“But she’s wrong about Hitman!”

I wrote this as a comment on gaming site I write for  – on Anita Sarkeesian and the topic of disagreement in game culture. Thought I’d post it here so I could curate proper discussion, because this is an issue I’m grappling with as a game and culture “critic” – and as a person trying to be decent. [sic] all around.

I’m not a fan of her work, but don’t see why a woman facing death, rape and bomb threats, who is at least bringing conversation, requires me to do in-depth criticism, 300 youtubes of how she’s wrong about Hitman, etc.

Frankly, I’d rather defend her right to be part of the culture and focus on her and others’ safety, than how they don’t get my favourite game is actually super important and the best thing ever. Games matter less than people’s safety.

Second there are plenty of people who deserve more attention for how wrong they are about games, such as those who say it “causes” violence, journalists who flout their swag, show off and show little engagement with material of games, developers who screw their audience, Kickstarter failures, etc. All these are actually detrimental. One person’s YouTube criticism is not.

I’m actually not interested in people’s criticisms of her work. First, because I have my own; second, who needs to hear it right now? Will the industry die because your voice wasn’t heart against Sarkeesian?

Imagine meeting an astrologer who’s got death threats and demanding he pay you attention, from a screaming mob, so that you can deliver criticism of his pseudoscience. I don’t care that you’re right about astrology; I care that you’re using time and energy to criticise him when you could be using it to defend him against bullies threatening him.

I also want to add: If we want to develop a culture that handles criticism properly, we need to care about people first. For example, those wanting “social issues” removed from game reviews are wanting solidification of the current state; the state that allows so many people to reach this level of anger at harmless women. Games can’t be removed from social dynamics anymore than cars or paintings can be. How you examine such items devoid of the contexts and identities that gave rise to such things in the first place is beyond me – except that you’d be delivering the most neutral, bland inhuman aspects of it. Imagine describing the Mona Lisa by listing the colours and direction of brushstrokes – that’s what it sounds like to me when you plead for objectivity. (No I don’t think every game write-up should analyise the race/sex aspects and what the second tree really means; but I do think such things can be written and should be done without cries of it being not part of gaming – or that it’s “ruining” games.)

You want to criticise Sarkeesian – Great. Work on creating a culture where doing so is done maturely, civilly and with sensitivity to the other person as the default. By pushing through with your criticism, you’re making it clear you don’t care about the current context a harmless person is facing for merely trying to make games better. Whether she’s right is debatable; whether she – and others – should have her life and safety threatened is not. Right now, I know what my priority is in this particular instance.

Maybe one day we can debate the merits of her video – and I might actually agree with you on some points. But now is not that time and, as indicated, there are other targets more worth your criticism. Otherwise you just become part of the climate that is already a room of knives.

In which I make the case against comment sections cos I hate free speech

In the Guardian I made the case. I did! At least according to some commenters.

Yup. Free speech is bad and by removing comment sections I can magically prevent everyone in the world ever having conversations, silence their dissent and such. Did you know before comment sections, no writers or thinkers or people were ever told they were wrong? Yes! Criticism never happened in alternate ways, such as in-depth discussions, letters, and so on.

No. Only comment sections.

I had no idea that shutting off comment sections meant shutting off people’s internet access and ability to start their own blogs, use forums, etc. But as I hate free speech and am a dictator, I am obviously glad. Anyway, I have to go sit on my thrown made of the silent screams of my critics which I will never ever hear ever again because I am all-powerful and none shall ever oppose me.

 

Celebrity hacks and victim-blaming: Responding to 3 common claims

Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities have had (nude) photos stolen. I noticed three, of many, recurring responses, mostly it seems from my fellow men dictating what women should do with their bodies. Cos, yeah: of course.

Others have said these things more eloquently. But here’s some responses to claims about celebrity privacy violations – i.e. nude photo leaks – that we need to keep reinforcing.

  1. “Who cares?”

Celebrities may be annoying to many; celebrity culture itself is to me largely horrible. Celebrities are not necessarily talented, merely people with a large audience. However, the key here is “people” – not monsters. Presumably we want a better world for people – thus if bad things happen to people, we should defend and support them. This isn’t about whether they themselves actually notice – but it does mean setting up an environment that reacts appropriately to when women have their photos leaked and aren’t berated as “sluts“; it’s about reinforcing a space, like the Internet, that doesn’t spread stolen information from people because they’re “hot”. After all, women who are not celebrities at all, have the same thing happen to them. [Read more...]

Gamers are angry and they need to grow up

After dealing with trolls for an entire day – thanks to a certain prominent atheist with a million followers Retweeted me on Anita Sarkeesian – I had my article on the same issue go live. I looked at what happened when Joss Whedon and Tim Schafer endorsed Sarkeesian, what men (and non-targeted people in general) can and must do – even if misogyny and sexism appears to be a dying animal. It’s cornered beast but still has claws.

Mansplaining to men about why they should care about everyday sexism

I was asked to write something for our local Men’s Health Magazine* website, about men’s role in everyday sexism. I’ve long been saying that more men’s magazines should have pieces showing support for women and the issues they face – especially ones perpetuated by men.

This might sound contradictory but that highlights a problem: issues where women suffer the most are no less social issues that should concern us all because women are affected more.

Anyway, it was great of them to want this kind of piece. Yay, progress!

*Not ALL Men’s Health Magazines.

Women are people – even when they’re walking in the street

I wrote about what men can do regarding street harassment of women. Spoiler alert: don’t be assholes.

To be honest, it’s actually a tough situation – on the one hand you want to stand up, in different kinds of ways for the rights of people not to be targeted for their race, gender, etc.; on the other hand, you don’t want to treat them like fragile princesses, undermine their own strength, and so on. It’s a difficult balance. However, from what I’ve read and what women have told me – and what I’ve long suspected – silence is often worse when harassment occurs.

Anyway, I expand further over at Women24.

Robin Williams’ daughter being chased off Twitter is a high-profile example of an everday occurence

and it must stop. I’m tired of tolerating an internet where people are unfairly targeted for their race, gender, sexuality, etc. In my latest for The Daily Beast, I didn’t want to target the “trolls”, but those who shrug this off, claiming it’s not a big deal, who say “That’s the Internet”.

Nope. That’s cover that allows this toxicity to continue. We can and must do better.

So you see a racist Tweet…

How should we respond to awful posts on social media? Spoiler alert: I don’t know, but I think we can do better – overall – if we don’t always reply quickly, grounding our responses with what is best for others. Not what feels right at that moment. In my latest post for TBD, I use the example of a Tweet that directly targets people like me – “foreign-named”, darker skinned, etc. – and reflect on what I’d actually like to see more of.

Spoiler: It’s not abusive messages sent to the random kid who made the racist Tweet.

Read it at The Daily Beast

“So what if you’re offended”

You’ve seen this, no doubt.

If I never have to see this quote or picture again, I think the world would be a better place.

Now, it’s not because it’s false. It’s not because Fry isn’t spot on about this being a sometimes correct reaction to, say, wide-eyed religious conservatives who want to ban books, censor science, etc. Indeed, the context was in conversation with Christopher Hitchens about the pernicous way “offense” from religious people was seen as sufficient reason to censor – it was about the idiot notion of blasphemy as still regarded as legitimate in secular, civil society. (South Africa couldn’t distribute a book some years ago because it offended some members of the Muslim community. That mindset, years ago, is also why I heard about and wanted to read The Satanic Verses; and one-two-skip-a-few I’m now an ex-Muslim. Streisand Effect leading to atheism.) [Read more...]