On being a “professional victim”

I’ve been pretty quiet the last two weeks, and I apologize for that. I meant to get one more post up in November, but, well, that didn’t so much happen. Partly it’s because I was pouring a lot of writing energy into finishing a first draft of my current game project! Which I am excited about! But partly it’s because I’ve found myself second-guessing everything I’ve wanted to write about.

Writing about Bayonetta because a bunch of dudes got mad about me having opinions on Bayonetta was an easy choice. I mean, oh, you don’t like me writing about Bayonetta? Well here, have some more unsolicited opinions about Bayonetta, since that’s how I roll. (I’m contrary like that.) But how to move on from there? Well… that’s more difficult.

The problem is that I actually read about 19 pages of this weird anti-me hatefest (which was a terrible idea, seriously, don’t ever do that. What were you thinking past me??), and since then I’ve felt stuck as to how to pick a topic for a new post that wouldn’t play into the narrative that has been constructed against me, which has gotten so sprawling and disjointed that literally anything I write here can be co-opted as ammunition.

It can be pretty unnerving knowing that anything you write can then be twisted to support someone’s arguments that you are a: homophobic, anti-feminist, sex-negative, compulsively lying, egomaniacal, unethical feminazi fascist who harasses people and is so delusional that someone should really have me involuntarily committed for my own good. (To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t been accused of being racist yet. Although given that my first published game, Thou Art But A Warrior, is about Muslims, I fully expect that to be added to the litany at some point in the future.) Seriously, how do you keep that level of bullshit from messing you up once in a while?

But in the end, I have to choose between giving the trolls new ammunition (everything is ammunition. Everything.) and remaining silent, which I’m not willing to do. So instead, I’m going to rant a bit about Patreon, and about my least-favorite new slur being hurled at women, queer people, and PoC with Patreons – “professional victim”.

First: Patreons by women, queer people, and PoC are the devil

When Patreon was just starting to develop a head of steam among my indie game design circles, the earliest adopters that I saw jumping on board were predominantly white and male. To the point where it initially made me pretty uneasy as a new thing that was happening, as I was afraid that it was going to turn into yet another way in which the voices of white men were going to be privileged over other voices:


However, after a while I was able to get over the idea that I didn’t have anything of worth to offer potential patrons and I put up a Patreon of my own. As did other not-white-dude creators that I knew! And much to my delight, Patreon became a vital platform in enabling otherwise marginalized voices to create things they were passionate about and receive the support that they needed to do so.

Which is naturally about when there was a bit of a paradigm shift in how individual Patreons were talked about online.

Now instead of being universally lauded as a “revolutionary new crowdfunding model”, very often the reaction to an individual Patreon depends greatly on the identity of the person running it. Are they white and male? Excellent! Carry on! You use this new crowdfunding tool to make the things you want to make, you bold and visionary content creator you!

But wait! Is that Patreon being run by a woman? Or a PoC? Or a queer person? Or – gasp – someone who represents a combination of some or all of those traits? Then it is a TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE! Legit just the worst! Because mumble mumble ethics and mumble mumble other reasons!

Seriously, it’s a little baffling how incredibly offended some people get about the fact that this blog is Patreon supported. Despite the fact that everything that I accept Patreon funds for writing is published free of charge here on my blog, which means that anyone who cares to can read my blog without needing to contribute a single red cent, it’s somehow the absolute worst that I have sixty seven whole patrons who contribute varying amounts of money per unit content generated. THE WORST! How dare I take people’s money in return for expressing opinions! FACISM.

… [ahem]

The fact is that I use my Patreon money to justify the time and energy that I put into writing content here, time that could otherwise be spent on other paying projects. And I fail to understand just why that’s such a terrible thing. Despite that my average monthly revenue has increased about 50% from when I first re-launched GMMaS, I’m still not raking in huge butt-piles of money. On average I’m making about 2/3 of what it costs to keep my kid in daycare – which is only one of many new, exciting, and completely non-optional child-related expenses.

And for the most part, that’s the sort of shit that a lot of Patreon dollars get used for – the daily shit you have to do just to stay afloat. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but being a Millennial is fucking hard. We don’t have any careers, housing fucking sucks, we’re going bankrupt getting the education we need to compete, and the Boomers are never, ever, ever going to retire. (Never.) So anything that allows people the breathing room they need to make art instead of spending potential creative energy just fucking surviving is something that we should be celebrating!

But of course, since the success of Patreon as a platform means the increasing prominence of female, queer, and minority voices… WELL. We can’t have that, now can we!

Second: “Professional victim” is so fucking silencing I can’t even

When I started hammering out the initial outline for this post, I knew that I had enough content to justify making a paid post. And yet, the idea of making a paid post taking on the idea of Patreon creators as “professional victims” was pretty terrifying! Because of course, the two biggest targets of this new “professional victim” label are Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian. Both of whom are women I admire tremendously and look up to, but whose example I desperately do not want to emulate. So when “professional victim” was recently added to the constructed narrative circulating against me, it was… unnerving to say the least.

I was sufficiently aggravated that I took to venting on twitter:

Tweets are in reverse chronological order, because twitter is dumb

There is a huge problem with calling women like Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn (and, to a lesser extent, myself) “professional victims”. When you extend that logic to its natural conclusion, that means that the moment any not-white-dude has the temerity to accept crowdfunding monies in exchange for a good or service, they automatically forfeit any right to speak openly about the abuse that they receive as a result.

Which is, of course, complete horse shit. Not to mention that “professional victim” is a term very often hurled by #GamerGaters, or at least people who support #GamerGate – despite their claims of being concerned primarily about “ethics in game journalism”. (But then, #GamerGate has always been singularly blind to the hypocrisy displayed by a campaign of harassment designed to silence and discredit women that simultaneously purports to be about ethics.)

However, just the very idea of “professional victim” is very toxic, and can very often be incredibly silencing. I know it’s something that I wrestle with all the damn time in writing this blog – the fear that I will drive away patrons if I write “too many” posts about gendered harassment. When deciding what topic to write about next, in the back of my head there is always the calculus of “how many posts have I written about a specific game or piece of game art since the last time I talked about this” and “should I set this aside until I’ve put more non-harassment-focused stuff out there?”. Despite very much wanting to speak out against the sort of harassment that Zoe and Anita (among really so many others) have faced, it’s hard to for me believe that me talking openly and honestly about my experiences is something that has any real worth.

“Professional victim” is a term that is also brutally effective in dismissing someone’s worth, not only as a creator but as a human being. When someone is a “professional victim”, literally any sort of behavior against them is okay, because any abuse perpetrated against them is something that they were asking for in the first place. “Professional victim” is the “what were you wearing” or “how much did you drink” of the internet – a blanket permission to engage in toxic misogyny without any real fear of negative consequence.

So the fact that I have written paid posts in the past about harassment I’ve received, and that I am writing this post now, and likely will do more such posts in the future? That’s a hard, scary thing, friends. Because that only reinforces the “professional victim” aspect of the constructed narrative against me, and as Anita Sarkeesian has excellently discussed, once the narrative that has been constructed against a person reaches a certain critical mass, it no longer matters what the facts are because the myth attains a life of its own and nothing you say or do can ever slay that myth.

25 thoughts on “On being a “professional victim”

  1. Don’t worry much about posting “too much” about this kind of thing – I and your other patrons are precisely *not* the kind of people to talk that kind of shit. Assholes aren’t your target audience, they’ve just latched on to be venemous.

  2. Keep writing! While I enjoy your posts about specific games or movies (and prefer them), I am not entitled to be ignorant of the experiences of the person making those posts.

    It’d be like reading a novel by a writer from e.g. the Soviet Union without understanding anything about the challenges that creative persons had in that state. You might still get something out of the book – but you’re missing a big chunk of the essence.

    • Troll says: “You should never complain about the abuse you receive unless you grew up under the most oppressive regimes in the world. Also, you receive a backlash against angry basement dwellers with micropenises because you are a feminist and if there were white men who were feminists, they would be harassed too.” (they are actually right about the second part, but I’m pretty sure this person doesn’t understand why this is a problem.”

  3. 1. Since you did write posts about harassment you received in the past then most people who decide to support you on Patreon probably noticed and know these will be included into the mix. So no need to worry about these sort of stupid accusations from patrons.

    2. As long as you are being harassed and attacked for the “content” posts, then “victim” posts about this harassment are relevant.

    When you post about a game like Bayonetta you’re writing about some of the attitudes, mindsets, tropes, industry-standards, as such, that were involved in the design, and choices, and expected reactions to Bayonetta.
    As such, actual reactions of people about the things you mention, and you mentioning them, fall directly into what you were writing about.

    It doesn’t make sense for anyone to care about gender/race/etc… issues in a game without caring about reactions to those same gender/race/etc… issues in a game. So anyone interested in your “content” articles would generally be interested in any reports of the crappy reactions you receive and atmosphere about what you wrote.

    Which means that yes, it is fine to write “victim” posts, it’s completely a part of what the “content” posts are covering. The separation is partially artificial beyond the temporal aspects (without effective time-travel we can’t really expect you to talk about related vile comments and harassment before the original post is published).

    3. You’re not writing for the purpose of causing people to hurl abuse at you, you’re writing about important things that some people don’t want to pay attention to without hurling abuse in response. Any accusations of being a “professional victim” here is disgusting, and it is clear cut and obvious victim blaming.

  4. I have seen online backlash against Patreon even in the case of white dudes. Jim Sterling has been accused of “asking for welfare”, for example. In general, there seems to be a sort of kneejerk mistrust of this platform by a lot of more-or-less well-informed people… Not to say that the backlash doesn’t affect women and minorities, who are most of the time a primary target in such situations.

    But still, I don’t get it. What IS wrong with Patreon? I mean, it’s not like Kickstarter where you take the risk of giving money to a project that might not see the light eventually. With Patreon, you only pay every time the content creator uploads something new, so your money is always concretely going somewhere!

    Wundergeek, as a Patreon user, do you have criticism to express about Patreon?

    • I think Patreon is amazing and seriously one of the best things to happen in the art world in the last few years.

      From a consumer standpoint, it’s enabling a lot of super great content from people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to justify the time and effort and I know that my life is richer for it.

      From a creator standpoint, it’s been amazing being able to write about things I want to write about without worrying about stealing creative energy from paying projects, to say nothing of the fact that the Patreon funds I get help even out my finances.

      It’s something I intend to blog about in more detail in the near future.

      • Good for you! Still, as a consumer I think there is a big difference to make between Patreons where you pledge a monthly sum of money, and where you pledge for every single piece of content. The first model is riskier for the consumer, and demands a great deal of trust. I currently support five creators on Patreon, including you and GMMaS (under my real name, not “MasodikTiasma”), but only for two of them do I give a monthly pledge no matter how much content is produced.

        I’m looking forward to reading your posts about Patreon and other subjects in the future!

    I have been looking EVERYWHERE for this button to let you know what a beautiful and valued voice you are for me! (I think my problem was that I was looking through the archives, which don’t have this link…)
    In the past week or so, I’ve read a TON of your blog, and it’s been really helpful to me, both as a feminist, and as an artist. Thank you so very much for telling the kinder people of the internet what to expect in the outside world, despite the pointless hate you receive!

    • I know it can be very difficult to get in touch with me here, and I do apologize. Unfortunately, I wound up locking comments on posts older than 3 weeks because of some persistent trolling a while back.

      I’m so glad that you found my blog valuable, and thanks for taking the time to comment. 🙂

  6. The idea of a “professional victim” is so damn idiotic that the words I am using to describe the phrase as idiotic are inadequate. It’s like someone took a shit on your hamburger and you’re being accused of being a whiner because you’re objecting to just chowing it down.

  7. As one of your Patrons, I am happy to support this post. As you said, the label “professional victim” is purely intended to silence you. I’m glad you are highlighting this kind of BS. Calling attention to the silencing methods of your critics is just as important as talking about distorted anatomy or lack of diversity in gaming or comics. Actually, I personally feel it is more important. The fact that you can’t bring your point of view to the table without receiving a significant amount of backlash like this is yet another part of our toxic culture that we need to really move past. And wtf is the deal with people criticizing Patreon? You know you would be criticized just as much of this were a “free” blog.

    • Oh for sure I would! I’d get criticized no matter what. But people seem to get even more het up when there’s money involved. They seem to think that I just sit down at the keyboard, bang out a post in 20 minutes, maybe do a macro in MSPaint, and hit publish. Which, uh, no. Even a post like this that doesn’t require any research still takes a minimum of 3 hours when you include both writing and polishing, and usually a fair number of starts and stops. The writing I do here is the same level that I would write at if I were doing a freelance project, although it is obviously far more profanity-ridden.

      But yeah, even if that wasn’t the case and it was just 15 minutes off the cuff… who cares? If people are still willing to pay for that, how does that affect you? Arg.

      • Exactly. They are going to cry no matter what. You can’t win with those folks. I can tell you put a shitton of effort into your posts and you put up with a loooooot of abusive crap, the most of which we never see. In my opinion, you should be getting paid a lot more for each post. If I had infinite money, I would up my pledge even more.

  8. @ wundergeek:

    If only the victims of this world could make a profession out of it…maybe it’d take some sting out of being victimized.

    I know it f’s with your head to have hate poured on your writing. But I’m glad you’re not letting it silence you.

    I suppose that ANYone’s opinion, vented on the internet for all to see, can seem like “whining” regardless of the subject…but people tend to gravitate towards the opinions/blogs/whining that they want to read (i.e. the ones that they find entertaining or that fuels their own opinions). While it’s strange that some folks have so much bile (and so little to do!) that they can spend energy hating and trolling, there’s really very little you can do about it. We who support you do so because we enjoy your voice on the subject.

    Maybe you just need to formally claim the title “professional victim” for yourself, in a humorous fashion that redefines the term. After all, you have been “victimized” by terrible graphic art (corpse tits, Bayonetta, etc.), and you are making a bit of a “profession” out of it (since you get paid by your patrons to point out the offensiveness). In fact, I’d think you should have a category label of “professional victim-ing” to slap on any Patreon post describing our collective victimhood.

    [the idea that someone would make a profession out of victimhood is pretty laughable, so why not laugh at it?]

  9. For what it’s worth, one of the big reasons I keep coming back here is *because* you’re writing openly about the oppression and silencing you’re receiving based on your gender. I mean, I love your art and your criticisms too, don’t get me wrong, but I feel it’s important to get a perspective on what, exactly, expressing those opinions does for you and how that differs from what other content creators (of any gender/race/orientation/religion/etc.) are treated based on the same type of expression. I keep being told “nobody’s ever actually been hurt by being doxxed online!” and “everyone who complains about harassment is obviously overreacting because men get harassed too!” but it’s hard to evaluate whether (and why) those assertions are wrong without actually getting information from people facing the harassment themselves.

  10. Hi there!
    Please, try not to give in to people that wish to silence you because they see you as a threat to their privilege. This, I ask of you as a reader that enjoys your work.

    So you accept support via Patreon, so what? It’s not like you are lying or stealing, people donate if they want and they’re not forced to do so.
    You don’t need to justify yourself like you’re doing something wrong, I mean, do they even try to justify themselves? I don’t think so, and when they do, they just do it attacking others (generally, anyone who doesn’t agree with their views, which are particularly full of bigotry).

    We can’t live of air, sadly, we need money. And some people feel more comfortable speaking about that subject than others, and that’s fine. You invest your time working here, which is not something you can get back. If I could support you on Patreon, I would, but I live in a country with a lot of restrictions on international money. I will still read a bit about how it works, though, it may be helpful for me as well.

    I read the words “professional victim” a lot, too. But that only displays how little they know of what it feels like to be in a less privileged position. They can’t even comprehend the concept of what it’s like being a victim of something (anything), so they add the “professional” part to it, which means (to them) that you’re faking everything and doing it on purpose, as if felt good or something. As if you were seeking pity? As if anyone even wanted that.

    It only gives a much deeper insight on how little they understand and empathize with anyone. They can’t even get around the idea that noone enjoys being a victim, and that (those they call) “SJW” don’t even refer to themselves as “victims” in the first place.

    And you know what? All that is their choice. That’s the worst part. They choose to hate.

    Don’t let anyone silence you, please, and when things like these happen, when you feel fed up with all that hatred, speak. You’ve got your readers and you’ve got this space you built to express yourself. I urge you to please not stop. You don’t have to. You don’t owe them anything, not even explanations.

    A reader.

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