Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dear Feminists

Dear Feminists,

You often have discussions about housework.  Specifically, who does more of the housework in a household and why.  That's great!  It's good to discuss these things, for a variety of reasons.

Over on Feministe today, I noticed a couple of comments like this one:
I will never understand why anyone does regular housework in the first place.
It's fair, I think, to discuss cleanliness standards.  Different people have different thresholds for cleanliness or expectations for what a home should look like, and it can be good to discuss where those ideas come from and whether or not we should adjust them.

In that discussion, some of you may be overlooking something.  There's a narrative around certain demographics, particularly people of color, that they're dirty.  Literally, the word "filthy" is put before their race in casual (obviously racist) conversation.  As a result, I can see why some people of color in particular might take pride in a clean home.

Please keep that in mind as you carry on this conversation.  Thanks!

With love,
Frank Lee

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dear Film and Television Industry

Content note: This post talks about homicide and gender in real life and in fiction.

Dear Film and Television Industry,

Thanks for all of the great entertainment you've given me over the years!

Here are some Google results:
transcript "dead girl" 3,000,000
transcript "dead lady" 72,100
transcript "dead woman" 1,120,000
transcript "dead boy" 495,000
transcript "dead guy" 989,000
transcript "dead man" 3,480,000

script dialogue "dead girl" 1,640,000
script dialogue "dead lady" 91,800
script dialogue "dead woman" 1,460,000
script dialogue "dead boy" 700,000
script dialogue "dead guy" 737,000
script dialogue "dead man" 1,990,000
What crosses the million mark?  Dead girl, dead woman, and dead man, in both searches.

The lowest?  Dead lady, by far, followed by dead boy.

I find it telling that "dead girl" so far outstrips "dead boy."

Why did I look this up in the first place?  I like mystery stories, so I watch a lot of mystery movies and crime procedurals.  I've noticed that you often depict professionals (investigators, for example) saying "dead girl" in their dialogue.  For example, they'll mention needing to speak with the dead girl's parents.

I'd like to suggest "the victim's parents" as an alternative.  Or "[name]'s parents," as the victim is usually a significant enough character to have a name the audience would recognize.

Maybe your point is that these gritty cops are so jaded that any corpse is just a dead girl to them.  My first response to that is, great, so find other ways to show it.  My second response to that is, okay, but why do you so often use "dead girl" when the victim was eighteen or older and therefore a dead woman?

Why does dead man exceeds dead woman (3.5 to 1.1 in one search, 2 to 1.5 in the other)?  I'd guess that it's in part because men's stories are told more often.  It's also because most homicide victims are more likely to be men than women.

Why does dead girl exceed dead boy (3.0 to 0.5 in one search, 1.6 to 0.7 in the other)?  I'd guess that it's in part because, as I mentioned above, people often label women as "girls," skewing the results.  It's also because homicide victims are more likely to be girls than boys.  Wait, no, that's not right.  The study reports that, "Most of the children killed are male and most of the offenders are male."

If most homicide victims are male, then why am I seeing so many dead girls on my TV?

Here's a fun fact!
Female victims are more likely than male victims to be killed by an intimate or family member.  Male victims are more likely than female victims to be killed by acquaintances or strangers.
If the victim is a woman, and the butler did it, then the butler's probably her father or husband.

While feminists work against the patriarchy so that all lives have value, so that no one views men as expendable or women as victims or men as brutally violent or women as girls, please join our fight.  We'll all be better off for it.  Here are some tips to get you started!  Stop sexualizing violence.  Stop sensationalizing violence against women.  Stop glorifying violent criminals.  Work on all of your crappy narratives about sexual predators and pedophiles.  And start using your victims' names.  That whole thing where the killer is more important and interesting than the victims?  I see too much of that in real life to enjoy watching it in my fiction.

With love,
Frank Lee

P.S. I wonder how much things like Dead Man Walking skewed those results?

Dear Amy Sherman-Palladino

Dear Amy Sherman-Palladino,

Congratulations on your new show!  It's great to see a successful woman making her way through Hollywood, and it's great that you're bringing more women's stories to TV.

The story you're telling, however, lacks some key elements of diversity.  You know that.  Shonda Rhimes pointed it out, and you've been asking about it directly.

Here's what Shonda Rhimes said:
Hey @abcfbunheads: really? You couldn't cast even ONE young dancer of color so I could feel good about my kid watching this show? NOT ONE?
And here's what you said:
Palladino didn’t directly comment on the diversity issue, but indicated that any shortcomings were at least in part a result of lack of time and casting limitations.
You didn't directly comment on it?  You had no real reply to that?  You could've said, "She's right, I'd love to see more people of color on the show.  I look forward to bringing in more dancers of color as the series progresses."  You could've said, "That's definitely a weakness in our show, and we've been discussing ways to incorporate more dancers of color."  You could've said any number of things.

Instead, you took the time to say this:
“[But] I’ve always felt that women, in a general sense, have never supported other women the way they should…I think it’s a shame, but to me, it is what it is.”
...with the increased demands on showrunners — particularly while getting a new program on the air — there’s no room for criticism among peers. “I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t go after another woman. I, frankly, wouldn’t go after another showrunner,” she said.
That's what you spent your interview time on.  That's what you decided to discuss instead of the whiteness of your cast.  Criticizing a woman of color for having the gall, the rudeness, the ego, to criticize you.  How unkind of her.  How unprofessional.

I wonder why you see her statement as "going after" you.  As if it's an unwarranted personal attack and not a criticism of ongoing, persistent, systemic racism.

You're scolding her.  Telling her to shut up and get back in line.  You want her to be a woman first and foremost, to put solidarity with other women ahead of all other things, to deny the rest of her identity.

She shouldn't have to choose between one aspect of her own self and another.  She shouldn't have to be silent on race to support women.  Supporting women means supporting women of color, because women of color are women.  Where are those women in your cast?

It's hard to speak up.  Pointing out instances of racism makes one vulnerable to push back, harassment, humiliation, and further discrimination.  Speaking up can cause people to be fired, beaten, abused.  Passed over for promotions, belittled, rejected, shunned.  In most cases, speaking up comes at a price, even when you or they aren't initially aware of what that price is.

Shonda Rhimes spoke up.  Instead of embodying the solidarity you talk about, you turned on her.  Instead of supporting another woman, another showrunner, you scolded and shamed her.

Whose place is it to criticize?  If not hers, whose?  How else will change happen?  If no one said a word, would your show hire dancers of color?  Obviously not.  Now that people are speaking up, it might.  And the next show might.  Other networks, wanting to avoid bad publicity, might make an effort to create a more diverse cast.  Change comes from criticism and encouragement and people agitating for it.  Progress doesn't come from silence and complacency.

You can't say that she was wrong.  Only that she was wrong to speak up.  You won't address what she said, only the fact that she said it.  It sounds like another case of "being called racist is worse than being racist."

In your words, I see a hint that you might have fought for a more diverse cast, but the machinations of the business squashed those efforts.  It's possible that you genuinely would have stocked the show with more dancers of color, but that you had to make a few nasty compromises to get the show on the air at all.

Maybe you think that you can't talk about those things openly.  Maybe you believe that it's better for your own career if you don't air those grievances and point out the racism and other problems in the industry.

Speaking up may not have been the best move for her career, either.  But it was the right move, regardless.  Instead of criticizing her, criticize the racist, misogynistic industry you both work in.

With love,
Frank Lee

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dear USA

Dear USA,

This is atrocious.

The Texas Republican Party official platform has been updated, and it is a disgusting, contemptible, hateful mess.

It's also very real.  This is the real and current platform of politically active adults in a major party in a well-populated state.  This was written and directed by people with a lot of influence.

This is not the fringe.  This is the base.

It can be hard to admit how very, extensively hateful people in our country can be.  Not just hateful, hateful and powerful and numerous.  This is the Texas Republican Party.  The last president we had, whom we endured for two terms, was the Governor of Texas before he became president.

We have to take this seriously.  Gross and scary and hateful as their platform is, it's not unique.  It's not rare.  It's not unusual.  It is very, very normal and very, very mainstream.

If you needed a wake-up call, let this be it.  Get involved now.  Speak up, vote, donate, volunteer, agitate.

I want these ideas to be the fading roars of dinosaurs soon to be extinct.  I want this platform to be little more than a laughable footnote of history.  I'm counting on the notion that you do, too.

With love,
Frank Lee

Dear Fools and Trolls on the WOW Forums

Dear Fools and Trolls on the WOW Forums,

Every once in a while (sometimes it seems like five times a day, but that may just be my perception) you start a thread to express your shock and confusion over the notion that some male gamers play female toons and/or some female gamers play male toons.

I stopped opening those threads a long time ago, and I wish that everyone else would, too, because there are much more interesting things to talk about, like those "WTF, pandas, are you kidding me?!" threads.  But you keep on creating "OH NOES GENDER!" threads, so let's hash it all out now, so we can exhaust the subject and never bring it up again.

First, let me explain why I'm so hostile to these threads in the first place.  It's because they come across as the ridiculous and immature sort of gender policing engaged in by children who've only just learned that boys and girls are different and are still trying to negotiate the boundaries the patriarchy has placed on them.  When you express surprise/dismay/confusion over "men playing female toons, oh no!" it's like you're still trying to figure out whether women can be doctors and why different people have different genitals and why Jimmy's dad cooks dinner for Jimmy's family when only women make dinner and why Heather has two mommies.  Welcome to the wide world of humanity, where different people do different things for different reasons and we don't all confine ourselves into little "boys do this" and "girls do that" boxes.

In other words, please mature.  You're embarrassing yourself.

With that said, let's look at five simple reasons people might play toons which don't strictly mirror their own gender.  (Much of this also applies to why people play non-human characters, so apply it to that and stop asking why people play elves.)

Variety!  Why play the same old thing everywhere you go?  In a lot of games, I have to play whatever the game gives me.  Sometimes I can only be a human, or only be a man, or only be a particular main character.  There aren't other options available to me.  In WOW, there are a lot of choices.  My toon can be a human!  Or a gnome!  Or an elf!  Or a troll!  Or a bull-cow-thing!  My toon can be a warlock or a priest or a warrior or a hunter!  My toon can be a man or a woman!  My toon can have long hair or short hair or pink hair or green hair or no hair at all!  It's fun to try new things and get a plethora of experiences.  Some people find it boring to play the same old thing over and over, and since you can create 50 different characters on one account, why not try something new?

Fantasy!  Guess what, WOW is a fantasy game!  In a fantasy game, I might want to have fun exploring a different existence than the one I toil through every day.  WOW gives me the chance to get creative, especially from an RP perspective.  I can be anyone I want to be, so why limit myself to mimicking the very life I already inhabit?  CREATIVITY.  IT'S FUN.

Aesthetics!  As you may have noticed, the different toons look different.  They're taller, shorter, bonier, thicker, and so on.  They have different body types and different facial features.  They have different movements.  Different casting animations.  For instance, I like the staff animations for blood elf women, and when I roll a blood elf caster, I tend to make it a woman and give her a staff instead of, say, a dagger.  I find every single one of the available faces for human men unpleasant, and so I tend not to play very many human men.

Attraction!  Yes, some people like to look at something which appeals to them sexually, even in a minor way.  Whichever toon you play, you end up looking at it a lot, so why not make something you find easier on the eyes, so to speak?  If you think that draenei women are hot, you might want to play one.  If you find belf men hot, you might be more inclined to play one of those than, say, an undead woman.

Personal choice!  The human element!  Different people like different things for different reasons.  I play what appeals to me.  Sometimes I like to play a strong, tough character.  Sometimes I like to play a cute, fun character.  Sometimes I want to play a kind character, or a sinister one, or whatever I'm in the mood for.  I might be a human woman in real life and enjoy playing human women in the game, but like most people I tend to play more than one character, so I might roll something besides a human woman just because the options are there.

In explaining why some people play a variety of toons, I don't mean to mock people who only play toons who closely mimic their own characteristics.  That's fine.  Enjoy yourself.  But stop shaming and questioning people who make different choices than you do.  Shake off those narrow boundaries the gender police have erected around you and relax.  You might enjoy it.

With love,
Frank Lee

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dear Ball Park

Dear Ball Park,

I'm sure that your hot dogs are yummy.  I'm sure that you're proud of your product and want to present it in the best light.

You're going about it in the wrong way.

Let's look at your new "99% Sure" commercial.  Three men stand by a grill discussing baseball statistics.  The point of contention seems to be that since one of the men is 99.9% sure that he's right, he might be wrong.  Which nicely reinforces your idea that only 100% is the real thing, and anything less isn't good enough.

That's all fine.  Until your commercial voiceover hits this line: "Made with 100% Angus beef to make guys 100% happy."

When I heard that line, I was taken aback.  Guys?  Is this product only for men?  Do women not eat hot dogs?  Do women not like beef?  Do women prefer their products 25% beef and 75% whatever else?  It was alienating to hear your own commercial exclude me, as if I wouldn't enjoy your product.

And then I got to the tag line.

"Men.  Easier fed than understood."

What the hell is this?   It's easier to feed men than to understand them?  First of all, most men feed themselves.  Your tag line suggests that the person watching the commercial and buying your product is a woman in a caretaking role, someone who will buy this man-food and feed it to her dependent men.  Which might make more sense if your ad were full of children, but since your ad features adults who appear able to feed themselves, you're really raising the notion of the wife-as-caretaker, suggesting that it's a wife's duty to nurture her man-child husband.  Gross.

If men are easier to feed than to understand, that suggests that it's difficult to understand men.  Oh, men!  Half of humanity!  So difficult to comprehend!

First of all, no, half of humanity is not impossible to understand.  They're human beings, and they're generally as easy to communicate with as anyone else, especially if you employ things like "listening" and "conversation."  Also, guess what?  The oppressed classes tend to understand their oppressors better than the other way around.  For one thing, it's smart to know your oppressor well, for your own survival.  For another thing, the majority of pop culture is dedicated to the male experience.  So women on the whole have a decent grasp of this mystery called "men."

When I saw your sexist, man-hating travesty of a commercial, I was so appalled that I immediately wanted to contact you.  To make sure that I'd understood your commercial properly, I looked it up to take another look.

Which is how I found this little gleaming nugget of complete shit from your official YouTube channel:
For guys, being 99.9% sure about the accuracy of an obscure baseball stat isn't good enough. Why? We have no idea. Don't try to understand men -- just feed them Ball Park Angus Beef Franks, made with 100% Angus beef. Men. Easier fed than understood.™
You're really committed to this man-hating marketing campaign.  Which is a shame.  I happen to know and love an awful lot of men.  Now that I've learned that you hold such a horrible view of them, I'll buy my food from another company, and encourage them to do the same.

You might want to choose a less disgusting campaign next time.

With love,
Frank Lee

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dear Skirt Sports

This letter involves some discussion of sexual violence against women.

Dear Skirt Sports,

Let's think about the general context of people chasing other people.

Hmm.  Tag, perhaps?  Various sports.  The most dangerous game?

Let's think about the specific context of men chasing women.

Sexual assault.

Yeah, that's pretty much the biggest association I have when I think of men chasing women.  It's men chasing women down while the women run for their lives.  It's women as prey and men as predator.  Sexual predator.

It's hard to believe that no one associated with your Skirt Chaser event thought of that.

Maybe they did think of that?  Maybe that was the point?  To flirt with a little sexual danger?

You know who may not find that sexy?  People who are aware of the great prevalence of rape and sexual assault.  People who are aware of the rape culture.  People who know that framing sexual predation as fun and flirty is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

If you're single and lookin' for love, wear a flirty singles sticker - you just may get lucky!

Get lucky?  You know that "get lucky" is a reference to sex.  You're aware of it and you're playing on that association.

A woman runs away.  A man chases after her, catches her, and...  Rapes her?  Gets lucky?  One of these terms is the reality of sexual assault.  One of these terms is the rape culture's interpretation.

I can only think of the jokes men will make about this event.  At and during this event.  The way they'll feel entitled to act out, touch, make comments, when they catch up to (or just catch) the women.

It's a race.  A simple race.  You could've made it fun for everyone.  You chose to make it fun for rapists.

Any time rapists are the most comfortable people in the room, you're doing something wrong.

Please plan your events with more sensitivity in the future.  Donating some of the proceeds to a survivor's organization or, as Shaker Myn suggested, the Women's Sports Foundation would be a good step.

With love,
Frank Lee

Dear English Speakers

Dear English Speakers,

Hi!  I hope that everything's going well in your lives.  Some of you may be busy, so I'll cut to the chase.

Language evolves over time.  Some parts of it evolve quickly while some parts evolve more slowly.  What's interesting is not only how language evolves but why.

For instance, the way you pronounce "Uranus."

Typically, in my own experience, people consider the correct pronunciation to be akin to "your anus."  Which sounds like a reference to a private body part.  Which is something most people don't discuss in general audiences.

Some people are so uncomfortable with saying "your anus" that they come up with other pronunciations.  YOUR-in-us, for example.

You know what's even sillier than snickering over "your anus?"  Being so uncomfortable with a homophone that you change a word's pronunciation.

Similarly, the word "pianist" used to be pronounced "PEE-an-ist."  Said quickly, it could be mistaken for "penis."  Uncomfortable with that, some people now say "pee-ANN-ist."

It reminds me of Victorians being so uncomfortable with limbs that they put skirts on pianos to cover the legs.  To be honest, I don't know if that's something which actually happened or not.  Regardless, it sounds silly, doesn't it?  How foolish, to be so worried about any possible sexual association that you'd ward it off so diligently.

Pronounce it "your anus."  Pronounce it "PEE-an-ist."  Giggle over it if it strikes you as silly.  You'll be fine.

With love,
Frank Lee

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dear Society

Dear Society,

Forgive me if this gets harsh.  I'm going to discuss fat people in some unpleasant ways while I tease apart some ideas.

We talk about food as if there's a moral component to eating.  We talk about "cheating" on our diets as if we're cheating on our spouses or our taxes.  We talk about "guilt" to the extent that some lines of diet food are labeled "guilt-free" right on the packaging.

We talk as if what is healthful and nutritious for some people is healthful and nutritious for all people, which it isn't.  We talk about that food being good for us.  We separate foods into "good" foods and "bad" foods.  We praise ourselves and each other for eating "good" foods and chide ourselves and each other for eating "bad" foods.  Within that framework, eating "good" foods becomes a pious act.  Eating "bad" foods is a sinful act.

Good people eat good foods.  Bad people eat bad foods.

There's a related problem.  We act as if "calories in, calories out" is a magical formula which never fails and holds true for every body at all times.  We act as if "you are what you eat" means that if you eat food with fat in it, you will automatically become fat.

Put those ideas together, and where does that leave us?  Fat food makes fat people.  Fatty food is bad for you; fatty food is bad.  Bad people eat bad food.  Fat people eat fat food.

Fat people are bad people.

Food has a moral component.

Fat people are immoral.

It's bolstered by "gluttony" being on the official list of the seven deadly sins.  Gluttony is a sin.  Gluttons are wicked.  Fat people are fat because they overeat, which proves them gluttonous, therefore fat people are wicked.

Nasty, gluttonous fat people.  How many fat villains can you name?  How many fat heroes can you name?

I used to see fat bullies on TV and in movies, and that never made sense to me.  In my reality, fat people aren't bullies, they're the ones being bullied.  In addition, bullies are often popular and charismatic people, while I never thought of fat kids as popular.  But I often see fat kids depicted as bullies in popular culture.  Because fat kids are mean.  Fat kids are hateful.  Fat kids are nasty and immoral and greedy and gluttonous.  If they weren't so immoral and greedy, they wouldn't be fat, would they?  And they wouldn't need to steal other kids' lunch money, because they wouldn't want to spend it on extra lunches or candy or snacks like the little pigs that they are.

What good does all of this food morality do?  What do we gain from it?  We praise thin people, or people who eat foods we perceive to be "good," as virtuous people.  We shame fat people, or people who eat foods we perceive to be "bad," for being greedy and wicked.

So thin people can feel good about themselves.  That's nice.  I like for people to feel good about themselves in general.

But they feel good about themselves at the expense of fat people.  But I know a lot of fat people.  I know that they're fat for a lot of different reasons.  I know that they eat the same foods in the same quantities and same ways that thin people eat.  Which isn't to say that Fat Person A and Thin Person B eat precisely the same; what I mean is, if you take all of the thin people in the world and compare them to all of the fat people in the world, you're going to find matching pairs.  You'll find thin and fat people who are vegetarians, thin and fat people who exist almost entirely on fast food, thin and fat people who scarf down gourmet pasta, thin and fat people who nibble on leafy greens, and so on.

You'll find thin and fat people with all sorts of health problems.  And you'll find thin and fat people who are perfectly healthy.

Yet some of them are good, virtuous, and pious.  And some of them are immoral, greedy, and wicked.

Maybe you're worried that people are eating too much crap in their meals.  Okay, sure.  Let's take some of the HFCS out of food.  And let's take some of the morality out of it, too, okay?

With love,
Frank Lee

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dear Feminists

Dear Feminists,

Hi!  I love you.

I just read this post over at Shakesville (about which I wrote this post).  In the comments, I wrote:
I was going to make a joke about filing everyone on that guest list under "People I Wish to Avoid."

But, really, people who spend that kind of money on Romney's campaign probably have a lot to learn about privilege and empathy, so shunning them won't do as much good as pushing them to become better people. So, maybe, instead of shunning them, it would be better to send them progressive feminist care packages.

And now I will spend my afternoon amusing myself by thinking of what I'd like to include in a progressive feminist care package. Would it be best delivered in a knapsack?
In response to that, Liss asked:
Could we deliver them in faux uteri labeled "here's your own to play with so you can leave mine the fuck alone?"
If we had a Get Your Shit Together package to send to people who are fucking up the world to invite them to join us so that we can make the world a better place that much faster, what would you want to put in it?  How would you want to deliver it?

We'd have to include books, or print-outs of blog posts, or magazine subscriptions.  But reading material is easy to scoff at and set aside.

Something that's helped me develop my feminism has been hearing individual people's stories.  It would be great if we could get more people (like the people pouring their money into Romney's campaign) to open up and hear real stories from real people's lives.  Enough stories from enough people to understand that individual solutions to systemic problems aren't good enough.

That would take a lot of people.  At least a busload.

Picture a bus pulling up in a campaign donor's driveway.  (In my mind, this looks a lot like Leslie Knope's bus pulling up in front of Bobby Newport's house.)  Picture a flood of people coming out.  People of all shapes and sizes and colors and backgrounds and ages and genders and sexualities.  All kinds of people, all of them progressive and fired up and ready to educate.  Picture them spending a week introducing the campaign donor to feminism, presenting him with an Introduction to Feminism package (in the shape of a uterus?), telling him about their lives and their experiences and their dreams and how all of that's been affected by the patriarchy.  And then they'll go off to take the next campaign donor by storm, while the ones they leave in their wake will stumble back into the world, dazed and wondering, eager little budding feminists ready to spend their time and money and political clout in progressive ways.

If you hopped off of that bus to speak with that campaign donor, what stories from your life would you want to tell him?

With love,
Frank Lee

Dear Romney Supporters

Dear Romney Supporters,

I read on Shakesville that those of you who've been very generous to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign are being invited to a retreat.  It'll be "two days of policy sessions and campaign strategy discussions at a Deer Valley resort."

That sounds like a lot of fun.  Well, not to me, but presumably to you.

I'll admit, when I heard that the people who've garnered the most money for Romney's campaign were invited to a retreat, I thought to myself, "Great!  I wonder if I can get my hands on the guest list!  That'll be a handy way to know which people to avoid in life!"

Which was a silly thought to have, because it's not like you and I will ever cross paths.

It was also an unfair, unproductive thought.  It's part of my personal/political philosophy to expect more, to believe in hope, and to push people to be more considerate and empathetic in their dealings with the world.

I don't want to avoid you.  I want to help you.  If you're willing to donate to Romney's campaign and/or get your friends to donate, that means that:

a.) You have a certain amount of disposable income and you're willing to use it to effect change.
b.) You're politically involved.
c.) You're willing to speak up and encourage others to get involved in political causes.

That's great!  Those are great things!  Unfortunately, you're using all of that money and activism in the wrong direction.

Instead of attending "two days of policy sessions and campaign strategy discussions," why not attend something else?  I'd like to invite you to spend time with progressive feminists.  Now, I don't have the resources to throw together a resort retreat at the moment.  Maybe next year!  For now, I'd suggest that you sit down and read this.  All of the posts.  All of the comments.  Once you've finished, visit this site.  Read.  Get familiar with the people and discussions there.  Then go to Feministe and page through all of the comments sections, reading every discussion DonnaL's ever been in.

Finished?  Great!  That should have given you some solid background 101 stuff.  Now it's time to start some hands-on work.  I think that taking a tour of the USA, spending a week with one feminist after another, would be a good place to start.  Most of us should at least have a couch you can sleep on.  You can shadow us, watching how we live and what we deal with, and talk with us about whichever issues come up.  I'd recommend visiting at least one in each state.  Add in D.C. and Puerto Rico, and that'd be 52, so the whole trip should only take you a year.

Is that longer than two days with Romney?  Yes.  Will it involve a lot of discomfort and self-examination?  Yes.  Will we all be better off for it?  Yes.  And if you don't believe me, work through the first few steps and see how it goes.

With love,
Frank Lee

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dear Society

Dear Society,


It has to stop.

There is nothing innate about jewelry which makes it somehow the official property of women.  You don't have to clarify between "jewelry worn by women" and "jewelry worn by men."  It's just jewelry, all of it.

There is no magical property within eyeliner which turns it into a different product when it is worn by a man.  It is eyeliner.  It is not exclusively made for, or worn by, women.  Neither is mascara.

These objects are gender-neutral.  They're just things.  Eyeliner is still just eyeliner, no matter who wears it.

"But it's just some harmless wordplay!" you protest.  "Eye rhymes with guy!  It's cute!"

Perhaps my definition of harmless differs from yours.  You see, when you call it "guyliner," you're differentiating it from "eyeliner."  Which denotes that eyeliner is the women-only version.  Eyeliner, therefore, is for women.  Make-up is for women.  Men who wear make-up and eyeliner are different.  Weird.  Freaky.

This is called gender policing.  Women are like this, men are like that.  Women do these things, men do those things.  Never the twain shall meet!  But what happens to all of the wide majority of people who don't fit neatly into their tidy little gender categories?  What about women who don't fit into all of the women traits, or men who don't fit into all of the men traits?  What if women do men-things and men are into women-things?  They get harassed.  Bullied.  Abused.  Killed.

There's a lot more to gender than some rigid binary, and when you start to police gender, you end up hurting a whole bunch of people.

The big things in the world are related to the little things in the world.  You call it guyliner.  It feeds into gender policing.  Which makes life very unpleasant for a whole lot of people in a very real way.

Maybe you could skip the cute little wordplay next time and just call it eyeliner.

Oh, and while we're at it?  What the hell is up with women wearing "pants suits?"  They're not called "pants suits" when men wear them, are they?  No, then they're just "suits."  Let's just call them "suits" when all people wear them, okay?

Nice talking to you!

With love,
Frank Lee

Dear Luumisaurus

Speaking of delays and healers, I have a bit of news to tell everyone. Tigerlady has quit vodka. Apparently late at night after we finished our achievement runs when nobody was online, Tiger ninja transferred to Korgath with his e-girlfriend Poutyface. Not only did he leave us, but he also removed everyone associated with vodka from his RealID friends list. When Acrylic called him to ask if he was hacked or not, Tiger told him that the guild did him dirty. He was pretty much done with raiding. Tiger’s departure from the guild was met with ambivalent feelings. A lot of us were sad because we were losing one of our fellow Sons of Elune. Tiger is one of the heroes for the druid class. On the other hand, a fair number of guildies recognize how self-centered Tiger can be. For example, he left the moment we finished the achievement run when no one was around. One of the theories that is floating in the guild is that Poutyface pressured him into transferring for her own e-drama reason with other girls on the server. All that did is reaffirm the reason why we don’t like to recruit GGs or girl gamers.
Dear Luumisaurus,

I read a post and clicked a link and ended up at your blog.  I expected to learn more about your guild, and I did.  What I didn't expect was to stumble onto such blatant misogyny.  Do you realize how many nasty ideas you've packed into those last few sentences?  It's hard to know where to start.  For one thing, your language choices are telling.

Your post is from March of 2012.  In June of 2012, Tigerlady posted on the WOW general forums that he had plans to go back to college.  If he's going back, he must already have been there, so I'd guess that he's at least a sophomore.  What should I assume, then?

a.) Is he a college sophomore dating a seventeen-year-old?  Possibly!
b.) Does <vodka> "like to recruit" women 18 and above, but not girls 17 and younger?  Possibly!
c.) Do you habitually use "girls" as a catch-all term for "girls and women?"  I'm guessing yes!

Just for fun, I'm going to use the terms "woman" and "women" instead of "girl" and "girls."
The average player's age is 28, and female players tend to be a few years older than male players.
Surveys of MMO players have consistently put the average age of MMO players right around 30.
Statistically, you're more likely to run across women in-game than girls.  Why do people refer to a population largely comprised of adult women with an infantilizing term?  Misogyny!

With that point behind us, let's move on to something meatier.  You say that <vodka> doesn't like to recruit women gamers generally because of behavior like that which you believe Poutyface may have exhibited.

This notion suggests that all women are generally the same.  (Let's assume for the sake of this argument that Poutyface actually did it; we'll examine that assumption later.)  Poutyface did something unpleasant.  She's a woman.  Other women might do that, too, by virtue of their common womanhood.  Therefore, women are best excluded from the guild.

Why would you assume that other women might do something one woman has done?  Are women a monolith?  You would only expect to extrapolate from Poutyface's actions to all of womankind if you assumed that her behavior stems from the very state of being a woman, or the state of being a woman gamer, etc.

When I read over the paragraph I quoted above, do I assume that all men who play WOW discuss ex-guild members through public platforms in a negative way?  Do I assume that they all try to smear their ex-guildies' reputations?  Do I assume that they all vacate their guilds without warning?  Do I assume that all of them abandon their guilds after achievement runs?  No, and it would be foolish of me to do so, because there are a lot of different men who play WOW and they behave in different ways.  For example, Tigerlady thinks that it's okay to leave a guild in a certain fashion.  You don't think so.  Different men have different opinions and act in different ways!  "Too bad that women don't!" seems to be your mindset.

Here's the thing.  If I find a man who does something, I don't assume that all or even most other men do it.

If I find ten men in a group together, and eight of them are spitting on the ground, and two of them are instead reading books and not spitting at all, I don't assume that all men spit on the ground.  I don't assume that most men spit on the ground.  I assume that there are men who spit on the ground, and that there are men who don't, and that various men may have various reasons for spitting or not spitting depending on the circumstances.  If I'm really fascinated by the whole spitting thing, I might do more research into the situation and educate myself to find out more about men who spit.

I won't shy away from inviting men into my clubhouse in case they might be spitters, though.  If I don't like spitting, I'll enact a no-spitting rule.  Not a no-men rule.  Because sometimes men spit.  Sometimes men don't.  Sometimes women spit.  Sometimes women don't.  It's the behavior that's the problem.  Not the gender.

Clearly, <vodka> thinks that gender is the problem.  The situation with Poutyface hasn't helped you to establish your antipathy for recruiting women gamers; it's helped to "reaffirm" it.  You already had this stereotype of women gamers firmly in place.  All it took to get you nodding and high-fiving in solidarity was a rumor.  A theory.

If you believe that men spit, and you walk down the street past six men, and five of them are simply going about their business with their mouths shut, and one of them spits, you'll notice that spitting man.  He'll stand out in your mind.  "Ah, yes," you'll think to yourself.  "Men spit."  It confirms the stereotype already in your mind.  Reaffirms it, if you will.

If you think that women cause guild drama/interpersonal drama, and you hear a rumor that a woman has caused drama, you'll think, "Oh, yes, of course.  Women cause drama."  If you're you in particular, you won't even verify that she's actually guilty of the behavior described by the rumor.  You'll use the incident to confirm your prejudice, and you'll announce it to the world, and you'll roll on with life.  Did she do it?  She may as well have.  Women!  Drama!  It's virtually inevitable!

What about the women you know who don't cause drama?  Are they entirely nonexistent?  Are they special exceptions to the rule?  Are they temporary exceptions who may become drama-starting guild-destroyers someday so it's safer not to take the risk?

What about the men who cause guild drama?  What about Tigerlady, who apparently abandoned the guild without warning and struck former guildies from his RealID list and was well-known to be self-centered anyway?  Is that the kind of player you want to keep recruiting?  Maybe you shouldn't recruit men.  Maybe you shouldn't recruit druids.  Or maybe you consider Tigerlady to be an individual, a courtesy you don't extend to women gamers, who must be treated as a monolith just to be safe.

I don't know Poutyface.  I don't know what she's like or what she's done or how she interacts with other people.  I know that she's a gamer.  I know that she's a girl or possibly a woman.  I don't know much else about her.  The fact that she's a woman gamer doesn't give me much to go on, so I find it hard to extrapolate.

I don't know much about <vodka> either.  I know that they're gamers.  I know that they don't like to recruit girl gamers.  I know that you seem to represent them through a public platform and that you communicate like a misogynist ass.

TL;DR Stop basing your decisions on misogynistic stereotypes.  Recruit based on who an individual person is, not everything the patriarchy's told you she represents.

(Side note: You might want to consider how you treat your ex-guild members.  Between the post I linked above and this one, you're giving the impression that as soon as someone's out of the pack, you'll turn on a former guild member in a heartbeat.  Painting exes in a negative light and smearing their reputations may do the trick of making them look bad, but it also makes you look bad.)

In fairness, I note that you say that <vodka> doesn't like to recruit girl gamers.  Not that they never do it; they just don't like to.  It's possible that there are girl/women gamers in <vodka> right now, or have been in the past, or will be in the future.  But you blog your own misogyny and the guild's misogyny publicly and frankly; it's described here as a well-understood, well-established guild view: women are girls, girls cause drama, no girls allowed.  If there are women in the guild, they're within an openly hostile environment.

If you think this way about women gamers, I can only imagine what you think of women in general.

I hope that you'll broaden your perspective and that women will be more welcome in <vodka> in the future.  Good luck in Pandaland!

With love,
Frank Lee