All posts by strivingally

Dug up from the Wayback Machine: How To Be A Fan Of Problematic Things

This is an article I link back to ALL THE TIME. When I saw the Social Justice League website was having problems, and appeared to be abandoned, I decided I had to save this one from the Memory Hole.

Rachael, if you’re out there, I’m certainly not trying to take credit for your work. On the contrary, I want to make sure it endures, because it’s such a great piece of writing!

I like things, and some of those things are problematic. I like Lord of the Rings even though it’s pretty fucked up with regard to women and race (any narrative that says “this whole race is evil” is fucked up, okay). I like A Song of Ice and Fire even though its portrayal of people of colour is problematic, and often I find that its in-text condemnation of patriarchy isn’t obvious enough to justify the sexism displayed. I like the movie Scott Pilgrim vs The World even though it is racist in its portrayal of Matthew Patel, panders to stereotypes in its portrayal of Wallace, and trivialises queer female sexuality in its portrayal of Ramona and Roxy’s relationship. For fuck’s sake, Ramona even says “It was a phase”! How much more cliche and offensive could this movie be? Oh wait, remember how Scott defeats Roxy, his only female adversary, by making her orgasm? Excuse me while I vomit…and then keep watching because I still like the rest of the movie.

Liking problematic things doesn’t make you an asshole. In fact, you can like really problematic things and still be not only a good person, but a good social justice activist (TM)! After all, most texts have some problematic elements in them, because they’re produced by humans, who are well-known to be imperfect. But it can be surprisingly difficult to own up to the problematic things in the media you like, particularly when you feel strongly about it, as many fans do. We need to find a way to enjoy the media we like without hurting other people and marginalised groups. So with that in mind, here are my suggestions for things we should try our darnedest to do as self-confessed fans of problematic stuff.

Firstly, acknowledge that the thing you like is problematic and do not attempt to make excuses for it. It is a unique irritation to encounter a person who point blank refuses to admit that something they like is problematic. Infuriatingly, people will often actually articulate some version of the argument “It can’t be problematic because I like it, and I’m nice”. Alternatively, some fans may find it tempting to argue “Well this media is a realistic portrayal of societies like X, Y, Z”. But when you say that sexism and racism and heterosexism and cissexism have to be in the narrative or the story won’t be realistic, what you are saying is that we humans literally cannot recognise ourselves without systemic prejudice, nor can we connect to characters who are not unrepentant bigots. Um, yikes. YIKES, you guys.

And even if you think that’s true (which scares the hell out of me), I don’t see you arguing for an accurate portrayal of everything in your fiction all the time. For example, most people seem fine without accurate portrayal of what personal hygiene was really like in 1300 CE in their medieval fantasy media. (Newsflash: realistically, Robb Stark and Jon Snow rarely bathed or brushed their teeth or hair). In real life, people have to go to the bathroom. In movies and books, they don’t show that very much, because it’s boring and gross. Well, guess what: bigotry is also boring and gross. But everyone is just dying to keep that in the script.

Especially do not ever suggest that people not take media “so seriously”, or argue that it’s “just” a tv show. The narratives that we surround ourselves with can subtly, subconsciously influence how we think about ourselves and others. That’s why creating imaginary fantasy and sci fi worlds that have more equal societies can be a powerful thing for marginalised people, who mainstream media rarely acknowledges as heroes. But even if you don’t think that media matters, there is still no reason to focus exclusively on unequal or problematic fictional worlds and narratives. If it doesn’t matter, why don’t YOU stop taking your media so seriously and stop fighting us on this? You with your constant demands for your narrow idea of “realism” (which by the way often sounds a lot like “show me naked skinny ciswomen, and gore”). If in your framework tv shows aren’t serious business, why does realism matter? Why can’t you accept that it would be totally cool to have AT LEAST ONE BIG MEDIEVAL FANTASY EPIC WHERE WOMEN AND POC WERE LIKE, EQUAL TO WHITE MEN AND STUFF. STOP TAKING IT SO SERIOUSLY.

Secondly, do not gloss over the issues or derail conversations about the problematic elements. Okay, so you can admit that Dune is problematic. But wait, you’re not done! You need to be willing to engage with people about it! It’s not enough to be like “Ok, I admit that it’s problematic that the major villain is a fat homosexual rapist, but come on, let’s focus on the giant sandworms!”. Shutting people down, ignoring or giving minimal treatment to their concerns, and refusing to fully engage with their issues is a form of oppression. Implicitly, you’re giving the message that this person’s feelings are less important than your own. In fact, in this case you’re saying that their pain is less important than your enjoyment of a book, movie or tv show. So when people raise these concerns, listen respectfully and try to understand the views. Do not change the topic.

Thirdly you must acknowledge other, even less favourable, interpretations of the media you like. Sometimes you still enjoy a movie or book because you read a certain, potentially problematic scene in a certain way – but others read it entirely differently, and found it more problematic. For example, consider the scene in Game of Thrones where Drogo rapes Dany (which he does not do in the books). One of my friends feels that it was portrayed like rape fetish porn, sexualising the act and Dany’s pain. But I feel that the scene focuses on Dany’s pain and tears in a manner that is not fetishising them (though even so the narrative is still totally fucked up because Dany and her rapist then go on to have a good, sexyfuntimes relationship…uh, no, HBO). I don’t agree with my friend’s interpretation but I recognise it as a totally valid reading of the scene.

Also, as a fan of problematic media, you need to respect the fact that others may be so upset or angered by media you love that they don’t want to engage with it at all. In fact, one of my best friends won’t watch HBO’s Game of Thrones because of the racism and misogyny. That’s a completely legitimate and valid response to that tv show, and me trying to convince her to give it another shot would be disrespectful and hurtful. If you badger others to see what you see in something when they are telling you it’s not enjoyable for them, you’re being an entitled jerk. You’re showing yourself to be willing to hurt a real person over a television show. That really is a sign you’re taking things too seriously.

As fans, sometimes we need to remember that the things we like don’t define our worth as people. So there’s no need to defend them from every single criticism or pretend they are perfect. Really loving something means seeing it as it really is, not as you wish it were. You can still be a good fan while acknowledging the problematic elements of the things you love. In fact, that’s the only way to be a good fan of problematic things.

Dug up from The Wayback Machine: “I Am Not My Cock”

An old – but excellent – blog post from Ross Lincoln about rape and the expectations of men. It’s no longer at the site, but deserves to be immortalised. Ross, if you have a problem with me having this on my blog, let me know. Everyone else, I hope you appreciate the perspective!

I Am Not My Cock.

There, I said it. I never thought I was going to need to, but welcome to 2005, I guess.

Before I go any further with what is likely to be a profanity laden tirade, how about some background. The Blogosphere has been alit lately with a lot of discussion about the subject of rape, mostly centering around that poor girl in Aruba and the implication that she somehow may have brought her unhappy circumstances upon herself.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I welcome you to the planet Earth. I’ve set up an Earth-orientation tent to the left of this website. Please contact my office for further questions.

For the rest of you, the discussion of the Aruba girl’s disappearance has plopped the media back into its usual comfortable position, namely the chance to replace real journalism with MORAL OUTRAGE (age age age). Naturally, because our society’s morals are strictly organized around who should have access to pussy, media coverage has inevitably tilted to the “Just what was that girl doing in that place anyway?”

Atrios noticed this odious development early on, and made the following what-should-be-blindingly-obvious observation:

My guess is that they are very angry with the missing white woman for not providing them with a sufficient number of genuine news updates, so they’ll start pushing the “she deserved what she got” angle.

Having previously made mention of media sexism over at my own website, I find it ridiculous that anyone could possibly find fault with his observation. Hell, TiVo CNN, MSNBC or Fox during any given 24 hour period and you’ll be deluged with The Girl Gotta Have it imagery.

And yet somehow, someway, there’s always some douchebag political writer storing pent up sexism like water in a camel’s hump, patiently awaiting the moment when he’ll need to feed off of it for dear life, and inspiration. I fully expected conservatives to provide such dickheadery, but I was amazed to see it pop up on the left, from the mind of normally not a dickhead Steve Gilliard.

Steve, responding to the aforementioned Atrios post, started things off on the right foot. He rightfully pointed out racial and class bias inherent in coverage of the story, but then out of nowhere he turns into a pandering, fretting Ward Cleaver:

But what surprises me is that no one asked about the lax supervision on this trip. Because these were middle class kids, their drinking and screwing around wasn’t really a factor in the news coverage. Clearly, these kids were not closely supervised while they got drunk and picked up men. The chaperones who should have put clear limits on their behavior, well, were too busy screwing around on their own.

Um, I’m sorry, but did I miss something? Are 18 year olds no longer allowed to leave their houses without minders? Or is Steve being a moralizing intentionally obtuse prude? As if to answer my (only slightly rehtorical) question, the hole he dug gets deeper and he fills it up with complete bullshit:

Now, I’ve always been confused as to why a girl would go off with three guys. Was she going to pull a train? Or did she have two spare sex organs for them to use?

Steve, let me answer this one for you: Because it’s none of your goddamned business, that’s why. Got it? Let me add also that Who gives a goddamn why she goes off with three guys? Maybe they were talking about playing trivial pursuit. Hell, I once went to a hotel with 3 girls I met at a concert, in order to play monopoly and share cigarettes. Was I annoyed that none of them wanted to make out with me? Yes, but that’s not the point. The point is that Steve Gillard apparently gets turned on thinking about girls with more than one vagina. Ew.

I’m kidding, I swear!

Because otherwise, that sounds like a really bad decision. One which she should have been warned against. Boys in groups tend to do things they wouldn’t do alone. And the expectation of sex must have been high.

You know, and this is just me, but girls often do things in groups they wouldn’t do alone, just like boys. For instance, I wouldn’t think of playing soccer alone, because that would be stupid.

What also needs to be discussed with women going overseas, even to a vacation resort, is the perception of American women, courtesy of Hollywood. Which is this: they’re easy. European men see American women on vacation. In a place like Aruba, it’s even worse. So they expect American women are easy targets, and even better, they don’t hang around, so if there are any “accidents”, they deal with them at home. This was even the source of a column in the Onion, where this girl was waxing poetic about this Italian guy and the Italian guy was bragging about banging this silly American girl. Well, there’s reality in that, and I’ve seen it.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. The old men can’t help it/girls are stupid monster rears it’s ugly head, and my jaw hits the floor. I have to ask if Steve has ever even left this country. Every single nation in the world believes that the women in other countries are mad sluts. My dad told me, just before going to England, that European girls do it like “shaking hands”. English people insisted to me that the Germans were ho-nasty freaks. I met someone from Poland who told me that she got tons more play in England than in Poland. The grass is greener and way, way sluttier on the other side, no matter where your yard is. To act like this isn’t the case is willfully know-nothing, and beneath Gilliard’s normal level of discourse and knowledge. It’s embarassing even having to point this out.

Which bring me back to my original point: my cock.

I Am Not My Cock.

And guys, you aren’t your cocks either.

You see, as Gillard’s oddly obtuse observations demonstrate, there is a widely held belief amongst even liberal men, that male humans are predators. That they are first and foremost nothing but a cock. After that, balls, then eyes, then rage, and somewhere way down the line, they become capable of speech, thought, and memory.

Whatever.

I want to go on record as saying a big, mean Fuck You to every single man who has ever claimed that men are incapable of stopping themselves when pussy is on the line. Here’s why:

I have never raped anyone. I have never hurt someone because they wouldn’t put out. I have never gang raped someone. I have never died from blue balls. I have never exploded because some sideboob accidentally came into my line of sight. I have never raped anyone. Shockingly, I also think this is a pretty normal state of affairs.

This isn’t something I’m proud of. That’s because I can’t be proud of not raping people anymore than I can be proud of not shitting on myself whenever I laugh. Not being a rapist is the default fucking setting. Far as I know, most men have never raped anyone. I assume this means that rapists are a minority of men, and in a normal world you’d think that not being an evil, violent monster would make one more sympathetic to the victims of rape, who are also not evil violent monsters.

Hell, you’d think that most guys, who like me have never raped anyone would think to themselves “Hey, I don’t go around assaulting people. I don’t rape women. When a girl says no, or turns me down, I handle it like an adult. And now that I think about it, I think I’m kinda normal. I guess being able to not hurt and murder and rape is the norm. Why, that means rapists are fucking evil freaks. Golly gee willikers, who’d a thunk it!”.

Apparently, that’s not the case, as demonstrated by Gilliard’s well meaning but clueless observations, and by some frankly disturbing commentary on his and other sites. Tons of male bloggers and commenters are suddenly stepping over themselves to equivocate and fiddle back and forth on the subject of rape. Sure, they lazily toss in disclaimers about their sympathy to women who have been assaulted, but that’s usually followed quickly by a lecture on how women ought to behave.

These sad douchebags state with a straight face the manifesto of all sexist dillweeds who can’t wait to castigate women for being sexual beings: “Men”, apparently meaning them, “can’t control themselves”, and therefore women shouldn’t be surprised by being assaulted. Really? From this point of view, it’s somehow the woman’s responsibility not to get raped, rather than society’s responsibility to punish and prevent rape in the first place.

I Am Not My Cock. Seriously.

Think about what the argument that you have no control over yourself says. They are arguing that men are either animals, retarded children, or monsters without self restraint. who must therefore be carefully controlled and protected from women. Rape after all being, in their worldview, an inevitable outcome of coming within 3 feet of pussy.

Honestly, why would ANYONE want to go on record as even obliquely justifying sexual assault? And with the Corky defense no less? Are you fucking insane? What’s next, going on record as “seeing how NAMBLA has a point”? As far as I can tell, rapists, like murderers, are the bad guys. Then again, you can legally kill someone who is trying to kill you. So there is, occasionally, a justification for murder. There is no such analogue for rape. Rape is, simply put, evil inflicted through sex. There is no defense for it, and anyone who goes looking for one out to be ashamed of themselves.

Is it true that some people of both sexes behave stupidly, overly trusting or even self destructive? Do people of both genders deserve to be held accountable when they fuck up? Sure! But then, I’m thinking about criminal behavior here. Last I checked, fucking isn’t illegal. Neither is drinking, singing, staying out late, or acting stupid.

And my point? I Am Not My Cock.

Contrary to what many men (even on the left) seem to think, most guys can and do meet women all the time without even once assaulting them. It’s really easy. You just, you know, not be a rapist. Most guys, far as I know, don’t lose control of themselves when they see even a hint of sideboob. So why in hell do we men feel the need to sympathize with, identify with, or justify the behavior of people who haven’t learned the first thing about civilized behavior, or worse, rapists? How can it be so difficult for us to realize that rapists are the lowest form of scum, and that their victims are, in fact, victims?

Rape Victims do not ask to be raped, and no matter how carefully or irresponsibly they may behave, they do not deserve to be raped, no matter what circumstances one may feel makes a situation hazy. Which by the way don’t actually tend to, you know, exist. Got it guys? Rape victims deserve justice, sympathy and support, not your judgment or advice.

Look, I know the majority of men, myself included, are raised in a horribly sexist culture that considers our cock-prerogatives to be of utmost cultural importance. We’re taught to look to the male perspective first, and it bleeds into everything. Sexism is a problem, and women should be ready to deal with it. But guess what dipshits – The answer to that problem isn’t to tell girls “Them’s the breaks. If you can’t handle it, fuck off!” The solution, for those of you not following me, is to fight the actual problem, which is sexism and male entitlement.

But most importantly, I am not my cock. Period. I am not my balls. I am not my hormones, my sex drive, or my lust. I am not my cock. I am a man, capable of making decisions, capable of self control, capable of thought, of reason, of love and hate and lust and boredom and choice. My cock obeys my commands, and not the other way around. Guys, you are not your cock either. You have total control and you are not a slave. Don’t fall into the trap of believing otherwise.

I am not my cock, and I’m really quite happy about it. Anyone who feels differently just isn’t a man.

Sargon of Akkad: A Thief, a Liar, and a Bully

Internet Famous Angry Men

Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad. (Source: YouTube/David Pakman Show) Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad. (Source: YouTube/David Pakman Show)

There’s no argument that Sargon of Akkad’s (real name: Carl Benjamin) antifeminist videos are in bad taste. Offending people’s sensibilities is part of the product, part of why the videos appeal to neoreactionary dillweeds. Sargon’s job is to be a bombastic asshole who “debates” recordings of people his fans hate, delivering the grade-school put-downs his witless viewers simply don’t have the mental capacity to compose. His job, essentially, is to spin the news into something his viewers will find palatable and entertaining, for which he gets paid around $870 per video.

Sadly, Sargon violates the rules of the platforms he uses to raise his money and to distribute his videos – and quite possibly the laws of his country as well. Specifically, Sargon’s unlicensed theft of other people’s videos as fodder for him to mock is a violation of…

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A thousand words

Better than salt money

That’s what we say a picture tells. This one does more than that.  It reveals the ugly stain of racism, which like the blood on Macbeth’s hands, cannot come off.  That’s a grim outlook, and one I’d like to think is wrong.  One that, twenty years ago I did think was wrong.  But then I see this picture.

Cop on Stone Mountain

That dude has two weapons.  Some sort of AR-15, and some sort of 9mm pistol.  It’s the pistol I’m looking at, because it’s the weapon he’s threatening people with.

Yes, threatening.  He’s not drawn it, but he’s ready to.  His thumb looks to have cleared the restraint. The guy behind the cop is scared, the cop’s body language is that of someone agitated.  I can’t read the body language of the other cop, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t have a pretty strong focus on this guy.

This guy has put…

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Allies, privilege, amplification, and self-care

the inadvertent feminist

Yesterday, New York Magazine went live with an article which was focused on amplifying the voices of 35 women. These women are only a portion of the total number of women who have come forward in recent months, detailing the sexual assaults they suffered at the hands of Bill Cosby. The cover photo, seen here, shows each of the 35 women, sitting in a chair, in stark black and white. There are 36 chairs. The last chair in the image is empty. That chair is haunting. That empty chair sparked a hashtag on twitter, #TheEmptyChair, which has become a platform for women who feel like that chair belongs, at least in part, to them. A platform from which they are telling their stories, explaining why their chair is still empty. At least one man on Twitter, Elon James White, offered his own profile as a part of…

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My 15 minutes of GG infamy

So the spotlight was briefly on me a couple of days ago, when someone came up with some truly Glenn-Beck-worthy tenuous conspiracy theory crap to “prove” that I was part of an orchestrated campaign of lies about GG.

Go read the thread on KiA.

Now. Assuming you haven’t already consumed the Flavoured Beverage Favoured By Cultists, what you saw there was me, a piddly little Tweeter with <100 followers, being replied to by Zoe Quinn. Followed by an unrelated tweet in which I mentioned a bunch of people whose updates on GG I’ve been reading and have appreciated.

For those not willing to descend into the maelstrom of SJW-hate that is KiA, here’s a couple of their screencaps that I’ll borrow:

loltweet1

And:

loltweet2

Here’s their smoking gun. I made a comment to Brianna Wu, which Zoe Quinn gave her perspective on. In an unrelated tweet I mentioned a bunch of people who I have been reading to follow this atrocious clusterfuck.

Somehow someone got the idea that I’m now a lieutenant in the SJW army, or some such bullshit? Iunno.

More believable is the truth: I have some sympathy for the women who’ve had their lives destroyed, and I appreciate people who trawl through far more of GG’s garbage than I’m willing to in order to highlight their hatred and hypocrisy.

A couple of days ago I had 72 notifications on my Twitter when I logged in. Since a normal day sees maybe 5 or 6, maybe 9 or 10 if I’ve been particularly talkative, I was wondering why I had the sudden attention.

Once @srhbutts alerted me to the fact I’d been mentioned in KiA it made a whole lot more sense.

Seriously. This is all it takes. Some asshole making up a conspiracy theory in their own head and then feeding it to the mob. Thanks for justifying my initial decision to remain pseudonymous, fuckers.

GamerGate Link Farm, 3-11-14

A summary of GamerGate in ten graphics. As a rough precis for newcomers this is actually pretty good.

A couple of great Storify links next: UnseenPerfidy with a beautifully angry rant about the obvious problems with GamerGate’s “apolitical” stance that’s unashamedly political in nature, and Lars Flyger writes about the stupidity of the false equivalence dialogue surrounding GG.

Related to that, Zoe Quinn herself also writes an open letter to anybody claiming they want “neutrality” or “to hear both sides”. In her words:

The simple fact of the matter is that GamerGate is *not* about games journalism, and even if it was, their targets are disproportionately powerless in the industry, disproportionately female or feminist, and disproportionately *not games journalists*. Their methods are centered on destroying the livelihoods, safety, voices, and mental health of who they oppose, and that’s the primary progress they’ve been able to make thusfar.

Running on from that, a pair of articles about the way GamerGate’s positioned within the broader political climate: one from Elias Isquith about why calling for moderation or compromise is essentially pointless when GG’s supporters and critics aren’t even trying to have the same conversation, and one I find more contentious from Ezra Klein which asserts that GG is merely a new theatre of war for the Left vs Right debates and “neither side” cares about games. I think Ezra needs to acquaint himself with the fact that so many of GG’s targets have, in fact, been people who care deeply about games (Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu are devs, FFS). Also, the attempts to make GG a new front in the ongoing culture wars are mostly related to non-gamers throwing their oars in on the GG side – Yiannopoulos, Cernovich, Sommers, Baldwin, Aurini & Owen, do I really need to continue? Compare that to the list of targets who’ve actually had something to do with games, it’s enlightening.

An interesting statistical breakdown weakens the old accepted wisdom that mobile gaming is overwhelmingly female – it turns out that gaming is becoming more accessible thanks to mobile devices and that’s resulting in more engagement across the board with people who are already gamers, male and female. Women make up a larger proportion of “light” players in the mobile market and men make up a larger proportion of “heavy” mobile gamers, which could definitely form an area of future qualitative research to investigate the reasons.

Finally, a look at the way Google is addressing unconscious bias amongst their employees in an effort to become more aware of sexism and how it might be impacting on their corporate culture. A promising start, and it ties into the Laralyn McWilliams article I previously linked to.

GamerGate Link Farm, 31-10-14

I haven’t been able to keep up with the number of great links about GG so I’m just starting a daily link farm, because I don’t want to lose the good ones amongst the tide.

Research shows more than half of all PC gamers are female, and they make up the majority of PC RPG players. So let’s just can the “women are only casual gamers” myth, okay?

Related to this, Laralyn McWilliams writes about why arguing whether or not people are trying to make women feel unwelcome in tech is beside the point – we need to treat it like a useability problem and take similar approaches to solving it.

#GamerGate’s plans to destroy Gawker media include not just advertisers, but targeting syndicated advertising programs like Google AdSense in an attempt to cut off funding. Seeing as the business model for online writing portals is largely dependent on web traffic, this is effectively extortion for publicising views GG doesn’t agree with. I’m sure the totes-not-anti-feminist Gators see hurting Jezebel as a fortunate fringe benefit.

Related to this, GG’s habit of referring followers to archive sites (which strip advertising) for links? Yeah, using those archive sites this way might actually be breaking some laws and be ethically dubious for intellectual property reasons.

Also related to their Gawker plans, L. Rhodes writes about why “Operations” like Disrespectful Nod & Baby Seal aren’t actually boycotts at all but blockades. A boycott relies on the strength of its numbers to make a consumer impact; a blockade depends on finding a way to give a small but zealous group disproportionate influence. We need to fight this “boycott” meme wherever it pops up. Also mentioned: why this might lead to WORSE outcomes for ethical journalism.

Stephanie Llamas on why all gamers need to be counted as gamers, and as a community we need to get rid of this idea that some people aren’t “real” gamers. Which really underpins a lot of the aggressive gatekeeping crap in GG.

Arthur Chu with a powerful and empathetic reflection on how feeling excluded can lead to the kind of angry lashing out we are seeing from GG at the moment. He provides an insight without suggesting that Gators should be forgiven or excused, which I think is showing empathy without becoming an apologist.

And Chris Plante writes about the demise of GamerGate’s credibility as a quest for ethics in games journalism. Mainstream exposure has focused on the harmful parts of the movement because that’s the only consistent part the whole debacle, and that’s what Gators seem determined not to understand. But since it has the words “Gamergate is dead” in it I’m sure the actual point will be missed just as it was with Leigh Alexander’s article three months ago.