Not being an asshole is actually kind of hard

(Disclaimer: This is a very “me” post since I’m the only anchor I feel safe to use. And I’m trying to work it out. Apologies.)

Many, including myself, have said that “not being an asshole” is easy; that decency isn’t a lot of work. I wonder how much truth there is to this.

On the one hand, not harassing women, threatening people with rape or death, etc., is actually quite easy: You just don’t. You don’t act at all. But we don’t describe non-harassers as good or decent people: That’s just the norm. We should here take note of people who expect prizes for being not-harassers, not-threateners, and so on. For some people, this is an effort worthy of reward instead of the barest, coldest foundation for decency.

On the otherhand, if you want to try be a good person toward others, you’ve got a lot of work filled with fuck ups.

Consider feminism.

I don’t feel comfortable calling myself a feminist – or any -ist – beyond atheist. Indeed, I don’t even call myself a liberal or progressive. The reasons are boring, except to say that is how I define myself. But regardless, much of my work is in support of feminist friends, against sexism and is considered feminist. I have no issue if that’s what others wish to call it.

The problem is I am not a woman. I am going to fuck up and say something stupid. I’m going to support the wrong people or use the wrong phrase; I’ll fuck up terminology and phrasing.

Again: I’m not just “not-harassing” or “not-threatening” women. I am attempting to actively and vocally support them and causes related to making society more inclusive. Whether that’s street harassment or online gaming. This is also why I target Nintendo, for example, for their unthinking homophobic prejudice. Inclusion matters beyond appeals to me as a straight dude.

But this almost always means I’m fighting to support those who are not like me.

Of course, as a non-white person there is the added aspect of racial inclusion – since I’ve encountered everything from claims about my language ability and sexual habits (namely camels) because of my Arabic name to dismissal of race concerns entirely, as irrelevant.

And in terms of supporting those not like me: I’m going to fuck it up.

To repeat: “not-harassing” is the default; vocal support is decency or good. The latter is done precisely because you want to create a more safe environment.

But yes: it seems decency is hard because you will fuck up, since you’re trying to shed light and deal with concerns about a broad group of people who are not you.

This, however, shows an important corollary: being an asshole is easy.

I’m unimpressed with people who double down on their bigotry, sexism, blind-sided ideas of what is or isn’t good for a group they don’t belong to: It’s one of the main reasons I abandoned active atheism. It’s easy to ignore the concerns of others as bluster, even when you claim to be supporting them. It’s easy to be a white, straight man and tell people daily affected by bigotry in large and small ways, to grow a thicker skin when society itself is the skin you wear. Tearing it off in pieces, to let others be part of it is hard when you’re wrapped in it for so long. But it’s right. It’s moral. And you can spot an asshole by the ease with which he utters his convictions, with the comfort he feels in support.

I, for example, always feel uncomfortable supporting women and LGBTI people (spoiler: I do not consider myself an asshole. Many disagree). This is the main reason I use my immunity as a man to undermine that immunity, under the banner of entitlement. I target what men are doing wrong, what men must do better. I use the one identity that unites me with those who often oppress and convey bigotry, who reinforce toxicity, to target their wrong actions.

The point is that being decent or good is difficult, because we’re being decent in terms of people who aren’t like us. We will fuck up and we should try surround ourselves with those who can help us, guide us and correct us. We should be uncomfortable in our support because, for example, feminism isn’t designed for men’s comfort – it’s designed for everyone’s inclusion, which means eroding long-standing entitlement men have.

Finally, you are not owed praise for being not-harasser and you are not owed praise for being decent. People who do this are precisely where that “white knight” label comes from, tarnishing efforts premised on morality with the brush targeting those who do so for creepy personal or sexual advantage (a minority that still has far reaching consequences; you only need one creep to ruin your day).

In conclusion: being an asshole is easy. Being a good person, especially when it comes to those not like you, is hard. It’s time for more straight dudes to recognise it, deal with discomfort and support those not like us.

Scott Adams mansplains why feminists are wrong about street harassment or something

I had no idea, OK. I didn’t know Scott Adams, a person I admired for his Dilbert comic, was… well, like this. I wrote an article for The Daily Beast on street harassment and male entitlement in general; let’s just say Mr Adams and I disagree somewhat.

He wrote this blogpost last month, but yeah. OK. So… let’s have a look.

—–

This blog is written for a rational audience

Well, thanks. I guess?

in 2014, sexism is not so much the “can’t vote” type of problem it once was. It’s more of the “Someone is making me uncomfortable” or “I think my gender played a role in a decision” or “I can’t tell if this is a business meeting or a date” sort of thing.

I’d like to point to a small American paper called the New York Times, though I realise I’m quoting from all the way back to three days ago. This is what’s happening in his own country. Right now.

Anti-abortion measures pose a risk to all pregnant women, including those who want to be pregnant.

Such laws are increasingly being used as the basis for arresting women who have no intention of ending a pregnancy and for preventing women from making their own decisions about how they will give birth.

How does this play out? Based on the belief that he had an obligation to give a fetus a chance for life, a judge in Washington, D.C., ordered a critically ill 27-year-old woman who was 26 weeks pregnant to undergo a cesarean section, which he understood might kill her. Neither the woman nor her baby survived.

In Iowa, a pregnant woman who fell down a flight of stairs was reported to the police after seeking help at a hospital. She was arrested for “attempted fetal homicide.”

In Utah, a woman gave birth to twins; one was stillborn. Health care providers believed that the stillbirth was the result of the woman’s decision to delay having a cesarean. She was arrested on charges of fetal homicide.

In Louisiana, a woman who went to the hospital for unexplained vaginal bleeding was locked up for over a year on charges of second-degree murder before medical records revealed she had suffered a miscarriage at 11 to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

You can nail this next to the other numerous incidents of women – still in America, today – being arrested for not stopping abuse while themselves being abused. Oh, but yeah, it’s probably just feminists overreacting – not shitty laws worth opposing, like voting law restrictions which Adams deems proper feminist issue. Nope: voting is far more important than women being locked up and arrested for trying to protect their own bodies and selves and lives and making autonomous decisions. (Note: voting of course matters, but why is this more worthy of feminist sledgehammers than fucking bodily autonomy that still is an issue today?)

Again, I’ve not even mentioned what happens to Muslim women in conservative Muslim countries or elsewhere. Even America sucks when it comes to women, dude.

Then we get this bit of patronizing nonsense (aside from the whole thing).

I pause here to make a clarification for any folks who might have wandered over here from Jezebel.com, HuffingtonPost.com, or Slate.com. I will try to type slowly so you understand this next part: Scott…is…saying…there…is… still …plenty… of …spousal abuse…job discrimination …sex crimes… and …other …horrors…perpetrated against…women.  But in 2014 that stuff looks more like crime than sexism. All women and 98% of men are on the same side when it comes to the criminal stuff.

(I like how he thinks ellipses indicates typing slowly, whereas I could’ve taken an hour to write this sentence.) [Read more…]

UPDATE 3.00: I created a monster called #Readergate on Twitter (UPDATE: It’s in Bustle)

I think.

Anyway, I want to sit here and be proud and pretend I did something for once in my life.

But more importantly, go have a look at some of the brilliant responses from others – and please contribute your own. It’s hilarious and cuts to the heart of the stupidity of #Gamergate. The power of satire can always be useful.

UPDATE: Caitlin White has a succinct yet remarkably accurate write up of its history in Bustle. Great piece.

UPDATE 2: There’s a write up at Salon that’s excellent.

UPDATE 3: I also tried to respond to some #Gamergaters on reddit. I got some reddit Gold for trying, so there’s that.

 

“If you’re a white male, you can do what you want”

I present a creepy pick-up artist, spreading his predatory message that targets women and teaches young men how to sexually assault women.

Here we have a perfect example of white male entitlement. He seriously says the title of this blog, in the context of desired women in Japan. You can also enjoy his racist re-enactment of Japanese women’s reactions. Also a warning of him displaying assault in this video.

Some choice quotes from the video.

” ‘Dude just grab her… she’s Japanese.’ ”

“And I pull in…”

Yeah, just grab a strange woman, without her consent; just “be a man” and grab a woman you don’t know because that’s not terrifying, fearful, dickish, awful. Yeah, just grab her. “She’s Japanese”.

He suggests yelling a Pokemon name to help ease the situation.

“Romping through the streets just like… grabbing girls… head on dick.”

“Even going up to groups… It’s the happiest I’ve ever been…”

Nothing about women or their consent or them being people.

Instead we have this.

Screen shot 2014-11-05 at 7.37.00 PM

She’s at her place of work and now some entitled white dude has decided to harass her, for lols, for “game”, because he wants to enjoy himself.

Fuck everything about this. (Do we even need to mention whether his behaviour is triggering for women who have survivoed worse abuse?)

The Guardian’s Comment is Free published Somayya Ismailjee’s takedown piece of this man, Mr Julien Blanc. I urge you to read it and I urge you to speak out against creeps like this.

The fact that this is a man who can literally profit off abusing women, get publicity, have a large social network and real life following, host workshops that are fully attended, and proudly display his sexual harassment on his social media tells you everything about rape culture.

Fuck everything about this.

HT Cécile Logé

But she’s wrong though…

Brianna Wu faces a lot of scorn and abuse right now from Gamergate. And also this.

Wu has faced and is facing harassment, was chased out her home and continues to fight against abuse – despite good reasons not to. So while facing a horde of misogynists and other horrible people, now is certainly a good time to take your big boy pants to her work! Totally!

Aside from the fact that saying a person who develops isn’t a “real” developer – which No True Scotsman cuts across like a train – it’s just… pointless.

It’s just unnecessary.

I have numerous problems with Sarkeesian’s work, not least her views on sex work. But the world isn’t coming to an end because my opinions haven’t been voiced. I don’t see why it’s necessary right now to do so. I also have other concerns.

But mainly: Sarkeesian, Wu, etc., are facing a mob of hostility from the internet and adding to that – no matter how well intentioned – is a jerk move.

Instead of using my limited time and resources to target Wu or Sarkeesian, I use it against the mob hating them.

And I do this for people who make racist Tweets about brown people like me and non-white people who live in Africa (like me).

If I can focus my criticism and use my finite time and finite energy to respond to an online mob attacking racists, I’d think gamers could do something similar for game devs and critics they don’t like. Oh, so you think Brianna Wu is a crap or fake game dev: yes, now is the perfect time to Tweet about that and make that your response (consistently in his interaction with me). And way to dismiss concerns of her safety as that being her “personal life”.

Sorry but I defended people who might hate me for my skin colour. What is so important about vidya games that it needs brave defenders targeting harmless women who everyone knows is being harassed and targeted? You have the freedom to criticise them, just as I have the freedom to tell you that’s pretty vile.

I don’t know but it seems to me more moral – ITS ABOUT ETHICS,  AFTER ALL! – to use your finite energy where it’s most needed, instead of being another person trying to score points against a harmless woman on the internet.

#Gamergate and the failure of ethics

So I’ve done a fair amount of work in ethics. I studied it as an M.Phil at a centre for Applied Ethics; I wrote on it for Big Think, write on it for Daily Beast, the Guardian and elsewhere. I teach it at a local university, to first-years, medical students and, once, even accountants. I’ve reviewed papers for major bioethics journals. I’m not an expert in it: but I can safely say I’ve “done” ethics more than most people.

And this is one reason (of many!) why I find Gamergate, this supposed movement concerned with “journalism ethics”, so insulting, so demeaning, and so contrary to ethics. I care a great deal about media ethics – particularly gaming media, as someone who also writes in that sphere – so I would love for more people to care.

Gamergate, however, makes my job a thousand times harder.

It’s clear from my hundreds of interactions with Gamergaters that, for a movement that is ostensibly about “ethics”, it sure has a lot of people that have no idea what that even means. I want to outline some various problems Gamergate has with ethics, aside from continuing to exist in the face of creating toxicity and harassment. [Read more…]

#NotAllTexans

Holy shit.

“Queers!” the man shouted. “That’s what I’m upset about. This faggot right here.”

I hope the target is OK; seeing that kind of response in defence of a harmless person is encouraging – doubly so that the man defending is a big Texan in a cowboy hat.

HT Sara Benincasa. More details on the homophobic attack at Raw Story.

#Gamergate is giving a voice to voiceless? Your voice is better elsewhere.

I seriously don’t understand this one narrative thread in Gamergate about how it’s giving “voice to the voiceless”.

This is the Internet. Make a blog. Pitch articles. By definition, you have a voice.

pics

Comment on The Verge article. Click pic for original URL

But let’s look at this idea of clutching the megaphone of Gamergate.

There’s no denying they are being heard: almost every major media outlet has covered it, from the New York Times to the Boston Globe to the Guardian. None of it favourably, all of it looking at the toxicity and abuse that is its outer, wider, flailing parts. [Read more…]

Remember: Nice guys can do bad things and sex workers are people

So this happened in my city of Cape Town, in South Africa.

Another day, another brutish man decides to show the world how brave and strong he is by beating up a harmless woman. Well done, big strong man.

A shocked and traumatised Cynthia Joni, 44, of Khayelitsha, said she was on her way to work in Kenilworth on October 2 when an unknown man leapt from his car and slapped her repeatedly, then threw her to the ground, without any explanation.

He was traced after people in the neighbourhood responded to her screams, and took down his registration number.

What could spurn such rage and hatred? Trying to tease out why men beat up women is complicated and horrible. But we can operate on what this individual, Tim Osrin, said.

Later, Osrin… who is a committed member of the neighbourhood’s ‘security committee’ and lives close to where the incident took place in upper Kenilworth, claimed he had assaulted Joni because he had mistaken her for a prostitute.

Apparently, sex workers can be smacked around because, hey, they’re sex workers. And sex workers magically create crime – because no big business, cops, etc. ever commit crimes, either, right? I wonder if Osrin will smack Wal-Mart and other retailers around who mistreat and underpay their staff? Maybe he smacked cops who are corrupt and allow for bad things to happen? [Read more…]