[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:
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:
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
…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
While I have some posts coming up that are prompted by interactions I had at GenCon, this will be the last post I write explicitly about my experience at GenCon itself (at least for the next little while). I’ve talked about the things that made me excited, as well as specific crappy things observed in the dealers’ room. But I didn’t address negative things outside of the dealers’ room, so here are some observations about things with varying degrees of crappyness.
Bad: Some dude mansplained my shirt to me
One of my birthday gifts this year was a shirt that said “FAKE GEEK GIRL: REAL GEEK WOMAN”. So of course I wore it to GenCon. I mean, how could I not?
Friday morning, I got dressed in The Shirt (and also pants) and headed out to get breakfast, bleary from a late night of awesome awesomeness. As I was standing in line, two guys spotted my shirt. One of them looked excited and said, “oh wow, that’s an awesome shirt! My wife would love that shirt? Where did you get it?”.
Pleased, I said that I did love the shirt but that it was a gift and I didn’t know where it was purchased. And that’s when Complimentary Dude’s mansplainy friend chimed in with, “but you’re not fake”. Which led to the following conversation:
Me: I’m… not a girl.
Mansplainy Friend: But you’re not fake. You’re–
Me: Not a girl. I have a toddler. I pay taxes. I am a woman.
Mansplainy Friend: Yes, but you’re not a fake woman.
Me: Okay, but you’re getting bogged down in the definition of one word. Do you not understand that this shirt is commenting on a larger social phenomenon where women like me have to fight to have our interest in geek culture seen as valid?
…at which point Mansplainy Friend tried to continue the argument, but thankfully Shirt-Complimenting Guy got him to shut up and I collected my breakfast and left.
And I suppose that I really should have expected something of the sort to occur. After all, I did wear the shirt rather expecting that hanging out primarily in tabletop RPG areas would mean that it would provoke some kind of a reaction. Still, in my defense, I don’t think anyone can be entirely blamed for being surprised when someone attempts to mansplain their own clothing to them when they are still in a severely under-caffeinated state.
Bad: I didn’t X-card the jokey sexism in a game that I ran
I was a GM at Games on Demand this year, which turned out to be tons of fun for all of my games except one – a game of Zombie Cinema. (Zombie Cinema is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a fun little game that creates zombie movie plots. It’s eminently replayable and never leaves my bag at conventions, in case I ever find myself with spare time, friends, and desire for a pick-up game that lasts about two hours.)
The problem with that game? There were six people at the table, including myself, but I was the only woman. And three of the six players were, well, the bro-iest of bros. Still, because some of the random character gen options specify gender, we wound up with three female characters, so I was hoping things would turn out well.
Early on in the game, however, the bro players started tossing out stuff about “protecting the women”, which was irritating. I jokingly had my character, a middle-aged mom and secretary, call them on it. At which point it promptly became a running joke throughout the rest of the session. And not the friendly sort of running joke, a “oh this clearly bothers you, so now my character is going to keep doing it” kind of running joke.
At the time, I just thought that it was a B- game of Zombie Cinema. There were some amusing jokes, like how the zombie plague came to be known as “raibola” (rabies/Ebola), but mostly it was a slightly sub-par but still amusing enough for the price of a generic ticket game of Zombie Cinema.
It wasn’t until I ran into James Stuart, the “new” proprietor of Story-Games, fellow GoD GM, and one of the not-bros at the table for the game, that he helped crystallize my annoyance by asking if I was okay with what happened in our game. He said that he was reluctant to X-card them since I seemed okay with it, but at the same time it seemed pretty gross. And at the time I was like, “oh yeah, I was okay, it was just kind of irritating is all”.
But since then I’ve examined that reaction and now I regret not X-carding the jokey sexism once it became a nasty little running joke, because it was a joke that made the game less fun for me. I got trapped in the mindset that because Games on Demand was paying for my badge, I was obligated to provide the players with a fun game. But I forgot that my fun was also an important part of the equation, and the “ha ha girls suck” running “joke” throughout the game definitely made it less fun for me.
And all of this despite an excellent all-hands meeting on Thursday night that stressed that GMs had to consider their own fun as much as their players when deciding what to X-card! So it’s not even like this was a possibility that hadn’t been addressed.
So that’s something I think I’ll need to work on being more aware of next year.
Bad: Casual harassment
I didn’t experience as much of it this year as I have previous years, there was only one creepy dude on the street of the “oh god avert your eyes, don’t make eye contact, stick close to your group” variety that I encountered this year, although he was a doozie. (He started singing at me and pelvic thrusting, although thankfully he didn’t approach me and I was able to give him a wide berth as we passed him on the sidewalk.)
But let me turn that around and say that this year was the best year I’ve had in terms of street harassment. So the fact that I go to GenCon expecting to be creepily harassed and made to feel unsafe by at least one dude while at the convention? That’s messed up.
Another insanely not-cool moment was my very first night at the convention, at a party where I was going to head back to my hotel with my hotel roomie and her boyfriend. On the way out, she stopped at a table to say hi to someone that she knew, and a dude literally grabbed her hand and started trying to pull her into the booth. At which point I started hovering very visibily while wearing my best “we need to leave because I need sleep face”.
And, you know, generally my friend and convention-roomie is a super capable woman and I would trust her to be able to handle her own creeps. But at the same time, Creepy Arm-Hauling Guy was large and I wanted to at least try to shame him into letting go. (Which he did, though probably not because of me, and we made our escape, and that was the end of that.)
And maybe it was because we were at a party? But you know what, fellas? Being drunk is not an excuse for harassing women, even if it’s just because you want to get to know them. Calm the fuck down, and if you can’t behave yourself around strange women when you’re drunk, then DON’T FUCKING DRINK.
One of the things that I forgot to mention in my post about good things about GenCon was the fact that the opening ceremonies of the convention specifically mentioned the harassment policy and that harassment was not okay, and that anyone feeling threatened or uncomfortable should seek out convention staff who would take the situation seriously. WHICH IS GREAT. The fact that GenCon has gone from having effectively no harassment policy to having a well-written policy that staff are being trained on? That’s awesome.
The only signs spelling out the complete policy were in the badge registration area. There weren’t any in the dealer’s room area that I or any of the people that attended the Women in Gaming panel had spotted. And I didn’t see any outside of the main convention center, either.
And that’s a problem! If nothing else, there needs to be at least some basic “cosplay is not consent” posters in the dealers’ room, because that’s where a whole lot of cosplay is happening.
The other problem is that a whole lot of people just don’t need to go to the badge registration area. Because I was running through Games on Demand, I picked up my badge from the GoD staff without ever having to go through the badge line. And for the most part, trips to the dealers’ room to acquire specific items were the only trips that I made into the convention center itself. The one panel I was able to go to (all the others overlapped with my GM slots! Curses!) was in the Crowne Plaza – all of which were areas that didn’t have any sort of signage to raise awareness of this policy.
It’s also worth noting that a lot of people don’t attend the first day of the convention, or don’t manage to be awake in time to hit the dealers room in time for the opening ceremonies, or aren’t able to stand close enough to hear what everyone else is saying.
This is something that is important. If you want to change the social norms around toxic and harassing behavior at conventions, you have to change expectations and raise awareness, and signage is an important part of that. GenCon is just too big an event to do it in a more individualized way.
This was going to be a quick link post before I get into my car and drive the waytoomanyhoursthankyou to GenCon, leaving my family and my cats behind to weep over my absence (they won’t) and wail bitter lamentations until my return (yeah right).
But then some stuff happened. Mostly behind the scenes on various social networks, and mostly to people who aren’t me. (Although some of it was directed at me personally.) So I started accumulating crap in this text box to blog about until I realized that I was putting more thought into this than I’d originally anticipated. So newer patrons, I promise my paid posts aren’t usually this disjointed.
That said! On to the good stuff:
The two stories I was originally going to link to come courtesy of The Mary Sue.
FIRST. It seems that the staff of Jezebel felt it necessary to make a post holding their management at Gawker to account for the fact that they are getting trolled with violent rape imagery by anonymous trolls and Gawker is doing… absolutely nothing about it. So TMS had this great piece looking at the thinking behind their moderation policies and how it’s actually fucking worked to keep trolls out of their comment sections.
Which. Jesus. Anyone who’s been to TMS will have seen that their discussion threads can get pretty lively. While I’m not as regular a reader as I used to be, I certainly can’t say that I’ve seen anything other than civil discussion on TMS posts that I’ve read on their site. So can we please let the “banning anonymous commenters will kill discussion” myth die already? Please?
My personal experience is that the opposite tends to be true. Trolls suck oxygen out of the conversation and make people afraid to speak up with their opinion. Conversations here on GMMaS improved about a million fold once I started banning trolls and deleting troll comments, and I get many more comments from visitors “just passing through” that I’ve found really valuable.
So Jesus, Gawker. Get your act together and try to be marginally less terrible, okay?
SECOND. This is so horrifying – a woman, married and pregnant with her husband’s child, discovered that her husband was a horrible, horrible Reddit troll. When she asked him to stop, he lied and said he would then didn’t. And when she demanded that he get counseling or they would split up, he apparently felt that making people feel horrible about themselves online was more important to him than his real life marriage and his real life about-to-be-baby.
And sure, the obvious caveats apply. This could be a fake. But honestly, this is so horrible, so sad, and so utterly, utterly COMMONPLACE that I have zero difficulty believing that it’s true. Which leads me to echo TMS in saying that we have to, have to start holding our friends and family accountable when we catch them doing this shit.
Don’t say “it’s just online” or “it’s not serious” or “he’s just an asshole” or “it’s just a joke”. That makes you complicit in shitty fucking behavior. Say “wow, dude, that’s not fucking okay” and actually stop talking to people who refuse to stop this kind of behavior. Because this sort of behavior LITERALLY KILLS PEOPLE. (And I mean that literally, not figuratively, even though literally apparently also means figuratively now which is just the wooooorst.)
If you discover that someone is being a shitty human being, it’s not unreasonable to say that if they refuse to stop being a shitty human being, you should refuse to keep being their friend.
Here’s a thing that I have been mostly-not-a-target-of-but-still-kinda. Some dudes are attempting to blacklist some people, mostly women, from the gaming industry because of reasons that boil down to a long and really boring story that boils down to the fact that some dudes just really don’t like women having opinions in public on the internet, like, ever.
Anyway, this gave me occasion to post the following on Twitter:
OH NO, random dude I don’t care about! PLEASE NO! Don’t get all those awful dudes that I have blocked anyway to promise not to work with me! HOW WILL MY LIFE HAVE MEANING?? Because my entire life revolved around whether misogynists are willing to throw me a couple scraps to let me write for them!
This got me thinking that really the only way to properly convey this sentiment was with a venn diagram:
(My love of sarcastic diagrams and flow charts knows no bounds. I love them more than misandry jokes, which I also really really love.)
Lastly, I’ve been meditating recently on the block functions of various social networks and how aggressive curating of my social networks has kept my G+/facebook/etc a very civilized place to be, for the most part. But the fact is I have a couple super persistent trolls who just really want to bypass all that and tell me how awful I am. Like, really really awful.
For the most part I think this is silly, since I mostly only find out by accident or when someone in my circles happens to mention it to me. So I drew the following out one lunch when I’d forgotten the book I’d been intending to read (this is ballpoint pen on copy paper in about half an hour, so the quality isn’t the best):
Lastly, a policy note:
Either tonight or tomorrow morning, I’ll attempt to lock down comments on my blog while I’m gone. (Last time it didn’t work, which was irritating). I don’t want to have to watch the comments while I’m away trying to enjoy myself. In the mean time, go hug a kitten?
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.
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:
I fear this is turning into my white whale. I WILL CONQUER YOU! NO SPREADSHEET CAN DEFEAT ME!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
 I will never use a short word when there is a much cooler, longer word.
[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, 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.
Which is bullshit for two reasons.
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.
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, 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.
 It would be impossible for me to overstate how much I love Mallory Ortberg
 Because if you’re going to be dismissively sexist, why not sprinkle a little helping of racism on top? You know, for the lulz.
 Seriously they grow so fast and even if you shop thrift stores, it adds up
[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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.