The other day I posted Emma Watson’s address to the UN, promoting the #HeForShe movement. I was happy to signal boost without comment. Her speech was excellent written and performed, and I felt stood on its own.
The same day, as I was making my way through some social media sites, I saw a friend post the Emma Watson video, and in the comments two people were explaining how they hated feminism because it was just anti-male non-senses, or tried to degenerate women who assumed traditional gender roles but that they were all for gender equality. So I did something that I rarely ever do. I commented back, explaining that anyone who calls themselves feminist and espoused anti-male sentiments or disparaged other women for taking traditional gender roles was ignorant of what feminism actually is. I received angry responses in kind. Excessively angry. I don’t know if these commenters were having a bad day, have anger issues that they need to seek treatment for, or were intentionally trolling. I personally felt their anger seemed to belie their arguments. After all, you’re getting angry over what comes down to a semantics argument.
Still, it was a new experience for me. I told myself as I was writing my response that I would not “feed the trolls” by making any comments back. I was expecting hostility. I’d made my point, rationally, for others to see. There was someone else on that post, defending feminism as it should be, not as its detractors want to define it to be. Still I felt an anxiety about doing this and it took me awhile to figure out why. My anxiety stemmed from two parts. One part was from confronting angry people on the internet, which common wisdom says is never a good idea but which I’ve recently learned is far too much pacifistic to be effective in countering the growing trolling evident across most of our online culture.
Another was talking about feminism in a public space.
It wasn’t until I read I read Chuck Wendig’s latest blog post that I realized why the last one bothered me so. The follow are experts from Chuck Wendig’s post: #HeForShe: Yes, I Am A Feminist. It pretty much sums up most of my thoughts on the issue.
For a while, I was really hesitant to call myself a feminist.
Not because I dismissed the idea of feminism or the cause of feminism or the history that is baked into the movement — but because I didn’t feel like it was a title that I had earned. I didn’t feel like it was my space to share. I didn’t feel like a very good feminist, really — I got things wrong then, still get them wrong now. I still possess the privilege that comes with being male and sometimes that means my privilege blinds me to behaviors or language that can be hurtful (not merely offensive, which I accept and embrace, but hurtful, which by my mileage works to diminish and damage others). And so it felt a bit fakey-fakey, like I was a heathen in a church pulpit, a meat-eater at a vegan restaurant. I thought, oh, you’ve actually struggled with the mantle of feminism. Me, it’s no struggle at all. I can waltz in, put on the hat and the nametag, give a couple of thumbs-up and boom, FEMINIST. It costs me nothing. It’s so easy. Too easy.
I was more comfortable calling myself an ally, then — as if I was a member of another nation entirely willing to support your nation’s coalition. “Yes, of course I’ll vote for that,” I say from my mountaintop lair at in the capital of Mansylvania. “Please place your feminist agenda in front of me and I will rubber-stamp it. Whatever you need, please, consider me your ally.”
But that’s horseshit, really.
Not the part where I support feminism, but the part where I consider myself separate from it.
Because of course I’m not separate from it.
The correction of the imbalance isn’t about bringing men down, but lifting women up.
So, let’s just put this right here:
I am a feminist.
Not just an ally — though, I am that, too. But a feminist.
Not always a perfect one. Certainly not the one you asked for. But here I am.
I think male privilege is real. I think it’s imperfect and not absolute, but that doesn’t change its reality — male privilege is ever-present and difficult to deny.
I think that privilege is blinding.
I think there are real issues affecting men, and that doesn’t diminish the need for feminism.
I think that feminism is a many-headed, many-hearted movement. Feminists don’t all get together in a room once a year to determine the agenda for the next 365 days.
I think that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. As noted: many hearts and many minds.
I think it’s more important for men to listen than it is for them to speak on the subject of feminism. (And I recognize the irony here — I’m using the blog to speak, but the blog acts as a much better mouth than it does an ear. But I promise, I am listening. This blog is a direct result of me listening — and, as Anita Sarkeesian notes, me believing your experiences are real.)
I think it’s more important for men to signal boost than it is for them to take over the signal.
(But I also think it’s vital for men to be a part of that signal, too.)
I think a lot of this begins with teaching our kids this stuff — yes, I know, blah blah blah children are our future, but seriously, this is critical if we’re to overturn a lot of the nastiness that’s been institutionalized, that’s been stamped into the mud of our history with hard boots.
But I think we must also be active in social media, in politics, with family, with friends.
I think that it’s very easy to dismiss feminism and claim egalitarianism instead, but realize that the two are not mutually exclusive — and, by denying feminism, you misunderstand that the imbalance here is particularly and troublingly one-sided.
There’s far more that Chuck Wendig says in the article that I agree with and I urge you to read the entire thing, but the above really stood out to me, in regards to my experiences the last few days online. Because he effectively outlined what was causing some of my anxiety about talking about feminism. I read about it quite a bit, I try to understand the issues. There are times when I see people on the net scream “misogyny!” and I look, and can’t see it, and I fret over if the internet is wrong, or if I’m blind to it. And do these weaknesses, and my place in society, make me ineligible to be a real feminist.
Which is obviously silly. Everybody makes mistakes and everybody starts off ignorant. I’m no ally of feminism so much as I am a feminist, even if I sometimes get it wrong, and while I may never be John Scalzi or Chuck Wendig, willing to exclaim to an exceptionally large audience and all but invite the trolls and nay sayers, I’ll still do my best to listen, signal boost, and discuss.
This video is rather long, for an internet video, but well worth watching. It will help you understand an aspect of U.S. society you may or may not be aware of.
You don’t have to look very far these days to see sexism but you do have to know what you are looking for. The problem is that most of us are effectively blind to it, both because it is kept behind close doors and because it is hiding in plain sight. And when people, particularly women, call attention to it, they’re often labeled misogynist, or simply told to “laugh it off”. Even when sexism is dragged out from behind doors for all to see, it is easy to claim that it is happening to just one person, or a small group of people, hidden away, and not a systemic problem within our society.
Noted and award winning author Mary Robinette Kowal was slandered by some of her peers in the Science Fiction Writer’s Association (SFWA) the other day. Male members of the organization made comments via the organization’s public email listserv. One called her a hypocrite based upon her public views as a feminist and what clothing she chooses to wear to award ceremonies, as well as simply calling her phony and incompetent.
To her credit, Mary has offered a response which, rather than simply attacking back, called attention to this attack and focused instead on making it an example of sexism and to make note that this is not an incident she is facing alone, but that women inside and outside the SFWA suffer all the time from what is effectively verbal abuse.
In her response entitled”Me, as a useful representative example“, she says the following:
Then I replied to the messages saying, “Honestly, I’m fine. Four years in office inured me to this so mostly I’m just laughing.”
And this is the part that I feel I should draw attention to — I was “mostly” laughing. I was also having mild stress reactions. Dry sweats, elevated heart rate. I was ready to shrug them off as, “Meh, doesn’t materially affect me. I’ve seen worse.”
Until someone pointed it out that I was basically saying, “I’m inured to being abused, because I was abused for years.” See… the things those folks are saying in that public forum? When I was in office, they would email that bile directly to me and because I was an officer, I could not choose to ignore it. I had to read every single one. And I had to reply politely to them. Strangely, sometimes I had trouble doing that, but a polite response was the one that was expected. Now? Being out of office for two years, I can say whatever the fuck I want, but most beautifully, I don’t have to read the emails.
So this is why I feel weird about writing about this. My impulse is to tell you all that I’m fine and that this has no material affect on my life. And that is true. But I also know that I am a useful representative sample of the abuse that happens to other women.
Too many places, too many women, get this sort of unwelcome attention and commentary about what they were wearing but no one does anything. It’s always, “Laugh about it” or “Just shrug it off,” or “Ignore it and he’ll go away.”
You see how well that last is working?
So, I really, truly am fine. But watch what happens to me now that I’m posting. Read the comments when they happen. Note the people who say that because I’m talking about the abuse, I must be begging for attention.
Take me as a useful representative example. And know that I am not an isolated case.
It is sad that we need examples and I applaud Kowal for providing one. And we do need one. I recently was reading an online article about a video game that was in no way related to gender equality. In the middle of this author’s article, he says the following:
…this is, after all, a game where half the punchlines are “ogling women is funny” (and I say that as a staunch anti-feminist)…
It stopped me reading right in my tracks. It took me awhile to comprehend that the initial statement meant that the game wasn’t necessarily to be taken so seriously as it relied upon humor like men staring at women. Yet I couldn’t understand why he felt compelled to add the anti-feminism qualifier, to declare that he was staunchly opposed to a society where men and women are treated equally without discrimination or abuse, be it physical or emotional.
Actually it seems unlikely that the author is an active proponent of sexism. Instead he is likely ignorant of the amount of sexism that exists in our culture and the harm that it does. Instead he is reacting to the backlash that accompanies attempts to educate people regarding this harm, shielding himself from it by claiming that he is not a feminist. This backlash is what Mary Robinette Kowal wants you to look for in the coming days.
That backlash will be just some of the sexism that hides in plain sight.
Apparently, these guys don’t want women to write science fiction by Aja Romano [DailyDot.com]
Me, as a useful representative example by Mary Robinette Kowal [MaryRobinetteKowal.com]
Cheap Arts by Silvia Moreno-Garcia [Silvia Moreno-Garcia.com]
Mary Robinette Kowal Offers Herself Up as a Useful Representative Example by John Scalzi [whatever.scazli.com]
Does Bravely Default Hate Atheists? by Geoff Thew [HardCoreGamer.com]
Here’s a video fo Katee Sackhoff and Jamie Bamber, actors of Battlestar Galactica fame, discussing sexism in Hollywood and the television industry. You don’t have to watch the entire video:
“We expect women not to age, which I find offensive to me.”
“And how roles just disappear for women when they approach 40, and I think that is a problem.”
“I was told I was overweight and needed to lose weight from the day I got to California.”
“And I’ve always kind of wondered if I had lost 20 lbs would my career would be here [motioning to higher] rather than here [motioning to lower].”
It is also kind of telling how prevalent this kind of sexism is, when you hear a part of the crowd start to applaud Katee for saying that she has been the same size since she was seventeen. Somewhat amusingly it apparently became obvious to some of the crowd that wasn’t something to necessarily cheer about.
The past is full of unfortunate events. Actions taken with little to no experience, wisdom, and certainly no hindsight to guide them can have profound effects. We can, at least, hope to learn from them however. Let me take a moment to discuss a controversy, which is still settling, called Penny Arcade’s dickwolves.
First some context, back in 2010 Penny Arcade posted a comic which mentions rape, now infamously known as the dickwolves comic. Now rape is a serious issue and our society has problems with addressing it and many other female related social issues. However when the comic began receiving criticism focusing on the mention of rape and not the intended commentary on moral ambiguity in games, Mike Krahulik, more well known as Gabe and co-creator of Penny Arcade, responded by mocking the critics, claiming attempts to censor his work and an issue of free speech. This was the start of the actual controversy as fans and detractors angrily attacked each other vocally. The issue exploded further after merchandise referencing the comic was released. Ultimately the merchandise was removed, despite Mike Krahulik public protests, and the entire sitaution settled, until recently when Mike mentioned his regret over the merchandise being removed at a recent PAX 2013.
This issue is very complicated and I covered it in a very broad manner above. I did so because I wanted to share the following links that cover the issue from various viewpoints that hopefully will let us all learn from this. I provide the following links to inform people regarding various viewpoints of the controversy.
The first is a personal post on tumblr by someone claiming to have attended the 2013 panel. The post is effectively anonymous and can’t be verified, but that isn’t the point in sharing it. It’s the tale of a rape victim, who met her raper at PAX and despite the negative associations, continued to attend PAX, that is until she heard Mike’s comments about the dickwolves. The article is a powerful chronicle.
The point of linking to this article is two-fold. One to understand why the original criticisms of the dickwolves comic was raised. What effects including rape in a joke, even if the joke wasn’t about the rape, can have upon people. The topic of why it perpetuates rape culture is left for another time. The second is to understand why Mike just mentioning the comic has rekindled this controversy. Why people would consider not attending PAX any further.
Because many people are, and not just attendees but companies as well. Many people have been posting about how Mike’s and the reactions of some of Penny Arcade’s fans are wrong. One such response has been from Wired.com’s Rachel Edidin.
Rachel Edidin covers the controversy very quickly, providing commentary as to why this event is holding gaming as a culture back and why people should just leave PAX behind. Which I feel is a sad statement to have to make. PAX is well-known for claiming to be for everyone, but if what Rachel and the above blogger say, it is only giving lip service to this ideology.
So why is Mike behaving this way? One of the prominent figures of the gaming community mocking critics and inciting bully behavior in his fans?
MovieBob, creator of The Big Picture, The Game Overthinker, and other web series, provides what I feel is a very fair and gamer centric viewpoint of the entire situation, with particular insight into why Mike might be having this way. Warning this is a long article and it rambles a little, but it covers the entire situation and is well worth reading.
Ultimately what Movie Bob is trying to say is Penny Arcade was not wrong to post the comic but at the same time criticizing it for how lightly it uses rape was also not wrong. Neither side was necessarily wrong in this situation. Mike Krahulik’s response to the criticism however, was completely wrong.
Instead his mocking responses very indicative a mentality one might have had in the 80s and 90s. When comics and gaming were often attacked by people wishing to censor it for various ignorant and unfounded reasons. This may have been his reasoning for his actions, even if they still wrong. What is worse his actions inspired unconscionable attacks against critics of the comic by many fans of Penny Arcade. Some of these fans did it out of loyalty, and sadly some did it because of the still pervasive and ignorant misogyny that pervades gaming culture.
Thankfully the tale has something of a happy ending.
Mike has apologized for all of his actions after the initial strip. I particularly like Mike’s comments about PAX, which I hope is enough to make people reconsider their calls for boycotting the convention.
I sort of see PAX like I see my children. Yes I helped make them and yes they have a lot of me in them but they can be better than me. They can take the good stuff I have and leave out all the bad. Like my kids, PAX makes me want to be better.
At the very least all of us can learn from this controversy. Take the time to learn the difference between criticism and censorship, of the reasons why people become offended, and what can be done to fix the problems of rape in our culture, rather than attack the symptoms.
If you’re interested in other reactions to this entire controversy, one blogger has taken it upon themselves to archive this from 2010 and beyond at the this tumblr, in two large link based posted.
“The center for disease control says that men’s violence against women is at epidemic proportions, is the number one health concern for women in this country and abroad.”
“I need you[men & women] on board. I need you with me. I need you working with me and me working with you on how we raise our sons and teach them to be men — that it’s okay to not be dominating, that it’s okay to have feelings and emotions, that it’s okay to promote equality, that it’s okay to have women who are just friends and that’s it, that it’s okay to be whole, that my liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman.”
Happy New Year
Extremely well explained points from a thirteen year old girl regarding some of the sexism women still receive today. Watching this video reminded me of a sitcom I was watching last night where the “walk of shame” was used as a comedic bit. As it happened in this show, the gender roles were reversed and it was the woman making fun of the man for coming home late wearing the same clothing and the context was different so it is actually a bad example, but the fact that I can say “walk of shame” and you likely thought I meant a woman, means that this kind of prejudice still exists.
Regardless of your gender, as long as you are human, willing, and able how much you want to have sex and how much sex you have is you and your partner’s business.
Movie Bob delves into a reason why feminism takes issue with modern popular video games.
I admit while I knew about the problem of the portrayal of women in video games, the specific why is never something I’ve tried to analyze, making this video something of an eye opener. I also more or less agree with Bob that feminism seems to have a significant and rather undeserved stigma among male gamers. Hopefully the above video let you understand the female perspective a bit better.
If you go look, you can find the original source of this image, which was a comparison between this set of female character sand those of the female characters that are seen on prime time television dramas and comedies that are not specifically related to speculative fiction. Arguments aside about whether medical mystery shows are speculative fiction or not, I think it was something of an unfair comparison, as we can find well rounded female characters in those types of shows just like we can find flat, sex and relationship obsessed female characters in science fiction shows.
I would like to see a factual study done, that does a genre comparison of female characters in speculative fiction over traditional drama and fiction, just to see where it does fall but in the mean time lets simply celebrate how awesome science fiction and fantasy is from a gender equality perspective (chainmail bikinis aside).