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!

Looking back at a year of GMMaS: Trolls (Part 2)

Thought the first: on trolls and free speech

Writing this blog, I’ve learned a lot about trolls – how they operate, how they think, how to deal with them or not deal with them as the case may be. Despite my dyed-in-the-wool cynicism, I really thought at the outset that I would be able to maintain a policy of not moderating comments. One of the main goals, after all, of this blog was to reach out to gamers who maybe didn’t identify as feminists and illustrate just why the way gaming treats women is fucked up. I make a point of avoiding feminist theory past the ultra-basics and the tone I take here is decidedly non-academic. I was hoping that would make this blog an accessible place and that when trolls did pop up, people could ignore them and move on with their lives. Most of all, I was tired of anti-feminists claiming that “feminazis” who moderated other feminists blogs hated free speech and I wanted to see if I could counteract that.

…wow was that a huge mistake.

See, there were two things that I wasn’t prepared for: the level of vitriol that would be hurled at me and the sheer volume of troll comments I would come to get.

The level of vitriol was hardest to adjust to in the beginning. What helped me the most in dealing with bile-filled troll comments was when I started to see how similar they all are – like they were all reading from the same script. Despite the personal attacks they all resort to – saying that I’m fat, ugly, slutty, stupid, crazy, have a radical agenda, whatever – they weren’t attacking me. They were attacking the radical notion that women are people. That perspective was helpful for me in dealing with these attacks, but not so helpful for other people coming here to comment that had to see this shit as well.

Eventually, however, the volume proved to be even more overwhelming than the bile. For the first few months, I had relatively lower traffic and far fewer commenters. It was manageable at the beginning when I was averaging 100 views per day. By the time I got to the point where I was averaging 1,000 views a day things were getting rapidly unmanageable. It got to the point where I got emails from people who wanted to comment on something they’d seen on my blog but didn’t want to get dog-piled in the comments. That was when I started to question the wisdom of not moderating comments.

My friends, who are much smarter than I am, had reached this point well before me. They’d be all like OMG JUST MODERATE COMMENTS ALREADY WTF ARE YOU DOING TO YOURSELF? And I’d flail around guiltily with ARG BUT THEN IT’S LIKE I HATE FREEDOM OR SUMTHING WHAT DO I DOOOOOOO. And then they’d roll their eyes and say WE JUST TOLD YOU.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when I received my first comment saying that I should go kill myself. That was the moment when I said to myself, “you know what, fuck free speech”. And the difference since doing that has been wonderful. I didn’t really realize until after I started moderating comments just how much oxygen the trolls had been sucking out of the conversation. I can’t moderate 24/7, so I can’t promise that this will be a completely safe space, but it’s wonderful having my blog feel like my space again. (Though I will say that I appreciate the irony of the fact that the post that announced the new comment policy was one of the most aggressively trolled posts I’ve done in the last few months. You know, because saying I’m not going to tolerate people telling me to lie in front of a train is super-controversial. /eyeroll)

So lesson learned. Other feminist bloggers were smarter than me. Trolls don’t have an inalienable right to free speech in feminist spaces.

Thought the second: most trolls are reading from the same script

There’s a shocking lack of originality in most troll comments. (Well, that and attention to proper spelling and grammar.) The vast majority of them seem to fit into a few fixed categories:

  • hurr hurr you’re ugly
  • it’s just a game/it’s just fantasy
  • I’m a woman and I’m not bothered by it
  • It’s just a joke/satire you stupid humorless feminist
  • you aren’t qualified to criticize [whatever I happen to be criticizing]
  • you feminist bitches are so silly
  • you’re a fascist/nazi/pink commie
  • you’re making this all about you
  • the female body is art
  • nonsensical slurs
  • games are for men
  • talking about discrimination is stupid and makes people feel bad
  • omg ur biased for not showing that dudes in games are just as bad

A few times I’ve responded in a general sort of way to these sorts of things. Most of the time it’s just not worth the hassle. Occasionally a troll comment manages to rise above the masses to the point where it becomes humorous – or at least it does in retrospect once the initial rush of anger goes away. My personal favorite is a comment that started: “So, another interesting thought. Riddle me this, Aderp Titler, Furor[sic] of the feminazi’s…”

Of course there are also plenty of comments that still rankle well after the fact, like the person who found one of the few photos of me on the interbutts and said ‘well no wonder she’s a feminist’. (Ouch.) There’s far too many to quote here, but if you’re curious, the following posts are worth checking out:

discussions of trolling

unusually aggressive/offensive trolling in the comments

Thought the third: exercise caution when following trackback links

I have mixed feelings about trackback links. I’ve found some really interesting stuff thanks to them and have added a few blogs to my RSS feed that way. But just as often, I’ve encountered people saying really depressing and horrible stuff about me, my blog, my appearance, my politics, or my agenda. Over time, I’ve observed some patterns that have been useful in helping to avoid the worst bile out there:

1) Don’t ever follow links back to Reddit. OMG, just dont. The absolute worst comments do tend to get deleted by moderators after a while, but that doesn’t keep you from seeing them. Any place where I get called an “ignorant judgemental cunt” (on the /r/GirlGamers subreddit no less!!) is a place I don’t need to go to. I’ve washed my hands of Reddit and accepted that it’s a lost cause.

2) Don’t ever follow links back to forums on major gaming sites or to forums specifically devoted to one particular fan community. ESPECIALLY never follow links back to the BioWare forums. There’s a few people who will link to my posts there actually appreciating what I’m saying, but they always get dogpiled by the legions of rabid BioWare fans who tell them to OMG SHUT UP THOSE FEMINIST BITCHES BE SO CRAZY. So much as I love BioWare’s games, their official fan community can go jump in a lake as far as I’m concerned.

3) Similar to number 2, but slightly different. On occasion there have been some columns on the really big gaming sites like IGN that have cited my blog. And those are great to read, so long as you never ever read the comments. Resist the temptation. All they’re good for is raising your blood pressure.

Of course, sometimes I do something stupid and follow a link to Reddit when I know I shouldn’t. But at least this way I can avoid most of the worst bile being said about me.

Thought the fourth: occasionally, positive things can come out of engaging with trolls

…but that’s the exception that proves the rule. I can only think of one instance where engaging with a troll led to a positive outcome, and one where it led to a neutral outcome. In the first instance, some podcaster found my blog and tweeted that I must be ugly. His podcasting buddies then had a “discussion of sexism” that was really just slamming me for half an hour without actually reading any of my blog. I took down their comments pretty harshly in a response here. But afterward I offered to come on their podcast if they wanted to talk to me and not about me, and we actually had a pretty positive conversation. I won’t say that I totally converted them, but I at least was able to present the feminist perspective in a rational and not crazy light. So that was a win.

The other was when I received a very long, very condescending comment from a publisher who makes 3rd party Pathfinder products. I responded with, um, a little bile. (Okay a lot of bile.) Because I was angry, there was a bit of splash damage onto Paizo as well and Erik Mona came and posted some surprisingly calm comments in the comment thread. Nothing really came of it: Erik Mona was still pretty entrenched in his position after our brief conversation in the comments. But I at least appreciated that he was polite about it after I said some harsh stuff about Paizo that was maybe a little unwarranted. Also, that comment thread gave me the phrase “leathery nipple trainwrecks”, which still amuses me.

Thought the last: there are always people who will try to judge your feminism

That’s one of the harder things to deal with. I was pretty new to feminism when I started this blog and I said some stuff that was wrong-headed. And I acknowledge that it was wrong-headed, and apologized and mostly mended fences with the people who rightly took me to task. But there are still people out there who view my early wrong-headed statements as proof that I Am Not and Will Never Be a Real Feminist. (There’s one former commenter in particular who has said nasty stuff about me Not Being A Real Feminist in a variety of places outside of this blog.)

Hell, there are people who have seen more recent stuff that I’ve wrote in which I bent over backwards to make sure I was on the correct side of social justice who came and told me that “MY FEMINISM IS RIGHT AND YOURS IS WRONG, WRONG, WRONG”. And other people might disagree, but I’m going to call this trolling as well. Feminism is a big movement, and contrary to popular belief we aren’t a hive mind. There’s going to be disagreements. But I think it’s dangerous to judge other people’s feminism as “wrong”, because who knows – maybe you’re the one who’s wrong and are too entrenched in your position to be open to that.

And that’s all I have to say about that

Some videos you should watch

Sorry for the crappy posting schedule, folks. Because I hate having free time, I’m doing a play and going to martial arts classes at the same time – on top of having a full-time job and having a life and marriage and stuff. I’m doing my best. So because I don’t have time to finish the post I’m working on tonight, I wanted to post some video links with a bit of commentary, just so you’re not totally empty-handed until I get a chance to finish up this other, beefier post.

(Thanks goes out to my brother, who sent me two of these three links. He always keeps an eye out for this stuff for me.)

First up: Movie Bob’s take on feminism and gaming on the Escapist

So if you have gamer friends that you’d like to be more aware of why exactly feminism is important in gaming but you’re afraid that they’ll have a knee-jerk reaction to anything involving the word “feminism” or “women’s rights” in combination with gaming, get them to watch this video. It does a pretty excellent job of summing up about half of what I’ve been writing about for the last year, which is impressive since it’s all of five minutes.

Also, it has amusing visual representations of the typical internet over-reaction:

He even did a pretty decent job of dealing with issues of costume and posing, which is pretty awesome given the limited format. The issue of body diversity is pretty much glossed over, though he acknowledged pretty clearly that he didn’t have space to deal with that and also added that that’s something that everyone should be pissed about, woman or no.

So this makes me feel a little better about the Escapist than I have been recently. Not much, since they’re still paying Jim Sterling for his lazily produced misogyny, but a little better at least.

Arkham City: Behind Harley’s Hot Moves

Another link courtesy of my brother, whose commentary was simply:

I thought I was going to rage, then I giggled.

And, yeah. That’s a pretty accurate assessment.

So the video starts off showing off the new design of Harley Quinn in the Arkham City game, which I’ve raged about previously. (I mean, seriously, folks. The old Harley was already wearing full body spandex. What about that is NOT SEXY ENOUGH?):

OH YEAH. Because there’s nothing I love more than sexualized digital women who have been so fetishized that they plunge right into the uncanny valley. SIGN ME UP RIGHT NOW. *pant pant*

Hey, look at what they did there. See, the exclamation point is right next to Harley’s ass which is showing… um… quite a lot of ass-cheek in that still. And I’m not entirely certain she’s wearing underwear. (Well, okay, she could be wearing a thong.) So, yeah. Go, IGN. Way to be tasteful.

You’ll have to watch the video for the actual twist, which happens right afterward. There is one, and it’s pretty amusing. And it’s only a 30-second clip, so it’s worth the payoff.

(That said, I’m still not going to buy the game, and I’d be disappointed in anyone who does buy it for the sake of HAWT HARLEY AND CATWOMAN ACTION. But then I tend to be pretty unforgiving of companies that murder my best childhood geek memories. The Batman cartoon was a thing of beauty and anything that defiles Harley Quinn in such a manner deserves nothing but scorn and contempt.)

Marvel vs. Capcom Cartoon

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this TOTALLY AWESOME Newgrounds animation – a fake trailer for Marvel vs. Capcom 3, as presented by Iron Man/Tony Stark. Yet again, it’s a totally awesome distillation of many things that I have ranted about at great length, distilled into about 30 seconds of awesomely funny animation. It’s pretty much a summary of everything that’s wrong with the fighting game genre.

Also? I have to love anything that takes a super-macho character like Iron Man and presents him in a stereotypically video-game-female way:

Dammit. Looks like I could have sexed Abe up a little more if I’d put my mind to it…