Gaming’s misogyny-induced brain drain

I know a lot of my readership is American, and given the American media’s complete lack of interest in, I dunno, your biggest trade partner and the country with whom you share the largest open border in the world (no big), you may not be aware that Canada just had a major federal election that resulted in a new Prime Minister (which is like a President, but fancier) after more than 10 years of having Stephen Harper as our national leader.

If you’re American and have heard about the election results, it’s probably because Justin Trudeau – our new Prime Minister – is young (43) and ludicrously good looking. (Seriously, Stephen Harper’s party actually campaigned against Justin Trudeau’s hair. That’s how good his hair is.) I, personally, have been greatly enjoying the media coverage that has been objectifying the shit out of him, because for once the shoe is on the other foot and it is glorious.

Now what does any of this have to do with games? After all, isn’t this a blog specifically about games and gaming? Well! One of the benefits of having a young PM who is “hip” and “with the times” (as the kids say these days) is that Justin Trudeau is actually up on cultural issues that affect people younger than 50. Case in point, in an interview, Trudeau owned the label of feminist and specifically called out GamerGate!

best-memes-star-trek

GamerGate, of course, being GamerGate, they wasted no time in declaring war on Justin Trudeau in retaliation. Because declaring war on a major head of state because he expressed an opinion about misogyny in gamer culture isn’t a bad idea at all:

TrudeauGG

And because I was feeling good and riding high on the election results, I thought that – hey, maybe I could write a silly post about Justin Trudeau waging war against GamerGate with CSIS (think CIA) and drones and shit, and I could make it dryly satirical and it’d be a funny little interlude after a string of way too fucking many serious posts that I’ve written. I could even put in a lot of jokes about Trudeau’s hair, and how GamerGate is terrified of him because they know their trilbys just can’t compete with the majesty of Trudeau’s glorious mane.

But all of that was yesterday, before a terrible thing happened that hurt some people that I really care about, and I was forcibly reminded that GamerGate is not a joke. Yes the furor may have died down, and most of those who were tweeting under the hashtag have moved on. But those who have remained committed are the extremists, and their commitment to doing whatever it takes to silence people they see as enemies is truly frightening. So suddenly all the jokes I’d been brainstorming about drones powered by hair product, and squirrels and moose dressed in CSIS uniforms storming basements, and blowing up bunkers full of Code Red and Doritos – they stopped being funny.

So because I do legit feel bad about being such a downer of late, before we move on please do enjoy some of my very favorite social media reactions to our new Prime Minister:

 

Trudeau

And now, moving on…

Gamers: we’re our own worst enemy

[Before I go any further, let me note as always that I am taking great care not to name names here. This is not just for my safety, it’s for the safety of others, so for fuck’s sake if you know who I’m talking about DO NOT link to this piece and name names. That is an asshole move.]

This morning I woke up to the news that someone I have great admiration and respect for was closing down his public social media presence because of harassment from gamers. And distressingly, instead of being shocked and amazed that this was happening, my very first thought was “oh Christ, not again”. Because this shit is like clockwork – it’s so regular you can practically set a clock by it.

This time it’s happening to some people that I feel very privileged to have been able to meet and spend time with. People who helped me get started with some of my first “legitimate” work in the games industry, and who helped me find confidence in my ability to write professionally. People who have done interesting and cutting-edge work, and from whom I have learned a lot about the business of being a publisher. And aside from sending some messages of support, I felt angry and powerless to do something, anything to help. Which is what prompted me to take to Twitter with the following rant:

Real talk: There are some terrifying people in our hobby. People I have legit lost sleep over, and people who I avoid talking about. Thing is: I know a lot of people who follow/circle/talk to these people, because they have good ideas, or they like the debate. Whatever.

The terrifying people are obviously problematic, because the shit that they do isn’t okay by any objective standard of behavior. But to the people who KNOW that someone is terrifying and problematic and continue engaging anyway? YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. YOU are the reason why our hobby is having such a brain drain. Why the best and the brightest with the most to offer are leaving. And our hobby is poorer for it. It is less smart, less innovative, less creative.

A lot of people talk big about wanting to make the hobby more diverse. About wanting more women and PoC and LGBT doing the work. But when it comes to being willing to call out terrifying people when they do ACTUAL TERRIFYING THINGS? The silence is deafening.

People will choose content over morality, because it’s comfortable. Because they don’t want to have to sacrifice things they like. Meanwhile there are people who have changed how they live IN REAL LIFE because these people are THAT TERRIFYING.

I am so tired, so very very tired of people that I look up to leaving gaming because of toxic entitled assholes who harass them out of loving a thing that they used to be passionate about. Gaming has lost so many voices, rich, vibrant, brilliant voices that contributed so much – people that moved the state of game design in new and fascinating directions. And our hobby is objectively poorer for it.

And yet this behavior is tolerated, even tacitly encouraged, by so many. People who say they want to separate the work from the creator, or that “sure [Person X] may be an asshole, but…”. Whatever the reason they espouse, the people who continue to engage are a huge part of the problem, because they are creating a space in which harassers and abusers are tolerated (and sometimes even celebrated) while those same harassers and abusers victimize people with impunity. So people leave. Brilliant, funny, talented, passionate people whose contributions can’t be replaced, and they will keep leaving as long as this is the case.

A lot of people try to stay away from these discussions, saying that they don’t want to “choose sides”, but that is the coward’s way out. A vote for neutrality is a vote for the status quo, and the status quo is a culture of misogynist and racist harassment that drives the brightest and best out of our hobby altogether. Not to mention the fact that there is no such thing as “sides” in a hate campaign, because the idea of “sides” implies that the parties involved are somehow equal, that there is somehow an equal amount of wrong being committed.

But the only wrong being committed is that people are daring to express opinions about games and gaming that someone else doesn’t like. And gamers, largely, are perfectly fine to sit back and watch other gamers harass and abuse them for the crime of saying things that someone didn’t like. (Or making a game that someone didn’t like. Or simply existing in a gaming space in a way that someone didn’t like.) And until our hobby steps up and starts taking this sort of behavior seriously, starts making gaming as unfriendly to harassers and abusers as the harassers and abusers have made gaming for smart and progressive voices, this will only continue. And many brilliant and innovative games will simply never get written.

So, gamers. If you can’t find it in you to act out of altruism, consider doing so out of enlightened self-interest. It’s a numbers game. The content being produced by harassers and abusers is greatly, greatly outweighed by the content that would have been produced by those who have left, or who are trying to leave. But please, for the love of god. Say something. ANYTHING. Because the silence of good people hurts even more than the abuse of people who are objectively terrible anyway.

On #GamerGate and the impossibility of “just making games”

Hey, folks. So you’ll notice that there haven’t been any freebie linkspams for… a while. And that’s pretty much a direct result of #GamerGate, because everything that I would link to could be summarized as TL;DR HUMANS ARE AWFUL. Not to mention that it is not possible to put enough trigger warnings on even the not-terrible coverage of GG issues.

I’ve also been having a hard time finding the bandwidth to write here, despite the abundance of topics that I want to write about. I have friends that I want to interview about their positive work in games, there’s more analysis I want to do of the changing trends in Magic: The Gathering art direction, I’d like to noodle about some thoughts inspired by recent game projects on the intersection between social justice and game design. I mean, I have a fucking Patreon – you’d think it would be easier to find space to write here when I am literally getting paid to blog about the things that I am passionate about.

But friends, it’s been so hard.

We get told “just make games” or “just make art” like it’s supposed to be some kind of panacea. Like “just making games” will enable me to rise above the bullshit and transcend the awful with sheer awesome. And honestly, I would love, LOVE for that to be the solution. Nothing would please me more than being able to post a clever “haters gonna hate” meme and move on with my life.

But how can I “just make games” for a hobby that wants me to stop existing?

How can I “just make games” when “just making games” requires me to engage with a community that I don’t want my daughter to be a part of, and that I will do my best to hide her from when she is old enough to venture into online spaces. (Which, thankfully, is many years away yet.)

How can I “just make games” when hate and terror campaigns created to scare women out of gaming are triggering my anxiety and making it hard for me to just function day-to-day, let alone “just make games”.

For those of you who have never had to deal with anxiety, it’s fucking exhausting. And GG makes it literally impossible to know where the line is between “shut up brain, you’re being stupid again” and reasonable fucking caution.

Is enabling 2-factor authentication on my accounts needless paranoia, or reasonable caution? Who the fuck knows? When a co-worker discovered my blog, was I being an over-reacting paranoid weirdo when I asked him not to link it to a bunch of trolls? Or was I justified? Fuck if I know! When my name pops up on a forum that is well-known as a haven for misogynist tabletop gamers and I am called an “extremist”, am I making mountains out of molehills when that site’s presence in my blog’s referral links for the last month causes a vague, generalized dread whenever I check my site stats? Or is this something that I need to worry about?

I DON’T FUCKING KNOW ANYMORE.

People who say “it’s just on the internet” are not only completely out of touch with the reality of how modern life works, but they’re ignoring the real mental health consequences of these cyber harassment mobs. You don’t have to be directly targeted by them, either. Just the knowledge that they exist is a visceral threat. And when these mobs attack women that you respect, admire, and look up to – there’s a certain sense of inevitability. If I continue to walk down this path, it’s hard not to believe that this is what the future holds for me.

That is terrifying.

And it keeps me from doing the fucking work that needs to get done in order to “just make games”.

I have a KickStarter I need to be promoting more. That I’m proud of! Because it’s fucking awesome! And I have done some promotion work, but I’ve been chasing after “safe” audiences, because it’s not as worry-inducing as chasing potentially-hostile promotion sources for an explicitly social-justice-oriented game product, and hoping that the stats on funding and KickStarter are accurate and that momentum will get me over my funding goal.

I have things I want to blog about for an audience that has proven its interest and its willingness to support me with actual electronic moneyz, and lately I find myself writing out of a sense of obligation rather than real passion or excitement.

The fear, the anxiety, the need to detox and spend time doing and thinking about things that aren’t games – it all gets in the way of “just making games”.

And to those who say that I’m overreacting, that it’s all in my head, that it’s not a big deal, that “no one’s died yet” – that’s bullshit. At least one trans game dev, Kate von Roeder has committed suicide[1], and a mass shooting threat has forced Anita Sarkeesian to cancel a talk when the local law enforcement was unwilling to prevent attendees from bringing concealed weapons.

Let’s not forget that it was only several months ago that the Isla Vista shooter went on a killing spree after months of escalating online rhetoric about how much he despised and wanted to kill women. And it was nearly twenty-five years ago that the Montreal massacre resulted in the deaths of fourteen female engineering students at the hands of a man who blamed feminists for ruining his life.

So yeah, people have died. And more people might die. And that’s what every woman who works in games and is vocal about feminist issues deals with. The knowledge that speaking out comes with consequences, and it is impossible to know how steep those consequences will be.

So where does that leave me? For now, I’m still here. I’m still making games. I’m still blogging. My anxiety means that I’m not able to sustain the level of output that I know I’m capable of when I’m feeling well and am not having active symptoms, but I’m in the process of getting help and am trying not to beat myself up too much. I’m forcing myself to engage in self-care and am doing what I can.

Maybe some day we’ll be at a point where I can “just make games”. But that’s not a future I see arriving any time soon.

[1] I’ve heard reports of a second trans dev committing suicide, but the Google search results are too toxic for me to face today. So I guess it’s a good thing I’m just a blogger and not a real journalist or something.

The real truth of #GamerGate

[Written in the style of Mallory Ortberg, who is awesome]

Your bunkmates are already fast asleep when you fall wearily onto the hard mattress; it’s been a long, tiring day of back-breaking labor in the camps.  Tired as you are, however, your thoughts are unsettled and sleep seems elusive.

Once, years ago, you would have felt anger about the accident of birth that forced you into this state, but now you accept your fate. You are but a man, and the strength of men exists to serve the greater good. Or at least that’s what they tell you, and who are you to question them?

At last you decide that sleep will not come and reach under your mattress, pulling out the small handheld hidden there. Pulling your blanket over your head to hide the glow of the screen, you turn it on, eagerly waiting to resume from where you left off. But the screen barely has time to flash HITMAN 37 before you hear a tremendous crash as the door to your dormitory is kicked off its hinges. “WE’VE FOUND HIM,” someone shouts.

No time to hide the evidence – the blanket is suddenly yanked from your head and you find two large Gaming Police officers standing over you, your terrified expression reflected back at you in their mirrored sunglasses.

The first officer snatches the handheld away from you and pops out the disc. “Code 37 – no female protagonist,” she grunts, snapping the disc in half in her fist.

The second officer flashes her badge – GAME POLICE: FEMINIST CRITIC, and your heart sinks. Being apprehended by the Gaming Police was bad enough, but that they have a Game Critic with them? This is bad, very bad. The Critic grabs you by the collar, half-choking you as she pulls you to your feet. “Playing games after curfew, huh? Well guess what, bub?” She pulls you closer and the light glints coldly off her earrings. “Games are for women.”

You feel the cold metal of handcuffs snap around your wrists. “We’re taking you in,” the first officer says coldly.

You pray that she only means you’ll be going to a reeducation center, but then she holds a retinal scanner up to your face and it immediately sounds an alarm. “Repeat offender,” it squeals.

You look back to your bunkmates, but none of them will meet your gaze. “You know what that means,” the Critic growls. “Time to go.”

You’re stuffed in the back of a small transport that is packed with other terrified men. Nothing is said by anyone as you are driven out of the camps and into the capitol city itself. Any other time, you would have gasped – while living in the camps, you never would have imagined that such grandeur was possible. But you keep silent, not wanting to make things worse for yourself than they already are.

At last you stop and are unloaded in front of what can only be the palace. It is a place you have heard of but never seen, a place designed to strike fear into the hearts of men.

You stand before the Gamer Gate – which stands open before you. Constructed entirely of bone, it gleams coldly white under the floodlights that illuminate the palace exterior. Lining the walkway to the palace steps are the dread female warriors, said to be able to strike any man dead where he stands with a single glance – the Social Justice Warriors. And there in formation behind them are their male honor guard, the White Knights, proudly bearing the black, white, and red banner of the Feminist Gynocracy.

The Critic and the Gamer Police march you, along with their other captives, up the steps of the palace and into a great hall. At one end of the great hall stands a throne of skulls, upon which sits a woman, who proudly wears the womb-shaped badge of a Game Journalist. Stunned, you find her both beautiful and terrible to behold.

You are thrown to the floor in front of the throne. The skulls leer at you mockingly as the Game Journalist considers your fate. “And just who are you?”

“A gamer,” you whisper. You had intended it as a statement of defiance, but your voice sounds small and frightened. You clear your throat and try again. “A gamer! I am. I am a gamer.”

The Game Journalist smiles, a terrible rictus to match the throne on which she sits. “Too bad for you. Gamers are over.” She snaps her fingers, pointing at the captain of her guard. “Execute him! Add his skull to my throne!”

“Wait!” From the shadows behind the throne steps a third woman who wears the robes of a Game Developer. “You may yet be spared, if…” She smiles like the cat that got into the cream. “…you consent to become my lover and say good things about my latest game.”

You draw back, horrified. “Never!”

A murmur passes through the ranks of the assembled Social Justice Warriors. “He does not consent,” The Critic says sternly.

“It is our highest law,” the Game Developer agrees sadly.

The Game Journalist sits back on her throne. “Then flay him alive and add his bones to the Gate.”

You can only scream in horror as the White Knights step forward to take you away.

fin

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.

maxresdefault

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

…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

This was going to be a link post but then I got distracted

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:


 

Links!

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:

tweets

 

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!

…yeah.

This got me thinking that really the only way to properly convey this sentiment was with a venn diagram:

venn-diagram
Yes the quality is terrible. I’m sorry.

(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):

cartoon
Yes I know my handwriting is terrible.

 

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?

Wundergeek out.

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

CLICK FOR LARGER MORE READABLE VIEW
CLICK FOR LARGER MORE READABLE VIEW

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

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

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

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

Using their platform as a weapon

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

There are some major problems with this:

Problem the first: Harassment is srs bsns

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

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

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

Problem the second: Incredibly fragile egos

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

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

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

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

How It Works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It happened to me

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

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

The Rebellious Artist

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

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

…yeah okay.

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

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

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

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

The Edgy Game Designer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J. Scott Campbell and Mark Brooks

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

Even more followup: in which the awful is doubled down

So here’s the story so far, for those of you who haven’t been playing along at home thus far. I did an anatomy correction of a piece of art by Jonboy Meyers. Apparently that made a lot of comics fans really, really mad. So since they found this link, I’ve been enjoying a nice little hate-a-palooza from my least favorite segment of the internet.

Because it’s the way I roll, I then posted a response to all the haterade highlighting the good, the bad, and the stupid. This has had mixed results. I got several new patrons from all this extra traffic (hello, you beautiful, wonderful people, you!) – which is pretty cool. So thanks for all the extra traffic, haters. You actually did me a favor there. But responding to haterade is like kicking a hornet’s nest. The results are eminently predictable and never pleasant.

Now, in my previous post I called out J Scott Campbell and Mark Brooks, who are themselves well-known professional comics artists, as being the instigators of a very large portion of the internet bile that has been rolling downhill in my direction. (I can’t know what portion because the trackback doesn’t break it down any further than “facebook.com”. Thanks for nothing, trackback.) Here, apparently, is what they have to say for themselves.

I’m including transcripts below each image since the screen grabs are hard to read. My comments are inserted bolded in brackets.

—-followup-1

Mark Brooks: Hey, look at us! We got picked out in her nonsensical rebuttal! [Because any time you don’t like something a woman says, you can just call her crazy and problem solved! True story.] And now we’re apparently bullies too! I guess when you get any modicum of notoriety you’re not allowed to have an opinion anymore. Go figure. [Come on. You draw comics for a living. “With great power comes great responsibility” ring a bell at all?]

J Scott Campbell: Wait a second… So Mark and I get shrapnel kickback, and [anonymized] get’s [sic] away untarnished…?! No fair!!

[anonymized]: I’m apparently not a big deal like you two, and that hurts.

Mark Brooks: It’s official, [anonymized], you’re a victim.

[Okay, so I know they’re joking here. I do get that. But it’s a little troublesome that they’re willing to brush aside their role in stirring up this flood of bile in the first place as, you know, no big deal. Hey! We’ll just call her crazy! No need to actually reflect on the implications of my actions. Nope! Not at all.]

followup2

J Scott Campbell: Again, I made my original post having absolutely no idea of her gender, only that her artistic working knowledge seemed extremely flawed, uninformed and incorrect to offer any legitimate lectures or critiques to working published artists. So if she’s blustering on about this being part of some anti-female bla-bla-bla, I think her argument in [sic] unsound.

[OH MY GOD. “Anti-female bla-bla-bla”?? I’m not making this stuff up for shits and giggles. Sexism in the comics industry is very well documented. READ A BOOK. Or, you know, talk to any woman who’s worked for DC for more than five minutes. Or just tell yourself that I’m just craaaaaazy. Whichever. That works too]

J Scott Campbell: I mostly feel sad for her. She appears to go through life seeing only the bad in other people and their work. Seems like it’d be a tortured existence. And immediately going after mine and Mark’s artwork the very next day only adds to the appearance of her biased and emotional filled knee-jerk thinking that has little to do with legitimate art critiquing, and more to do with attempting to save face. I hope for her sake that she can pull herself out of this self-destructive mindset and work on bettering her own artwork rather than grabbing at fleeting internet fame by tearing down others more successful than her. [Italicized emphasis mine]

Okay. We’re going to take a break from screen caps for a second to respond to that last one in particular.

So, first of all, claiming that I “went after [your] and Mark’s artwork” just proves how incredibly little effort you put into ACTUALLY READING WHAT I WROTE. Here’s what I actually said:

Which. You know what? In what universe is it okay to use your very large platform to encourage your followers to harass someone? Adria Richards and Anita Sarkeesian are only two of the most recent and prominent examples of the effects that online harassment can have. There is a long and sad history online of women being harassed for DARING to commit the CRIME of HAVING OPINIONS WHILE FEMALE.

And for people who’d say “well they didn’t actually tell their fans to harass you”? BULLSHIT. They made posts in which they called me things like “laughable”, “embarrassing”, and “smug”, then continued to encourage the anger in the thread that resulted. Nor did they make any attempts to dissuade potential harassers, or tell people who made threatening comments to back off. These are grown-ass-men who pointed their very large audiences at me and told them what a terrible person I was on the internet because they want me to shut the fuck up.

 Going through these threads is, of course, about as pleasant as drinking a tuna and brussel sprouts milkshake, so I’m not going to go through all of the comments that have been made so far. I have better things to do with my time than marinate in internet bile. But here are some highlights taken from J. Scott Campbell’s hate-fest before I got too tired of humanity to continue.

(SEVERAL of whom I should note are professional comics artists. I’m not going to name all the names here, because I don’t actually hate myself. But it is worth asking that HOW is any of this anything resembling professional behavior? But then, given that the mainstream comics industry is happy to regularly re-affirm how much it hates women, I guess none of this should come as a surprise.)

Got it? 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. Go ahead. Re-read that. I’ll wait.

And of course, the “I feel so sorry for this poor bitter tortured sadsack” tactic is just a fancy variant of the “bitches be crazy” defense. Except, I’m sorry, how is it that I’m the nonsensical crazy one when I’m not the person who is saying straight-up NOT TRUE STUFF? Oh right. I’m a woman, and women who say things that people don’t work are crazy. Right. The ancient Greeks even invented a term for it – hysteria. Somehow that slipped my mind.

Also, you know who hasn’t (to my knowledge) participated in these threads? JB Meyers. You’d think the way J Scott Campbell is reacting that I went and personally kicked his puppy. But nowhere did I ever say anything about his art, or about Mark’s art. So I’m really not sure why J Scott and Mark are getting so wound up about this when JB himself seems to be restraining from participating in this disgusting vortex of internet hate.

Okay. Sidebar over.

followup4

J Scott Campbell: I also welcome counterpoints and as long as they’re civil and respectful (more or less) and I wouldn’t delete them just because the opinions differ from my own. That’s where we are different as well.

[Pretty classic form on the tone argument there, although the equivocating means he doesn’t stick the dismount. B+ effort.]

followup3

Okay, I’m not going to transcribe this, but this is basically Mark Brooks plugging all of his portfolio sites. Because when I get traffic from a storm of internet negativity, that’s bad. But when Mark uses a storm of internet negativity to advertise his professional services, thats’… um… good?

Anyway. That’s all I have for now. Since I don’t have anything more clever to end on, please enjoy these links to my favoritemale tears” GIFs. May they brighten your day. (I do apologize to my regular readers for the lack of actually important contact. But hey, you know how it is.)

Regarding entirely predictable backlash [LONG, LOTS OF IMAGES]

First order of business:

First of all, hello new readers! Welcome to my blog. I’ve gotten a huge spike of traffic in the last day, so let me just take the opportunity to say that if you actually appreciate what I’m doing here, consider checking out my Patreon and throwing $1 or 2 my way per month? It helps me prioritize the time and energy to blog about games and to also deal with the grade-A bullshit like the following.

You hate me! You really hate me! *blush*

I’m pretty used to getting gamer hate, but it seems like Jonboy Meyers is a Pretty Big Deal in comics after all because I wound up closing comments after a sudden torrent of abuse started appearing on my recent anatomy correction. I’m not just getting gamer hate now, I’m getting comics hate! It’s an entirely new demographic of geek hate! Progress!

male tears
Unsure of original source, taken from fuckyeahreactions.tumblr.com. (Sorry, guys. Tumblr is awful at attribution. It sucks.)

Creature of the blog lagoon. Or: It came from the comments![1]

A well-meaning reader who was really trying to be nice kindly informed me that there was a lot of facebook hate going on (which I’ll get to in a minute), which I appreciated. However, he then said that I should go to these facebook threads and defend myself, otherwise my opinion “is worth nothing”.

WELL, gentle reader. If this were a reasoned and nuanced discussion of the merits of artistic style, sure! I’d be happy to have a spirited conversation. However, in the 40ish comments that I got before I closed the thread (MISANDRY! FASCISM!), there was an awful lot of abuse and name-calling. The most comment sentiments break down as follows: (There is overlap, obviously, as most comments managed to hit 2 or more of these in the same comment, and several hit 3+. Overachievers.)

  • Your art is bad – 10
  • You are not a professional artist – 7
  • Your anatomy was wrong – 6
  • It’s “stylized/exaggerated” because comics! – 6
  • Your degree is worthless – 5
  • You’re just jealous – 4
  • Your pose is static and dull – 4
  • You are a terrible person – 3
  • You are stupid/uneducated – 3
  • U DELETED MY COMMENT – 3
  • FORESHORTENING! – 3
  • You are nit-picking – 2
  • You are just over-reacting – 2
  • Nonsensical slurs 2
  • You should be embarrassed 2
  • You just need to get laid 1

So please, I beg of you, explain to my why I should be required to engage with people who are so eager to tell me that I am stupid, terrible, over-reacting, jealous, and crazy? No one is entitled to my time and attention, especially people who clearly have no intention of ever attempting to see me as an actual person.

Now, before I respond to the above point-by-point (mostly), there were some highlights worth noting. Like my favorite of the nonsensical slurs:

You [sic] review and correction is full of ASS like your FACE

As a friend said on my G+: “That is some C- trolling right there.” (Incidentally, this had me giggling all evening. I might actually make this my comment policy – that instead of just deleting troll comments that I might grade them as well. Or not. We’ll see.)

This was like watching an unpublished amateur telling Vonnegutt or Hemmingway or O’Neil that they don’t know what they’re doing.

Right. Because comics art is like HEMMINGWAY. Hell, why not go further? (Not to mention picking something vaguely in the same medium.) Picking on Jonboy Meyers is like picking on REMBRANDT! MICHAELANGELO! OR MONET!

I won’t justify any more of these comments with additional words, so Let’s get on with analyzing the hate behind these comments. (Hatenalysis?)

Your art is bad/you are not a professional artist: 

I find the contention that I’m not a professional artist a little baffling. How exactly does one define “professional”? I am an illustrator who has worked in the tabletop RPG industry. And while I don’t pay all of the bills with my art, I pay a good number of them. Sure I have a day job, but honestly – I know artists who have been in the business 10 years and still have day jobs. However, since this is most likely a case where “professional artist” is defined as artists receiving money for their work who aren’t me (moving the goal posts! yay!), I’m not going to bother going into the details of my freelancing life.

As for the attempt to dismiss my work by saying that my art is bad, I find it pretty hilarious that so many haters are tying themselves in mental knots in an attempt to not listen to what I have to say. MY art is bad because it’s anatomically incorrect, but JONBOY’s art is good because it’s “stylized” and “exaggerated”. Or, there’s no such thing as bad art, except for my art which is bad.

And on and on and on in that vein. Instead of actually engaging with any of the points being made, apparently it’s easier to just say NO U SUK. NO U. NO UUUUUUU. And since I’m not six years old, I have no intent to actually have this particular argument.

Lastly, the idea that my artistic skill has any bearing on my cred as a critic of art is, frankly, laughable. Do people demand that film critics make an Oscar-winning film before they are taken seriously? No, they don’t, because that would be ludicrous.

Your anatomy was wrong

Uh. Yeah. I kind of admitted that. But my anatomy mistakes were along the lines of “couldn’t find the right angle of the shoulder” and “might not have the correct angle on the ribcage”. The mistakes in the original were HOLY SHIT WHERE DID HER SHOULDER GO WHY IS HER ARM FLOATING IN SPACE. At least in my art, everyone’s limbs were properly attached.

It’s “stylized/exaggerated” because comics! / FOOOOORESHORTENING!

So, okay. There were a lot of people who jumped all over me to claim that I was wrong because FORESHORTENING and because comics are dynamic because of FORESHORTENING! And, guys. Come on. This is a classic case of “I do not think that word means what you think it means”.

I challenge you to do this pose in front of a mirror. (Not the spine-arch. Just the arms.) Her left arm won’t look like that, because the foreshortening is wrong – as drawn her upper arm is 2-3 times the length of her forearm. And dude, foreshortening is hard. I get it! Your brain lies to you, because it is an asshole. But don’t come to my blog and tell me that I’m wrong because FORESHORTENING when it is the foreshortening itself that is not correct.

As for “it’s stylized/exaggerated because comics!”, that’s taking a pretty restrictive view of what constitutes comics. Sure, the big comics publishers mostly publish art that objectifies and sexualizes women. But that’s ignoring the whole world of comics that is happening on the web by artists who are connecting directly with their audience. And a lot of those artists manage to find an audience without exaggerating anatomy in ways that objectify women.

Your degree is worthless

See, this is where I can never win. I mentioned my education because as a woman dares to criticize something online, people jump down her throat and DEMAND to know her credentials before taking her seriously. And here’s the lose-lose situation that follows. If she lists her credentials, they will be dismissed and she will probably be criticized for being arrogant and superior. But if she doesn’t, they’ll say that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. So in this instance, I erred on the side of uppity bitch. Hell, if I drop five figures on an art education, I’m sure as shit not going to hide the fact that I have it.

Your pose is static and dull

Thank you for ENTIRELY MISSING THE POINT. As blogs like Escher Girls and Comic Art Corrections have been blogging about for years, the problem with art like this is that it relies entirely on heavily distorted and sexualized anatomy to create the illusion of dynamism. When you remove the gratuitous sexualization, the pose itself is not actually dynamic or interesting. The fact that you think my drawover was dull only proves the point that I was trying to make – that objectifying women often becomes a crutch.

You’re just jealous/You are a terrible person/You are stupid/uneducated

What baffles me is that I didn’t do anything that hadn’t already been done elsewhere on some very popular blogs. Escher Girls and Comic Art Corrections are just two of my favorites – there are plenty more out there. And it’s not like I was any snarkier, because nope. There’s been a lot of snark from other bloggers (that I have enjoyed, to be honest) about the prevalence of snake women and centaur women and broken spines, etc, in comic art. So why is it that I come back to blogging after a hiatus of more than two years, do something that is, frankly, pretty common in the blogosphere, and yet I’m the one who gets the ridiculous outpouring of hate?

Also, if you think it’s okay to call someone fat, ugly, jealous, crazy, retarded, or a waste of space simply because they criticized an artist you like? I’d take a long hard look at yourself and the level of bile that you’re prepared to vent over something like that. And the people who made threatening comments or said things like I could “shampoo [their] crotch”? Seriously? You’re just fucking gross.

U DELETED MY COMMENT

Comments policy is clearly spelled out in the sidebar. I am not obligated to give you my platform so that you my abuse me however you like. That’s what the rest of the internet is for.

You just need to get laid

Thank you for being so eminently predictable. There’s always one, so I’m glad that you didn’t let me down.

Facebook haters

Alrighty. I said I would get back to facebook, so here goes. As of the instant of me writing this, I’ve gotten almost 29,000 views in just about 24 hours. The vast majority of this traffic is coming from facebook, where comic artists like J. Scott Campbell and Mark Brooks (and others, I’m sure) are riling up their THOUSANDS OF FANS about what a terrible human being I am.

link
From J. Scott Campbell’s facebook.
YOU try taking screen caps of a facebook hatefest while simultaneously attempting to get a toddler to eat breakfast. Go ahead.

Which. You know what? In what universe is it okay to use your very large platform to encourage your followers to harass someone? Adria Richards and Anita Sarkeesian are only two of the most recent and prominent examples of the effects that online harassment can have. There is a long and sad history online of women being harassed for DARING to commit the CRIME of HAVING OPINIONS WHILE FEMALE.

And for people who’d say “well they didn’t actually tell their fans to harass you”? BULLSHIT. They made posts in which they called me things like “laughable”, “embarrassing”, and “smug”, then continued to encourage the anger in the thread that resulted. Nor did they make any attempts to dissuade potential harassers, or tell people who made threatening comments to back off. These are grown-ass-men who pointed their very large audiences at me and told them what a terrible person I was on the internet because they want me to shut the fuck up.

 Going through these threads is, of course, about as pleasant as drinking a tuna and brussel sprouts milkshake, so I’m not going to go through all of the comments that have been made so far. I have better things to do with my time than marinate in internet bile. But here are some highlights taken from J. Scott Campbell’s hate-fest before I got too tired of humanity to continue.

(SEVERAL of whom I should note are professional comics artists. I’m not going to name all the names here, because I don’t actually hate myself. But it is worth asking that HOW is any of this anything resembling professional behavior? But then, given that the mainstream comics industry is happy to regularly re-affirm how much it hates women, I guess none of this should come as a surprise.)

First up, I loved the number of people who misgendered me.

misgender

Thanks for reminding me why I don’t actually have my gender in my profile on this blog. Also, WTF is up with dude who wants to come to my house and beat me up? Seriously? Thanks for being a terrible human being.

There were also several women who were very eager to let people know that THEY weren’t offended, not like those AWFUL HYSTERICAL FEMINISTS. They’re not out to kill anyone’s sexy fun! Which. Ugh. But I grew up with more than my share of internalized misogyny, so whatever. I know where they’re coming from. I did, however, particularly like these comments from someone who is a female professional comics artist.

fat-red-sonja

Seriously. Someone get on that. I will give you cash moneys to read about a fat, middle-aged, sword-wielding badass woman warrior. No lie.

The one thing that made me laugh, however, was this – in which the poster tries to claim that I don’t have a right to criticize Jonboy and cites my illustrations for SexyTime Adventures.

missing-the-point-satire

I guess this just reinforces the impossibility of satirizing this shit. But seriously, way to cherry-pick images without actually reading any of the actual words about how those drawings are fucking satire.

Now thankfully, there were at least a few people who were willing to stand up to this insanity, in varying degrees, for which I was grateful. Like this fellow.

lets-not-harass

I can’t say I liked the qualifier at the end, but you know what – I can’t blame the dude. Given the level of vitriol I imagine it took some courage to be the voice of reason and say “hey, maybe we shouldn’t harass this person”. So thanks not-crazy internet person.

And then there was this GLORIOUS schooling which I will never, ever get tired of:

SCHOOLED-SON

And then someone who not only agreed with me, but actually called out the hypocrisy of these commenters:

THANK-YOU---MY-HERO
YOU ARE MY HERO!

Speaking of which, Rob Liefeld agrees that I am terrible and my art is bad, which is the other thing that made me laugh.

But, you know, given that I don’t draw my women with broken spines, sameface, or LOTS OF AWESOME POUCHES!!!1!!11!eleventy!, I can see how Rob Liefeld would think that my work is bad and terrible.

Here is where I would normally write a clever conclusion. But I am tired of the universe, so instead here is a picture of a baby sloth.

[ETA: I’ve just added a followup to this followup here.]

—-

[1] I’m on a roll!

Google Results: a little context

Okay, now that I’ve finally got things set up properly, time to get back to business.

So last time I expanded my list by one to include “fag”. I realize good arguments can be made for other words, but it’s a pain in the ass searching these words across multiple sites and I’m drawing the line at 8 search terms just to preserve my sanity. Also, for this post I’m only looking at the first page of search results for each site. Partly because reading all the quotes to find what I wanted to use is time-consuming, and partly because reading the results that came up gets a little soul-destroying when you get to the third day.

The interesting thing that happens when you start reading the excerpt text for these terms is that you realize they fall into two groups: terms used exclusively as slurs for the purpose of shaming and/or silencing and terms with alternative usages. So let’s look at the two groups separately.

Terms with alternative usages: whore, cunt, and rape

Now before I go any further, I want to just say for the record that just because I’m making a distinction in usage does not mean that I support the use of these words in any way in a gaming context. As I said previously, I think the fact that there are 150,000-odd instances of the word rape on Destructoid alone is horrendous. However, as it has been pointed out by many, looking at numbers alone doesn’t provide a clear enough picture. So…

“Whore” is interesting, since it’s commonly used to denote someone who obsessively collects or goes after certain things, often self-directed. For example – on the first page of results for “whore” on Joystiq, I come up with the following phrases: two instances of “loot whore”, one instance of “gamer score whore”, two instances of “achievement whore”, and three instances of “graphics whore”. That leaves only two out of the first ten results being an actual traditional usage of “whore”:

“I thought she was a whore with a heart of gold and instead she turned out to be a whore with a regular old whore heart.” [comment]

“Production company ready to whore out Castlevania” [feature headline]

Of course, usage varies by site. Certainly other gaming sites aren’t as “moderate” with their use of the word whore. Some of the lowlights include:

If you’ve ever had your dick sucked then you’ve paid a whore to suck it. You might not have given her cash directly but she still got paid [IGN]

When i was reading Hasley’s journal i suspected that….she must have been a whore [IGN]

YTMND Thursday: Kerrigan is a whore, edition [Destructoid]

Were supposed to be talking about whores here [Destructoid]

all i know is it is about a whore who is your mom [Team Liquid]

TeamLiquid: Where all the women are attention whores, all the men are trolls [Team Liquid]

and #1 sure as shit aint moping around ‘awwwwwww shucks, everyone knows i slept with a whore‘. [Team Liquid]

I know I keep going on and on about how Kasumi is a giant whore, but I can’t help it, because she’s a giant whore. The latest proof? [Kotaku]

And of course, it bears mentioning that a few usages of the word “whore” were in reference to characters in games who are actual prostitutes. (I’ll save the rant about game companies’ obsessions with putting brothels in their games for another day…)

Moving on, the usages of “cunt” and “rape” aren’t nearly as complex. “Rape” has, unfortunately, become popular as a term describing a shameful loss by a huge margin. This is especially true in StarCraft II, where it’s not uncommon for a major victory is described as a “rape” of the loser, and where there are actual tactics with “rape” in the name like: “sugarbear’s Thor Rape technique” and “ZvP Protoss, Ramp Block, Turtle and rape”.

More than half of the instances of “rape” that come up on the first page for Destructoid, TL, Kotaku, Joystiq, and IGN are actually discussions of current events, like the the horrific coverage of that poor girl in Texas, or about the perpetual controversy surrounding rape games like RapeLay. And you can find thoughtful pieces about the use of the word “rape” in the gaming community, like here on Team Liquid and here on WoW Insider (hosted on Joystiq). Only two out of fifty results, but they’re there!

But sometimes, as Freud said, a cigar is just a cigar. Destructoid, and Jim Sterling especially, has a bad habit of making rape jokes about, ya know, actual rape. Like using “Games cause rape psychologist’s book gets raped” as the title of a feature, or saying that Kirby told him to go rape a bunch of vaginas. So when it comes to making tasteless jokes about “rape rape”, Jim Sterling gets a gold star. (Or something.)

The least complex word is “cunt”. It gets several hits as being a shooter by the creator of Super Meat Boy, but other than that it’s used pretty exclusively as an insult. However, the reason I put it in the first category is because it seems to be directed as men just as much as women. See:

George Steinbrenner, devoted father, owner, and beloved cunt. [IGN]

Although Az is being a complete cunt like normal he does bring up a good point [IGN]

You know who one of the biggest cunts on the site is? Some guy named Jack of All trades. [Destructoid]

Fuck off destructoid. I refuse to pay you any respect or visit your site until you get rid of that cunt Jim Sterling [Destructoid]

Seriously, that guy is a cunt. [Joystiq]

Oh, gamers. Now I remember why I’m often ashamed to admit that I’m one of you to my non-gaming peers.

100% awful: slut, fat slut/whore, feminazi, feminist/feminazi bitch, fag

(Okay, I’m going to be a bit more abbreviated here because this post is getting long, and I’m getting depressed. The fact that “fat slut/whore” and “feminist/feminazi bitch” are 100% awful should surprise no one, so I’m going to skip those. I invite you to Google gaming sites for these terms and cry if you feel like doing extra credit.)

Slut only ever means one thing, and – depressingly – gamers have no problem slinging around “slut” like it’s going out of style:

[IGN] lol this slut on okcupid … [IGN] Cassandra was a slut … [IGN] Holy ****, Alison Brie was a slut in college … [Destructoid] Kaidan is such a slut. … [Destructoid] the developers decided to increase her slut factor by ten … [Team Liquid] is it ok to like a slut? … [Team Liquid] being a stud is good but being a slut is bad … [Kotaku] without having to be a virtual slut … [Joystiq] I’m pretty sure Suzu is the guild slut … [Joystiq] if she wants to slut it out it’s really her problem … [Joystiq] Unlike that Hannah Montana slut …

…you get the picture, I’m sure.

Feminazi is a bit more mixed. There is at least some discussion of the term – especially considering the recent twitter dustup involving Jim Sterling. However, the vast majority of uses are either to tar feminism or to slam any woman who dares to stand up for herself:

[IGN] If a woman decides to be a man-hating-femi-Nazi … [IGN] Whichever Femi-nazi wrote that needs to go back to grade school … [IGN] What a feminazi thing to say … [Team Liquid] /me waits for some feminazi to make a retort … [Team Liquid] Your feminazi ways are clearly evident … [Team Liquid] That’s probably why you came off as feminazi or something … [Kotaku] God I hate feminazi’s … [Kotaku] I’m not a misogynist but these feminazi double standards are ridiculous … [Joystiq] I’m willing to bet some femi-nazi mother who didn’t do her research … [Joystiq] Thats something you Feminazi’s fail to understand … [Joystiq] Also, most of the feminazi’s I’ve seen are usually tiny prissy little things. They’re like the yippy rat dogs of the human world …

While “feminazi” doesn’t get hurled around as often as “slut”, in every instance the intent is clear: “tits or gtfo, bitches”. (Because clearly, any woman who objects to SHOW ME UR TITS BITCH is an ugly feminazi who hates men. /eyeroll)

Lastly, fag is interesting because it seems to be the most… well… immature in it’s usage. A good half of the results boil down to [Person] IS A FAG LOL or UR A FAG LOL. Often this devolves into a fight of NO UR THE FAG NO YOU NO YOOOOOUUUUU… which reminds me why I don’t encounter “fag” often in my gaming life since I avoid any place on the internet where illiteracy is predominant.

In closing

So what can we conclude from this collection of filth? Well, as I said with my previous post – ultimately not a whole lot. However, I think the fact that only a bare handful of the hits for these search terms were critiques of the terms themselves says something about how acceptable it is for gamers to use hate speech, especially misogynist hate speech without real fear of contradiction or reprisal from the gaming community as a whole. Even the alternate usages of words like “whore” and “cunt” are still awful because they support the stereotype that comes with those words.

Gamers like to get up in arms about how mainstream society judges gaming as a deviant hobby, but it seems to me that if gamers don’t want to be seen as deviants, then maybe they should consider just why it is that the gaming community is so tolerant of hate speech. It certainly doesn’t help any argument that we’re not as socially maladjusted as the stereotype.

>Google Search Results: Revised

>First, a Disclaimer:

As always, not a professional academic or researcher. Also, not a statistician. I’m just a fine art major who happens to really, really like spreadsheets.

Revisions explained

Okay, so I got some helpful feedback yesterday that included improvements to my search methods. So I thought I’d write a quick post updating my data as well as providing some information about traffic and such. I may or may not get to the post about the context of these terms since I went a little crazy making spreadsheets. (Call me a nerd, but I love spreadsheets. They can fix anything.)

I made a major blunder in my original post, I realized. In my searches yesterday, I was only searching http://www.ign.com and not all of its various gaming subdomains. As such, I revised my search to ign.com and this substantially affected the results. Now ign.com has subdomains for tv, movies, and comics that get much less traffic than its gaming subdomains, but I still searched those subdomains and subtracted those results from the overall total. With the numbers for all of the subdomains and forums included, this wound up altering the final outcome.

I also had some requests to add some additional terms – specifically homophobic or male-gendered slurs. I did wind up adding “fag” to my list, but “dyke” did not make the cut because of the fact that “dyke” is also a name. Specifically, Gordon Van Dyke, who is one of the big figures behind the Battlefield series, skewed the results too heavily. I also did contemplate adding “prick” to the list of terms, but I made an entirely subjective judgement that “prick” is not “as bad” as “cunt”. Entirely my opinion, but I’m also trying to keep the list of terms short so I don’t go completely insane running them all through Google. For the same reason, I also did not search for racial slurs, since that would cause the list to balloon beyond the point that I can gather data in an hour or two.

Lastly, my problem with Kotaku was that instead of running “site:kotaku.com” through Google, I was using “site:http://www.kotaku.com”. That’s what I get for not copying and pasting, I suppose.

The Results

So here are the raw results. (No pretty charts today. I like spreadsheets, but charts are a pain in the ass.)

Interestingly, adding Kotaku to the list didn’t have any effect on the final outcome. Adding all of IGN’s subdomains, however, did. In terms of raw results, IGN now comes out on top with 18 points, just barely edging out Destructoid at 17. Team Liquid’s showing isn’t quite as impressive, but is still pretty solid at 11.It’s worth noting that Joystiq only scored 3 points, and that Kotaku actually managed to score 0. Something I found almost as interesting is the fact that there are absolutely no results for “feminist/feminazi bitch” on Kotaku.

Now none of this gives us more than a very sketchy general picture without at least having some information about traffic patterns and context. Context we’ll save for my next post. As for traffic patterns, I was able to find some super-basic traffic information for Destructoid, Kotaku, IGN, Joystiq, and Team Liquid by using Compete’s free traffic search features. (It doesn’t let you search subdomains.) The monthly normalized data for February for the five sites is as follows:

Sadly, data about page views is not available for free, so I can’t provide that data. But unique visitors and monthly visits will still give us a pretty good picture.In an attempt to at least half-assedly normalize the raw results, I decided to divide the unique visitors by the number of search results for each term. It doesn’t really mean much in terms of where the words are coming from – staff writers? Users? Anonymous commenters? But it at least provides some sort of context as to traffic versus usage of each term. It seems counter-intuitive, but lower numbers are “bad” and higher numbers are “good”:

I decided to go through these results and award points again, this time going from lowest to highest. When looking at unique visitors, this time Team Liquid came in first with 20 points, barely edging out Destructoid with 19 points. IGN, by comparison, came in a distant third with a meager 6 points.When you divide monthly visitors by numbers of search results, results change again – but the overall picture stays the same:

By this metric, Destructoid wins with 20 points, Team Liquid places second with 16 points, and IGN once again comes in third with 6 points.What does any of this mean?

Well, not a whole lot really. We can make sort of general statements saying that Destructoid and Team Liquid seem to have a higher per capita usage of these terms than other sites, but it’s not possible to make any definitive statements about just what any of this means. Another important factor that was not possible for me to examine is the source of the comments. With the exception of Team Liquid, all of these sites employ paid writers, but they also host user blogs. As mentioned before, it’s not really possible for me to discern the frequency of use by the writers versus the frequency of use by users or anonymous commenters.

So, overall these numbers aren’t that useful from an academic standpoint. However, they provide a useful illustration of the fact that misogynist (as well as other forms of hate speech) language is pervasive across all major gaming sites, and that some sites are consistently more guilty of using this language than others.