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".

“The only reason @theLindywest defends men is because men eventually started to whine like victims the way feminists do.”

This was in reference to Lindy West being a decent human being and conveying support for Shia Labeouf, due to his rape allegations.

Notice Mr RP Philosophy characterises “I was raped” as a “whine”.

Notice that a man alleging that he got raped is him sounding like a feminist or a victim – because apparently men can’t be either or both (spoiler: they can) and apparently both are bad.

Notice it can’t be that Lindy thinks defending people who are possible victims is a moral thing to do.

Notice the silence that has fallen on the manosphere when a man has been allegedly raped and feminists are the ones conveying support. Because, hey, maybe the feminists have a point about how to be decent that dudes who threaten women and support rape… don’t? Amazing.

It seems to me that if you’re going to call yourself “activists” the one thing you could do for men is support them. One thing. #YouHadOneJob

At least this continues to confirm my view that one of the worst things for men is the men’s rights movement.

“i say it not cause I’m some ass but because I speak the truth of all situations”

Found via CreepyPMs. This is a chat convo where a man is trying to “score” with a woman. I want to focus quickly on his last message essay he sent her. (I recommend reading the short thread in which this appears before). Obviously [sic] all the way down…

 

Fine no games i promise just a conversation. No [airhead] is not [an insult], so many women on the east coast are not attractive. Kind and good hearts I’m sure but not very attractive.

Attractive is, in this instance, subjective. Many people find Brad Pitt attractive, many do not. “Attractive” and “hot” and “sexy” should always be read with “…to me” after.

Honestly very attractive people like us know this, do not lie.

Dudes who know what complete strangers think about themselves and others is totally cool and a way to “score”, bro.

The largest amount of attractive women on the east coast know they are hot. Due to them being attractive they know they do not have to be smart.

Aside from the misuse of “amount” instead of “number”, this shows what happens when “hotness” is used as some kind of universal attribute. Being smart – something we have ways of measuring assuming various definitions of smart (PhDs, degrees, etc.) – is apparently incompatible with “being hot”, because “being hot” means women don’t need to do anything to benefit. This ties into the stupid claims of being “too hot to be lesbian” or some nonsense. Even today, I have smart male friends who laugh at TV shows casting women they find attractive as computer nerds. Men are letting their attraction to a woman be the measurement of a woman’s worth: She can’t possibly be anything more than an entity I’m attracted to.

From this is birthed fake geek girls and so forth.

Can we please put this idiot notion of “being too hot for x” to the dustbin of history?

Women i look and talk to are beautiful like you despite your thoughts of yourself.

Again claiming to know what a strange woman really thinks about herself. Nice, bro.

Because of that most of them are air heads. That is why i say it not cause I’m some ass but because I speak the truth of all situations.

Shame: you’re not an asshole because you speak some hard truth, bro, but because you have shitty views of women.

This also applies to why we are still taking. Your foohawk boyfriend is less attractive than you.

Again: this only makes sense if we say “…to me”. Well, presuming you’re heterosexual, her boyfriend would be less attractive to you. Presumably, she thinks he’s just the right amount of attractive – whatever that means to her (and that’s all that matters).

Thus we are still talking even if you think its for different reasons. Also your hair looked better in the last picture.

Nice bit of judgement there, bud.

In conclusion: I can’t fathom why this guy’s single.

#Whatacatch

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

How to combat creeps: a guide for men

In my latest for The Daily Beast, I try encourage men to change their attitudes toward women – after the seemingly neverending demonstrations of creepiness on the part of men toward women. From street harasssment to awful reactions in online dating – linked in my post – the endless parade of evidence of men milking the udders of entitlement require constant opposition, it seems.

It’s not only “bad” guys, it’s guys from every demographic. Yes: Even dudes who read pro-feminist blogs. Men who dress up entitlement under the guise of being nice, of being confident, of being a “bad boy” need to recognise how they’re creating toxic, unwelcoming environment. And more men need to be helping women change the environment to make it better for all.

Don’t let Steven Santagati & his supporters be the voice of men in street harassment videos

We all saw that street harassment video.

Here’s a follow up, on CNN, discussing it with comedian Amanda Seales and a… well, a bro.

As soon as The Bro starts speaking, though, good luck trying not to desk-flip.

The Bro in question, Mr Steven Santagati, is the author of the book The MANual: A True Bad Boy Explains How Men Think, Date, and Mate–and What Women Can Do to Come Out on Top. The book cover is wonderful, with various lines stabbing the man’s anatomy – like one pointing to a watch saying “Time to meet another girl” (geddit?), and another pointing to his eye: “Sees you whenever he feels like it” (so bad *giggle*!). So yeah, Santagati was obviously a great representative for men.

Or rather, the men that think catcalling is fine and that women wouldn’t have a problem with it, if the guys catcalling “were hot”.

Yes, Mr Steven Santagati says this, among other insightful things, so let’s review his wise words for the mens. Beware… it’s stupid. And it’s long. Here we go… [Read more…]