Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why I have a problem with Rick Remender's Uncanny Avengers and "don't see differences" philosophy

(Originally posted at my tumblr: Ami's Tumblr Place of Cat DOOOM)

I was reading this post on Racialicious about the continuing problems with Rick Remender's Uncanny Avengers and his idea that discrimination would just be solved if people stopped seeing differences.  In the specific issue the post is talking about, Remender uses Scarlet Witch as essentially his mouthpiece to shut down Rogue who is kind of a strawman representation of his critics.  She's portrayed as being overly emotional and presenting weak arguments (or poorly backed up arguments) so that Remender's stand-in can easily knock them down.

On top of what Racialicious has brought up as the issues with Wanda's arguments (the mutants do have a shared history, etc), I wanted to add some of my thoughts of why I think this entire argument of "don't see differences and there will be no problems" that Remender's posited (starting from Havok, continuing through Wanda) is ridiculous and problematic.

To me I see at least 3 major issues that Mutants face (there may be more, but I want to just address these 3 for now): 

1) Accessibility issues.  This one I don't think gets talked about enough when people talk about Mutants as an allegory for discrimination in society.  People talk about them as an allegory for race, and an allegory for queer acceptance, but Mutants aren't just having trouble fitting into society because they look different, or that they have powers.  Many of them have physical or mental differences that prevent them from easily being able to access and live in society.  Without his ruby glasses, Cyclops can't open his eyes without blasting a hole through everything constantly.  If he didn't have a wealthy benefactor in Xavier to begin with, he probably would have to live his entire life with his eyes closed.  How does Havok's "don't see differences" philosophy help him, or others in his situation?  How does a society that embraces his philosophy help Cyclops?  Is it his job to close his eyes and pretend to fit in, or does he need to have the wealth and means to buy ruby glasses to keep out of the way of others?  Will society help mutants who shoot beams out of their eyes, or who emit acid from their hands with their accessibility needs and fund what equipment they might need to live their lives?  Or will it just be up to them to keep their differences out of sight?

Or what about Rogue?  It's especially pressing because she's the one talking to Scarlet Witch.  Rogue isn't like Wanda, she isn't just a regular human with some added nifty powers.  She can't touch people without killing them.  She can't shake hands, she can't kiss people, she can't ever experience intimacy.  Her mutancy alters the way she experiences society and her ability to interact with society.  She can't close her eyes and pretend this doesn't exist.  It's a real thing she has to constantly be concerned about and it affects what she can do, and how she dresses.  How does a "see no differences" society accept her, and accommodate her?  Would such a society leave people like her jobless because it's just easier to hire somebody who can shake hands with clients without a glove, or who you don't have to worry might accidentally kill a co-worker or customer?  If we're just treating people "like people", then the "I'm just choosing the best qualified person who causes the least trouble for my company" argument can easily be used to just ignore mutants with abilities like Rogue.  Society is designed around non-powered people, and that includes the clothes we wear for work.  Will a "no differences" society obligate companies to alter their dress codes to accommodate Mutants who need to wear or not wear certain things to work there, or would the Mutants who can't fit in just be SOL?

And what about issues like housing, or shelter?  Would she be able to find any place to live or stay if people are worried about her accidentally sucking the life out of her housemates, or being a danger to people in a shelter?  Would any shelters even allow her in?  Would she be allowed into communal showers or dressing rooms because of fear that she might harm other patrons?

In the Marvel world, it's easy to ignore these as issues because Rogue and Cyclops are superheroes and they don't have to worry about employment, or housing, but if Remender wants us to think of this issue beyond just "superheroes in tights", you can't just pretend that these things wouldn't happen, and aren't an issue for Mutants trying to live their day to day lives.  And they DO happen, in real life, all the time, to those who have to deal with issues regarding access such as people with disabilities and trans people.  Accessibility barriers are real, and can seriously impinge on a person's quality of life, ability to get and keep employment, ability to be housed, and ability to get around in life.  Society is designed around abled people and cis people, and that design means disabled people and trans people are often at a severe disadvantage in being able to interact and live in society.  You can't just pretend you don't see it, and it goes away.

This also adds another fucked up layer to Wasp's Mutant fashion line: it's not just appropriation in a racial sense, but it's appropriating outfits and apparel that Mutants NEED to wear to live their lives.  It's a fun thing for some kid to wear Rogue's gloves or Cyclop's visor, but those things aren't just affectations to those characters, they're things they need to wear to interact with society the way non-powered humans take for granted every day.

2) Discrimination on appearance.  This one's been talked about quite a bit, so I think I'll try to keep it brief.  Characters like Beast or Nightcrawler can't just claim "I'm human, stop seeing my powers" because it's not necessarily about their powers when it comes to people's prejudice against them.  They don't look the same as the "default" accepted idea of how people should look.  They aren't the privileged group visually, and that's not something you can close your eyes and ignore either.  It's easy for Havok or Scarlet Witch to pass as human, but other characters can't.  It's a lot easier for people to "not see differences" when the differences are something they can more easily pretend don't exist.  History has shown again and again that "race blindness" just leads to people defaulting to the "norm".  By telling people that differences don't matter, you encourage people to not challenge their own biases, just merely "not thinking about them", and that always benefits the privileged group, because they're centered in society.

And even beyond just physical appearance, do Mutants have to try to "act human" too?  Does Beast have to shave constantly and wear clothes to get a job?  Does Nightcrawler have to hide his feet and hands?  Will he be kept in the back of a diner to not "scare" the customers?  Beast has a different posture than what's accepted as "human", does he have to change that, or downplay that?  Some mutants are more comfortable moving or acting in a certain way due to their mutancy (Nightcrawler perches a lot), is that something that people will understand, or again, something they'd have to change to downplay their differences, and stop "shoving it in people's faces"?

I could continue, but the comparisons to racism, homophobia, transphobia, and cultural/religious discrimination have been made before, and I presume most people "get" how some issues Mutants face are allegories to the above.  But these are real life issues that affect real life people, and "being color blind" only exacerbates them because it often ignores that people can't turn off their biases, and more than that, often is used to discriminate against people by claiming that they are "shoving it in our faces" if they act or look in a way that isn't minimizing their "differences".

Also, do non-white Mutants not exist or something?  How about instead of having a bunch of white Mutants talk about how being a Mutant relates to race, we have some non-white Mutants chime in with their perspective?  I'm sure more than a few understand the relationship between the discrimination they face as Mutants and what they face as people of colour, and they can tell Havok and Scarlet Witch just how effective "don't see race" has been in their lives.

3) Mutants as threats.  So this is the part that does affect people like Havok and Scarlet Witch.  Because Mutants actually DO have powers.  And this is where they differ from a straight comparison to real life, because real life marginalized groups don't have super powers that put them on a completely different level than other groups (and generally in our society, the physically/militarily/economically superior group is the dominant, privileged one).  People may THINK a marginalized group is a threat, but they're not actually one.  Black people may be seen as more dangerous, but they can't wave their hands and wipe out a town.  Some mutants can.  And it, again, can't just be handwaved away by "pretend everybody's the same."  How DOES society deal with the reality of some people being "one man armies"?  How does society deal with the possibility of people like Magneto?  You can limit people's access to weapons, but not to themselves.  What if somebody with the power to shoot fireballs feels like blowing up a school?  What about telepaths who want to use their powers to manipulate others, or rape others?  How does the legal system cover "consent" with a telepath, or somebody who emits phermones?  This is a case of Marvel writers wanting to make a direct analogy to racism, or other real life discrimination, but ignoring that real life marginalized groups don't have super powers that can be used to destructive consequences. If Remender wants me to think of the Marvel Earth as a serious actual real world with real life concerns, the above aren't issues that that world can just ignore because "let's just not see differences!"

However, since "marginalized groups as threats" IS a narrative that is used to discriminate in society, we can adapt certain things about the fear of Mutants and their powers into real life.  Does a Mutant with depression get treated as an automatic threat?  Do we fear that a depressed teen Mutant might kill all their schoolmates with energy beams?  Do they have to be locked up then?  Are they going to be forced treatment for their depression?  These are issues and stigma that people with mental illnesses already face in real life.  "Not seeing differences" again tends to mean "treating everybody from the baseline of the "norm" or default" and that means that people who aren't neurotypical get treated as if they're necessarily threats, or dangerous, or must be locked up, or forcibly medicated.

As well, people who are HIV+ face similar discrimination as "threats", and are feared, treated more harshly by the law, and excluded in many situations.  They ARE treated as if their very existence is a potential weapon.  But their condition, and their ability to access treatment and medical care are also very real.  How does "see no differences" help them?  You can't handwave their disease away, but that doesn't mean that acknowledging their condition means that they must be treated as pariahs, or threats, or potential killers.

And we just dealt with the Trayvon Martin double tragedy (what happened + the verdict).  How would "stand your ground" apply in the Marvel world?  Can you imagine the number of mutants that would be murdered because somebody feared they would fireball them?  "Sure, he was just walking towards me, but I know he can shoot eyebeams, I had to shoot first!"   And again, I'm just talking about how this would work in the Marvel world.  In real life black people don't actually have powers, but our society constructs black people to be seen as physically more aggressive, powerful, and dangerous, and people's prejudices based on this can't just be ignored.  You can tell them not to see the color of a black person's skin, and they'll just justify their discrimination based on (perceived) physicality, and claim it's not racism.

Marvel society couldn't just pretend that Mutants don't actually have powers, or accessibility needs, or physical differences, because it's an actual real physical reality in that world. Mutants deal with all three issues above, often in various intersectional combinations.  All Havok's pretty speech would do is have society pretend that their own fears and discrimination of those differences don't matter or exist, rather than address how to accept and co-exist with those who ARE different than them.

And in a much more real way, it's telling the readers that in the REAL world, where people don't even HAVE powers, that all we need to do is to close our eyes and discrimination will go away.  That the only problem is people seeing differences, rather than that those of us who are "different" live in a society not designed for us, whether that's the medical system, the legal system, the architecture around us, dress codes, hiring practices, or just the narratives and thought processes that people grow up being taught about us.  THOSE are the real problems that need addressing, and they need REAL solutions, not fantasy close your eyes and it goes away platitudes.  Differences are real, and they matter.  They only don't matter to those who society sees as "normal" and has built itself around.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

So wait, white people "flee" a suburb because too many PoCs are moving in and WE'RE the ones "isolating" ourselves?

So a suburb in the Greater Toronto Area is now majority non-white and it's freak out time of course.

What I love is that this story is about white people leaving Brampton because South Asians are moving in, but the article is about how South Asian people need to "integrate" and not "isolate".  Um, but WHITE PEOPLE ARE THE ONES LEAVING?  Clearly they're the ones who don't want to "integrate" and are "isolating" themselves.  Except, of course, that from a "white as default" lens, where white people should be the majority population of any non-poor area, and PoCs should be there just to spice things up, it's framed as white people being chased out, and South Asians isolating themselves by... existing.

Like, there's never societal angst that majority white neighbourhoods are white people not "integrating" with Canadian/American society, or creating "ethnic enclaves" or "ghettos".  But if you have a non-white population be the majority, then it's OMG ISOLATING, ENCLAVES, NOT INTEGRATING, blah blah blah. -_-  Unless, it's a poor neighbourhood, that's okay, because that's also part of the "order of things" in a white privileged society.  And it means that those PoC don't have as much power.  Nobody complains about Chinatown in Toronto, but there's a lot of complaints about Markham, while both are majority Chinese, because Chinatown is in the city, seen as a tourist destination (i.e. the PoCs exist for white people and spices up the city), and is lower income, while Markham is a fairly affluent suburb, where Chinese people have quite a lot of say in what happens in the city.  And that's not the "way of things" to white Canada.

This BS reminds me of my high school which was about 30-40% Chinese and there was angst that the Chinese population didn't "integrate" and we hung around each other a lot.  Nobody of course saw it as white people hanging around THEMSELVES, because white is default and white people hanging around each other is normal.  White people sit together at lunch, that's normal, Asian people sit together at lunch instead of spreading themselves out so we're a minority at every white-majority table?  That's ghettoizing ourselves, that's not integrating, that's blah blah blah.  Every social group must look like an American TV show where it's 5 white ppl and 1 or 2 token PoCs, or there's a problem

There was even an article in the student newspaper that "called out" the Chinese students for "not integrating" and that we spoke in Cantonese too often and white people couldn't eavesdrop which makes white people paranoid, so it's... our fault.  Eavesdropping is rude.  You presumably don't feel the need to hear every single conversation in English in the school, and you don't get paranoid they're all talking about you (and the funny part is you don't need to speak in another language to gossip about ppl, we ALL know that), so why suddenly with us?  And the article also claimed we needed to be more "Canadian" and learn about hockey and cottage-living.  Yes, apparently cottage-living is a Canadian thing and if you don't do it, you're not Canadian.  I'm pretty sure the majority of Canadians don't own cottages, we should probably deport everybody. e_e

But what this ultimately comes down to, I think, is white people feeling like they're losing control.  Whether it's not being able to understand a conversation that has nothing to do with them, or a non-white group making up the majority of a non-poor community, or malls and restaurants that exist for the community and not as "tourist attractions", it's all about feeling as if their dominance and being in control is slipping away.  They want to spread PoCs around so that we're always a minority in every community and thus white people never have to worry about a situation where they have to feel not the "default".  Consciously or subconsciously, it makes white society uncomfortable when there's a situation where they feel that PoC don't exist for them, but for ourselves, and we are main characters in our stories and not just token friends in theirs or "ethnic" communities for a "very special episode".

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

If you can believe Superman can be assaulted,then maybe you can believe the non-powered people you meet IRL

This is a single panel comic (warning for possible rape triggers) created by York University students Jane Kim, Shayna Lauer, Helén Marton to raise awareness about sexual assault and combat victim blaming.

Article from the Toronto Star about it here.

This sounds like a good campaign, and taking a different tactic to raising awareness and getting people’s attention, hopefully people get the message and don’t just laugh it off.

Using Superman, I think, is also really powerful, because (besides the use of him in tights to send the message about clothing) it shows that no matter how physically powerful you are, or if you’re a man,  you can still be assaulted.  The clothing message is the obvious one, but by using a powerful superhero icon, there’s also the messages about not victim blaming people by speculating on if they could have fought back, or inventing ways of how they could have fought back (and therefore should have) or “but you’re so much bigger than them”, etc…

If we can believe Superman can be assaulted, then maybe we can believe the non-powered people we meet IRL when they say so.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The solution to internalized transphobia in the trans community is not more transphobia

This is a post based on a series of Tweets I made about an hour ago which are surprisingly popular.

You know what I'm sick of?  White, otherwise privileged trans people acting as if in-group policing is a trans only thing, or that it's worst or worse within the trans community.  Besides that it's being said from a place of privilege where you have no clue about policing in other communities (disability, non-white, etc), it also erases the experiences of those of us who are trans AND have identities that intersect with other groups.  For example, as a Chinese Canadian trans woman, I get policed about whether I'm Chinese enough, too Chinese, not Canadian enough, too "Canadianized", and that's on top of in-group policing I get as a trans woman (and body policing as a woman, and whether I'm disordered enough to count as having an eating disorder, etc etc etc).  By claiming that trans in-group policing is "the worst" or acting as if it's a unique thing to the trans community, you're not just being dismissive of the experiences of other marginalized people, but you're being dismissive of those of us trans people who intersect with other marginalized groups, all of which have their own toxic forms of in-group policing.

SECONDLY, I'm also sick of this attitude being pinned specifically on trans WOMEN, that trans women more so than any other group are the worst at in-group policing.  There's a lot of misogyny in that attitude, and a lot of seeing women's actions as "cattier", more vicious, etc than men's, combined with the trans misogynist narratives of trans women being more dangerous, and obsessed with stereotypical femininity.

Thirdly, if you're not a trans woman, you ESPECIALLY don't get to talk about how in-group policing is especially bad, or "worse"/"worst" among trans women.  There ARE important discussions to be had within communities about behaviour and treatment of people within that community, and a good ally knows it's about the members who are being treated badly, a bad ally (or a giant jerkface) makes it about the group, makes generalizations, and broadcasts a stereotype to the world.  These discussions are about us, they're meant to help us, and you do not get to co-opt them to use against the trans community.

And finally, I've seen "nobody hates trans people more than other trans people" bandied about in these kinds of discussions too, or words of that vein.  Again.  WTF.  Yes.  Nobody hates trans people more than trans people, except TERFs, and MRAs, and evangelicals, and the WHOLE FUCKING SOCIETY.  Yes, there's in-group policing.  Yes, it sucks.  Yes, I've gotten trans women telling me unsolicited how I should act, what I should wear, and that I need to "fix" my voice.  Yes, I've experienced trans people policing who counts as trans, and who doesn't.  And yes, that should be criticized.  But the shit above, is just more transphobia, it's no better than the internalized transphobia of the self-policers.  The attitudes of those self policers come from the transphobia, the transmisogyny, the gender essentalism, and the ciscentricism of cis society, they did not spring from a vacuum in the trans community.  And the whole narrative is just playing into more transphobia: "look at those messed up trans people, they can't even stand each other!"

Yes we have our own s- to sort out.  But that doesn't mean that trans people are the "worst", because not only does in-group policing happen in other spaces, a lot of us trans people ARE IN THOSE OTHER SPACES TOO.  We experience that policing as well as trans in-group policing, and you don't get to tell us that one is worse than the other.  Nor should intra-community dialogue be co-opted to play into transphobic and transmisogynist narratives.  The solution to internalized transphobia in the trans community is not to be even more disrespectful to other trans people.

Monday, April 29, 2013

When you're on a pedestal you can only go where others put you.

So, a female reporter got a rather jerky and possibly sexist response from an NHL player while interviewing him.  It really wasn't a big deal, since she shrugged it off, and reporters get "you've never played the game before!" from jerk players sometimes.  Of course, Don Cherry (everybody's favourite bigot) decides to rant about how women shouldn't be allowed in the dressing room.  This opens up a whole bunch of stuff I want to rant about that's been sort of building up for me.

Let's start with number 1: How hard it is to correct people's ignorance of a topic when the narrative has already taken off.  Once Cherry said: "WHY AREN'T MEN ALLOWED IN WOMEN'S ROOMS THEN!?"  The narrative has been set.  Men aren't allowed in women's dressing rooms.

Ron MacLean said they should be, but it's like falling into the "When did you stop beating your wife?" trap, because the actual answer should be "They already are."  Male reporters are in women's dressing rooms all the time.  Given that they're a large majority of sports reporters in Canada and America, how did people think people got locker room quotes from female athletes otherwise?  Oh right.  They never thought about female athletes at ALL until this came up and they automatically assumed they knew what was going on and society must have a double standard.

If they were paying attention, they'd have noticed this was already settled the last time it was an issue.  Dan Shulman of ESPN talked about this on the Toronto sports radio program "Prime Time Sports" back when the Ines Sainz controversy happened (Mexican reporter got sexually harassed by NY Jets players, got blamed for being too sexy, debate was about slutty Mexican women and if women reporters should be allowed male athletes.) He talked about how he had been in women's dressing rooms as part of his job, and that the women understood this was probably a bit weird for him too, everybody was professional about it, and understood it was part of his job. It wasn't a big deal, and he didn't think it was. These are just men and women doing their job.

But because Don Cherry, in his ignorance, already started the ball rolling, it can't be stopped. The comments of the National Post article about this is ALL "DOUBLE STANDARD!" and "WOMEN SHOULDN'T BE IN MEN'S DRESSING ROOMS, WE WOULDN'T LET MEN IN WOMEN'S!" and "HOW COME WE DON'T LET MALE REPORTERS IN WOMEN'S ROOMS HUH!?" and on and on. I've tried to correct as many as I could in the National Post comments, but I just don't have the energy to, and I get downvoted anyway because people want to believe what they want to believe. -_-

And then I got "BUT THE WOMEN AREN'T NAKED."  Well, most of them aren't, no, because they choose not to take off their tops while being interviewed.  But that's their choice.  Putting aside the double standard society has about topless women vs. topless men (and that topless men do not feel as exposed as topless women due to socialization under this double standard), men don't have to be naked while being interviewed either.  They can also cover up until the reporters are gone, much like many women do.  And also, many men aren't naked when being interviewed, and nobody yells at them to get naked, or take off their shirt.

Gee, wonder why.  Could it be that IT IS NOT ABOUT PEOPLE BEING NAKED!?  It's about getting a quote from athletes and writing up your article before your deadline.  There isn't some conspiracy to make men naked while women aren't (again, it's a choice, but I saw some people respond to being pointed out that they're wrong by claiming "but the women cover up!")  Looking at naked people is not the point of locker room scrums, it's to get a quote from the player that you can put in your story, or on the evening sports wrap-up shows.

And FFS people. GROW UP. It's a JOB. People are tired, on a deadline, and trying to get a stupid boilerplate "we just need to give it 110%" quote to put in their stories. Sports reporters have to travel a lot, have little time (especially in this new media age) to get a story together and put it up after a game, and they really don't enjoy having to wait in scrums to get an interview with a player who won't say anything interesting. They are not in the locker room to ogle players, assault players, or anything else. They're there to DO A JOB, and it's probably as uncomfortable for them to be around naked people (of ANY gender) as the players.

While I get that Don Cherry felt uncomfortable when he played and a female reporter was in the dressing room, first, he could have kept a shirt or pants or towel on, like the WNBA players do, and secondly, that was 40 years ago. Male athletes are pretty much never interviewed naked now.  This isn't like the old days where it's just a shower & some stalls.   Modern locker rooms have a separate area for the players to change and they only are in the public area to talk to reporters.  Some just avoid reporters altogether by not going into the public area.  Most are clothed or at least have pants on.  The Ottawa Senators have their scrums in their exercise room, which is why you always see the players on bikes during interviews.  So the whole thing is even a non-issue, and a lot of the commenters making an issue have no clue what a modern dressing room looks like.

The other option would be to just bar all reporters from locker rooms, period.  Which I'm fine with too, because personally, I find athlete quotes to be pretty boring.  They rarely say anything interesting, and I'm sure a lot of reporters would be pretty happy too.  I doubt reporters or athletes enjoy doing interviews in locker rooms (or interviews period).  But it's their job, both the reporter to get the quotes, and athletes to do an interview.  It's part of what they have to do professionally.  And it's not the reporters choice,  its the fans, viewers, readers, editors, and producers that have decided this is something that people want, and that it is something the reporters have to do, and it's something the league's allow (for both men and women, in case people missed it the first time.)  And, as I said, the locker rooms are now designed around this as the reality.

But of course this is not what any of this is about to these commenters.  This wasn't even an issue about a woman interviewing a naked man.   The comments are really about restricting women.  Because, guess what?  The people hurt most if you banned men from the women's locker rooms and vice versa, would be women in the sports journalism and media industries.  They'd have a disadvantage over their male colleagues, because society cares more about male athletes, male sports leagues, male accomplishments, and that's where the money is, that's where the jobs are.  And there'd be a lot less jobs for female reporters because they'd be not able to get the quotes that their male colleagues could do.  Which somehow, always seems to be the result of people wanting to "protect" women.

It's so typical.  This is how society reacts whenever a woman faces sexism, harassment, or assault.  It's "should women be doing XYZ?"  If a female reporter gets harassed, it's "should women be allowed in the dressing room?"  If there's workplace harassment, or discrimination, it's "should women be in the workplace?" "Should women be wearing mini-skirts?" "Should women be out at night alone?" "Should women be flirting with men like that?" "Should women be drinking so much?"  It's ALWAYS about restricting women in some way.  Rather than "should male athletes be more professional?" it's "should women be allowed in the men's locker room?"

And yes, it puts down men too, because it says men can't control themselves, men are crude, men are animals, men are dangerous, etc etc etc.  Don Cherry did the same thing in his rant "I think women are better than men."  So much "better" that he's advocating for not allowing women to do their freaking jobs.  So much "better", that it's our behaviour that needs to be talked about, not men's.

Stuff like this is the corollary to "benevolent sexism": privileged self-deprecation.  That's when the dominant group in society puts themselves down, often to their own benefit, or to make things appear to be "equal".  So "men are animals" when it comes to harassment, so we have to limit what women are able to do, and what jobs they can do, to "protect" them.  "White people aren't as smart as Asian people, or as strong as Black people" is the same way.  Of course, this is used so when you discriminate against Asian people in sports, you can say "Oh, but you're really smart!  We're not as smart as you!  That's just genetics!" or discriminate against black people in academics "but you're physically stronger!"  Convenient.  And, of course, this doesn't stop white people or men from being judged by their accomplishments when it suits them.  It's the privileged group in society that creates the narrative, and sometimes they create a narrative about themselves that would be negative in a vacuum in order to make excuses for their behavior.  (I'd prefer it if NOBODY put anybody down, so that's not saying men or white people should be happy with being put down, or that it can't have unintended consequences in specific instances, but these things aren't happening in a vacuum, and it's important to note who is creating the narratives in our society, and how they're used.)

Going back to this specific example, Don Cherry is putting himself down, in order to get what he wants: removing female journalists from male locker rooms.  He's not hurt by doing this at all, nor are the male athletes. Their lives and jobs won't be changed by banning women from the dressing room.   The women in sports journalism, will be.  So he can put himself and male athletes down all he wants, because ultimately it doesn't hurt them, it hurts women in the industry.

It's is such a false choice too.  Either women are fragile porcelain dolls or men are uncontrollable animals.  It implies that no matter what, men's behaviour just is, and either women are too sensitive to it, or men's behaviour is beastial, but can't be helped.  Sometimes women's "sensitivities" are framed as a bad thing and therefore we are told we aren't suited for certain jobs, sometimes they're framed as a good thing, but we still can't do what we want because men are animals.  Either way, it presents a narrative that keeps women restricted.  How about they're both human beings and it's perfectly reasonable for a human being to not want to be harassed?   And in this case, it wasn't even a big deal.  Don Cherry was trying to make it an issue in order to harp on women in the dressing rooms.

It's just so frustrating and annoying on multiple levels that there are all these excuses made and false information spread just because some woman was trying to do her job, and an athlete was a jerk to her.  But because of her gender, it must be a huge deal, and people are not just questioning whether SHE should be allowed to do her job, but if ANY woman should be.  Don Cherry says he puts women on a "pedestal".  Well f- that.  I'd rather walk, thanks.  When you're on a pedestal, you can only go where others put you.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Using Halo to teach kids about intersectional oppression. Same game, different difficulty level.

This is a really cool post about using Halo to teach kids about intersectional oppression, and how you can be playing the same game but with different difficulty modifiers on, and it makes it harder for you to complete it compared to others without those modifiers, even if you're a better player.  The teachers based this off of John Scalzi's piece about how privilege is like playing at an easier difficulty level.

I think they did a good job getting the point across, and that while EVERYBODY still has to play the game, so obviously nobody can just coast to the end, it's a lot easier when you have less going against you. I especially liked the part where the teacher (purposefully) asked the ones who were having a hard time on the higher difficulty level why they weren't doing as well as somebody playing it on an easier one.

This is with a class that was open to the idea, of course. I wonder, with a class with more people hostile to the idea, could doing it without telling them what's going on, get the point through to them? I mean if you had a bunch of cis straight middle class men who didn't believe in privilege who were struggling through the higher difficulty and then kept berating them for not getting through it as fast as somebody else, and then at some point they'd complain that it's not equal, and then you can throw a "stop playing the victim, everybody is playing the same game, just work harder" at them and maybe they'd get it.

It's a really good way to get the point across though, because everybody still has to play and put in effort and learn the game to play it, so it's not easy for anybody, but it's EASIER for some, and harder for others.  This is the fallacy that privilege-denying people get into, because they remember their experiences and struggles, and go "well I worked at it, and if you're having trouble, you must not be putting in the effort I did, because it wasn't easy for me either!", and it's probably true, it wasn't easy for them, but it's even more difficult for others. Everybody's playing the same game, but not everybody's playing at the same difficulty level.

Don't look into the Palantir.


I think reading too much MRA stuff/arguing with MRAs is like looking into a Palantir. Sauron can't lie with it, but he can show you selective truths to slowly bend you to his will, corrupt you to see reality as he wants you to see it. MRAs do that AND lie. Even if you disagree with them, it gets into your head. You win the game by not playing. Do what you believe is right, don't change what you would have done because you're worried it "proves them right" or do something because you have to prove that you're not a misandrist, or whatever. Either way, they win, because they've succeeded in bending you to their narrative and their world, either reacting against it, or compromising towards it. Their world isn't true, it's selective, it's false, like the images Sauron fed to Denethor and Saruman in the Palantir. Trust in YOUR world, what YOU know, and that you are a good person. There are real activists out there who fight for prisoner's rights, against child abuse, against rape and abuse of all people, and for rights of parents in court. Listen to them. Don't look into the Palantir.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Internet cult of personalities, and the real people who are hurt when they're misused


The cult of personality some people can build online is frightening. And that when you have one, everything you say is gold to them, and all you get is how smart and brilliant and thoughtful you are no matter what, and all of your rage is always justified no matter what, and if people say otherwise, your followers will jump on them. "Righteous anger" seems to be a big part of this. And using that righteous anger against people with a smaller platform than yours. Blasting away at a person on tumblr knowing that you're going to get hundreds of your followers joining in and saying how smart you are, or that will jump to your defense on Twitter.  And losing the awareness of what you're doing, and doubling or tripling down to play to your audience when you realize you're wrong instead of apologizing, or asking people to stop fighting for you. 

I've always been really scared of this happening with me, because I don't want to be one of those people who gets used to everything I say being gold, who gets used to having hundreds of people jump on anybody who disagrees with me, therefore not having to deal with the emotional impact it otherwise might have on me. And it would also really really unnerve me.

It reminds me of the B-plot of the TNG episode "The Outrageous Okona" where Data is trying to learn humour from Joe Piscopo on the holodeck, and at the end he's telling jokes and everybody is laughing in the audience, and he realizes that it doesn't matter what he says, they still laugh as if they're hearing the funniest joke ever.

That's how it seems to me whenever I see it in action, that it doesn't matter what the person at the center of that cult of personality does or says, it's gold, it's brilliant, if it's social justice related, they're like a great feminist or whatever, and their personal whims and tastes can be framed as social justice and people will eat it up. And being factually wrong, or having misread something doesn't deter them or their followers, and at some point it seems as if they are deliberately trying to engender more loyalty from their followers, to make an example of people who disagree with them, and to come up with new rage for their followers to glom over.

I get scared of this a lot because of how much Escher Girls has grown and how hard I try to make sure I'm not using it to attack somebody who is personally annoying me, that I avoid making it all about myself, etc. Like, in that, I don't want it to be about me, and having it become my platform where whatever I say is eaten up, or I'm the definitive decider of XYZ.

It's also why I have a "no amateur art" policy, and my comment guidelines includes not trashing artists' personally beyond criticizing their art style or choices. I don't want it to become a place where people bully others, and I also think sometimes that's meant I have sacrificed some personal popularity in doing it, and sacrificed people having the same loyalty to EG that they have for other sites, because I don't want to be that lightning rod of anger that writes giant big rants and gets applause because I'm picking on some person smaller than me. It seems like a very effective way to get popular on the internet though, I'm noticing.

Often, I worry I'm doing feminism wrong, or internet e-fame wrong. I mean, I do occasionally wish I was more popular sometimes. I do sometimes feel bad about myself that other people get all the "YES THIS" and other people get the "this person is so brilliant" and I get sort of ignored because half the time, nobody even knows I run Escher Girls. But then I also know I don't really want the kind of fame where every one of my tweets gets RT'ed if it even remotely sounds smart, that every conflict I get into is always going to have me looking the best to my followers, and that I start losing myself in that, as I've seen other people. And start using that to get rid of ANYBODY who upsets or aggravates me online just because I get so used to having an easy mechanism to get rid of the stress of being in an argument or disagreement online, and forgetting how big a platform I have.  I think there is some responsibility to having a large internet platform with active followers willing to defend you, attack for you, etc... you can't just hide behind "I can't control what others do", because, while you can't, you CAN speak out against it, and you can be aware of what you say what you post and how your audience is likely to react to it.

This isn't really about me and Escher Girls though, even though I have a lot of self-esteem issues related to that, it's about the cult of personalities and how scary it is when you see one of them in action bullying somebody when the star person is clearly in the wrong, but their followers just don't care at all, and keep telling them how smart and brilliant and progressive they are, and how their anger is this purifying fire.

Recently it happened to a friend of mine, and I feel responsible for it because it's my reblog of her that got her all this attention.  I wanted to share her post because it spoke to me (and it spoke to pretty much everybody else that read my post from my viewing), and I wanted to share it with others.  But my reblog of hers was ignored in what happened.  And the problem is, while her post by itself was part of a larger conversation about female characters on her blog, my post WAS meant for public consumption and clearly articulated what she was trying to say in her post, and gave the context.  A popular webcomic creator reblogged just her post (without mine) and raged at her.  They completely misread her post, and it led to a giant huge massive pile on that's had my friend feeling really vulnerable and hurt.  People calling her a misogynist, misgendering her on the assumption she must be male to be as terrible as they think she is, and etc...

What's worse is I don't think a lot of people even read her post, they just keyed onto the anger of this person because they are seen as a smart and famous feminist person who must be on target if they're that angry at somebody.  Some reblogs even specifically said that they didn't even need to read the post to know this is an awful person, which is an excellent way to go living life.  It's like the Simpsons: "I'm not signing anything until I read it or somebody gives me the gist of it."

My friend's trying her best to take the high road, but it's hard, especially with everybody acting like she doesn't exist in the reblogs, like they can't talk to her, or ask her to clarify, and people not reblogging her clarifications because they'd rather the narrative set by the famousy person.  They're trashing her as if she can't see it, as if they can't just open a dialogue with her and go "okay, what specifically were you talking about" and they're SERIOUSLY strawmanning her instead of responding to what she was specifically saying in her post.  And this famous person is sitting back and letting it happen, in fact they're doubling and tripling down with more posts attacking what my friend didn't say.  And given that they're ignoring the people pointing out they misread the post, and eating up the "YEAH YOU SHOW THEM" and "YOU ARE THE SMARTEST" and etc other things on Twitter, it's clear that no amount of reason is going to work.  They're deliberately choosing to continue the narrative they created and ignoring the people who try to point out the clarifications.

And it's just frustrating.  My friend is upset, and I feel helpless because I feel responsible for this.  I already clarified on EG, I already posted in a follow-up her clarification posts, so I know I've done all I'm comfortable with doing on EG, with that platform.  But it just really angers me.  It angers me how lost in the cult of personality people are, how it doesn't matter what that person says or what my friend actually says, the audience will clap and cheer for the good guy and hate whoever they're fighting.  Like it's wrestling.  Cheer the Rock, boo whoever the Rock makes fun of.  (I haven't watched wrestling in years.  If the Rock is currently a heel, substitute whoever is the popular face who makes fun of people.)

And in the meantime, an actual real person in my friend is being bullied, trashed, derided and feeling angry, frustrated and upset because this person has decided she's a bad person who deserves to have the weight of her platform crush her, and their followers have more than eagerly dove right in.