A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Archive for July, 2013

I’m Not Offended

by Sid

STFU-Sit_down“Don’t get offended.”

“People are so easily offended.”

“It’s the ‘in thing’ to be offended by something.”

Shut up.

It isn’t about offense. It’s about acknowledgement, disappointment, and standing up for change. Every time you say some version of “don’t get offended,” what you’re really doing is trying to control the conversation. By painting my words with the “offended” brush, you strip them of their worth and value, and often create a straw effigy that looks and speaks like me, but sounds like a whiny child.

I’m onto your game. You cannot control this conversation anymore.

What you so abrasively call offense is often first the acknowledgement of a social issue that needs change. Let’s take a recent example I posted to Twitter.

This was for a game that I enjoy quite a bit. You have a handful of playable characters, and you can switch them up pretty often, because you usually die a lot. It’s part of the charm of the game. All the playable characters are white. I posted on the forum, not because I hoped to get an insightful answer from the playerbase, but because I like to go on the assumption that things like that aren’t intentional—that they’re oversights.

Now, once I saw a couple of replies to that forum post, I didn’t go back to it, because I know what will be there—scathing remarks about offense, political correctness, and so on. But all I did was acknowledge that the game world does not reflect the real world.

change

(art by banksy, image via icanvasart.com)

I acknowledged it, I was disappointed, and I stood up for change.

Now, one forum post isn’t a movement, but standing up for change doesn’t have to be a huge gesture. In fact, most of the time, it can’t be. Big gestures (marches, protests, and the like) get a lot of attention and can definitely raise awareness, but without the small gestures—the day-to-day standing up that we can each individually do—the larger ones are meaningless. Change can be inspired on a large scale, but must be implemented piecemeal, bit by bit, as we slowly seed it into the culture around us.

You keep telling me not to get offended, but I’m not. We hear or say “offense” and we think of pearl-clutching and people who say, “Oh, my stars!” and people who can’t hear the word “fuck” without casting a disapproving look. None of those are me. I’m not “taking things too seriously” when I politely wonder why a movie fails the Bechdel test. Rather, I’m acknowledging that a film could not have two named female characters talk to each other about something other than a man, I am disappointed in that, and I am standing up for change.

You can’t strip my words of value just because you would rather I stay quiet. I know how to counter you now. You can keep telling me I’m offended, but you’ll keep being wrong. And if your goal is to make me stop talking, you will fail.

power

Especially for AC.

I’m not “one of those people who has to bring race and gender into everything.” I’m one of those people who acknowledges there is a problem, and I’m not ashamed of that. I’m one of those people who is disappointed there still is problem, and I’m not ashamed of that.

I’m one of those people who stands up for change in the small ways that I know how. I will never be ashamed of that.


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Seattle Summer 2013 Meet-Up

There Will Be Sammiches

This Saturday I’m hosting the first-ever Make Me a Sammich Meet-up. It’s going to be a purely social event with no agenda (not even a little one*), just a great view from Seattle’s Jefferson Park, good company, and, of course, sammiches.

Mmm...sammiches.

Mmm…sammiches.

I know it’s short notice, but if you live in or around Seattle, I hope you can join me. I’ll have some goodies to give away.

And did I mention sammiches?

 

*Light bulb!


Dear Trolls: Thank You

(image: getsatisfaction.com)

(image: getsatisfaction.com)

The title of this post might seem confusing. I mean, who thanks trolls? Those angry, sad individuals who dedicate themselves to spewing hate (especially, it seems, woman-hate and feminist-hate) all over the Internet are hardly contributing members of society, are they? I mean, I can’t begin to say how they spend their time when they’re not trolling, but when they are?

Under “normal” circumstances, I’d say no. They generally contribute nothing to a debate, relying on sweeping generalizations (often, in the case of anti-feminist trolls, repeating MRA talking points) to make their arguments. And they aren’t here to change hearts and minds—they mostly seem not to care about convincing anyone of anything, telling their own stories, or improving life on Planet Earth in any way.

And yet, because they exist and target women and other non-men with violent language and hate (and even rape threats and death threats), and because most people (who aren’t women/non-men on the Internet) never encounter them at their absolute worst, their 31 flavors of bullshit can sometimes serve a higher purpose. When we treat that BS as an illustration of the challenges we face, I believe we (as activists) can show readers how little power most trolls actually have while illustrating for our readers (and other trolls) the weakness of their arguments.

So with that, I’d like to thank my trolls for all these reasons:

  • Thank you for targeting me, because that tells me that I’m doing something right. Otherwise, why would you bother?

    download

    Apparently a famous troll.

  • Thank you for challenging me: by countering your lazy arguments I not only hone my own reasoning skills, but illustrate for my readers (and the rest of the trolletariat) just how lazy they are and how easily we can deconstruct and disprove them. If nothing else, our exchanges serve as a signpost: All viewpoints are welcome here, but trolls will be dealt with (more on which in a bit).
  • Thank you for being just vile enough that you distinguish yourselves from regular people who disagree rudely, allowing me to easily identify and disregard you. This doesn’t mean I won’t reply—just that I don’t give a shit what you have to say. It takes far less energy, and my reserves always seem low these days. So again, thanks for making it easy on me.
  • Thank you for those instances when you take the time to write a comment so pointless that I can disregard it completely. I get a lot of comments on some of my posts, and I like to respond to them when I can—it’s extremely considerate of you to allow me to filter you out of that process. I do wonder why you bother, though—did you really think “Your a stupid cunt” was a) a contribution, b) ever going to appear publicly on my page, c) remotely original?
  • Thank you for stepping up every single time we need an object lesson on white male privilege and/or MRA/anti-feminist/woman-hate. Whether here, on Facebook, or on Twitter, it’s like you show up just to prove my point. In any conversation about the challenges we face in a patriarchal society, one of you will show up with your cries of “Fucking feminazis!” and “What about the MEN???!” How do you keep a straight face? I can tell you that I do not. I LMFAO on a regular basis, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what you intended.
  • And thank you for those laughs. The chuckles, the cackles, the all-out guffaws you provide when you show up in a conversation about our lives and perspectives and wave your pathetic little flag—when you hurl insults as though you believe each one has any impact on me other than annoyance and audible eye-rolls. Thanks for the entertainment. I mean that.

Now, a few methods for…

Dealing with Trolls

Some folks will tell you that ignoring trolls is the best policy. Those folks have apparently never dealt with bullies, or they beat the odds somehow, because as Rocket J. Squirrell famously stated, “That trick never works.” For one thing, more trolls will come, and some will teeter on the dividing line between troll and just rude fucking asshole (i.e., making an argument, not just spewing bile). You won’t be able to ignore them all (trust me, I’ve tried) and dealing with them decisively shows other trolls what they can expect when they visit your blog (or Facebook page or Twitter mentions).

Kitten Setting

Some of you know that one of my favorite methods of dealing with trolls is the Kitten Setting. It takes time and energy, so I don’t always employ it, but when I have it has been hilarious and pretty rewarding. Fun, even–and that’s not a word most people associate with trolls (except trolls themselves, I imagine).

Respond

In general, I don’t recommend engaging trolls. It’s an energy suck and there’s usually no point. They don’t show up to debate but to distract and derail and intimidate. However, as I’ve stated above, sometimes a troll writes something I feel is worthy of a response. Generally, this is not because he (and it’s nearly always “he”) contributed something intelligent to the conversation, but because he’s repeating MRA talking points I want to counter publicly for readers and trolls who happen by. Sometimes I don’t have the energy for this, and I let the comment through hoping my readers will take it on. I’m rarely disappointed—my readers are super smart and trolls are lazy so it’s usually short work to take them apart, and I’m so grateful to those of you who step up and do that. Thank you.

Kill Them With Kindness

This is one of the most challenging methods for me because in order to be kind, I have to feel compassion, and when it comes to trolls that takes some reaching. But understanding that most of them are a) young men or boys, b) social misfits, and c) often just misguided has helped me to find that compassion at times, especially when a troll lets slip a teeny hint of humanity. Sometimes I just have to say “I’m sorry you’re so unhappy, but you can’t play here anymore.” And leave it at that.

Get Out the Ban Hammer

When a troll ceases to be useful and becomes nothing but a sad little voice constantly raging at me from his basement lair, I ban him. There are several ways to do this, including setting his email address as a filtered word or his IP address as “direct to Spam.” Either way, that troll can never darken the doorway of my blog again unless he’s willing to go to a lot more effort to harass me.

Report

Once a troll dedicates himself to an all-out harassment campaign on your blog, it’s possible an email/IP ban will fail as he will create new accounts from new locations in order to troll you. At this point (if you haven’t already) it’s time to contact your friends at WordPress (or your service provider) and report the little fucker. And if that fails for some reason, I recommend contacting the police. Cyber-stalking/harassment laws at this point are weak in many areas, but they don’t get stronger without precedent. Ultimately, if the laws in your location don’t protect you, it might be time to contact your elected officials and find out why.

Don’t Stop

In the majority of cases, it won’t ever get to that point. Most trolls are dedicated not to trolling one blog but to spreading their love all over the Internet. If you cease to become an easy target, chances are they will move on. Believe me, there is no peace in that thought for me. I don’t want trolls harassing anyone else instead of me (kind of like teaching women to prevent rape teaches us to make sure rapists rape someone else), but there’s only so much I—or any of us—can do. A dedicated troll will pursue his hobby until, like that poor, sad man in Texas, he suffers real consequences for his actions; often the best we can do is buy ourselves some peace and help our readers understand—as I’m trying to do now—that trolls rage precisely because they have no real power (though they may enjoy privilege) over us. They are a pimple on the ass of the Internet, and as such what they mostly do is annoy and irritate (and occasionally weep pus all over the place). They’re ugly and vile but mostly impotent (though they may have an agenda that is not), and I believe it’s important that we treat them as such and avoid expending our energies either arguing with them or worrying overly about the things they say. By this, I don’t mean we should ignore what they do. Just don’t let them drain your resources if you can help it.

Whatever you do, don’t let them intimidate you into silence.*

(Note: Trolls can do real damage, such as when they target traumatized people, bully young people telling them to kill themselves, or make threats that genuinely make one feel unsafe, which is where the police may be helpful—if you see something, say something.)

So here’s to eventually popping that zit and slapping a Band-Aid on it. But in the meantime, I hope the information above helps you in some small way to deal with the trolls you encounter. If you have a favorite method I haven’t mentioned here, I’d love to hear it.

In closing, just one more word of thanks to my trolls: for the laughs, the object lessons, and the challenges. For often making my point even better than I did. For providing the constant illustration of the fact that women speaking out are still a threat to men who fear that they have little enough power already and might lose even more. And finally, thanks for providing grist for yet another blog post to which you will no doubt flock and serve all these purposes all over again.

Thanks, trolls.

Love,
Rosie

*Sometimes you have to take a break or even stop what you’re doing altogether and practice self-care. Do that without hesitation! I’m not saying you should keeping doing what you’re doing no matter what it costs you—I’m just saying don’t give them power they don’t have. I hope that makes sense.

PS: For Twitter, there’s BlockBot. Seems pretty cool.

PPS: Honestly, I have a way harder time dealing with push-back from friends and allies than I do hateful bullshit, so in case you’re new at this, be prepared for that to hurt way more than anything trolls can say to you.

Update (11/13): I’ve made some minor tweaks to this article to clarify—and reflect minor changes in—my philosophy. Also, four months later, and zero trolls have hit this post. WTF, trolls?


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Does This Rag Smell Like Chloroform to You?

20120522210822!Dishonored-box-art-1-

[Trigger warning for discussion of rape.]

This article contains spoilers.

Dishonored is a game about choices and the effects of those choices. It’s also a game that had a lot of really visceral horror, which I noticed within the first several minutes as I watched rats murder and completely devour two guards. Holy shit. At first I thought I wasn’t going to like it for that (on a personal level, not a larger level), but I came to really enjoy what it brings to the table on the whole. There were two things about the game that really stood out about my playthrough, though—the castration torture we never actually mention and the rape boat.

The former is something that’s super easy to miss. You find someone on your side, Overseer Martin, chained up in the middle of a courtyard. He has clearly been imprisoned for a while, and is guarded by a single smack-talking dude when you find him (why every single guard is male is a discussion for another day). Once you dispense of the watchdog (I believe I set him on fire in one of my playthroughs), you let your target out. As soon as he stands up, you can see that his crotch is bloody. He babbles some quasi-cheerful (for a guy in his position) lines to you, then heads off to your base to meet up with the people who sent you while you go on ahead to incapacitate the high overseer. You can talk to Overseer Martin later, you can talk to other people who know him, you can even aim your creepy magic “I’ll-tell-you-everyone’s-secrets” heart at him, but no one ever talks about it. He just walks around with this bloody crotch, almost casually unaware of it himself. I’ve tried to see it as a trick of the light, as maybe something else—as anything, really—but every time I look at it, I see the same thing. Blood. It’s blood. Whoever imprisoned him castrated him as a form of torture, and the only way to even pull that out of the story is to look. I think that’s great storytelling, but overall, that’s some terrifying visceral shit.

Which leads me to the rape boat.

Or, hey, maybe it’s not really a rape boat. Maybe I just handed an unconscious woman over to a man who tells me that she’ll learn to love him—“after all, she’ll have her whole life”—because he really wants to have totally consensual sex with her. Or maybe he really just wants to get her out of harm’s way and then set her free into the wild. Like a mongoose. As one does. And hey—as my roommate pointed out—maybe she’ll escape!

Let’s set this up. For this mission, you’re to go to a party and dispose of the hostess. (There are three, actually, and you have to figure out which is your target. Also, cool fact: your target changes on multiple playthroughs.) Your assignment here is just to incapacitate her. Nothing fancy. Same with every other target, really. Each target also has two methods of disposal—outright homicide or various no-kill options. The game also has a no-kill achievement, so if you’re after that, you need to figure out how to get her out of this crowded house with no one seeing you.

Screen shot 2013-07-07 at 10.46.07 AM

Lady Boyle, the hostess

Luckily, as you talk to party guests, you find a man who would like to help. He knows you’ve been sent to kill her, you see, and he explains his undying love for her. It’s important to him that she live. If you could just bring her unconscious body down to the cellar, he promises that “you will never hear of her again.”

“I won’t harm her, I swear. I’m a man of means. Just bring her to the cellar and I will keep her safe with me. Forever.”

“WHOA”,” was my initial reaction. “That sounds…but you can’t really be asking me to…no way, obviously I misunderstood. This is her boyfriend. He just plans to take her somewhere safe, and is going about it in a fucked-up way.”

Hanging on to this thought is the only thing that makes me feel like I can actually complete this mission. So I do. I deliver her to the basement where he places her in his boat and delivers the line that I’d been dreading. “Don’t worry. She’ll learn to love me. After all, she’ll have her whole life.”

WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK. So I have not only just assisted in a kidnapping, I have sent a woman off to…what? He’s obviously planning to keep her full-on against her will. He doesn’t see her as a person so much as a trophy, because you want consent from fully autonomous people. Will she be tied up? Chained up? Merely locked in? Or maybe—and possibly even worse?—he really does want sex to be consensual, so he plans to mentally and emotionally abuse her until she begs for his comfort. I don’t know, but to me, every option sounds like hell.

Now, let’s be clear: torture is featured heavily in the game. I have zero issues with that because it highlights how terrible the world is, and you don’t actually see most of it. You see the effects, and come to realize that this is a horrible, horrible place.

There were so many angles Dishonored could have gone with their (only) female target that include torture, and I wouldn’t be annoyed because torture in general fits the world. But instead, we went with sexual torture—the clichéd and “acceptable” punishment for women who step out of line.

On top of all that? It is just damn lazy writing.

“Wait, Sid, so you’re saying castration is totally cool? Why do you hate men?”

Nooooo…I brought it up because it was one of the two truly horrifying things that really stood out for me. Also, it’s super interesting to me that no one in game ever talks about it. But I didn’t expound on it in this particular article because, while unquestionably horrible, it isn’t a cliché. It isn’t an “accepted” way to handle an out-of-line man in our society. It doesn’t exacerbate an existing viewpoint.

Might ask them about the mask, too...

Might ask them about the mask, too…

The thing that gets me is this: I’ll bet if you asked the designers why they didn’t subject Lady Boyle to any other kind of torture, they would tell you that made them uncomfortable. The idea of allowing someone to hit or torture a woman in a video game would be in bad taste, but allowing her stalker to rape her (“No, just force her into an unwanted intimate situation!” To-may-to, to-mah-to.) for the rest of her life is totally fine.

Something is deeply wrong with that line of logic.

As soon as the two of them floated away, I reloaded the game and immediately played through this mission again specifically to avoid sending her off in the rape boat.

“Trust me,” I said, killing her in front of hundreds of partygoers. “You’re better off.”


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.


Violations and Villains and Apologists. Oh My.

Image via morgueFile.

Image via morgueFile.

“Violation” is a word that keeps coming up for me around dealing with betrayal. When you secretly bring a third person into a committed two-person relationship, you violate not only loyalty and trust, but you eliminate informed consent. Would I have consented to sex with my ex if I’d known he was having sex with someone else? Absolutely not.

My ex created a situation where any intimacy between us happened essentially without my informed consent. I consented to intimacy with a person who had committed to a monogamous relationship with me. I did not consent to share my body with someone who was sharing his body with another person while pretending I was the only one. So, in effect, he did not have my consent. He removed my ability to consent.

Not that we were having much sex. As I’ve said before, he told me he lacked drive. I got complacent. He went out and got laid. But at the time I learned of the affair he’d been having for months, he was actively trying to “work on our intimacy” which means he was actively working on having more sex with me while he was having sex with someone else in secret. The sex we were having, then, was not entirely consensual, was it?

So yeah, the more time passes, the more grave his crimes seem to me, and the less able I feel to forgive him. The more I process, the more I realize that what he did—that what people do when they perpetrate this violation upon one another—was abuse. To me, he is a villain. And that means that when I encounter people who tell me that they want to be my friend, but that want to be his friend too, and they hope I understand, I don’t. I just can’t.

I’ve tried. I really, truly have. I’ve done my best not to feel resentful, but the resentment is there and I’m starting to realize it’s there for a reason.

When I was raped at 12 years old, my neighborhood split down the middle. There was the “Me” camp: the people who believed me when I said I’d been raped, and there was the “him” camp: the people who just couldn’t believe that a guy they considered a friend could possibly be a rapist.

When an ex beat the crap out of me and I ran away to my dad’s place halfway across the country, my dad joked that I’d probably pissed him off and when the guy called, he put me on the phone so I could, you know, face the music and resolve things. A few days later—before I really knew what happened—I was back with my abuser.

A while back Sid wrote a story about how it felt when one of our friends dropped my ex from Facebook while maintaining a friendship with her abuser–a guy whose abuse had never turned physical and so even she hesitated to use the “A” word.

Here’s an “A” word for you: Apologism. It’s what half my neighborhood engaged in when I was raped. It’s how my dad dealt with the fact that the guy who beat me up was a lot like him. It’s what our friend did when she told Sid her abuser wasn’t really like that.

It’s what people do when they decide that a person who abuses other people is essentially just a good guy who made a mistake (or a series of them—hey, he had a tough childhood) and let him off the hook for bad behavior. And more and more often I find myself asking why it is that people insist on apologizing for my ex simply by reminding me that they feel they must maintain friendships with both of us.

Of course, I have no way of knowing what sort of consequences my ex may have been subjected to at the hands of our mutual friends. But I do know that I’m aware of no consequences dire enough to satisfy me, and he has certainly made no amends where I’m concerned (except to throw some money at the situation). And some of our friends were his friends first–I know that some will feel the need to maintain loyalty to him, and I totally understand if that’s the choice they need to make. (I recently took the liberty of unfriending his whole family on Facebook, not because I don’t love them, but because I know they are unwaveringly loyal to him and it hurt me too much to see them there.)

sandI also know that I need my close friends–the people I hang out with–to be people who do not feel the need to maintain a friendship with my abuser. I don’t have the energy to deal with the strain of spending time with people knowing they probably just hung out with him last week.

So, I guess this is just to say that I’m working on my boundaries. Some people in my life might notice that I’m a little quieter, a little less likely to socialize. Or maybe they won’t. But I will be spending my limited energies not on people whose choices say that my abuse doesn’t really count but on those who bolster and uplift me and remind me that I am truly loved.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


SFFragette: Moving SF/F into the 21st Century

Woman-in-Space-Suit-Reading-a-BookThis week, after news broke of yet another sexual harassment incident at a convention, I decided I needed to do something tangible to help solve the sexism, misogyny, and harassment problem in the science fiction and fantasy community.

I’ve been a part of the community since I was 19 and attended Westercon in Portland, Oregon, and I have worked and played in the field ever since (nearly thirty years). It’s home to so many friends and is part of my family life. I have always thought of it as an accepting community, and it is in a lot of ways. There are few places where people can be pretty much whatever or whomever they choose and not feel judged, and SF/F fandom is one of them.

But it was an incident at Norwescon in Seattle a couple of years ago that helped me come to the realization that I had to start talking about feminism. Living it. That I had to stop being a Feminist Butt.

I was on a panel with two men where I was ostensibly the moderator. One of the men very helpfully took over moderation duties, ran the panel, and he and the other guy proceeded to do most of the talking. I gave up trying to do my job or get a word in edgewise at some point about halfway through and just waited (with what I hoped was a patient, not-bitchy look on my face) for it to be over. It wasn’t until I walked out of the room that I allowed myself to get really pissed. Two months later I started this blog.

It wasn’t an isolated incident (and the Internet is currently brimming with women’s stories of sexism, misogyny, harassment, stalking, and assault at SF/F cons), but my decision to come out as a ranty feminist was certainly not a result of my experiences in SF/F alone. And until recently I’ve been pretty focused on the larger culture and the video games community (my other home) where we’ve finally begun talking about these issues in earnest, and haven’t really given a lot of thought to the need for activism within SF/F. Then all hell broke loose, and it broke loose again, and a writer named Kari Sperring coined a hashtag that gave me one of those “Light bulb!” moments:

The conversation was already hopping on Twitter, so I ran over and created a Facebook page and posted some of the wonderful posts coming across that feed. The idea was to get people all in one place and start talking solutions. And as I thought about solutions, I realized what I wanted to see for starters was a presence at conventions to counter sexual harassment. To that end, I and my ultra-secret partner-in-crime began designing a badge idea to propose to the community as part of a campaign to achieve three goals:

  • Don't Harass Me BroProvide information on how to report harassers.
  • Act as safety liasons (someone you can go to for immediate assistance if security isn’t around).
  • Create an awareness among potential harassers that we are watching and reporting harassment.

It soon became apparent that we were going to need a website* and a Twitter account, so that achieved, I’m now engaging members of the community on the design, the slogan, etc. and am really encouraged by the response. I’ve also learned of two groups doing similar work (Nerdiquette 101 and the Backup Ribbon Project) and I’m looking forward to talking with them about what they’ve learned and how we can work together.

All this to say if you’re a reader, writer, or SF/F con-goer and want to help make positive change in that community, join the discussion. Chime in on the blog, Facebook or Twitter, write a blog post telling your story or giving your perspective, and consider participating in the upcoming campaign to be part of the solution at cons you attend. I’d love to have your help making SF/F the accepting, safe community we all want it to be.

*SFFragette.org domain active soon!