A Voice For Men doesn’t speak for me

So GQ published a profile piece by the excellent Jeff Sharlet on the Men’s Rights Movement – specifically the colourful cast at the awful A Voice For Men at a conference. Given that it’s examining men’s rights activists, there would be some disturbing reading. I Tweeted some.

Here on fatherhood and rape…

There is a horrible description of how they treated Sharlet’s (woman) friend, Blair.  She was taken aside by the collegiate-activism director of A Voice for Men, Sage Gerard.

[Sage says] “You could put down your book right now and yell ‘Rape!’ and I would be led away in handcuffs.” They think about this. Sage says, “I hope it’s okay if I hug you.”

Before she can respond, he pulls her in, pulls her up out of her chair, pulls her against his chest, and holds her there. He rubs her back. An embrace Blair will later describe as “the most unconsensual hug I have ever known.”

Blair: “I still don’t know what to do about the poem.”

Sage loosens his grip. “I apologize for dragging you away,” he says. “I wasn’t going to feel okay until I talked to you.” He warns her not to send mixed messages. For instance, she shouldn’t put her hand on a man’s knee if she doesn’t want to have sex with him. Sage puts his hand on Blair’s knee. This is not a mixed message, he wants her to understand. She’s here, in the VFW. She’s taken the red pill. She needs another hug. He needs to give it to her.

Later, they joke about raping her.

“I’m curious,” [Paul] Elam says. “What did your friends think when you told them you were coming here?”

“To be honest?” Blair asks. Elam nods. She says, “I had friends who said I’d get raped.”

Blink. You can almost see the struggle in Elam’s bones: Play the nice guy? Or the perv? No question. “All right!” he booms, swinging his arms together. “Let’s get started!”

Jazz winces.

“Get the video camera!” Factory yells at his girlfriend, who giggles weakly.

I should be very clear here: At no point does it seem like Elam or Factory is actually going to rape Blair. We know they’re joking. Just a couple of middle-aged guys joking around about rape with a young woman they’ve never met before in a hotel room at one in the morning.

Sharlet’s piece is hard to read. And Voice for Men were certain to respond. They did in a way only A Voice For Men would: by targeting Blair as being “pimped” out by Sharlet. It’s literally in the title.

Elam doesn’t say what Sharlet got wrong, only that he takes offence at the idea that a writer needs to highlight Elam wasn’t actually threatening rape. Why would anyone think that of someone who claims women beg to be raped, likes inflicting pain, gets aroused by targeting his opponents, and makes website to put feminists alongside murderers?

It’s also unlikely that Blair consented to the pictures the site has of her, which link to her Facebook page. That’s some serious unethical media. Elam also refers to her as “pretty young Blair”, while trying to wave off worries about an attempted rape. That doesn’t exactly help, dude.

UPDATE:

My brilliant friend David Futrelle has a better write up about AVFM’s response.

 —

This site doesn’t speak to me or for me. It’s the voice of misguided men, filled with toxic masculinity that leads to fathers dismissing and mocking their own daughter’s claims of rape; to entitlement to women’s bodies because of their wardrobe; to rewards for being decent. It’s ideas that come to someone who’s identified a sickness but looks outward, instead of inward.

Men face numerous troubles and MRAs blame feminism, not the targets of feminism – which should be the targets of men, too: a sick society, a broken world, one still struggling under the heavy load of homophobia, transphobia, poverty, inequality, racism. A world that seems designed for only a select few to benefit, while the rest of us struggle just to stay afloat.

Men who use their platforms to berate women for problems are acting unethically: they are using finite time, finite resources and a powerful tool on the wrong target. Instead of trying to make better men, we’re making bitter ones. So many are straight, able-bodied, cis men who’ve never faced serious pain until a woman rejected them to some degree; and they use that poison to paint all of women in a single, ugly colour, smearing their humanity across the canvas of their worldview.

Women want to help men; women with platform and voices have spoken out in defence of male rape survivors. I know where Lindy West was, during the Shia Labeouf rape allegations – where was A Voice For Men?

It’s a voice for men – just not alleged rape survivors. So some men, who have non-problems and blame feminists. Oh, they’ll mention prison and suicide and work-deaths, but they won’t do anything about it. They never have. Indeed, they make it worse by making it seem like they’re a voice or men who have these issues – they make it worse by using these as touch points to launch nonsense diatribes about the evils of feminism.

This is not a voice for men, it’s a voice for poison. It’s a voice for toxicity that makes any efforts we want to make toward helping men who have mental health problems, who are rape survivors, who are abused by their wives much, much harder. Our gender requires serious self-reflection, we need to be helping men, creating better men, with better views, to learn how to listen, how to apologise, how to be… just better.

Don’t let A Voice for Men be the voice for men. Let’s show that men can be and are better than Paul Elam and his band of unethical content creators.

UPDATE:

My friend David Futrelle has a better wrpte

I made comments about comments sections

Comment sections are a fascinating topic for me, as I’m very interested in the new dynamics that comes with online interaction and the change in media.

Anyway, I made a Storify of some Tweets after a boring, persistent and verbose commenter I banned here followed me (?) to a game site I write for.

Why it matters that the internet’s made by men

The amazing Soraya Chemaly has a piece up about the internet being made of bros and why that matters.

Tech’s institutionalised male dominance, and the sex segregation and hierarchies of its workforce, have serious and harmful effects globally on women’s safety and free expression.

This is what Soraya documents throughout the piece. From revenge porn to the kinds of abuse women face, that segregates it from the kind men receive.

[Read more…]

I am made dead by Gamergate verbosity

I wrote an article about Gamerbro-types owning up to their own politics and social agendas – instead of making boring, obviously false assertions like “We just wanna play games”, “Keep politics out of games”, etc. Why am I comfortable enough to play and review games, and also talk about my own view of politics and social issues, but my “critics” are not?

Why is it OK to mention the number of pixels but not the low number of people of colour? It’s never been explained but we can all start having proper discussions when such folks own up to their views; just admit “I find race issues boring”, “It makes me uncomfortable to confront sexism”.

That’s so much more honest, so much more fruitful than trying to silence us with “make it about games” – when, for me, so much of diversity issues is seen in games. It is about games, for me: Telling me to keep quiet about race in games is telling me not to experience games. And if you don’t want to read about my experience of games, don’t read my reviews. These people are not babies, but for some reason this needs to be explained.

Regardless, a very boring commenter went on a verbose rampage, trying to drown us all in words – because, I guess, mortality isn’t an issue when you have an endless spawn option. I mean just look at this Niagra fall of words!

I’m working some things out, so here’s a fisk.

[Read more…]

Bros are not happy with Men’s Magazines getting rid of pick-up artist bullshit

As surely as night follows day, men angered by having creepy behaviour questioned and criticised will stand proudly to defend such behaviour. I, for one, am glad to know who to avoid and inform my friends of. I feel compelled to send them Meninist hoodies, the poor things.

One such fellow is Christian McQueen who writes a blog for men dreaming of “living the playboy lifestyle”. His Twitter bio reads “I didn’t invent the playboy lifestyle. I just perfected it”, which is great and I am super happy for him. However, he doesn’t appear to be happy with my country’s Men’s Health’s recent decision to purge itself of pick-up artist bullshit.

There could be a good discussion on ethics policy: Is MH going too far? Are they not unecessarily removing content that’s proven to help and not harm? We can have those discussions, but I’m not certain Mr McQueen is interested in that, so much as yelling at “weak-kneed beta bitch boy editors”.

Let’s see what’s upset him. [Read more…]

What progress looks like: Men’s magazine wants to purge itself of Pick Up Artist bullshit

So a few days ago, a friend of mine made fun of me for writing for our local Men’s Health, on how men need to care about everyday sexism. He showed me a post they published about to “how to get a girl’s number”. I read and Tweeted about it.

As almost always, these sorts of articles come off as creepy blatant or glorified pick-up artist bullshit. I explained a little.

This morning I received some messages from the official Men’s Health (South Africa) Twitter account. [Read more…]

An argument to reconsider words is not “thought policing”

How many people would use the k-word slur or a non-human animal species to describe persons of colour? Would any of you call me “camel-fucker”? Would you use “faggot” to describe a gay person? I imagine the answer to these is no – and it’s a “no” driven not by fear of police or lawyers, but some sense of morality.

Can you imagine anyone having to write an article today asking people not to use the k-word to describe black people? It seems ridiculous, because you probably don’t need to be convinced of that. If I had to blog about why you should not describe me as a “camel fucker” or “raghead” or “Paki”, I’d imagine you’d ask: Who the hell is this for? 

But let’s say there was someone, a white man,  who had never encountered these terms used in a bad way or himself used it as a term of endearment in an “ironic” way. Presumably such a person, who had never fully considered the impact on those it actually affects, would read my piece and reconsider his terms.

Whatever his conclusion, no one other than himself is preventing him from using those terms. I am not leaping out my blog to silence people who use “Paki”, I simply block them and conclude such people are not worth talking to. The entire Internet is available for Paki-bashers of the world to unite and use the term “ironically”.

That’s the end of it, really: Words on the internet ask you to reconsider using a term. Agree? Disagree? No one’s stopping you. Seems easy, no?

Well, judging from the way gamers responded to a similar suggestion about the term “Master Race”, maybe not. [Read more…]

Steve Jobs is anti-boner

This is quite an old little screencap and I saw it again today.

Here we can hear the lamentation of the boner, as it cries out against the wall of earbuds caging it in a blue kingdom. Woe to the boner that stands up but can find no release that women’s choice, decision and Steve Jobs hath design’d!

My favourite is how he misses everything:

“You can’t approach a woman with earbuds in her ears.”

Give the man a bells! Truly amazing. It’s almost… well, like woman intentionally wear earbuds to avoids creeps?

Now you may ask: But how will women know who are creeps and who are the nice guys, if they have their earbuds in? The answer is: If you are thwarted by earbuds, you’re a creep. If you feel that earbuds – and the subsequent intentional isolation they allow – are less important than you, you’re a creep. Indeed, the whole point is earbuds help identify who the creeps are, while simultaneously helping people not deal with them.

That’s their beauty.

And if you’re a dude who yanks earbuds out women’s ears or demands/requests they take them out so you can comment on their body, well I hope that Meninist Hoodie fits you nicely.

HT @ThatSabinGirl 

Patton Oswalt fans and how to outrage properly

Famous comedian, Patton Oswalt, Tweeted this:

Rich straight white guy telling the world he’d appreciate “less outrage”. This notion doesn’t sit well with those who daily face various forms of outrageous and awful kinds of oppression or marginalisation. How exactly should people of colour show “less outrage” while responding to racism? How should rape survivors and targets of sexual assault convey “less outrage”, while daily exposed to men who think they own women’s bodies? How should gay rights activists threatened with death convey “less outrage” in countries where their existence is a crime?

I’m not sure and I’m not sure Oswalt is either. Oswalt is a smart, compassionate person, from a lot of what I’ve read; I’ve no doubt he’s genuine in his intent, even if, in this case, he’s unsuccessful in his delivery. Oswalt, respectfully, doesn’t get a free pass though – as I would not get a free pass if I said something awful but well-intentioned about transgender people (i.e. when I kept using “transgendered” for example), targets of sexual assault (“don’t wear slutty clothes!”), etc.

Writer Ijeoma Oluo was equally unimpressed.

It didn’t help that this was his response, though.

While it’s important to not dehumanise your opponent, sometimes you aren’t dealing with a group or response worth investing time in to convey pity. For example, when racists mock me, when sexists threaten women with rape, why should our first response be pity? Why should I take time to try understand when they’ve made things unsafer with violent threats? It might certainly be a response, and perhaps those not being targeted could demonstrate it (say, a rich white guy), but we don’t get to assert to targets of oppression how they should respond.

This doesn’t mean all responses to bigotry is justified of course – but when you’re merely asserting, and asserting from a place of privilege, it doesn’t help anyone. Indeed, it only helps the people who want to see marginalised people silenced: See, my hero Patton Oswalt says you persons of colour/women/etc. lack compassion and can’t even respond to your oppression right!

And, indeed, when Oswalt publicly responded to Ijeoma (putting a “.” before Replying so that all 2 million of his Followers could see), this made the situation worse.

I think this, above the initial Tweet, demonstrates a profound blindness constructed by good intention: Oswalt is good to acknowledge her and acknowledge her making good points. But, too, Oswalt must surely know that amidst his 2 million followers, as a comedian and white man, that he’ll have reactionary, “edgy” men willing to say horrible things to women online; he must know there is an imbalance of replying to a women of colour, who is a writer on these issues, in a public forum he can’t control, that it would work out worse for her. If he agreed she made good points, why not discuss it privately and perhaps blog it, thus putting it on a platform he can control? This a media ethics failing on Oswalt’s part, considering the size and scale of his Twitter platform.

Oswalt is one thing. The flood of men telling Ijeoma to “take a joke”, “get a sense of humor”, and so on – i.e. please shut up and stop insulting my hero – was nauseating.

I’ll summarise their Tweets in italics.

Humourists get free pass to say whatever they want. I realise you just said being told to lighten up is awful, but I’m going to repeat it.

I can’t really offer a response, so I’m going to make a baseless comment on your character.

How dare you be so self-centered as the kind of person who faces regular oppression to tell a rich white man how to be a better ally?

Anything said or done in jest gets a free moral pass, Part 534.

Let me explain how satire works…

And on it goes.

Everything you do is wrong because of your race and gender – not because you misused your privileged position to tell marginalised people to be less outraged, instead of men like yourself to be less dickish.

“Male’s”. No straight white male has ever had opportunity to voice their opinion, including you, a celebrity comedian with 2 million Followers.

The mythical creature, the SJW, feeds off the need to be offended – there’s no way racism, sexism, etc., exist to such degrees, everywhere that warrants marginalised people to be responsive to those who should be helping.

Oh yes, nothing like wanting an ally to do better to convey how much marginalised people hate him.

Pwned. I’m a great guy.

Patton Oswalt is god because he makes me laugh, Part 3,344.

I’m going to make a slave joke at a black person. That should go down well. 

Please notice my boredom. Please. I am the spiritual sequel to Oswalt’s inital Tweet.

Until white men are in positions of power – like presidents, Nobel prize winners, scientists, head of bushinesses – we must keep defending them.

Marginalised people love bigotry. Persons of colour have to search far and wide to find racism; women really struggle to encounter sexism. 

So what do we notice,

1. Lots of men love explaining to marginalised people how to handle oppression. They can’t imagine maybe they don’t know what they fuck they’re talking about because this is a world designed to be a blank page for men – especially white men – to make their mark. “I’m a white man! You must listen to me!”

2. Humour doesn’t have any moral baggage to such people. Here, Oswalt isn’t being comedic, but he is a comedian. For some reason, that gives him moral immunity to say what he wants. Humour is a way of speaking, not an automatic free pass to say what you want. Just because humour makes people laugh doesn’t make it right all the time. We can criticise it as we do cartoons caricaturing Jewish people, white people who blackface, etc.

3. This was also telling.

As I’ve said before: nothing insulates bigotry more than thinking my friends/fans/followers can’t possibly be bigots! Indeed, the idea that the only bigots online silencing persons of colour is white supremacists is obviously false: but it’s a helpful picture to draw so you have neat moral boundaries. If you can say “only white supremacists silence people of colour”, it means you can get away with saying anything and never think “Maybe I’m being a bit racist”. Because, hey, you’re not a white supremacist, so you can’t possibly be doing something bad to people of colour!

As I say, Oswalt is a good person I admire. My issue is his fans’ responses and his media ethics failure, in making this public on an unequal platform (his +/- 2m million Followers versus 1) over which he has no control.

I can only hope he does better. We all fuck up.

 

The paradox of rejecting entitled male/nerd culture

You’ve probably all seen this Laurie Penny piece, detailing the problems with geek/nerd culture, entitlement and so forth. I’ve long been a great admirer of Penny’s work and she’s done a lot for me in terms of understanding and combatting male entitlement and sexism.

One of the first responses I got when Tweeting Penny’s piece was a rando complaining it was yet another “white woman femsplaining” to men. I thought, as someone who is neither white nor a woman, I’d outline why I support Penny’s general position and want us to oppose nerd gatekeeping and general manosphere attitudes.

Like a cliche, I unfolded into puberty gripping a game controller, bullied, shy, and lonely. I had more interest in reading than I did in other people, despite desperately wanting to fit in. Yet, it seemed easier to complete Resident Evil’s ludicrous puzzles than speak to girls. Since I had a funny name and a strange accent, I didn’t fit in with any one group: non-Muslim friends couldn’t invite me out because of drinking and no pork products; Muslim kids didn’t like my boredom or open disdain for religion. And on it went, throughout almost all of my school years.

I was a shit to girls as a teenager, as I think almost all teenage guys probably are. All I really had were my fantasy books and games and alien shooters. My parents divorced, I had major health issues and so on.

More recently: Games themselves have been an essential way to combat chronic pain, after I found myself literally walking with a cane due to an illness no one really understands (it made my legs look like zombies had had a bit of fun). I literally earn my livelihood from writing about and studying games and games culture (among other things of course). I wrote a mini comic and one of my dreams is to do graphic novels.

I care about these cultures and they literally make my life. And the most dangerous and poisonous things to these cultures I live off, live in and that have shaped me have been those who gatekeep it. Not those putting up new walls, but those who’ve cemented themselves inside. Not those breaking barriers but those putting on locks.

I hate the term nerd and geek. Where once maybe it demarcated activities a select few were interested in and obsessive about, we live in a world of celebrity scientists and well-funded science shows; big comic book films topping the box office; the foolish and boring Star Wars franchise continuing to exist (blegh); video games making more money than a lot of Hollywood films. Nerd culture has blossomed and been amalgamated into general culture. It’s not strange to like Superman or play Dragon Age; it’s kind of expected.

Nonetheless, like someone who has great knowledge about cars or has a career in the automotive industry, some of us are more invested than others. But that investment gives no more legitimacy to deciding who may and may not participate than a footballer denying you entrance to a match because you can’t name every player for England (they’re a team right?).

Of course: I understand that “nerd culture” – or whatever – which we can loosely call games, comics, and film were the domain of the “outcast” or the “bullied”. But isolation from the rest of the world was a bug, not a feature of that culture. Now it’s bloomed into every day life of big budget Marvel films and billion dollar game industries.

And yet we still have people – mostly men – “defending” it, gatekeeping, testing women because “why would a woman I’m attracted to be interested in “nerdy” things – unless it was to get attention, to be a slut, or… something not really ever defined?”

Gatekeepers: You are not protecting “the culture” by deciding who may and may not participate, you’re poisoning it. When the barrier for entrance is correlated to your level of sexual interest, that’s both unfair and disgusting. This is the trajectory the arrow of “you’re too pretty to be a scientist/business person/etc.” flies and you’re putting up a new bullseye. You’re the child hugging a puppy who you love so much you strangle it; you’re the gardener who drowns his plants. What culture needs is expansion and growth, which comes from freedom. With freedom comes diversity.

Not hilarious

Nerd gatekeeper humour = hilarious

It’s not even a moral goal anymore, since gatekeepers need only face reality: games, films, comics are no longer their domain. It’s everyone’s. Thus, when gatekeeping, they’re not only being willfully ignorant – by not facing reality – but as with many acts done out of ignorance, damaging. Many, of course, don’t believe they’re harming – almost no one believes his actions are harmful or bad, otherwise he wouldn’t act that way. But again: such a view is due to ignorance – willful perhaps – in which case it’s intentional in a by proxy sort of way.

Many would attempt to convey sympathy. That there’s something that unites us or that we should find some common ground to understand these poor gatekeepers. But we’ve seen what such people do. We know how invested they are in maintaining a status quo, in deciding who is and is not welcome to be part of their culture. But, as I previously highlighted, when you make something so central to your identity, you can’t help but become a gatekeeper and arbiter of whoever else decides to use it, too.

Yet this is description, not justification.

And it doesn’t matter if they’re a minority, what matters is their passion and investment. And that’s where this gets weird…

See, we often use the term nerd and geek to also describe deep investment and knowledge about these cultures, not just the culture themselves. That’s why the bizarre fake geek girl nonsense involves testing female humans* with the smallest details of arcane knowledge… to see whether they warrant a nerd/geek cred (they never do, but that’s cos they’re icky girls). But the attitude matters too –  that investment, that time, that passion. As I’ve indicated, I have that for games – but I also have it for ethics and media and other things (I don’t have much of a social life).

But what we witness with gatekeepers and Gamergate and MRAs and other entitled men raging on the Internet at women is the same attitude: They’re nerds about entitlement, they’re geeks of poisonous causes. How are we supposed to match that? Heating up hollow causes and feeding off the misplaced outrage is a system we’ve long witnessed. So often, we’re dealing with obviously utter nonsense – men are the most oppressed, white people are under threat of representation in media, etc. – but it still requires time to respond, and response is required due to the very real consquences.

We can think Gamergate, for example, is nonsense but we still have to deal with consequences of harassment. Gatekeeping is a feature of entitlement and entitlement is very real, even if its justification is not. This is why in order to respond we need to keep propping up the goals worth fighting for: inclusion, tolerance, acceptance, support. Yet, we must also operate by dipping out feet into the rushing waters of nonsense that brings these waves crashing to the shores of the real world. It doesn’t matter whether games truly are in danger of the feminists; what matters is those feminists getting bomb threats and being chased out their homes.

When people ask why I care about gatekeeping – even though I’m not often “prevented” from entering, Gamergate – even though I think it’s nonsense, MRAs – even though I’m a man, I need to always point to these goals: security, freedom, safety, properties I want to see on the Internet, which means the world. I don’t want any space I have some impact on to be one where others feel unsafe because they’re not the right race, gender, etc. We fight for safety in many ways – but one I’m less certain of is silence and ignoring. This isn’t a call to arms or anything so noble, it’s an outline of my own reasoning for dealing so often with people my Followers shake their head at, for those so obviously wrong.

Their views are worth ignoring; the impact their actions have for harmless people is not.

UPDATED:

Added a sentenced related to this Tweet.

* Also known as "women".