eruthros: Jamie and Adam from Mythbusters, drawn by Tardis80, text: "busted". (Mythbusters!)
Please don't take the fanfiction survey that is going around (the one with the big fancy banner).

Here is the deal: the people who wrote that survey pm'ed me, as one of the mods of [community profile] kink_bingo, while I was out of the country. In their pm, they (unintentionally) made it quite clear that their intent in their project is to talk about human universals -- to use our fannish experience, our erotics and our desires, to reinforce ideas of universal, hard-wired, biological desire.

They are outsiders to fandom. They are outsiders to fanfiction. They are outsiders to slash. And they haven't tried to learn, or to understand, or to think about fannish communities. Instead, they have made assumptions about who we are, about what we read, about what we find hot; they plan to use those to explain what makes women tick, what our brains make us do.

They do not believe that culture mediates our desire at all1; they don't believe that we are shaped by our communities and our experiences; they want to put us into neat, biologically determined boxes. We declined to participate, and figured that was the end of it -- we didn't know that there was going to be a survey, which is why I'm posting publicly. (I'm going to put that pm, and the subsequent conversation [personal profile] thingswithwings and I had with them, under cut-tags at the end of this post if you're interested.)

All of those problems are present in the survey itself. If you read through the comments on their Q&A post, you'll see a number of people challenging the questions, the answers, and the ideas behind the survey. Reasons include heterosexist language, which presumes that anyone not marked as queer must be straight; the language of the questions about participants' sex, gender, and sexual orientation, which presumes that people are either male or female; and the language of their description of slash, which presumes that there is one definition of slash. [personal profile] torachan further explains some of those problems here.

And all of these problems are present in their About This Survey page:
The structure and activity of our subcortical circuits are shaped by neurohormones such as testosterone, estrogen, oxytocin, progesterone, and vasopressin; these circuits function differently in men and women. As cognitive neuroscientists, we draw upon a wide variety of empirical data sources to model these circuits, including brain imaging studies, primate research, cognitive science experiments, machine learning algorithms--and behavioral data. The Internet offers large, unprecedented sources of data on human activity: one of these data sets is fan fiction.

We're deeply interested in broad-based behavioral data that involves romantic or erotic cognition and evinces a clear distinction between men and women. Fan fiction matches this criteria perfectly.
Guys, that is their explanation of their project: that they want to look at how we are hard-wired different.

It's the same old sociobiological bullshit, the same old attempts to universalize and naturalize their ideas of gender roles, the same old approach that makes us nothing but a data set. Please don't take this survey.

If you have already taken this survey, I don't know what to tell you -- I'm sorry that I didn't post this earlier. I don't know what would happen if you demanded to have your answers taken out; I don't know what sort of IRB/human subjects research board preparations they have done.

Their first pm to us )

Our reply )

Their reply, attempting to convince to participate after all )

Read more... )

1Note, for example their answer in their Q&A to someone who brought up these issues: "we are pursuing our own research questions, which are not cultural in nature."

ETA: The survey has been taken down, at least temporarily. The text on the survey site now reads:
We're revamping some of our survey questions based upon the first round of feedback we received! Please check back again soon to take our survey!
There are a number of interesting comments on their post announcing the removal of the survey.
eruthros: Wizard of Oz: Dorothy in black and white, text "rainbow" in rainbow colors (Dorothy singing rainbow)
Take Back the Night at my undergrad university had a strict policy that only (self-identified) women could march; there was an ally's meeting for men to talk about violence against women. And there were two ways that men dealt with this:

"But I'm an ally! I support you! Don't you want men to support you? You can't fight this battle alone. Is this equality? Don't you want people to stop using gender to divide us?" etc This is the ally as Nice Guy TM, as a self-defined ally -- as an asshole.

"Part of my support involves not intruding on your space -- and hey, the men's meeting sounds really informative! Is there anything else I can do to help? I could make posters -- I have smelly markers!" This is the ally as actual nice guy.

***

I've been thinking about safe spaces lately, both in offline and online life. I've been thinking about the degree to which some people don't understand what a safe space is, and what it means -- a self-determined space, a space I declare safe, a space under my control. When the above asshole tries to march with me, he's saying: I know what is safe for you. I know that I'm okay and I declare that you are not allowed to be uncomfortable around me, because I'm an ALLY, so therefore you're just being mean. He is saying: your emotional reactions are just ridiculous. He is saying: I will call myself an ally, but never respect your ability to speak, to define yourself and your spaces. He doesn't understand that sometimes a safe space means he's not invited.
safe spaces )

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eruthros: Delenn from Babylon 5 with a startled expression and the text "omg!" (Default)
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