c.e. taillefer

October 30, 2014

#GameOverGate

By

Gamergate* is dead.  Indeed, it’s been dead in the water since it began.  I’m not going to cover the genesis, or the long arc of harassment and continued misunderstandings about what words like “ethics“, “games” or “journalism” mean. That, as you can see, has already been extensively covered.

But like a rapidly transmitted virus – say, the flu – the reach of Gamergate went far beyond the borders of the nation of ManCavelandia to find coverage in the mainstream media from the likes of NPR, PBS or the New York Post.  In no particular order, the death of Gamergate:

1) Actually…

No one actually buys the ethics in games journalism defence.  It was a slapdash bandaid applied to a bitter ex’s angry blog rant about a claim of collusion that is provably false. More than a few minutes spent in any of the forums for pro-GG posters show that a) they’re primarily concerned with punishing women who critique the game industry status quo and b) they have no fucking idea what ethics in journalism actually means, since they feel like games coverage shouldn’t be critical or negative of a product when that company also advertises with you.  No, really.

gamergate-memes-actuallyethics-04

The smokescreen of ethics probably makes the next point so infuriating.

2) Mainstream media coverage:

In a setting where “fair and balanced” coverage means giving both sides of the story equal play, even if one side is completely ridiculous (looking at you, climate change “debates”), the MSM has been unequivocally critical of Gamergate. New York Times coverage focuses on GG as a movement devoted to silencing feminist critics of games, Forbes ran an article criticizing Intel’s decision in pulling advertising based on the campaign, and big name stations like CNN and the BBC covered the Utah State massacre threats because, well, obviously.

In fact, the only thing GG appears to have been remotely successful at with regards to mainstream media is getting Anita Sarkeesian interviewed on everything, including the Colbert report:

(In a cute piece of irony Alanis would love, most GGers seem to believe this is a coop for the movement because Stephen Colbert argues for boobies in video games.)

3)  Everyone knows it’s about hating women.

Chris Kluwe took basically an enormous verbal dump on Gamergate hydra-like head, and nothing happened. (He made a few people cry, maybe.) Nerd idols like Joss Whedon, Wil Wheaton and Greg Rucka have all spoken against the toxic nature of the movement.  And yet, it’s Anita Sarkeesian, Felicia Day, Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu – all relative small potatoes, until they got national attention for being targets, anyway – were the ones threatened.  Those threats were widely reported on, which led to a number of reporters looking into men who have criticized GG, and why they weren’t threatened.  Considering this is the media that was hesitant to talk about the Isla Vista shooter’s misogyny, don’t you think that’s a little telling?

4) Games are changing.

Anita covers it a bit in her talk, but the truth is that interdisciplinary programs are gaining ground in universities and colleges, and many media labs and incubators have computer scientists who are artists as well, visual artists who can code, writers who can market.  This isn’t just meant to double-dip and save money, but rather reflect the flexibility and diversity of the world in the people who make games, so that games can grow beyond the linear narrative structures and kill-to-win models that dominate a lot of major game studios’ portfolios.  Sandbox games like Animal Crossing, Tomodachi Life, the Sims, and Fantasy Life are immensely popular, entertaining and fun.  You can’t beat them them.  The only way to win is the satisfaction of enjoying the game while playing it.

Same.

Olaf gets it.

What’s more, you get games like Fold it, where the satisfaction and enjoyment from the game can also be derived from the sense of purpose that succeeding has applicable, real-life benefits.  Check out the latest puzzle, for example, where players need to find a way to bypass a cap on the ebola virus that prevents a cure from binding before the virus can bind to a human host. Terrified of ebola? Be the actual change here.

Gamification has gotten a bad rap because it’s used so poorly in most cases. rewards based systems only work so long as the reward is high enough value for you to press through doing your homework, or chores, or job.  But gamification done well broadens the scope and arena of gaming to be pretty much limitless, which is terrifying for Gamergate.  How can it be a special club if everyone enjoys it?

*not to be confused with gamergates, or reproductively viable worker ants.

December 12, 2013

An Island Never Cries: The Enlightenment, Feminism and Loneliness

By

I’ve been mulling over this idea for a while now, ever since a coworker posted an article about being a “feminist killjoy” (guilty!) and my general sense of consternation and disappointment in feminist communities. In the past I’ve jokingly said I can focus on more than one thing wrong with sexism at once, but lately I’ve been feeling stretched out in too many directions, wondering where all the disconnects came from and what happened to genuine community.

There are many good reasons for a lack of solidarity and community within feminism.  Trans women are understandably leery of the movement since TERFs poisoned the well with their dangerous rhetoric.  Women of colour have often been excluded from, if not experienced downright hostility by, white feminism.  (See the #solidarityisforwhitewomen tweets that @karnythia got rolling late this summer.)  To many women, feminism has always been synonymous with white, middle class cis women.

I can’t remember a time where I didn’t personally identify as feminist.  It’s possible part of it stemmed from the fact that I was (and still am) a contrary asshole, and I was surrounded by sexism, so rebelling against that became important to me.  A lot of my fledgling feelings about women’s rights were crystallized through stuff like volunteering with Scarleteen in my young adult life.

But then in college, I remember picking up a feminist theology book, either edited or written by Mary Daly, and reading it in the tub one night after class.  Before the water had even stopped steaming, I had to put it down, confused.  Not only did it seem intellectually dishonest – reading aspects of modern feminism back into first century Palestine to the point of speculating the magi visiting baby Jesus might have actually been witches – but it was patently wrong in its examinations of gender and sexuality.  (Mary Daly was quite well known for her vicious transphobia, as I later learned.)  I didn’t like the idea of that being what people thought of when I said I was a feminist, and a theologian.  Was Jesus a feminist? No! Would he be a feminist, if he lived today? Probably (or something similar.)  For me, believing and studying the gospel made me feel that social justice is the only acceptable solution; not that social justice should be read backwards in order to rearrange the gospel to suit us.

I began to read more widely and found some really excellent stuff (Jess (Yee) Danforth’s Feminism for Real, for example, and Lauren Chief Elk, who’s currently getting well-deserved accolades for her letter to Eve Ensler). I also found a lot of feminist stuff that made me deeply uncomfortable – male feminist “allies” getting far more air time than the women who said it better before them; a trend towards making feminism fun, sexy and palatable; feminist narratives around choice that implied that… well, Lisa Simpson says it pretty good:

No, no, I was talking about “As a feminist, virtually anything a woman does is empowering.”

Now, I’m pretty sure that the line in the Simpsons is meant to be a rib at exactly that kind of thinking.  Lisa Simpson, while totally amazing, is also only eight years old and she’s a great avatar therefore for subtly jabbing at misguided ideals.  My biggest and most growing uncertainty about my role within feminism as a community lately has been centred mostly around issues of choice and individualism.

It’s important to remember that, historically speaking, concepts of individuality are relatively young.  The Enlightenment was only a few hundred years ago, after all.  It hasn’t been all bad; concepts of individual human rights isn’t something I’m ready to chuck out.  For certain issues – like reproductive choice – the individual is the only person that matters. That’s the kind of thing, in my mind, “your freedom to do whatever you want ends where my body begins” as an ideal was meant for.

Now, forgive me, because this part is ticklish.  But I’m finding myself more and more concerned with certain aspects of feminism where the individual choice is held paramount and therefore, because the individual is a feminist, the choices are therefore also feminist.

Last year, I had the honour of attending the Faculty of Celebrity Studies hosted by Elaine Lui. You can read the whole experience on my post about it, but a lot of the discourse from the audience was about how they had chosen to become stay at home moms, and how mean feminists were for criticizing their choices, and blah blah blah until I got all Mount St Helen and caused a scene.

Look, it should be obvious: can you be a stay at home mom, and a feminist? YES.  Is being a stay at home mom a feminist choice? Well, for one – how do you define what a feminist choice is?  But more importantly, is it even a choice, when it’s typically more practical for a two-income family that a woman stay at home because she earns less? Or that even today, we’re still primarily bombarded with messages of motherhood being the ultimate fulfilment of being a woman?  (Having done some Christmas shopping for my niece recently, with massive difficulties in even finding gifts that weren’t kitchen or baby-doll related, I’d argue it’s even worse than when I was young!)

Or take a recent post at popular blog Shakesville, there’s a post against this article on high heels (which is admittedly, terrible in equating high heels to self-injury, and issues of consent, which redlightpolitics addresses in her storify on white feminists and consent.) This comes on the, pardon the expression, heels of the selfie conflict sparked by Jezebel, which created interesting dialogue about combating male gaze and controlling the photographic narrative.

But the argument that heels are an important feminist decision because they allow women to feel sexy and/or professional, particularly fat women, doesn’t sit right with me either.  Can feminists wear heels? Yeah, for sure.  Is it a way of spitting in the eye of the patriarchy? I don’t know.  I don’t think so.

There shouldn’t be an argument that long-term use of heels, particularly high ones, or heels with narrow toes, do damage to your feet.  There’s no question I’ve seen some seriously hyperbolic rhetoric out there comparing high heels to … idk, burkas and FGM.  That’s bullshit.  Spinning “to wear heels or not to wear heels” as an issue of feminist choice feels bad to me, on a few levels.  One, it feels like we’re gilding the cage.  Heels are necessary, it can be argued, to be seen as professional in the office. Yes. Similar to office dress code rules about cleavage, shaved legs, etc., if you don’t want to be the centre of a shitstorm, you suck it up and follow the code. I don’t feel comfortable spinning that damned if you do, damned if you don’t choice as a feminist act.  We should openly acknowledge it as one of the series of concessions we make in our day to day lives in order to not be in combat 24/7.

I also want to acknowledge that for trans woman, this issue is wrapped up in much more troubling and dangerous narratives about femininity, passing and safety, and I want to be clear that I would never question any woman’s choice about clothing.  Criticizing the practice, and the social history surrounding it is necessary to breaking down the restrictions, though.

There’s been a backlash lately against ironic racism, or ironic sexism, particularly in the comedy world.  If you’re a member of the privileged class, making jokes that sound exactly like racism or sexism, and copping out of it by saying “But I’m not ACTUALLY a racist” is rightly mocked or called out.  Whatever someone’s personal intent is, the audience at large can’t judge it’s truthfulness; only the surface.  Similarly, when a woman wears heels or chooses to stay at home with her kids, there’s no way of knowing at first whether this is a conspicuous choice, or just going with the flow because that’s how life is, or a combination of both.

This does not look like aspic. Some 50s housewife!

This does not look like aspic. Some 50s housewife!

And so on, with sex positivity (sorry, I don’t find vagina-centred feminism very positive, or inclusive, Vagina Monologues)(Eve Ensler’s on everyone’s shit list today!), shaving/waxing/plucking, etc. etc.

Remember the Enlightenment, and me cursing it’s name? (Oh, I haven’t yet? Fuck you, Enlightenment. Eat a butt John Stuart Mill) Here’s where it’s getting me into deep shit. Criticizing the practices has become criticizing the individuals who have made that choice.  Because you’re implying they’re too stupid to not know the societal constraints (They’re not, and I’m not).  Or that you think someone can’t genuinely derive enjoyment from painting their nails or cleaning their house (patently untrue, though I will bemusedly welcome house-cleaning lovers to enjoy my poor cluttered basement if they’re bored).

It’s almost as if the meaning of “the personal is political” has been turned on its head to indicate that personal choices – no matter what they might be – are important political statements.  This is only true if the important political people are recognizing that those personal choices are subversive (and again, in some cases, like abortion, they are!). But when your subversive choices look identical to patriarchal buy-in, then what? The argument then becomes “Well, why aren’t you fighting the patriarchy instead of other feminists?”

The move towards fun sexy feminism has alarmed me in a number of ways. One, we end up with a lot of gross male allies who realize that saying they’re feminist gets them laid. For another, we end up with vitally important concepts like consent being boiled down to “because it gets you laid (and also not charged with rape)”.  Tied into that last link, we also get a bunch of corporate buy-in from Pantene and Dove marketing their beauty care products to women with mildly feminist messages or ideas, which feels alarmingly like point one, only with companies.  Capitalism is anti-thesis to feminism. Shouldn’t we be skeptical?

The problem with skepticism is its lonely.  The moment where you realize you’re a feminist killjoy and you lose all your friends is lonely.  The moment where you realize you’re a feminism killjoy and you don’t even really fit into with a lot of feminist spaces is lonely.  How do we build bridges?  How do people participate in feminism when there are many avenues in which its gone that they don’t agree with, when critiques have become personal jabs rather than a plea to think critically? Is this navel-gazing tome of a blog entry just more of the same? Where do you fit?

September 12, 2013

Villainous Vixens: Rebutting the “mad maidens” principle

By

(See WoW Insider’s “Open Letter to Jaina Proudmoore” for backstory. Be warned of 5.4 spoilers!)

If it comes as a surprise to anyone that I love ladies behaving badly in Warcraft (and other storytelling mediums), then I invite you to take a gander at my two Blizzard Story contest entries, where I think about Blood Queen Lana’thel and Leyara’s histories, respectively.

It’s hard being Alliance for all your WoW-playing career and having a fascination with villainy, because they tend to either be a part of the Horde (Sylvanas) or quest/dungeon/raid bosses (Keristrasza, Leyara, BQL, ad nauseum).  The Blizzard Story contest is, at the moment, defunct, but I had been planning exploring a Sylvanas story after reading Dave Kosak’s short story, Edge of Night, because I did find it very interesting that she wasn’t present at Arthas’ death.

A lot of this is born out of my frustration that women in Warcraft tend to be pushed to their limits by the storylines, and then callously abandoned to their fate (often death, at the hands of us “heroes”) when they’re deemed irredeemable. Keristrasza was captured, abused and forced to be Malygos’ consort after she murdered his previous one, and you have to kill her in the Nexus, an act which the wiki entry for her states “a sad, but necessary end.”

so much dragon rape in this game!

so much dragon rape in this game!

Lana’thel is forced into service for the Lich King when she faced him at Northrend, armed with her former friend’s blade Quel’delar, which she was overwhelmed by Frostmourne, and forced to serve him. (Sensing a theme?) Leyara’s grief and anger at the Horde, and her father-in-law’s madness leads her to ally with the minions of Ragnaros because she doesn’t feel she has anything left to live for (and she doesn’t even make it into the dungeons, you kill her during a quest chain.)

This female madness issue didn’t start with Wrath, nor end in Cata.  In Pandaria, where strong emotions are made physically manifest in the Sha, both Suna Silentstrike and Liu Flameheart become infested with Sha, and the players are forced to kill them. It would not be so very telling if not for the fact that Tarah Zhu, leader of the Shado-Pan, is similarly affected, but in the dungeon where you encounter him, all the player needs to do is drive the Sha out of his body, and defeat it.

If that’s the case, why did Suna and Liu have to die? Their grief and doubt – at the loss of a beloved husband, the fear of failing your god – are perfectly reasonable within the context of their stories, which were created by the writers and quest developers. Why do the women of Warcraft only get one chance at redemption, and then only through death?

What’s even more fascinating is that this is a narrative that’s not just played out in the game and supplemental materials, but also in the fan base. Jaina factors into this because like Suna and Leyara, she’s lost loved ones, people she was a leader to. Her story has always been one of courage and of loss.  SPOILERS for 5.4 to follow the cut:

Read more ››

May 6, 2013

Game of Thrones and Sexualized Violence

By

I have been mad at Game of Thrones before. I was mad when they made Daenerys’ wedding night into a graphic rape scene. I was mad at some of the asshole-clenchingly awful sexposition scenes. I was mad about the attempted rape on Sansa during the riot (and the dream-recap the next night). I was livid about the scene where Joffrey abuses two prostitutes.

Last night, I was mad enough to actually stand up and yell a lot. There was huffing. I scared Gary.

Read more ››

March 22, 2013

You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry (But you don’t seem to like when I’m polite, either)

By

There have been a lot of reasons to be angry this week. Truly, legitimately angry.  Most prominent would be the Stuebenville verdict and the backlash Jane Doe has faced. (And her compassionate response to everything continues to be an incredible inspiration to me.)

Or how about Adria Richards, who tweeted a request for PyCon employees to deal with some con-goers making sexual jokes. She did it via twitter in order to not disrupt the on-going presentation, and tweeted a picture IDing the perpetrators.  As you can see, it was handled! Excellent. However…not only is PyCon in the midst of changing their code of conduct after the fact to avoid similar firestorms, but Adria also lost her job (as did one of the men making the jokes) over the incident after internet heroes started ddosing her company’s website, not to mention the ubiquitous threats and slurs.

Or the release of Anita Sarkeesian’s first video in her Tropes versus Women project, which is wholly (almost to the point of blandness) the bare bones of feminism 101, and still received and continues to receive a shitstorm of threats, not to mention just plain absurd accusations of being a Fake Gamer Girl.

Right, so here’s the thing.

I do not, as a matter of course, wake up angry. When I got married, more than one person signed off their cards with, “never go to bed angry” and I try to hold to that. (I guess they meant towards my husband and not existentially, but eh, what’re you gonna do?) I do not even engage in people saying things I disagree with angry.

But I sure do get angry fast when my (to my mind) relatively mild disagreement becomes phrased as “too angry” or “an attack” or, my personal favourites “irrational and/or hysterical”.  Nothing in my entire experience prepared me for how easily people will call you angry – and then suddenly, other people see it too! Whatever the topic of conversation was, it falls to the wayside in the wake of a discussion on whether or not I was angry, am I justifiably angry, how much literal venom am I pouring into innocent bystanders ears. “You’re right,” I murmur, “I was angry all along. I retract my position because this anger is unbecoming and causes frown lines.”

Okay, maybe not the last part. But I do, at that point, start get angry. Anger has perhaps even become a default starting point, if only so I can skip the song and dance about exactly how angry I am. It’s like cutting out the embarrassing stumbling around after someone asks you if you’re pregnant. (“No, just fat. welp, you must be embarrassed.”)

So, yeah, I’m angry.  I’m angry that in the year of our lord twenty thirteen we are still having discussions about whether or not a woman has a right to bodily autonomy; yes, even if she signed a contract. I’m angry that I see women going before me into the tech and game industries and be pushed aside, pushed out or drop out from the sheer exhaustion of dealing with idiot men. I’m angry that most people can’t point out what rape is on a map. Sometimes I take that anger and channel it into a project I’m working on. And sometimes I use it to fuel a discussion about any of those topics long past the point where I just want to throw up my hands, understand that equality isn’t ever going to really happen except on the most superficial levels, and sleep the day away in a pillow fort filled with cats.

I’m tired of fighting in my own circles. I have just as many, if not MORE, arguments with people who want to be allies and other feminists, than I do with Straight Up Card Carrying Misogynists. Sometimes these arguments can be good, a way to clarify and expand on my own thoughts on feminism and women’s rights. Often, they’re infuriating, borne out of a societal drive to promote a Meritocratic Individual who Has Opinions (And opinions, naturally, can never be wrong.) I don’t like being angry at people who are ostensibly “on my side” but I don’t want the half-assed deals they’re offering, either!

When women were imprisoned during the American federal suffragette movement, due to bullshit charges (Obstructing Traffic, for example), when they were issued pardons, some refused to take them, because they hadn’t committed a crime to begin with. Taking the pardons meant admitting guilt in the original instance. There are hundreds of posts’ worth of problems with first-wave feminism, but I admire that particular spirit.  I don’t want fun, sexy feminism. I don’t want to assuage men that I shave my legs, and abhor misandry to get them on board. I want them on board because it’s the right thing to do.

Yeah, I’m angry. What are you going to do about it?

March 8, 2013

Tropes versus Women – Damsel in Distress 1

By

Hey, Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency released the very first episode of her long-awaited kickstarter Tropes versus Women project. Check it out if you have a chance, the history on certain video games (Super Mario Bros 2 was new to me and really interesting!) I’m looking forward to part 2 of damsels in distress, as well as the other topics she’s planning on covering.

February 25, 2013

Satire Punches Down. Again.

By

Look, no one thought Seth MacFarlane hosting the Oscars was going to be good. Oscar hosting is rarely ever good. Putting MacFarlane onstage in a suit is the Oscar equivalent of the youth pastor bringing in electric guitars because “kids like that stuff, right?” In other words, the Academy is full of out of touch, old white dudes and it shows.

You’d think with how much of the bit was scripted that someone would have blown the whistle on paedophilia jokes, or maybe domestic violence jokes. But that’s given out of touch old white dudes a bit too much credit for even remotely being aware of, let alone caring about the problems in making “jokes” like those. Dana at Slate puts an optimistic spin on the night as “defensive anxiety” about the loss of privilege, and she’s right in a way, but that doesn’t negate the fact that people up on stage in front of an audience of millions have zero compunction about airing those anxieties in ways that continue to hurt the people below them.

The crap cherry on the shit sundae was MacFarlane’s implied – and then the Onion’s overt – joke about Quvenzhané Wallis being a c*nt. The sheer amount of bile lodged in your gut to even think about making a statement like that on a public stage must be astounding. Saying it’s reprehensible because she’s a child implies, some people argue, that it’ll be okay when she’s a little older, but I think this is where the whole idea of feminism focusing on sexualisation versus sexism is rearing its head again, a little. By making the conversation about sexualisation, set up as the enemy of morality and family values – just like reproductive and LGBT rights are – we end up feeding back into the patriarchal systems that ‘family values’ represents, with the added bonus of coddling misogyists feelings, because attacking sexism attacks them – sexualisation however is just a problem in society, you know, out there. It also negates the idea that there can ever be something like sex positivity. Sexualisation uplifts only so much as men find value in your sexuality, and then is used to shut you back down again. Within the context of viewing sexism as sexualisation, women find it more and more difficult to find worth in their own sexuality – you’re either a whore, a sell-out to raunch culture, or you’re an uptight prude (but secretly valued).

A corollary: this article about a parent finding a censored version of Game of Thrones, where much of the sexual content has been removed, so they could watch with their daughter.  If you have the stomach to read the comments, most of them criticize the writer for being squeamish about sex, but not about violence.  Very few speak up about the fact that nearly every sex scene in the entire show to date is non-consensual, and therefore, acts of violence in themselves.  Viewing it as sexualisation (ie: scenes to titillate) is setting up the writer as the Upholder of Family Values and the opposition as enlightened, pro-sexuality, though very little about Game of Thrones sex is actually about sex at all. The author even clarifies with an update that the reason he would let his daughter watch a sex-edited, but not violence-edited version of GoT is because someone getting an axe to the head is unequivocally denounced by society, whereas coercion and rape are still very much “grey areas” for pretty much anyone living in a rape culture.

All of this is pretty much a round-about way to say it’s easy to see why grown-ass men feel they can get away with calling a pre-teen black girl a c*nt – it’s a knotty racist mess tied up with the concept of culture as sexualised and not sexist. It’s wrong because she’s a child, yes, but it’s wrong because she’s black too. It’s wrong because she’s a girl in a society that doesn’t value its girls and women.  It’s the same conflation of ugly humanity that led people to divebomb Amandla Stenberg for having the audacity to be black and play a black character. They’re both seen as powerless in so many ways: young, women, black.  It’s utter bullshit and yet people get away with it – I’d wager that racism has undergone a softening of terms as well, couching it under something like racialization? – the same way sexism has.  Remember, it’s JUST AS BAD, if not worse, to call someone a racist or a sexist.

Don’t let language get in the way of calling sexism what it is.  Don’t hesitate to let the Onion know exactly how you feel.  If men are feeling defensively anxious about the loss of their space at the top of the food chain, press the attack and push them down.  Dare I say it, use the power of satire to pull the rugs out from these motherfuckers and let them fall flat on their face.  Satire punches – don’t let them punch us down.

ETA: The Onion makes their apology.

April 10, 2012

The Esteemed and Noble Culture of H…Hentai?

By

So there’s a makeup company making its name on the cache of nerdism, which, whatever, I partake of nerdy things and cosmetics, so I can’t really judge someone for the combination of the two. They have a lip gloss called “Tentacle Grape”, (edit Feb 18 2013: Now called Willful Wyvern, apparently!) which aside from being hideous as sin, is also a pretty tasteless joke, which let’s be real, is so transparent my nana would have seen it.  And I love nana, but she’s getting on in years.

Which has upset a few people, myself included.  It was mentioned at them on their twitter, and also talked about on tumblr, and while initial responses in private were professional, eventually it came to a public vote and snide as fuck blog post.

Hey, remember this? Remember how well it turned out? Yeah. And that was just for a character model in an advertisement

The public is full of terrible idiots with awful track records with pretty much any sensitive topic, but asking for opinions on a rape joke, among a group of nerds, is just so mindbogglingly stupid I could barely wrap my head around it except rape as a joke is still all too common because “it’s meaning has changed.” or “I’m not actually advocating rape.” (Even though you totally are.)  This is not a new or particularly surprising opinion, nor is democratically putting it to a vote to prove that majority doesn’t think rape is a problem, hurray we solved rape!

I had a really great experience last night having a meal with about 12 people I really love and respect from all varieties of life and careers: old priest, young priest, teachers, doctors, dental hygienist, etc.  And me, Angry Feminist the First (though hopefully not the last) of this circle.  You know how you go home for the holidays and you cringe whenever any public issue is brought up around pie, because inevitably it’s going to end in shouting and tears?  This didn’t happen there. We talked about everything – sexism and racism around rap music and rock music, male privilege, problems with the white saviour attitude towards other nations, issues of the church adopting social justice language but not practice, all sorts of sticky, uncomfortable topics.

We didn’t all agree. But I came out of that dinner feeling revitalized, not beat down.  If we couldn’t see eye to eye on an issue to the same extremes I might take it, they still saw me as a person and valued my ideas and supported the way I want to go about perpetuating them in speech and actions, of myself and others.  It gave me hope that not backing down, calling things out, drawing the eye of privileged people to their straight privilege or their male privilege, while painful and difficult, can have value still.

Okay.  Let’s go back to the beginning. This is a makeup company. They sell lipgloss. And the hill they want to die on is making a giant, public mess over something that could have been easily avoided. I have enough BPAL to last me a lifetime, so I don’t frequent the company any more, but there’s been a number of issues with their oils: copyright infraction, lack of a component, too time-consuming to make.  They simply posted a note under the news section. “Oil of the Damned is being retired because blah blah reason.  If we can find a new component/easier formula it will come back (under a new name because copyright issues)”  Some people were like “Aw, man my favourite perfume!” when something was retired due to component probs, but I never – never once, and let me tell you the BPAL forums are not for the faint of heart – saw someone go “shit a new name, WELL I NEVER”

People bring out “Well, if I give in to everything people says is offensive, I won’t be able to say anything ever!”  They always say this! And yet, I haven’t seen it a) stop stupid people from saying offensive shit or b) stopped thoughtful people from going, “Actually, yeah, I found this word that works great in lieu of b*tch.”  Someone will say, “but I’ll apologize and they’ll still keep hounding me!” Really? because my experience has always been that a genuine apology and effort to not repeat the mistake has ended a potential shitstorm, even if the person correcting me still doesn’t particularly like me.

So: companies. Celebrities. People on twitter who don’t seem to know shit about the public eye of social media and blogging.  You can do things quietly. It’s okay.  Have convinction in your own decisions.  Retire Tentacle Grape and release it under a new name.  Absorb the complaints and say, “Thanks but no thanks, we’re keeping it as is.” Don’t put it to a public vote and then complain it should’ve been kept to email, okay? Unless you want this to be posted on dozens of blogs, because congratulations, it was a massive success.

April 4, 2012

Handsy Pandas and You: A Primer on What Not to Do

By

When I was able to create my pandaren monk on the beta realm, it took me a little while to get going – not because the monk isn’t fun and intuitive, because it is – but simply because the starting zone was overwhelmed with young pandaren burning scrolls and fighting trainees. Eventually though, I made it out into the wider world of the Wandering Isle to meet with Ji Firepaw.

Handsy Pandas and You: A Primer on What Not to Do
I can tell we’re going to become good friends. Not.

As Apple Cider points out on her blog, your first interaction with Ji is not good. In fact, if you’re a woman who’s faced cat calls or been accosted by guys in gas stations, “I bet you can’t keep men off you,” is a familiar and threatening thing to say.
Currently the Mists beta doesn’t have the in-game feedback system that previous betas have had. But since this is beta, and beta means feedback, she makes a post on the beta forums. The response is shamefully predictable, but to save you all the effort of reading seventeen (currently) horrible pages, I’ll break down the main arguments that have sifted to the top, like so much horrible skin on tomato soup.

1. You’re Just Being So Gosh-Darn Sensitive/You’re Looking to Be Offended/PC POLICE:
The most common thread, in pretty much every discussion on sexism, racism, homophobia, you name it, this one comes up. People are so afraid of offending people, they are constantly keeping silent with their awful sexist opinions because the mean, terrible Feminists will bear down on them with the fury of a thousand gods. Oh wait, no they don’t, because there are 17 pages on the Beta forums, over 400 comments on WoW Insider, and similar threads on MMO-Champion and Scrolls of Lore forums, all full of people eager to tell players uncomfortable with Ji’s dialogue that the PC Police are ruining their free speech, and somehow they actually haven’t made posts telling people providing feedback on Ji’s creepy attitude to shut up.

Look, feminists get told we’re too sensitive all the damn time. It’s a lazy argument, it’s malicious, and it’s just plain wrong. It’s lazy because it’s the strawman everyone knows and cuddles to them to warm themselves at night. It’s malicious because it’s a dog whistle term to point out to everyone how SHRILL and HYSTERICAL this feminist is being. Even though the original posts and follow-up comments by Apple Cider were perfectly reasonable and logical, suddenly everyone is seeing how sensitive and over-reacting she is. It takes that cuddly bedtime strawman, and props it up in front of what was actually being said all along. It’s wrong because we see and hear this every day of our lives. You’d be sensitive too if your whole life experience has taught you that “I can tell we’re going to be good friends” isn’t a giant red flag to run the fuck away.

2. It’s His Character to be a Womanizer/He is Just Really Friendly and Kind of Dumb (like men):
Okay. So? A number of solutions within that thread were actually posited to keep that aspect of Ji’s character, and have it not be totally creepy. He could comment on how strong the female pandaren are, the way he does with the men. He could say the line exactly how it is, but an option to react within the quest text box to tell him to shut up, or he’ll get a punch in the mouth would give female player characters agency to react to his come-on. He could say that line, but later in your interactions with him, where it’s not the very first thing he says to you. He could call both men and women some kind of gorgeous, which, despite claims to otherwise in the forum threads, I doubt would go down as smoothly as male posters are claiming. Remember Bioware? Remember The Straight White Male is Your Demographic? Remember Nerdism’s rampant homophobia? Remember those? They’re back.

Handsy Pandas and You: A Primer on What Not to Do
In Pog form!

How crucial is it to Ji’s character that he be a womanizer anyway, as if that was some character aspect and not a way the majority of men feel entitled to act towards women in general? Will changing that line, moving it or allowing players to react to it really diminish this guy’s character? Do you really have that little faith in Blizzard’s writers? More on that in #4.

3. He’s the Future Racial Leader of the Horde:

This one just makes me feel sad for all the cool-ass Horde players I know. “Of course he’s impulsive and stupid and kind of creepy to women, he’s going to be the Horde racial leader!” Really? This is the best you can come up with? Despite being Alliance forever, and really loving some of my racial leaders, like Mekkatorque and Velen, I can’t lie that the factional conflict within the Horde is appealing as a storyteller, and I miss that kind of interaction when I play Alliance. I don’t really like Garrosh or Sylvanas, the way I do say, Vol’jin, but damnit if their characters aren’t interesting or consistent. I don’t particularly like that Garrosh called Sylvanas a bitch, but I can grudgingly see why he thinks that way. That said, they are pretty established characters, with histories reaching back to TBC or right into the original RTS games. Ji is a completely new entity. Sure, start him out with some flaws, so there’s room for growth and interesting storytelling. But it makes me sad that for some reason, even some of the Horde players have internalized that the Horde is savage and brutal and dumb and gross.

4. Writing is Sacrosanct!

Are you ready for this one? BULLSHIT. Anyone who’s remotely put more than a few words down on a piece of paper in the interest of having others read it know that this is totally, utter and complete triceratops poop. For this reason, I can only assume people making this argument are the types who hit publish on Dec. 1st to Create Space for their epic Sonic the Hedgehog slash fanfiction novel.

Handsy Pandas and You: A Primer on What Not to Do
You’re damn right, Ian.

There’s a reason why people who critique your writing are called beta readers, and there’s a reason why beta testers are within their rights to critique game writing. For all it’s gorgeous scenery and actual playable female models for once, this is still a crude, unfinished product. It’s not set in stone, and even if it was live, that doesn’t mean they can’t change it. (Resquiat in pacem, Grea Red Elekk.) In fact, better to change it now, because once it goes live, people somehow feel entitled to it. Entitlement is a hell of a drug.

And trust me on this, writers are professionals. They get told to change things all the damn time. Sometimes to the detriment of the work, like the regular reminder from editors and publishers that queer main characters aren’t welcome in young adult writing. They actually don’t need you to go to bat for their feelings, because they’ve heard much much harsher critiques from the people paying them.
5. Well, Now You’re Getting Angry and That Means You Lose:
This is an argument I’ve been well-familiar with since I was old enough to argue in a manner that didn’t just consist of “no” and “why” (and let’s be real, even today that can make up the bulk of a heated discussion with me.) Anger can be passionate and productive and creative. It’s not an automatic lose. It shouldn’t be brought to the table at all. It, like the over-sensitive claim above, becomes another dog-whistle term where suddenly, everyone can see how angry you are. Even if you are still being perfectly calm and reasonable. And even if you weren’t, who cares?

Because this isn’t a win or lose thing, to me. And that’s the hell of it, folks. I don’t do this to win something. I do this to win rights, fair treatment, the sheer base consideration that women should get, but don’t, because for all claims otherwise that we’re post-feminist, or that feminism is now cool and fun, because you can still shave and be a feminist, being a feminist is still gritty and tough and not really fun. Winning an argument isn’t fun. It just means that maybe, down the road, the people I was talking to might rethink their words or actions because of what we talked about. Sometimes, ‘winning’ still means losing friends and acquaintances. And you know what? it’s still worth it, to speak truth to power, because even the little things, even one person, can make a difference. I do this for the women who don’t see a problem with getting hit on while walking down the street, or with Ji’s dialogue because if it was gone, they would probably never notice it wasn’t there anymore. It’s just become so much background noise that the tiny little blip won’t be noticeable.

But I’ll know. and I’ll be glad for it.

November 17, 2011

Heart’s Blood, White Ribbons (Trigger warnings for rape)

By

Whenever I make the statement that while I don’t believe men can be feminists, I do think they have roles to play within feminism, there’s inevitably one or two men (or women!) asking, “Well, like what?”

Guys, here’s your chance.

The White Ribbon campaign is an international awareness movement devoted to stopping violence against women. A lot of their promotional materials are devoted to educating and encouraging men to take up action against men perpetuating violence against women. Before the derailing penny gets laid on the tracks, let’s cover it:

Yes, men get raped too. Their assault is typically perpetuated by other men. Yes, women have committed rape – but they account for less than 2% of all sexual assaults committed, and this includes: statutory rape (teacher/student), abuse of their own children or abuse perpetuated on another woman. So of that already tiny percent, an even smaller percent is female-on-male abuse. Savvy? When I say his/he when talking about rapists, I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass.

Now, I often feel very strongly about violence against women, both for personal reasons and the more lofty goal of, “it’s fucking gross, don’t do that shit”. But whenever it happens within something you consider your community, you get reminded of how very far men have to go in telling each other not to rape.

One of the gold-making bloggers, Alyzande aka Gold Queen has been extremely candid in blogging about her recent experience with violence and rape. (TW for suicide at link.) Because she is a woman on the internet, being honest about her experience, people think this gives them license to be gross dicks about it, judging her or doubting her story.

Protip men: when I said there are things you can do to help feminism, this is a key one. Support survivors of assault. Don’t heap on the victim blaming. If you can’t help yourself from the latter, please kick yourself firmly in the nards.

BUT.

Some WoW bloggers have used this as an opportunity to spread love and support for Alyzande personally, as well as information and education on the international white ribbon campaign. I don’t know who initially made this image, but it’s perfect:

Click the ribbon.  Do one of the things suggested on the site, especially if you’re a guy asking “Okay then, what is my role in feminism?”  This is it. Do this.