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…]

Ubisoft, women and diversity in media

My latest for The Daily Beast is on Ubisoft’s (lack of) prioritising women in their upcoming games and the response, in general, from those wanting diversity in media. Specifically in the case of Assassin’s Creed: Unity I found this really disappointing, since this is a talented bunch of people – who not only themselves wanted women, but are great at encouraging diversity.

I’ve been sick and busy with work, so apologies for empty blog for awhile. I should be returning to at least my infrequent levels of blogging – I definitely have an upcoming fisk.

‘Cybersexism’ by Laurie Penny: a review and essay

I wrote a review for Laurie Penny’s book Cybersexism at Big Think.

In it, Penny, a well-known and much loved (and of course hated) British writer on politics, feminism and many other topics, outlines the current model of sexism online. Using her own and other women’s experiences, she outlines why it occurs, the ground from which such terrible treatment springs, sexism in general and what sorts of responses we can muster. Her insight, as always, is invaluable and potent.

I used this opportunity to give a perspective as someone who is not the target of sexism; I outline why I care (because we need to do that nowadays?), why others should and related matters.

I am a long-time fan of her work and it’s fantastic to read her in long-form.