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General Zoi: “So I tried to go to a brony meetup today”

Consciousness-raising is usually a pretty difficult thing, especially if you’re trying to become a presence in a community to which you’re only peripherally involved, and the event that inclines you toward trying to do so also gets you irritated or annoyed or angry. Given the circumstances, I think General Zoi probably did about as well as I might have managed myself.

Since it was just the three of us, we were kind of just sitting around having rather stilted conversation, waiting for other people to show up. The organizer started talking about other people who had RSVPed. I do not recall what exactly prompted him to say this, and I really wish I could, but he suddenly said, “One of the people coming is a trap. They used to be a guy.”

I looked at him. “Trap?”

“It’s from General Akbar. ‘It’s a trap!’”

“I don’t really care where it’s from. Why did you call her a trap?”

“That’s what the Internet calls them.”

“Well, it’s an offensive word, and you shouldn’t use it.”

There was a pause where the wheels were turning in his head, trying to figure out why I would possibly care what word he used to describe a transperson. “Why? Are you a trap?” he asked.

“No, but—”

“Are you a feminist?”

“Yes, and I’m gay. All LGBT issues concern me.”

“Well, what should I call them?”

“Male to female?”

“Yeah.”

“Then call her a woman. Or a girl, if she’s younger. Or a transwoman, if you have to push the issue.”

“He still has a penis though. So it’s still technically a guy.”

“That doesn’t—”

“But he can still feel—I mean, he’s still technically—”

“It doesn’t matter. You can change your gender legally, you know.”

“I know that.” Pause. “Look, I’m a Christian, but I don’t have a problem with traps. I can’t tell people what decisions to make in their life.”

“It’s not really a decision you make.”

“Maybe, but trap is—”

I stood up. “This isn’t fun. I’m leaving.” And I did.

There’s a lot more. It sounds a lot like the brony community — the male-dominated fandom for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic — has something of a problem in that its participants are quickly learning that just because there’s an internet meme about something, that doesn’t make it acceptable to use.

Certain subsections of our society — the trollitariat that have made their presence felt on any post hinting even in the least little bit about feminism, for instance — have this absurd notion that judging someone for using a slur is somehow equivalent to censorship. Of course this 4chan-steeped boy was perfectly legally allowed to call the trans woman a “trap” over and over again, but his persistence resulted in alienating General Zoi, who created the now-famous Pony Creator that so many MLP memes depend on. I suspect she would have been a good person to know in the community, not only for what she could do, but for her strong stance on social issues. Too bad she was turned off of the whole fandom because of this person.

I’m not really a brony myself, despite recent posturing. I’ve seen the very first episode, and while it appealed to my video gaming side in drawing very heavily from old RPG game tropes, the show itself I could take or leave. I am, however, specifically interested in its memetic spread, and its gender-breaking appeal, and in how the community shows distinct parallels to our atheist and skeptic communities — especially in their sudden crisis of having to deal with how douchebaggery on the internet actually translates into real life. It seems this is a common challenge in community-building, and it behooves us (heh) to take our lessons where we can get them.

Comments

  1. Drascus says

    This is why I have no interest in the Brony fandom. For all the talk about love and tolerance it’s mostly just a bunch of 4channers. If I want to read racial slurs I am perfectly capable of navigating to /b/.

  2. Pteryxx says

    Thanks for bringing attention to this.

    There’s a lot of overlap between MLP-hating and femme-phobia (I find this video useful: linky) but obviously tolerance is easier said than done.

  3. robin says

    I’m sorry to hear about this. All of the Brony communities that I am involved in take the slogan “Love and Tolerate” to heart.

    Also, Jason, you should watch past the first episode, when you get the chance. It only gets better.

  4. Art says

    Hard to say if that was the best thing to do. A lot depends on the nuances of how the guy used the words.

    You have to entertain the idea that perhaps the guy who used the term “trap” had recently learned it, thought it was really inoffensive, and actually might have thought himself quite well informed and sensitive to the issues in learning what he may have thought was the accepted language.

    This only gets more complicated when you find out some transgender people refer to themselves that way. Some of whom reserve the right to be offended if others use it.

    Reference the use of the term: “Ni**er”.

    Gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation are still largely unexplored territory for a lot of people and it is hard to keep up with all the terminology, popular phrasing, nuances of usage. IMHO if the guy meant to be hurtful or offensive your walking away was likely a good choice. If, on the other hand, he meant no harm and was just misusing a term he picked up thinking it was okay, then you shut down an opportunity to inform him of the preferred language usage.

  5. Happiestsadist says

    Right, Art. Because every single second of people in oppressed group’s lives should be about teaching the oppressors, no matter how much of assholes they act. Protip: LGBTQ people managed to educate ourselves about terminology and phrasing, y’all have no excuse. We don’t “have to entertain the idea” that being that ignorant is an excuse for anything either.

    Quit bending over backwards to excuse the poor transphobe for not knowing a slur is a slur. And repeating it after being told that it’s offensive. That’s not “nuance”, that’s just being a bigot.

  6. prtsimmons says

    I have a serious question: is it okay to refer to fundamentalists Christians as ‘fundies’ or ‘Xtians’? Is it okay to refer to Republicans as ‘rethuglicans’ or ‘repugs’? If Bill O’Reilly was inciting violence when he referred to Dr. George Tiller as ‘Tiller the Baby Killer’, shouldn’t some of the language PZ Myers (and others) use in reference to the Catholic church be toned down?

    I think you may have been concern trolling at the brony meet-up. All of the above examples occur all the time on Freethought blogs, and they are all insulting to the groups being referred to. If we think that groups have the right to determine how they are referred to, we have to extend that courtesy to groups we disagree with. If you say, “Well, PZ can say ‘fundie’, but I don’t”, I think you are missing the point – you get a lot of traffic because of Pharyngula (that’s how I found this blog) and if you truly believe that groups should have some agency in determining how they will be identified, you have to object to ‘fundie’ as well as ‘trap’. Of course, you could argue that transpeople do not have a choice to be transpeople, but you could argue that a lot of fundamentalists don’t have much choice, either (think about the kids at Westboro Baptist Church protests). My point is not to equate the discrimination faced by transpeople with discrimination against the religious (I think we have every right to discriminate against, for example, a creationist who wants to teach biology, or a pastor who wants discipline children with a rod, while nobody has the right to discriminate on the basis of sexuality or gender); my point is that divisive, othering language is fundamentally counterproductive, and naming a group ‘traps’ or ‘fundies’ is an excellent way to further alienate that group. If you object to that kind of discriminatory language, then I think you should object to all derogatory terms for groups of people, including the ones that are popular with your in-group. (Personally, I find this type of language counterproductive, so I try not to use it myself, but objecting every time I see the word ‘fundie’ or ‘CONservative’ or ‘Fiberal’ or ‘Amerikkkan’ seems fairly pointless.)

    Anyway, I agree that objecting to the word ‘trap’ was the right thing to do, but suggesting that you had to walk out because you wouldn’t associate with people who use that type of language is a bit hypocritical.

  7. prtsimmons says

    Aarghh… sorry, I apparently have a minor reading comprehension problem. I thought Lousy Canuck went to the brony meet-up, but it was actually General Zoi. Please change the phrases like, “I think you may have been concern trolling…” to “I think General Zoi may have been concernt trolling…” in my previous reply to this post.

  8. says

    Prtsimmons: To all of your questions in the first paragraph except the last one, yes. Because fundie xtians and Rethugs/Repubs aren’t fucking oppressed groups in this society. They’re doing the oppressing. IDGAF if they’re offended by what I call them or you wring your hands over it.

    And, no, nobody has to “extend that courtesy” to groups we disagree with if they’re perpetuating harmful ideas. Fuck you and fuck your concern trolling.

  9. Sili says

    You have to entertain the idea that perhaps the guy who used the term “trap” had recently learned it, thought it was really inoffensive, and actually might have thought himself quite well informed and sensitive to the issues in learning what he may have thought was the accepted language.

    Then he should have said “thank you” when he was corrected. Much like I was embarrassed but grateful to learn that I’d been wrong to order “sallllmon” instead of “sammen”.

    The guy was polite corrected as to a social faux pas, and yet persisted in his error.

  10. says

    Prtsimmons: To all of your questions in the first paragraph except the last one, yes. Because fundie xtians and Rethugs/Repubs aren’t fucking oppressed groups in this society. They’re doing the oppressing. IDGAF if they’re offended by what I call them or you wring your hands over it.

    And, no, nobody has to “extend that courtesy” to groups we disagree with if they’re perpetuating harmful ideas. Fuck you and fuck your concern trolling.

    Seconded. Every word.

  11. says

    The guy was polite corrected as to a social faux pas, and yet persisted in his error.

    QFT. It seems that, once corrected, he persisted in his “error” because he is a privileged person who took pleasure in repeating the offensive slur because he felt like he could. Because he seemed to think that – as a straight white Xian (!) man – HE gets to say what is or is not offensive. See how that works? The people with the power of privilege oppress other people – they do it without even thinking about it. THen they (and concern trolls) whine when the people they oppress and insult and offend and bully dare to walk away.

    Eff off.

  12. generalzoi says

    I don’t understand what “concern trolling” is, but I don’t really see how asking someone not to use an offensive term and then walking away instead of picking a fight is, well, trolling of any kind.

  13. says

    @ General Zoi

    Concern trolling is when you pretend to be an ally and try to pose provocative questions to elicit unflattering responses in order to discredit some person or cause.

    So, in your case, concern trolling means that you secretly hate My Little Pony and went to that meeting with the express purpose of exposing Bronies as transphobic asshats.

    Which would mean that all of your work with the fantastic MLP generator was just an elaborate ruse.

  14. says

    GeneralZoi: yes, what Sally Strange said, with the addendum that concern trolling is generally about “but what if X group, who is not party to this conversation, took offense at Y way of framing the problem?” It is not generally, “I took offense”.

    In other words, prtsimmons is significantly more likely to be the concern troll out of all the participants in this particular conversation.

    To be perfectly clear, General Zoi was interested in the community, was presented with an aspect she was not previously aware of, tried to enlighten through consciousness raising, but had her personal tolerance limits overwhelmed. I don’t know that I’d have done much better. As Daisy Cutter points out, you can’t expect every oppressed person (or ally of this oppressed class) to spend all their energy all the time educating those who stubbornly refuse to be educated. We are all human beings and have limits to what we can commit to when faced with someone so blatantly bigoted.

    Sure, with time, this kid could be reeducated, taught that what the internet tells him is fine is not actually fine for the people on the receiving end. But why can’t you shoulder some of that burden, instead of concern trolling her and other FtB blogs, prtsimmons?

  15. Ogvorbis (no relation to the Ogg family) says

    Prtsimmons: To all of your questions in the first paragraph except the last one, yes. Because fundie xtians and Rethugs/Repubs aren’t fucking oppressed groups in this society. They’re doing the oppressing. IDGAF if they’re offended by what I call them or you wring your hands over it.

    And, no, nobody has to “extend that courtesy” to groups we disagree with if they’re perpetuating harmful ideas. Fuck you and fuck your concern trolling.

    Thirded. With applause.

  16. Emrysmyrddin says

    I know this is a bit of a zombie post now, but I’d just like to say thanks to General Zoi on two counts:
    Firstly, for standing up to this oblivious chump. It’s difficult to combat social pressure sometimes, especially if you’re not too great with interacting with your fellow monkeys – I’m quite socially awkward generally but firmly believe that this sort of crap should be called out until the other person either ceases or leaves. It’s the only way to convey that slurs like that are not socially acceptable, and if that person wants to interact with you in your space, then them’s the rules.
    Secondly – if you’re the same General Zoi that I’m thinking of – I’d like to thank you for all your efforts in the Sims community. You’re hella talented and Good People, and I’ve been a long time fan of your work.
    Relurking now.

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