Not everyone has a mother

Trigger Warning: mental abuse, suicide, family issues.

This isn’t a game related post. So for those of you who are here hoping for something fun, or even slightly funny, related to WoW or other game, you might want to move along. This isn’t one of those posts.

This post is deeply personal. I talk about this stuff pretty flippantly when it comes up, but I don’t delve too far into all the sordid details. What with a friend’s post about her divorce, and Allie Brosh’s (of Hyperbole and a Half) post about depression, I started really thinking a lot about things going on right now.

Not everyone knows this but I have no family nearby. It was super depressing to think about this when I needed to put an emergency contact on my “If found on the side of the road almost dead” bracelet. Who the hell should a random stranger call in case I had to be taken to the hospital?? My nearest family member lives hundreds of miles away. 7-8 hour drive minimum. I don’t have a lot of close friends because I find they only want to be friend’s with me when they need something, so I’ve stopped trying to keep track, or keep up.

But mother’s day is looming around the corner. It’s only days away and this holiday brings out a lot of frustration and emotion for me. It’s even more frustrating when I hear people say things like “everyone has a mother.” It simply isn’t true. I haven’t had a mother since I was 19 years old. I was born from someone, yes. But I haven’t had a mother in my life for so long, I’ve forgotten what it’s even like to say “My mom…” about anything.

My mother is a first generation Korean immigrant. She was a hippy when she came with my dad back to the States. She wore tube tops and had hair down to her butt. She wore big glasses. The person she was in the pictures I have of her don’t reflect the person I remember all of my life.

My mother showed up one day with a golden retriever puppy. Then a couple weeks later, after my sister and I had grown attached, left the front door open. The puppy was gone and never returned.

My mother liked to use her accent or lack of “English” as a reason for why we weren’t communicating very well, but couldn’t understand that I understood her perfectly fine. Her English was perfectly fine. There was nothing wrong with the way she communicated, just the meaning behind her words, is all.

My mother spent the majority of my childhood telling me how fat I was, how I should be ashamed of myself and strive to look like my sister, emaciated thing that she was. I remember being about 16 years old and we were sitting around the table eating dinner watching Cops of all shows. It was my mom, her boyfriend, my sister and I. And there was a larger officer running. And the words that came out of my mother’s mouth floored me. Sickened me even. She said “That fat guy should never have become a cop. Look at him, he can’t even run!” I was taken aback, but these are the comments I had been hearing for years. I just didn’t sit back and take it this time though. This time I said something.

“Y’know, you don’t know anything about that guy! Why would you judge him like that?”
“But look at him, he can’t even run!”
“It’s a tv show. He’s running just fine. So what if he’s fat. That doesn’t mean he can’t do his job.”

This generally turned into a discussion about how I should marry a rich man who would take care of me.

My mother accused me of stealing some packets of M&Ms out of the cupboard. In doing so, she decided to lecture only me in front of my sister and the two daughters of some guy she was living with this time. It was all my fault, because I was the oldest. Which meant that I had to be the one who stole the M&Ms out of the closet. She decided to slap me, across the face, in front of everyone, because I refused to admit that I had stolen the stupid candy. I was 17 and slapped her back. The conversation quickly became something else entirely. It was about respect and how dare I slap her! And “I can’t believe you just slapped me!” It was the last time my mother laid a hand on me.

I lost track of the number of times my mother told me how ugly I looked when I was angry. I lost track of the number of times she told me she would kill me if she could. I lost track of the number of time she told me what a horrible daughter I was because I didn’t listen to her and do what she said.

I distinctly remember getting into an elevator one days and she made this off-handed comment “Oh look, two fatties just got on!” and since we were the only two, I knew she meant the two of us. My mom was never fat, and looking back, I wasn’t either. I am now, but I wasn’t then.

In high school I planned how I would kill myself. Where I would do it. Everything. I had the letters written. The one I would leave at home on my dresser for my dad and the one I would have in my pocket for everyone else. I remember how shitty I felt. How I never felt comfortable being me. I wore clothes big enough for an adult man, to hide myself in them. No one can see how fat you are if you’re drowning in your clothes, right? I wore a jacket all year long so that I could hide my boobs. Because my mom made me feel great shame for having them. Poking them and laughing when telling me how big they were. Calling them everything other than what they were… boobs. Once I turned 18, I went to live with her in Los Angeles. I thought it would be better than the small town I grew up in. I remember telling her about how I was once suicidal. I told her that it was because of how she made me feel about myself. How ugly she made me feel because I wasn’t tiny and skinny.

She told me, “That had nothing to do with me. It just mean you’re weak.”

I came home one day to the front door kicked in and several police officers standing in my living room. My mother apparently had tried to kill herself because her boyfriend had decided to leave her. She swallowed a bunch of Tylenol with codeine, called him and told him what she was doing. He called the cops. They rushed her to the hospital. She managed to convince the social worker assigned to her, that she was safe to go home… but they needed someone to watch her. I was 19 years old and in college. I had a boyfriend and things to do! I didn’t have the mental capacity to keep track of my mother at this point.

Two weeks later I came home to a strange man living in our house. I figured it was just a new boyfriend, but I’d never met him before. I had no idea who he was. But I wanted to light a candle in the house, so I went digging in her room for some matches or a lighter. I knew she sometimes smoked and would have these things. Instead I found a package of wedding photos. She had run off to Las Vegas and married this guy, this stranger. After another couple of weeks the guy was gone. She told me that he wasn’t living up to his end of the deal, and that was for him to help put me though school. I stared at her, drop-jawed, because why would I accept something like that from a guy I didn’t know!

My mother stole my car from me while I was at work, leaving me stranded. At this point I had moved out and was living with a boyfriend. The car was in her name, but I was making the payments on it. She showed up at my office building, went to the parking garage, and took the car, leaving me stranded there. It was a mess. And a nightmare. And the last time I spoke to my mom. She called me, months later, and left a voice mail on my work number saying she wanted me to call her but didn’t leave a number.

That was the last time I heard from my mother. She’s no where to be found now. My dad has tried looking for her. My sister blames me for my mother going off the grid. No one knows what happened to her. But I made a decision to not talk to her again. The fat comments were daily for the majority of my life. The “you look like the devil” comments came any time I tried to stand up to her for the way she treated me or other people.

So forgive me if I don’t want to celebrate Mother’s day in some trite, commercialized way. I don’t have a mother. I have a woman who gave birth to me, but a mother, the mother I would be if I wanted kids, is not the woman she was to me.

So forgive me if I don’t partake in celebrating mom’s on Sunday. I still have a few open wounds my mom left that refuse to heal.

Hate is still Hate

I recently decided to take an extended leave of absence from twitter. Mostly for personal reasons, but also because I was just getting so damn tired of all the hate being thrown around ad nauseam. It was like someone had opened the floodgates to asshole-ville and everyone around me was being affected by it. More importantly, while I was going through my own set of Real Life Issues, people decided to continuously shit upon my cheerios

At various different points immediately after deactivating my account I had these “twitter” moments. Things that happen, or things I want to share, that I usually share on twitter. Ridiculous crap that often is only funny to me. Other times it’s only amusing to me. But I share anyway, just in case. My particular brand of ridiculous seems to coincide with other’s at times, so why not?

I’m used to internet strangers being assholes. As a female who likes to play games I deal with this often. As a minority (who’s minority status is often questioned because people can’t tell exactly what racial background I am at first glance) I deal with this often. My life is spend advocating on a pretty regular basis. My job is based in advocating for opportunities for children. My schooling will eventually land me in a position in which I will be able to provide counseling and therapy. What I never expect, and what is almost always the hardest pill to swallow, are those people who act like they’re on your side, or claim to be a friend (or acquaintance) only to turn on you the second here is even a hint you might not align with their particular brand of asshole.

Over the last year or so, as I’ve become more outspoken on feminist issues in the gaming industry, and in WoW’s subculture, I’ve gotten a lot of emails, private messages, and DMs on twitter. Many are to say thank you for speaking out. Other’s are to say that they appreciate the less dramatic way in which I present the issues and discuss the problem. Even still, others say that it’s nice to feel like there is at least ONE feminist that doesn’t immediately jump down people’s throats with accusations and labels if a person doesn’t realize that the broader sexism problem exists because they’ve never experienced it, or haven’t been paying that much attention.

In all of my feminist posts the one thing I don’t do is promote hatred. Of any kind. I am of the opinion that hatred is what landed the oppressed in that station to begin with. That a majority, privilege group decided to hate people for some demographic and began their tyranny of oppression. So when I’m told that oppressed folks are allowed to hate, I am very quick to say something. No. No one is entitled to hate. Hate is what got us here in the first place.

I feel as though people confuse hatred with anger. There is a lot of overlap between the two. Mostly because you don’t often experience hatred without a large quantity of anger. You also don’t often experience hatred without long-term anger. And while anger is mentioned a couple of times on that wikipedia page, note that it is not included in the “See also” section. Because they’re two very different emotions/emotional states.

It often feels like people just don’t understand that there’s a difference between hate and anger. As if there’s this unspoken rule that you have to have the one to have the other and that they’re not mutually exclusive.

One of the biggest issues I see is that there is a demand for systematic and ideological change from oppressed people (rightfully so, btw)… but with the use of hatred as tool.

Hatred is what got you here in the first place, whatever position of oppression you may occupy (or multiple positions, as it were). Promoting hatred is not the solution. Promoting hatred and demanding justification and absolution for your hatred is exactly the same thing that people of privilege are asking for and demanding. Also, hatred makes you an asshole. Let’s not attempt to recolor our intentions and motivations with big words and straw man  fallacies. When you rearrange what I’ve said to twist the meaning to represent what you’re attempting to project in order to promote the right to hate, you’re being an asshole.

If you HATE

* women… you’re an asshole.

* men… you’re an asshole.

* transgendered folks… you’re an asshole.

* homosexuals… you’re an asshole.

* heterosexuals… you’re an asshole.

* cis folks… you’re an asshole.

* non-gamers… you’re an asshole.

The list could go on and on and on. Really. You can put any descriptor or label in there and the rule still applies… you’re an asshole.

Hate is never the solution to oppression. Hate is what got us here in the first place. Hate is only an excuse to be an asshole. Hate will only be a means to an end in order to turn the tables on those with privilege in an effort to become the ones with privilege, rather than enact a change to the system that promote equality regardless of who you are and what label you associate with.

Being angry is justifiable. Being upset is justifiable.

Hate is still hate… no matter what side of the oppression line you stand on. And it makes you an asshole.

Feminism: Why I Keep Fighting for Equality

Trigger Warning: rape, misogyny, double-standards, feminism

I don’t work in the gaming industry, but I know a lot of people who do, thanks to the powers of the internet and Twitter. Recently there was a particular hashtag, #1ReasonWhy, about why there aren’t more female game developers. Or a stronger female presence in general. This has been a far-reaching hashtag sparking a lot of conversation about what’s going on in the industry as a whole. My friend decided to have a conversation with some men on a gaming forum and came to me desperately wanting links to some of my posts.

I originally wrote the following entry as a Facebook email to this friend. Here’s what happened: She is an American who lives in Japan, as there are many others. They are “expatriates” or “expats” for short. She told me she was likely the only female on this gaming forum. All of this information was given to me after I noticed a huge influx of traffic to the blog from some forum. My own curiosity gets the best of me, so I joined the forum on the off chance that I might see what was being said. Turns out it was my friend sharing posts about how horrible people can be on the internet when they think they can hide behind anonymity. It stemmed from some discussion about boob groping, when it’s accidental or on purpose. It wasn’t a particularly academic discussion about the fondling of boobs, but it definitely reinforced the idea that men believe they are entitled to do what they wanted to women’s bodies because, well, “we’re genetically predispositioned for it”. This video was shared, and when I watched it I started to rage a little bit… no a lotta bit.

Yoga students discuss her boobs, while he justifies his ogling of them with “I’m predispositioned for desiring boobs” justification.

And really, here’s the part that really got me going… there was another poster who said he was with me up until the point where I called out a guy who was seemingly asking a fairly innocent question, at which point my anger and frustration with the way I was treated on twitter (and subsequently in real life) were moot. I was an “asshole” for lumping him into the sexist misogynists and calling him out on it in my “anger post”. Needless to say, here is the email I sent to my friend with the permission to share as much or as little as she wants. She promptly told me to blog it. That she couldn’t just copy/paste that for such a limited audience.

Maybe she’s right. Either way, here it is anyway.

* * * * *

I’m 34 years old. I’ve been on the internet since you paid for it by the hour. To say I’ve experienced my fair share of trolls is an understatement. The difference between what I experienced when I was 16/17 years old and today is the level of misogyny and vitriol. Let me be clear, there is no “degree” of misogyny. If you make rape jokes you are a misogynist. If you make “get in the kitchen” jokes, you are a misogynist. If you think that it’s cute to make fun of a female by asking her where her boyfriend or husband is, that’s misogyny. It doesn’t matter what your intent was, because when someone makes those comments the person you’re NOT thinking about is the one on the receiving end of the comment.

There’s a huge difference between having a bad day and rage table flipping by way of yelling into a microphone, or typing in a tweet. It’s a whole different ball game when you rally troops to come after a women because she made a comment about a terrible cupcake joke being offensive. Making a cupcake joke was well within his right to make. It was also well within my right to comment on the offensiveness of said cupcake joke. The difference was how both of us acted and reacted after all was said and done. I was prepared to have just said that it was offensive and walk away. He was not.

What I have stored in my pending comments log (that are not public) is a slew of hate comments dripping in sarcasm and vitriol. Paragraphs of this guy threatening me. Demanding he get a chance to make his words be seen on my blog because he was entitled to get to share what he wanted and how he wanted and why can’t I just stop acting like a child and not delete his comments! That because when you google “prosextips” my blog post comes up pretty highly ranked. Good.

What many men don’t realize is that they’re born with this privilege. As a male you are immediately signed up for the fast track on a road to success, barring making really terrible life choices. As a female, we’re stuck in the slow lane of life. Permanently. We have rev-limiters on our lives stopping us from accelerating. We’re rarely able to pass the person in front of us because our gender entirely defines who we are as people within society. Most modern societies. And especially in gaming subcultures.

When you’re born a straight man, you not only get access to the fast track, but you’re rev-limiter is set at an even higher speed when compared to women. If you’re born a straight WHITE man, then shit, you have zero limitations. No limitations on speed. No limitations on which lane you can choose. And you’re allowed to hop into the carpool lane whenever you choose without having any repercussions.

As an analogy, a highway seems fairly ridiculous. Because life isn’t a literal highway. However, the experiences of women will always, ALWAYS be different than that of men. I am rarely judged on my abilities, but often my attractiveness, my distractability to an all-male team, or my fuckability. Even if I were in a world first guild, killing shit as quickly as it’s released, I’m judged not by my ability to play games, but by my perceived gender. I was born a female. I identify as female. My life is the life that a typical female might live in the United States. I understand that other countries handle gender issues differently, but I can’t honestly speak for the experiences of women in other countries.

But in my time as a gamer I have chosen not to speak in mumble, vent, or voice chat because of my gender. For a long time I was angry. Like the typical feminist I was upset at the way I was treated. Told I should be raped by some NPC or my father, if you look at my tweets. That in speaking up I somehow deserved it, because what I really needed was to get laid. Or told that I’m being overly sensitive because I would like rape comments to stop being bandied about as though it were just “par for the course”. My answer to that is no. Never. Not okay. Will never be okay.

Why is it not okay?? Would you walk up to the barista at a coffee shop, not knowing them at all (gender doesn’t matter), ask them to help you change the tire on your car, and then exclaim “We totally just raped that tire!” No? Really?? Cause that’s essentially what you’re doing when you claim to have raped anyone/anything in a video game. It’s pointless and hurtful. Rape is horrible and dangerous territory to venture down for people who don’t understand what’s actually happening when rape occurs. Despite what men want to believe, the number of women who “fake” rape charges is minute in comparison to the number of unreported rapes. But, no one cares about that either. As a man, you have a point to make.

In the US, we teach women to be careful. Don’t go out at night. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t dress seductively. Don’t act like a “slut” or a “whore”. Avoid dark alleys. Don’t go out alone. Carry mace. Carry a gun. Know your exit routes. What we don’t do is teach men that it’s not okay to rape.

Do you know what the first question out of men’s mouths when they hear someone has been raped?? “What was she wearing?” As if anything that existed in the world basically says “rape me” by design! Not even walking down the street naked is an invitation for a man to rape anyone ever. Here is how Americans view rape. Just in case you don’t want to bother clicking the link, here’s the statistics for you. This is telling of rape culture in America.

Out of every 100 rapes:

  • 46 are reported to the police
  • 12 rapes will resort in an arrest
  • 9 rape cases are prosecuted
  • 5 rape cases lead to a felony conviction
  • Only 3 rapists will ever spend a day in jail

In a survey of 11-14 year-old boys:

  • 51% believed rape was acceptable if a boy spent a lot of money on a girl
  • 31% believed rape was acceptable  if a girl had past sexual experience
  • 65% believed rape were acceptable if a girl and boy had been dating for more than 6 months
  • 87% believed rape were acceptable if the woman and man are married

A woman might not even have grown up understanding what rape is…because in a survey of 11-14 year-old girls:

  • 41% believed rape was acceptable if a boy spent a lot of money on a girl
  • 32% believed rape was acceptable  if a girl had past sexual experience
  • 47% believed rape were acceptable if a girl and boy had been dating for more than 6 months
  • 79% believed rape were acceptable if the woman and man are married

In a survey of college males:

  • 35% admit – anonymously – that they would rape under the circumstances that they could get away with it
  • 1 in 12 admitted to committing acts defined as rape, but 84% of rapists did not recognize those acts as rape

In yet another survey of college males:

  • 43% of college-aged men admitted to using coercive behavior to have sex, including ignoring a woman’s protest, using physical aggression, and forcing intercourse.
  • 15% acknowledged they had committed acquaintance rape; 11% acknowledged using physical restraints to force a woman to have sex.

[x] [x] [x]

This isn’t just about rape, I know. But it is about power. It’s about men having power over me because this is something they can threaten in a way that I cannot. Not in the same way. We’re physically built differently. Men are biologically predispositioned to be stronger, more athletic, and bigger framed.

Rape and gender issues are closely intertwined. And because it’s about power. It’s always about power. And control. And because you, as a male, had no idea the privilege you were given by simple way of being male, it’s more difficult for you to see this, and even more difficult to understand on a level that you can truly and completely understand what it’s like to feel this way every day. It’s also more difficult to understand this because in the end, women are asked to keep silent. We’re asked to shut up about it. Don’t talk about those dark things that are said to you when no one else is around. Our parents ignore us. Our teachers pretend it doesn’t happen. Our friends write us off as insane, man-hating feminists. “Shush, now, honey, and it’ll just go away.”

No. Because it won’t just go away. Not unless I continue to talk about it. Until people start to learn. Until men begin to stand beside me and start asking men to stop treating women poorly.

That guy, Aaron Lee Bentley, in his seemingly innocent tweet, was no different just because he didn’t tell me to “get raped”. His tweet was the equivalent of “what was she wearing?” It doesn’t matter whether or not I was following ProSexTips or not. It shouldn’t matter what I was wearing. Being an asshole doesn’t get excused because you see my actions as more horrible as a reactionary response than his were in execution. He was no different than the “get in the kitchen” girl. Or the guy who claimed I was a virgin and my first fuck would be my father.

Because what you don’t know and can’t understand is that this is what I deal with daily. This is my life. I have to remember that if I choose to wear pigtails in my hair, women will stare at me and think “slut” and men will think “hot, I’d fuck her”. I can’t just BE a female who likes to play video games. I can’t just BE a female who goes to the store to buy some damn nail polish with pig tails. I am a sexual toy for men. And it’s my fault because I have tits and a vagina. (Yes the pigtail thing happened on the day this was written).

It’s not my fault. It’s society’s fault for allowing it to reach this point of inclusion in the ideologies of people as a general rule. And it’s the gaming community’s fault for silencing women for years and years by embracing them into the inner circle when they’re willing to make sexist jokes. The gaming community has asked women to keep quiet about their experiences. Telling women to just “ignore the trolls”.

I’m sorry, I’m tired of ignoring the trolls. I’m going to fight back. I’m going to continue to tell my story (again and again and again) all the while asking men to speak up when they hear misogyny, sexism, and homophobic hate speech. Even if there isn’t a woman present. Even if no one has expressed discomfort. Because the ideologies need to change. And the only way to do that is to keep talking about it.

My fight is not your fight. It will never be. I chose this.

But don’t judge me and tell me I no longer have a valid point because the severity of one tweet didn’t carry the same hateful weight as the others. They are the same. In the long list of shitty things people have said to me over the years, it is all the same.

The difference between you and I? I’m not judging you, a man, based on his male comments. I try to talk to men. Women. People. And tell my story, again and again. And again.

One day, the little girls out there will feel comfortable saying “I’m a gamer. I like games” without their gender being a deciding factor of how seriously they can be a gamer. And they won’t have to justify their level of gaming by the types of games they choose to play or how many rape jokes they can take. They will be female. And they will be gamers.

That is my job.