Social standards of dress

I wrote this for a discussion on an Internet forum, in response to a person saying that it was “disrespectful” to violate social standards about what clothing to wear in specific situations.

It's easy for you to say that if you have the ability to conform to those social standards of dress (either at all, or without going to prohibitively large amounts of effort).

For instance, “dressing up” is a (not entirely anymore, but still mostly) gender-segregated thing: There isn't a way “to dress up”, there's a way “to dress up male” and a way “to dress up female”. This causes me two problems:

  1. Since I'm agender, there is no possible way for me to dress up.
  2. Even if I could, I wouldn't, because I hate gendered conventions with a fiery passion.

I personally deal with this by never going to a venue that requires me to dress up, but not everybody has the luxury of being able to avoid such venues.

And to some people, “dress up” means “buy an extra garment you can ill afford”.

Or “Battle your depression into letting you spend lots of effort dealing with clothes and body stuff, using energy you would rather have spent on the actual task”.

Or “Spend all day trying to overcome social anxiety to go ask some social person to help you choose clothing because you cannot seem to understand what the conventions are”.

Or many other things.

My moral system says it's intolerable to pressure someone into doing the above things merely to make them look “nicer”, so I cannot agree with a set of conventions that does that. So maybe there are two options left:

  1. Pressure people to do that if it's easy for them, but don't pressure people if it's too hard for them;
  2. View clothing conventions as optional and don't pressure anybody to do them.

Option A is completely impossible, since you cannot actually know how hard it is for people (unless you're going to go around asking them all the time, which would be a total waste of effort and probably a form of pressure in itself). So, lacking any other choice that isn't repugnant to me, I take option B.

– Eli

A little update

I still haven't been doing much for a while - mostly playing online games, watching videos, and so forth. Oh, and running a quirky Mafia variant on an internet forum - you can check it out over here on the XKCD forums if you're into that sort of thing. My inactivity has a lot to do with the fact that it's late in the summer, it's hot all the time, and I haven't been talking to other people too much. (Getting at least a little interaction with other people helps me, because it stimulates my mind and gives me new ideas.) I'm going to be going back to college relatively soon, too, and that's discouraging me from getting into projects a bit, even though I still have about three weeks left.

That said, I've still got a couple of projects running. I'm working on them occasionally, it's just that they're not taking the majority of my time.

One of them is that I'm learning more Javascript, so that I can make cool online games and utilities. Check out this extremely-unfinished game for an example of what I'm messing with.

The other is this: Since I'm blocked on the graphics editing software project, I've started just drawing stuff in an existing graphics program (namely GIMP). Here's something I randomly sketched [...]

Continue reading...


Before we can really talk about pornography, we have to know what it is. Of course, defining “pornography” is notoriously difficult. There's even a quote from a former United States Supreme Court Justice saying “perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so”.1 I usually don't like going to dictionaries for answers, because dictionaries are often behind-the-times on social issues, but here, I'll go ahead and ask a dictionary. At the time I'm writing this, Wiktionary defines “pornography” as:

The explicit depiction of sexual subject matter, especially with the sole intention of sexually exciting the viewer.

That wasn't so hard.2 So, we're basically talking about stories, pictures, videos, and so on, of people having sex or being in sexual situations, whatever that means.

Anyway, sounds great, right? I mean, most people enjoy a certain [...]

Continue reading...


So, I was thinking about this game I'm writing. I mostly only have vague ideas at this point, but it's going to be one of those games where you control a human and explore the world and fight various enemies. And maybe you'll find various equipment – different weapons and armor that you can switch around.

I'm a mathematician, so I love generalizing things. So I looked at the switching-around system and said “How much can I generalize this?” And so I immediately thought of allowing you, the player, to switch off your arms and legs and replace them with robot arms and legs, or use cool bio-technology to give yourself tentacles instead. And you can't really have a “switch one thing for another” system unless you can switch one thing for nothing. Maybe you could take off your arms and sell them in a shop? Sounds ridiculous, but I've definitely played games where you can do things like that!

But anyway, the real thing I want to talk about isn't taking off your arms, it's just taking off your clothing, which has a lot of different social implications, for some damn reason.

So I've got a choice. Do I allow the player to have zir character take off all zir clothes,1 or don't I?

Suppose I do. Then I take a nice walk into the [...]

Continue reading...

Scrutinized words: man, woman, boy, girl

“Man”, “woman”, “boy”, and “girl” are scrutinized words on this website. You're allowed to use them, but if you do, they will be marked like this: man, woman, boy, girl, men, women, boys, girls.

I encourage you to use gender-neutral alternatives, like “adult”, “child”, or just “person”, as I do. When I'm specifying someone's gender on purpose, I do it explicitly, as in “male person”.

Womyn and wymyn1 are also included for completeness, because I've seen people use them on the Internet. I wanted to include “guy” in the list, but “guy” also means a lot of other things.


Because they lump together a lot of different concepts, and lumping those concepts together is sometimes harmful to people.

Now I'm going to take a step back and explain that. The trouble is, it's not easy to do that. So I'm going to take another five steps back and [...]

Continue reading...

Scrutinized words: she, he

“She” and “he” are scrutinized words on this website. You're allowed to use them, but if you do, they will be marked like this: She, he, her, him, hers, his, herself, himself.

I encourage you to use the singular “they” or the gender-neutral pronoun “ze”, as I do. You use it the same way as “she”, “he”, or “they”:

Subject Object Possessive


When you call a person “she” or “he”, you explicitly assign a gender to them. Gender is important to lots of people, but these words are very short and common, so you usually read past them without thinking about them. By marking them, I make it more obvious how important they are.

Since “she” and “he” are structural components of the language, it's very hard to avoid using them unless you're willing to modify the language itself. And because they're so hard to avoid, they force you to divide all humans into two classes: The “she”-humans and the “he”-humans.

That division is called “the gender binary”. I don't like it.

If you include the gender binary in every sentence you write, speak, or think, then it becomes part of your [...]

Continue reading...