Faux allies: GTFO [SWEARING]

[Note: Those of you who read my blog know I love to swear, right? Well I drop the f-bomb a lot in this post, like a lot more than usual. I have zero apologies about it, but still – fair warning for those of you who aren’t okay with profanity.]

I’ve been sitting on this post for quite a while. I wrote out a good half of it months ago, then quietly shelved it because I wanted to start trying to focus on more “positive” things for a little while. It’s hard being that feminist who writes about harassment all the time, and I worry that writing about it too much will cost me readers. Who would want to read a blog about nothing but harassment? Hell, I wouldn’t.

But here I am, blowing the dust off of this post. Why? Because Anita Sarkeesian wasn’t able to sleep in her own house last night because she committed the crime of Having Opinions About Video Games While Female:

femfreq tweets

Folks, it’s been a hard few weeks to be a ladyblogger in games land, folks. D&D 5E ConsultancyGate is already the gift that keeps on giving. Then we’ve got the Zoe Quinn “scandal” in which a bunch of MRAs decided to doxx her in the name of “ethics”. (Spoiler alert: not actually about ethics) All this in addition to the “quiet” daily aggressions against ladybloggers and lady game designers that take a predictable toll.

Just recently a woman that I looked up to as brilliant, funny, and a bright new light in game design decided she couldn’t deal with the bullshit and shut down her G+ account. Which I found devastating, but certainly understandable. Still, I couldn’t help but vent my frustration on Twitter:

my tweets

So all of that happened, and still I sat on this. But then Anita Sarkeesian didn’t get to sleep in her own home because of knuckle-dragging fuckwits decided that they couldn’t handle a woman having opinions and they needed to SHUT THAT SHIT DOWN. And that’s what pushed me over the edge.

I am lucky, insanely lucky, that the only trolls I get are both laughably bad at trolling and incredibly lazy. I have never had any credible death or rape threats. Nor have I had any real problems with sock puppets, aside from that one time a dude created one sock puppet and gave up when I blocked it right away. No one has ever made a video game about beating me up, or sought funding for a crowdfunding project about how awful I am as a human being. I’ve never been doxxed, stalked, or harassed offline.

But these are things that could all happen to me in the future because I am a woman Having Opinions About Games on the Internet.

So the fact that Anita Sarkeesian is willing to stick to her guns, to keep making videos despite facing all of these things? She’s a superhero, people. A MOTHERFUCKING SUPERHERO.


And I realize that all of this is a hell of a prelude to what was originally only 300 words, but I have SO MANY STRONG FEELS ABOUT THIS, YOU GUYS.

The thing I was actually going to say

You know, I feel like it’s pretty obvious to say fuck the guys who engage in this harassing misogynist bullshit. That shit should be a no-brainer, right? If you’re the type of dude who thinks that telling Anita she is a fucking twat because you don’t like her videos? Congratulations. You’re exactly the type of dude who needs to FUCK RIGHT OFF OUT OF THIS HOBBY.

But you know, that’s not exactly controversial. (I mean, unless you’re That Dude. In which case, go fuck yourself.)

No, what I want to add is that it is time to start holding fake “allies” accountable for their bullshit. Allies, if you want to be an ally, then actually be a fucking ally. Or if that’s just too hard, then SHUT THE FUCK UP AND GO THE FUCK AWAY.

Because here’s the deal, it’s actually harder for me, and for many feminists whom I’ve talked with about this, to deal with a fake ally than it is to deal with actual misogynists. With up-front misogynists, they wear their misogyny on their sleeves so you already know it’s not worth investing any emotional energy into an interaction with them.

Fake allies? Man, it can be so. Fucking. Hard. to tell the difference between an ally who needs educating and a misogynist who wants to hide behind the ally label. Sometimes it can take years, years of friendship and regular interaction to realize that an ally who you thought was one of the good guys? Totally wasn’t.

And friends, let me tell you, that will fuck your shit right up. Because emotional investment isn’t a switch you can just turn off. You can’t just say “oh, I was mistaken about the kind of person I thought you were, I no longer give any shits about you or what you think” once a certain level of relationship has been established. Cutting ties with someone who has become toxic is hard once those ties have been allowed to persist, even when we KNOW that cutting ties is what’s best for us.

So these days, the majority of emotional damage I take is from asshole fake allies who want to claim the ally label as a way to stroke their own ego and be the hero of their own story. And I figure enough is enough. So this is me, declaring war on fake allies:

It is time to get rid of allies who…

…occupy more emotional bandwidth than misogynists and anti-feminists

…prioritize their feelings over the well-being of the feminists they claim to support

…brag about having feminist friends but sever all ties with women that tell them things they don’t want to hear

…dominate the conversation

…don’t know how to shut up and listen

…place constraints on acceptable expressions of marginalization

…use tone arguments (“I can’t listen because you’re too angry”)

…want feminists to prove their lived experience

…tell feminists they’re being oversensitive while simultaneous requiring that one walk on verbal eggshells to converse with them at all

…tell feminists they are mentally ill and need help

…make feminists gaslight themselves by making them second-guess their own memories and perceptions

…insist that not all men are like that

…tell feminists they are depressing when they talk about their lived experiences

…say feminists are making everything about them

…support and defend men with proven public records of misogyny


…mansplain mansplaining

…mansplain mansplainers

…don’t promote women’s voices

…say that you have to separate art from its creator

…try to shout feminists down when a thing is criticized that they like

…say that a feminists “owes” them for the times when the faux-ally was just being a decent fucking human being

…use friendship as a weapon (“I’m saying this as a friend, but…”)

…call feminist spaces toxic

…don’t understand the need for safe spaces that don’t include them

…attempt to silence feminists by tarring their reputation

…are not willing to consider the fact that they might be wrong

11 thoughts on “Faux allies: GTFO [SWEARING]

  1. Hi
    I totally agree with you. And to be honest: I’d rather read articles about harassment (when it’s well written and have a point) than ones about pink flowers and happiness all over.
    Some things HAVE to be said. And it’s a shame that people like Anita geht so much hatred. And yes, she IS kind of a modern superhero 😉

    • My response to anyone who doesn’t want to hear about it can be summed up with Jon Stewart’s quote on racism the other night:

      “You’re tired of hearing about it? Imagine how fucking exhausting it is living it.”

      So I agree, keep it up. Write about whatever you think is important. It absolutely needs to be said.

  2. I suspect that when everything about ZQ is said and done, any “ally” who jumped on the witch hunt bandwagon will be on this list somewhere or another.

  3. Yesterday I was trying to compose a tweet about the “faux ally” thing, but I couldn’t fit it into the format. Your post has made me want to write something here as a comment, but I am afraid of falling into the traps that characterize the faux ally.

    I’m going to try really hard to make this comment only about my own personal experience and not try to generalize. I self-identify as a feminist in general, but I try to use terms like pro-feminist or feminist ally in actual feminist contexts because that subtlety is often helpful. I try really hard to live up to my own expectations & those I’ve absorbed from reading (pro-)feminist texts. That said, I often fuck up, because I could easily summarize my life as “an veritable layer cake of privilege”. I’m a bit of a leader in my local volunteer community and I frequently wonder if I should step down from official positions & stop offering my opinion at meetings because I fear my voice is silencing others. That said, I’m not paralyzed with fear of being a misogynist and I’m always very happy to get feedback from people in my community about the role I’m taking. I’m doing simple things like volunteering to take minutes & notes at meetings so that I talk less, and since that’s often a thing delegated to women by default.

    A problem with relying on other people in your circle for feedback about your behavior is that the potential feedback is also affected by all this goddamn privilege. I wonder if I’m actually gaslighting MYSELF by asking the question “can I even believe these people telling me I’m not dominating the conversations and that they really want my input”?

    Now I’m going to try to generalize this into a point that argues against your call for getting rid of faux allies.
    I totally get what you mean about the “walking on verbal eggshells” because it’s like we have no good language for criticizing allies. It’s either “no you’re a nice guy after all” pats on the back or “you’re a faux ally gtfo”. Allies need room to make mistakes and learn from them, and YES it’s more work for the “real” feminists – ok you know what, this “faux” vs “real” thing is bullshit. There are feminist allies who are working from a position of gender privilege, and there are feminists who are not. There are feminists & allies who make mistakes, and I refuse to believe there is some kind of platonic ideal feminist who gets everything right. You are right, it is more work to help an ally to understand what they did wrong than it is to burn some bridges, paint the dragon’s mark on their door, and wash your hands of them. But it’s also more useful and more rewarding to keep those allies – even the ones who make mistakes – than to try to form a cult only for “real” feminists. Allies who make mistakes are not irredeemably broken, they are working against the same system of privilege and gender oppression as you, but their specific challenges are different. I work against things like blindness to the experiences of others, of assuming my own experiences are universal, of sometimes needing someone to tell me “that’s fucked up man.”

    This is getting pretty ranty, so I need to defuse a little bit: allies also need to understand that other feminists & allies will sometimes get fed up with their blindness, especially if it seems like the ally isn’t really putting in the effort. They need to keep working at it and not throw up their hands in frustration. One tactic for doing that is unfortunately to argue against people calling you a “fake”…

    This little rant was motivated by my comment on your first GenCon post: https://gomakemeasandwich.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/gencon-first-impressions-hope-for-the-fuuuuuture/#comment-8498 . So I sort of feel like your post was about people like me, but I hope I’m not just doubling-down on the misogyny by writing this.

    • Hey! So let me make a distinction here. There’s nothing wrong with being an ally that is still learning and that still makes mistakes. I’m still learning about being a trans ally and an anti-racism ally, to the point where I don’t really like to call myself an ally because I get shit wrong. But when that happens, I OWN MY MISTAKE, I apologize, and I do my damndest not to do it again.

      So being an ally who is learning and who makes mistakes? That’s okay, as long as you’re willing to accept that you make mistakes and you don’t get defensive and shut people down when they call you out on something.

      The fake allies I am talking about are people who claim the label of ally without wanting to do any of the emotional work of self-examination or enduring any personal discomfort. These are the people who hide their actual misogyny behind a veneer of progressiveness, who are willing to talk the talk as long as walking the walk doesn’t personally inconvenience them. And because they tend to be charming and will say kind things about the feminists that DON’T annoy them, they can cause a lot of damage within a community.

      Sometimes these are even people who work toward equality “on paper”, through administrative initiatives and policy changes and the like, but the instant they feel threatened by a woman saying something they don’t like, they will leverage every bit of their power and authority as a weapon against you. Those guys aren’t allies either.

      I am absolutely not saying that to be an ally you have to get everything right ever, because by that standard I myself am not an ally. (Not that I really like calling myself that, but whatever.) And honestly, I have found your comments here to be insightful and generally valuable. So I’m sorry if this seemed like I was calling you out, because I don’t think you fall in the group that I’m attacking here.

      • Thanks for the encouragement. I do recognize that a bunch of the criticisms on your list do apply to me, and I also want to resist feeling too smug by telling myself “fewf, I’m not a faux ally after all – even wundergeek likes me!” I think the distinction you are making between faux allies and people genuinely trying is not so clear-cut.

        Often when I make mistakes it’s because I was being lazy or careless, falling into the same old patterns of privilege. I do try to own the mistakes (and I’m bad at explicitly apologizing, I need to work on that…), but if I make mistakes because I’m lazy, then it stands to reason that I could also fail to own up for the same reason, and end up blaming the victim of my transgressions instead. In fact that probably happens all the time and I don’t even notice, especially when it comes to other forms of oppression, where I haven’t done as much work & reading as in gender issues.

        Anyways, I guess a good lesson for me could be: as long as I’m not feeling super comfortable, as long as I always feel like I have to earn the ally & feminist label, then I can’t be doing so badly. Having positive feedback from others on the team also helps, thanks. = )

  4. I agree with you, and I wish there was a lot more I could do beyond private and public support.

    However, I also feel like anything I would do would either be an unwelcome intrusion of another “white cis hetero male” to the conversation, or be used as an exasperated example of how “The message is only legitimized when a dude says it? WTF!”

    You yourself, wundergeek, have expressed those exasperations recently on your blog.

    Thus, I find myself in an irrational spiral of wanting to do more but afraid of just adding to the problem and am stuck in inaction.

    • I appreciate your concerns! Because “what about the men” and “not all men” is definitely a thing to be avoided! However, there is absolutely a place for male allies in all of this! Here are some concrete, excellent things that male allies can do:

      1) Simply being a voice that says “this shit is not okay” when these things come up is valuable. SO VALUABLE. The number of men who are willing to be silent about this shit is just as big a problem as the people actually engaging in misogynist dickbaggery. “This shit is not okay” is a valuable contribution, even if it doesn’t feel that way.

      2) Promote women’s voices. As a man, you have greater perceived authority that you can use for good by promoting women’s voices.

      3) Be aware of your surroundings:
      a) If you see something that’s not okay, or that twinges some alarms, intervene. Better that you be embarassed than fall victim to the bystander effect

      b) If you are in a meeting or other group discussion setting, pay attention to who is talking. If the conversation is being dominated by men, use your perceived authority to get women involved. Ask women to contribute. And, COROLLARY, shut down men who cut women off or dismiss their contributions. Men will often listen to you where they wouldn’t listen to a woman.

      c) If a man you are friends with does something uncool, call them on it. Don’t make excuses. Even a simple “dude, not cool” will go a long way. It can be terrifying to do this. Do it anyway.

      4) Lastly, own your discomfort. Discomfort means that you’re engaging in self-examination, which is good! You’re going to screw up sometimes and you have to be willing to own that. The discomfort sucks, it does. But there’s truth in the cliche that things worth doing are rarely easy.

      Does it suck that some people will only listen to the message when it comes from white dudes? Fuck yes it sucks! But you have been given a power that you didn’t ask for – the power of being a white dude. And, you know, with great power, etc. The best use of that power is to be someone who holds the door open instead of using that power to keep the door shut. And that is a valuable thing.

      (And thanks, btw, for being a long-time supporter and friend. Honestly, even that much means so much.)

      • You are most welcome. Through your various blogging efforts I have definitely become more enlightened about all the various issues surrounding my favourite hobbies and how to think about both those and other things more comprehensively. So I guess I should be thanking you. 😉

        We can offer each other mutual high-fives and drink buyings when next we are in proximity.

        And your list is very helpful. A lot of them are things I do already, so that lifts my irrational mental burden a bit.

        “c) If a man you are friends with does something uncool, call them on it. Don’t make excuses. Even a simple “dude, not cool” will go a long way. It can be terrifying to do this. Do it anyway.”

        This needs highlighting. It is VERY hard, and very necessary. I’ve had to do it not only with friends, but friends I worked and had to keep working with. The insidious aspect to it is that the problematic stuff will sometimes come from people you least expect.

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