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Links 1 through 10 of 23 by Shaun Green tagged women

The Greeks weren’t alone in feeling threatened by nomad incursions. The Chinese built the Great Wall to keep out the Xiongnu, their name for the steppe nomads; the Persians struggled with the Saka to their north. Even the Sanskrit epics tell of the Stri-Rajya, or ‘Women’s Land’, with its two man-killing queens – Mayor locates it vaguely in nomad territory along the Silk Route. From the legends of these cultures a pattern emerges: troublesome nomads of the steppes became tribes of female warriors. Mayor’s analysis is informed by archaeology, but she avoids making romantic or overambitious claims. ‘The widespread idea of women-only societies … can have multiple and independent origins,’ she concedes. Still, those trouser-wearing Central Asian women are usually present in the legends somewhere, if only as ‘grains of plausibility’.

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On a normal basis I don't muck around in comment section arguments. Partially that's because internet debates tend to be mental ulcers that never heal, and partially because I figure others can handle it if someone's peddling historical myths. But recently a topic keeps rearing its obnoxious head: the idea that it's "unrealistic" for women in Dragon Age: Inquisition to wield longswords. Women, the argument goes, don't have the strength to wield heavy blades. Furthermore, women didn't fight wars in the middle ages and because of their "emotional" nature wouldn't have the competence to serve in, or lead, a military force. These claims are total nonsense. Even putting aside the dubious gender assumptions and irony of arguing about "realism" in a game with dragons on the cover, it shows a distinct ignorance of how much swords actually weigh and turns a blind eye to many women who did fight - and win - wars in medieval Europe.

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Ada’s inclusion in the book not only helps introduce Isaacson’s thesis on innovation, but also speaks to an issue he believes we all have a personal stake in addressing. In an interview for an NPR article reporting on the forgotten history of female programmers in the early computing era, Isaacson laments how, “When [women are] written out of the history, you don't have great role models. But when you learn about the women who programmed ENIAC or Grace Hopper or Ada Lovelace ... it happened to my daughter. She read about all these people when she was in high school, and she became a math and computer science geek." As the NPR article speculates, a lack of reference points and role models may help explain the plummet in women majoring in the computer sciences—dropping from 40% in the 80’s to the 17% it is today.

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This article is about harassment. And it’s not just about attacks on anti-gamergaters.  Some are #gamergaters who were harassed – either by antis or anarchistic assholes.  But many of these are from events that predate #gamergate, in totally different scandals and explosions.  As an aside, I’ll note that the stories coming from the pro-#Gamergate faction are much lighter and sketchier, because they aren’t capturing the experience in any sort of verifiable longform. This is probably a factor of the anti-GG side having a lot of writers on that side of the fence. Still, I encourage the harassed to tell their story in a way that can be archived in a readable format for posterity and verifiability. And I will note that #Gamergate has been saving harassment, large and small, aimed their way in this Tumblr.

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This is directly relevant to the endless natterings in SFF about whether it’s problematic to prominently feature women warriors, especially in the self-labeled “realistic” grittygrotty mode encouraged by the success of George Martin’s Songs of Ice and Fire. One standard defense to this question is to quote names of warrior queens (Boudicca of the Iceni, the Truong sisters, Lakshmi Bai, Laskarina Bouboulina, Nzinga Mbandi, Jeanne d’ Arc), mention women who fought disguised as men and women warrior groups across eras. Frankly, the issue is irrelevant to whether women warriors existed in history and should also be irrelevant to a genre that freely postulates magic and mythical beasts.

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I would even go as far as saying that the true judgment of a female character isn’t how she dresses or what profession she takes up, but in how she interacts with other women, what her support network consists of (and who she is a support to). If it’s all men all the time, and Exceptional Woman to boot, then no–sorry: go away, Charlaine Harris.

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When I am older, my network of female friends will become my Auntie Network. Grown Muslim men live in awe of the power of the Auntie Network, and I have never met an Arab or Muslim woman who didn’t have one – a vast, highly organised web of female friends to whom she turns whenever she has a need, great or small.

This is the strength of Muslim women. It’s a strength deeply rooted in collectivism, based not on the power of the individual but the combined power of a group working as one. It’s a strength built on the ability to call for backup at a moment’s notice, and THAT is rooted in a female-only social environment that nurtures and strengthens intimate friendships between women.

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This is just a longer sequel to my post on Tolkien, to further highlight the sexism problem and refute the idea that Tolkien is a “nicer” fantasy than the grimdark of R. Scott Bakker, Mark Lawrence, or George R. R. Martin–that, at its core, its treatment of women is not as significantly better as most would like to believe (barring lovingly written graphic rape). Topics covered: women who are raped, who commit suicide, who are used to further manpain, who are put on pedestals, and who are otherwise defined solely by their relationships to men. It’s probably easier to name women in Middle-earth who don’t fall into one or all of these categories, but this may provide a useful resource. So: onward and upward! Never again take “yes well um um um TOLKIEN WRITES STRONG WOMEN and he doesn’t include GRATUITOUS RAPE OKAY” lying down.

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It doesn’t say anything profound about being a woman, it doesn’t deal with misogyny, it doesn’t allow much exploration into women as mothers or politicians or women in the domestic sphere. But it takes on the popular action narrative on its own terms; it plays a limited game with limited rules–a narrow definition of strength, an arena where only larger-than-life heroics count–but it plays this game so much better than the majority of urban fantasy ever will. It’s a story of how an action heroine’s gender does not hinder her narrative, make her a hyper-sexualized icon of impossible poses and proportions (see: urban fantasy cover art), or stop her from relating to other women.

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The comic below is a compulsive response to a recent, entirely unremarkable little dust-up over on Twitter concerning the excruciatingly polite, brief comments of a certain cartoonist concerning the way dudes talk about women cartoonists — and the shitstorm of whiny nonsensical defensive outrage that inevitably followed, just like any other time anyone on the internet has ever hinted at the possibility that perhaps, maybe, women could be treated a little more like, you know, humans.

But people can be weird, man. People — straight, male people, in particular — sure can have some strange misconceptions about how the world spins. Also, they are usually loud. Anyway, this cartoon will be of no help at all in changing our stupid, sexist culture of rape, murder, domination and bad tv — in fact, it hardly even qualifies as entertainment (although there is one kitten, scroll down to the bottom to skip straight to it!). But drawing this certainly made me feel better, so it made the cut. Don’t think I don’t know how I make you suffer, dear, patient reader!

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