“Geekdom is the only place where socially shunned males can be save [sic] and be themselves”

This popped up among several friends, from an anonymous geek person . [Sic] all around.

Geekdom is the only place where socially shunned males can be save and be themselves. So when women, who exclude them outside geek culture, invade those save spaces and force the scene to conform to their wants and rules they leave the men with nowhere to go. Where can they flee? They’re backed into a corner. Attacking invading women is not harrassment – it is defense. Women hate socially inept males. Why should they not hate them back when they try to destoy their only sanctuary.

First, it’s blatant nonsense that women – or rather not cis dudes – were never part of “geekdom”, it’s bullshit to say women “invade” geek spaces. The first games I bought were by Roberta Williams and Jane Jensen; I was reading Ursula le Guin before I knew I was apparently supposed to hate all girls (i.e. teens); and the most popular character among me and my friends for Halloween was Frankenstein’s monster, created by – *gasp* – a woman.

But, I don’t need to list women who revolutionised the various mediums they were part of or elaborate on the quality and beauty they brought to their various genres. The works speak for themselves. [Read more…]

That’s the price you pay

In my latest piece for Daily Beast, I briefly mentioned a current harassment case in Canada. A judge will make a ruling in the next few months. Some are claiming it is a free speech issue. In some ways it is, if we understand what such people mean by “free speech”: It should hopefully have some effect on the unfettered licence to say whatever we like without consequences that apparently only exists in online spaces – but not in meatspace. (The case is misconstrued as a free speech one, however, as Anne Thériault – who actually knows more about the case – demonstrates; a point I didn’t stress enough. I didn’t choose the title of the piece.)

We are allowed to write freely, but we treat death threats seriously; we can say what we like to basically anyone, but most oppose street harassment; we can travel freely, but presumably don’t barge into conversations between people we don’t know. Some of these are wrong by virtue of being criminal; but we’d all be worried if the only reason someone refuses to perform an immoral act is solely because of the law rather than personal ethics.

The major focus for my essay was to remove it from the conversation about free speech; to focus on it being an issue of moral priorities. It was about saying that more people need to use the tools that already exist in digital spaces to clamp down on abuse, harassment and targeting. It’s not censorship to close comment sections, because no one’s taken your keyboard, computer or internet access; it’s closing a door, not sticking you in jail (as I say in the piece). Blocking people on social media isn’t some tool I created: It’s within Twitter’s function.

My focus is how so many site owners and others with power refuse to use these tools in ways that actively discourage harassment, sexism, racism and so on; they prioritise no moderation, effectively leaving marginalised and frequently targeted people open to harassment, over bullshit ideas of “censorship” – i.e. licence to do what you like without consequence.

Even site owners are playing this tune because of how widespread this BS notion of free speech is – but they’re not the government, they’re a private enterprise. They can do what they like; they already prioritise everytime they let one person publish, but not another. So why do they only focus on what’s atop the line, not the area where readers participate?

And what reader will want to participate if they know they’ll be dogpiled, treated to harassment, sexism and so on?

Free speech is bullshit when people are too afraid, too fearful, too anxious to participate. Leaving it “free” means leaving it free… from top down consequences; it’s not some open agora with philosophers battling it out in amicable fashion. It’s marginalised people having to face down a horde, because the horde is already in power (that’s the benefit of being privileged).

Lots of people are saying “this is the price of liberty; you need to hear horrible things so that we don’t undermine freedom”. I hear horrible things all the time. I get messages about being lynched and killed for being a person of colour. There’s nothing free about entering digital spaces as a frequent target of harassment and stalkers and online abusers; I’m not asking for these people to be denied internet access, I’m not taking away their ability to write and publish on their sites or blogs or message boards or Twitter.

I’m saying more people in power should begin using tools they already implement, that their laziness or fetishising of free speech only benefits harassers’ freedom and, therefore, silences marginalised people; either in our refusal to participate at all or no longer wanting to speak in this space. (Thus, if you claim to defend free speech, even within this framework, you should care!) This isn’t “the price of liberty” – you are not free to hurt and harm. What that means for law, I’m not sure, but being digital doesn’t mean it’s free from the scrutiny of policies – and, in some cases, it has been under the scrutiny of the law to help protect people.

Digital life is real life. Just because, say, people are arrested for hate mail doesn’t mean mail has stopped or we’re unable to write; we just don’t send hate mail (again, if your only reason for not sending hate mail is the law, that’s highly problematic).

The more we start understanding digital life is real life, the better we can stop dressing digital protection as a free speech issue and understand this primarily as a safety one.

(Comment section will be heavily moderated because I hate free speech.)

Flagging justice

Background info on Newsome here.

Background on #McKinney here:

(Side note: I noted some awful whorephobia happening about “women on poles” as attempted humour, in response to the iconic image of Newsome. Don’t do that. Adult performers are no less deserving of respect; further, there’s nothing stopping an adult performer doing their job as well as fighting for justice.)

Writer gets in touch with people who sent rape and death threats online

via Tabatha Leggett: “After writing a light-hearted post about how I didn’t get The Simpsons, I received death and rape threats. Tracking down the people who abused me turned out to be unexpectedly emotional.”

When the foundation is so poisonous, even comments that aren’t swearing or threatening can be part of what makes it all scary.

‘One London-based journalist who sparked a particularly hurtful conversation about my post on Twitter emailed me: “I have several female friends who have gone through what you’ve experienced, and something I didn’t really appreciate at first was the distorting mass of the crowd. Huge numbers of people coming at you – even if each individual might be being relatively innocuously so! – is scary, and now I know I was a part of one of those crowds I have to say sorry.”’

This is what people often don’t understand about being targeted en masse: Imagine 50 people, all speaking to you at the same time, demanding you answer their questions, that you respond to their hot take on the issue at hand, all while one or two others are literally screaming for you to be killed. Context is everything: shouting “get over yourself” or calling someone derogatory terms like “pussy” “weak”, etc., doubling down on making a harmless stranger feel targeted. It’s so common and so horrible. It’s incredible that people think this is acceptable behaviour and feel nothing even when targets ask you to stop.

Some gamers don’t want criticism, they want PR

Over at Gamespot, Kevin VanOrd – one of gaming’s best writers – “broke consensus” by giving Arkham Knight 7/10. Many other places are giving it much higher scores, including a perfect 10 at Polygon. They did a video talking to Kevin about why he did so (even though you can read the review itself to find out why.)

I noticed this comment and it kind of perfectly encapsulates what is so wrong with so many gamers’ responses to criticism.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 12.23.58 PM

 

Yes: A person who admits to not playing Arkham Knight thinks it should get a higher score, based on a trailer. Because, I guess, trailers are never created to show off the best parts of the game, running perfectly smoothly, with the right set pieces, by a huge corporation’s marketing team. It’s not like it’s their job to sell you on a product of theirs based on decades of experience in marketing.

It’s strange because clearly this person could just ignore this review or Kevin’s perspective in their purchasing decision. (You’ll notice that this person asserts Kevin knows nothing about games, an accusation I know all too well as of late.) As someone who adores Arkham Knight, I can see where Kevin is coming from. That was his experience and it actually resonates with a great many other people.

The key to writing a good review should be that even those who disagree can still pick up on those aspects they’d love: For example, Kevin noted how often you use the Batmobile. He found that tiresome. However, I love the Batmobile and I loved the parts where I had to use it. So his response to the same scenarios are exactly the opposite of mine: there’s no arguing there, it’s simple fact that our tastes just differ.

It’s strange that someone who clearly has been swept up in the PR to purchase the game feels the need to defend it against someone who’s played it (and is clearly an experienced critic). Kevin isn’t stopping you; he didn’t say it was bad; he gave it a 7 not an 8 or 9 like most other places. That people who haven’t played it are taking issue with the score should tell you so much about how so many gamers respond to criticism in general. It’s tiring dealing with such responses. But we haven’t reached that point where such responses are the exception rather than the constant: Too many gamers want everything and everyone to be mouthpieces for PR, rather than individual, critical perspectives on our favourite medium.

Girl Scouts return huge donation after donor requests it not benefit transgender girls

I don’t really know what the Girls Scouts are, but this was incredible to read.

A $50,000 donation is cause for celebration at the Queen Anne offices of the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. [The council’s CEO, Megan Ferland] came back to the office earlier this spring and announced that she’d just landed a $100,000 donation… Not only did it represent nearly a quarter of the council’s annual fundraising goal, it would pay to send 500 girls to camp. “We were thrilled,” Ferland says.

Except there was a catch. In late May, as news of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition was blowing up your Facebook news feed, she received a letter from the donor with a brief request: Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls. If you can’t, please return the money.

I don’t know how one reads that favourably. But that was Ferland’s response.

In a short letter, she informed the donor that she would, in fact, be returning the money. Her reasoning was simple. “Girl Scouts is for every girl,” she says. “And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”

Every girl. No matter what you or others decide they are.

You can read the whole story here, including the support they’re getting and, importantly, the support they need – it’s incredible reading that organisations reaffirming transgender people as belonging can do wonders to help the trans folk, since it helps combat stigma that leads to the awful situation so many live in.

Indeed, if you want an outline of what that looks like (at least in America), Last Week Tonight had an excellent segment.

Oliver and his crew are suuuuuuuch an SJWs.

Please

Lots of folks are trying to show me support. I really appreciate it, but what I would appreciate more is if you took your energy in fighting battles with people who don’t care about me to raise the voices of minority folk. Maybe use this time to try get more people employed who aren’t straight white men.

Instead of the collective being one that shouts down marginalised folk, let the default collective be one that raises us up and doesn’t let us be drowned out by bizarrely angry and dismissive others. The status quo is broken and solidarity for marginalised voices should be a constant for progress, for looking and moving forward; solidarity shouldn’t only exist for when things dissolve. Things are already broken and supporting one another is how we continue.

Who cares what they’re saying about me? You know who I am. There’s nothing for you to defend, but there’s plenty for you to promote. I’m not going to tell you who that is, you should know. I’m thankful for the volume of support, but please use this energy to get us jobs, get us recognised, get us safe and able to feed ourselves in industries we love but are told we’re not allowed in.

I might return to social media. I might not. I want to be there for my friends. Again: I’d rather not make this about me. Please, help everyone so that no one ever has to go through what I did.

PS: Please stop talking about me in any relation to Gamergate. Talk about abusers, harassers, unwelcoming environments, and so on. Most of us have experienced this long before any hashtag movements.

PPS: People asking for evidence don’t care about evidence. The fact I left a key source of income and employment, where I was able to get pitches, writing gigs, etc., you would think would be sufficient – but, again, they’re not interested in evidence. Please: Don’t debate them, help promote us.

UPDATE: Comment section has reached attention of people I don’t want to talk to (ever/right now), so I’m putting automoderation on. Sorry, but I’m not in a position to handle court-approved evidence submission, people saying I know nothing, etc. I don’t understand why people are this upset, this focused on me, but I really, really want to move on.

UPDATE 2: Please don’t fight in the comment sections. Please don’t demand evidence, I’m not here to  do your bidding. If you are not a friend or follower, this really is quite irrelevant to you. I really do just want to be left alone and want us to focus on creating safe spaces, not partaking in boring anger of people who hate me for reasons I will never understand. If you’re “neutral” about this, I don’t want to hear from you either, thanks. This isn’t a court proceeding. Find a better subject: It’s not me.

Games are not exempt from social discussions

In a March update to 2013 indie survival horror game, Rust, the devs explained a new change: the assignment of skin tone.

Writing on the game’s official blog, they said:

Everyone now has a pseudo unique skin tone and face. Just like in real life, you are who you are – you can’t change your skin colour or your face. It’s actually tied to your steamid.

Right now your avatar is randomised via three things. Skin colour, head mesh and head material. We only have 2 face textures and 2 face materials, which means there’s 4 possible combinations. We will be adding more of these later on (at which point your face will probably change).

There’s a lot of skin colours in the world, and it’s really easy to appear racially insensitive when doing this. This is compounded by the fact that everyone is really used to seeing this guy as a white guy, so when you see him as a black guy it feels like he’s just “blacked up“. So we’re spending a lot of time trying to lessen that effect.

Race is a complicated issue in a world where people are still judged, targeted and marginalised – even in first world countries – because of their skin colour. Many people would like to believe we are beyond it, but unfortunately, we are not. And this is precisely what scholar Megan Condis tackles at Al Jazeera:

The reactions to Rust’s unprecedented experiment were swift. Many gamers were aggrieved by the skin tone automatically assigned them. Others felt drafted into racial discourses that they preferred to ignore, and lamented the entrance of social justice activism into what they saw as a blissfully post-racial online world. But the backlash only underscored a disturbing reality: By insisting that race doesn’t or shouldn’t exist online, such attitudes ensure an online status quo in which people of color remain marginalized and invisible. (Emphasis added.)

This continuation of marginalisation arises from gamers’ insistence race doesn’t belong in a review; in sites focusing more on what characters’ smoke than why there are no people of colour.

It’s everywhere and people who loudly proclaim to be totally not racist perpetuate this toxicity through erasing our concerns.

While there were blatant racist responses to Rust’s decisions, there were also those who believed it an “enforcement” of issues. What’s striking, however, is that so many people forget how often people of colour are forced to play white people; how often gay people play as straight people; and so on. The straight white male lead and focus is ubiquitous in gaming – and a lot of media. This ubiquity leads to those identity aspects becoming invisible. As Condis puts it:

Why is it that the supposed lack of choice with regards to the player’s avatar only became a concern after people of color were added to the game? The reactions reflect a failure on the part of some gamers to recognize that whiteness is a race at all. These players appear to think of whiteness as a neutral type of embodiment, the universal category of humanity against which all those who do “have” a race (anyone who is not white) are compared.

Many people often respond to us people of colour’s concerns about race with frustration and anger; it’s particularly awful when, consistently, white people ask me to stop talking about race. I’d really love it if, instead of telling me to keep quiet about race, white folk interrogated this anger – not at systems of oppression, but at their own boredom, their own frustration at us, and how it adds to an environment we keep saying is unwelcoming to us.

Consider that when we write “Gaming culture is unfriendly to those who are not straight white cis men”, we have straight white men swear and harass us to… disprove this? It’s as if the articles about how minority groups face oppression get comments that prove the necessity of those articles.

The industry and culture is hostile and part of that hostility is privileged people who claim to be not racist or sexist telling the rest of us to chill out, quiet down, stop overreacting. We have given so many examples, shown so many ways – it’s not a question of evidence, it’s now a question of why privileged people don’t want to accept that evidence. It’s their refusal to self-reflect on their anger at us, rather than the systems and culture we point to that hurt everyone.

I, and other people of colour, can’t do that acceptance for them, neither can any other minority person who is frequently the target of hateful but privileged angry people. As Condis highlights in her piece, ubiquity of particular types of people has led to invisibility – and, because we don’t fit into that ubiquitous mould, that so-called “target demographic”, we become targets, not members, of yet another space.

This isn’t just gaming. It’s every day life. We shouldn’t want invisibility, we should want safety.

No one is forcing you to participate in these discussions. If you really don’t care, fine: don’t read, don’t participate. It’s a pity though that so many would rather pretend race doesn’t exist and isn’t an issue than try make games more inclusive, diverse and accepting. Games themselves talk about race – why won’t gamers?