A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Heroes

My Birthday Wish

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.57.25 AMIn a few days, I will celebrate my 50th year on this planet. I haven’t done as much as I guess I hoped I would by now. I have, on the other hand, survived a lot. And that’s why it’s especially important to me to make a big deal out of this nice, round number. It reminds me that I’ve reached an age my depression and anxiety made me fear I’d never see. It is a way of giving myself some credit for making it through and not giving up—for continuing to strive for wellness and to reach for a place where I will once again feel satisfaction with the way I am using the days I have on the earth. I’m not there yet, but I know that I deserve that, so I’m celebrating the fact that I can celebrate myself. And not insignificantly, I’m celebrating the fact that two years after a major trauma, I am able to celebrate my birthday again. This time of year will likely carry some weight of grief for some years, but I am taking this day back.

My birthday wish is honestly too big for words to encompass. The only word that remotely comes close to the thing I would most like to see in this world is LOVE. I have no wish for romantic love in my life—another thing to celebrate, I suppose, since every year up until age 41, I wished for that on every star and birthday candle and dandelion seed and though it was trauma that brought me to this place, I can focus my wishes elsewhere. The love I’m talking about is a more universal thing: THE thing that so many prophets and philosophers and poets have been trying to tell us all along. The thing that is very likely our only hope.

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Big, right? It feels unattainable, but I don’t think it is. I believe that if we keep this word in our minds like a mantra, then it can’t help but make bad situations better. So my wish is that everyone reading this remember that word when anger and frustration flares up, not as a reminder to love your enemies necessarily, just as a reminder of what’s inside you that needs expressing out into the world and of what’s important—really important.

This is not the post I set out to write. I came here (inspired by a friend—thanks Britni!) to tell you about a few people and organizations I care about and suggest that you consider them in your holiday giving. But I asked myself what I truly wished for and wanted to answer authentically, so here we are, as close as I could come to putting my wish in a word: LOVE. A big wish, but a small ask. Keep it in your mind and in your heart.

AND if you could show some love to these people and organizations, I would be grateful. Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter, and I’ll thank you publicly. (Do let me know if you don’t want that!) Give whatever you can afford, though I do like the numbers $5 and $50, for some reason. And if you can’t give, please consider sharing this post.

egarnerfamilyEric Garner Family

Eric Garner’s family lost a father and a husband when a police officer used an illegal chokehold, killing Garner on video as he told officers again and again, “I can’t breathe.” The Garner family’s lives have been shattered.  You can help ease the financial burden on the family by donating to this fundraiser (I have committed to $5 a month for 2015):

Donate to Eric Garner Family


Ferguson Organizers Johnetta Elzie & DeRay McKesson

Johnetta and DeRay are Ferguson organizers, publishers of the Ferguson newsletter, and all-around badasses. You can help them stay fed and housed and support the work they do by donating to their PayPal account.

Donate to Ferguson Organizers


Brianna Wu is Making Games

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 9.28.42 AMBrianna Wu is one of several women in the video games industry that has been targeted for relentless harassment by the scum that is GamerGate (all together now: “Actually, it’s about ethics in video games journalism!”). From her Patreon page:

I got into videogames to make video games – but right now the majority of my workweek is wasted on fending off BS from people harassing me.

Wu goes on to describe some of this harassment, which continues to be brutal. These people used her dead dog as a prop with which to torture her and her husband, Frank Wu. Brianna Wu is asking for help:

If you appreciate what I do, please chip in so I can hire some help with the Women in Tech advocacy I do. I need someone to help me with the medial parts of dealing with my attackers so I can focus on my work, making and shipping games.

Donate to Brianna Wu


Joyful Heart Foundation

*Trigger Warning for discussion of rape and sexual assault*

As some of you know, I’m pursuing closure in a thirty-year-old rape case. I have contacted a number of organizations that purport to help people like me, and Joyful Heart Foundation is the only one that reached out and offered to speak with me, hear my story, and provide knowledge and assistance as I navigate the legal system. I’m so grateful for that support.

Joyful Heart began as a dream of helping sexual assault survivors heal and reclaim a sense of hope, possibility and joy in their lives. We have evolved into a national organization that is paving the way for integrating holistic approaches in treating trauma, transforming the way people think about, talk about and behave around the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and advancing public policies to ensure justice for survivors.”

Donate to Joyful Heart Foundation


Thanks for reading and helping me celebrate my 50th birthday.

Love,

Rosie


ANITA the Documentary: See it and Send a Message

ANITAIn 1991, Anita Hill captured my country’s attention when she testified before congress that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her while he was her supervisor. I was in my late 20s at the time, and I remember how brave she seemed, but the power dynamics were frankly lost on me at that point. In fact, they were lost on a lot of people. Prior to Ms. Hill’s testimony, we weren’t even talking about sexual harassment in the workplace as a nation. Like so many societal ills, it was a silent current running through our culture, accepted as just “the way things are.” Anita Hill changed that.

Now, watching the trailer for the upcoming documentary ANITA, I look at the sea of white, male faces that confronted her (literally) as she testified, and I have a far better sense of just how much courage that must have taken as a woman and especially as a Woman of Color. She spoke a hard truth to the most powerful men in her country and made herself a target not only for politicians but for racists and comedians and anyone else with an axe to grind against a Black woman who dared talk about how powerful men treat women who are subordinate to them. She did so with a grace I know I couldn’t muster in similar circumstances, and I am in awe of her. I expect I’ll be even more in awe after seeing this film.

Watch the trailer:


Yeah, this looks really, really good.

I’ve worked on Women, Action, and the Media (WAM!) campaigns before and hoped at one time to start a Seattle WAM! chapter. Life got in the way and I have had to take a step back from my activism until further notice, but I’m still kicking, and when Jaclyn Friedman asked me if I’d help WAM! get people out to a local ANITA screening I was happy to oblige. But I don’t want to stop there.

Initial screenings are taking place in March and April in select cities (see below). Based on ticket sales for those screenings, distributors for the film will decide how many cities will get the film and for how long. WAM! wants to get as many people as possible out to these screenings to ensure that the film gets wide distribution and in doing so, send a message to Hollywood that “woman-helmed films about women are a good investment.”

I think this is a worthy endeavor—don’t you? I’m hoping you’ll help me get the word out so these initial screenings are as successful as they can be. And BONUS: WAM! has arranged for discounted tickets (see links below)!

From WAM!:

Just past the 22 year anniversary, Freida Mock revisits one of the most controversial watershed events of the past century, the Anita Hill – Clarence Thomas hearings, the weekend of shocking television that made Anita Hill a household name and smashed the door open on the issues of sexual harassment and gender equality.

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Attend a Screening

Screenings are happening in the following cities (courtesy of WAM!—follow links for discounted tix!):

MARCH 21 – 23, 2014

APRIL 4 – 6, 2014

  • CHICAGO, IL – RIVER EAST 21: Email us ASAP to help make a Chicago WAM! screening happen

  • ATLANTA, GA – REGAL TARA CINEMAS 4: Email us ASAP to help make an Atlanta WAM! screening happen

Help Make ANITA a Success!

Watch the trailer. Spread the word about this film, these screenings (and discounted tix!), and our goal to turn out as many movie-goers as we can. If you live in one of the above cities, attend a screening! Any screening! And if you live in one of the above cities and would like to help ensure the success of ANITA in your city, or if your city is not listed and you’d like to bring a screening to your areaemail WAM! and let them know.

Let’s send that message to Hollywood so more films like this one get made and seen.


Why I Am Out

Guest Post by Fran Stewart

Fran surprised me with another wonderful post today in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance. Enjoy. ~Rosie (TDoR 2013)

via The Guerilla Angel Report

via The Guerilla Angel Report

My name’s Fran Stewart, and I’m a transgender woman. “Transgender” is an intensely personal term, and it means different things to everyone who uses it. To me, it means that I was born with a body that didn’t make sense to my mind, and now I live in a body that fits me much better into the world. You might well know a transgender person and not be aware it. We’ve learned over the years that it’s wiser to keep it to ourselves.

I am out. Though I want the world to treat me as the woman I am, to simply BE a woman, I tell my secret.

I am out because I’m a storyteller, and some of my best stories happened when I was (or thought I was) a boy. Heck, some of the real gems happened while I was transitioning! The words come easily to me.

I’m out because it’s funny! When you get your leg hair caught in an Epilady, you can either laugh or cry, and laughing is just more fun in a group.

I am out because I’m proud. Hiding my past makes me feel like I’m ashamed of it. I’m not. This is how I was born. If I’d been born in a taxi, would I be ashamed of it?

I am out because I pass for “normal,” what ever THAT’s supposed to be. When you’ve seen me on the street, you’ve seen the woman I am, not the man we all thought I was. I can tell you my secret and surprise you, and be safely able to fade back into anonymity.

I am out because I want to learn and teach. There’s more about the spectrum of gender than I can ever know, and I’ve seen more than most. I don’t like feeling ignorant, and It’s worth learning I was wrong to find what is more right. Every discussion, I get to teach and learn things.

I am out because every person I tell is one less person who might freak out when Uncle Lloyd says she’s actually Aunt Vanessa or when the new woman at work has a rather deep voice and a notable Adam’s Apple.

I am out because I still have support. I told my family—they still love me. I told my friends—they still surround me.

I am out because I have money. Unlike many transgender people, my secret never cost me my job, or my marriage, or my safety net. I had the rare insurance that covered most of my therapy and surgery.

I am out because I have a home. I’ve never been thrown out of an apartment, exiled to a back seat or an underpass.

I am out because I’m lucky—I have never been screamed at in a mall, spat on by a passerby, chased out of a bathroom. Instead, when I’ve revealed my secret I’ve had fantastic discussions and meaningful debates, even with complete strangers and clergymen.

I am out because I’m alive—nobody ever beat my skull in or buried me in a shallow grave. Nor did I drink myself to death to save the world the trouble.

I’m out because I am a minority’s minority’s minority: a lesbian, transgender woman, who is happy, strong, secure and loved. I tell my story to give hope to the many who are miserable, sick, afraid, and alone.

I am out because I’m angry. I’ve been to groups. I’ve heard all the stories I describe above, over and over. Your mothers and fathers, your children, your uncles and aunts, shamed, ostracized, brutalized, cast aside, expurgated from your history. Wonderful, kind people. Fine people, ground up even finer for want of the tiniest amount of love, the smallest benefit of a doubt, the least amount of patience.

I’m out because with all this good fortune, I feel the need to push my luck. Good things happen when I tell my story: looks of shock, laughter, hugs. More often now, the best thing: “Really? Huh.” And then a shrug as we move on to more important things. That’s the world as it should be. It costs me nothing to be an ambassador, to answer questions. To pay back all the patience and good grace that I received.

I’m out because I can see the future. The kids I meet are even less nervous about gender and its spectrum than I am. Crossplay and fluidity allow us to figure out exactly who we are. The games they play evolve too fast for terms to even keep up. The Internet is awash in children reinventing gender.

I’m out because although the world can be horribly cruel, I find that the best way I can make it better is to live like it could be otherwise. I tell my story for those who can’t, or don’t dare to, tell their own. I speak for the murdered, the suicides, the institutionalized, the browbeaten, the homeless, the sorrowing wounded I met at every support group, the fatherless, the friendless, the child-bereft, the shamed, the terrified. Because I am proof that it DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.

TDOR14memorialSM

Image by Make Me a Sammich

I am out, on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, when we note the HUNDREDS of transgender people brutally and violently killed this year, because…because it’s so easy to make it better. To ask “Is it sir or ma’am, please?” To say “Why should I care what bits you were born with? You’re a woman!” To say “I don’t understand, but I love you and I’ll try.” To say “You look good today.” To say “What’s your damn problem? Leave her alone!” To say “Please tell me about it, when you’re ready.”  To say “Let me teach you some basics.” To simply say “Around me, you don’t need to be afraid, or watch your words, or be on edge. Just be yourself, the best you know how.”

I’m out because so far it’s worked for me, and I’ve seen my good fortune spread. I hope that if you read this far, you will keep it going, and that one day November can become a month of thanks and family, unalloyed with sadness.

Memorializing 2014

Memorializing 2013


Also by Fran Stewart:

Lessons in Fear: Finding Balance as a Trans Woman


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Texas Students Aren’t Buying “Datable” or Justin Lookadoo

What the kids are calling him these days.

What the kids are calling him these days. (image via lookadoo.com)

This is one of those stories that warms my heart and makes me proud of the state I was born in (neither of which happens often enough these days). I missed the whole thing, and I couldn’t let that happen to you.

So, in case you missed it…

Yesterday, Richardson High School in Texas hosted an assembly (sponsored by the PTA) wherein a “motivational speaker” named Justin Lookadoo presented his philosophies (ostensibly on dating violence) to the student body.* For a little background regarding his expertise as a teen dating guru, here are some “cool rules” from Lookadoo’s website, “R U Dateable.” (If you need to go vomit now, I’ll wait.)

For girls:

  • Dateable girls know how to shut up. They don’t monopolize the conversation. They don’t tell everyone everything about themselves. They save some for later. They listen more than they gab.
  • God made guys as leaders. Dateable girls get that and let him do guy things, get a door, open a ketchup bottle. They relax and let guys be guys. Which means they don’t ask him out!!!

For guys:

  • Dateable guys know they aren’t as sensitive as girls and that’s okay. They know they are stronger, more dangerous, and more adventurous and that’s okay. Dateable guys are real men who aren’t afraid to be guys.
  • Dateable guys aren’t tamed. They don’t live by the rules of the opposite sex. They fight battles, conquer lands, and stand up for the oppressed.

(If you didn’t vomit before, but need to now, feel free.)

Justin Lookadoo is the author of a book titled (not surprisingly) Dateable. Here’s a sample:

(Ok, one more vomit break. Ready, set, BLORF.)

How this guy gets speaking engagements at high schools is anyone’s guess. (Though it might have something to do with the fact that he claims to be a “Christian” motivational speaker, which carries a good deal of weight with some Texans. In fact, the school district’s initial response to criticism was to apologize for the “non-religious terminology” Lookadoo used to get his message across.) But though this can’t be his first rodeo, he was evidently unprepared for the reaction from students at RHS. The first hashtagged tweet came from Nate Beer, self-described “newsman.” (Beer writes for the school paper.)

What followed was a twitstorm of fairly epic proportions. Student reactions ranged from amused to enraged and back again. Here are just a few:

Parents were livid. At least one apparently created a Twitter account just to get onboard:

And Lookadoo wasn’t ready for the after-show Q&A. From local station WFAA:

Students circled around the speaker and hurled questions about his philosophies.

“Why did you tell girls to get out of abusive relationships instead of telling guys not to be abusive in the first place?” one student asked.

“I’ve done about 4,000 programs. That’s never happened,” Lookadoo confessed.

#lookadouche became a trending topic. News and media outlets picked up the story and are still running with it. Nate Beer, newsman, had to take a Twitter break because he was overwhelmed by the response (not all of it positive, I’m sure). And of course Twitter-at-large took up the cry, which is how the story came to my attention today.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that for a moment, when I heard about the speaker’s message, I was worried for these students; afraid that they’d actually buy into this bullshit and internalize it. And perhaps some did. But one thing is certain: Justin Lookadoo, misogynist “motivational speaker,” did motivate RHS students. Just not the way he intended.

Go, Richardson High School. You give me hope.

Updates:

  • Here’s a petition asking the superintendent of George West ISD to cancel Lookadoo’s upcoming speaking event at GWH.
  • Lookadoo has expressed confusion over the uproar, saying that his message at the assembly was not the same as the one in his “Dateable” rulebook. The Atlantic has excerpts from his speech at the assembly. I’ll let you be the judge.
  • *I originally stated that he “presented his rules for how to be “dateable.” I have since learned that part of the agreement with the PTA was that he would not state these rules, but it appears that he managed to get the message across just the same.
  • DallasNews has printed a letter from RHS Principal Charles Bruner, which apparently went home with students today.


A Quick Note to Those Who Threatened Lindy West (and People Like Her)

[Trigger Warning for Rape and Rape Threats]

To Whom it May Concern:

 “You’re too ugly to be raped. I want to rape you just to shut you up.”

Look at what you just did.

Seriously. Stop, right now, and reread that.

You started by pretending that you believe rape is about sex and desire. That rape is something you do when you can’t control your hormones any longer and must bed someone immediately, with or without their consent. You want to continue to push the idea that rape is about sex and desire because it helps you keep control, and it helps you silence those who speak out.

But you immediately betrayed yourself.

Immediately, you demonstrated that you actually know that rape is about violence, that it’s about control, that it’s about power. You know it isn’t about sex or desire. You push that it’s about sex because that helps you continue to use it as a control mechanism. If I convince you that my machine gun is really just a fluffy bunny, you’ll stop trying to take it away from me, and I can continue to use it against you.

You aren’t stupid. Rather, you feign stupidity in the hopes that your opponents will believe you or finally shut up and submit to you. It won’t work, though. You’ve shown your hand. You’ve shown that you do understand rape, and you do know exactly what you’re doing.

You can’t hide behind your lies anymore.

xoxo,

Sid


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


No Sacred Cows

Holy CowI’ve been at this blogger-activist thing less than a year, but I know I’ve said it more than once: I strongly believe we have to hold ourselves and our allies to the same standards we do our opponents. This means we can’t allow ourselves to place anyone on a pedestal where criticism can’t reach them, and we can’t sweep bad behavior under the proverbial rug. It means we don’t let one another off the hook when we slip up and contribute to the problems we’re all trying to fight.

It means no sacred cows.

It doesn’t mean we have to point fingers and assign blame—at least not in my personal best-case scenario. To me, it means we point out the problems we see with what someone said/did/wrote, and then we stand back and let the person respond, hopefully taking some time to consider and form a thoughtful rebuttal or explanation or mea culpa. I know this can work—I see it all the time. But people have to be willing to ask the uncomfortable questions, like “Did you mean to say X? Because that’s what I heard.” And then follow up with “Here are all the ways that’s problematic.” And that’s difficult to do. But I think there’s too much at stake not to at least try to do it more often.

Lately, I’ve had a number of encounters with people who are fairly hardcore about responding when a stranger or celebrity or faceless entity they care nothing about says or does something out of line, but seem very reluctant to call out people (or entities) they consider allies even if they behave really badly. And some of these folks can be extremely critical of those who do call out bad behavior from people (or entities) they deem “good.” For example, some critics point to a given target of my activist ire and a) tell me all the things to like about them and b) draw comparisons among the issues I could be focusing on and finding my choices lacking—particularly in the face of how awesome the target is if I could only see all the good they do. But the fact that a person or company or organization might be otherwise awesome is precisely why I have to speak out when they do something less-than-awesome. If I let someone off the hook for bad behavior because they also do good, I’m making a conscious decision to condone that bad behavior under certain very particular circumstances (i.e., ones that suit me in a given situation). There’s a word for someone who does that: hypocrite.

Sacred cows are everywhere, even in our social circles. Like that one guy people apologize for because he’s a “good guy” who goes to church or gives to charity or volunteers with underprivileged puppies or whatever even though he did something really awful to another member of your social circle (this probably sounds like I’m talking about someone specific, but it happens all the time—see Captain Awkward #322 & #323 and #393 for examples). Or that woman who really is a great person who helps people and does all kinds of good, and when she says or does something really awful, no one will call her on it because she probably didn’t mean it the way it sounded, or she was just having an off day, someone provoked her, or don’t pick on her because look at all the GOOD she does. When we let these people off the hook, we’re sending a message that they can behave as they wish without consequence. We’re sending a message to anyone these people have wronged that the wrongs they suffered don’t count. And that can be pretty harmful. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. (In fact, Sid wrote about it here.)

So what is at stake? Because we’re all tacitly condoning it, the behavior will very likely continue. Within the framework of activism, allies may decide to adopt the behavior and perpetuate the problem, while opponents will certainly make as much hay out of the offense as possible—especially since we’ve chosen to ignore it and laud the offender’s accomplishments instead. These are just some of the risks we take when we apply a double standard.

But the most important thing at stake here for me? My integrity.

When I do this thing I am describing—when I choose to apply my standards to only those unfortunate enough not to be among my sacred cows—I compromise my principles. And what value is there in anything I do or say if I don’t defend my principles with everything I’ve got?

barack_obama_haloThe most high-profile sacred cow we liberals hold dear is President Obama. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am happy as hell that he became president and that he got reelected. But there are things he does that have me scratching my head and I have spoken out about them in the past (not here I don’t think, but on my previous blog for certain). I had a (very unrealistic) hope that we would get modern-day equivalent of a fireside chat out of this guy where he loosened his tie, rolled up his sleeves, parked his butt on the corner of his desk, and leveled with us on the day-to-day struggles of governing this country. I want to understand why we’re killing civilians with drones, why Gitmo can’t be closed (yes, I’ve read the reasons), and why the HELL he thinks fracking is a good idea. I wanted him to explain how he didn’t agree with some provisions of the NDAA but had to sign it into law anyway (for reasons I’ve also read).  And that’s just for starters. The President of the United States is the very LAST person we should be letting off the hook.

Penny Arcade, PAX, and front-men Gabe and Tycho, are sacred cows in the games industry where I’ve mostly made my living for the past 25 years. When I asked friends recently whether PA had ever acknowledged what the real problem was with the way they handled what’s now known as the Dickwolves Debacle (i.e., did they ever apologize, or did everyone just sweep it under the rug and keep going to PAX?), I heard two things: 1) No, they haven’t done anything to illustrate an understanding of what they did wrong. 2) PAX is too important a networking opportunity for some folks to miss, especially given the current economic climate. I sympathize, but I think we have to demand better from people with as much pull in the industry–especially among youth–as Penny Arcade enjoys. But we don’t, and so Gabe goes along his merry way being a rape apologist (he recently decried the unfairness of Kickstarter’s decision to pull a game called “Tentacle Bento”–in which the player’s goal was to accost as many schoolgirls as possible as an alien tentacle monster) and all around ignorant ass, and steadfastly refuses to hear anyone who attempts to help him understand people whose experiences differ from his and correct his course to avoid causing harm in the future. He consistently trivializes issues people ask him to take seriously, poking fun at or even ridiculing critics (and thereby encouraging his followers to do the same). And anymore, Tycho just seems to pretend none of it is happening. PA continues to be a major influencer, with the industry flocking to PAX where a lot of people still think Dickwolves was a kick in the pants because PA never stood up and said “We were wrong–here’s what we learned.” They have explicitly chosen not to use their influence to help solve the problems they continue to help perpetuate. And frankly, too few in the industry have asked them to.

The rape joke that got Penny Arcade into trouble in the first place (but was ultimately minor compared to their handling of the fallout) fell into that oh-so-holy space just outside reality where people are supposedly allowed to say and do anything: comedy. I’ll let Lindy West speak to that (via Jezebel):

But it’s just a joke. Calm down.

Yeah, dude, but this shit isn’t magic. It’s not a game. It’s not like you get to declare the comedy stage “base” and the rest of the world “hot lava” (spewing from the vaginas of feminazi gargoyles, I’m sure) and everything you say on the stage exists in some sacred loophole that’s exempt from criticism and the expectation of hard work. Rape, domestic violence, brutalization, marginalization, the struggle to make yourself heard—all of this shit is REAL to a lot of people. They’re not cute little thought experiments for you to mess around with without pushback. You can lie to yourself all you want, but if you say something awful to somebody in the course of your regular day, it is exactly the same as if you say it on stage. If anything, its emotional impact is magnified.

And anyway, anyone who says “but it’s just a joke” has never had their life profoundly changed by a joke.

In the same article, Lindy has this to say about sacred cows:

But Louis CK!

Ugh, this part is so boring. Okay. Do you know what else Louis CK does? He changes. He evolves. He thinks. And when he fucks up, he gets criticized like crazy, and some of that criticism makes it into his brain—and, eventually, his act. Also, just because one of comedy’s sacred god-kings manages to be funny and smart when broaching certain sensitive topics doesn’t mean they can’t also be harmful. You know, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. Etc. Just because Jeffrey Ross can (debatably) pull off a “haha, faggot” once in a while doesn’t mean that identical “haha, faggot”s aren’t actively moving gay kids to kill themselves all over the fucking country. It’s real, and it deserves critical thought, not kneejerk defensiveness.

Also, you’re not Louis CK. Maybe don’t invite the comparison.

It’s not easy to realize your behavior might be contributing to the very problems you claim to want to solve. But if you’re lucky enough to reach a certain level of self-awareness, you realize that you’d rather be right—really right—than be wrong and defend your wrong position like a stubborn jackass. I have been known to say you can be Jesus H. Christ and heal the sick all day long, but if you’re an asshole, I’m going to say, “Jesus! Don’t be an asshole!” But even I didn’t want to heap criticism on the president at election time in 2012. And that made me a hypocrite. A well-meaning hypocrite with what felt like good reasons for being so, but a hypocrite nonetheless.

nosacredcows

So, this is my mea culpa for that and for how hard it is for me to call out my sacred cows when I think something they have said or done has caused harm. I can’t say it will never happen again. I’m not going on a witch hunt; believe it or not, I’m actually non-confrontational by nature. But I want to do better. I’d like to call on anyone reading to consider joining me in making a commitment to hold ourselves and each other to the highest possible standard so we all strive to do and be better. At the very least, we’ll give our opponents less ammunition. At best, we will raise the level of discourse, which is always worthwhile.

Either way, we’ll have our integrity.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


How Cool is This?

Guest post by Ro

Note: Ro transitioned several years ago. However, she lived in an isolated setting and had no access to transportation. Late last year, she moved to a village and what follows is her incredible experience. (Originally published on Facebook.)

This is perhaps the most important post I have made on Facebook. Please read.

Screen shot 2013-04-15 at 8.38.53 AMI am blessed with the best friends ever. What follows should stun you. In November, I moved to a very small village in Wales. When I got here, I didn’t know anyone. I would go down the pub and hang out. I wanted people to get to know me. For the most part, I would just sit there and nod and smile at people. However, I did meet two of the most amazing people I have ever known.I have known this couple for only two months now. Absolutely the nicest people I’ve met in Wales. They live very close to me. It’s one of those friendships where you feel like you’ve known them for years. They have known and supported my new gender identity since the first time I met them.The wife and and another female friend went with me to the pub when I first used the woman’s loo two weeks ago. They came as my support team. How cool is that?

I went back to the pub with the wife again last Thursday when I was told by the bartender that I couldn’t use the proper loo. Even though we had just met, my friend was outraged. She walked out of the pub with me and was so very concerned about how I was feeling. She knows me better than I know myself. I was sort of in shock and it took a few days to sort out my emotions. I posted about it here and got remarkable advice and support. Thank you!

She and her husband are boycotting the pub. How cool is that?

I met her, her husband and their 2 wonderful children at a different pub on Sunday. They told me they had been talking with their families and friends about what had happened. They made an offer that totally floored me.

They, their relatives and their friends have made an incredible offer: they want to go to the pub with me again. Not only are they going there to stand up for me, they are offering to go dressed in the clothing of their opposite gender.

Not only will the men dress as women and the women as men: they will go to the loo for the gender they present.

Let me repeat that: New friends, their family and friends (who I haven’t met) will not only support me in my legal right to use the appropriate loo, they will cross dress and use the appropriate loo. Most of them have never met me.

As soon as I was alone, I had a good type of cry. How do I deserve friends like this?

Again, I live in a sleepy little village where everyone knows everyone. A couple I only recently met, their friends and family (again, who I haven’t yet met) are willing to do this wonderful, amazing and brave thing.

I told them that I want to meet with the pub landlord first and discuss the issue. If he doesn’t agree to do the legal thing, I don’t know if I will take them up on their offer.

But, regardless, I stand taller and more confident that these amazing people are willing to stand with me.

I am blessed. I am amazed. I am lucky.

This is why we’re here people: to stand up for each other. I never thought I would meet such wonderful people.

I am grateful to them beyond words. And I am grateful to each of you who support me here on FB.

If others stand tall for me, I must stand tall as well.

Life has never been better. How cool is that?


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


The Belle Jar Blog is a Great Feminist, Mother, Writer, Friend

Anne, Matt, and baby Theo

Today my friend Anne is on the receiving end of all sorts of criticism for the post I shared with you yesterday in which she bravely considered a future when her son might cross a line despite her best efforts. You see, Anne realizes that even though her little boy is two years old now and loves his mother more than anything, one day he will experience–as we all do–a need to go his own way and take his cues from sources that do not love him with all their hearts and want him to be and have the absolute best.

I have known Anne less than a year, but in that time (in addition to getting to know her personally and coming to call her a friend) I have read many of her posts on The Belle Jar and have been at turns moved to tears, anger, nostalgia, a strong sense of simpatico, and fits of giggles. Her ability to bring herself–her personal stories–to her constant struggle to contribute to the greater good means that her work (on TBJ and elsewhere) reaches more and more people every day. And that means that in addition to the thousands of people who need her stories and words–either because they weren’t quite awake and she splashed their faces or because, like me, they’re out here fighting the same fight and desperately need the solidarity and ideas and perspectives and common vocabulary to do what we do–there are those who will tear her down.

Some of these people just don’t get it. Others are on a crusade to expose the evils of feminism. As for the former, I can only hope that some seed has been planted and germinates even now in the depths of their brains. But the latter? Allow me to submit that they are the true measure of the impact Anne is making. I don’t envy her the negative attention, the stress, the bad feels that I know even now are making it hard for her to do the important work she’s doing. But I, for one, want to say that I’m counting on Anne to take what strength she can from all of us who love her, love what she does, love her stories and her strength and her courage, and remember that what all of this means is that she’s doing something right.

And I’ve known that all along. <3


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Fighting for Coy

Coy Mathis

UPDATE: COLORADO RIGHTS DIVISION RULES IN COY’S FAVOR! (See updates at bottom.)

This is Coy Mathis. She’s six years old and, until recently, attended first grade at a school in the Fountain-Fort Carson School District in Colorado. In December 2012 Coy’s school contacted her parents, Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis, and told them that Coy would no longer be allowed to use the girls’ restroom, as she has done since Kindergarten.

You see, Coy Mathis was assigned “male” at birth. But she has known since she was able to know things that she is a girl.

You’re probably imagining a horrific tale of parental complaints and classroom bullying, but none of that has happened.  The school district has decided to preemptively address a problem that does not exist, but that they imagine might occur in the future.

From Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis:

They gave Coy three options for where to go to the bathroom; the boys’ room, the staff bathroom with adults, or the nurse’s bathroom which is used by sick children.

Coy is not sick, she is not an adult, and she is not a boy.

Coy is a girl. She wears girls’ clothes, is addressed by everyone at the school using female pronouns, and has been accepted by her classmates and teachers as a girl. But if the school separates her from all her classmates to use the bathroom, they are singling her out for mistreatment, and teaching her classmates that it’s okay to discriminate.

Coy’s parents have removed her from school and have brought suit against the school district. The attorney for the district, W. Kelly Dude, provided the following explanation (using male pronouns to describe Coy):

The school “took into account not only Coy but other students in the building, their parents, and the future impact a boy with male genitals using a girls’ bathroom would have as Coy grew older.” He went on to add, “However, I’m certain you can appreciate that as Coy grows older and his male genitals develop along with the rest of his body, at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his continued use of the girls’ restroom.” (via Housing Works Advocate)

The fact that Coy first told her parents that something was wrong with her body when she was four–the fact that Coy’s doctors have diagnosed her with gender identity disorder and recommended that she live as, and be treated as, a girl–well, the facts of Coy’s life and identity apparently don’t count. But imaginary possible future student discomfort and parent complaints? These are IMPORTANT and we MUST ACT NOW. You know, just in case.

Here’s Coy’s mom Kathryn Mathis on how Coy described the feelings she was having:

“She just kept crying and said she was scared that she was going to grow up and have a beard and a hairy chest and everybody would know she was born a boy.”

Seriously? This is all my kid would ever have to say to me (and it should be all anyone needs to hear). And I would fight the whole world to protect her right to be who she is.

We can all join the Mathis family in fighting for Coy by signing their petition on Change.org.You can also contact the Fountain-Fort Carson School District and let them know what you think. Let’s make a world that loves, accepts, and celebrates Coy and kids like her for who they are.

coy


Updates:

I went looking for news on the case, and there isn’t much, but I wanted to include this from Coy’s mom, which goes a bit farther toward explaining the process they went to before deciding the right way to proceed. From Huffington Post:

“It was kind of a long process because she had been telling us for some time, and we thought, ‘Well maybe it’s a phase, maybe if we just confirm to her that she really is a boy?’ you know, try and encourage her toward boy things, then her phase would be over maybe,” Kathryn Mathis said. “So it really took a lot of learning, research on our part because she was consistently telling us the same thing, that she was a girl. So we read lots of books, we contacted lots of support groups. We contacted her pediatrician and a child psychologist and it was very lengthy. And eventually we were told that we needed to support her and how she was, and you know, how she really was.”

Jill Filipovic also writes about Coy in a recent article on the Guardian.

Watch a 17 minute Dateline video featuring Coy: Crossover Kids

CO. RIGHTS DIVISION RULES IN COY’S FAVOR!

From the New York Times (6/23/13):

In a sharply worded ruling, the division concluded that the Fountain-Fort Carson School District needlessly created a situation in which the student, Coy Mathis, would be subject to harassment when it barred her from the girls’ bathroom even though she clearly identified as female.

Telling Coy “that she must disregard her identity while performing one of the most essential human functions constitutes severe and pervasive treatment, and creates an environment that is objectively and subjectively hostile, intimidating or offensive,” Steven Chavez, the division director, wrote in the decision.

The dispute over whether Coy, 6, should be allowed to use the girls’ bathroom was seen by some as a critical test of how state antidiscrimination laws were applied to transgender students.

Read more at NYT.


My Apology to Quvenzhané Wallis

quvenzhané wallisDear Quvenzhané,

I want to apologize–for so many things. For myself and for the culture we live in. Because we are failing you and girls like you and we have to do better.

I’ll start by apologizing for myself. I’m sorry for not knowing until now what to say about the way Seth MacFarlane and the Onion treated you on Oscar night. They singled you out for a laugh never thinking of what effect that might have on you. On a night when they should have been celebrating your achievements, they commodified you. They used you in a way that comedians and satirist use lots of people, except that children ought to be exempt. Especially on what is possibly the biggest night of their lives to date, when they’re sitting right there in the room listening attentively. And I was outraged, and I said so, but only in passing. I didn’t feel equipped to deal with the complexity of the racial side of this (if it can even be called a side–maybe it’s the whole thing). I felt as though it wasn’t my place. And I read what other people had to say and I asked questions and I learned. And now I know that my silence was perhaps interpreted by some as acceptance or at the very least, complacency, laziness, and lack of concern. I realize that if you or any young woman of color came to my blog, you would find that I’d dedicated exactly zero time and energy to saying (here, where I talk about things that matter to me) that they treated you badly, that they were wrong, that this is a symptom of so much of what is wrong with us as a society, and that it’s important to understand that race is a big part of the equation because of the way black girls and women have historically been treated–and exploited–in this country.

I’m sorry, Quvenzhané, that I didn’t write about this before now.

Now I want to apologize for the culture that allows this to happen, because I know I have been part of the problem and because I own that each of us (adults) is partly responsible for allowing it to be this way. We raise our girls to believe they are somehow less than boys, and our boys to think that the worst possible thing someone can say to them is that they’re behaving like (or running like, or throwing like, or crying like) a girl. We reward young men for the “conquest” of having sex, and shame young women for being “sluts.” We create and consume media that sets unattainable standards, reinforces harmful gender and racial stereotypes, and perpetuates rape culture. This culture we have created and continue to allow to thrive is what made Seth MacFarlane believe it was acceptable to use you for a laugh. It’s what made some fans claim that our outrage over that and the Onion’s ill-considered attempt at satire are because people like us “have no sense of humor.” It’s the reason hundreds of people retweeted the Onion’s tweet.

I’m sorry, Quvenzhané. I’m sorry we aren’t living in a post-sexist, post-racist society by 2013. I’m sorry they couldn’t just let you have your night in the spotlight and celebrate your talent and your achievements and the fact that you made history. I hope the night was wonderful and that none of this spoiled anything for you.

quvenzhané wallisI learned to pronounce your name partly because I was so angry that people who make their living talking to and about celebrities on television did not take the time before meeting you to do so, but also because I wanted to know how to say it. Now I find myself saying it over and over again: Quvenzhané, Quvenzhané, Quvenzhané…because it  sounds like a song. Those people who didn’t bother to learn your name really missed out–they could have done their jobs and had the joy of saying your lovely name out loud.

I can’t wait to see what you do next.

Love,

Rosie


Update 1/12/15: It has been nearly two years and they are still mispronouncing her name.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Dear Trolls: Here’s Your Sammich!

Troll DetectorDear Trolls,

As some of you are aware, today many people on Twitter are taking the opportunity to #TellAFeministThankYou. Most of us are thanking feminists for things like the fact that it’s socially acceptable for us to wear pants out to dinner, or for the hard work they do campaigning for women’s health and safety, or for the way they support and inspire other feminists.

And of course, you’ve joined the party to impart your wisdom, which consists mostly of “why don’t you go make me a sammich?” And feminists all over the Internet are laughing our asses off. After all this time, is that really the best you can come up with?

It’s sad and pathetic and all that, but if I’m honest, I owe you my thanks. You, Trolls, and people who think like you, are one of the reasons this site exists. And I certainly have you to thank for its name, don’t I? It’s absolutely perfect and I wouldn’t have it if you weren’t so gosh darned clever!

So, thank you, Trolls, for being what you are—an ever-present object lesson wherever one is needed. A perfect illustration of why we must keep fighting. Not because you exist (because you’re pathetic); not because of the things you say (because mostly they don’t matter). It’s because you breed. Your hatred breeds. You poison young minds—male and female—against each other, against themselves. Your anonymous mob-mentality is contagious and sometimes deadly. And when the real Anonymous big boys and girls go after one of you and out you to the world, I can’t feel sorry for you even when you beg for their forgiveness and say it was all a joke and you never meant any harm. We as a society have to put your like in the middle of town square in stocks and throw rotten fruit until bored, sad, unimaginative, cruel people like you learn that this behavior won’t be tolerated.

Keep showing up, by all means. Keep harassing women on the Internet and showing the rest of us what the worst of us look like. But don’t expect us to tolerate you. I won’t ignore you any longer, and given the chance, I’ll expose you. And if I don’t, someone else will.

Oh, and here’s your sammich:

Troll Sammich


“Train Your Heart Like a Dog.”

Writer Jonathan Carroll posted this on Facebook yesterday. I think it’s beautiful, and it hit close enough to home that it felt almost written for me.

Image

Photo: Lucienne Bloch

leaving is not enough; you must
stay gone. train your heart
like a dog. change the locks
even on the house he’s never
visited. you lucky, lucky girl.
you have an apartment
just your size. a bathtub
full of tea. a heart the size
of Arizona, but not nearly
so arid. don’t wish away
your cracked past, your
crooked toes, your problems
are papier mache puppets
you made or bought because the vendor
at the market was so compelling you just
had to have them. you had to have him.
and you did. and now you pull down
the bridge between your houses.
you make him call before
he visits. you take a lover
for granted, you take
a lover who looks at you
like maybe you are magic. make
the first bottle you consume
in this place a relic. place it
on whatever altar you fashion
with a knife and five cranberries.
don’t lose too much weight.
stupid girls are always trying
to disappear as revenge. and you
are not stupid. you loved a man
with more hands than a parade
of beggars, and here you stand. heart
like a four-poster bed. heart like a canvas.
heart leaking something so strong
they can smell it in the street.

~Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell by Marty McConnell

Fabulous.


Note: I originally attributed this to Frida Kahlo based on the original post (apparently this poem is quite popular on tumblr and this is a common mistake). I also left out the line breaks (which I have now inserted). Apologies to Ms. McConnell. Read more of her poetry here.


Fake Geek Girls, #1ReasonWhy, Sarkeesian Speaks

These three videos really sum up the past two weeks for me. Each provides its own perspective on the issue of sexism in geekdom, and each one is ultimately hopeful and inspiring. We need more of that in this discussion.

 

Fake Geek Girls

Angelina LB on the Tony Harris FGG screed and the phenomenon in general. Fabulous.

ALB is on Twitter and Facebook, too.

 

Sessler’s Something on #1ReasonWhy

Revision3 Games (Rev3) producer Adam Sessler uses his new show to shine a light on #1ReasonWhy. Very well done.

Follow Adam on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Anita Sarkeesian @ TEDxWomen

The pop culture critic and creator of Feminist Frequency explores the gamification of Internet harassment as she saw it in the hate campaign against her. Fascinating.

Follow Feminist Frequency on Facebook and Twitter.

Something’s afoot, people. I hear whispers from all over about meetings and events, missives and plans hatching…. The geek community is making 2012 the year we put our collective feet down with a resounding THUD! the ripples from which are making themselves felt and will continue to spread into 2013 and into the brave new world beyond. Welcome to the future, my friends. We have cake.


Jada Pinkett Smith: The War on Men Through the Degradation of Woman

Today I saw this and wanted to share it with you.

jada

The war on men through the degradation of woman.

How is man to recognize his full self, his full power through the eye’s of an incomplete woman? The woman who has been stripped of Goddess recognition and diminished to a big ass and full breast for physical comfort only. The woman who has been silenced so she may forget her spiritual essence because her words stir too much thought outside of the pleasure space. The woman who has been diminished to covering all that rots inside of her with weaves and red bottom shoes.

I am sure the men, who restructured our societies from cultures that honored woman, had no idea of the outcome. They had no idea that eventually, even men would render themselves empty and longing for meaning, depth and connection. There is a deep sadness when I witness a man that can’t recognize the emptiness he feels when he objectifies himself as a bank and truly believes he can buy love with things and status. It is painful to witness the betrayal when a woman takes him up on that offer. He doesn’t recognize that the create of a half woman has contributed to his repressed anger and frustration of feeling he is not enough. He then may love no woman or keep many half women as his prize. He doesn’t recognize that it’s his submersion in the imbalanced warrior culture, where violence is the means of getting respect and power, as the reason he can break the face of the woman who bore him four children.When woman is lost, so is man. The truth is, woman is the window to a man’s heart and a man’s heart is the gateway to his soul.

Power and control will NEVER out weigh love.

May we all find our way.
J


Text is originally rom Jada’s Facebook page. What do you think?


Alternate Rosie is Screwed (But I Feel Fine!)

I was so tense yesterday that I was unable to see into the future. Not in a psychic way (which would be really cool but also not), but in the way that we do all the time where we imagine what things will be like if this happens or that does. The future was like this dark spot in my vision because I couldn’t imagine what might happen to my country if things turned out the way I feared was all too possible, and I couldn’t quite dare to hope that everything would be ok.

But I did hope, because that was all I could do, and as day faded into evening I settled into a sort of faith that our president would carry the day. I felt almost cocky at times, but then I’d remember Toby Ziegler’s timeless warnings against tempting fate,  and I’d take a deep breath and grit my teeth some more. At no time did I imagine what life would be like on the other side of the divide. The future was still a dark spot on the horizon.

When the final results broke, I didn’t dare to believe at first, and I went off verifying it everywhere I could as tears sprang up in my eyes. When the last domino fell, I collapsed into a heap of sobs, traumatized, my relief expressing itself in tears and snot all over my boyfriend’s shirt. And when the sobs subsided, the sighs took over. I must have sighed a hundred times as I let myself relax for the first time maybe all year.

That was way too close, people. In an alternate universe, Alternate Rosie woke up to President Romney this morning, and some poor Weimaraner found out he was getting strapped to the roof of a limousine for a trip to the White House. In that universe, Alternate Rosie is writing a blog post about how to combat the upcoming troop-surge in the War on Women. In this one, we showed Mourdock and Akin and Ryan and Romney the door, and with any luck we’ll see a return to some semblance of sanity among the GOP. In this universe, we won the most important election of my lifetime. And the relief I feel today is only exceeded by my optimism for the future.

We’ve still got plenty to do in this universe before people like me can stop ranting on the Internet about gender equality and rape culture and the patriarchy. But in this universe, the President of the US is a feminist. I pity Alternate Rosie, but I’m glad it’s her and not me.

Back to work.

~Rosie


A Few Good Reasons to VOTE

Emmeline Pankhurst


Tomorrow Jones #1

I backed this new comic on Kickstarter because it features a teen girl superhero bucking traditional stereotypes. Now the first issue is out, so I thought I’d share. Here’s a teaser from the preview:

Let me know what you think, especially if you decide to buy the comic. I’m looking forward to seeing how the story progresses.


My Sister Michelle


Preach It, Sister.

 

Aung San Suu Kyi Quote

One of the world’s great leaders, she sacrificed years of her life for her people though she could have gone free at any time if she’d left her home. Read more about Aung San Suu Kyi at Wikipedia or see the Patricia Arquette movie Beyond Rangoon for a more visceral glimpse.

(This is also the feminist quote of the day at Damn Right I’m a Feminist.)

 


A Call to Arms for Decent Men

My friend and former EA colleague Ernest W. Adams writes a column over at Gamasutra.com called Designer’s Notebook. Today’s column will not appear on Gamasutra as the editorial staff declined to publish it in its current form. Ernest has kindly given me his permission to publish it here, and I’m grateful, because this subject–and cry for change–is close to my heart.


I hope Ernest reads this at GDC one day.

Normally I write for everybody, but this month’s column is a call to arms, addressed to the reasonable, decent, but much too silent majority of male gamers and developers.

Guys, we have a problem. We are letting way too many boys get into adulthood without actually becoming men. We’re seeing more and more adult males around who are not men.They’re as old as men, but they have the mentality of nine-year-old boys. They’re causing a lot of trouble, both in general and for the game industry specifically. We need to deal with this.

Why us? Because it’s our job to see to it that a boy becomes a man, and we are failing.

When we were little boys we all went through a stage when we said we hated girls. Girls had “cooties.” They were silly and frilly and everything that a boy isn’t supposed to be. We got into this stage at about age seven, and we left it again at maybe 10 or 11.

Then puberty hit and, if we were straight, we actively wanted the company of girls. We wanted to “go with” them, date them, and eventually we wanted to fall in love and live with one, maybe for the rest of our lives. That’s the way heterosexual boys are supposed to mature, unless they become monks.

My point is, you’re supposed to leave that phase of hating girls behind. Straight or gay, you’re supposed to grow the hell up.

What might be temporarily tolerable in a boy when he’s nine is pretty damned ugly when he’s fifteen and it’s downright psychopathic when he’s twenty. Instead of maturing into a man’s role and a man’s responsibilities, a lot of boys are stuck at the phase of hating girls and women. The boys continue to treat them like diseased subhumans right through adolescence and into adulthood.

Men are more powerful than women: financially, politically, and physically. What distinguishes a real man from a boy is that a man takes responsibility for his actions and does not abuse this power. If you don’t treat women with courtesy and respect – if you’re still stuck in that “I hate girls” phase – then no matter what age you are, you are a boy and not entitled to the privileges of adulthood.

Arrgh!

  • If you want to have some private little club for males only – like keeping women out of your favorite shooter games – you’re not a man, you’re an insecure little boy. A grown-up man has no problem being in the company of women. He knows he’s a man.
  • If you freak out when a girl or a woman beats you in a game, you’re not a man, you’re a nine-year-old boy. A man doesn’t need to beat a woman to know he’s a man. A man is strong enough to take defeat in a fair game from anybody and move on.
  • If your masculinity depends on some imaginary superiority over women, then you don’t actually have any. Manliness comes from within, and not at the expense of others.
  • And if you threaten or abuse women, verbally or physically, you are not a man. You’re a particularly nasty specimen of boy.

When this puerile mentality is combined with the physical strength and sexual aggressiveness of an older boy or an adult male, it goes beyond bad manners. It’s threatening and anti-social, and if those boys are permitted to congregate together and support each other, it becomes actively dangerous. Yes, even online.

Of course, I don’t mean all boys are like this. Most of them get out of the cootie phase quickly and grow up just fine. But far too many don’t. If we don’t do something about these permanent nine-year-olds pretty soon, they’re going to start having boys of their own who will be just as bad if not worse, and life will not be worth living. Life is already not worth living on Xbox Live Chat.

Arrrgh, I say!

In addition to the harm they do to women – our mothers, our sisters, our daughters – these full-grown juveniles harm ustoo. A boy who refuses to grow up has lousy social skills, a short attention span, and a poor attitude to work. Furthermore, all men – that’s you and me, bro – get the blame for their bad behavior. And we deserve it, because we’ve been sitting on our butts for too long. We let them be bullies online and get away with it.

Some of you might think it’s sexist that I’m dumping this problem on us men. It isn’t; it’s just pragmatic. Women can not solve this problem. A boy who hates girls and women simply isn’t going to pay attention to a woman’s opinion. The only people who can ensure that boys are taught, or if necessary forced, to grow up into men are other men.

Let’s be clear about something else. This is not a political issue. This is not a subject for debate, any more than whether your son is allowed to swear at his mother or molest his sister is a subject for debate. There is no “other point of view.” The real-world analogy is not to social issues but to violent crime. Muggers don’t get to have a point of view.

So how do we change things?

First, we need to serve as positive examples. With the very little boys, we need to guide them gently but firmly out of the cootie phase. To the impressionable teenagers, we must demonstrate how a man behaves and how he doesn’t. Be the change you want to see. Use your real name and your real picture online, to show that you are a man who stands behind his words. Of course, you can’t prove your name is real, but it doesn’t matter. If you consistently behave with integrity online, the message will get across.

Secondly, we men need to stand up for courtesy and decency online. We can’t just treat this as a problem for women (or blacks, or gays, or anybody else the juvenile bullies have in their sights). Tell them and their friends that their behavior is not acceptable, that real men don’t agree with them, that they are in the minority. Say these words into your headset: “I’m disappointed in you. I thought you were a man, not a whiny, insecure little boy.” Don’t argue or engage with them. Never answer their questions or remarks, just repeat your disgust and disapproval. Assume the absolute moral superiority to which you are entitled over a bully or a criminal.

Finally, we need to put a stop to this behavior. It’s time for us to force the permanent nine-year-olds to grow up or get out of our games and forums. It’s not enough just to mute them. We need to build the infrastructure that precludes this kind of behavior entirely – Club Penguin has already done it for children – or failing that, we have to make the bullies pay a price for their behavior. Appealing to their better nature won’t work; bullies have none. We do not request, we do not debate, we demand and we punish.

I have some specific suggestions, from the least to the most extreme.

  1. Oh, you little rascals!

    Mockery. In 1993 50 Ku Klux Klansmen marched through Austin, Texas. Five thousand anti-Klan protestors turned up to jeer at them. Best of all, several hundred lined the parade route and mooned the Klan in waves. The media ate it up, and the Klan looked ridiculous. The hurt that they wanted to cause was met not with anger but with derision.The juvenile delinquents are just like the Klan: anonymous in their high-tech bedsheets, and threatening, but in fact, a minority. Let’s use our superior numbers and metaphorically moon the boys who can’t behave. They’re social inadequates, immature losers. Let’s tell them so, loud and clear, in front of their friends.

  2. Shut them up. The right to speak in a public forum should be limited to those who don’t abuse it. James Portnow suggested this one in his Extra Credits video on harassment. Anyone who persistently abuses others gets automatically muted to all players. The only players who can hear them are those who choose to unmute them. Or another of James’ suggestions: New users don’t even get the right to talk. They have to earn it, and they keep it only so long as they behave themselves. This means a player can’t just create a new account to start spewing filth again if they’ve been auto-muted. Build these features into your games.
  3. Take away their means. If you’re the father of a boy who behaves like this online, make it abundantly clear to him that it is unmanly and unacceptable, then deny him the opportunity to do it further. We don’t let nine-year-olds misuse tools to hurt other people. Take away his cell phone, his console and his computer. He can learn to behave like a man, or he can turn in his homework in longhand like a child.
  4. Anonymity is a privilege, not a right. Anonymity is a double-edged sword. A limited number of people need it in certain circumstances: children, crime victims, whistleblowers, people discussing their medical conditions, political dissidents in repressive regimes. But those people normally don’t misuse their anonymity to abuse others; they’re protecting themselves from abuse.I think the default setting in all online forums that are not intended for people at risk should require real names. After a user has demonstrated that they are a grown-up, then offer them the privilege of using a pseudonym. And take it away forever if they misuse it. I haven’t used a nickname for years except in one place where all the readers know who I am anyway. Has it made me more careful about what I say? You bet. Is that a good thing? Damn right it is.
  5. Impose punishments that are genuinely painful. This suggestion is extreme, but I feel it’s both viable and effective. To play subscription-based or pay-as-you-go (“free-to-play-but-not-really”) games, most players need to register a credit card with the game’s provider. Include a condition in the terms of service that entitles the provider to levy extra charges for bad behavior. Charge $5 for the first infraction and double it for each subsequent one. This isn’t all that unusual; if you smoke in a non-smoking hotel room, you are typically subject to a whopping extra charge for being a jerk.

Now I’m going to address some objections from the very juvenile delinquents I’ve been talking about – if any of them have read this far.

  • What’s the big deal? It’s harmless banter. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the game.” To start with, it’s our game, not yours, and we get to decide what’s acceptable behavior. You meet our standards or you get out. Apart from that, nothing that is done with intent to cause hurt is harmless. The online abuse I have seen goesway beyond banter. Threats are not harmless, they are criminal acts.
  • But this is part of gamer culture! It’s always been like this!” No, it is not. I’ve been gaming for over 40 years, and it has not always been like this. Yours is a nasty little subculture that arrived with anonymous online gaming, and we’re going to wipe it out.
  • This is just political correctness.” Invoking “political correctness” is nothing but code for “I wanna be an asshole and get away with it.” I’ll give you a politically-incorrect response, if you like: fuck that. It’s time to man up. You don’t get to be an asshole and get away with it.
  • You’re just being a White Knight and trying to suck up to women.” I don’t need to suck up to women, thanks; unlike you, I don’t have a problem with them, because I’m a grown man.
  • Women are always getting special privileges.” Freedom from bullying is a right, not a privilege, and anyway, that’s bullshit. Males are the dominant sex in almost every single activity on the planet. The only areas that we do not rule are dirty, underpaid jobs like nursing and teaching. Do you want to swap? I didn’t think so.

Run for your lives, boys. She’s gonna getcha.

  • It’s hypocrisy. How come they get women-only clubs and we don’t get men-only clubs?” Because they’re set up for different reasons, that’s why. Male-only spaces are about excluding women from power, and making little boys whose balls evidently haven’t dropped feel special. Female-only spaces are about creating a place where they are safe from vermin.
  • But there’s misandry too!” Oh, and that entitles you to be a running sore on the ass of the game community? Two wrongs don’t make a right.. I’ll worry about misandry when large numbers of male players are being hounded out of games with abuse and threats of violence. If a few women are bigoted against men, you only have to look in the mirror to find out why.
  • Free speech!” The oldest and worst excuse for being a jerk there is. First, you have no right to free speech in privately-owned spaces. Zero. Our house, our rules. Second, with freedom comes the responsibility not to abuse it. People who won’t use their freedoms responsibly get them taken away. And if you don’t clean up your act, that will be you.

OK, back to the real men for a few final words.

This is not about “protecting women.” It’s about cleaning out the sewers that our games have become. This will not be easy and it will not be fun. Standing up to these little jerks will require the same courage from us that women like Anita Sarkeesian have already shown. We will become objects of hatred, ridicule, and contempt. Our manhood will be questioned. But if we remember who we are and stand strong together, we can beat them. In any case we won’t be threatened with sexual violence the way women are. We have it easier than they do.

It’s time to stand up. If you’re a writer, blogger, or forum moderator, please write your own piece spreading the message, or at least link to this one. I also encourage you to visit Gamers Against Bigotry (http://gamersagainstbigotry.org), sign the pledge, are share it.

Pew! Pew!

Use your heavy man’s hand in the online spaces where you go – and especially the ones you control – to demand courtesy and punish abuse. Don’t just mute them. Report them, block them, ban them, use every weapon you have. (They may try to report us in return. That won’t work. If you always behave with integrity, it will be clear who’s in the right.)

Let’s stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the women we love, and work with, and game with, and say, “We’re with you. And we’re going to win.”


Related

Aftermath (Not in the Kitchen Anymore)


This Was When I Believed

Ride, Sally, Ride.

As you probably know by now, yesterday we lost Dr. Sally Ride, a woman so many of us have looked up to for decades as a symbol of what a woman can accomplish in a man’s world. (That’s right, I said it: This is a Man’s World, and that’s why we still need feminism.) In the past 24 hours I’ve read so many heartbroken tributes from women for whom Sally was more than a role model; more than a hero. She was a turning point for girls whose passion for science had been discouraged and dampened by stereotypes.

Washington congressional candidate Darcy Burner said yesterday, “She made me want to be an astronaut.” And from my friend E: “A woman astronaut! That was transformative. This was when I believed that women had a chance. We could do what the guys did — let me rephrase. I knew we could do it, but that we would be allowed to do it.”

Sally made being the nation’s first woman in space look easy, though it was anything but. Everyone from NASA officials to the press wondered whether a woman could hack it. From her LA times obituary:

“There are,” Ride acknowledged, “people within NASA who need convincing.” She would have been much happier, I suspect, in the present day, when the presence of women in NASA is no big deal and every girl can dream of a career in science or technology or aerospace without being scoffed at and told, “Girls can’t do that.” But she had a big hand in making the extraordinary — a female astronaut — routine.

From her NYT obituary:

Speaking to reporters before the first shuttle flight, Dr. Ride — chosen in part because she was known for keeping her cool under stress — politely endured a barrage of questions focused on her sex: Would spaceflight affect her reproductive organs? Did she plan to have children? Would she wear a bra or makeup in space? Did she cry on the job? How would she deal with menstruation in space?

The CBS News reporter Diane Sawyer asked her to demonstrate a newly installed privacy curtain around the shuttle’s toilet. On “The Tonight Show,” Johnny Carson joked that the shuttle flight would be delayed because Dr. Ride had to find a purse to match her shoes.

At a NASA news conference, Dr. Ride said: “It’s too bad this is such a big deal. It’s too bad our society isn’t further along.”

Sally Ride made it her life’s mission to crush stereotypes relating not just to women, but to science. As Dr. Ride put it, “Girls tend to have a stereotype of engineers being 65-year-old guys who wear lab coats and pocket protectors and look like Einstein.” And she didn’t stop at being a great scientist and role model. After she left NASA, she founded Sally Ride Science, a company dedicated to creating programs to inspire and feed kids’ passion for science.

Awwww!

And now, in death, Dr. Sally Ride has come out as a lesbian who lived happily with her partner for 27 years, adding support for a cause which must have been dear to her in life, but which had to come second to her desire to show kids–especially girls–that science was cool. Her image as the USA’s first woman astronaut was an important tool in that regard. She didn’t lend her name to many things. Her sister Bear Ride says she was a private person, but also: “That wasn’t her battle of choice—the battle of choice was science education for kids.” It seems to me that she sacrificed certain freedoms (e.g., the freedom to publicly love whomever she loved) partly in order to protect her “brand”–not for profit, but to avoid letting prejudice become an obstacle to her efforts to help galvanize new generations of scientists. Then yesterday she was all: BAM! Take that, everybody. Yep, she was gay, and you still love her.

I think I might love her even more.


Image

Katharine Hepburn Kicked All the Ass.

I Love Katharine Hepburn

I love Katharine Hepburn so much. She was a feminist before most people knew the word existed. Did you know that she used to enter fancy Hollywood hotels by the back entrance because they didn’t want the proper folk to see her in pants? And she didn’t give a rat’s ass or any hoots or anything else. I’ve watched nearly all her movies (some more than once) and I think she was a great actress, but more importantly she was a great woman. She was raised (by a suffragette and a doctor who made it his life’s work to educate people about STDs–we’re talking the turn of the last century, folks) to be inquisitive and to speak her mind. She overcame tragedy (at 14 she found her older brother who’d hanged himself) and the resulting debilitating depression to become an award-winning actor who played some of the strongest, most complex female characters of her time. (Her performance in The Philadelphia Story as Tracy Lord, a spoiled socialite who awakens to the reality that she’s never going to be happy playing the role society has given her, is hilarious and heartbreaking.)

But as much as theater-goers loved to entertain the idea of women like Lord wearing pants and pushing the boundaries of ladylike behavior, her off-screen persona didn’t sit well with Hollywood and the slavering public. She was not your average starlet: smart and funny and strong, she didn’t like reporters or autograph hounds (famously telling one to “go sit on a tack”). And she was not one to be bullied. When the costume department took her pants in an apparent attempt to teach her a lesson, she walked around the studio in her underwear for the rest of the day. How kick ass is that? (Hint: Very!) And when a few of her movies flopped, they labeled her “box-office poison.” Did she quit? Did she roll over and die? Did she rail and flail against the unfairness of it all? No, she did not. I’ll tell you what she did. Actually, I’ll let Wikipedia tell you:

Hepburn masterminded her own comeback, buying out her contract with RKO Radio Pictures and acquiring the film rights to The Philadelphia Story, which she sold on the condition that she be the star. In the 1940s she was contracted to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where her career focused on an alliance with Spencer Tracy. The screen-partnership spanned 25 years, and produced nine movies.

1928 Kate (Wikimedia Commons)

(Hepburn and Tracy were also a couple. He was married, but estranged from his wife. Kate put her career on hold to nurse him in the final years of his life. Read about it in Tracy and Hepburn: An Intimate Memoir by Garson Kanin.)

And that, my friends, is how you do it Kate style. There’s so much more. Her film and theater career spanned six decades, and she lived 96 years. Here’s a photo of her from her Bryn Mawr days. That’s where she fell in love with acting, much to my everlasting joy. If this is your first introduction to the awesome that is Katharine Hepburn, congratulations. You’re in for a treat. Follow some links, watch some movies, and know this: it has never been easy to buck society’s stereotypes, and in a time when it was even less easy than it is now, she helped to pave the way for the rest of us by being an authentic woman in the face of pressure from all sides to act like a lady.

Thanks, Kate.


Links!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katharine_Hepburn
http://www.biography.com/people/katharine-hepburn-9335828