Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More on the sexual harassment and misogyny at Cross Assault

Penny Arcade provides another report on the
Cross Assault sexual harassment issue
which provides some even more disturbing details:

Then Miranda forfeited a match

“…Things got a little more heated than usual when one player, Miranda ‘Super Yan’ Pakozdi, forfeited a match,” Destructoid reported. “The decision to throw the game caused a dispute as to whether or not forfeiting players would be kicked off the show, and how team points should be awarded. However, the thing that really got people talking was Pakozdi’s claims of mistreatment by notorious bearded gentleman, Aris Bakhtanians. Ostensibly, he made lewd comments about her and wouldn’t let up.” Destructoid also provided a video that’s hard to watch in places.

It’s important to point out that video comes from the first day of the competition. The stream where Aris defends and encourages the harassment of female players takes place on day five. That means this woman may have been mocked and sexually harassed for days without anyone stepping in, stopping the situation, or speaking to Aris. At one point during the stream there is even a conversation about the “Cap cops” coming in to shut things down, but the conversation about sexual harassment continues.

The fighting game community has been split on this issue, with some saying that this behavior is a part of the culture, and others attacking Aris and his preternatural ability to make the fighting game community look bad in the eyes of the general public.

“For Aris and a lot of other people (mostly guys, but it can include women, too), the fighting game scene is a chance for them to relax and be themselves, away from an insane, politically correct culture,” a member of the Shoryuken forum wrote. “For some guys, being themselves means making mildly lecherous comments or racial jokes. Now, a bunch of idiots are conflating and exaggerating this with actually being racist or sexist. That’s supremely fucking stupid, because they’re not even close to the same.”

The comments go and on, and very few make for enlightening reading. “I bet money that Miranda wouldn’t have been so offended if Aris was better looking, that is the sad part,” another member wrote, and I’m not even sure who to pity after reading that post: Aris, Pakozdi, or the person who decided that thought should be shared with the world.

I've also read elsewhere that if you watch her matches leading to when she forfeited, it looks as if she just stopped caring because of how toxic the playing environment had become. :\ That's really really awful and I feel so bad for her :(

I know some people will try to defend this as gamesmanship or "trash talking", but a) as I pointed out last post, even professional sports have put limits on trash talking and that includes attacking oppressed groups and using slurs and b) this isn't trash talking, it's harassment... in the video he keeps going into her personal space and c) there's nothing she could say to him that would have the same effect outside of using racial slurs, or homophobic ones, or etc... and is that really what we "trash talking" should be now? If somebody talks about raping me, I should either take it or try to hurt them back in the same level? -_- Trash talking is saying my strategy sucks, it isn't "rape that bitch" or using slurs.

And as PA points out, she's been harassed from day one, no wonder she forfeits by day 5. 5 straight days of (probably ever increasing) sexual harassment with nobody seemingly willing to stop it... it's not just 5 days of it, it's the idea that if she keeps playing, she'll be subjected to it continuously until the show finally ends. I think a LOT of people would quit in that environment, it's not just nonstop, you don't feel like it'll EVER stop and see only more harassment in the days to come. That's frightening and awful! ;-;

And then there's the comments. Video games are where people can be themselves. As long as you're a bigoted cis straight male asshole. Apparently if you're not of that group, then you can't be yourself otherwise you get slurred and threatened and harassed all day long. -_- Also, you can STOP being a bigot. You don't HAVE to say bigoted things (you can think whatever you want), I can't STOP being female, or STOP being trans, or STOP being Asian! >:| I'M the one BEING myself, Aris and his defenders are the ones choosing to be an asshole.

And that last comment just... sexual harassment is sexual harassment. It has nothing to do with how attractive he is! >_< Who knows? Maybe if he wore a nice hat, or was a cuddly cute SDed panda or something, she'd be okay with it too. Rather than speculate on what ifs as if this is HER fault somehow, how about this: DON'T SEXUALLY HARASS PEOPLE! It's like complaining that you were arrested for theft and saying that in some other circumstance the person would have been okay with you "borrowing" their car. That's irrelevant.

If she's okay with sexual harassment it's her choice, but it doesn't mean what you did wasn't sexual harassment, it just means she's okay with it and you got lucky.

Bottomline: DON'T FUCKING SEXUALLY HARASS PEOPLE!

The ending pains me to read, just how exhausted she must have been :( This s- is so awful and it saddens me to read that it's split 50/50 with people defending him and criticizing him :( I know video game culture is misogynist and heavily a boys club but... you assholes just sexually harassed and bullied (or defended/enabled sexual harassment and bullying) a female gamer into giving up being part of something she wanted to do and liked doing... I hope you're proud of yourselves.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cross Assault participant says that without sexual harassment of female players, fighting games aren't fighting games

"This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community"

Well that's disgusting -_- (Also that people actually change "RAPE THAT BITCH" during tournaments >_< ) For some background, this is apparently some video game contest reality show and this is one of the contestants when challenged on the fact that he kept making sexist remarks.
Rea: You know what it is, to be honest with you? We’re getting older. Do you really want to keep hanging around with a bunch of [guys in their] early 20s who don’t know how to treat one another with respect? That’s what it is.

Bakhtanians: Alright, man. The thing is...if you don’t like the scene, how it is right now, it just seems like you’re trying to create...turn it into something that it’s not, and it’s never going to be. You know what I mean?

Rea: That’s really unfortunate [inaudible]...the way it is right now, they want to enjoy fighting games, but they’re so incredibly turned off by [the language].

Bakhtanians: This doesn’t involve me, Jared, I don’t know if you can hear me--this is Aris. This doesn’t really involve me, but if you don’t like onions, you get your sandwich without onions, man. I mean, this is the fighting game community.

Rea: Can I get my Street Fighter without sexual harassment?

Bakhtanians: You can’t. You can’t because they’re one and the same thing. This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community--it’s StarCraft. There’s nothing wrong with StarCraft if you enjoy it, and there’s nothing wrong with anything about eSports, but why would you want just one flavor of ice cream, you know? There’s eSports for people who like eSports, and there’s fighting games for people who like spicy food and like to have fun. There’s no reason to turn them into the same thing, you know?

You can’t go to the NBA and say “hey, I like basketball, but I don’t want them to play with a basketball, I want them to play with a football.” It just doesn’t...it doesn’t make sense to have that attitude, you know? These things are established for years. That would be like someone from the fighting game community going over to StarCraft and trying to say “hey, StarCraft, you guys are too soft, let’s start making sexual harassment jokes to each other on StarCraft.” That’s not cool, people wouldn’t like that. StarCraft isn’t like that. People would get defensive, and that’s what you’re trying to do the fighting game community, and it’s not right. It’s ethically wrong.

I know that you’re thinking “what do you know about ethics? You say racial stuff and sexist stuff.” But those are jokes and if you were really a member of the fighting game community, you would know that. You would know that these are jokes.

Rea: So, ensuring that we alienate any and all female viewers...that’s the ethical thing to do?

Bakhtanians: Well, you know, there are layers here, if you think about this. There are layers of ethics. There are people who are racist and commit hate crimes, right? And then there are people who are racist but they have tons of friends of all colors and they have deep love for those friends. Do you think those people are one and the same? Absolutely not.

1) People who are racist do not have a deep love for their friends. They may THINK they do, but they don't. They may THINK "I totally think he's cool despite that he's black" but that's not deep love, if you love a person you love them INCLUDING who they are, not DESPITE it. You can't be transphobic and have "deep love" for me too. Maybe you tolerate me, maybe you like me, maybe I'm the one big exception to your trans mockery, but as long as you think there's something wrong with trans people, you don't really love me.

2) Unethical is still unethical. It doesn't matter if you're "less" unethical, you're still being unethical. What's the point of arguing "levels"? If you're against racism, you're against racism. You can't say "I'm against racism, as long as it's really BAD racism, like cross-burning, if it's not so bad racism, then I'm okay with it, but I'm still against racism." -_- No, then you're against cross-burning, not racism. He wants to talk about culture, this is all part of the culture. Supporting a racist culture, supports racists, whether they're violent racists, or non-violent racists. In the same way, supporting a misogynist culture, which he outright says he does, is supporting all sorts of misogyny and misogynists and tells them that this is a space that they can be misogynist, that they can harass and assault female gamers.

3) Um... has he played Starcraft? -_o You can look in the archives of this blog just to see the stuff I witnessed and experienced while playing on battle.net. There's rampant homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and racism. People say "You Jewed me!" to mean "You were cheap!" They say "niglist" to mean "blacklist". I got kicked out of my clan when they discovered I had just been raped (somebody I thought I trusted let it out without my permission) and I was accused of lying and making it up. (I was trying to get them to stop using "rape" to mean "defeat") And on and on... this stuff isn't unique to just fighting games, and it's bizarre he's so proudly acting as if it is.

4) The basketball comparison is terrible actually. The NBA fines people who use slurs and insults against marginalized groups during games. Kobe Bryant was fined during the playoffs for calling another player a "faggot". The other player wasn't even gay (as far as we know), but the NBA doesn't want it's players using homophobic slurs. The NHL is starting to crack down on racism and homophobia in the sport as well. I know that his comparison was meant to mean that if you take out -isms from fighting games, they will turn into some other game, but that's stupid, and I'm going to point out that even PROFESSIONAL SPORTS, which are super hetero cis male spaces, are trying to clean up their acts.

5) You're not talking about the actual game, you're talking about the community, the environment and the culture. If you take out sexual harassment from the fighting game community (and I'm insulted he thinks he speaks for all of us, the people I game with seem to be able to play without sexually harassing each other), Street Fighter 4 doesn't mutate into Wii Sports. That would be analogous to his weird "you can't turn basketball into baseball" metaphor.

6) The "if you don't like it play something else" thing is so arrogant. Why do YOU get to decide this? Are you innately part of the game? Maybe if you don't like women playing fighting games YOU should go play something else! >:\ You'd have to prove to me somewhere that sexual harassment is PART of fighting games. Not part of the "culture" because cultures can be criticized and changed, you'd have to prove to me the GAME ITSELF makes people sexually harass, or that Capcom's official policy is that if you play the game you have to sexually harass people (in fact Capcom seems to think his comments are anathema).

7) And now to the meat of it. At least he admits that he thinks sexual harassment is part of video game culture (he narrowed it down to fighting games but you can easily expand it to all sorts of other games too... including Starcraft), he just likes it that way (specifically male-female sexual harassment, he may not like it if others harass him, and I suspect he'd claim female-male or male-male sexual harassment aren't "part of the culture" if people DID harass him, only HIS kind of sexual harassment is part of the culture e_e) But just because it is, doesn't mean this it's immune to criticism, or that it should be this way. All sorts of things have been "part of the culture" for all sorts of cultures and those thingsa re not longer part of it (or we're trying to get rid of them). Cultures change. Hiding behind that argument is ridiculous and cowardly and ultimately, non-nonsensical. Cultures aren't static and they weren't given to us by God, they're created by people and they can be changed by people.

8) What he's really talking about though is a culture of entitlement. He feels ENTITLED to be able to sexually harass female gamers, as do many other male gamers, in many other video game genres. This creates an environment where female gamers don't feel safe letting people know that they're girls or women, where queer gamers don't feel safe expressing who they are. And before somebody goes into the "flaunting your sexuality" thing, think of how often straight gamer guys can casually mention they find a girl hot, or a female character in a game hot, or mention a date with a girlfriend, or casually use a female pronoun to refer to their spouse... all of these things say "hetero male", and they're things that queer gamers wouldn't be able to do. SO we have a culture where one small group (white straight cis hetero guys) feels entitled to harass other members, to use racial, queerphobic, misogynist language, and all the other groups must either take it, or hide who they are. Wanting to play games without having to worry about being harassed constantly for who you are isn't an entitlement... wanting to play games and that you can harass everybody you want without criticism, IS. It's the same way in society. Trans people wanting to be able to go about our lives without facing harassment isn't an "entitlement" nor a "special interest", wanting to keep us from being able to do that just because it's more fun for you to harsas people IS.

Bakhtanians: But, you know, Jared, you’re right. But if there was that much money being spent on Street Fighter, it wouldn’t be happening here, either, you know. There would be more rules, there would be security here, it’s not the same thing. It’s not the same thing.

Rea: When I go to SoCal regionals and I see a Phoenix [from Marvel vs. Capcom 3] on main stage getting blown up and there’s some dude in the audience just yelling “Bitch! Bitch!” every time she gets hit and then she killed and goes “Yeah, rape that bitch!” Yeah, that’s totally acceptable! Really? Really? You’re going to tell me that’s acceptable?

Bakhtanians: Look, man. What is unacceptable about that? There’s nothing unacceptable about that. These are people, we’re in America, man, this isn’t North Korea. We can say what we want. People get emotional.

9) How does the amount of money being spent on Street Fighter matter? He apparently feels that he'd only stop if security showed up, which is... ridiculous. So he admits he's wrong, but is basically like "whatcha gonna do"? Plus, you can MAKE rules, can't you? You don't need MONEY to make RULES. -_- (Also, this is circular. If the culture keeps away a large majority of the population, then the community will have less money spent on it, and then that's his excuse to harass MORE?)

10) Ah, the FREEDOM OF SPEECH argument. Except this isn't a free speech issue. He can say whatever he wants, but if the tournament or community deems that sexual harassment is wrong, then he's gone. He's also the one claiming that it's an INNATE PART of the culture, so it's weird that suddenly he's now acting like he's some lone dissident being silenced. And again, entitlement. Free speech means the government cannot force you into silence, it doesn't mean you can say whatever you want wherever you want without people criticizing you, or throwing you off their property. If you want to sit at home, facing your wall and scream about raping "bitches", you're totally welcome to do that. No secret police will burst in and arrest you. However, it doesn't mean you can sexually harass people at video game tournaments just because you WANT to. When "I should be able to sexually harass other gamers" seems like "this is my right" to a person, that's entitlement.

Also, since he's claiming to be the big defender of "freedom" suddenly, a truly free gaming culture would be one where other groups besides white straight cis hetero gamer dudes can feel free to express themselves and their identity without being harassed and attacked for it.

And in conclusion:

Dear personpants, why don't you just be an adult and admit you're a sexist jerk who likes sexually harassing women and stop hiding behind this idea that the video game made you do it? -_-

And if you can't play multi-player games without sexually harassing your fellow players, then perhaps multi-player games aren't for you and you should stick to single-player games. I hear those Tetris blocks are just ASKING for it.

You can't combat racism if you pretend it doesn't exist

http://www.thestar.com/sports/basketball/article/1136971--kelly-jeremy-lin-frozen-yogurt-outrage-is-complete-linsanity

Ah the usual concern trolling argument about how being angry about racism is in fact caring about race and you're only hurting your own cause! e_e

I would care if I thought they actually cared about the cause of fighting racism instead of assuaging their fear of being racist (or implications that they might be if they didn't notice racism).

Also, ffs, they put fortune cookie pieces in Jeremy Lin's ice cream flavour... that's not exactly SUBTLE!

In attempting to protect Jeremy Lin, a few of his supporters are inadvertently fulfilling the key goal of all bigots — reducing a real person to a racial construct.

Except, I'm not the one who did that... unless you think that they chose fortune cookies for his flavour by rolling a D20. e_e

I'm not the one reducing a real person to his race, I'm just POINTING OUT THAT SOMEBODY'S DONE THAT. -_-

(And I hope I don't have to do an Ami Angelwings FAQ thing here and people know that intent doesn't matter, whether they meant to be cute or evil is irrelevant, it's still problematic and nobody can convince me fortune cookies were chosen at random and not because he's Chinese e_e)


I'm trying to combat racism, and by combating it, yes, I bring attention to the fact that society STILL SEES RACE.

You're trying to pretend society doesn't see race, and by ignoring it, you allow racism and racist crap (however unintentional) to continue.

Which seems more productive to the goal of a racism-free world? e_e

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Female video game designer has opinions on video games, cue the angry hateful fanboy outrage e_e

http://www.themarysue.com/inclusion-what-jennifer-heplers-story-is-all-about/

Gather around, boys and girls, and let me tell you a familiar story. It’s about a person who works in the game industry, who said some things about games five years ago. Then a week ago, some gamers took screenshots of those things and photoshopped them next to a picture of that person, a nickname that drew negative attention to the person’s physical appearance, some completely unrelated quotations (made to appear attributed to the person) and added a list of descriptive words: “CANCER INFECTION BLIGHT VERMIN DISEASE SEWAGE PLAGUE WASTE.” Then they put it up on Reddit, in post calling the person “the cancer that is killing Bioware.” Upvotes and downvotes were voted, gamer rage was raged, and eventually moderators on r/gaming deleted the post entirely because that person from the game industry had started getting harassing calls on her home phone.

Shortly afterward this Jennifer Hepler launched a twitter account tied with her professional identity and was immediately accosted by requests that she commit suicide; imprecations that verbally reduced her to her genitalia and implied low intelligence and lack of subjectively appealing physical qualities; and accusations of forcing gay characters “down gamer’s [sic] throats,” moreover, accusations that she had a “fetish” for such characters and relationships.

Oh, did I not mention that this person who works in the gaming industry is female? That’s because I don’t want this post to be about gamers hating women. Do I think the fact that Hepler is female made some of the vitriol leveled at her more vitriolic than it would have been otherwise? …Possibly. Do I think that there were misogynist aspects to the specific words that were chosen to be used against her? Absolutely. But I think what this is actually about is some gamers violently reacting to a perceived scapegoat that they can blame for a trend in games towards a greater measure of inclusivity, a topic that is related in a number of ways to the acceptance of women into gaming, both as fans and creators.

*sigh* WTH This is horrible -_-

I think that the biggest detriment to more varieties of games being made which appeal to women and casual gamers, is simply the fact that people who don’t love games don’t become game designers. A game company tends to be filled with people whose best memories come from the games they played, who spend all their time swapping war stories with other gamers, and it’s not too surprising that they end up wanting to make games that recapture those experiences.


While I don't agree with her that women are NECESSARILY casual gamers, she has a real point when she says the people who make games are the ones who had good experiences and share war stories and therefore make games just for them... comics has essentially become the same thing, where the people making comics are the ones who grew up, or were young artists, in the 90s and liked that art... and it's becoming this thing where they are just making it for themselves and people like them :\ The same with the plot, where it's just continuity porn for people who liked comics back in the 80s and 90s and want to keep referencing what they like, and I really think that the creators and the niche that is like them have created an echo chamber where the same ideas just keep bouncing off and it's really alienating to other people who like the IDEA of comics, video games, superheroes, power fantasies, fantasy, dragons, etc and WANT to give you their money but it's made so inaccessible for us.

And she's also right that it becomes this self-fulfilling thing, because if you walk into a comic store and go UGH at the comic covers right off the bat, you won't become a comics fan, and if you aren't a comics fan, you're not going to go into the industry, and that's a potential diverse voice gone. :\ As I've also said before, the art, the treatment of women as sex objects first, in a lot of video games and superhero comics serve to "mark" these spaces as for a certain subset of hetero guys, and tells the rest of us "this is not for you, you're a guest here at best" and that also serves to dissuade people from feeling comfortable in these spaces, or like they can join the industry (the industry itself may have it's own biases about who to hire too).

I remember a few years ago when DC wrote this letter at the back of it's books asking/begging/demanding women read Supergirl (then drawn like a crustacean by Ian Churchill) and asking "why don't women read Supergirl?" Aside from the fact that she was written horribly at the time as well, even if she was written well, you'd have to actually pick up the book and want to spend $3 on it to find out, and if the art on the cover or in a flip through says "hetero male porn fantasy", it's not likely you'll think the book is about a strong female character (which it wasn't at the time anyways).

It's similar to what Hepler says above, people likely to go into video games are ones who LIKED the video games they played, and people likely to read comics are ones who LIKE the comics they've seen, or the covers they see on the shelves. It's not neuro surgery.

To get back on topic though, I personally LIKE playing through games to get to the plot, but some games I would honestly like to just skip through all the tedious combat and get on with the show... and I wouldn't mind a little skip button. Tycho from Penny Arcade has made the very reasonable argument before that if you pay for a game you should have the ability to access all of it even if you don't want to play through the game or you're not good enough to access later parts of the game or the bonus features, after all, you paid for the WHOLE GAME, it's yours, it's not fair to say "you can't enjoy the whole thing if you lack sufficient skill or time in your life to master what we think you should". If people want to do that, they're welcome to do that, obviously it shouldn't be MANDATORY, but I also really get the argument of why skip buttons, or just letting unlockable content be unlocked if you really want to, etc is a good idea. If somebody wants to pay 60$ for basically a movie (bunch of cut scenes) that's their choice.

And I do think that she wouldn't be getting this level of vitriol if she wasn't a woman, because this plays into all the stereotypes that sexist gamers have about women and women in video games -_- That we're ruining their fun, that we're just "casual" gamers, that we don't like video games, that we just want to turn everything into cuddles and romance. Obviously that's not true, but there ARE gamers that DO like cuddles and romance, and DO want things to be more casual or have games be more accessible (not just women), and what's wrong with that?

As for them whining and blaming her for queer content in their games. A) OH NOEZ THERE'S GAY RELATIONSHIPS IN YOUR GAME? HOW HORRIBLE FOR YOU! It must be so scary to have your playpen be 99% cis hetero and 1% not (or less than 1%) -_- Also that content is usually optional, you don't HAVE to choose for your character to have a gay relationship, but you CAN. If options are scary then... I can't help you. B) I really think that, again, this ties into her being a woman, and people assuming this must be her thing, that she must write slash and this is some evil female fantasy she's pushing onto them (while of course hetero men have NEVER pushed their sexual fantasies onto us in video games, never never never). She's not even PUSHING, it's not like we have male characters looking and being treated like female characters are in video game fan service stuff. e_e Ffs, these ppl need to check their privilege -_-

*sighs* Well hopefully the backlash over this ridic immature show will wake some companies up and continue to highlight the problems of representation and inclusion in the video games. :)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

ESPN makes a racist slur, but we're not allowed to know what it is.

http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2012/02/espn-uses-racial-slur-to-describe-jeremy-lins-first-loss/

ESPN’s mobile site used the headline “Chink In The Armor” last night in recap of Jeremy Lin’s first ever NBA loss. On Sportscenter, ESPN employees also used the same phrase on the show.

This is enraging enough as it is (though, not surprising, everybody keeps wanting to pretend that the Jeremy Lin story isn't about race, but things like this expose that yes, it is...) but the reason I'm posting about this is that I had to go to blogs to find out just what ESPN said. All the mainstream sources I saw refused to say, they just said "ethnic slur". This is what I hate about the way our society treats racism. It's not RACIST to talk about RACISM! Nobody wants to discuss it, we all kinda shy away from it, and our media just wants to use euphemisms and generalizations in order to avoid the ugly truth >_<;;



ESPN apologized Saturday for leading its mobile website coverage of Knicks phenomenon Jeremy Lin's streak-ending defeat with an ethnic slur in the headline.

The phrase, which carries obvious racial overtones when used in reference to a person of Asian descent, lasted more than 30 minutes on the site before being removed at around 3:05 a.m. ET on Saturday.

Amid widespread online condemnation, ESPN confirmed in a statement that it was "conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures" to discover how the "offensive" headline made it onto the site.

The sports network said it was "determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again.

That's a sample (from Fox Sports) of what I had to look through before I decided to turn to blogs. I have no idea what ESPN said from that, I have no idea what slur they used, what the context is, or how offensive it is! It's about as vague as you can get. -_-

It's the same way with the general mainstream media reporting around Jeremy Lin, they refuse to talk about why this is a "great story" or why this isn't just another point guard who came off the scrap heap to score many points (as I said, Rafer Alston did that once upon a time for the Raptors too), or how scouts didn't notice him before, or anything else. The media in general seems to be trying to hide behind "oh he's from Harvard, and was undrafted!" as the reason everybody seems to underestimate him, or "sometimes scouts just make mistakes" instead of dealing with the obvious question: "was racism involved?"

Maybe it wasn't, but we can't just pretend racism doesn't exist. If it's not, then we better investigate to see if it wasn't, not just talk around the issue. >_< Racism EXISTS, let's stop pretending it doesn't! People say racist things, let's not cover it up, let's confront it, expose it and explain why it's wrong ("condemning" it isn't enough b/c it doesn't explain WHY it's wrong, it merely acts like it's this thing we should all hate) >_<;;;

Srsly... it shouldn't have taken me some searching to figure out WHAT THE RACIST HEADLINE IS (and yeah, whether it's an honest mistake or not, it's something that should have been caught). It is not ANTI-RACIST to avoid telling people what ESPN said that was so wrong, if nething it ends up coming off like you're trying to throw a blanket over racism of another member of the media family. -_-

Racism happens. And it won't go away if we pretend it's not there, or if we talk around it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jeremy Lin, "Rudy", Racism, and Asian American masculinity

(A few notes about this post:

1. I'm generalizing the media reaction. I understand because of HOW MUCH reaction there's been, there have been people who have pointed out the racism, and there's been a lot of Asian writers who have spoken about racism and how important Jeremy Lin means to Asian-Americans, but I'm speaking about the general trend in the "mainstream" sports reporting about "Linsanity".

2. I'm using "Asian-American" as a term for Pacific/East Asian people in North America. I understand that Asian has a different meaning in other parts of the world (like in the UK where it generally refers to South-East Asian or Indian people) and I also understand that even in American, Asian American includes all sorts of other Asian nationalities. :)

3. I understand that every PoC faces racism not just African and Asian Americans, the sample I used was just to make a point and illustrate how racism has changed and hidden itself, it isn't to imply that nobody else faces racism, or that only African and Asian Americans exist. However, racists almost always use those 2 groups to "balance" their racism, which is why I used them as examples.)

I've been trying to gather my thoughts about Jeremy Lin for the past few days but it's been difficult because I have so many, and there's been so much written about him that I want to respond to, both good and bad.

Jeremy Lin isn't "Lincredible". He's a good player, some nights he's even a great player. Last night he was a clutch player. But he has trouble defending, he can't go left, and he commits a LOT of turnovers. Also, as his critics have pointed out, he's been played a lot and has almost total possession of the basketball and what happens to it. (His critics also ignore that not everybody in that situation thrives, much less leads teams to victory, or steps up in clutch situations.) If Jeremy Lin were black, or white, he would be celebrated, and we can't ignore that he's set a record for the most points scored in a player's first 5 starts since the NBA/ABA merger(that includes MJ, Kobe and Shaq) but he would just be another point guard found off the discard heap that turned out to be useful (like Rafer Alston). I'm really really really glad that he's having amazing games, and hitting clutch shots, but I think we need to be realistic, he's not going to lead the Knicks to 30 straight wins, nor is he going to be 20/10 every night. And he doesn't need to. At least I hope he doesn't need to, because what I'm really afraid of is that this story is being chalked up to "magic" and "miracles" and "the little engine that could" and that people only care about him as a hero slaying dragons, and him being an Asian American baller who can PLAY isn't enough, and is irrelevant.

And by that I'm not talking about the thousands of Asian American bloggers who have written about how important he is to them, and to breaking stereotypes of Asian Americans, I'm talking about the media, the "general" (read: white) audience, the talking heads, the sporting culture, other athletes, other players... everybody currently writing and creating all the narratives about Jeremy Lin, the ones talking about "miracles", "fairy tales", and calling him "our Rudy".

I'm concerned because, all the narratives so far are acting like he's the little engine that could. Who's Rudy? Rudy was an undersized college football player who through determination earned the respect of his teammates and got to play once in a college game and recorded a sack and everybody cheered and it was inspirational and wonderful and we realized that little engines can sometimes pull through.

The problem is, this isn't that story. Jeremy Lin has succeeded at every level he's played basketball at. He's been an all-star and a champion in high school and was ignored by every college but Harvard. In college, he also continued to shine and set records. A basketball statistician even predicted his professional success in a pre-draft breakdown saying that Lin was one of the best point guards in the draft. And yet... he wasn't drafted, and wasn't given real minutes until now.

This isn't Rudy. This isn't close to Rudy. Rudy was a player who didn't have the physical tools or talent to play college football but proved that through determination, one might be able to live their dream despite their limitations. Lin is a 6'3" 200lb. point guard who always had the tools and talent to play in the NBA. What's his limitation? I'll say what almost everybody in the mainstream media seems to be trying to avoid saying: he's an Asian American male.

He's not doing this with mirrors. This isn't a "fairy tale" in the sense that he's using magic. There's no fairy god mother here. This is a good basketball player who could always play basketball doing what he's always done: play basketball well, with intelligence and talent. So why is everybody treating him like he's a 5'2" child who could never play and cheering him on as if he's a dog, monkey or kid playing with adult human men in a Disney movie? He's an "underdog" in the sense that because of racism, he was ignored by scouts and coaches and that's how he slipped through the cracks. He's an underdog in credentials only. But he's not a pity case, he's not a "feel good" Rudy story. He's a talented, clutch and raw young player who is finally giving the New York Knicks the leadership and point guard play they desperately needed. So why are we acting like he's a puppy playing with wolves? Because he doesn't have "the look".

In his book, Moneyball, Michael Lewis talks often about "the look" that scouts search for when looking for a player. It often has nothing to do with performance as much as it has to do with what athletes SHOULD look like. They should be tall, and broad shouldered, and build muscle quickly. They should look like underwear models. And, as the history of sports has shown again and again and again, I'll add another one: they should be the right colour.

There once was a time where black players weren't seen as being capable of playing the quarterback position in football. It had nothing to do with athleticism, in fact "athleticism" was used against them. Sure, the common knowledge went, African Americans were athletic, I mean look at them, right? you just can't deny it, but they're not very smart, and quarterback requires intelligence. Sorry, that's just how it is. I didn't make the rules, go blame God. If scouts looked at African Americans, they saw physically gifted players, but they also saw players who weren't smart enough, not plucky enough, not mentally tough enough. It didn't matter if they actually WERE or not, the scouts, coaches and managers all saw what they wanted to see. Just like this off-season, a lot of the discussion around Prince Fielder was about how fat he appears. It doesn't matter that he's missed all of 6 games in his entire Major League career, it doesn't matter that he's a vegan and he eats a healthy diet, and keeps in good shape. He's fat. I mean, just look at him. How can he be healthy? He's gonna break down in 3 years, 4 tops.

People see what they want to see. Your eyes can lie because they're affected by your own biases, by your prejudices, and that includes racism. Pretty much every article I've read on Lin since "Linsanity" began has been about How did scouts miss him? Is there a flaw in our meritocracy? Maybe it's just a fluke, those happen. The ugly truth everybody (except a few scribes, like Michael Grange of Sportsnet) seems to be dancing around is "racism".

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And the greatest trick racists ever pulled was convincing the world racism no longer exists.

I mean, we all know it still exists. We know that there's cross burners, and Stormfront and Neo Nazis. We know people still burn Mosques and throw bricks at Synagogues. But "regular" racism, the kind we all are inundated with every day in our society, has become hidden. The old world racism where white people are just de facto superior has been replaced by the new world "compatabilism" racism of The Bell Curve.

Basically, in this new style racism, white people aren't "superior" as much as "balanced". Think of a fantasy world where you have the monstrous but stupid orcs (or trolls, or goblins, or what have you), the smart but thin and waiflike elves, and then you have the plucky humans, not too smart, but smart enough, not too strong, but strong enough, and they've got other skills. They've got determination, they've got creativity, they've got leadership. They've got the "intangibles".

This is the racism was have in our society now, where white people have moved from the top of a hierarchy, to the centre of structure that stereotypes every other race as being "too much" of one thing and "not enough" of another, and always, ALWAYS lacking in intangibles.

In football, this meant that black players were "athletic" but white players were "intelligent" and "creative" and showed "leadership".

And in greater society, it means white people can do anything, but other races are pigeon-holed into certain categories. African Americans are great athletes and entertainers, but don't expect them to be great thinkers or programmers. Asian Americans are great programmers and workers, but don't expect them to be great managers, or athletes.

It's Orcs and Elves and Humans... and it's all bullshit. It's the same old racist structure remodelled with a dash of paint to make it an easier sell to a white society that still wants to consider itself the "default" but is deathly afraid of being thought of as "racist".

But the truth is it is racist. And it's racist to different races in different ways. And this needs to be understood to understand WHY Jeremy Lin is "Lincredible" to the mainstream media, and also why, despite this, he still means so much to Asian Americans (and SHOULD).

In our society being Asian American and male means you're considered less masculine, just like being an Asian American woman means you're stereotyped as being hyper-feminine. In the "reverse", Black men are portrayed as being hyper-masculine, and black women are seen as being less feminine, more masculine. Again, there's this false idea of "balance" when in fact it's all racial stereotyping.

We live in a culture where Asian men are rarely portrayed as athletes, as heroes in our media, and even as lovers. They're the nerds, they're the scientists, they're the background characters in TV shows who run DNA tests. They might be martial artists, but they're celibate, non-threatening monks, or pure fighters who entertain the audience but don't even get a kiss. They rarely get the girl, and if a movie is based on events involving an Asian protagonist, we can generally expect Hollywood to fix that up for us. And, while you see many same race couples in commercials, tv shows and media, if there's an Asian woman (especially a heroine), she'll almost always have a non-Asian boyfriend. That isn't to say that we "belong" to Asian men, but that it sends the message that they are "inferior" men. (I could go into the racist fascination with Asian women, but that's another post >_> )

In this backdrop, it's pretty obvious to see how important Jeremy Lin is to Asian Americans in general, and especially Asian American men. He's not a 7'6" foreign player like Yao Ming. Even racism has to give way to that much height that scouts can't ignore. Jeremy Lin gives every Asian American male who loves sports somebody to point to that looks like them, and that's a privilege a lot of white people don't understand. Much like boys can dream of winning the World Series and girls can at most dream of being the first female major leaguer, white boys could always imagine themselves as being successful athletes, Asian American boys could only imagine that they do the impossible and become the first Asian American player. Jeremy Lin has changed that. He breaks stereotypes, and hopefully his success will expand "the look", much like Tiger Woods' success and Jackie Robinson's and Warren Moon's success did. It's sad that we always need a superstar to prove a race can actually measure up to white people, but in our society, it's racism unless proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

And that's why I'm afraid. I'm afraid that with all of his success being chalked up as "miracles" and "fantasies", with him being labelled "Rudy", that all we've done is play into the stereotype again. He's not an Asian American man who is a pretty good point guard who makes too many turnovers but is clutch as hell, he's a puppy dog who is so cute scoring baskets. I'm worried because people say "eventually the bubble will burst". That depends on what you consider the bubble. If this is all about him scoring 25 points and 10 assists a night and the Knicks never lose again, then yes, it will. If this is a story about the little engine that could that came out of nowhere and did "miracles" before fading away from public caring, then we'll have learned nothing.

If, however, this is a story about how Asian Americans can play basketball just as well as white Americans and black Americans except that they've been overlooked because of racism, then... the Jeremy Lin phenomenon will truly have been Lincredible.