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Author Topic: EP482: Chimeras  (Read 52153 times)

eytanz

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on: February 22, 2015, 11:37:55 AM
EP482: Chimeras

By Julie Steinbacher

Read by Jessica Dubish

Guest Host Gabrielle de Cuir
---

You’ve heard going chimera is addictive. You’ve never done any hard drugs, so you’re not afraid of what this means. The “Free Consultations” sign on the clinic has drawn you in, not for the first time. It’s raining lightly in the city and droplets cling to your long hair and your nose. Bumps rise on your bare arms. You have the money for the first operation–savings you were going to put toward an apartment just for you and him–and the time: your whole life. You push open the door.

#

The waiting room is full of people. Some have only subtle modifications, pigment alteration to suggest stripes, lengthened earlobes, eyes that shine in the low lamplight. There are others who stare at you with unblinking reptilian irises, or who run sandpaper tongues across pointed canines. And then there are the other naturals like you, all huddled in one corner, stinking to some, probably, like fear and nerves. The bravado leaks out of you, but you force yourself to the desk, where you add your name to the list.

Then you find a place to sit in the center of the room and avoid eye contact with everyone, natural or not. You’re not going to lose your nerve now. You’re making a choice, going against all the promises you made to T–but then, he broke his promises to you.

Magazines litter the end tables to make the room look more homey. Animal women are on their covers, or beautiful animal men. There are interviews in Fur & Scales with a handful of celebrities on their personal journeys to chimera. The season’s fashions are highlighted on a page–lacy webbed fingers, dappled rumps, prehensile tails. Your name is called and you furl the magazine and put it in your purse.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



Father Beast

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Reply #1 on: February 22, 2015, 02:27:32 PM
Umm, not much here. To me it doesn't seem a parallel to cosmetic surgery, it is cosmetic surgery with the name changed. Any differences between the two don't seem to make a difference.



SpareInch

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Reply #2 on: February 23, 2015, 08:28:28 AM
I prefer to draw a parallel between the Chimeras and the Trans community. Especially the part where the protagonist tells her old roommate that she should only have the surgery done for herself, not to please other people. You hear a lot of that sort of thing on TG sites, with people pointing out that you don't have to take hormones or have operations if you don't want to.

The way the chimeras slowly became a more accepted part of society was also nicely positive.

I look forward to the day when nobody anywhere gives a damn what you look like. ;)

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Reply #3 on: February 23, 2015, 04:50:03 PM
Initially, the story didn't grab me because the main character wasn't that interesting,  but then I wondered if that was the point.  She made the classic mistake of thinking if you change your outside, your insides will change with you.  She does gain something from joining a community but her own issues stay unresolved.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #4 on: February 24, 2015, 05:14:52 AM
This story doesn't do anything for me, primarily because I don't see the need to surgically alter yourself for cosmetic reasons. It's one thing when characters undergo changes for other reasons (primarily, say, exploration); but I just don't see the need for fox ears and a tail. And as the story points out, it's not like really makes her happy.



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Reply #5 on: February 24, 2015, 11:41:29 AM
It's an interesting story and I really like it.  Once again, hard sci-fi and a near-future society, and that's right in my sweet spot for story category.  I really liked the use of technology to create an imagined future society here.  This seems possible in the future, and imagine what would happen if people could re-sculpt their bodies with super-plastic surgery that wouldn't have the same deleterious effects as today's plastic surgery. 

From a writing perspective, I wonder about the use of the second person.   It changed the mood from using the first-person, but I don't really understand the reason for this decision. 

Quote
She leaves in a soft rustle of fins. You stay, watching her retreat down the sidewalk, wondering at the prickling pain where your tear ducts used to be.

The ending is a bit of a cypher for me, too.  I have to say, I don't quite get it.  The protagonist seems to have really found a life and taken much pleasure in her life as a chimera, and doesn't seem to regret getting the modifications at all.  Why then did she feel this way at the end?  Perhaps out of concern for her friend? 




Chairman Goodchild

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Reply #6 on: February 24, 2015, 11:45:41 AM
This story doesn't do anything for me, primarily because I don't see the need to surgically alter yourself for cosmetic reasons. It's one thing when characters undergo changes for other reasons (primarily, say, exploration); but I just don't see the need for fox ears and a tail. And as the story points out, it's not like really makes her happy.

I can appreciate that you don't see a need for plastic surgery, but it's



rather amazing the amount of trouble people will



go to for extreme body modification in this day and age, and one has to wonder what



lengths people would go to in the future if technology became sufficiently advanced. 



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #7 on: February 25, 2015, 03:52:40 AM
Yeah... this one didn't really grab me, either. It was very well done, on a craft level, but I think it suffered from nothing-much-happens-itis. It was very slow and kind of sad, and I appreciated the parallels to things in our world. However, I do think that the message was a bit muddled by the ending, which was ambiguous when I feel like it should have been straightforward. The main problem, I think, is that this story focused on alterations that were pretty much entirely optional and cosmetic. Chimeras looked weird, may have had a few minor special abilities - it's implied that the POV character's hearing has gotten better, for example, and it wouldn't surprise me if we had chimeras who could breathe water - but there's no sense of drama.

This story reminded me of a somewhat stronger story I heard once (though I can't remember where) about a father and son trying to reconcile after the son radically warped his body so that he could explore an alien world. That story had more tension, because the son had done what he did as part of paying a price to do the work that he loved. That story had other problems - I remember being particularly critical of it - but it had more drama.

That said, I did enjoy the world this story presented. Humans probably will find ways to do even stranger things to ourselves as our technology improves. I just think I would have enjoyed the story more if more... happened.

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albionmoonlight

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Reply #8 on: February 25, 2015, 04:26:17 PM
From a writing perspective, I wonder about the use of the second person.   It changed the mood from using the first-person, but I don't really understand the reason for this decision.

This is what most struck me about the story, too.  And I would love it if the author (or anyone with good insight into the choice) could comment on the motivations for it.  It is a pretty different style, so it was done deliberately.  And I imagine that it is harder to write this way.  So I'd love to know the reasons for the choice.



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Reply #9 on: February 25, 2015, 05:01:03 PM
I really liked this one a lot.
For me, the issue wasn't so much the cosmetic surgery, or if this was true chimera-ism. The central theme, in my opinion was one of self esteem and loneliness and that ever so painful feeling of not belonging. In this story the MC appears to feel inadequate. There is a bit of subtle and not so subtle self blame happening with regard to the failed relationships and the cheating in particular. She got the "improvements" to be something and someone different. Someone better and more worthy perhaps? While getting the modifications people seemed to view her differently, to assume certain things about her character, ie. her boss hitting on her. She felt more confident and took more chances, made some strides in life. But none of this was due to the implants. It was due to how she viewed herself.
In the end, she was just as lonely and unfulfilled. She was still self blaming. The implants and modifications didn't really change anything, at least not permanently.
This was a marvelous story, I thought, about self-love, and self-respect, and human worth.

K from Vega


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Reply #10 on: February 26, 2015, 01:24:43 PM
The whole story seems like buyer remorse for both the main character and her friend



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #11 on: February 26, 2015, 04:18:44 PM
I think my favorite thing about this story is that the chimera modifications are not purely cosmetic in nature.
Her whiskers get attached to her brain, and the brain can decipher this new sensory input. The ears can swivel and hear better. And so on.
This isn't about people modifying the way they look, it's about modifying the way they perceive the world, and hence the way the world perceives them.
People here have waxed lyrical about parallelism and other messages, but I think you guys forgot something.
This is a story written by a woman, about a woman, who happens to be you. As cool as body mods that actually give you an owl's night vision and a cat's whisker sensitivity, this story is about the most marginalized segregation of human society: women.
I think that's the parallel we need to be drawing here.
Did you all notice that line
Quote
It’s a little unnerving how much more frequently you get cat-called.

First of all, that line has a hidden message: you (the woman in the story) get cat-called all the time anyway. Why? Because you live in a society where you mean about as much as how attractive a given man happens to find you. Moderately attractive? You get cat-called. Very attractive? You get sexually abused. Not at all attractive? You get the kind of verbal abuse that keeps you awake at night, gives you actual PTSD and in many cases ends in suicide.
But here is a woman (you) who has elected to get the coolest mods you can think of. Why? Well... it started because your boyfriend is horrible excuse for a human being (remember, when guys sleep around it's totally cool bro, they have "urges" but when girls do they're sluts). But it continued because now you can perceive the world in whole new ways. Kissing with whiskers.... delicious.
So the mods continue.
You feel better about yourself. You view the world differently. But the active sexism is still rampant in your life. Suddenly you're exotic, you're different. You are beautiful. But mostly you are beautiful because inside you feel beautiful, and you are finally letting that inner beauty out.
So you get promoted. And you get many pay raises. And you continue to feel better.
But then your boss turns out to be a total prick. Now, had this happened before you had started the mods (and it wouldn't, because then you were ugly) you would have bowed your head and gone with it. But now you feel strong and powerful, you finally feel like yourself. So you tell him where he can shove it and quite.

This post has gone on long enough, but you see where I'm going. This isn't a story about trans-people fitting in, or about body mods becoming mainstream.
This is the story of a woman who felt like shit because she found out her boyfriend was a piece of shit. So she took a spa day, went shopping, and came out of it feeling empowered. And that helped her to inspire others.
The happy ending, of chimeras becoming accepted... that's our society accepting everybody who doesn't fit in the cis white male current world view.

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Reply #12 on: February 26, 2015, 11:40:07 PM
This series has been great so far. However, if the poor little doom bunny didn't make feel sad enough last week then the disappointed furry girl just broke my heart. Kudos to her for being at the crest of the wave rather than in the wake but it after all the stuff she went through it's a bit rough not to end up any happier. Wish I could have heard her Budgie voice. I wonder what I would have become had the opportunity been there to not have to have seen the loser in the mirror when the love life lights went out. A rainbow dragon with a peacock tail or tortoiseshell giant owl perhaps? Certainly nothing involving fins. Each to their own I suppose. You always try to become something else in those circumstances, something all new and adventurous and that is just great until it isn't anymore and you're just the same old creature you ever was. Terrific.



hardware

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Reply #13 on: March 03, 2015, 12:40:11 PM
This is well written and crafted, even though the whole story and where it goes had a somewhat familiar feeling to it. Perhaps the best part was how consequent it was in the description of the sexism around her - it was constant, only differing in quality as she changed. In general I think Max is spot on in the analysis in the post above.

For the ending, I thought she cries (or wish she could) because her friend is at that bad place she was in the beginning of the story - and she knew that the mods (while being great in many ways) will not necessarily make her life any easier. A bitter-sweet ending.



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Reply #14 on: March 03, 2015, 04:05:17 PM
I didn't really get into it.  I see what the story was going for, but generally not a lot happened.  I felt bad for her, continually digging and altering herself to find some epiphany she was expecting to find but never understanding why having swiveling ears doesn't seem to give her a sense of personal fulfillment.  to me it didn't seem like a trans* story because she didn't have a sense of what she really felt like, she was just trying random mods off the market and hoping they would match how she felt.  Not like a man born in a woman's body but a woman who has no idea what she feels like and just trying grab bags from a buffet line to try to reach it--I think she would've been better served by traveling the world or talking to a therapist or changing careers or just something else, anything else.  I felt empathy for her, but I didn't really see a story materialize out of it.

(And, as ever, I hated the 2nd person.  I can understand why it was used here, to create distance, but when I'm reading a story the thing I want least is distance)

This story reminded me of a somewhat stronger story I heard once (though I can't remember where) about a father and son trying to reconcile after the son radically warped his body so that he could explore an alien world. That story had more tension, because the son had done what he did as part of paying a price to do the work that he loved. That story had other problems - I remember being particularly critical of it - but it had more drama.

That sounds like "The Homecoming" by Mike Resnick, a Hugo nominee run on Escape Pod 3 years ago, though the description you gave is general enough it might be something else:
http://escapepod.org/2012/05/10/ep344-the-homecoming/

Did you all notice that line
Quote
It’s a little unnerving how much more frequently you get cat-called.

I did notice that line, and couldn't help but groan at the pun.  Would've been less distracting if her mods so far had been anything but cat-derived.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #15 on: March 03, 2015, 04:21:12 PM
Yes, The Homecoming. That's definitely it. Thank you.

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Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #16 on: March 03, 2015, 05:36:20 PM
Did you all notice that line
Quote
It’s a little unnerving how much more frequently you get cat-called.

I did notice that line, and couldn't help but groan at the pun.  Would've been less distracting if her mods so far had been anything but cat-derived.


She had a budgie voice, and feathers...

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Unblinking

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Reply #17 on: March 03, 2015, 05:50:49 PM
Did you all notice that line
Quote
It’s a little unnerving how much more frequently you get cat-called.

I did notice that line, and couldn't help but groan at the pun.  Would've been less distracting if her mods so far had been anything but cat-derived.


She had a budgie voice, and feathers...

And big whiskers on her face, yes.  I overspoke by saying all the mods, but when one looks at her face one can hardly not notice the whiskers.

(Redacting because Fenrix is less lazy then I am and actually looked in the text.)
« Last Edit: March 03, 2015, 07:24:33 PM by Unblinking »



Fenrix

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Reply #18 on: March 03, 2015, 07:19:50 PM
Did you all notice that line
Quote
It’s a little unnerving how much more frequently you get cat-called.

I did notice that line, and couldn't help but groan at the pun.  Would've been less distracting if her mods so far had been anything but cat-derived.


She had a budgie voice, and feathers...

And big whiskers on her face, yes.  I overspoke by saying all the mods, but when one looks at her face one can hardly not notice the whiskers.

The line about cat-calling came right after her first mod. Which was a cat mod.

***

Quote
You take a half-day from work for the procedure. It’s in-and-out; the first modifications are often slight, like the remaining balance in your bank account.

When you come to, face smarting, the air feels different. The surgeon brings you a mirror. Quivering on either side of the bead of your nose is a set of whiskers. Your upper lip is swathed in bandages, but you know beneath them each long white hair extends from a dark spot like a freckle.

Delicately, you brush the end of one, and it sets a vibration and a numb blood-beat of pain through your nose and lips.

“Be very careful,” the surgeon warns. “You’ll need some time to adjust.” He ticks off a list of activities you must avoid while the site heals.

Still gazing at yourself in the mirror, you decide the whiskers add seriousness and studiousness to your face. When the bandages come off, they might even be sensual.

#

Friends and coworkers notice the change immediately. Strangers take an interest in you. It’s a little unnerving how much more frequently you get cat-called.

The whiskers change your sense of the world, of crowded spaces and dark rooms. At first, taking the bus is overwhelming, the whoosh and sway of doors opening and people moving and crowding you. Then you savor every trickle of air that works its way to you through your lips. You decide you’re ready to try dating, or even just to kiss someone.

You begin to dress differently and to move differently, with more grace. Your boss notices the change, too. He doesn’t say anything untoward, but you get recommended for a pay raise at the end of the quarter. You already have your next modification in mind.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #19 on: March 04, 2015, 11:27:29 AM
Please accept my sincerest apologies, I was parking the car at the time and may have lost the linear thread.

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Reply #20 on: March 04, 2015, 04:05:08 PM
Please accept my sincerest apologies, I was parking the car at the time and may have lost the linear thread.

No worries, dude.  Nothing to apologize for.

In any case, whether or not other mods had been applied, the cat mods plus "cat-calling" was hard to not take as a groaner pun for me.



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #21 on: March 04, 2015, 05:57:28 PM
Please accept my sincerest apologies, I was parking the car at the time and may have lost the linear thread.

No worries, dude.  Nothing to apologize for.

In any case, whether or not other mods had been applied, the cat mods plus "cat-calling" was hard to not take as a groaner pun for me.

Are there other kinds of puns (not groaners)?

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Reply #22 on: March 04, 2015, 06:35:40 PM
Are there other kinds of puns (not groaners)?

To me there are, yes.  There's a spectrum from "smirkers" to "groaners".  I don't think any of them would've been good here, mind you.  And maybe the author didn't intend a pun at all. 



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #23 on: March 04, 2015, 06:37:16 PM
Are there other kinds of puns (not groaners)?

To me there are, yes.  There's a spectrum from "smirkers" to "groaners".  I don't think any of them would've been good here, mind you.  And maybe the author didn't intend a pun at all. 

My spectrum runs the gamut from groaners to "go sit in the corner and think about what you've done".

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Chairman Goodchild

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Reply #24 on: March 05, 2015, 02:28:00 PM
I think my favorite thing about this story is that the chimera modifications are not purely cosmetic in nature.
Her whiskers get attached to her brain, and the brain can decipher this new sensory input. The ears can swivel and hear better. And so on.
This isn't about people modifying the way they look, it's about modifying the way they perceive the world...

I'm agreeing with Max here, and I have to pick a bone with the people that called this procedure mere plastic surgery.  This is the kind of stuff plastic surgeons only dream they could do.  Making completely new tissues with working epithelial, nervous, muscle and circulatory systems and then hooking that up to a working organism is way into the science fiction territory.  And like I said before, this is the sort of science fiction that I really like.  There's nothing impossible about it, and if this level of technology were ever achieved and brought down to the level where an average person could afford it, bet your ass you'd see some freaky shit going on.  
« Last Edit: March 05, 2015, 02:33:03 PM by Chairman Goodchild »



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Reply #25 on: March 05, 2015, 03:14:28 PM
I'm agreeing with Max here, and I have to pick a bone with the people that called this procedure mere plastic surgery.  This is the kind of stuff plastic surgeons only dream they could do.  Making completely new tissues with working epithelial, nervous, muscle and circulatory systems and then hooking that up to a working organism is way into the science fiction territory.  And like I said before, this is the sort of science fiction that I really like.  There's nothing impossible about it, and if this level of technology were ever achieved and brought down to the level where an average person could afford it, bet your ass you'd see some freaky shit going on.  

I'd pay a downpayment on the swivel ears right now!  I had a papillon a few years ago, and even when she was napping her ears would point toward any noises--her eyes would stay shut unless the noise was unusual or exciting in some way because she was confident that her ears were enough to suss out exciting from the mundane.  I always thought those ears would be a cool biological trait. 

I agree that it's much more than just cosmetic surgery.  Changes certainly have a cosmetic effect, but when you're installing new sensory organs you are recalibrating your experience of the world--that's way more than cosmetic.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2015, 03:16:11 PM by Unblinking »



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Reply #26 on: March 06, 2015, 09:51:34 AM
Are there other kinds of puns (not groaners)?

To me there are, yes.  There's a spectrum from "smirkers" to "groaners".  I don't think any of them would've been good here, mind you.  And maybe the author didn't intend a pun at all. 

My spectrum runs the gamut from groaners to "go sit in the corner and think about what you've done".
There's also the "bunt" see the Blurry Photos podcast www.blurryphotos.org for more...



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Reply #27 on: March 09, 2015, 09:17:16 PM
I think there is a fine line when it comes to experimenting with any form of self-modification. I see the mods in this story as a fairly flexible metaphor that can stand in for pretty much any form of experimenting: tattoos, clothing or hair style, even style of speech. We play with these elements both as a method of expressing ourselves better and as a method of finding external approval. The fine line comes in when we go too far because we are seeking acceptance through these modifications.

That's how I interpret that last line. She's concerned her friend is only modding to find outside approval, and also maybe wondering if she herself hasn't crossed that line as well.



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Reply #28 on: April 14, 2015, 07:52:41 PM
I like the story  but felt the  reference was more towards  Furry fandom (which I am part of) than cosmetic surgery. The mods like whiskers  were also functional than just cosmetic and the comment about hunting  Chimeras and other  "cat" calls  can come  straight out the moth of a anti-furry troll.
   An often conversations that pops up on furry boards is if the technology  was available would one transform themselves into an anthropomorphic  animal and issue one would face. 



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Reply #29 on: October 08, 2015, 05:18:41 PM
I liked this one.

I think the main topic is self esteem and wanting to belong. 
The changes are not a plastic surgery operations just for the outside looks, but a need to change oneself as a whole. They change how the character sees the surrounding world, and how she is seen by others.

Problem is, she is not choosing to change because of herself, but first because of her break up, and latter because she wanted to belong.

In the end she realizes that she is not happier than before.



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Reply #30 on: February 11, 2016, 07:59:55 PM
I wasn't a great fan of this story. I'm not big on the theme of changing yourself to find yourself or gain acceptance - it just doesn't speak to me.

I also don't think that sexism was the main theme of this story. While Max e{iPi} did a great job of pointing out the inherent sexism of the story's world, it felt to me that the sexism was just a tool to illuminate the changes the main character was going through. The main reason I think this is because the sexism was too blatant. In our real world, you can no longer get away with cat calls (wolf whistles if you want to avoid cat puns) or hitting on your subordinates, so sexism is more subtle. Women are judged harshly on the basis of what they wear, the tone of their voice, and the words they use. And they are judged on these things in ways that men are not. That's the subtle sexism of today.



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Reply #31 on: February 11, 2016, 10:59:07 PM
In our real world, you can no longer get away with cat calls (wolf whistles if you want to avoid cat puns) or hitting on your subordinates, so sexism is more subtle.

These things still happen (though I think they're less widely acceptable).



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Reply #32 on: February 12, 2016, 12:32:43 AM
Quote
The main reason I think this is because the sexism was too blatant. In our real world, you can no longer get away with cat calls (wolf whistles if you want to avoid cat puns) or hitting on your subordinates, so sexism is more subtle. Women are judged harshly on the basis of what they wear, the tone of their voice, and the words they use. And they are judged on these things in ways that men are not. That's the subtle sexism of today.

It's actually both/and. Street harassment, I'm sad to say, is alive and well. So is workplace sexual harassment, both direct and indirect (although it varies by industry and workplace). I'm a little surprised to hear anyone suggest otherwise, but I understand these things are often invisible to male-presenting people, as catcallers and sexual harassers almost universally save their behavior for when women are alone, or only with other women.

Hell, just today a friend of mine went for a run, and some strange dude decided to join her, harassing her and keeping up creep-banter for literal miles. That ain't subtle harassment by any standard, and that's in full daylight in a suburban neighborhood in the middle of the day.

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CryptoMe

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  • ******
  • Posts: 1089
Reply #33 on: February 15, 2016, 04:06:29 PM
Hell, just today a friend of mine went for a run, and some strange dude decided to join her, harassing her and keeping up creep-banter for literal miles. That ain't subtle harassment by any standard, and that's in full daylight in a suburban neighborhood in the middle of the day.

No, that is not subtle at all!!
I guess it must be regional. I have noticed a decided improvement over the years where I live (Toronto). Not just in behaviour, but in everyone's attitude. The average man here no longer considers this kind of behaviour acceptable at all. So it's getting better. That said, most men won't even admit that the subtle forms of sexism exist or are a real problem. So, still more work to do.