lesbian can expect from main stream global culture at the moment:

In August of 2012, Chic-Fil-A president Dan Cathy came under scrutiny for the fact that Chic-Fil-A funds many anti-equality groups such as NOM. Here’s backlash lasting even into the next year.
In March of 2013 evidence of the plan for the shutdown occuring now came out in the form of the ongoing battle to prevent mandatory healthcare from covering any form of contraception. Regardless of intended use.
In April of 2013: SFWA article tells women that Barbie is a good role model because she “maintained her quiet dignity as a woman should.” A response by Betsy Dornbusch.
In September of 2013 Barilla CEO starts out by saying he’d never feature a gay family in an ad because they prefer the traditional family unit…and then digs his hole deeper by saying gays shouldn’t adopt…and even DEEPER by saying that they “respect the woman’s role in the family.” IE in the kitchen. A response from HuffPost, including the original troublesome quote.
Oh, and this Fake Geek Girl thing has been coming up over the last year or so…
Also in September, Russia decided to come out as being even more anti than usual, as they passed an anti-“Gay Propeganda” law just in time for the Winter Olympics. Here’s some of that backlash.
And then just now this past week, October 3rd, a congressman derailed a reporter by saying “You’re pretty, but you have to be honest as well.” As though beauty and truth can’t exist in the same person, apparently.

So, we have two things going on here–a war against women and a war against the LGBT. But they aren’t necessarily separate wars, because they are both potentially propegated by a stereotypical patriarchal attitude that dictates the virile straight white male as the dominant ruler of the known universe. As the saying goes… they came for the LGBT community, but I was not LGBT…and then they came for the women, and we were too busy fighting for our own status quo that we did not notice, until there were none of us left to fight.

Now, I don’t want to start a name-calling-man-hating-hair-pulling-fistfight here today. Instead, I want to talk about why this series of events is NOT OK, and why the homophobic CEO of Barilla is so much worse than John Doe Homophobe in the neighborhood you live in.

First of all, let’s get the First Amendment out of the way. Wikipedia defines the First Amendment as preventing the government from establishing a respect of any particular religion, and as protecting freedom of speech.

Let me be perfectly clear. The first amendment DOES NOT protect ANYONE from social backlash due to their opinions or beliefs. It does not guarantee any individual the right to immunity from the community’s attack on their general asshattery. If someone opens their mouth and inserts their foot, they have the right to speak their mind provided they are not harassing others or being obscene or molesting children, but they DO NOT have the right to say whatever they want without paying any consequences inflicted by the public at large. The government can’t throw them in jail for being vocal jerks (otherwise Orson Scott Card would be in prison for life), but the public is another story. Using the “I have my first amendment rights” cry is a bogus excuse to be a bigot. Period.

Now, let’s talk about why these guys are in the wrong–starting with Chic-Fil-A (and Hobby Lobby, and any other “Christian Values” company out there). The problem ultimately stems from the fact that these guys are behaving as though their client base is entire in agreement with their personal values. If you want to operate with that conception, go start a church. Like the WBC guys. Problem solved. But if you want to use money acquired from your chicken sandwiches, company money, you shouldn’t be using it to further your personal convictions against another group. You can use it to save children from starving (that would be ironic), or to promote world peace, or whatever. But keep your personal religion and politics out of your company. Despite apparent laws to the contrary, your company is not an extension of you. It is a brand, and a brand has the obligation (especially when it’s based off of food!) to make the attempt to appeal to the widest audience possible. That means being kind to your fellow humans. That means keeping your politics to yourself. It means that if the LGBT community wants to work in your stores, you sure as hell can’t fire them because they are LGBT. Having a religious belief as the president of a company employing from and selling to the general public does not give you the right to use your position of power to enforce your moral code on others.

Your brand is at stake.

Let’s move on to Barilla, who not only made an ambivilous statement much worse by sputtering more and more outrageous statements after the first, but who also picked on women. He even went so far as to say “If gays don’t like it they can eat another brand of pasta.” You heard him, folks! Boycott Barilla! He understands the power of money dollars, but what he fails to recognize is the sheer volume of GLBTA consumers–not just those who are directly impacted but those who believe in the concept of human equality even when it doesn’t directly impact them. Barilla issued a pseudo-apology (much like Chic-Fil-A did), and you can see for yourself how that went. He apologized “if anyone was offended.” Which is the same as saying “You’re a jerk for thinking I was saying something offensive.”

Let me tell you the story of the previous company I worked for. Once upon a time, it was a small ~300-employee 50 mil a year company based out of California. It had its ups and downs, but because it was based in California it afforded same-sex-couples full benefit coverage. To a point. My coverage was mostly paid for by the company, but they didn’t pay any portion of my wife’s coverage and it was post-tax rather than pretax. But at least they offered health coverage. But then along came a really REALLY big company (KMBS, 11 billion in global revenue at that time) who bought out my little employer. And the first thing they did was change all of our benefits and remove ALL same-sex coverage. Now, being the person that I am, I put my foot down hard. I wrote emails. I sent letters. I made calls. I pled and bargained and wheedled. My wife and child (who had just been born) needed health coverage. First, the company told me that I was the only employee in the entire 30,000+ employees who had this problem. They told me that since Colorado did not at the time have laws protecting same-sex couples, I wasn’t getting coverage. I went to the media. I tried to talk to anyone who would listen. But no one wanted to take on a global company with 11 billion in their pocket. I finally received a tiny bit of allowance from them…if I went and got married (NOT a domestic partnership or civil union) in another state (at the time, only three called it a marriage) then they would cover my wife. The domestic partnership offered by Boulder County was not enough because I didn’t live in Boulder County. Incidentally, the regional director was also a lesbian and told me that KMBS was so not-helpful that she went on her partner’s benefits–not an option in a single income household like mine.

At one point the HR representative told me (in response to my accusation of discrimination) they “Didn’t care” what I did in my personal time, but they “weren’t obligated to cover it.” And again, later, the same person told me that the company (11 billion, remember?) “Couldn’t afford” to offer domestic partner benefits to everyone who asked for them. Wait, I thought I was the only one asking?

KMBS, you can’t afford to be bigoted against your employees. And I hope someone who lives in a not-so-at-will-state comes after you.

My point, amongst this diatribe, is that big companies and small companies have only one set of rights–the right to mouth off and go under, or the right to strive for success and treat all of their potential customers equally. That means keeping their money and their bigotry out of the way of the equality movements rolling through our world.

Now let’s talk about why SFWA and anyone making fake geek girl type claims adds to this situation. First of all, Geek is a lot like Gay…that is to say, you don’t get to say how gay I am any more than you get to say how geek I am. Just because I’m under thirty (for a little while) and did not have to undergo the same scathing disdain for gaming that some of the dinosaurs underwent does not mean that I am not a geek. Just because I keep my hair long does not mean I am not a lesbian. Capiche? The only person who knows what I like and who I am to the full extent of my classification is me. The same goes for my capabilities–as a woman, or even if I were a man, my capacity for talent is up to me, not up to you. And you’d better keep your twitty Barbie fantasies to yourself.

That being said, SFWA and many organizations like it were started with the idea that people could own a market and help themselves get more publicity and publication in the Sci-Fi world. Many of the guys in SFWA refer to themselves as dinosaurs. But I want to quote my friend Matthew Boroson, who was on the SFWA panel with me at MalCon. He said that everyone, as human beings, has an obligation to stop and listen when someone says “You’re hurting me.” The outcry at SFWA over their antiquated notions, the rage rising up in the geek community of women over the abuse and harassment of women. Geek men, you have an obligation to stop, to listen, and say “How am I hurting you? What can I do to stop hurting you?” If you don’t, you are behaving just like a sociopath–dictating to more than half of the population that you have a voice and they should not. That their hurts are invalid. That you know them better than they know themselves. Maybe you are a dinosaur and older than Methusala and likely to die any minute from the sheer weight of your own audacity. But you can still slow down your boulder-rolling and listen to the people you hurt. Matthew believes those who are incapable of admitting that they have hurt someone and listening to why should separate themselves from the population–for the good of the whole. Obviously locking themselves in the basement playing video games isn’t working for that any more, because now there are women and LGBT and minorities and other REAL PEOPLE playing video games. Oh snap.

In that brilliant conversation, our audience brought up the point that the almighty dollar ultimately is the closest thing to a vote that we can use. While our congressmen and the lawmakers in Russia have moral obligations to uphold the best interest of the people–but they aren’t, at least not if they’re women–the companies have their own best interest in mind. So we can only guide their moral compass by not spending our dollars with them, and by telling them WHY.

The reason that my family boycotts Chic-Fil-A to this day is because our money is the loudest voice we can speak with. We will not see Ender’s Game in theaters or read the book, because Orson Scott Card is so anti everything I stand for that saying his name out loud makes my teeth hurt. Barilla will not be on my shopping list again, probably ever. We avoid shopping at Hobby Lobby. We avoid shopping at Walmart whenever possible because they have a history of being jerks to women and the LGBT community, We have those options. In today’s age and global economy, economic revolution is the best form of protest we have.

The list of challenges in this past year just goes on and on and on…over and over, daily, it seems that people in power are making blanket statements or overtly suppressing women and the LGBT community. Downplaying their intelligence and honesty by mentioning their attractiveness. Insisting that the family unit is formed by one woman and one man, and the man should be working while the woman is in the kitchen. Etc etc etc etc.  But one good thing is rising up out of all this sudden open attack against (women especially). The curtain of silence is slowly falling away. People are standing up against the harassment. Slut-shaming, rape culture, fake geek girls, all of this disgusting display of the celebrated masculine mentality that makes it OK for Mal from Firefly to call his obsession a whore…It will be overcome. And we’d better get to it, ladies, because my daughter is only 2 now…but she’ll know soon that quiet women never make history.

Colorado: Beach Front Wonder

So I’m excited to announce that my house still stands, although it did try to wash away…

We live in the path of some of the larger storms on the eastern side of town, so on Thursday I had to leave work early so that I could get the water out of our window well and save the basement from flooding. Lots of mud and water bailing, but we got it under control with only an inch or so of water in the cement room holding our furnace etc. I also had to pick all of my vegetables to save them, and our skylight sprung a pretty solid leak.

Friday was the start of NDK, so after Jamie finished what she could of a Sword Art Online piece she was working on, we ran off to the con.

Aubri basically didn’t nap this whole weekend. On Friday she was wearing her kimono, on Saturday she was Roxas until we were caught in a really dreadful downpour. I was Duo from Endless Waltz Gundam Wing for about 2 hours… basically no one recognized me, so I shed it for something more comfortable.

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I didn’t get to attend a single panel, although there were several on my list. I did run into people I hadn’t seen in ages, chat with the hotel liaison for AnomalyCon, see most of the AMVs and see the costume contest. I had some experiences that made my eye twitch–a single white male with a beard informing me that my 2-year-old was too “distracting,” for example, during the AMVs. Wandering through the vendor room only to overhear/partake in this conversation:

Socially Awkward Guy 1: “So how are you enjoying the convention?”
Socially Awkward Guy 2: “Oh, it’s pretty good, except I’d like more skimpily dressed girls.”
SAG 1: “Uh. I assume you meant that as a joke?”
Me: “It had better be, since most of the girls are under 16.” <insert Mom Rage Stare>
SAG 2: “A joke, a joke!”

I wasn’t amused. But by and large I was surprised to see far fewer scantily clad under aged girls than previous years. I didn’t see a single WiiMote costume and very few that I felt desperately needed bloomers. It might just be the pouring rain outside, freezing them into covering themselves…

Note this is not in any way a commentary on scantily clad girls being at fault for being harassed by the geek guys.

Saturday evening we ditched the con for a couple of hours to get Aubri over to Grandma’s and head home to work on art before the Industry soiree. Grandma had 6″ of hail on her porch, and 3 miles away we had none. We were up until close to 3am rubbing elbows–I met some charming Lolita designers and chatting about anime and adventures in Japan felt like the good ol’ days at anime cons, back when I was young and energetic.

The Impending Storm:

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And then Sunday morning I went downstairs and stepped off the step into 3″ of water pooling around my ankles. The cement room appeared to be dry and the window well was empty, so despite the mess we decided that it couldn’t get worse, and went off to NDK to get that darned signature.

Unfortunately, we never got the signature–the flood had slowed us down too much and the line was too long. We wandered the vendor’s room one last time, then ran off to get totes and shelves to get the AnomalyCon merchandise off the floor.

When we got home we heard rushing water like a waterfall as soon as we stepped in the door. Sure enough, the window well was full almost to capacity and pouring water through every crevice. I had to switch pants, run outside and jump into the window well to start bailing. The water came up to my thighs, so about 28″ deep.

It took us over an hour to get the water low enough to handle, cover the window well with a tarp, dig a trench to redirect the flowing water and toss enough mud at the corner of the window well to block some of the leak into it.

And then the real fun began. The water had soaked a ring all the way around my basement, which is mostly carpeted and the full length of my house, plus the width of the main floor. Not a small space. We sent out a call for some friends to help. With a hand from Josh, Ryan and Mike, we managed to get everything from the basement upstairs, mop most of the 3″ of standing water in the furnace room into the drain, shop vac some water out of the corner under the porch that was speed-leaking through a small shift in the foundation, staple up a rubber liner to block some of that flow, sort through the disaster, and begin vacuuming up the water.

Damage Photos (Aftermath and during cleanup, I was too frantic to grab flowing water photos):

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At this point it looks like we lost around $200 of art supplies (mostly pastels), dozens of Jamie’s original artworks, a series of Asian puzzles in frames, six bags of mostly hardback books, some of them vintage children’s books, a gorgeous leatherbound album (empty at the time), numerous random papers, 60ish cardboard boxes, four or five copies of my novel, and possibly a set of Rockband drums (assuming drying doesn’t bring them back to life). We lost a very nice box holding hundreds of old family photos, but miraculously the photos are fine. We also lost an entire box full of boxes of high end facial tissue, but the toilet paper and paper towels next to it somehow escaped.
It could’ve been worse, but we are still working on getting all the water out of the carpet.

Aaand we’ll probably be doing a “Flood Sale” this weekend, possibly for some AnomalyCon merchandise as well.

But on the plus side, we don’t live in Boulder.

Dear Daughter: And all the girls I know

There have been many letters, rebuttals, and conversations resulting from one sarcastic and conservative woman’s public blog to address teenage girls and warn them that she would defriend them from her sons’ pages if they posted “selfies.” This comes in the wake of messages I see from cosplayers who are frustrated by the Heroes of Cosplay depiction of cosplayers as obsessed with the idea of cosplaying to your body type–something very difficult to do when most anime and video game characters are built like skinny, leggy 14-year-old-girls. In addition, I see all of these articles swirling the web about women being shut out of video gaming, being accused of being fake geeks. In fact, this comic perfectly sums up all of the harassment being brought to the light from its scummy hiding place in plain sight.

And so there comes a time for the mother and the big sister in me to answer. This letter is for my daughter, but it’s also for every woman I know, and for every teenage girl that I know, and for the ten year old girl who looks forward to bursting forth into teenagerhood, and for the five year old girl who already knows what boys like because at that age they tell her. Let us be clear. My daughter is just two. She doesn’t see or understand any harassment greater than a kid not sharing the toy trains at Barnes and Noble. And she is not a sexual creature–she is TWO. She won’t be a sexual creature at three, at five. With any luck, it won’t hit until she’s at least twelve… But before that time she’ll know the sting of “well-meaning” strangers telling her what she must do to be eligible for male attention–like my neighbor who told her 9-year-old that if she got “too tall” she would “never get a boyfriend.” My daughter doesn’t care about the connotations of music–in fact, right now this is her favorite song. But what she is learning matters to me.

And so this letter, to my beloved daughter, who will be a public figure because of the evolution of public webspace, who is empathetic and strong and ambitious and beautiful and has her whole world in front of her.

My dearest, lots of people will tell you that your appearance doesn’t matter. They tell you that because reaction is a pendulum. Much like some waves of historical feminism, they believe the only way to reach equilibrium is to swing the pendulum in the complete opposite direction. So when people whisper behind your back or even tell you to your face that you have to wear makeup, dress just like all the other girls, act sweet and innocent, and basically be the maiden waiting to be plucked–well, the reaction is strong. “Be whoever you are and never let anyone tell you differently,” they will say.  “Body type doesn’t matter, it’s what’s on the inside,” they will say. And “Wear whatever you want, it’s their fault for judging you,” they will say.
There are two parts to this argument. One part is very true–it is never your job to take responsibility for the thoughts of other people. If a boy or girl, man or woman finds you attractive, desires you, thinks good or bad thoughts about you, those thoughts are NOT your fault. If a woman-or a man- is raped, the rape is not their fault, and not their responsibility. It is never the fault of the victim that they were damaged–however, what IS their responsibility is to rise above the victimization and grow.

And that part is where I disagree about wearing “whatever you want” and being “whoever you are.” Because if you start chanting that mantra at 12 years old, I expect that you may well develop a very strong external loci of control. That means that rather than taking responsibility for change in your life, you just go with the flow and let “fate” or “destiny” or “the universe” or “god” or whatever force you choose have its way with your life. You are a powerful force, a beautiful and intelligent girl with natural talents and developing skills. But it’s up to you to decide what skills to further harness, and to get further in life you will have to follow some universal rules, like dressing up for interviews. I can tell you from personal experience that you don’t have to wear a skirt or makeup to interview, but you must look sharp. Tshirts and torn up jeans won’t cut it, unless you want to work for minimum wage. Even if you become an author and a public speaker, you will need to dress the part. Learning to dress for your intentions is a skill and an art that transcends gender–although the feminine side of the coin learned it as second nature because it was expected of them from toddlerhood, and the masculine side is usually left to figure it out from their peers.

The same goes for your physical body type. Yes, our standards for size are very different than they were in bygone eras. But our world is also filled with dangerous, addictive foods and bad habits. And so I urge you to never buy a scale. Don’t worry about your weight, but rather about your fitness. Aspire to challenge yourself physically, and if a physical challenge that you desire to accomplish is too hard because of your current body structure, then start running. Start training. Build muscle. Focus on your own body as an instrument of power. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you might get “too muscular,” because that’s a genetic function anyway (unless you take steroids, and don’t you dare). Of course you won’t find a lot of good information about that, outside of a health psychology textbook, but here’s a good explanation of why being fit does not mean being bulky. What I am trying to tell you is that you should be working out for yourself, for your own abilities. You may not lose weight–muscle weighs more but is more compact than fat. But you will feel better, and it will have a side effect of being attractive to others. Your health and life will be extended. If the boys would learn to work out and get stronger for themselves, instead of for their peers and the sex appeal, maybe they wouldn’t be so angry in sports locker rooms.

Now let’s talk about peer pressure. Peer pressure is a terrifying power over you, even if you don’t know it. From practically birth I was surrounded by conflicting messages, and I dressed like a weird conservative Goodwill reject and talked like an angry pre-adolescent boy in response to it. Adults forget about peer pressure because we no longer have mentors and friends warning us about the dangers of being influenced by people around them with lower ambitions than themselves. You are likely to be an average of your five closest friends–especially when you are an adult and earning an income. You need to learn now that you can be friends with lots of people, but you should have friends who are capable of teaching you something to improve yourself, and friends you spend less time with.

At the same time, I want you to be that friend that everyone else wants to be around because you are going somewhere and you will take them with you. If they work hard enough. That means that you will have to learn to act on the things that other people say that bother you.

And it isn’t just the people around you. When songs like “Blurred Lines” encourage the listener to believe that saying “no” really means “give it to me.” When I’m listening to the radio and I realize you’re singing along to a song about sex–even one where you are just humming–I quickly have to change the channel when I realize it’s a song by Kanye singing to stick a dick in your mouth to shut you up. Yes, music matters, because those songs are not written for us. They are written for the boys who will grow up and put us down.

When I was growing up–don’t roll your eyes, daughter, it wasn’t back in the stone age–subtle cues from the people around me insisted that it was a girl’s responsibility to keep men from looking at her, that skirts are women’s clothing and pants are men’s clothing, that the only sport girls can play is volleyball, that the highest accomplishment a girl can obtain is to be a teacher. I carried those 1950s concepts forward with me into my career, and a chip on my shoulder formed. So I didn’t speak up when the guys at the office called me a “dyke” behind my back, or the “straightest lesbian” they had ever met. Why did they say those things? They thought they were being funny, but they were consciously or subconsciously robbing me of my right to wear what I wanted to wear without harassment. They were robbing me of my ability to consider myself an equal to them, as well as criticizing me for being a lesbian before I was out or willing to admit that I was a lesbian.

They were undermining me as a strong and intelligent woman–based on my appearance and the fact that I was very straightforward–by telling me that I could never be attractive to men as I was then. They even made me afraid of the word “feminist.” And I let them get away with it. You see, my daughter, it is not your responsibility to control or change the minds of anyone else. You can’t change peoples’ thoughts, and only law and physical consequences will change some peoples’ behavior unless they want to change. The only thing you can do–but this is a powerful thing–is stand up for yourself. Why didn’t I go to HR and report those people? Why didn’t I make it a bigger issue? Why didn’t I confront them? We are fortunate that this country has laws that claim to support the equality of women–it is our responsibility as women to respect the hard-won rights our mothers and grandmothers fought for. To vote. To be strong and smart and successful. But most importantly, to speak out when someone behaves badly. If a male or female degrades the female half of the species with their attitudes and behavior, peer pressure is the only thing that can mold them into a more decent human being–and that will only happen if someone turns on the light so the bitter bigoted cockroaches can go skittering back into the depths of the cabinets.

That is not to say that I want you to shout at a random stranger who followed you into a dark alley and tell them they must respect you–although maybe that approach is a good way to get him to back off, I recommend utilizing whatever fighting skills you have at that point. But I am telling you to Stand Your Ground. It’s hard to do this, because being the kind of office gossip who dresses like the other girls and flirts with the men because they expect it will get you by, at least according to some experts. That’s why peer pressure is important to you too, because you will need to find a mentor, another woman or several women who are strong too, and who will help you fuel up for the long road ahead. But you can’t let anyone trample you, especially not as a woman.

Some of these things may not help you if you are reading this story at twelve, or fourteen. But you should know that the world on the other side of high school is much, much bigger than the world on this side of high school. The friends you respect now may not be around by the time you get to college. What will remain will be your code of honor, your self respect. Who you are and who you want to be. If you want to dress like a Lolita and take selfies–fine. I’m more of a timer and tripod sort myself, and you’d know that because how could you miss your mom being a photographer?  Just remember that Facebook has a delete button, so if you regret it later you can take it down–believe me, I’ve posted enough embarrassing photos of you to have us both covered. But if you post a picture that makes you feel beautiful, don’t let anyone tear you down. Facebook isn’t a forum. You don’t have to let trolls rip into you. That’s what the real world is for. Delete their comments. Don’t take it personally. Report them for trolling. I have confidence that, as my daughter and as the next generation, you probably can do all of those filtering things without working hard at it.
But Stand Your Ground, because if someone trolls your photo or your post or whatever, you have to know that trolling and bullying aren’t about you, and they aren’t your fault. They’re about the insecurity of the person attacking you, because they need to feel better about themselves and don’t know how.

If you decide that you want to follow in your mom’s footsteps and be a geek–I won’t blame you, it’s easy to be a geek these days. But you need to know that there is no such thing as a “fake geek girl.” There are girls–and guys–who pretend to like sports because lots of the boys playing sports are attractive and seem desirable and popular in school. But geeks have come a long way from being completely ridiculed, and even in school most of them are still experiencing a bit of oppression. Being in that club just isn’t worth faking it.  They feel, even at a young age if their fathers were geeks, entitled to the definition of a geek. The TV Series Glee actually does a good job of describing this transition from unpopular to popular–although for the Gleeks it was success at Nationals that gained them teetering respect from the Jocks and the Cheerleaders. In Glee it took a single semester. In real life, geeks have been struggling to gain a foothold in pop culture since before I was born.

I suppose I can understand their suddenly vocal desire to be acknowledged. This is the Age of the Geek. Giants like Joss Whedon, George R.R. Martin, J. K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins and even Stephanie Meyer have gained raging success. Super Hero movies are popular. The largest companies in the world (perceptually speaking) are run by technogeeks. Of course the geeks feel entitled to their newfound awesome. The difference between those greats (minus perhaps Meyer) and the geeks you run into on the internet is that those giants understand that women are more than just objects. We are real, we are people. We have rights and feelings and abilities and talents and we are just as good as anybody else. In many cases you are better, because you’re my daughter and I’m supposed to think you’re a rock star. Don’t let them think they can take it from you. You love costumes and electronics and video games. Enjoy them.

Your greatest adversary will not be a boy. That will be the hardest part for you to face. Throughout many centuries of “chivalry” training and behavior passed down from generation to generation, the boys have still remained clinging to their patriarchal desire to oppress someone–the nonwhites, the women, those who do not fit within the heterosexual “norm.” But the hardest battle for you will be that we women have bought into the hype. Moms, hoping to make it easier for their daughters, will instruct them to behave in ways that will make it “easier” for them to catch a mate who fits into the desirability categories set by their moms. Even the sports they encourage their daughters to play are supposed to mold who they are. The boys grow up getting away with abusing women because women like Mrs. Hall teach them that they are superior in some way. That they are the stronger sex. It is their responsibility to change their behavior, but it is our responsibility as women not to help them keep being oppressive. And other women will not like that you are strong, because when they reflect inward they will wonder how you are so strong and they are not. Mean girls bully for the same reasons mean boys do–to fill a void in their own self esteem. It will be harder to stand up to the girls, because you want them to be your friends. And they can be–but even your friends can tear you down. My dearest daughter, take what they say with a grain of salt. The most important thing for you is where you want to go and who you want to be. That’s not blind ambition–it’s reality. If your friends in school want to drag you down or hold you back, they won’t be around when you’re an adult and struggling to move forward.

I want you to understand these important points, because I would’ve given anything to know these things before I made it to college.

Being successful or strong willed does not make you a bitch.
Wearing clothes for functionality and comfort rather than allure does not make you a dyke. (I hope this conversation doesn’t get removed)
Skipping makeup does not make you ugly.
Refusing to go out with a guy, saying “No,” does not make you a cocktease or a bitch or any other bad word they can throw at you.
It is not your responsibility as a woman to give anyone else anything. Not your number, not a smile, not your body, anything.
Flowers and chocolate do not “earn” sex. Neither does dinner and a movie. No matter what he says!
Yes, he can help himself.
There are no such things as fake geek girls.

I want you to know that there are wonderful people out there setting standards and being amazing role models. There are lots of women and girls being completely amazing in the face of adversity–both real people and characters on TV. Women who are tough without being “men with boobs” as it were. Characters like Kate Beckett, Maura Isles, Princess Merida, Black Widow, Asuna, Katherine Janeway, Commander Susan IvanovaBuffy, Xena, Hermione.
Real life people like Samantha Swords, Angela Merkel, Jane Goodall, J.K. Rowling, Liu Yang, Missy Franklin, Severn Suzuki, Indra Nooyi, Temple Grandin, and me of course, because I want to be the kind of mom that you can look up to even when you’re embarrassed to be my kid. There are so many amazing women out there, and more growing up around you. Reach out. Find mentors. All of these women have had to stand their ground against the naysayers, the men and women in their lives. They have also worried about their image–but they overcame that pressure to be what the media feels is a “real” woman.

Most importantly, you are talented, beautiful and strong–but it’s your job to keep improving your skills. Read, write, speak, learn, love, build, be. But be “all in.” Never do anything halfway or halfheartedly because you’re afraid some boy or girl will think less of you for being good at it–whether that’s chess or basketball or math or swimming or karate or cooking or nuclear physics. If they really think less of you, then that boy or girl is not for you anyway–they’re still stuck in the 1950s. Leave them living in their oppressed world. I want you to be a trendsetter, a role model. And you will be, because other people are watching you already. You’re young now, but you will go far. You have places to go, things to see, mountains to move and earth to shake. You will go far, my daughter.

A Woman in Men’s Clothing: Part 1

This is going to be a multi-part article because it just needs to be… You could also consider this a guide for men of various sizes.

First, why wear men’s clothes? Or, more accurately, clothing assumed to be cut/made for men. Let’s start with the simple reasons. Availability of pockets. Sizing that makes sense and is based on physical dimensions rather than some arbitrary weight concept invented by whatever white middle aged man owns XYZ company. Necklines that actually have buttons all the way up and can accommodate a tie. Buttons that button in the right direction. History lesson, the reason we still have men’s and women’s shirts button differently is because women were expected to let their servants button them up. Because apparently buttoning our own shirts was too tiring…
And don’t get me started on shoes.

Generally speaking, many clothing manufacturers still assume that men want comfort and women want style. So even the most stylish mens’ clothes are designed to last longer and fit more comfortably, with less chafing, sweating, and general ick.

So, to begin with, our first lesson is going to involve the actual fitting of clothes. Now, I am somewhat short waisted and long in the leg for my height. I also have some hip to me, but almost no cup size to speak of.  Keeping my dimensions in mind, I also have involved several other willing models so that we can cover different body types. This is NOT a series of articles on how to pass as male–although I will throw in a few tips here and there to help with that. Instead, this is a series on how to shop on the other side of the store, for comfort, functionality and style. Also, as my wife likes to remind me, androgyny can be sexy.

Start by getting your physical measurements. You will need the following measurements for typical or partially custom-fit clothing:

Neck – Hold the measuring tape around the thickest part of your neck, typically where an adam’s apple would be if you had one. Add two fingers between your neck and the tape to make sure a tie wouldn’t choke you to death.

Arm length – The measuring tape should start right at your shoulder joint and end at about the crease between your thumb and forefinger.

Wrist – Measure the diameter of your wrist.

Head – Measure your head diameter at about 1/4″ above your eyebrows and roughly 1/2″ above your ears. That should be about the thickest part of your head, and where most hats sit. Even 1/4″ of diameter is important here, as hats can slip and slide with even a little give.

Chest – Hold the measuring tape tight around the thickest part of your chest (yes, including your breasts if you have them). Wear whatever kind of bra you usually wear to make this measurement, since the shirt will go outside of that. I prefer sports bras, personally, but that’s because I don’t have to worry about holding anything up. If you want to pass and have to bind or otherwise flatten breasts to do so, make sure you are taking this measurement with binding in place.

Waist – This should be your natural waist, so that means measure this right at where your belly button is.

Hips – This may be right across your butt or may not, but should be wherever the widest portion of your hips are.

Inseam – This is the hardest one to get yourself. You need to measure the inside of your leg from the side of your crotch (all the way up in the joint there between inner thigh and exceeding PG-13 rating) to the floor. Do not wear shoes to take this measurement. Mine is exactly 30″, for the record.

 

Now that you’ve got all of your measurements down, you’re ready to get started. In the next article I’m going to talk about actual clothing selection and choosing the right styles of cuts to fit you, both in dress clothes and in more casual attire. To wrap up today, however, we’ll talk some about accessories of the necessary variety.

First of all, let’s start with belts. Belts are a necessary evil that can make any outfit –casual, semi or formal) look nicer or just ruin it. It’s a fact that usually the smaller you are, the wider a belt you can wear. Generally I would say that if your waist is the widest part of your body, you want to keep your belt width below 1.5″ but above 3/4″. If your hips are wider than your waist you can do a wider belt, but anything wider than 2″ will have a hard time fitting belt loops and generally look more feminine anyway.

Consider suspenders if you have difficulty keeping pants sitting at your natural waist because of waist size. They will hold your pants up and, if you wear them over your shirt, can be considered a fashion statement. Suspenders are coming back when done right. There are also men’s shirt garters (like these from Men’s Wearhouse) that will keep your socks up and your shirts down, but under your clothes. Good for men and women of any size.

Next, and of a bit of interest, is the underwear. Men’s clothes rarely have a waist that makes sense with the thong or bikini cuts popular right now. Personally I recommend boxers for comfort, but there are also “boy cut” women’s briefs that don’t ride up too much. If you are planning on passing, consider boxer briefs. They have a shape that expects a package, and so are really weird on a girl with hips unless you have something to add to the front of them. However, a well placed deception looks best in close fitting boxer briefs.
Avoid the kinds of knits that will be uncomfortable on your skin. Woven soft cotton is wonderful. Satin feels good but will raise the temperature (not in a good way) on a hot summer day.

Moving onward, ties… Now, ties can be just downright fun, but I recommend avoiding very wide tie styles. Also avoid obnoxious patterns–stick to stripes, solid colors, paisleys, etc, but avoid very bright and “loud” ties (Mickey and Garfield, anyone?) that are designed more for casual fun than for formal attire. Silk ties are beautiful but tend to wrinkle, so make sure you don’t leave them tied. A mid-width tie is also easier to tie into unique knots, like the eldredge knot. The latter has been one of my favorite party tricks, so to speak. You can see how to tie it here.

Finally, hats. If your method for passing runs the way of the gangstah, you might consider a big thuggish ballcap. That’s not really my style, so I enjoy a variety of newsboy caps and fedoras. Places like Target carry lots of these right now, and they come in small (which is really medium) and size huge. Whenever I find one that fits, I snatch it up because my head is fairly small. This is where your measurements come in handy! If you want a nice top hat, for example, or a bowler, you will need your band size to order them. There will be a lot more on this when we come to the final part of this article, the part about dressing in men’s clothing (in period attire).

Keep reading next week for part 2: Style for the short and smaller than average…