Friday Freebie, plus some other stuff

The incomparable Leigh Alexander wrote this piece about Tidus and Final Fantasy X, which I can identify with deeply. I’ve played the game four times and sobbed at the ending every time. This is a game that will forever have a place in my heart.

With the approach of GenCon, a lot of people have been saying smart things about convention-preparedness. Rather than link to them all, I’m going to link to one post by Hans Cummings which starts with a roundup of convention advice posts and then goes on to provide some really great tips for how to make sure that you aren’t impinging on the con’s accessibility for people around you. (This should be required reading for people who attend conventions.)

Science communicator Vanessa Hill made this excellent video about the psychology of online trolling. So of course Lewis’ Law was proven once again when Vanessa Hill subsequently… got trolled. (Which feels strangely recursive.)

You look stressed. Have some animals taking selfies.


 

Now that things are calming down a bit at the day job, I’m starting to turn my attention back to more complex posts, as well as more posts about actual games I’m actually playing. I’ve also started chasing data points for my thing about sex workers in video games, although simply opening the spreadsheet makes me wince:

This is just a small snapshot.

This is just a small snapshot.

I fear this is turning into my white whale. I WILL CONQUER YOU! NO SPREADSHEET CAN DEFEAT ME!

…ahem.

I also intend to write about my thoughts on Lightning Returns, which I’m mostly enjoying. And of course I’m sure I’ll have several posts about this year’s GenCon. So there’s a preview of what’s brewing.


 

I’ve been really busy with prep for GenCon. That said, instead of actually finishing up GM prep materials, I found myself having to write this. And after writing it, I thought it would be good to put up a bit more visibly:

WRT “proof” of harassment, I am not obligated to “prove” my personal experience, not even to have it evaluated so that it might be (in)validated by an “objective” third party. The entire idea is nothing more than victim-blaming, because it places the obligation on the harassed person to “prove” that they have been victimized. If you’re not willing to believe me when I talk about my lived experience, how can I reasonably believe that you’re suddenly going to take me seriously if I jump through this extra hoop? Especially when that lived experience dictates that jumping through the hoop is useless, because the goalposts are just going to get moved anyway. “He wasn’t being serious”, “it wasn’t actual harassment“, “that’s just the way he is”, etc etc etc. So if I say “I’ve been victimized” and your response is “prove it”, you’ve already proven to me that you don’t have the basic human empathy for this interaction to be worth my time.

I get to decide who is worth my time and who isn’t. You are not entitled to my time OR my attention. Nor am I obligated to care if you think that I am lying.

Which, by the way, is an accusation that has gotten thrown around a lot. And you know what, FINE. We’re part of a hobby where the harassment and marginalization of women is so routine that it’s taken for granted. Anita Sarkeesian. Jennifer Hepler. Jade Raymond. All documented, all in the public eye. But if I speak up about my particular experience? And I don’t provide reams of documentation spanning multiple years, or if I say I don’t want to name someone because I’m trying to avoid the inevitable fallout of such an act? Easier to believe that I’m just making it up for the fun of it. You know, for attention. Because it’s not like women face social and professional consequences for speaking out about that stuff. And we certainly never have to try to balance the desire to speak truth to power with the need to protect our own personal well-being.

Lastly, the idea that victims of harassment would pay attention to what the person who instigated that harassment has to say on the subject of their harassment is, frankly, ludicrous. You know what many victims of harassment want? To be left the fuck alone. And that’s what block functions on social media are for! Which many victims of harassment use to keep their social media mostly tolerable. So if a guy that I’ve blocked makes a call to have people report his block-worthy behavior with a supposedly “neutral” third party… Good for him? I’m not necessarily going to be aware of that. Because again, NOBODY IS ENTITLED TO MY ATTENTION.

That said, it’s not anyone’s business but I have been having conversations with people behind the scenes and am trying to make something positive come out of all of this nonsense. Make of that what you will.

So that’s a thing that happened.

Tips on successfully trolling a feminist

But first, some administrativa[1]

I’m pleased to say that I’ve reached a milestone. 50 patrons are now supporting this blog through my Patreon!

patrons

WOOHOO!

Since re-starting the blog after its somewhat lengthy hiatus, I’ve written 25 paid posts (including this one) covering a huge range of topics, from silly to serious and everything in between. So thanks to all of you for your continued support.

On to business.

I got one of my best troll comments yet here on the blog the other day. I won’t gratify the troll by posting the entirety of the comment, but it did call me an “autistic entitled skank” and said that I’d given him cancer. I was so delighted that the first thing I did (after deleting it from the post, naturally) was email it to a friend, who shared a good laugh with me.

misandry rays

I HAVE THEM.

Which got me thinking about how the majority of trolls are usually working against themselves in their feeble attempts to provoke anything stronger than mild annoyance. Because a lot of their “big guns”? Aren’t actually insults. Or rather, the fact that they are perceived as insults only proves the point of what I am talking about[2].

So because I care, I decided to write a post concerning mistakes to avoid when attempting to troll a feminist.

I know, I know. You’re welcome.

Lesson One: Grammar and spelling are important

When you’re crafting a comment designed to pierce the hate-filled heart of a feminist, it’s important to stick the dismount, as it were. You could be the Hieronymus Bosch of internet comments, but if your masterfully crafted barbs are delivered without any care for spelling, grammar, or capitalization, you’re just going to get laughed at. Case in point, this guy:

c minus

It is a sad truth that feminist agents of misandry are elitists and will only deign to read comments that adhere to proper rules of grammar. Now that’s not to say that you must be perfectly fluent in English – we do attempt to be reasonable, after all. There is usually an obvious difference between the sorts of small mistakes made by someone whose first language  isn’t English and the mistakes of someone who clearly doesn’t care about sentence structure at all.

So remember. Feminists are shallow and will totally judge a book by its cover, especially when that cover is ASKFLFLTTTFFTKKK.

Lesson Two: Things which aren’t actually insults (to feminists)

One of the difficulties in trolling a feminist is that there tends to be a lot of miscommunication because of different priorities. Many of the things that you deem most insult-worthy are also things that feminists are indifferent to or even perversely proud of.  So here are some (non-)insults to avoid the next time you feel the need to tell a feminist what you think about her so that she’ll feel bad about herself.

Amazing gif made by b1nd | Deviantart here

Amazing gif made by b1nd | Deviantart here

Fat/Ugly/Unfuckable

The problem with calling a feminist any of the above is twofold. First, feminists get called these things so often that these insults are just like water off a duck’s back. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, not that we care about the feminist’s time because feminists, amirite? Second, telling a feminist that she is a fat/ugly/unfuckable isn’t actually a statement of objective fact, but rather opinion. You are putting forth your opinion that this awful feminist lacks qualities that would make fucking her enjoyable.

The problem with that? Feminists don’t actually care what you think about their fuckability, or lack thereof.

It is, of course, a blight upon our civilized society that there are women out there who don’t care if a man offers his unsolicited opinion about her attractiveness as an (in)validation of her worth. But this is a sad reality we brave few have to face.

Cunt

There are several problems with using this line of attack. First, if you happen to be using this insult against a woman (which is likely), you are forgetting that feminists don’t actually think that being called female anatomy is an insult because there is nothing inherently dirty about women’s bodies. (They are, of course, wrong because yuck and also cooties.)

Second, consider that most feminists have generally positive feelings towards cunts, which is another reason this taunt should be avoided. Many (though not all) female feminists actually have cunts, and a large subset of those female feminists actually enjoy having them. (I’ll admit that in moments of feminine weakness, I have been guilty of this.) So if you call a feminist a cunt, especially a female feminist, there is a good chance that your jab will be counter-productive and engender positive feelings instead, which is counter to the whole point of the exercise.

Bitch

Bitch is a pretty broad insult, which would seem to make it useful in its versatility. But all it really means, in the end, is that a woman is not adhering to expected social norms of behavior. And since feminists are devoted to overthrowing the social order and instituting a matriarchy that privileges women over men, calling a feminist a bitch is actually a compliment.

Don’t believe me? Look at the preponderance of products available online emblazoned with some variation of “you say bitch like it’s a bad thing”. The free market is a testament to the prevalence of the widespread female disregard of the bounds of proper female behavior.

Lesbian/dyke

This one is just a waste of time, okay? As we all know, all feminists hate men and naturally, as a result, will only want to sleep with women. Calling a feminist a lesbian is like calling a US Senator corrupt. You’re just stating the obvious. Also, given that feminists are in perpetual competition with each other to see who can hate men the most, calling a feminist a lesbian is just going to serve as validation for her man-hating ways and will only earn her brownie points with other feminists.

Lastly, many feminists are actually friends with lesbians and other queer-of-center people. Would you be insulted if someone compared you to some of your friends? ….well okay, but that’s not the point.

Autistic/Bipolar/Crazy

This, too, is a largely ineffective attack to make against a feminist. Most feminists get pretty vocal about “normalizing mental illness” and “reducing” the “stigma” against “people” with “mental illness”. Since calling a feminist crazy actually reinforces the point that they’re trying to make, best to avoid this one too.

Slut/Skank/Whore

Slut is probably one of the most meaningless words in the English language. It’s application has been so widespread that essentially all it means is “woman who did something you don’t like or approve of”. And since we’re talking about feminists, it’s pretty much their life’s goal to do things that upstanding, civic-minded individuals like yourself wouldn’t approve of.

Feminazi

Look. Feminazi is a term created by Rush Limbaugh and… really? Can’t we do better? Besides, any use of the term feminazi is automatically invoking Godwin’s Law, which means you lose. Sorry. That’s just the way it is.

Humorless

The problem isn’t that feminists have no sense of humor. Far from it! The real problem is that feminists aren’t funny. Or rather, that you don’t find them funny. Feminists, on the other hand, think that they are hilarious.

These stock photo women are laughing because misandry is HILARIOUS.

These stock photo women are laughing because misandry is HILARIOUS.

Unfortunately, this is an argument that you’ll never win.

Lesson Three: Don’t bother, because they don’t give a shit what you think

Or at least this feminist doesn’t.

 

[1] I will never use a short word when there is a much cooler, longer word.

[2] See: Lewis’ Law

Nintendo and Ubisoft: in which the pot calls the kettle black [MANY IMAGES]

Ubisoft’s colossal E3 “open mouth insert foot” blunder about it being tooooo haaaaard to develop female characters was useful in that it started a lot of great conversations about the lack  of playable female characters in video games. However, one irritating trend that I’ve seen is that there are other game studios who have rushed to proclaim “well OUR games have female characters”, only the female characters in question are nothing more than sexy collections of ladyparts, improbable and/or outright impossible costumes, and shitty sexist stereotypes.

And you know what? That’s bullshit. Yeah Ubisoft fucked up, but at least their fuck-up was one of omission, which is better than the committed, ongoing sexism required to produce a lot of the frankly awful female characters that the major games studios continue to churn out like this, or this, or this. (And those are all just things I saw this morning while catching up on a weekend away from tumblr!)

The company that irritated me the most with these tactics, however, was Nintendo, since not only did they populate their games with shitty characters but people actually praised them for it!

Of course, it helped Nintendo that this year’s E3 was pretty abysmal for women. Almost none of the AAA game studios showcased games with playable female characters, and as Vlambeer developer Rami Ismail snarked there were more severed heads than female Playstation presenters at E3.

So when Nintendo showcased their upcoming games that actually featured some female characters, notably Hyrule Warriors and the next iteration of Super Smash Brothers, many people heralded it as a breath of fresh air – just because at least one studio wasn’t stupidly pretending women didn’t exist. The dearth of women was so great that the inclusion of female characters, any female characters was seen as a good thing.

And in light of the glaring omission of female characters by other studios, it didn’t take Nintendo long at all to start tooting it’s own horn. Look at our upcoming games that are full of strong female characters! Which would be great if it were true. Unfortunately, the female characters in question are only “strong female characters” in the Hark! A Vagrant! sense:

I will never skip an opportunity to link to Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant!. NEVER.

So pull up a chair, kids, and let’s talk about why Nintendo fails at women in both of these titles that supposedly contain such “strong female characters”.

Hyrule Warriors

Hyrule Warriors looks to be an interesting game, truth be told. Based on the sort of epic combats that are characteristic of the Dynasty Warriors series, it has you fighting battles on a grand scale. Further, the cast of characters seems pretty well divided with half of the 12 “main” characters being female[1]:

LEFT TO RIGHT: Lana, Zelda, Midna

LEFT TO RIGHT: Agitha, Shia, Impa

LEFT TO RIGHT: Valga, Zant, Link

LEFT TO RIGHT: Argorok, Wizzro

(Not pictured with the male characters – the obligatory Ganondorf.)

Now there are some positive things here. It’s nice that Zelda is a playable character and actually doesn’t get back-benched for this title. Also, it is nice that female characters account for half of the main characters. However, there are some serious issues that come up when you start looking in more depth at the character design.

For example, the range of designs of the female characters is incredibly constricted, with all of the 6 main female characters being either “pretty”, “cute”, or “sexy”. But when you look at the not-female characters, the range is so much wider! You have a slim youth, mysterious warriors, an inhuman monster, a horrific shade, and… whatever the hell Ganondorf is.

So in the Zelda universe there are super-attractive male characters and monstrous male characters and some things in between, but there is literally no such thing as an unattractive female character. Because even in a universe where single characters can defeat entire armies, it is unbelievable that heroic women might also be unattractive?

Also, it’s important to note that there are some suuuuuper problematic character designs going on here. Most notably, Shia.

So she’s got gravity-defying nippleless sphere-boobs, improbable costuming, decorative armor plating that protects nothing while vital bits of anatomy are exposed, pointy metal objects stabbing her directly in the boob… Christ. It would be easier to find things they didn’t get wrong. What the hell happened to Nintendo’s reputation as a “family-friendly” game publisher?

But wait, it gets worse! Shia’s entire backstory is that she was once a guardian of the Triforce until she fell in love with Link and her jealousy of Zelda made her get all evil and stuff.

Right. Because the only motivation that ever exists for female characters is a man. And the reason she’s dressed like that is because she’s evil, and what better way to show that than to have her dress provocatively? Because, you know, sexy wimmenz = evil.

/headdesk

Depressingly. Zelda honestly isn’t much better than the trainwreck that is Shia. Sure, her design looks cool at first blush, but let’s look at it in a bit more detail:

I mean, it’s better than Shia’s design? But that’s not saying a whole hell of a lot. But I guess this is what “strong female characters” look like these days. Hyrule Warriors development producer had this to say about Zelda’s new design:

“Regarding the look of Zelda herself, she is a ruler. So we want to make sure she is seen as a strong character in that she needs to look like a ruler, she needs to feel like a ruler,” Hayashi said. “So, [she has] what you might consider a stronger look for the character.”

…yeah. She looks real empowered there, what with her armor that prioritized sexiness over actual protection of vital anatomy. One might even say regal.

But the worst, THE WORST part of this awful Zelda design? Her attack involves her loincloth levitating upward while she pulls glowy energy out of her ladybits to form weapons.

Hrm. Nope, not strong enough. Merida, help me out here.

Super Smash Brothers

Sadly, as awful as Highrule Warriors does with regard to its female characters, it still does better than the upcoming Smash Brothers. Here’s what the roster looks like, as of the most recent update I was able to find:

A lot of familiar faces there, as well as some new ones, like the WiiFit Trainer. The problem is, when you start breaking it down by gender, things get depressing pretty quickly: (Pokemon not included because I’m not prepared to argue about the gender of pokemon.)

Yeah. Way to go at including female characters, Nintendo. You’re clearly doing a bang-up job there.

Now, granted, the characters featured in Smash Brothers are all iconic characters from a wide variety of different series. But many of these series (Metal Gear, Sonic, Star Fox) have female characters that aren’t being featured. And sure, those characters aren’t the “iconic” characters of the series, but that in itself makes a pretty damning indictment of gender representation.

But wait! It gets worse! You see, Samus’ Zero Suit is once again a thing in the new Smash Brothers title, which. Ugh. Other M was pretty much the worst thing ever to happen to Samus, what with how it took away her armor and made her whinily subordinate to a bunch of dudes. Why does that shit have to become the dominant portrayal of her? WHY?

And yet here’s Nintendo, doubling down on the awful. The Zero Suit’s rocket boots, which were frankly one of the only things going for it, are now stripper rocket heels.

STRIPPER. ROCKET. HEELS.

And look! They made the suit even more vacuum-sealed than before, as witness by how bizarrely separated and defined Samus’ (awful, spherical) breasts are. Also, given the level of definition on her belly-button, that thing must be tight enough to cause problems breathing. Unless this is some kind of future tech thing. Space age polymers ftw!

The anatomy on the Samus model is also pretty fucking terrible, although that might not be immediately apparent from the above screencap so here’s another:

Holy bendy snake torso with bonus chest-TARDIS, Batman!

So thanks, Nintendo, for making me totally not at all regret that I haven’t owned any Nintendo platforms since the Game Boy Advance. And how about next time you try to claim that you’re “better” than another studio at including female characters in your games, look at the quality of those characters before you go trying to earn feminism cookies.


[1] According to what I was able to find online.

A Quick Note About Privacy

Okay, folks. I’ve been getting A LOT of traffic because of certain controversies surrounding D&D Next or D&D 5E or whatever it’s being called now. So I’m going to say a thing very briefly.

If someone posts something on the internet in which they talk about a personal experience without naming names and they say that they have done this because they are scared of personal consequences and of the implications for their personal safety and mental well-being, and they ask explicitly in their post that people NOT NAME the people who are being discussed? Do you know what a really shitty response to that post is?

POSTING LINKS TO THAT PERSON’S POST AND SAYING “HEY, THIS POST IS ABOUT [THIS GUY]“.

I appreciate that the traffic I’ve gotten because of this specific issue has been receptive, if not outright friendly. I don’t care. That is a shitty fucking thing to do. I am not obligated to sacrifice my personal safety to satisfy a need for documentable proof, especially when there are other places to obtain said proof.

So if you’re considering linking to a post of mine that discusses a specific person in an anonymous capacity and you know who the person is and you want to broadcast the anonymized person’s perfidy by attaching their real name to my anonymized post? DON’T.

Policy Note: How I spend my crowdfunding money

[For transparency's sake, this is being put up as a freebie, because asking patrons to pay me to write a post devoted to telling a subset of non-patrons to fuck off seems a bit hinky. So there you go.]

For the most part, I would call the Patreon for this blog a successful experiment. Sure it would be great to have thousands of patrons showering me with money for every gem of wisdom I happen to let fall from my keyboard so that I could become a Real (read:full-time) Blogger, but I’m okay with where I’m at. The money I get from my patrons gives me the space to write about things that I’m passionate about and pay some bills. Because that’s the thing about having a kid – they’re expensive, and I really don’t have the luxury to write things that won’t turn into money anymore.

The only problem is that having a Patreon has opened me up to a new and extra-fun kind of dismissiveness that makes me very cranky: people who want to set conditions on how I use my Patreon funds before they claim they’ll take me seriously. You know, because if I was A Real Feminist[1], I would be putting my Patreon moneyz towards some worthy feminist cause instead of selfishly keeping it for myself, with the worthy feminist cause usually being saving poor brown women from their own culture[2].

Which is bullshit for two reasons.

First.

Let’s not pretend that if, for some reason, I decided to listen to your unsolicited opinions as to how I should spend my crowdfunding money, you would actually seriously engage with anything I’m saying here. Because “I can’t take you seriously because you’re not doing [X] with your crowdfunding money” is pretty much the same as “I can’t think of a good reason to dismiss what you’re saying so I’m going to come up with bullshit character arguments instead”.

These kinds of comments never come from people seriously engaged with feminism or feminist culture criticism, they come from random dudebros who are grasping at reasons for why I shouldn’t be listened to.

Second.

If you do not back my crowdfunding, I am obligated to give EXACTLY ZERO FUCKS about how you think I should spend that money.

The only people who get to have an opinion about how I spend my money are MY PATRONS AND/OR BACKERS. You can decide to back me or not based on whatever criteria you like – you aren’t interested in what I’m making, you don’t agree with the things I say, you don’t like my user icon, whatever. That’s your prerogative! Live your conscience, vote with your dollar, etc etc etc. But if you’re not giving me money, don’t be surprised if I completely fail to give any shits about what you think I should do with my money.

This Blog, Patreon funds, and how I spend them

I have been nothing but up front with my patrons about how I intend to spend their money.  Hell, it’s in paragraph #4 of my pitch on Patreon:

For the most part, the money that I have earned from my Patreon has gone to pay for incredibly unexciting stuff. Like getting new clothes for my kid every 5 minutes[3], or generally helping offset childcare costs and increased grocery bills.

But honestly, the fact that my crowdfunding dollaz are being used to pay child-related expenses shouldn’t even matter. If I wanted to spend it on strippers and blow (I’m not), that should be a valid goal, so long as the thing I’m crowdfunding still happens and my backers are happy with it.

Policy Going Forward

From now on, any comment that either tells me how I should be spending my Patreon funds or tells other people not to back my Patreon based on same is going to be deleted. Period. I have better things to do than engage with this sort of dismissive bullshit.

As soon as I get a chance (I can’t do it immediately at the time of posting), I will be revising the comment policy posted in the sidebar to reflect this.

[1] It would be impossible for me to overstate how much I love Mallory Ortberg

[2] Because if you’re going to be dismissively sexist, why not sprinkle a little helping of racism on top? You know, for the lulz.

[3] Seriously they grow so fast and even if you shop thrift stores, it adds up

Reasons Why It’s Too Hard to Include Playable Female Characters In Games

There have been some really great takes on just why Ubisoft’s proclamation that it was just a “reality of game development” that their newest title in the Assassin’s Creed series wouldn’t include playable female characters, many of which I covered in Friday’s link roundup.

However, some conversations on Google+ inspired me to do some silly drawings of some only-slightly-less-ludicrous reasons why it’s just too hard for studios to include playable female characters. A picture is worth 1000 words and all that:

It was nice to get a chance to return to my roots, as it were, by doing something silly for once (not to mention taking a bit of a break from Princess Charming); a lot of my posts recently have been rather serious, but sometimes it’s nice to just be silly.

Still, I think it’s worth using this post to make a serious point. Given that Ubisoft has already had female assassins in the series, including Aveline, a title character in her own AC game, it stretches my credulity beyond the breaking point for me to believe that it’s honestly that hard for Ubisoft to include a playable female assassin.

There are existing development assets already, including Aveline’s model and all of the motion-capture done for her animations. Would it really have been so hard to do some color-swapping of Aveline’s model and port her into the game? It certainly wouldn’t have been anything budget-breaking, given that this is a AAA title with a AAA budget. Frankly, female moon pixels and fire-breathing dragons are about as easy to believe.

Ubisoft would have done a lot better to own up to the truth: either they didn’t want to make a playable female character, or they just didn’t think of doing it. Instead, this gutless prevaricating has cost them a lot of goodwill. I’ve seen many long-time fans of the series who had appreciated the diversity of the series and its’ development team saying that they’re not going to put any more money into purchasing future AC games.

All in all, it would be hard to imagine a more bone-headed marketing ploy for a game that needs a large audience to recoup its astronomical development budget.


Self-Promotion Sidebar:

Do you link this post? Do you wish you could buy a print of these cartoons? Good news – you can! And honestly, who wouldn’t want to hang such beautiful satire on their walls? (Don’t answer that.)

 

Dangerous Hatred: Men who foment misogyny in geekdom [TW][LONG]

[Ground rules: As with the previous post, anything resembling "not all men" is going to get deleted. If this seems unfair, try reading #YesAllWomen or #YesAllWhiteWomen on twitter for a few minutes. People who troll after having their comment deleted will have subsequent troll comments replaced with links to my favorite "male tears" and "misandry" GIFs from Tumblr. (If you play nice after having a comment deleted, your comment can stay.) I am not feeling charitable about this.

Also, I normally don't do trigger warnings, but TW for misogynist language (not mine).]


 

The internet has been a pretty fraught place for me the last week. In the wake of the Isla Vista shootings, first there was the predictable backlash of “not all men”, not to mention the reports insisting that the attacks were caused by mental illness, not misogyny. (Never mind the fact that people with mental illness are disproportionately the victims of violence, not the perpetrators.) Then there was the amazing, necessary, but absolutely hard-to-read #YesAllWomen and #YesAllWhiteWomen responses on twitter.

Suddenly women that I look up to and admire were sharing their experiences of harassment and sexual violence. It was a powerful and disturbing indictment of the pervasiveness of our rape culture, but it proved a bit too much for me to deal with. As such, I’ve been avoiding twitter the last few days.

Aside from one comment on facebook, my reflection until now has been mostly private. I have been devouring pieces about Elliot Rodger and his ties to PUAhate and the MRA movement from those media outlets and bloggers willing to actually call a spade a spade and the thing that disturbs me the most about Elliot Rodger isn’t how alien his rhetoric justifying the attack was. On the contrary – it’s familiar. Too familiar. I hear echoes of it all the time.

CLICK FOR LARGER MORE READABLE VIEW

CLICK FOR LARGER MORE READABLE VIEW

And these are just examples that I’ve gotten in the last few months – before the long hiatus, I never used to save comments that I deleted from my blog. And none of this includes the awful things that people have said about me on various fora in the past. Nor does it include comments made about me on Reddit that have long since vanished into the moderation ether, but which I still read when they were first posted.

I’ve been called an “irritating dumbass bitch” and a “ignorant judgemental cunt”. I’ve been told I just need to get laid and that no one would ever want to fuck me. I’ve had half an hour of a gaming podcast devoted to me, in which four men talked about my “radical agenda” and why I was arrogant, crazy, ugly, and not worth listening to. And even with all of that, I’ve been grateful that the trolling I get isn’t worse. Because as bad as it is to be called a fat ugly dyke, at least no one has ever threatened to rape me. (Yet.)

But the purpose of this post isn’t to highlight the garden-variety misogyny that gets leveled at me for writing this blog. A lot of people have written a lot of really smart things about the problem of deeply embedded misogyny in geekdom.

Instead, I’d like to focus on something more specific: nerd famous men (yes, men) who use their nerd fame to incite their audience to harass people (usually women) they don’t like.

Using their platform as a weapon

There are men in the gaming community who you don’t criticize publicly; you do that very privately with people you trust, because they are known for riling up their followers and pointing them at people they don’t like (usually women). That way they silence people who would speak out against them because they’re afraid of getting harassed and they get to claim total innocence (well I didn’t harass anyone).

There are some major problems with this:

Problem the first: Harassment is srs bsns

The internet is rife with stories about online harassment against women. Anita Sarkeesian, Adria Richards, Jennifer Hepler, Rebecca Watson, Sady Doyle, Zerlina Maxwell – those are just the first six names off the top of my head of women who are notable for having been the target of harassment campaigns. But there are darker examples too. Amanda Todd. Reteah Parsons. Both of whom were young women that committed suicide after sustained and dedicated online harassment campaigns.

How women respond to harassment varies widely – some grow more outspoken, some go silent, and some retreat from online life altogether. (None of these responses is “correct” – every victim of harassment has to deal with it in their own way.) But women who are harassed, especially young women, face lasting emotional and psychological harm up to and including suicide.

HARASSMENT CAN KILL. It isn’t a weapon that should be used against anyone, and it certainly shouldn’t be used casually.

Problem the second: Incredibly fragile egos

The reasons that nerd famous men incite harassment against people can often be quite trivial. Like you once criticized an artist that they like. Or you did a re-draw of a piece of art by an artist that’s not them. You don’t even have to criticize them directly to earn their ire. You just have to criticize a thing that they like.

Problem the third: They do nothing to curb misogyny in their followers

At no point during this process of inciting harassment do these nerd famous men ever do or say anything to curb the tide of misogynist sentiment in their followers. So when their followers go forth and bile-vomit, they call people things like feminist dyke cunt. Or feminazi. Or they tell someone they should probably kill themselves.

Having created an echo chamber to insulate themselves from whatever stimulus offended them, they do nothing to prevent misogynists from taking over that echo chamber. And as recent events demonstrate, Elliot Rodger is proof of the danger of misogynist echo chambers.

How It Works

Step 1: Hark! A woman has said something I don’t like! Quickly! To the interbutts!

Step 2: Link to the thing you don’t like. Be sure that you mention how you think the person who did the thing you don’t like is worthy of disdain. Are they stupid? Shrill? Embarassing? Smug? Arrogant? Ignorant? Ugly? Crazy? Choose a few adjectives that appeal to you in the moment and post without too much thought.

Step 3: Your followers all agree with you that the person is a terrible human being. Of course they do. You’re always right. Make sure to make additional assertions of the person’s disdain-worthy qualities. You know, to help build up a head of steam.

Step 4: Extreme voices inevitably chip in. Do nothing to dissuade them. “That person should suck my dick”? Fine. “We should go beat up that person”? Yup. “Bitches be crazy”? A-OK. Make sure to agree with a few of the more extreme comments not advocating actual violence. (Remember, the goal is to appear not culpable.)

Step 5: Your followers have now gone forth to flood the persons personal internets via whatever channels they were doing the thing you didn’t like in the first place. Make sure to never acknowledge this. Especially don’t acknowledge that a good portion of them are doing so using misogynist slurs.

Step 5a (optional): Has the person you don’t like had the nerve to actually continue doing that thing you don’t like? Even after you told your followers how much you didn’t like them and how awful they were? Time to up the ante. Resort to hyperbole or outright lies about the person you don’t like. They said something critical about sexual objectification in game art? They are now a sex-negative feminazi who wants to censor all sex in everything ever! Or maybe they posted an analysis of the objectification of women in another artist’s work? Lie and say that that person insulted your work. Congratulations! You are so in the right on this one.

Step 6: Use the controversy-generated pageviews to promote your projects to your followers and increase your audience. This is good because you are famous and talented. Unlike that woman who did that thing you don’t like who is just looking for attention. What a fucking bitch.

I wish the above was comic hyperbole. It’s not.

It happened to me

Presented here are three stories in which this has happened to me. In two I will not name names; one person actively generates publicity by doing this sort of thing and I don’t want to gratify his behavior, and one person says that he is experiencing mental distress because of the backlash against MRAs in the wake of Elliot Rodger’s killing spree. As much as it is hard for me to have much sympathy for someone who prioritizes their personal feelings about being judged over the lives of the women who died as a result of MRA ideology, I’m not willing to make light of mental health problems.

Some people may know the people to whom I will refer in these stories. I request that you not name names.

The Rebellious Artist

The Rebellious Artist (TRA) is an artist that is well known for his game art, game design, and game-culture-related projects. He is also convinced that I am a terrible blight upon the game community and periodically makes public attacks on me to that effect, all because I happened to blog critically about an artist that he and his girlfriend happened to like. (I was critical of the artist’s extreme anatomy distortions, and in the comments I said that there were trends in the artist’s work that implied problematic attitudes toward consent.)

Somehow he decided that my saying “this artist you like’s work displays problematic attitudes toward women” was the same as “I hate sex and sexy things and sex in any media ever the end”. Once he even described me as a fascist uber-conservative akin to Phyllis Schafly.

…yeah okay.

His general mode of attack, when he remembers that he doesn’t like me, is to make publicly visible attacks against me attached to my real name, in an attempt to convince people that I’m a shrill feminazi that shouldn’t ever be listened to. Once it happened on a forum that I used to post on but quit three or four years ago – he was banned for that one, but the attack was sufficiently personal that it left me very rattled.

More recently, he attempted to torpedo my reputation in the game design community just as I was getting into doing freelance for some more mainstream projects with Onyx Path:

CLICK FOR LARGER MORE READABLE VIEW

This is an excerpt of a post that he made in response to a manufactured controversy (that he helped to manufacture) that I commented on. His response was to make this post with many real names besides mine arguing that TRPG industry companies shouldn’t be hiring us to do freelance work for them. It’s worth noting I wasn’t the only one targeted by that one, although I was the only one singled out with a dismissive aside. (Go Make Me a Sandwich girl? Really? That’s super mature.)

And yet despite his bad behavior, and that he is known within the community for his bad behavior (it’s really kind of his trademark), he is still highly regarded by many as a top-level artist, game designer, and gaming personality, which is frankly depressing. Lots of people know about his bullshit and just don’t care.

The Edgy Game Designer

Last week I posted a link to this satirical Dungeon World playbook for the Edgy Game Designer. This playbook isn’t 100% based on the person I’m talking about here, but it’s close enough that that’s what I’ll call him.

TEGD has never (to my knowledge) declared being aligned with the Mens Rights movement, but his public social media posts adhere very closely to that ideology:

(For reference, Caroline Criado-Perez is a British MP who had a harassment campaign launched against her for the radical notion of wanting women to appear on at least some of Britain’s currency. (Not including the Queen.))

Hatred of social justice activists, decrying feminism, denial of rape culture. Check, check, and check. TEGD is also notable for his vocal defense of rape as a device in games and for his advocacy against convention harassment policies. Which. You know. Yay.

And yet despite all that, TEGD has a pretty large and devoted following:

So when a gaming organization with a reasonably large following (not huge, but certainly not small) announced that they were going effectively lend him their platform to talk about his offensive views, I was pretty upset.

So I spoke out. I was careful to keep my posts mostly about my feelings and personal experience and how TEGD’s stances were hurtful to me as someone who has been sexually victimized at a gaming convention. I wasn’t the only woman who spoke out either.

But rather than respond to the substance of the concerns that we were raising, TEGD started making public posts about how TERRIBLE we were and we were calling him a ravening rape monster and didn’t we know he is CALM and NICE DAMMIT.

And then men went nuts in the comments about what awful bitches we were, to which TEGD would respond by saying that he just couldn’t understand how people couldn’t see what a GOOD PERSON HE WAS and HIS WIFE SAID HE’S NOT A MISOGYNIST, etc etc etc. Which only got them more riled up, to the point that I got a few private messages from people who were concerned for me about the level of ire happening on his page.

There were other women who spoke out, as well as one man who was as vocal as we were. Yet despite the fact that the one man made harsher, more personal attack statements while the women focused mainly on our feelings and personal experiences, TEDG’s followers mainly got angry about us “dumbass irritating bitches”. Funny that.

J. Scott Campbell and Mark Brooks

There’s not much I’ll say other than to summarize briefly, since this was extensively documented in this post here, and in the followup post here.

But the nuts and bolts of the situation are this. I wrote a post in which I did a re-draw of the official GenCon art from 2013 by Jonboy Meyers. Whereupon J. Scott Campbell and Mark Brooks, popular artists in the mainstream comics industry, linked their followers to the post and told them what a terrible person I was.

The thing about comics is that it’s not like roleplaying. TRPG game designers can only hope to achieve a moderate level of nerd fame, unless you happen to be Monte Cook or Ken Hite. Comics artists? Their audience is larger. A LOT larger. So literally overnight, my traffic went THROUGH THE ROOF:

You might think that as a blogger that writes a Patreon-supported blog, that kind of traffic spike would be something I’d like to see. WELL IT’S NOT. I found myself obsessively refreshing my site stats, growing more and more worried as the views kept going up by the thousands. That level of attention from hostile, angry sources is just frightening. For the first 24 hours, I couldn’t help but worry that this was going to go viral and I was going to wind up as another Anita Sarkeesian.

Of course, it didn’t help that when I blogged about the negative attention that Campbell and Brooks had directed my way, J. Scott Campbell then lied about my response to his followers:

CLICK FOR MORE READABLE VIEW

Which, yeah. That’s not even close to what happened:

Okay, so let’s review. Did I say that they were knowingly using their audience to harass me? Yup! I sure did. Did I say that their behavior is unprofessional and imply strongly that it was also irresponsible? You betcha! Did I say ANYTHING ANYWHERE about artwork created by J Scott or Mark Brooks? NOPE.

Thankfully, the shitstorm died down and things went back to normal. But not before 48 extremely anxiety-inducing hours, during which managing comment threads was occupying a huge portion of my attention.

So what’s the point? Why speak out? Or do I just have an axe to grind?

The reason I’m writing this is because misogyny like that expressed by Elliot Rodger doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Echo chambers like PUAhate reinforce and normalize that misogyny. What also normalizes misogyny is when men in positions of respect and authority engage in the practice of encouraging misogyny and creating misogynist echo chambers so that they can protect their self-image.

The problem is that misogynist echo chambers are dangerous. Never forget that misogyny kills. Sometimes directly, as in the case of Elliot Rodger. Sometimes indirectly as in the cases of Amanda Todd and Reteah Parsons.

Am I saying that people like J. Scott Campbell, Mark Brooks, TRA, and TEGD are responsible for mass-murderers like Elliot Rodger? NO.

What I am saying is that inciting harassment of people they don’t like is dangerous, and turning a blind eye to the misogynist echo chambers that happen in their comment sections (if not actively encouraging said misogyny) is even more so.

We need to stop taking misogyny in the geek community for granted and start holding misogynists accountable for their actions, especially when they are creators who have a large audience that they are willing to weaponize. We need to STOP writing these guys blank checks just because they’re nerd famous. And we need to start calling out misogyny when we see it.

We have to. We must. The stakes are just too high.

 

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