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.

Personal Life Meet Twitter (aka World of Assholes)

**Note: There is a really good chance that some of these offending tweets are triggering.
This is your warning, should you choose to continue.
**

I suspect there is going to be some backlash for this post, and realistically, I’m okay with that. I’ve said my piece about feminism and how to interact with each other. I’ve shared a little bit about my personal life in my most recent post. I’ve also drafted a ton of WoW-related blog posts, that may or may not ever see the light of the internet.

I’ve been around on the internet for a really long time. I’m talking about before half of the younger folks even knew what the internet was. When dial-up was standard, and you paid by the hour. So I’m no stranger to internet trolling and general assholery. However, I’ve done the best that I can at keeping my twitter timeline/feed to a select few whom I feel are able to handle themselves like adults. They can have conversations about certain controversial topics, or discuss lore about fictional characters. Not all of them love Doctor Who or knitting, but each person is mostly respectful and decent. That being said, I don’t tend to block people on twitter. Maybe unfollow them. I’m not afraid to explain why if someone questions why they’re being unfollowed. I’ve been unfollowed. It happens.

One thing I don’t expect to see is blatant misogyny and douchebaggery.

I know that when women speak out about feminism and mistreatment in the gaming world (and truthfully on the internet in general), there is a lot of backlash. Look at what happened to Anita Skarkeesian when she decided to open up a kickstarter to get funding for a video webseries about tropes and women. This isn’t rocket science people. There is a real fuckin’ issue with men on the internet. There’s a real fuckin’ issues with PEOPLE on the internet thinking they can be complete and utter assholes!

But I never thought I would be on the receiving end of some of that asshatery. Apparently I was wrong.

Someone I followed on Twitter retweeted something that was meant to be a joke. Except it really wasn’t that funny. I suspect if you find being an asshole and believing that women are less human than men, okay, sure it was funny… ish. Here’s the original offending tweet.

prosextips_01

And my response to both parties.

hestiah_01

By stating that I was offended, ProSexTips decided to rally the troops, all 70K+ of them. Here’s a retweet with the extended twitlonger text, of this guy asking his followers to send me offensive “jokes”.

prosextips_02

And at that point, that’s when the shit hit the fan. What came after this rallying of the troops was nothing short of some of the most vile and despicable crap that people could ever say to another human. I retweeted some of it, so that the people on my own timeline could read it, but then I thought better of it, and ended up reporting most of them and blocking them. Which removed the retweets altogether. But here’s where all the fun begins. Wait until you get a load of some of these tweets, which are just so jaw-dropping. I have few words.

responses_01

Clearly my looks have a whole lot to do with my opinion and offense-level of “the cupcake joke”. And Aaron Lee Bentley doesn’t understand how reading works, or he might have been able to figure out that I don’t actually follow the offender, @ProSexTips, but instead made the mistake of following fellow misogynist @FrostSorrow.

responses_02

Some of the most offensive things here happen to be the females who also went along with this whole bashing the feminist nonsense, but also calling me a fat lesbian, as though either of those things should be something I’m deeply ashamed of. Regardless of the amount of truth in any of this, neither of those things are shameful. Apparently being offended by a misogynistic joke is also cause to be told I’m a virgin who will lose her virginity to her father. Wow. Just wow.

responses_03

Being offended also means that I have no genitalia. There are questions as to whether or not there’s enough Scotch in the world to make me fuck-able. Questions as to my ability to give head. Women telling me my place is in the kitchen. My mom is apparently a whore. And another reference to “my place” being in the kitchen.

responses_04

And these are the last of them. I actually reported @ProSexTips to twitter for harassment, since he decided that it would be “cute” to ask that I get tweeted really offensive shit. I suspect that Twitter either removed it or something happened to the handful of them that they directed at me, cause they’re gone now. There is still a trickle of people responding to me and they’re immediately reported as spam/harassment and blocked.

The worst thing is that it was so easy for him to get not just childish men and boys to respond this way, but to get women to treat another woman like that. Women, this does not make you “one of the guys.” This means that you are enabling men and saying that it’s okay to treat women like shit.

I did not hide a single one of the usernames. I do ask that you don’t harass them in turn. Don’t even engage them in conversation. It’s not worth the effort and it’s certainly not worth your time. You can, dear reader, go through and block them if you choose. It’ll stop any harassment headed your way by taking care of these offenders.

Last I leave you with this link to a video by a guy named Jay Smooth. Why is this video so important? Because not enough men are asking other men to stop with this kind of hate speech. It’s evident that a large portion of the internet male population thinks women are idiotic and deserve to be in the kitchen, so how do I expect men to take me seriously? I need the help of other men. Men who are willing to speak up and say something.

I don’t want to ever have children if this is what they have to look forward to. We’ve let this go on long enough.

Feminism and You: How to Participate in Open Discussions

Note: I would like to note here and now that comments will be moderated. I am the sole person to approve them. Why?? The simplest answer is because many people can’t talk civilly to each other.*

Around the twitter-verse there has been a lot of buzz surrounding feminism… and other -isms. Today I’m going to address some of the problems surrounding the types of conversations being had on twitter, despite listening to my gut which says to stay the hell out of the dialogue. While I’m not going to single any particular person out some of the referenced conversations might sound really familiar. If you’re feeling as though I’m pointing a finger at you specifically, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the way you’ve been treating others, and how you’ve been handling having discussions about feminism among your peers. Feminism is one of those really touchy subjects in which people feel very strongly one way or the other, including ambivalence and apathy. In order to have a productive and constructive conversation about feminism, people need to understand the history of feminism and how we’ve gotten to where we are today.

Feminism, an Intro

Feminism at the core is a desire for equality between men and women. It’s a “movement aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.” Historically, women have been oppressed for far longer than it’s been recorded in history books. Women are still oppressed in many countries outside of the United States, but for today’s history and civil rights lesson, I’m going to stick to U.S. History only.

In 1868 African American slaves were granted citizenship equal to those of whites (though we all know that it didn’t necessary play out that way, but this is a discussion for another post on a different blog… I digress). In 1870, the 15th amendment was enacted, prohibiting “the denial of suffrage based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude.Note that it says nothing about gender. Fast-forward 50 years (50 fuckin’ years people… wrap your head around this shit!! That’s a lifetime!) and women are granted suffrage with the 19th amendment, lawfully ending women being viewed as the property of men in the United States.

Take a moment and process that. No really. Just think about it. African American men were property one day, and in two years are granted full rights (again, in law only. I realize shit went on for years after this point). But oh no! We lowly women were still the property of men for another 50-fuckin’-years!

Please understand that I am angry. This shit makes me damn angry. Women still make less money for the same work and education when you look at specific power-positions (things like CEO, CFO and directors). Then there are those archaic politicians like Rick Santorum running around spouting bullshit about how he, as a white man, has the right to put into law what is and isn’t okay for a woman to do to her own body.

“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country…. Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” – Rick Santorum (Speaking with CaffeinatedThoughts.com, Oct. 18, 2011)

Couple that with the ignorance of men like Rush Limbaugh who, as evidenced by what he says, clearly doesn’t actually understand how birth control or women’s bodies work.

“She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.” – Rush Limbaugh

So here is all of us, in current times. Women are still often treated as second-class citizens. Women are still coddled and treated like children. They are still the highest demographic to be sexually assaulted and raped. Many feminists have been fighting the good fight for so long; I feel like many of them have forgotten what it was like before they were feminists. In the experiences I’ve had on twitter, as well as what I’ve seen passively, it seems that many people have forgotten some of the basics of feminism. So here I go… and I’m going to school you, dear reader, in the early learnings of feminism.

THINGS TO REMEMBER

Many women want to believe that they have always been a feminist, but the fact is, most people don’t even realize there’s a difference in the way men and women are treated until well into adulthood. Feminists are created, taught, and made. There is no collective feminist mind in which some people tap in, and others do not. There is no special initiation, either, much to the chagrin of many self-declaring feminists. You don’t pay dues. There is no membership card. And there are no special parking spaces anywhere. Does it seem as though I’m making light of the feminist cause? I am, in a way. Like so many other things, the extremists make it easy to poke fun of important issues. Feminism is not exempt from this. Feminism is still pretty srs bzns. Even for me.

Men can also be feminists, but they cannot actually know what it’s like to deal with mistreatment based on gender (except for a small population of transgendered individuals).

So, most important rule to remember: People are not born feminists.

No one is born knowing all there is to know about feminism. At your conception, your parents did not have some survey to fill out in which they chose whether or not you would be a feminist, or a misogynist. It’s a sliding scale. I’ll have graphics for this later.

ISSUES I SEE ON TWITTER THUS FAR

Many people are extremely quick to label others. They also seem to feel as though they can think for others, tell others what to do, and flame them if they don’t agree. There is little room for open discussion among this particular group. If someone is curious about feminism they are met with derision and blame for not being cultured on all things feminist. There is also little room for opinion. If you have a differing opinion, you are flamed, chided, and eventually shunned. This is coming from both sides of the feminism scale, where feminism is on the extreme right and misogyny is on the extreme left (and the red dots are where various different people will fall on the scale).

The best thing is that people can fall somewhere, anywhere on that spectrum of feminism and misogyny. There are an infinite number of points there. Remember that too. Infinite. Unending. There will be a quiz at the end.**

Now here I’m going to toss some math your way. Statistics. I know. I hated this stuff when I was in school, but I’m glad to have learned it. It’s going to help me out right now. Statistics, in my own definition, is theoretical math. It’s often used to help postulate or find relationships between two or more variables. Right now, we’re talking about two extremes: Feminism and Misogyny.

Now, if I was so inclined I could create a questionnaire that might measure a person’s feminism (or subsequently their misogyny). Scientifically, I might give this questionnaire out and ask people to anonymously answer and submit their responses. As a scientist, I am trying to be as objective as possible. No matter what the sample size is (meaning whether 100 or 1000 people responded), their scores would fall into this distribution table. All samples are meant to be representative of the population, but realistically, it’s impossible to get a full population of subjects. So I’d have to make inferences. The bigger the sample size, the more likely it is to see this bell curve of where people will fall on the scale between feminism and misogyny.

What you’re seeing is that the largest portion of the population will fall in the center, just to the left and right of the middle, by one SD (standard deviation)***. 68% of the population will fall in this middle section. When you go 2 SD out, you end up capturing more people within this middle area totaling about 95.4% of the population. What this means, in the end, is that I can reasonably guess that if I gave a new person the questionnaire, there is a 95.4% chance they will fall somewhere within 2 SD of the mean (middle).

Why is this important? This is important to remember when you’re talking to people about feminism because such a tiny portion of the population falls at the extremes. I can, subjectively, only give questionnaires out to a feminist population, skewing my results. I can do the same the other direction as well. Objectively, this is pretty standard when measuring human behavior and other non-mathematically measurable attributes. In science you can make inferences based on these standards.

HOW DO WE MAKE THIS BETTER FOR EVERYONE

In many of my efforts to discuss feminism on twitter, the extremists are quick to twist my words around on me. I’ve been calm when trying to discuss things, but in the same vein as talking with a misogynist, it seems that people are quick to jump to irrationalities and generalities that don’t hold their own out of context. I’ve watched people go from perfectly reasonable to arm-flailing, finger-pointing, screaming-the-top-of-their-lungs type nonsense. I’ve watched people get singled out, name-called, and shunned by others in the community. I’ve had those same fingers pointed at me.

My point, often times, has been to educate with resolved calm. To which I’ve been accused of telling feminists and victims to “be the bigger person” and equally pointing fingers telling them they’re not allowed to be angry. Quite the contrary. Be angry. Be damn angry. Fuck! I’m effing angry!! But I choose to focus my anger and energies toward social change, not just to make myself more comfortable. I want the change for future daughters and transgendered children. I want the change to happen, but I understand that humans cannot and will not listen to you when you’re jumping around like a banshee, spitting fire and pointing fingers in their face. The up-in-your-face method isn’t working. The anger is often channeled in the wrong direction. Remember, 95.4% of the population. That’s a lot of fuckin’ people who may not have been a victim of a sexual crime. That’s a lot of people who have never been objectified. That’s a lot of people who don’t know a feminist. That’s a lot of people who I might be able to educate and talk to and maybe, just maybe, I can get them closer to that 2nd standard deviation of feminism. Closer to the outliers.

What’s actually happening is people are being chided for not having experienced something and thus not currently a feminist. They’re being accused of being ableist and victim-blaming. When what’s really happening is the extreme feminists are arm-flailing, spitting accusations, and finger-pointing, forcing people to pick whether they want to be associated with the extreme feminists or none at all. There are a whole helluva lot of feminists out there who can have a civil conversation with without blaming the people who aren’t involved. Not everyone is a feminist. Feminists are created out of circumstance and education. Being calm while educating others is not taking the high road and letting the misogynists run rampant. It’s having a discussion and taking the opportunity to teach people. Let the misogynists be the arm-flailers. Let them be the haters. Let them push people away so that feminists, as civil, adult, educated individuals, can teach those who fall in that middle 95.4%.

Focus the rage at the ones who deserve it. Please stop talking for all feminists. Speak as you, for you, and not for the rest of us. No one elected you as the spokesperson for feminism, so please stop. And remember, that on the other side of every all-caps tweet, on the other side of the computer screen, is a breathing, living person who has feelings. Surprisingly, there are people reaching out asking questions not to mock and demean you, but to learn and understand. Civility, people. It goes a long way in the quest for equality for women in all areas of life, not just in video games.

* Plus I pay the bill, so I can do what I want.
** No actual quiz.
*** I wish I could explain standard deviation better, but it’s used in statistics and probability theory.