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Last night I was part of a panel on sexuality and teenagers at a high-school in San Mateo. It's clearly a progressive school; they have presentations every month for parents involved in the school, they have a GSA and Safe Spaces, etc. Typically, 50-60 parents attend the meetings. Last night maybe 20 showed up. And we were talking about sex! What can be more interesting than that?

It was somewhat interesting, having the panel focused on parent's issues. A presenter from a teen sex education group was part of the panel; she was really good, and her organization sounded wonderful. I was really impressed about how she could provoke questions and conversations, without actually suggesting people 'should' believe this or that about anything; she was providing ways for parents to express their own values.

There was also a psychologist on the panel. She did a PowerPoint presentation. ;-) She had some good tips; I also saw some conflicts, and I 'heard' an assumption that sexual behavior is bad. At one point I was talking about how I knew some schools did not permit a wanted GSA club to start; she said that was illegal. Well, yes it is, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I had a sense from a few folks of self-congratulating... it was odd, the school clearly does have some excellent policies, but reminders of local suicides didn't seem to really get them to hear more was needed in some core ways.

The panel was also kinda dull... I think due to the light attendance; unlike in a typical class or college education panel, the people attending mostly seemed a lot more constrained. I suspect due to fear of embarrassment in front of others. Who knows.

The teen sex educator (wish I'd gotten the group name! hmm, I could call the organizer) talked about a documentary around gender, which sounded really good: Straightlaced. The trailer looks great. Here are a couple links:

I am feeling drawn towards finding someway to do 'this' for real. No idea where to start. Wondering if I should offer something for free, on top of doing these panels... Wondering.
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NYT article on the blurring of gender lines among younger generations.
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Two of my favorite topics (one by love, the other by necessity), discussed in a fascinating article about how language does indeed affet how we think about things.

By Lera Boroditsky

I think I snagged this originally from [livejournal.com profile] jaylake.

of particular note: "Does treating chairs as masculine and beds as feminine in the grammar make Russian speakers think of chairs as being more like men and beds as more like women in some way? It turns out that it does. In one study, we asked German and Spanish speakers to describe objects having opposite gender assignment in those two languages. The descriptions they gave differed in a way predicted by grammatical gender. For example, when asked to describe a "key" — a word that is masculine in German and feminine in Spanish — the German speakers were more likely to use words like "hard," "heavy," "jagged," "metal," "serrated," and "useful," whereas Spanish speakers were more likely to say "golden," "intricate," "little," "lovely," "shiny," and "tiny." To describe a "bridge," which is feminine in German and masculine in Spanish, the German speakers said "beautiful," "elegant," "fragile," "peaceful," "pretty," and "slender," and the Spanish speakers said "big," "dangerous," "long," "strong," "sturdy," and "towering." This was true even though all testing was done in English, a language without grammatical gender. "

Though the whole thing is fascinating (if you're a language freak), and linguistic genders are just one tasty bit.

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On Tuesday night I was on a diversity panel (via the DeFrank Center) at Santa Clara University (which I recently discovered is a Jesuit university; explains all those Catholics last time I was on a panel there!). It was part of a multiculturalism class for psychology majors, which is a different angle of approach than usual. And hence made for a few slightly different questions, which rocked. 

One of the most interesting moments of the evening for me came when one very earnest woman asked one of the panelists about her sexuality: "I understand gay. I understand trans I think. I don't understand bisexuality," and went on from there to add stuff about, "if you're in a relationship with a woman now does that mean you'll choose to be in a relationship with a man next?"

The panelist did a pretty good job, coming at it from the angle of being monogamous, which I thought was quite original. Explaining she wasn't looking for a 'next,' and it wasn't 'choice', it's just who you fell for. I had to chime in, explaining bi people are sometimes sexual with both genders, but emotionally attach to only one, and sometimes are both sexual with and capable of emotional commitment to both genders. She got it, which was cool.

I can still be surprised. 

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There is more than one article on sex and gender in the current *Scientific American.* And *Newsweek* just had a similar focus as well. Interesting.

I think it's a good article. As ever, the science (though compelling) is less interesting than the human response to difference.
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I came across an interesting Japanese zine (pingmag), about 'making' stuff, including technology. Here's an interesting article about gender and console games, between Japan and Western culture.

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Oddly, I find myself remaining slightly disturbed by the film *<http://www.barnyardmovie.com/>Barnyard*. I watched it this past weekend. It's a basic kids animated film about growing up and assuming responsibility. It had a few moments which made me laugh out loud, and was otherwise pretty standard American "shrug" kids fare.

The story revolves around a barnyard full of talking, upright walking (when the farmer is away) animals. The protagonist is a young... cow/bull/steer/something. And therein lies the rub. All of the kine were shown with udders; distinct, rubbery, right there in front when they're on their hind legs udders. ??

The protagonist and his dad have these things. They do not have horns, let alone any hint of genitalia (not that there'd be much; I am reminded as contrast of a delightful French film - *The Triplets of Belleville* - about a bicycle racer, his grandma, singing old ladies, and an old fat dog, who was clearly yet unobtrusively male; very nicely done). One distinct bull is shown (a nonplayer character, so to speak :-) ); he is big and thick necked and has a ring in his nose. All of the rest of the male cattle are entirely soft (eg, necks slim to body size), horn-less, and with udders.

I found it disturbing, on a number of levels. I think it's irresponsible to represent animals (and by connotation, people) to kids that way; reality is what it is. Kids aren't stupid, they know about sex and gender, and at that level, it's disrespectful of and possibly confusing (to the very young) to them. I totally appreciate gender-fuck, but I don't think that's what the movie-makers had in mind here.

Instead, it's all about irrational adult fears, not about the world as it is. It reminds me of how human male genitalia is by definition obscene (talking movies here), but female isn't (tho I'm pretty sure that's frontal view only). So maybe this is another incidence of reverse sexism? IMO, being male isn't a thing to hide (whether we're talking genitalia, horns, beards, strength, size, whatever - tho I do also enjoy that male redtails are smaller than female ones; diversity rocks).

I guess we need the French style of cow animation.
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Ok, I like Chevy's current promotion, 'the whole enchilada,' as far as the food goes.

But the advertising is driving me nuts.

Such blatant sexism!

It just kills me how if a male were to say the lines the female voice says ("I want a husband, kids, and a pool boy named Antionio!", etc) there would be a giant outcry of horror and sexism. Since a female does it, it's funny/cute/acceptable. I suppose it's progress to have a woman able to name sex for fun as a plus at all ;-), but geez... Of course, I wish all people were allowed to want sex for fun, and that monogamy wasn't the assumed relationship, etc etc., but hey.

OTOH, I think it's equally telling, in a different way, that one of the male versions of the 'whole enchilada' includes a 'gang of brown-nosing yes-men!'.

About sums it all up.


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September 2011

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