Tropes: The Right to Not Feed Trolls

[Content Note: Rape]

I think I've mentioned that I have a crippling addiction to TV Tropes and Wiki Walks. The other day, as I stumbled through a wiki walk, I discovered that someone, at one time or another, wrote something that was offensive! I was shocked.

Now, I seriously considered not telling you what was written that was offensive, because it's not precisely the subject of the post. But then I didn't think I could talk about the actual subject of the post without talking about what inspired it. So let's talk about my wiki walk.

I started here, with Rape Is The New Dead Parents. Then found this little tidbit:
Janissa, Conan's occasional enemy and ally, was raped by Demons every night until she could fight them off as part of her training to become a master swordswoman in Dark Horse's Conan Comic Book. Needless to say, people wrote in pissed that the writers were lazy enough to resort to this and her every other appearance in the series inevitably led to the authors apologising, printing the letters of angry readers and promoting rape help-lines.
Huh. I thought. Yeah, that seems like an offensive backstory. But what's this sub-point?
The writer was Kurt Busiek, and an editor of later issues of Conan, Rachel Edidin, wrote a blog post commenting on reader reactions (part of a series of posts for Sexual Assault Awareness Month: they are all worth reading).
Well, that seems worth a look, I thought. Sexual Assault Awareness is awesome and if someone thinks they're worth reading, I'll check that out.

Unfortunately, I've still yet to grasp that the internet does not always align with my thoughts, hopes, and wishes for all things, including what is and isn't helpful in a sexual assault awareness post. First, some facts, and here is the trigger-y part of the post (paraphrase of Janissa's backstory):

Janissa learned the art of sword-fighting by going to a Sorceress and begging to be taught how to be free from subjugation to men. The Sorceress agreed to teach her, and then gave Janissa a sword and tossed her into a pit, where she was brutally raped by a Demon. The next morning, Janissa's wounds were tended by the Sorceress and Janissa was warned that an extra Demon would come each night that she doesn't defeat them (i.e., 1n Demons where 'n' is the number of days Janissa has been with the Sorceress). And some time later -- possibly a decade -- Janissa is strong enough that she can defeat every demon every night for a month and she graduates. 

I mean, that seems perfectly sensitive, right? Well, we'll get there. Rachel Edidin absolutely marvels:
Fan responses to Janissa’s backstory tended to fall into two wildly disparate camps: one group hated the story and attacked it for all it was worth; the other defended it wholeheartedly. Even the detractors were divided: some felt that the content was inappropriate for a mainstream comic; others felt that Janissa’s portrayal was unrealistic; still others believed that by describing demon rape, we had betrayed the spirit of Robert E. Howard’s original work. The one thing the letters had in common was that they were all from male readers.

The first reader response to Janissa’s rape appeared in the Conan #21 letter column, in October 2005. It was from a man who was “angry and disappointed with [Conan #12]” because it had offended his wife... This letter bothers me for several reasons (not counting the misuse of the word “belies”): first of all, its writer is speaking on behalf of his wife in a letter about the abuse and silencing of women; regardless his intentions, which I’m inclined to believe were genuinely good, he is adopting the same attitude that he so vehemently condemns.
Well, permit me to disagree, Woman I Have Never Met And Who Wrote A Blog Post Four Years Ago.

First and foremost, "writing in to say 'I didn't like this and neither did my wife'" is not, in my Book 'O Feminism silencing or abusing women. Now, it could be silencing or abusive if the writer said, "No, honey, I got this whole letter thing. You get back in the kitchen and make me a sammich." And I don't know, maybe this writer did do that. But I'm willing to give Random Writer Guy the benefit of the doubt on that one. So -10 points for shaming on Random Writer Guy just because he said "I didn't like this and neither did my wife" and not making his wife write her own letter because this was his letter about his feelings and if she wanted to express her feelings she could get her own stamp.

Now, I will in all fairness point out that the letter by Random Writer Guy is actually full of fail of the homophobic variety (or at least seems to be -- quite a lot of his post has been cut*), so if you don't have the need to go read his letter, don't because you won't enjoy it. But just because Random Writer Guy is full of some fail doesn't mean he's full of all fail. So let's move past the calling of Random Writer Guy borderline abusive and instead look at Rachel Edidin's shock, nay, astonishment that not a single woman fan wrote in to complain about Janissa's story. How can this be??

There's the obvious options, of course. One is that despite Rachel Edidin's assurance that there are female Conan readers, maybe there aren't so many that a zero written response is statistically significant. Maybe female readers did write in but didn't self-identify as such in their letter -- maybe they thought their complaints would be taken more seriously from a male reader than from a female reader. Maybe the female readers wanted to write in, but being as they were burdened by their statistical likelihood to have less free time than men, they didn't have a chance to. These are all options.

Or, and I'm throwing this out there, they didn't write in because they didn't see the need to engage in a letter campaign to feed trollery.

Speaking as someone who enjoys a good outrage now and again, the Janissa story fell right off my interest radar. (The same obviously can't be said for the article about the Janissa story, but there you go.) What is there to get upset about? Well, quite a lot really, but it's just so ridiculously offensive that it's hard to work up the passion to spill ink over it. It's not that it's not offensive (it is), but rather that it's so obviously determined to be offensive that it's impossible to believe that the authors didn't notice its obvious offensiveness.

I mean, seriously? It's clear that the authors of this ridiculous story put so little thought into this story that its only value is in its deliberate over-the-top offensiveness. A girl is raped by 1n demons every night for a decade? So on the final night of her decade-long captivity, there are roughly 3,560 demons in the pit? Okay. And since the story specifies that the demons are taking turns, they have to divide the 8 hours in a night -- 480 minutes after all -- between them? Right. And the girl learns swordsmanship this way because the environment is conducive to learning through trial-and-error? Of course. And the girl never experiences injuries such that she dies during the night, and magical Stone Age herbal remedies patch her up good as new every morning? Sure, why not. 

Whatever else you may think about Conan as a series, this particular story is stupid. It's not stupid because it's offensive; it's stupid and it's offensive. So to my mind, there's a very good reason why a swarm of women didn't drop everything in their busy daily lives to dash off upset letters to the Conan staff: They probably didn't do it because they didn't think the writers were engaging in good faith. Why would they? The stupidness of this story means that either the writers were too stupid to see that their stupid story was stupid or they were too keen to write a rape story to care that their stupid story was stupid.

Or, as Dad used to say: Don't wrestle with pigs. You'll just get dirty and the pig enjoys it.

I actually don't really care that much about the Janissa story. (Indeed, I wasn't even going to mention it, but trying to write this post without it wasn't working too well.) What I have a problem with is the phenomena of Why Aren't You Marginalized People Complaining About This demands.

I want to give Rachel Edidin the benefit of the doubt. I don't want to say that she wrote a blog post for Sexual Assault Awareness Month demanding a publicity storm of (female!) reader reactions simply to stir up expensive publicity for a company she did/does work for. I do want to assume that as a female writer in the comics industry, she does genuinely want to see more interaction between female readers and the (predominantly) male producers of the material.

But, at the same time Why Aren't You Marginalized People Complaining About This is classic Derailing 101. It's If You Won't Educate The Writers How Can They Learn and demanding that those most potentially damaged by the offensive material drop everything and spend the rest of their lives fighting the good fight, not because they want to, but because they should. It's victimizing them twice: once, because they had to read your stupid-and-offensive tripe and then again because they have to drop everything and write in to do the job that your editors couldn't be arsed to do. For free. Whether they want to or not. Just because they're female or black or identify as quiltbag or whatever you happened to be stupid-and-offensive about that day.

And the insidious flipside of why didn't our female readers express any complaints is the hint that maybe the female readers thought the comic was peachy keen. And look! One female reader did write in saying just that! Draw your own conclusions, Internet! And this is If You Cared About These Matters You'd Be Willing To Educate The Writers. And because the Internet loves false syllogisms, the flip side is of course that since you weren't willing to drop everything to educate the Dark Horse Comic writers that their obviously stupid-and-offensive comic was obviously stupid-and-offensive, then you must not care about this issue. Don't like trivialized rape in comics? If you can't produce a vagina and a notarized letter regarding Conan Issue #12, then you don't get to complain. No Marginalized People credentials for you.

And I'm sorry, but that's not fair. Marginalized Peoples do not have a duty to drop everything and educate someone every time they do something obviously stupid-and-offensive. Marginalized Peoples do have the right and privilege to pick their battles and do not have to forfeit their right to complain if they choose to ignore something obviously stupid-and-offensive.

In short, Marginalized Peoples do not have a duty to Feed Trolls.

---

* And this is a point that I didn't work in elsewhere, but is also very pertinent. You know how Internet Trolls will take your post out of context and use it to gallop off into the wild-blue-yonder without a single glance back? Letter Trolls do that while excising the parts of your post that provide context and then don't make those bits available to the public. Engaging with Letter Trolls is like engaging with an Internet Troll who is also the site's sole moderator.

195 comments:

depizan said...

Odd. For women, jeans are one of the few sources of useful pockets.

sekushinonyanko said...

According to him, what gave him this insight is that gay men are also oppressed by straight white men. When I said that straight white men oppress everyone that is not a straight white man, but that does not mean that everyone else are women, he started swearing at me. I suppose he thinks I invented lesbians and men of color in a mad dash attempt to throw off his chain of logic. Quotes from himbelow for fun:

When you say "mansplaining" what you're saying is that my cisgender is more important than the pressure that I feel day-after-day for being a gay man. It's telling me that my feelings, my opinions, my pressures and my reactions don't mean anything at all.

It means that I am nothing. It means that anything I could ever possibly add to the conversation means zero. Literally zero.

Because you have put my penis above the pressure that I am under as a person who is Less Than, who is a Faggot, who is Filthy and Disgusting, who fucks in the Ass.

When you apply "mansplain" to me, you are applying those things to my gender. Because I feel like more of a feminist and more subject to the violence of white heterosexual control, regardless of my personal privilege in culture overall..

All of which I wrote about in last week's recap.
All of which you intentionally ignored, to tell me what a white patriarchal asshole I am.
Because it made you feel good, and like a victim, and like a martyr.

So yeah. I have already had this conversation. You want to "educate" me in the right ways to think and talk?

Ten years from now, you'll wonder how you alienated the people who loved you best. I was one of them. I still am.

Wrong. When you invalidate someone's life and opinions with terms like "mansplaining," that's not being polite, that's not sharing your experiences, that's not doing anything other than attempting to silence someone for having an opinion that differs from yours. There is no other use for that term. Please stop bullshitting me -- and stop bothering me. I'm sorry if it's "overwrought" to be offended by your bullshit, but that was an attack. All the mealymouthed equivocating lectures in the world do not change that. Your moral high horse is undeserved, and this conversation is fucking pointless.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ten years from now, you'll wonder how you alienated the people who loved you best. I was one of them. I still am.

Wait, what? And this person was a stranger to you? How very odd.

robotxorange said...

Huh. I must not be a very good feminist, since I didn't even notice that that Penny Arcade comic was offensive when I read it (PA is one of the webcomics I read regularly). Oh well.

Ana Mardoll said...

I understood Amanda Marcotte's point (that's a great link round-up); that even if the first comic wasn't offensive to you, the "response comic" was where the real problem lay. I'm not always on the same page as Amanda, but I think I agreed with her here. Still mulling it over, actually. *sheepish*

Dav said...

I found the second comic bad, and the subsequent escalation very bad form, to put it mildly. It encouraged an attitude that "real fans" would be against "feminists", as those were discrete groups, and tacitly encouraged threats against women, and things that were not intended to be threats but created a hostile environment, ie groups of people planning to wear dickwolves T-shirts at PAX. Basically, it unleashed a bunch of misogyny that was already there under the surface, and did it at a con that's explicitly about breaking down some of the nastier corners of gamer society - like misogyny.

sekushinonyanko, I absolutely remember what you were talking about. I like reading recaps, better than watching shows, usually. It was the culminating moment of WTF in a series of such moments during the series. I didn't write a letter, because . . . well, I didn't, but the quotes you gave sound more or less like the tone I recall (except more explicit). I am actually kind of grateful that there weren't TWO such weird abuse-waving recappers out there simultaneously, and that my memory is validated. Sometimes my brain conflates weird things and I have strange memories.

Will Wildman said...

Particularly when the person has been identified, direct quotes from private correspondence may not be the best thing to post to a public blog...

Not that dude doesn't appear to be wrong about the majority of his statements and all. (All types of oppression are transitive now? Really?)

Ana Mardoll said...

You're right, I apologize. I shouldn't have derailed by asking for more information. Too curious for my own good, as always. :)

Speaking of letter responses, I wonder what, if any, responses the Conan fans got. It can't be a good sign when an editor condemns one of the letter writers as an oppressor of women on a public blog post...

Makabit said...

"Ten years from now, you'll wonder how you alienated the people who loved you best. I was one of them. I still am."

Er, did you KNOW this person? Outside of correspondence? Because if not, that's really fairly alarming.

Brin Bellway said...

I, as a male, can attest to the power of male pockets and believe that pockets should be for all, without silly concerns like "fashion" getting in the way.

Belly bags. They're like pockets, but bigger and without the "I left my American cash in my other shirt"* problem. My family call my belly bag "the utility belt". It contains many wonderful Useful Things:
A paperback book for emergency reading material.
A small flashlight for reading said book (or a different book) in the dark, plus spare battery.
Two packets of cranberry-almond biscotti in case of hunger.
Several hard peppermints they give away for free at the bank.
A packet of Kleenex.
A notebook and pen.
Wallet.
A magnifying glass.
A whistle, compass, and mirror combo.
First aid supplies (disinfectant, Band-Aids, Ace bandage, two pairs of disposable gloves, etc.)
Sunglasses.
An electronic dictionary (I got it for free because my dad used to work for a company that made them) that also plays Hangman.
A small Sharpie.
A penknife.
A pen-fork and -spoon.
Three menstrual pads (also potentially useful as really big Band-Aids for when regular Band-Aids just aren't big enough).
A foil survival blanket (never used).
A campfire lighter (supposedly cigarette lighter, but in practice has only been used for campfires).
MP3 player (includes FM radio and two (one on main drive and one on microSD) digital backups of my diary) and earphones.
Probably some other stuff I'm forgetting.

I love my utility belt. Never leave home without it.
(I want to add a hat, but I'm not sure where to get the room for it. The MP3 player, pen-fork/spoon, and first aid kit+whistle are already in additional pouches on the waist strap.)

*Happened to Dad last week. Luckily Mom had some, else we'd have had trouble with the highway tolls.

sekushinonyanko said...

Keeping in mind the combination of faux apology and outrage generally represented in such communications, may I draft and example letter:

Dear Ungrateful Reader,

I am terribly disappointed in the lack of good faith with which these Conan "fans" have written terrible letters attempting to curtail our freedom of speech. Janissa's story is an inspiring tale of triumph over adversity, and the rapes are just a metaphor for the vagaries of life. Only a person that truly hates women, and themselves beside would see misogyny in that because it takes one to know one. Our hearts weep for the unkindness of the oppressive men that wrote such letters. We know that no women sent such letters because women are either not intellectually advanced enough to process the material in the Conan comics or are otherwise busy making the letter-writers sandwiches. Or just being bitches that whine.

Please take the metaphorical storytelling as the very serious portrayal of the resilience of women in fur bikinis, as that is indeed how it was intended. And if I get one more letter calling me a sexist I will cry/threaten violence on the next person I receive it from.

DavidCheatham said...

Okay, I have to admit I'm baffled.

Are people talking about a different 'second comic' than I am aware of, where they explain in a deadpan manner that they are, in fact, anti-rape?

Inquisitive Raven said...

A woman going by Mike might be named Michaela. Yes, that's a real name; I met someone named that in the 80's. As for the mechanic named Kim, was he Korean perchance? I tend to think of Kim as a male name as being Asian generally, and Korean specifically.

depizan said...

He wasn't apparently Korean, but that doesn't mean he wasn't half-Korean and simply took after his non-Korean parent. You're probably right about the woman in my college class, though. Michelle didn't seem quite right. (Though not impossible. People do manage to come up with shortened names you wouldn't expect. Consider the many nicknames for Elizabeth.)

Kit Whitfield said...

As a woman called Kit: yep, you can't always make assumptions about names.

Also, who's to say women didn't write in? It wouldn't be the first time a magazine over-represented men in what it chose to publish.

And that blogger ... wow. Mixing the trauma of oppression with the entitlement of privilege is clearly an explosive combination.

Is it me, or is 'silencing' becoming the left-wing equivalent of conservatives claiming 'persecution' when someone calls you on your bullshit?

Dav said...

Slight nitpick: Kim is usually a Korean *last name*. Korean-language first names are almost always two syllables, although some people shorten them for English speakers. Kim is not a syllable I've ever heard used in a Korean-language first name. (Korea abides by last-name first, so you might be aware of, say, Kim Jong-Il. Jong-Il = first name, Kim = last.)

/pedant

bbrugger said...

I have a mantra for this kind of situation- It is not my job to make you a better person.

If you (generic person/author/artist/whatever) say or do something egregious I will call you on it if I have the time and the energy and no particular concerns about blowback*. But I don't have to do it and if I do I still don't have to stop and hold your hand and make sure your ickle fee-fees aren't hurt.

If I stop you on the hypothetical street and point out that your fly is open and your racist/sexist/whatever is showing I am not doing so for your benefit. I'm doing it so that I and others don't have to deal with your lack of home training. Figuring out how to zip up or stop saying racist things or whatever is up to you.

Because it is not my job to make you a better person. I am not Joe's Teachable Moment. We live in an age of wonders where the fountain of knowledge has turned into a geyser , go find out how not to be sexist on your own time.

It is not my job to make you a better person, I have my hands full trying to make ME better.

*blowback means anything from you (generic) being pissy with me at family reunions till the end of time to getting me fired. Blowback won't stop me if the egregious behavior has really stomped on my last nerve.

Loquat said...

DavidCheatham, the idea is that some people felt the first comic promoted Rape Culture - which, if you haven't heard of it, basically means you can be against raping people but still contribute to an environment in which rape victims are not taken seriously. I personally don't agree with that accusation, since I play MMOs and know full well that the first comic was 100% spot-on about MMO player mentality, but anyway...

It seems to be pretty common for people who aren't familiar with the concept of Rape Culture to think, when they first hear the phrase, that it means being pro-rape. And responding to an accusation of "promoting rape culture" by saying "no, I'm anti-rape" is a quick and easy way to infuriate your accusers and get them to also accuse you of habitually disregarding what women have to say - hell, if you're getting lots of different women telling you you've promoted Rape Culture, it's a virtual certainty some of them included explanations of what that is and why it's not the same as being pro-rape, so the PA guys clearly either didn't read or didn't understand said explanations.

IIRC someone did eventually sit them down and get them to understand the concept of Rape Culture, although I'm not sure how much good it did. Tycho made a post about it, and it was clear he was baffled by the concept that his jokes might be partially responsible for rape victims not coming forward or being believed.

Kit Whitfield said...

@Loquat: you may be interested in this - http://dbzer0.com/blog/feminists-dont-think-all-men-are-rapists-rapists-do - which is one of the best-written arguments against rape jokes I've seen. Its basic thesis is that rapists, who are commoner than a person of good faith would think, believe that what they do is something that all men do given the chance, and hearing other men making rape jokes just confirms them in that belief and increases their sense of being entitled to rape.

To quote its conclusion:

If one in twenty guys is a real and true rapist, and you have any amount of social activity with other guys like yourself, really cool guy, then it is almost a statistical certainty that one time hanging out with friends and their friends, playing Halo with a bunch of guys online, in a WoW guild, or elsewhere, you were talking to a rapist. Not your fault. You can’t tell a rapist apart any better than anyone else can. It’s not like they announce themselves.

But, here’s the thing. It’s very likely that in some of these interactions with these guys, at some point or another someone told a rape joke. You, decent guy that you are, understood that they didn’t mean it, and it was just a joke. And so you laughed.

And, decent guy who would never condone rape, who would step in and stop rape if he saw it, who understands that rape is awful and wrong and bad, when you laughed?

That rapist who was in the group with you, that rapist thought that you were on his side. That rapist knew that you were a rapist like him. And he felt validated, and he felt he was among his comrades.

You. The rapist’s comrade.

And if that doesn’t make you feel sick to your stomach, if that doesn’t make you want to throw up, if that doesn’t disturb you or bother you or make you feel like maybe you should at least consider not participating in that kind of humor anymore…

Well, maybe you aren’t as opposed to rapists as you claim.



By this argument - and I think it's a compelling one - making rape jokes does promote rape. Not deliberately, but in practice, and the practical effects matter more than the intentions.

Kit Whitfield said...

I personally don't agree with that accusation, since I play MMOs and know full well that the first comic was 100% spot-on about MMO player mentality, but anyway...

Okay, admittedly I don't even know what 'MMO' stands for, but...

I had a look at the comic and the response and the links in general. And here was my reaction:

- The comic itself: okay, are they making fun of the over-use of rape as a dramatic device, or are they just using 'rape' as a lazy way of implying intensity? Could be either. If it's the former, they take rape seriously; if it's the latter, they're trivialising it, and also doing the writing equivalent of a stand-up comedian swearing because he doesn't know how else to get laughs.

- The first response, at Shakesville. It's not abusive or rude; it's a personal statement of pain and fear. You might or might not agree with its viewpoint, but hopefully you can respect its concern for human suffering.

- The comic responds...

... Oh. I guess that answers the first question. They weren't making fun of the over-use of rape; they just thought it was a funny thing to say. Because they don't take women's fear of rape seriously, and think it's something to mock.

Sexism is usually fairly low-flying nowadays, but there's a pretty good acid test of whether a man is sexist or not: watch how he reacts after a woman complains that something he said sounded sexist. A non-sexist man will take her concern seriously because he knows women's feelings about sexism are serious business. He might or might not agree with her point, but if he disagrees, he'll disagree respectfully rather than resorting to rudeness, anger or cheap mockery. But if he's a sexist, he'll turn nasty very quickly, and confirm her initial suspicions.

This looks like one of those cases. The first comic might have been well-intentioned or merely thoughtless. The second was a crappy thing to do. Not cutely subversive, not boldly defying convention, not wittily edgy. Just cheap, and privileged, and mean.

Dav said...

The comic can be spot-on about MMO mentality *and* contribute to an environment in which rape victims are not taken seriously.

Ana, if you want to edit my comment which identifies sekushinonyanko's correspondent to preserve his anonymity, that would be fine. I probably shouldn't have asked, but I always want to know secret identities.

Will Wildman said...

It baffles me that 'edgy' humour is understood to include 'humour that promotes the most common and brutal forms of oppression'. Sexism, racism, and homophobia all seem to be fair game if someone's trying to be 'edgy', and they'll justify it by saying it must be edgy because it's humour that makes people uncomfortable. Balderdash. Plenty of stuff makes people uncomfortable without making them laugh - the laughter comes out in trying to resolve the vast gulf between 'the horror this joke should be evoking' and 'the lack of horror I am feeling because I am completely disassociated from context'. This is one of two reasons why The Genocide Joke can work, and I still don't really know what to think of it.

If my 'edgy' jokes comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted, I'm doing it wrong.

Kit Whitfield said...

It baffles me that 'edgy' humour is understood to include 'humour that promotes the most common and brutal forms of oppression'

I think it works like this:

- Edgy humour undermines excessive reverence.

- If you are a woman, of colour or QUILTBAG, any respect for your humanity is excessive.

- Therefore anybody who complains about privileged jerkery is a puffed-up sacred-cow-worshipper who needs taking down a peg or two.

Ana Mardoll said...

Dav, I think I redacted it. Thanks, and no harm done. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

My 2 cents on rape jokes -- and I really should write a whole post -- is that they really only make sense in a context where "rape" means "the sorts of rape that pretty much everyone agrees is awful". By which I mean, essentially, the rape in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and all others like it.

In which case the joke is saying "Here is a morally reprehensible situation and it is morally reprehensible to leave someone in it, but since we know they are a fictional character in a fictional game world set to fictionally respawn no matter how many times I rescue them, I DO leave them there and when you think about it, that's all kinds of messed up." I mean, yeah, I've thought similar things when playing games, who hasn't? (Which also means the joke is obvious, but eh.)

The problem with using "rape" as a synonym for "morally reprehensible situation" is that:

1. Something like 10% of your audience has experienced rape, so you might not want to hit them in the face with that before they've had their coffee. How about something a little less common like "dunked in a vat of boiling dragon urine" or something? I'll bet 10% of your readers haven't been dunked in boiling liquid lately, or indeed, at all.

2. Something like 50-90% of your audience may be laboring under the impression that the only kind of rape is the "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" kind of rape, and you're accidentally contributing to the big pile of misinformation. Yes, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo rape is rape. Yes dickwolves rape is rape. But you know what else is rape? [[Redacted because trigger trigger trigger.]] <-- I deleted this to simply say that a LOT of things are rape and those Things-That-Are-Rape are not universally agreed up as rape by much of your intended audience. By highlighting the extreme-and-rare, you overshadow the tolerated-and-common.

So, once again, there's a point where you can and could think "maybe I could use something else as a punchline for my comic instead of that one thing that 10% of my audience has had inflicted on them and another 10% of my audience may have done to someone and yet be in denial about it." Vat of boiling dragon urine it is!

Of course, if you wanted to make a rape joke that points out that, hey, statistically 10% of you have probably done this thing and are in denial about it, that'd be interesting to see, but frankly I'm not sure what it would look like.

Kit Whitfield said...

Vat of boiling dragon urine also has the advantage of being original.

I don't know if it's a rule I'd apply universally - tasteless humour has its place, and mocking people who use rape as a lazy fictional device without triggering rape survivors is pretty much impossible - but if you're going to do it, you should make some effort to ensure you're not being a jerk, and having a tantrum at some people being upset by you is not doing it right.

Ana Mardoll said...

@Dav,

Man, I just finished the link roundup and I haven't even read all the links yet (obviously). Phew.

I have to say that... the longer that went on... the worse it was. I can take that the first comic was in bad faith. I can take that the second comment was tone deaf. But let's make a t-shirt and encourage people to wear it and RUNS INTO WILD BLUE YONDER OF FAIL.

I just... words fail me.

DavidCheatham said...

Yes, yes, I understand all that about the first comic, and I have to agree with Loquat that it's a perfect summation of MMO (And RPG in general) mentality of 'heroes', which is exactly the sort of stuff they mock, nonsensical stuff happening inside games.

And I have to mention to Wil that slaves being kept imprisoned and forced to work in mines and beaten to wake up and raped to sleep might, in fact, be a form of oppression, but as far as I can tell is not a common one, at least not among PA readers! And if you have triggers, you probably shouldn't read PA at all, which has all sorts of horrific thing and imagery happening in it. See absurdly violent Harry Potter or suicide. (Trigger warning on those, obviously.)

And on top of that, I'm now confused as to how we know what manner of rape the guy is speaking of. Isn't everyone just assuming that he's obviously talking about 'real rape', where women get chased down alleys, and thus the comic is being dismissive of 'not really rape', where men decide a woman they've interacted with owes them sex and takes it? (Please note my quotes in that last sentence.) Perhaps he's rooming with dickwolves and they think it's okay to climb into bed with him because he's their property and he's too tired to fend them off after a day of slavery, so they claim he 'consents'.

I find it somewhat ironic that people (rightfully) saying 'People shouldn't assume rape are by crazy people who attack random women, when in fact most of them are not' have assumed this comic is talking about the kind of rapes they say people shouldn't assume rapes are! (Especially when we're talking about slavery here.)

But I understand how parts of the thing looked out of context. I was actually just a little baffled at the idea that the second comic was somehow worse than the first. That's pretty much the only apology they've ever done in a comic.

And, yes, most men are baffled by the idea of Rape Culture. Because, despite what some people seem to think, most men are never _informed_ that is what 10% of men think by those men. Those rapists speak in code that sounds perfectly normal to most of us. And, what's more horrific, probably think we're speaking in code back.

Dav said...

David, what about the escalation from the second comic? I think if you want to talk about putting the comics in context, we also need to look at the context of the comic itself (gamer culture and wider culture and attitudes towards rape) and then the specific context of the events that followed from the two comics.

I feel like you're simultaneously saying "I don't really have the knowledge you do about rape culture because I'm a man" *and* "if only you understood the real context, you would know this isn't part of rape culture". Can you clarify?

Also, I do not understand why men need to learn about Rape Culture from rapists. There are a lot of other people who go to great lengths to explain rape culture to men.

And, what's more horrific, probably think we're speaking in code back.

And yet, when most men are told that what they're saying sounds or looks like rapist code, they do not respond well. At all. And not in a "oh crap, is that what enabling rape culture looks like? I will tell all my friends and do my absolute best not to do it in the future."

Dav said...

Wild Blue Yonders of Fail is my new imaginary band name.

Ana Mardoll said...

Heh. And a fine band name it is, too.

Looking at the tweets (and, heaven helps us, why does the fail always move to Twitter? Better communication is not aided by a character limit.) I'm tempted to hazard that the PA guys went so over-the-top because they wanted to belittle their opponents' position.

It's not a bad strategy in general, but when you're going full on "YAY RAPE CULTURE" and "TRIGGER WARNINGS SUX", is there not a point where you look around at the supporters on your side of the line and suddenly think that maybe you might want to ask yourself why you have the supporters you do.

I felt a little ill the point at which people started demanding "proof" that certain female bloggers involved were actually raped. Granted, as far as I can tell, it was NOT the PA guys asking for that, but... but... but... When I have a bunch of people whose opinions I'm not fond of speaking up in my behalf, I tend to take a moment for self-reflection on possible correlations there.

It's just so much oddness. I can't believe I missed a whole year of, well, wild blue yonders of fail.

Ana Mardoll said...

I find it somewhat ironic that people (rightfully) saying 'People shouldn't assume rape are by crazy people who attack random women, when in fact most of them are not' have assumed this comic is talking about the kind of rapes they say people shouldn't assume rapes are! (Especially when we're talking about slavery here.)

David, I'm not sure how to respond to this. The comic makes it very clear that the slaves are being physically abused by their captors. To argue, as I think you are, that there is a perfectly valid alternate interpretation where, yes, the slaves are beaten in the mornings, but at night the wolves commit rape that isn't violent and therefore this could be a comic condemning non-violent rape and the people who don't see it that way are falling prey to the same assumptions they accuse others of having... seems to me to be... I'm not sure what to call it. Disingenuous?

I tried to ignore it, but then decided that I couldn't anymore. I'm sorry, but I just don't know what to make of this statement. For the record, I *do* see the comic as applying only to violent rape and I *do* see it as adding to the unfortunate cultural erosion of "rape" being only violent rape.

Dav said...

My pet theory is that some of the gamer reflex to censorship was tripped. Not that censorship was suggested or requested, but gamer culture is so used to responding dismissively to accusations that games are making kids serial killers, or drug abusers, or deadbeats, that that can carry over. I think initially, not enough understanding (or research) was done into what rape culture actually was: the artists heard "You're turning gamers into rapists!", and responded by treating people with ridicule and mockery.

And then, once the hole was dug, there was a lot more digging.

Still, though, I have a new policy. If I ever find out my supporters are threatening rape survivors with more rape and death, then I'm going to seriously evaluate what I've been doing.

Ana Mardoll said...

@Dav, that makes sense. I suppose if the past 5 years (or whatever) have been spent hearing that Violent Games Make You Violent, it would be easy to read a complaint about a rape comic as Rape Games Make You Rape.

But then there's that wild blue yonder of fail that got run into. That was sort of why I can imagine giving the first two comics a pass... I mean, people make mistakes. But the point at which you get emotionally invested in your opinion to the point where you're making t-shirts and telling people on Twitter YOU ARE GOING TO WEAR YOURS TO A MAJOR CONVENTION is the point at which............ I recommend stepping back, taking a breather, and being willing to reconsider a few things. I wish people could be less polarized.

I approve of your policy, and will try to remember something similar moving forward: if ever a portion of my readers state that something I wrote was offensive or hurtful to them, I will listen closely and try not to assume they are Strawmen. :(

Will Wildman said...

And I have to mention to Wil that slaves being kept imprisoned and forced to work in mines and beaten to wake up and raped to sleep might, in fact, be a form of oppression, but as far as I can tell is not a common one, at least not among PA readers! And if you have triggers, you probably shouldn't read PA at all, which has all sorts of horrific thing and imagery happening in it.

I feel like I should respond to this, because it's addressed to me, but I can't tell why it's addressed to me or really what the thesis is in general. We've had difficulties in the past communicating to each other clearly, so if there's a point you'd like to discuss further, I'd appreciate some explication. I feel like I'm most likely to misunderstand you and thus waste your time as we're forced to backtrack a whole discussion to figure out where we went wrong.

---

Tangentially, though (not specifically addressed to the above), I'm always a bit vexed when people say "If you think the rape is bad, check out the murder". Maybe a year ago I was playing Warcraft (the same MMO that inspired the comic) and was leading a group through zombie-spider-infested caverns when someone in our party of adventurers yelled something about raping the enemy. I tried to be relatively flat in my response, because it's always difficult with that sort of person to get the message of Dude, Not Okay across without provoking an absurdly over-the-top defensive reaction. I usually go with something like "Hey, could we not trivialise rape? Awesome."

In this case, the person in question flipped out and started playing Apologist Bingo with me. Ultimately I sent out a note that "This guy is creeping me the hell out", and the rest of the party voted to boot him from the adventure. By the time we got around to that, I had been informed that:

1) I can't object to rape because we're killing pretend monsters and murder is objectively worse than rape.
2) The reason murder is objectively worse than rape is that a rape survivor can recover and contribute to society again, whereas a murder victim cannot.
3) I would understand this if only I wasn't so overly emotional and too close to the issue.

Somehow I have managed not to be rocked to my core by these deep insights. I do wonder how this person determined that I was 'overly emotional'. Could they sense the tremble in my fingers as I clove Nerubian scourgetanks in twain? Did they catch sight of the unshed tears barely held in my elf's burning blue eyes as he empowered unholy runes to ward off enemy magic? I must learn these tells, that I might conduct myself more professionally in future.

Ana Mardoll said...

I, too, strongly dislike the "let's 'objectively' place rape in the Giant Scheme Of Bad Things" game. Is there an actual apologist bingo board? Because if there is, that should be on it.

Will Wildman said...

But the point at which you get emotionally invested in your opinion to the point where you're making t-shirts and telling people on Twitter YOU ARE GOING TO WEAR YOURS TO A MAJOR CONVENTION is the point at which............ I recommend stepping back, taking a breather, and being willing to reconsider a few things.

The especially weird part is that there's a moment in there when they seem to almost go right - Gabe wrote that he had received emails from PA readers who were feeling that they might not attend the convention because of a hostile environment, and in response they removed the offending merchandise from the store, because actual people were feeling actual harm. And then for some reason there was a bunch of backtracking and while no more shirts would be made, the existing few were to be used as some kind of badge of noble resistance. I don't know how someone can get that far and then change their minds and run back the way they came.

Ana Mardoll said...

I agree, Will, that was very strange, looking over the link round-up. I got to the "T-shirts taken down" and was all, "ah, that's good," and then suddenly there were tweets about "but I'm wearing mine to PAX" (or wherever) and it was like....... what?? Did they just take them down from the store because the t-shirt supplier gave them crap about it? Was there a difference of opinion between the artists? I can't say.

DavidCheatham said...

David, what about the escalation from the second comic? I think if you want to talk about putting the comics in context, we also need to look at the context of the comic itself (gamer culture and wider culture and attitudes towards rape) and then the specific context of the events that followed from the two comics.

Okay, I'm going to say have to this very clearly: I see no escalation in the second comic. In fact, I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out exactly what 'second comic' people could be talking about, because the one I read did not seem to be what people were talking about. Perhaps my opinion would be different if I thought the first comic had actually been promoting rape culture in any fashion.

But I refuse to accept the idea that a context-less mention of being raped is wrong if it doesn't include a disclaimer explaining what sorts of behaviors is rape, or explaining rape culture. In fact, making rape something that no one can even mention helps rape culture.

So, for the second comic: It is perfectly valid to condemn people promoting rape culture, and to not let them use the idiotic claim 'I'm not in favor of rape, and I don't rape people', especially when you know, in their head, how narrow 'rape' is defined. But when they're not promoting rape culture, at all, it's a little silly to complain that they're saying 'don't rape people'.

And as for context: Perhaps some people are not aware of this, but PA has constantly fought the gamer community on the issue of jerkasses in it. And its treatment of women. They are people who coined the term 'GIFT', and promote 'Think b4 You Speak' to fight the near epic level of homophobic speak from gamers.

I feel like you're simultaneously saying "I don't really have the knowledge you do about rape culture because I'm a man" *and* "if only you understood the real context, you would know this isn't part of rape culture". Can you clarify?

No, I was saying we literally have no context. A man says he's raped by dickwolves. That's all we have. And we get people responding: ...a LOT of things are rape and those Things-That-Are-Rape are not universally agreed on as rape by much of your intended audience. In fact, probably 10% of your audience has committed those kinds of rape but won't call it "rape" because they don't or won't understand that rape isn't just TGWTDT/dickwolves rape.

But people can't make comments about whether or not the target audience would call whatever happened to that man 'rape' or not when we literally have no idea what happened to that man. Comments about that are just magically assuming what sort of rape happened to that guy.

Also, I do not understand why men need to learn about Rape Culture from rapists. There are a lot of other people who go to great lengths to explain rape culture to men.

Uh, yeah, at which point they know about it. That was not my point. I was just making the point that, despite the fact that while statistically all men hang out with rapists, most men do not, in fact, know that. And they're hardly going to be inform of that by the rapists. (The rapists, of course, think everyone already knows 'how things work', but no one talks about it publicly.)

Assuming all men have magically figured this out is a bit silly. As is assuming all men will just immediately accept this as true.

Ana Mardoll said...

David,

But I refuse to accept the idea that a context-less mention of being raped is wrong if it doesn't include a disclaimer explaining what sorts of behaviors is rape, or explaining rape culture. In fact, making rape something that no one can even mention helps rape culture.

There is a difference between saying "rape is not something that should be used flippantly in a joke for cheap laughs when something else would work just as well for the purposes of the joke and would additionally NOT trigger survivors and trivialize rape as something that only happens in violent slave conditions" and "no one can ever talk about or say the word rape, ever."

Okay, I'm going to say have to this very clearly: I see no escalation in the second comic. In fact, I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out exactly what 'second comic' people could be talking about, because the one I read did not seem to be what people were talking about.

This is the second comic, for the record: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/8/13/

There are many offensive things about it, but my favorite is If you are raping someone right now, stop. Apologize. And leave. Go, and rape no more. All said with a sardonic expression, raised eyebrow, and the obviousness that the statement is meaningless because most rapists don't read Penny Arcade while raping someone.

This trivializes rape. Stop raping and apologize? That's like saying you should stop forgetting your mother's birthday and apologize. There are many reasons why that comic -- and the t-shirt that followed it, and the insistence that the artists would wear the t-shirt at PAX -- is offensive. This is one of them.

Will Wildman said...

But people can't make comments about whether or not the target audience would call whatever happened to that man 'rape' or not when we literally have no idea what happened to that man. Comments about that are just magically assuming what sort of rape happened to that guy.

We do, in fact, have one idea, which is that whatever happened to that guy is something that guy personally considers rape. What else could we possibly need to know?

This is the kind of let's-not-jump-to-conclusions that is central to the problem of getting people to take rape seriously.

Dav said...

YOU ARE GOING TO WEAR YOURS TO A MAJOR CONVENTION

A major convention that you created, with one objective being celebrating gamer culture and another being avoiding stereotypes about how gamer culture is . . . wait for it . . . hostile to women. (Among other things.) Even if you were totally sure you were right, would it really be too much to just wear another shirt and tell everyone else to wear another shirt, because sometimes being Right is less important than just getting together and enjoying the con?

It is a riveting level of fail. For me, anyway - it has that TV tropes effect where I want click every link forever.

Will: Good for the group. Apologist bingo is always educational. I look forward to having an emotionless avatar, perhaps the Terminator, talk about rape for me in the future. (Seriously. Why is this not a Youtube phenomenon? Emotionless androids explain rape culture so their arguments are not polluted by these things you humans call passion? Like Robocop, except posted on every bus and in every classroom and TV newsroom. Or perhaps a butler, a la Jeeves. "Pardon me, sir, but I couldn't help but overhear your conversation, and I'm afraid I must express strong disapprobation at your choice of metaphor. As I'm sure sir realizes, the consummation of a sporting conquest is a vastly different prospect than the coercion of an unwilling paramour. Perhaps sir would care to rephrase?")

Ana Mardoll said...

Perhaps sir would care to rephrase?

Dav, you are full of so much win. :)

Will Wildman said...

Dav: One of the first things I was going to add to my blog was a post called Roboeconomist versus the homophobic murder apologists, in which an emotionless mechanical co-blogger (he just wants to model things accurately!) would assist me in objectively discussing the murder of Lawrence King, but I couldn't find the middle ground between absurd objectivity and emotional ranting. The option is still around for future atrocities. I like your Jeevesy take.

Ana Mardoll said...

I really want a spin off of this that would be called "Analogy Police". I am so tired of everything boiling down to being either like the Nazis or like rape.

Analogy Police Robot would explain that, no, it is not.

Dav said...

By "from" the second comic, I meant "after". I should have rephrased. Sorry about that.

No, I was saying we literally have no context.

Really? The comic exists in a cultural void?

General context:
- World of Warcraft culture is often actively hostile towards women, and trivializes rape.
- MMO culture is often actively hostile towards women, and trivializes rape.
- Gamer culture is often actively hostile towards women, and trivializes rape.
- Wider culture is often actively hostile towards women, and trivializes rape.
- Etc.

Post-comic context:
- A "dickwolves" T-shirt is sold.
- Gabe plans to wear his to the con, even after being told how offensive it is, and that it might be actively triggering.
- Some scum begin trolling blogs of those who object to the comic, or to the fallout around the comic, or to the trivialization of rape that has emerged in discussions about the comic.
- Attempts are actively made by fans to trigger women.
- Etc.

The comic originates in a culture steeped in misogyny, and does not explicitly counter it. It then mocks people who object and trivializes their concerns, and its defenders are subsequently involved in trying to actively trigger rape victims, making threats against them, and ignoring the concerns of marginalized gamers.

That is context.

Assuming all men have magically figured this out is a bit silly. As is assuming all men will just immediately accept this as true.

Oh, yes, silly women. Why the fuck should we expect men to take us seriously when we tell them about things that we experience? (Also, it is a really bad idea to use the word "silly" when talking about women, or women's viewpoints, especially to a woman, if you do not want to blow some dogwhistles really really loudly.)

Gelliebean said...

But I refuse to accept the idea that a context-less mention of being raped is wrong if it doesn't include a disclaimer explaining what sorts of behaviors is rape, or explaining rape culture. In fact, making rape something that no one can even mention helps rape culture.

Does it really qualify as contextless? Within the comic, the context is pretty obvious. A man is enslaved, tortured daily, raped nightly, and begging for help from a 'hero' whose only concern is making quota and moving on. The man says explicitly that what is happening to him is rape.

Beyond that, the comic is aimed at gamers who would only ever find themselves in the game as the hero: the one who has a quota to meet and knows that however many slaves they rescue, the game will just generate more; success in saving everyone is never possible. The game encourages and normalizes walking away from people in trouble because that's how the game works.

Taken in the larger context (stepping from the text of the comic and the world it presents to the real world) you could read the strip as a satire about the attitudes encouraged by games that place the player in this kind of a situation, EXCEPT that this interpretation is categorically negated by the following actions and statements of the comic's creators. The non-apology apology, the comments and tweets, and the merchandising of shirts explicitly endorsing rapists all would seem to belie any idea that the original strip was meant to encourage any introspection or reflection on the attitudes toward rapre presented in a game.

DavidCheatham said...

The comic makes it very clear that the slaves are being physically abused by their captors. To argue, as I think you are, that there is a perfectly valid alternate interpretation where, yes, the slaves are beaten in the mornings, but at night the wolves commit rape that isn't violent and therefore this could be a comic condemning non-violent rape and the people who don't see it that way are falling prey to the same assumptions they accuse others of having... seems to me to be... I'm not sure what to call it. Disingenuous?

Really? So there's no context in which slaves might be beaten during the day, and then 'consensually' (I.e., without struggling because they will be beaten more or even killed if they fight) have sex with their owners at night?

That's a somewhat...odd historic view. That's pretty much where my mind goes when I hear about slaves being raped. Slaveowners do not generally violently rape their slaves. Slaveowners order slaves to have sex with them. It is the classic power balance rape, and the 'have sex or I will hurt you' rape, at the same time, to the n-th level. Suggesting otherwise is weirdly ahistoric.

Ana Mardoll said...

Wolves whose bodies are composed entirely of erect penises are also ahistorical.

Any rape where the alternative to rape is death or more violence is a relatively (for America) small representation of the rapes that occur as a whole in this country. Falling back on that particular type of rape as THE rape adds to the mentality that rape is rare to occur, easy to avoid doing, and obvious to all parties.

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, switching to ROT13 here, because I can't figure out a non-triggery way to address this:

Juvyr nqzvggvat hcsebag gung V nz abg n uvfgbel znwbe, V gnxr vffhr jvgu lbhe oynaxrg fgngrzrag gung ivbyrag fynir encr vf nuvfgbevpny. Guvf frrzf yvxr n erthetvgngrq Ebzna Puneygba Urfgba snagnfl jurer gur fynirf ner *pbreprq* vagb frk ohg vg'f nyy irel pvivyvmrq naq aba-ivbyrag ba gur fhesnpr.

Gur frk fynirel V nz zbfg snzvyvne jvgu vf zbqrea -- nf va pheeragyl unccravat evtug abj -- frk fynirel naq frk fynirel qhevat Jbeyq Jne VV. Obgu gurfr glcrf bs frkhny fynirel ner urnivyl punenpgrevmrq ol culfvpny ivbyrapr gbjneqf gur ivpgvzf naq vg vfa'g whfg Pynhqvhf beqrevat n fynir tvey gb trg vagb orq jvgu uvz.

Creuncf gur Ebzna snagnfl vf (n) uvfgbevpnyyl npphengr naq (o) fbzrubj bhgjrvtuf gur ivbyrag sbezf bs frk fynirel gung qvq naq qb rkvfg. Ohg V erznva fxrcgvpny.

DavidCheatham said...

Sorry, that got a bit lost in editing. (If I did not edit my posts here, every one of them would be longer than the original article.) I was commenting on:

It baffles me that 'edgy' humour is understood to include 'humour that promotes the most common and brutal forms of oppression'. Sexism, racism, and homophobia all seem to be fair game if someone's trying to be 'edgy', and they'll justify it by saying it must be edgy because it's humour that makes people uncomfortable.

The point I was trying to say was that PA goes way past 'Sexism, racism, and homophobia' in the 'making people uncomfortable' category. Tycho is attracted to giraffes and ostriches, and their long, sexy necks, for a random example. There's often blood spattering everywhere. There are robots that have sex with fruit. It's a very disturbed place.

And I have to agree with you about the nonsense of 'If you think the rape is bad, check out the murder'. That's just idiotic. For one thing, very few games have actual literal murder in them. (Killing spiders is not murder.)

For another thing, there's a difference in what the game is about, and what asshats are yelling while playing it. There actually are games with rape in them (Although, as far as I know, none with the player raping anyone)...and they say so on the box. And there probably are people who have had someone break into their house and murder a family member, and thus would not, for example, play Assassin's Creed, where you do that. (As I understand, I have not played that game.)

But I wasn't trying to say that PA joking they were going to rape would be 'lesser' because they were joking about murder...that wasn't what was happening. I was just pointing out that PA has rather adult content. All the time.

DavidCheatham said...

Yeah, the PA guys should have twigged to what was going on a lot sooner. I'm just defending the actual comic strips here, which I do not see as offensive at all. I'm not defending what other people did, which was utter misogyny, or the t-shirts, which was just, as you figured out, a kneejerk reaction to the world that constantly attacks gamers.

PA, and they've been at this for about 10 years now, essentially took gamers from 'teenagers and losers in their mother's basement' stereotype and said 'stop that', and really did managed to change quite a lot of public opinion, including their very successful gaming con. They are, in a way, activists who said 'We're adults with health social lives and all sorts of interests, and we play games. Video games, table top games, etc. We are not a joke, we are not losers, and we're tired of living in the closet.'

And, as we all know, it's absurdly easy for people who've been clawing their way up to ignore the other people once they get there. They solved their problem, why are other people still complaining?

So here, PA took something that 95% of the issue wasn't _them_ at all, it was other asshats responding 'in their defense', and decided to defend it to the death. They should have just said 'We're sorry you found it offensive, no, we're not taking it down, and everyone else shut up and stop 'helping' us by questioning rape victims, you idiots.'

Instead, they treated it like a joke and/or an attack until it blew up in their face.

DavidCheatham said...

Wow, that's all over the place with slavery, and yet managed to avoid the place that my mind, and I suspect most Americans, go to when talking about slavery, which would be when America did it. (A good deal of people seem unaware that slavery actually still exists at all.) Which, from what I understand, tended to be done mostly with threats, although I'm not a history major either.

But I suspect we're just quibbling over what we mean by various levels of violence at this point, and there's not really any point in talking about it. We're either talking about actual violence or the mere threat of violence, and obviously no slaveowners should get 'credit' for having previously beaten their slaves to the point that they will comply with sexual demands without a struggle. All slavery is predicated on violence at some level.

The point I was trying to make is that 'rape by owner' is not really the 'standard imagined rape' that people were condemning it for being.

Of course, now that I say that, the example sorta fails in the other direction too. Men can't imagine themselves rapists, because they think rapists randomly run around attacking scantily-dressed women, and they'd never do that, so whatever they do must not be rape.

But, in the same way, men have a hard time imagining themselves as slave owners. (And a near impossible time imagining themselves as dickwolves.)

DavidCheatham said...

Any rape where the alternative to rape is death or more violence is a relatively (for America) small representation of the rapes that occur as a whole in this country.

Yes, and it's also fairly unrepresentative for men to be raped. And it's unheard of for anyone to be raped by wolves, much less dickwolves.

It's also unrepresentative for slaves to be holding pickaxes and chained to a ball. Slaves do exist, but very few are miners. And it's very unlikely for slaves to be rescued by a minotaur of some sort.

At some point you have to say 'This is a specific fictional narrative' and accept it. No one wrote a thesis saying 'And this is how most rapes are'.

Ana Mardoll said...

At some point you have to say 'This is a specific fictional narrative' and accept it. No one wrote a thesis saying 'And this is how most rapes are'.

Or, and this is just another option, you can point out that this "specific fictional narrative" fits the common belief that rape equals something brutal and violent and very, very obvious. And that this common belief creates and nurtures a society where rape exists in a form rarely talked about in the media, and where when people are raped, they aren't believed because their experience wasn't the experience that most people in this culture associate with rape.

I want to be clear: it's okay with me if you like the cartoon or don't find it offensive. I'm not saying what you should or shouldn't find humorous. I even think it's possible to find it humorous AND problematic, because people are complicated that way. If you want to say, "OK, I thought it was funny and in keeping with the dark humor in the strip, but I can see where some people would find it offensive, hurtful, or contributing to rape culture," or something like that, I don't have a problem with that, and I think that's not an unusual opinion I'm expressing.

But the fact that something is a fictional narrative does not mean that it can't be problematic or contribute to a culture that oppresses and hurts rape survivors. It's both/and, and it didn't occur in a cultural vacuum -- it's a single drop in a huge ocean of rape culture, but it's a drop worth talking about.

And -- and I'm going to say this in the most polite way possible -- there's a point here about slavery, too. If your mind "goes" to Rome or pre-Civil War America when you hear "sex slavery" and a feminist blogger's mind goes to currently-practiced-in-many-parts-of-the-world sex slavery, that might cue you into realizing that YOUR take on this comic may not be the only valid interpretation of the comic. Yes, it's a fictional narrative to you, because you don't have to worry that you might get kidnapped and sold into slavery on your next vacation. The women reading the PA comic? Don't necessarily have that luxury.

That's the definition of privilege. You don't need to apologize for it, but you need to be aware of it. Especially when you want to say "you have to say 'This is a specific fictional narrative'" because -- and I mean this in the most polite way possible -- no, I don't have to say any such thing.

Amarie said...

*tiptoes around DavidCheatham and snuggles between Ana and another commenter/blogger*

Going by the reaction to this, I think this is another example of how human beings have forgotten that they are human beings. In this politically correct world, we’re not allowed to vouch for a person of a different ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. The mindset that I see increasingly is, ‘If you’re not part of the group that’s being discriminated against, then who the **** are you to say anything?!’. It’s alarming, saddening and it just breaks my heart.

I have my own experience with this. I’m an African American female in the south. My mother has always said for my sister and me to try our best because we have two strikes against us: 1.) we’re black and 2.) we’re female. She wasn’t saying that we weren’t *worthy* in the least. What she *was* saying was that the world wants to put us on the back, back, back burner and we have to be strong. Now, my sister is just about to get her third degree (something in, err…computers that gives me a migraine) and I’m working on the long road to getting an MPH (Masters of Public Health…I want to go to the CDC).

That being said, I had a few people come up to me and marvel at how…articulate and intelligent I am. Even fewer have commented on the brilliancy of that in light of the fact that I am a black female and most people don’t expect my personality, aspirations, etc. I’ve always responded that, ‘No…I think that white, southern, Christian men have it worse than I do…especially white, southern, Christian, gay men.’ To this day, I get bewildered and/or amused looks when I say that. But, I *do* think that they have it worse. I’m not going to be ignorant to how affirmative action helped my essay and me get into my college and how it didn’t help a white man. I’m not going to think that a white man is more likely to get a pass than I am based what skin colors and genders people perceive as ‘handicapped’.

So, in a lot of people’s minds, I’m the *least* qualified advocate for white men. And I’m certainly not worthy to express outrage on the behalf of rape victims, given that I’ve never been raped.

Again, I think we’re forgetful of the fact that *human beings* have the right to express outrage and advocacy for other *human beings*. When people say/believe otherwise, it just…breaks my heart.

Ana Mardoll said...

*hugs Amarie back*

Amarie said...

*hugs Ana back tighter and cooes* ^ ^

hapax said...

Ana, Kit, Dav, Will, and anyone else I've missed -- I just want to send you personal thanks for taking up the whole PvP issue.

This isn't triggering for me, really, but is definitely not one I have the spoons to cope with right now. It is really really healing to read comments that "get" it.

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank *you* hapax. The next time I think I'm writing too many Serious Posts About Rape (because, really, what can I write that hasn't been written before and doesn't it just get everyone down?) I'll remember that these posts are helpful to someone. :)

Anthony Rosa said...

You know, this entire PA thing gives me a complete headache.

First: I won't say they didn't react with hostility. Because they did. But when a person's first experience with the term is to be called a rape apologist for making a comic about how callous players playing "heroes" are in video games, then it's really not a surprise that that would color the term and those who use it. It's not really a surprise that person would be deaf to future pleas on the subject. That's human nature, and unrelated even to privilege.

The first time I ever heard the term rape culture was in a screed about how terrible the PA guys were for doing the dickwolves thing. Most people don't know this term. If I went out and used the term in regular everyday life, I guarantee most of the people I know would react... about the way the Penny Arcade guys reacted, and the way I reacted. Negatively.

I mean, let's be honest, the term about as connected to the way most people would interpret the term as Northrop Frye's definition of the word Romance is connected to the way most of us use the term. (Btw: Under Frye's definition, a movie like Serenity is a romantic comedy. If you just went "huh?" then, congrats, welcome to my life.) That is, you can see where it's coming from after it was explained to you clearly, but until that happens, you're left in the dark. That's what happens when a subculture catches onto a phrase, and uses it to people who have no idea what they're talking about.

Let me be clear. I was able to learn what the term meant, and I actually like what it means. It was an eye-opening concept, and its confrontational nature seems useful. This is not about the term being wrong, because it isn't, but about first impressions. It doesn't mean what people think it means upon first being told. And that does NOT say anything negative about them. Because you all know what the term sounds like.

---

Actually, I just went and did it, to test it. And got horrified looks. Now, if this person had been told they were supporting rape culture...? Well, I would have been punched in the face. Actually, her first reaction to the phrase was, and I quote,

"Yeah, the first thing that came to mind was a community where people consent to such a thing, it's one of my few 'don't go there' zones".

It may not have been wise to just ask the first friend that I saw. But I had to explain it to her so, again, I didn't get punched in the face or something. Actually, even when I described the term's meaning, she seemed immediately hostile to the phrase... I am worried that explaining the phrase itself may have been a trigger, and that was not my intent. Well, crap. When my first use of the term "rape culture" outside of a place where people already accept it possibly leads to a trigger, and causes the woman to be legitimately hostile towards it, and upset in general... then I really screwed up. Maybe I didn't describe it well enough. Or maybe using this term isn't such a good idea...

Dav said...

Hapax, thank you.

Anthony, are you suggesting that we rename Rape Culture to something that has more positive connotations, or that we set aside the concept entirely because the first impression is that it's awful stuff? I am pretty sure that discussions aimed at gamers usually included links or brief explanations of rape culture (and if not, googling it brings up a decent Wiki page and a Rape Culture 101 post in the first two hits). Like many phrases, it requires a little knowledge to understand; this is not unusual in terms used as shorthand for a fairly wordy concept. (See: any financial term ever.)

Perhaps because I'm feminist and I taught ESL and know how wonky English can get, "rape culture" doesn't seem as alien as you're suggesting, either - it has something to do with rape, and something to do with culture, and the interplay between the two. What the interplay is may not be entirely clear on first hearing, but it's fairly easily explained, even to non-feminist lay folk. I find it an easier concept to explain than, say, the difference between sex and gender, or what "performative gender" means. It's certainly easier than explaining privilege.

Also, 99% non-snarky, I'd be interested to know how you distinguish human behavior from privileged behavior so neatly; what makes you think that the ability to ignore others' thoughts/requests has no basis in privilege?

Kit Whitfield said...

I see no escalation in the second comic.

Then you're missing something. The fact that you don't see it doesn't mean it's not there. Try listening to the people who do see it rather than assuming you're omniscient.

As to the claim that they've done good things in the past - so what? Not being a jerk isn't a state of black and white; you can't get a free pass to be a jerk later by doing some non-jerkish things beforehand. If you do something jerkish, you're being a jerk. If you then do some better things in the future, that's a sign you may have learned better, but what you did in the past doesn't get you off the hook.

Non-jerkery isn't a destination you can arrive at and remain in. It's a way of walking. You step off Decent Human Being Highway into the wilds of Nasty Person Woods, then you're in Nasty Person Woods right now. The thing to do is try and find your way back to the highway, not go deeper and deeper in while shouting 'I'm a road user!'


I was just pointing out that PA has rather adult content.

Making fun of rape isn't 'adult'. It's adolescent. And people weren't objecting to the mention of sex and violence; they were objecting to the way they were mentioned. Not the same thing.


Also, saying 'I refuse to accept'? That's a phrase that's generally used by privileged people having a tantrum when they're called on hurtful behaviour. It doesn't come across as making an argument; it comes across as foot-stamping. If you want to make a persuasive argument, you might want to try another phrase.

--

That's human nature, and unrelated even to privilege.

No, it is not unrelated to privilege. If you're a straight white guy, you can afford to ignore a lot of issues because they're never going to affect you personally. That means you can be ignorant, and choose to stay ignorant.

Amarie, perhaps you'd like to correct me on this. But I suspect that if the first time you run into a phrase used about African American women is used to criticise you, you can't afford to just shut your ears and mock anyone who uses it without trying to understand what they mean by it. Right? You might not like it or agree with it, but you can't just brush it off the way those guys did. Because you don't have that kind of privilege. If you don't understand it, there will be serious negative consequences beyond some people on the Net not liking you, so you have to learn what it means and work around it.

If you're privileged, you can get away with not doing that.


If I went out and used the term in regular everyday life, I guarantee most of the people I know would react... about the way the Penny Arcade guys reacted, and the way I reacted. Negatively.

How to say this politely? Unless you know everyone in the world, this says more about your circle of acquaintance than about 'human nature'.

Kit Whitfield said...

Also, thank you hapax, and I'm sending you secular prayers... :-)

Ana Mardoll said...

it has something to do with rape, and something to do with culture, and the interplay between the two.

This. I actually reacted positively at the first time I heard the word because, hey look! There's a word for this thing that is all around me and I'm constantly made aware of. Yay!

Of course, I can also see why someone might label Serenity as a romantic comedy, so perhaps I'm just weird that way. :D

Ana Mardoll said...

And now for a more substantial comment:

Hi, Anthony. :)

One of the things that is important to me in the PA situation is that a lot of people forget (or choose not to remember) that rape isn't some distant impersonal thing for many people. If 1 in 4 women have been raped and 1 in 33 men have been raped, that's a LOT of rape survivors in the PA audience and it would behoove artists to remember that before they reach for the rape jokes.

I mean, I wish we could train everyone to realize that: Do I know four women and/or thirty men? I know a rape survivor... and it's possible that she/he doesn't want to talk about it or relive it.

This is why it's not really acceptable in most friendships for a man to ask a woman about rape without her bringing it up first. You know your friend better than I, but if you think she *might* have been triggered, I hope your "well crap" reaction was meant to be kind of a humorous understatement while you work out how to fix the damage done. Because if one of my male friends walked up to me and started talking about rape to me, I like to think that I'd be "oh, he's a feminist seeking answers from my personal viewpoint" but probably I'd be in full-blown OH CRAP MUST GET AWAY mode because if it turns out that he is a rapist and he rapes me? Rape culture means I'm not going to be taken seriously afterward. :(

And that's kind of the point of the privilege discussion: too often, privilege means not having to think out how a comic will affect non-privileged people. And I agree that when that privilege is pointed out, it's human to say WHAT? NO! SHUT UP! but just because it's human to do something, doesn't make it right or socially acceptable. If someone at work borrows my stapler without asking, it may be human to yell THIEF! ASSHOLE! when I find the stapler-borrower, but I can't imagine how that would be considered appropriate in my workplace. That's a dreadful, pre-coffee analogy but my point is that "natural" does not equal "appropriate".

Being aware of privilege means thinking "does this comic need a rape joke in it to work, or can we do something else" as well as thinking "do I need to ask Amy/Bob what the term 'rape culture' means to her/him". In both cases, the failure to think in advance "It's possible that Amy/Bob/my audience may have experienced rape and don't have the spoons to deal with it today" is something that is very natural, but not very sensitive.

I hope this doesn't seem like criticizing you, and again you know your friend better than I do. But that "I am worried that explaining the phrase itself may have been a trigger, and that was not my intent. Well, crap." line sent off all kinds of pre-coffee alarm bells in my head. I hope both you and your friend are okay. :)

Off to the auto place to get my tires aligned this morning. Hugs to you all.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm stealing that "secular prayers" line, Kit. :)

I want to add to the discussion that when I woke this morning I realized that I was offended most of all not by the first comic, nor the second, nor the shirts, nor the wearing of shirts to the convention, nor the "rape culture is a band" tweet, but rather by the "hi honey, I perpetuate rape culture, will be home late tonight" tweet.

That, to me, is the "a woman associates with me in real life and therefore I cannot possibly be part of the problem" and it proves to me that after months of discussion, he still didn't get it and didn't want to.

"Not my Nigel" needs a sister-trope like, "But I'm married to Victoria!" or something. Can someone word smith that?

DavidCheatham said...

I don't' really have any disagreement with what you say. I think different people will see it differently, and I really wish the PA guys said what I said and let the matter dropped.

But the people who kept it going was their forum idiots, and the rest of gamer culture. Yes, the culture has been under attack before, and I'd understand some pushback, but that's really not an excuse for how they did it. There's a bit of a difference between Jack Thompson screaming about murder simulators and them saying 'Show us the evidence games cause harm', and a rape victim saying 'This make me uncomfortable' and them saying 'Show us the evidence you were raped'.

The insanity of gamer culture is something is somewhat hard to deal with, and I say this as someone who plays games and yet has avoided multiplayer ones somewhat because of that...I don't need to be called a fag every two seconds, or whatever. Heck, the last time I was on a MUD, there was someone with an automated announcement about killing 'sand n****rs', every two minutes and no admin stopped him. (And the text based games have the most intelligence audience. OTOH, that was a decade ago, and it appears most of the idiots have left.)

The _rest_ of nerdom has, at some point, started behaving sanely towards women (With random fail, like the whole 'let us grab your breasts' recent nonsense.), but gamer culture is the last bastion of the stupidity. Probably because it skews younger, and has a 'can do no wrong' attitude because it has spent a decade emerging as a legitimate group of people and has finally 'arrived'.

But where I'm going with this post is that, well, PA is one of the leaders, and are actively fighting such stupidity. They've lead campaigns to stop the slurs in games, they've tried to make a con where women can safely participate, etc.

But they're also actively fighting censorship in games, of which the premise is 'Things in art cannot be harmful in and of themselves'. Hence, the t-shirts, and hence the removal of them when they realized that t-shirts were being worn by actual real life people in real life, and others were intimidated by that. The whole 'I'm wearing mine' was just a dying gasp of rebellion, because they really hate bowing to outside pressure.

But that's just how I see it.

Dav said...

David, I can tell you as a woman nerd with many other areas of interest, you are not correct that gamer culture is the last bastion of racism/homophobia/sexism, or even gobsmackingly stupid incidences of the above. And while the examples of fail may seem "random" to you, they are not. And I think this is part of the whole "this comic has no context!" idea: that you don't see underlying patterns of racism/homophobia/sexism/etc is part of privilege. It does not mean they're not there.

Think of it like mushrooms, right?

There's a meadow where poisonous Amanita mushrooms grow, and you'd like to get rid of them, because kids play in that meadow. You see the mushrooms scattered about at random intervals and times - they *appear* random to you. But those are just fruiting bodies - they're not separate organisms, but sprouts from an underlying mycellium network. Two mushrooms a hundred yards apart could be from the same organism. The outcroppings of visible mushrooms are just extensions of structure that's already there. Your point of view inclines you to identify major fail as random because you don't see smaller incidences of fail, or you don't understand how they fit in. But that doesn't make your point of view reality. Nor does it make your point of view everyone else's point of view. Mycologists see a poisonous mushroom, and know it didn't grow from a single seed - it's evidence that the entire fungus is thriving. And so they can talk about Amanita culture, and the underlying network of hyphae, and the *being* of poisonous fungus, 99.9999999% of which is not visible to lay folk, and it will confuse someone who only sees a random mushroom. But that does not mean that the mycologists are overreacting, or making stuff up, or that there is no Amanita in the parts of the meadow where you don't see a giant red mushroom.

(/terrible pre-coffee analogy)

Ana Mardoll said...

I just learned something about mushrooms today, because I did not know ANY of that. o.O

DavidCheatham said...

I think 'nerd culture' is probably so big I shouldn't have commented on what it is like. (And gamer culture is mostly a subset of nerd culture, so obviously not all of nerd culture is sane.) It's not a meadow, it's an entire town, 75% of which I've never set foot in. (Someone needs to make a reference to last night's Fringe here, so I will. There.)

The parts that I deal with do not have any mushrooms that I have noticed, and when they do they get stomped on. You might be correct in that there are fungus underneath, though. And because it's so big, I have no idea, for example, what the SCA is doing. (Which I've heard is fairly bad.)

Let's put it this way: Nerd culture in general is about a decade ahead of gamer culture in mainstream acceptance, if we date that as 90-95 and 00-05, respectively. I suspect it's at least a decade ahead in how it treats women. Which is, in a way, damning with faint praise.

In fact, there's a sort of obvious conclusion there: The most mainstream a culture is, the closer it will treat women as society in general treats them. I suspect the parts of nerd culture least accepted, like the SCA, or comics, are the parts still out of sync with society. (And with some of it, you have to wonder exactly which is causing which. It's entirely possible that's part of the reason they aren't accepted...because half the population is essentially excluded from it.)

Of course, how society in general treats women is nowhere near perfect to start with, and 'catching up to society' is not really enough.

Ana Mardoll said...

Without derailing into something that is WAY too broad, I do want to address one thing: how society in general treats women is complicated, and it's by no means agreed on that society is steadily getting better over time.

One example that comes to mind is the "birth control pills are murder and pharmacists shouldn't have to dispense them" phenomenon that is going on currently. I really do not think that sort of thing was happening 20 years ago, or at least not on a national public level that I'm aware of.

So I would be very cautious about statements that seem to indicate a constant measure of progress. Some things are better, some things are worse. It's all very complex. :)

depizan said...

It's also important to note that just because there is Amanita in all of the meadow, that doesn't make all of the meadow Amanita. Gamer culture, like everything else, is full of nice people and average people as well as asshats. In my five or so years of MMO* playing, I've only encountered a few (very few) asshats, but that doesn't make me doubt that there are tons o' asshats out there. Why? Oh, look at trade chat in WoW - bastion of Chuck Norris jokes and far worse (like rape jokes). But, like many other people, I don't have the spoons to deal with trade chat and simply turn it off. I wish I had the spoons and the time to just sit there reporting the asshattery. It might improve things.

You know, when I first saw the original PA comic, I almost took the use of rape as a take that at how casually the term is thrown around in those games. That not only are the games designed to make your heroes assholes but that that word that gets thrown around all the time actually means something. It was their response to the negative feedback, not the original comic, that made me stop reading PA.


*Did that ever get defined? MMO, short for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, e.g. WoW (World of Warcraft)

Brin Bellway said...

In my five or so years of MMO* playing, I've only encountered a few (very few) asshats, but that doesn't make me doubt that there are tons o' asshats out there.

I do get a bit of "Wait, what?" when people talk about the rampant sexism of MMO players. I've played Runescape for nearly eight years*. The only sexist encounter that comes to mind is the time I was in a battle competition and a guy accused me of cross-dressing (I was wearing an armoured skirt) in an attempt to exploit his sense of chivalry.

*Admittedly I mostly left the public chat turned off for the first couple years.

Kit Whitfield said...

But they're also actively fighting censorship in games, of which the premise is 'Things in art cannot be harmful in and of themselves'. Hence, the t-shirts, and hence the removal of them when they realized that t-shirts were being worn by actual real life people in real life, and others were intimidated by that. The whole 'I'm wearing mine' was just a dying gasp of rebellion, because they really hate bowing to outside pressure.

Rebellion my eye. You rebel against those who have more power than you, not less.

Also, I have no patience with 'against censorship' when you're not being censored, only criticised.

Also, Dav, that was the best analogy for bigotry I have ever seen. I would, with your permission, like to use it a lot for the rest of my life.

Ana Mardoll said...

I play LOTRO. I'm told that the audience is a bit more mature, but I'm skeptical that's not just tribalism. Still, I've been pleasantly surprised -- I've seen almost no sexism in the comments and only a few homophobic / racist comments, most of which were being used by people who clearly wanted to be banned. *report button*

The game has its ups and downs. On the one hand, the loading screens actually attempt to show female characters in the beefy tank roles, which is a nice touch. And I love that the armor behaves the same for male and female characters -- that is to say, it covers the parts you want armor on. No chain bikinis.

On the other hand, you can't play a female dwarf, which is a shame because female dwarves in Dragon Age were awesome. The dwarves are supposed to be impossible to tell apart by gender, but when I *have* to have a beard and there are no breasts and my character grunts and shouts in a deep male voice, it's not easy to role-play as a girl there. AND there's a quest that... basically has you helping a guy to kidnap a girl he likes because he's too shy to ask her to marry him. She defends herself competently, verbally reams him out, and reveals that she loves him anyway and he should have just asked her, but... still. It's problematic for me.

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, Dav, that was the best analogy for bigotry I have ever seen. I would, with your permission, like to use it a lot for the rest of my life.

Seriously, that was freaking awesome.

The problem with the t-shirts... for me... is that when you pull something from a store and you SAY it's because people were being hurt by the wearing of the t-shirts, but then it comes out that (a) Important People were avoiding your convention over the t-shirts being available for sale and (b) you publicly announce on the public internet to your public that YOU are going to wear your shirt (and you don't discourage your followers from organizing to do the same), well... in the most polite way possible, I'm skeptical of the sincerity here.

I'm not going to say the PA guys pulled the merchandise from the store because a lot of gaming industry people were talking about not attending PAX and that they were so angry at being forced to capitulate that they wore their shirts as a big hissy-fit that they had to stop persisting in certain behaviors lest they feel an impact in their pocketbooks, but I WILL say I can see how someone might see it that way. :/

depizan said...

I think much of the sexism in MMOs is not face to face, but rather the trade chat crap in WoW and the like - which is more than bad enough. I mean, WoW is one of the worst games for that (and the forums are one place where people are sexist asshats to one another), but in game, despite playing mostly female characters, I've never had anyone be an asshat to me. (Though I know people who have had people be asshats to them in game because they're women. And I have this suspicion that I "read" as male to fellow players.)

Now, City of Heroes/Villains and Champions both have a lot less asshattery going on, or did when I played them. I'd say City of Heroes/Villains had the least asshatty player base of the games I've played. (And, like LOTRO, is supposed to have a bit more mature player base.) They also lacked WoW's stupid chainmail bikini problem, since the clothing is cosmetic - you can have a chanimail bikini if you want, but only if you want. Though, to give WoW some credit, they have been getting better with the female armor.

I didn't stick with Aion long enough to get a feel for the player base, but I'll bet it's terrible for sexism. It was clear from the character design (the demon-type women had built in high heels) and costume design (all sexy all the time for the women) that the designers assumed that only men would be playing it.

I suspect that the games influence how much of the Amanita mushrooms with things like character and costume design, the kinds of male and female NPCs, story lines, and the like.

Dav said...

Kit: Help yourself! And, thank you! I'm all a-squee.

DavidCheatham said...

One example that comes to mind is the "birth control pills are murder and pharmacists shouldn't have to dispense them" phenomenon that is going on currently.

Ah, now we're into politics, and the essential truth is that there are parts of the media overemphasizing shit like that at this point in time. I'm not saying it's not real, and not dangerous, and it might not happen...but it's not some backwards movement of society, at least not yet. It the media saying 'Let's emphasis every single outlier we can about the right to make the reactionaries look more normal' being done deliberately by some very rich people. People, ironically, who have no problem with it, they're just trying to drag along every reactionary and sexist they can find to support their very unpopular economic policies.

Actual opinions have not charged in the manner that the media is attempting to imply, and if they have, they are 'shallow' changes. I.e., more people now call themselves 'pro-life' than a decade ago...but do not want to make abortion illegal. To which people I say 'WTF? Do you even know what 'pro-life' means?'. The whole pro-life movement demands something like ten posts to do that particular brand of inanity any justice, but this is almost certainly not the post to start it. ;)

Likewise, there is essentially no actual support for making birth control illegal. That does not mean it's safe to assume that that will not happen, making things illegal does not require vast support...just some elected officials. But public support for it is essentially imaginary. If you polled people, you'd probably get more people demanding the government come clean about the whole faked moon landing thing than ban birth control.

Of course, such backwards slipping can happen, and in fact has happened before, so we do have to not assume it's always forward. If you look at women in 1944 and 1954, for example, you'd see movement backwards. (I'm now vaguely remembering someone on the right, in the present day, objecting to 'Rosie the Riveter' on the grounds it was a liberal song, which completely floored me.) It's just the whole 'birth control' nonsense is an attempt to make the pro-life movement look more normal, and less 'backwards movement' then a desperate way to try to hold the line by pretending the line moved backwards.

Kit Whitfield said...

Actual opinions have not charged in the manner that the media is attempting to imply

Evidence?

Ana Mardoll said...

With the greatest respect, David, I think you may be falling into the trap of assuming that most people are like you. I actually do know quite a few people in real life who have been recently (as in within the past 20 years) brought to the belief that "birth control = murder". It's especially noticeable, because the philosophy is being pushed by a lot of Protestant churches which, 20 years ago, were generally more concerned with setting themselves apart from Catholicism and were usually PRO-birth control.

If you'd like to read a very good book on the Quiverfull movement, I strongly recommend Kathryn Joyce's book on the topic. It's not just a few small groups being blown out of proportion by the media.

DavidCheatham said...

Rebellion my eye. You rebel against those who have more power than you, not less.

Uh huh, and when PA started the war, gamers were fighting people who had a lot more power than them. And passed laws against them. And, of course, they'd been attacked before. Oh, and there was the fun moral panic over Columbine. And that's just the stuff off the top of my head, and I left out Jack Thompson, and the low-level stereotypes that gamers were subject to for decades, and, to an extent, still are.

Here's an interesting fact about the world: Often, more than one group is oppressed by the world at once. Crazy, I know. I mean, we all know of those 400 years of American history where women weren't oppressed at all because America was busy oppressing black people. But it can indeed happen.

And sometimes, when those groups interact, they each see the other as part of the world at large, and hence as the oppressors, and do not want to give an inch.

Ana Mardoll said...

David, I realize not everyone on the internet knows who Kit is, but she is VERY aware that there are more oppressed groups out there than just women. She's written extensively on Oppression Olympics, and the fact that "gamers" were oppressed by a California law that criminalized procuring mature video games for underage consumers is not going to convince her -- or me -- that the PA audience was rebelling against an oppressive authority when they started verbally attacking rape survivors on the internet.

DavidCheatham said...

Getting rid of the victims is always easier than getting rid of the victimizers.

But I feel I should point out that they did not actually wear the shirts to PAX, and they did apologize well in advance (A real apology, that is.), and asked people to stop attacking each other. This has sadly vanished off their site, but is cited here, if you can read it through the annoying and rather absurd mark up here.

Pretty much everything after Feb 3 is just insane fans ignoring their calls to stop.

Kit Whitfield said...

David, please do not patronise me. In a conversation about men treating women with disrespect, it's particularly poorly timed, but it's uncalled-for in any case.

when PA started the war, gamers were fighting people who had a lot more power than them.

This is my point: pitching a huge tantrum because some women said your rape jokes bothered them is not fighting people who have more power than you. It is, at best, taking out the stress of fighting people with more power than you on people who have less: it's kicking the cat. At best. And that's assuming they weren't just sexists who would have reacted that way without the pressure on gamers, and considering how nasty they got, I don't see any conclusive evidence in that direction.

If you genuinely think that laws against gamers make it any less vicious to make fun of rape survivors, the person playing Oppression Olympics is you, not me. And if you think a law making it a finable offence to sell certain games to minors (ie to put games in the same category as films) or filing an unsuccessful lawsuit (in a world where the vast majority of rapists are acquitted) are in any way comparable to being raped and then being mass-bullied by a subculture you thought of as your home, well, I don't think you're even playing it very well.

Ana Mardoll said...

Getting rid of the victims is always easier than getting rid of the victimizers.

Sure. But we reserve the right to criticize when this happens.

I appreciate the link, and I do appreciate the calls for the death threats to stop, but I don't actually see an apology. That's their right, and I'm certainly not demanding one, but I'm just going to admit that I don't see one.

Kit Whitfield said...

Pretty much everything after Feb 3 is just insane fans ignoring their calls to stop.

Right. And every conservative assassination is a 'lone nut' with no relationship at all to the conservative hate-speech industry. Leaders have no responsibility when their followers take their words seriously.

As someone who has suffered from mental illness, I will thank you not to put me and anyone else who's ever been literally, clinically insane in the same category as people who think it's their right to sexually harass women en masse. And as a woman, I'll thank you not to dismiss this behaviour as nothing more than insanity rather than a symptom of a deeper problem.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ah, thank you for catching that Kit. I let slip the "crazy" earlier, but twice in one thread is not good.

David, calling people "crazy" and "insane" for being merely assholes is not good and it's an example of ablelist language which is prohibited on this blog:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ableism

This isn't criticism of you -- I only learned about ableist language myself about a year ago thanks to Mark at MarkReads, so you're in the same boat with me, but now that you know about it, please do not use those terms in your posting.

DavidCheatham said...

Well, I can find a modern poll. 80% not only think birth control should be accessible, but think it should be covered by insurance! Another poll has 88% saying they support access to it.

I can't find any older data, though, so can't prove that number isn't lower than it used to be...but having ~85% of the population agree on anything is as near a consensus as you'll ever see. But, remember, folks, if 1% of the right runs around claiming to speak for a vast majority of people, and if a single pharmacist decides he doesn't want to do his job for 'religious reasons', it gets constant news coverage.

Ana Mardoll said...

A poll that breaks down by demographic groups:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/11/23/opinion/polls/main657413.shtml

20-25% sounds about right to me. I'm interested in how 20-25% became 1% in your post.

DavidCheatham said...

If you'd like to read a very good book on the Quiverfull movement, I strongly recommend Kathryn Joyce's book on the topic. It's not just a few small groups being blown out of proportion by the media.

I've read stuff about Quiverfull, and I point you to Wikipedia: 'Currently several thousand Christians worldwide identify with this movement.'. That is, I must point out, a cited from Kathryn Joyce's book.

More than 'several thousand' people have been abducted by aliens! OccupyWallStreet has more than two hundred thousand people...on Wall Street...days ago. See what I mean about media attention?

'Several thousand' people getting media attention is still just several thousand people. In fact, that's smaller than I had thought it was. I thought it was at least a meaningful group among evangelicals, but apparently not. (Of course, there are others who oppose contraceptives, but it's less than 20% of the US population, as I just cited above.)

I would also point out, as gently as I may, that you do not have the sole ownership of the word pro-life. I know quite a few people who consider themselves "pro-life" without wanting to make abortion illegal.

Oh no, I'm not getting into another discussion on who owns the names and definitions of groups with you. We've already discussed that to death.

I will just say that, if pro-life means whatever people identifying with it want it to mean, and not support for specific laws, then other people do not get to use members to justify any sort of 'pro-life' laws. If someone saying they are 'pro-life' does not mean they want to outlaw abortion, then people wishing to outlaw abortion need to be called on it when they cite how many 'pro-life voters' there are. And the term 'pro-life' should probably not appear in a political context at all if it does not have a relation to how people wish laws to be.

Incidentally, this is why I tend to call the sides 'abortion should be generally legal' and 'abortion should be generally illegal' in discussions about abortions, which tends to annoy people, but is at least clear. (Although, come to think of it, I'm lucky I haven't run into anyone who self-identifies as a member of the Abortion Should Be Generally Illegal group, but thinks it should be mostly legal.)

Ana Mardoll said...

I brought up the Quiverfull movement as a concept; I'm fully aware that the number of people who identify by that name is not significant. However, I can think of three men I work with off the top of my head whose families follow the Quiverfull model without using that name. It's complicated.

DavidCheatham said...

I was not saying that PA was rebelling against oppressors. I said that they saw the people they were rebelling against as oppressors, and explained why. (This was in response to Kit snarking that gamers couldn't be oppressed. They not only could, they had been, very recently. In fact, the CA law hadn't yet been decided by the Supreme Court at that time.)

I thought it was clear, but I guess I should be obvious: When two groups see each other as oppressors, at least one of them is incorrect. (It is hypothetical possible for them to both be incorrect, but that is not true here.)

In this instance, PA, and the people who took their side, were incorrect. No one in that instance was trying to oppress PA, or had the slightest bit of power to do so. And while the original comic is perhaps iffy, and certainly not any sort of deliberate oppression, the response that many people had afterward was right out of privileged and oppression.

Ana Mardoll said...

Anthony, I'm so relieved that you think your friend will be alright and that you're taking her reaction seriously. I should have assumed that in the first place, but it's so easy to stick my nose in where it probably doesn't belong. I hope it all works out well. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

And interesting terminology there. I was thinking "comedy" in the "has a happy ending" sense, plus of course Firefly in general has humorous lines.

And the romance, well, the only people on the ship not in a romance are River and Jayne.

I'll have to look up this terminology you reference. I'm intrigued. :)

I understand why someone might be unsettled by being told they are supporting rape culture. That's part of the reason why I'm not blaming them so much for the first month or two.

After a year though, if one still refuse to educate oneself, I think one deserves to be roundly criticized for it. :/

Anthony Rosa said...

Anyway, I want to reiterate something: There is the danger that I'll be interpreted as concern trolling, but I want to make clear that isn't the case.

I like the concept of rape culture. It's been really useful for me to see things at least a little bit more clearly. I want the concept to be shared. My approval is irrelevant, but I still like it.But I guess I had two points: The Penny Arcade guys were wrong. But it's not surprising to me in the least that they still don't understand the concept. Even looking at their second comic shows how it seemed to them, and my own experiences support the idea: They misunderstood what was meant, because of how easy it is to misconstrue the term. And once the term is misconstrued... why would a person want to learn what someone, who they believe is telling them their works make people rape or something, actually are saying? This does not excuse their behavior. They acted like privileged jerks in this case, because of how they dismissed the concerns of others. Because of how easy it is to dismiss it for them.

My second point is mainly just re-emphasizing how completely bizarre the term sounds to those outside of the groups who use it. And how easy it is to forget that a term you are intimately familiar with is NOT really mainstream, and how those who would react to it because of how it sounds are NOT just the enemy, but includes those who would actually agree with the concept.

Basically, the PA thing gives me a headache because it's a complete clusterfrack of people talking past each other. If communication can happen, it requires both sides to try it. Neither side really did, in that particular case. So even though I feel like the people who first told the Penny Arcade guys this failed in what they were doing... the PA guys failed big-time.

But I get part of why they did fail. And if I had been in their situation... I would have probably failed in the same way.

Anthony Rosa said...

Well, we'll see. I kind of ruined her mood last night by stating it... that alone suggests warning bells. Honestly, I know a LOT about this girl, and I should REALLY have known better. But then, when the whole "elevatorgate" thing happened, I asked this same girl how'd she react in the situation, because I really needed the input from someone unrelated to the situation, and whose reaction I could trust... because, as a guy, I really don't know how it works. I don't know how a girl would feel, because I've never had that kind of situation.

It isn't that her opinion was in any way conclusive... it was just a good way to ground this sort of thing in "reality," with people I know and care about, instead of the large number of people on internet forums screaming at each other.

I hope she'll feel better today. I still feel bad about it.

DavidCheatham said...

I think the best way to stop rape culture is to basically have it explained like I (rather accidentally) had it explained to me. In steps. Men need to understand that rape is a lot more common than they think it is. A lot a lot. (1)

Don't tell them this is anything to do with them, don't raise the issue of who is doing the rapes or what people think 'rape' means. Just make sure that they understand and knows the number 'one in four', and no, it's not a lie, it's not some massive conspiracy, it's not an exaggeration. Even if they've somehow been conditioned to think half of the women are lying...no, that didn't really help either when the previous impression they had was one in ten thousand.

There's really no way to wrap their head around, no way to dismiss it. It's just too massively at odds with what men 'know' about rape. There will be some denialists, but there is always that. Just move on. This is a cultural thing, you don't have to change everyone.

With the non-denialists, after that number sinks in, well, at some point, it becomes 'Wait a minute...who's doing all these rapes?' Either there are massive amounts of serial rapists out there we never hear of...or...hmmm... At that point, explain what's actually going on, and how the rest of men are somewhat silently enabling it.

But, again, I've got no real solution to this, that's just the way I'd go about to explain it individually to other men.

And never, ever, ever do the second part by pointing out that they are currently enabling rape culture in some manner, or they will instantly become defensive of the entire concept. (Someone's about to argue with me that this is not reasonable and is not an excuse. That doesn't make it not _true_. Are we trying to argue with these people, or get them to behave better? Pick one.)

OTOH, if they are laughing at it, that is a good time to bring up the percentage of raped women, and wonder aloud if that's really that funny. You can do the step one then, and save the rest for later. (In fact, if almost everyone knew the sheer amount of rapes, it's entirely likely a lot of the enabling would go away by itself, even without people ever hearing the term 'rape culture'. People only joke about it because it's some near-imaginary thing that never happens.)

1) In this, I'm on the side of 'rape portray need to change', but I don't think running up to people who portray it the wrong way and talking about them 'enabling rape culture' is going to do that. I wonder what would happen if a TV show actually portrayed it correctly, where a perfectly normal and otherwise likeable man occasionally engaged in rape, sometimes getting called on it, sometimes not, and never being arrested for anything, and is shown joking about rape-y things. It would get a hell of a lot of blowback, but in the end, it might be helpful.

Ana Mardoll said...

My second point is mainly just re-emphasizing how completely bizarre the term sounds to those outside of the groups who use it.

But, and I don't want to dismiss your experience, there are two people on this blog -- myself and David, if I understand David correctly -- saying that the term made perfect sense to them the first time the heard it. So while I understand that some people find the concept confusing at first, I think we can't say that all do.

To make it more personal, last year I was reading Mark Reads The Hunger Games when he brought up the concept of ableist language.

Now, I've used the term "crazy" to describe myself since I was a child. My parents used it on me, and it was all meant perfectly innocent. "Ana, you're so crazy," they'd say lovingly, "Or, Ana, that's a crazy good idea you had." So my natural, human response to hearing that my use of the term in casual conversation perpetuated an ableist society was, internally, "f*** no, it's not".

The difference here -- and this doesn't make me a better person, but I do recommend it to the PA guys and anyone facing a similar situation -- is I didn't STOP at "f*** no, it's not". I immediately stopped commenting on Mark's thread in question, and I read everything other people were saying very carefully and I thought about it all really hard. And while I KNOW I don't mean anything bad when I say "oh, I'm crazy that way", I BELIEVED the people who tell me that it hurts them anyway.

So I modified the way I talk. Not because I suddenly felt like what I was doing was somehow wrong -- I knew my intent was good. No, I modified the way I talk because I was willing to put up with the inconvenience of finding a better way to express my innocent intent, rather than hurt someone with language that cause them trigger pain and also perpetuate a society that dismisses and minimizes the disabled.

Now, if I'd gone another route -- if I'd continued to insist that I hadn't done anything wrong, that people need to stop being so sensitive, and that I have a right to express myself however I wish -- I would have been behaving in a way that I think everyone can understand, but I would also have been behaving like a jerk and I would have hurt a lot of good people simply because I wasn't willing to sit down, shut up for a second, and listen to their experiences as equally valid to my own. :)

For the record, now I call myself "wacky", which I *think* is not ableist. Please correct me if it is. :)

Anthony Rosa said...

Honestly, Frye's terminology is arcane and confusing. My final quarter of Film Theory was utter pain because of having to read his dry, relatively useless tome The Anatomy of Criticism. Sooooo much of his concepts were basically lists of sublists, created to mirror each other, but in many cases having to stretch a great deal to artificially create these mirroring lists. Some of the sub-groupings are still completely meaningless to me, and others are synonymous with other groupings... the entire exercise was one in pain.

Not to say he was devoid of good ideas.

One method of categorization was based on the power of the protagonist: In this you had mythic stories, focusing on protagonists who had god-like powers. Mythic characters like Dionysius, Christ, and arguably Superman fall here.

Romance is the realm of more human-like characters who have super-natural powers over their environment. In other words... most every super-hero, wizard, etc in fiction.

Then we have High-mimetic, in which the hero is a superior sort of human, but still a human. Action movies like Die-Hard go here. So do movies like Braveheart, starring great leaders.

Low-mimetic is next, dealing with characters just like us. A movie like, say... Cast Away, in which are supposed to feel like the protagonist, and identify with him directly because he is a regular person, gives you a good idea.

Then there's Irony, in which the protagonist is weaker than us. Take most Adam Sandler comedies. Or... the Beverly-Hillbillies?

Then there's the totally unrelated system catagorizing stories based on either being Comedy, Romance, Tragedy or Irony, with various sub-groupings which all have shades of each other, oppositions, and a connection with the seasons. (Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter corresponding to the respective member on the list.)

Comedies are films essentially of the integration into a society, usually about a man and a woman coming together to join and revitalize the new society.

Romances are generally about the hero appearing to fix the external threat to a society that is already just fine. For example, the knight going out to kill the dragon and symbollically remove the corruption from the land.

Tragedies are about isolation from society, in which the protagonist starts out a part of that society, and ultimately grows apart and alone.

Irony is basically the opposite of Romance: The failed quest, the parody of the quest. Also satire is thrown in here for some reason, even though it's really completely different.

Lots of interesting stuff. Here's a link to apparently the entirety of the text. http://northropfrye-theanatomyofcriticism.blogspot.com/

---

Speaking of the PA guys:

Oh yeah, totally. They do deserve to be criticized for it. But I understand why they'd get there in the first place... and I easily could have had the same reaction.

Will Wildman said...

wonder what would happen if a TV show actually portrayed it correctly, where a perfectly normal and otherwise likeable man occasionally engaged in rape, sometimes getting called on it, sometimes not, and never being arrested for anything, and is shown joking about rape-y things.

I think the most likely result would be a lot of people thinking 'Hey, it's a guy just like me, you see? Media validation that I'm normal and people don't even get that upset about it!' I'm not sure it would have much value for anyone who didn't already understand the severity of the issue - if you are educated about rape already, then it works; if you don't, then it might not mean anything more to you than the smoking and casual sexism on Mad Men.

On the other hand, you can't play a female dwarf, which is a shame because female dwarves in Dragon Age were awesome. The dwarves are supposed to be impossible to tell apart by gender, but when I *have* to have a beard and there are no breasts and my character grunts and shouts in a deep male voice, it's not easy to role-play as a girl there.

Sigdis*, my dwarf guardian, would cheerfully disagree with the above. Human/elf/hobbit dimorphism kind of freaks her out. I haven't really found a beard for her that I'm happy with, admittedly. (I'm on Elendilmir if you ever have cause to drop by. Usually as Tyndor or Aimon.)

*Norse, 'goddess of victory'.

Ana Mardoll said...

because, as a guy, I really don't know how it works. I don't know how a girl would feel, because I've never had that kind of situation.

You *might* -- and, really, this is None Of My Business -- consider not using female friends in real life as feminist litmus tests without asking them in advance if they're okay with discussing these topics. Since the original point of this post is that it's not the duty of marginalized people to educate people, I feel compelled to point that out. :)

DavidCheatham said...

Oh, and unrelated...I often use 'Romance' in sorta the way you do, calling things 'Romance', by which I mean 'Have a message that emotions trumps science', in the way described here. (Although that is very confused and talking about multiple things.) Serenity is not really a Romance because of River...it's a Romance because trying to fix people kills millions of them, and it puts honor above reason.

This also tends to be the way I disguise sci-fi vs. fantasy, to the great confusion of absolutely everyone who's run across any of my classifications. (Although oddly people often accept Star Wars being fantasy.)

I've never heard of 'comedy' defined like that, though. In Elizabethan times, Serenity is a comedy because almost everyone is alive at the end and it is a mostly happy ending. But that makes practically every single movie a comedy except The Mist.

Ana Mardoll said...

ANOTHER LOTRO PLAYER! *high-five*

I always play on... um... what's the most populated server? Brandywine? I think that's the one. A friend started me there and I put up with the rubber banding.

I actually can see how the dwarves would be awesome from that point of view, but I have this weird thing where I just can't MMO as a non-clearly female character. I have no problems playing non-clearly female characters in regular games (I'd be in trouble if I did), but there's something about my Avatar being... well, the representation of ME in the game world that I have a hard time playing a non-clearly female character. That probably says something deep about me, but I'm not sure what.

I love my hobbit avatar and actually thinks she looks like me. 'Course, I think my avatar looks like me, too. :P

Ana Mardoll said...

I've never heard of 'comedy' defined like that, though. In Elizabethan times, Serenity is a comedy because almost everyone is alive at the end and it is a mostly happy ending. But that makes practically every single movie a comedy except The Mist.

Seconded, that was the "comedy" definition I was going with too. I'm intrigued by this new definition and will check out the link. I did forget that Wash dies, but since the rest of the cast is still alive and he wasn't The Hero, I think it still counts as a comedy in the Ye Olde Shakespeare film schools.

I liked the Mist ending, actually. I think I may be the only person who does.

DavidCheatham said...

No, the concept described by rape culture made sense to me immediately, basically because I already knew about the level of rapes from some utterly unrelated source years ago. I do not even slightly recall what this source was, and it's entirely possible it was also attempting to explain rape culture and I only got half of it.

But I knew that somehow rapes had a much higher occurrence than they appeared, and this was a sort of 'factual dissonance' in the back of my head, so being introduced to the concept of rape culture was something like Oz being told about vampires in BtVS 'Actually, it explains a lot!'. 'Oh, that's what sort of rapes are happening! ...oh, wow, I'd always sorta dismissed 'date rape', but, holy crap, I see what was going on there...and there were those times I heard people joking about getting women drunk...'

However, while I got the concept right off, the term 'rape culture' is still somewhat weird, and it's not a term I'd use anywhere but with people already familiar with it. I think what I was reading had already explained the concept before introducing the term. (Sorry I can't be more help, but I never really expected to be trying to document this.)

I tend to say something like 'lessening rape'. Or 'accidentally enabling people to get away with rape'. (And not talk about the 'culture' at all. Talking about 'culture' in my part of the world is a good way to get people to completely ignore you.)

Anthony Rosa said...

You're right. It IS none of your business.

I'd say more... but I'm tired enough that I don't trust myself not to be rude. Personal things get rather personal, as I'm sure you can understand.

Ana Mardoll said...

I apologize, I'm sorry.

depizan said...

There's really no way to wrap their head around, no way to dismiss it. It's just too massively at odds with what men 'know' about rape.

I have trouble wrapping my head around it. I'm not even sure what one is supposed to do with those figures. WTF is going on that this is true? Is there a response other than "Well, now I think I'll lock myself in my house and never come out"? (Or, more sensibly, "Well, guess I'll never date anyone.")

How much of people's denial comes from not being able to cope with that level of risk? I mean how many other bad things do we have a 1 in 4/1 in 33 chance of having happen to us? *uses internet* ... Okay, now I'm sorry I asked. I do notice one thing about all of the likely dangers - people behave as though they don't exist. We're more scared to fly than drive, despite driving being far more likely to kill or maim us. (Or, hell, look at death itself, which has a 100% chance of happening to us. How many people can really acknowledge that?)

That's not to deny the existence of rape culture, or even an excuse, really. I just think denial may be a very human defense mechanism against threats that are too likely for us to face. Because accepting them generally leads to a padded cell. (Or it would for me, anyway. Like I said, what do you do with the knowledge that you face a 1 in 4/1 in 33 chance of being raped? Especially when there isn't, so far as I know, anything one can really do to protect one's self from it. Other than go full on survivalist by oneself.)

DavidCheatham said...

I think the most likely result would be a lot of people thinking 'Hey, it's a guy just like me, you see? Media validation that I'm normal and people don't even get that upset about it!'

The concept relies on the rest of the guys reacting in horror while the rapists nod along. And then those guys being more astonished when the women say 'Well, yeah, that seems about right.'.

Thus getting society to start arguing about this. And some men, I'm sure, will argue it's not rape....but, you see, they'd end up arguing that in public. And the rest of men will learn the actual facts, that what they are seeing is not rare.

And they learn it in a manner that is not perceived as an attack on them...at least, if they're not a rapist. It's not them laughing at the rape joke made by a rapist, it's the sitcom lead laughing at a rape joke he doesn't know was made by one...and the next time they hear one in real life, they'll think about that for a second.

I'm not saying it's a perfect plan, I'm sure some people would see it in a void and feel more justified...but, frankly, those people are probably already rapists anyway. As I said, the character should get called on it, it should be pointed out what he's doing is rape. And if he eventually goes to jail, I have no problem, but not for some time.

Ana Mardoll said...

There was a show awhile back that had an episode where... something happened between an ex-husband and an ex-wife, iirc, and there was an internet storm about whether the episode was rape or "rough sex". I didn't see the episode, have never seen the show, and couldn't give an opinion on it if I wanted, but I do recall that a lot of the arguments on one side seemed to sound a LOT like "I like the character and therefore it wasn't rape".

I think what I'm saying is that a Serious Drama would probably suffer from the same problem: people would like the character and then justify that the rape wasn't rape because of the cognitive dissonance. (Which, yes, people need to overcome, but I'm not sure TV is the right way to tackle it.)

If the proposed show is a comedy, the problem is arguably worse. Quagmire on Family Guy is openly a non-brutal rapist. his character has not sparked a societal conversation about rape and how it's damaging and tolerated in society; instead, his rapes are mean to be a joke within the context of the show. I'm not really commenting on the show, so much as using it as an example of how we already *have* television characters who rape in non-brutal ways, and it hasn't really undermined rape culture so far as I can see. :/

DavidCheatham said...

There was a show awhile back that had an episode where... something happened between an ex-husband and an ex-wife, iirc, and there was an internet storm about whether the episode was rape or "rough sex". I didn't see the episode, have never seen the show, and couldn't give an opinion on it if I wanted, but I do recall that a lot of the arguments on one side seemed to sound a LOT like "I like the character and therefore it wasn't rape".

And, of course, there's poor, misunderstood, murdering and attempted raping Spike, on BtVS.

What could happen is have a rapist show up out of the blue and go after someone to start with, and then hang around being perfectly personable. I guess, maybe that would work.

Of course, there is actually a pretty good example of a non-violent rapist out there, on Veronica Mars, that most people liked well enough before the reveal but didn't run around defending afterward. (Probably because we'd had two seasons of learning how traumatic it was to the heroine, and he was also a mass murderer.) And, yet, nothing.

So I think you probably have a point. It was just an idea.

Anthony Rosa said...

Ana, don't worry about it. I'm fully aware of how I kind of dropped the one thing on my friend, and upset her for the night because of it. (Incidentally, I've spoken to her and she seems okay now.) I do understand what you're getting at, and I respect your point... but it be a little too soon, if that makes any sense. T

---

Glad to see the interest in the weird definitions of comedy I brought up. Frye's system is as ideosyncratic as I've seen it, though as has been said, by David, he saw romance as similar sometimes. Basically, Frye's ideas don't come from nowhere, and they DO make a sort of sense once you read him... but as a system, it's actually rather different from the normal way of thinking about it. Which is fun to look at, less fun to spend a quarter studying in class.

Ana Mardoll said...

I understand, and thank you for being so polite about it. :)

Kit Whitfield said...

This was in response to Kit snarking that gamers couldn't be oppressed.

I said no such damn thing. I said that they weren't being oppressed by the women they chose to bully for objecting that rape jokes were not funny to them. Please check your reading comprehension and please do not put words in my mouth.


I thought it was clear, but I guess I should be obvious: When two groups see each other as oppressors, at least one of them is incorrect.

Not correct. Google 'kyriarchy'. Privilege and power intersect in complicated ways, and it's possible to be oppressive in one way and oppressed in another. Put a black man and a white woman in the same room: which one is wrong when they talk about oppression and discrimination? Answer: probably neither. It's a web, not a ladder.


Like I said, what do you do with the knowledge that you face a 1 in 4/1 in 33 chance of being raped?

Among other things, feel seriously threatened when men declare that they would have done the same thing as men who reacted to criticism by mocking PTSD sufferers and sexually harassing rape survivors.

depizan said...

Like I said, what do you do with the knowledge that you face a 1 in 4/1 in 33 chance of being raped?

"Among other things, feel seriously threatened when men declare that they would have done the same thing as men who reacted to criticism by mocking PTSD sufferers and sexually harassing rape survivors."

Well, yes. And pissed off. The question was more on the order of how does one live with that knowledge.

Ana Mardoll said...

I think, like you said, it's as simple as not thinking too hard about it. We've had some robbery home invasions in our area during the day -- the burglars break, grab a TV or computer, and go -- and I work from home 2 days out of the week. When someone knocks on the door, I assume it's the UPS guy, but I still keep my fingers on the phone and stay in the back room where I work and hope for the best. If I thought about it too hard, I'd be a wreck with worry that won't really help.

Davrosinside said...

What Kit said. Especially when the person who said it does not cast it in a "this is really serious, guys need to find a way to pull the Bag of Defensiveness +18 off their heads and listen" and more as a "maybe feminists just shouldn't mention that men have anything to do with rape". I'm pretty much out of spoons on this one, so I'm about to be kind of grumpy. This isn't meant to be an accusation, or induce guilt, just a floating of my feelings. So: lots of "I" statements, and this is not meant to be censorship or even definitive.

When someone repeatedly uses the word "true" or "truth" in a discussion about rape culture, and uses it in a way to dismiss or diminish women's concerns, I feel really angry. I feel like it minimizes, deliberately or not, whatever reality there is that I, and other women, experience and are fighting to get across.

Ana Mardoll said...

Dav, I completely agree. I *do* understand where the "this is why the guys reacted as they did" need to explain is coming from, but I think it's important to recognize at the end of the day that feminists aren't stupid: we fully understand why they might have reacted as they did and we don't need it "explained" to us so that we can be extra-super sweet next time and prevent any misunderstandings.

I mean, I'm sure it's nice when Oppressed People are extra-super sweet, but it's not their duty to be so. I'm fairly certain that "why can't you explain your oppression in a nicer tone" is a Derailing 101 tactic that is, well, easy to fall into. :)

DavidCheatham said...

I said that they weren't being oppressed by the women they chose to bully for objecting that rape jokes were not funny to them. Please check your reading comprehension and please do not put words in my mouth.

And I didn't say gamers were rebelling against people who had more power than them, if we're talking about reading comprehension. This all started because you took issue with me saying they had a 'last gasp of rebellion'. Rebellion apparently means to you 'People fighting people with more power'.

It does not. All that is required for rebellion is to be forced to do a single thing that someone doesn't want to. The PA guys did not want to back down, but were forced to. Hence, they rebelled a little, following the letter of the request 'Stop selling shirts' but not the intent.

You have somehow read 'rebellion' as 'the noble fight against the oppressive empire'. Rebellion is also what children are told to clean their room and so leave a mess in the hallway, because that's not 'their room'.

If you genuinely think that laws against gamers make it any less vicious to make fun of rape survivors, the person playing Oppression Olympics is you, not me.

And speaking of putting words in mouths... I don't know what Oppression Olympics even is, but if it's 'Comparing two forms of oppression to see which is the worse', then it's not me doing that.

In fact, you've been rather dismissive of the actual oppression of gamers this entire time.

And if you think a law making it a finable offence to sell certain games to minors (ie to put games in the same category as films)

...and wrong. It is not in any way illegal to sell any movie to minors unless it falls into actual pornography. Perhaps research is in order before talking about the actual attacks, both legal and cultural, that gamers have been victims of over the years.

Which, I suspect I now must clarify because other people do not understand this is obvious, does not condone their attacks on others, but it does explain why they are on a hairtrigger about anything seen as censorship just like other people are on a hairtrigger about rape jokes, and why each side sees the other as oppressors. However, gamers are wrong about this specific example, and women are not. 'Please stop bullying' is not censorship. (As gamers _really_ should understand.)

Kit Whitfield said...

Rebellion apparently means to you 'People fighting people with more power'.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rebellion:

re·bel·lion   [ri-bel-yuhn]
noun
1.
open, organized, and armed resistance to one's government or ruler.
2.
resistance to or defiance of any authority, control, or tradition.
3.
the act of rebelling.


--

It is not in any way illegal to sell any movie to minors unless it falls into actual pornography.

Last time I checked, pornographic films were films.

--

In fact, you've been rather dismissive of the actual oppression of gamers this entire time.

I am dismissive of the suggestion that it is the real motivation behind the viciousness.

The reason is that I have witnessed such viciousness many times, from many men, who had nothing to do with gaming or anything similar. Men who are sexist get vicious when women find their jokes in poor taste. They don't need people persecuting their hobby. It's a useful excuse, and it may be a useful way to pump yourself up and feel particularly self-righteous about it, but it isn't the cause. The cause is hostility to women's equality.

To declare that it's simply a matter of oppressed gamers misidentifying a target is, in my opinion, letting them off the hook for the fundamental, amanita sexism. This is the point I am trying to make.

I am also deeply disturbed by the fact that you're, as you put it, 'defending the actual comic strips here, which I do not see as offensive at all', as if the fact that you can't see offense means that anyone who does must be wrong - ie, that your male perspective trumps a female one. Your tone throughout keeps verging into pronouncements, and on a subject like this, that is scary.

I am not dismissing gamer oppression. Attempted censorship of new art forms is a lamentably common phenomenon and it's a bad thing. But I am not at all comfortable with the definitive tone you are taking about it. You may be an insider when it comes to being a gamer. I, like just about every other woman in the world, am an insider when it comes to being the victim of sexual harassment. Your tone is making me extremely nervous, and throwing accusations at me is not helping.

BrokenBell said...

For the purposes of clarification (that is, I wanted to try and add a little supplemental information - at no point do I want this to be an argument against you at all, nor do I support of the idea that gamer culture has a unique reason for its hostility towards being called out on its insensitivity, or its misogyny) there are games that are classified as pornography, and it's illegal to sell those to minors, just as there are films classified as pornography, and it's illegal to sell those to minors; however, it is not illegal to sell films or games merely rated Adults Only (for violence, or drug use, etc.) to minors. Technically speaking, the ratings system is voluntary on the part of the industry, although it's that special kind of voluntary that would be replaced with something non-voluntary if it was proven to be insufficient. As it is, retailers are substantially more stringent about enforcing the games rating system than they are about films or music.

However, the recent legislation sought to treat AO games (and games only, specifically excluding the equivalent kind of film or literature) like pornography, insofar as making it a criminal offence to sell them to minors. This is more problematic than it might initially sound, given that many retailers already refuse outright to stock AO games; the threat of heavy fines would certainly lead many more to consider it to be just not worth the risk. This, in turn, would make the production of AO games a largely profitless endeavor, disinclining publishers even further from investing in potentially AO projects at a time when it's already very difficult to get a publishing deal, and codifying in law the idea that games are just toys for kids. The legislation was ultimately shot down for being baseless hostility towards a young medium, and the person who was the driving force behind it has since been quoted as having no plans to try again.

- - -

The first time I read those particular PA comic strips, I thought they were funny and insightful, and that they were being accused unjustly. The second time I read those particular PA comic strips, they contributed to my self-identification as a feminist - as well as my decision to avoid Penny Arcade in future. Their charity work has been laudable, and I've felt mostly OK about donating to it, but I just don't feel comfortable reading their comics anymore.

Ana Mardoll said...

BrokenBell,

That's an interesting clarification, thank you for the extra facts. For myself, I hadn't thought about the effect on retailers since I'm one of those "Amazon-or-Steam" buyers. Interesting.

I'm glad it was shot down, although it does seem like there's a reasonable analogy to liquor laws and cigarette laws -- if Walmart can implement a decent I.D. system for those things, it seems like Gamestop could have done the same, but perhaps it would have been an undue burden. As I say, I'm glad it was shot down.

BrokenBell said...

Gamestop kinda already does, as does Walmart, and most stores who stock games. There's been so much relatively recent controversy surrounding violent videogames and children, that brick-and-mortar retailers are highly aware of PEGI and ESRB ratings for games, and enforce them far more judiciously than they do for films, music, or books. That's not to say that many minors don't have access to games rated M or AO - they do. Mostly, they're bought by parents, whether it's as an informed decision of what their kid can handle, or from an assumption that games are just toys, regardless of what it says on the box. It's one of the reasons the legislation was a complete failure in all aspects: it just plain wouldn't have been good for anything.

mmy said...

I suspect I now must clarify because other people do not understand this is obvious, does not condone their attacks on others, but it does explain why they are on a hairtrigger about anything seen as censorship just like other people are on a hairtrigger about rape jokes, and why each side sees the other as oppressors.

I suspect that the anger on a hairtrigger existed before this present excuse for its existence. There exist right now far too many "persecuted hegemons" for me to buy that anger and hairtrigger responses arose only in response to a particular oppression.

Indeed, the existence of the over-the-top and public responses argues that they are far more empowered to begin with than they would like us to begin since those who are truly oppressed tend to keep their heads down for fear of further and more repressive responses.

Ana Mardoll said...

@hapax, That was fascinating, thank you. I knew a little of that, and even own "This Film Has Not Been Rated", but I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, so that post was very educational. I certainly didn't know a librarian wouldn't be able to avoid checking out a film to a child... and I suppose Gamestop can't legally deny a sale to a child based on the game's rating? Fascinating.

Brin Bellway said...

hapax: Nonetheless, the public expects public libraries in the USA to not only include this rating information in its catalogs, but to *enforce* it -- e.g., not allowing "R" rated movies to check out to minors. I cannot tell you how many times I have had patrons threaten to sue me or have me arrested (in so many words) for allowing their child to check out a movie they don't like -- even after I explain that it would be illegal for me to try and stop them.

Twelve-year-old me wasn't allowed by the checkout librarian to get The Matrix because it was rated R and I had a youth card. (Since I had parental permission, it was easily circumvented: I got Dad to check it out on his card.) Was she breaking the law?

mmy said...

The main "power" the ratings MPAA ratings system has in the US is economic. For example, many landlords (most theatres in malls lease their space) have "no NC-17 movies" clauses in their leases. Some landlords do this because of the tax waiver agreements they have with the municipalities where the malls are located. The movie studios put a lot of money behind the MPAA system because before there were national ratings systems every municipality had its own censorship board and studios had to deal with thousands of different sets of regulations.

Brin -- was the library in Ontario? There are quite a few differences in entertainment/censorship laws between Canada and the United States.

Brin Bellway said...

was the library in Ontario?

No. That was back when I lived in New Jersey.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

I made a post about rape culture on my links blog the other day. Since it's my links blog, it's not mainly my words: it's mainly links to other stuff, on other blogs, including the useful concept of Schrödinger’s Rapist. There are also links to statistics.

The statistics are scary.

TRiG.

Ana Mardoll said...

TRiG, I love that post. I think the link is broken, though -- Blogger seems to try to redirect to THIS domain in the absence of the leading "http://"

depizan said...

When I was a kid, the local library used youth cards to restrict what children could check out - and my parents had to give written permission for me to check out anything outside of the children's section. This was in the midwestern United States. Not all libraries/librarians do what they're supposed to.

The library I now work at, however, operates like the one Hapax works at. If parents want to restrict their children's reading/viewing material, they'd better be there doing it themselves in person because we certainly aren't going to. (But I don't think we get M rated video games. Though we've got foreign films that would be rated more than R, and we have no problem ILLing at least mildly pornographic manga - even though we don't, I think, have any of our own. *shrug* Who needs consistency.)

Timothy (TRiG) said...

Firefox is doing weird things recently when I copy and paste from the address bar. Sometimes it includes the protocol and sometimes it leaves it out, apparently at random. Anyway, now edited and fixed. Thanks for pointing it out.

TRiG.

Aris Merquoni said...

*raises hand*

I realize that this thread has turned into the saga of feminism in the gaming industry and Penny Arcade, but I have a question about the original post:

I want to give Rachel Edidin the benefit of the doubt. I don't want to say that she wrote a blog post for Sexual Assault Awareness Month demanding a publicity storm of (female!) reader reactions simply to stir up expensive publicity for a company she did/does work for.

I'm just wondering where you see her "demanding" anything, much less reader reactions. I mean, that's a pretty strong implication there, and I just literally don't see anything in Edidin's column that backs it up.

hapax said...

All of which means we won't give guidance

Aaagggh. That should be "all of which DOESN'T mean we won't give guidance"

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm just wondering where you see her "demanding" anything, much less reader reactions. I mean, that's a pretty strong implication there, and I just literally don't see anything in Edidin's column that backs it up.

I apologize -- the "demanding" was 1 part reader interpretation and 2 parts hyperbole, since I was specifically saying I *wasn't* saying that.

I do think the blog post is trying to get readers to write in. And I also think the post has a lot of fail in it by saying that the comic would be essentially the same if Janissa were male, and that her rape "isn't sexualized". And I do think that a more cynical reader could jump to the conclusion that SOME of that fail in a Sexual Assault Awareness post is finely calculated to receive a response. But since that wasn't what I wanted to address and since I really cannot say what Edidin's intent was, I won't speculate. I apologize for my word choice.

ako said...

Don't tell them this is anything to do with them, don't raise the issue of who is doing the rapes or what people think 'rape' means. Just make sure that they understand and knows the number 'one in four', and no, it's not a lie, it's not some massive conspiracy, it's not an exaggeration.

Where are you getting the one in four number? Because the numbers I've heard were that one in four women above the age of fourteen was the victim of rape or attempted rape. The number I heard for rapes was one in eight. That's still appallingly high, obviously, but not the same. So I'm wondering if you got bad information or I did.

depizan said...

In fact, restricting access to ANY content based on age is pretty iffy, unless you have signed parental consent forms (usually based on format: "My child may check out DVDs and videos (computer games, graphic novels, music CDs, etc) Yes / No".

I am rather curious as to how this works when the consent forms are required to check things out, and only then. (As it was at the library in my hometown.) I had the distinct impression from the librarian at the college my dad worked at that the city library was doing it wrong. Working in a library has done nothing to suggest otherwise. But I am a lowly circulation clerk*, so I don't know the legalities.

(Of course libraries do seem to all be a bit different from one another. At my location, anyway, all our manga is with the graphic novels. Though I think our other main library (yes, we have two, yes, I know that doesn't make sense) which has a teen center, does have a teen manga section.)

*I would love to be an actual librarian, but for two things: the degree is hideously expensive to get and two of my immediate coworkers have library degrees and are working circulation due to a lack of full time degree positions. I don't want tens of thousands in student loan debt on my measly wage.)

Kit Whitfield said...

I suspect that the anger on a hairtrigger existed before this present excuse for its existence. There exist right now far too many "persecuted hegemons" for me to buy that anger and hairtrigger responses arose only in response to a particular oppression.

Indeed, the existence of the over-the-top and public responses argues that they are far more empowered to begin with than they would like us to begin since those who are truly oppressed tend to keep their heads down for fear of further and more repressive responses.


Especially considering this: privileged and prejudiced people have a habit of misinterpreting how the whole 'oppression' thing works. They're used to having a hefty share of whatever's going - that's what privilege involves - and so not getting their share of anything feels baffling and unfair to them. Of course, it is unfair if you're not getting your share of human respect. The problem comes when they start getting miffy about not having their share of underdog status. They see other people claiming to be oppressed, and yet they're apparently not allowed to do the same thing. Being unused to getting less than the lion's share, this really bothers them.

As a result, such people can leap on the first excuse to consider themselves persecuted that they find with an alacrity that speaks less of severe societal persecution than of frustration at being denied their slice of underdog pie.

I should stress I'm not saying the gaming industry hasn't suffered legal harassment. It seems to be occupying the position videos occupied in the 1980s, and that's not a good position to be in. But if you're genuinely invested in that injustice, sexism has no place, because the harassment of the gaming industry comes from the same place as the harassment of women: authoritarians trying to dictate a family paradigm in which children experience only a narrow range of wholesome influences and women are angels in the house. If you look at the big picture - which, if you're serious about opposing this problem, you should - gamers and women have a common enemy.

If you harass women in response to criticism, then your problem with the censors is not that they're oppressing people. It's that they're the top dogs, and you want to unseat them and take their position. You aren't relating to them as oppressors; you're relating to them as rivals.

So no, I don't think that the oppression of the gaming industry explains the viciousness. The oppression may be real, but it can also be an excuse to bid for greater power: the power of the underdog's moral authority, and the power of the leader of the revolution who aims to become the new Tsar.

Or, short form: whether or not the persecution is real, there is a difference between a motivation and an excuse.

Ana Mardoll said...

Where are you getting the one in four number? Because the numbers I've heard were that one in four women above the age of fourteen was the victim of rape or attempted rape. The number I heard for rapes was one in eight. That's still appallingly high, obviously, but not the same. So I'm wondering if you got bad information or I did.

ako,

Numbers are always problematic because the only ways to get numbers on this stuff is by survey and extrapolation. I've heard the 1 in 4 for years based off of study done something like a decade ago and which I can't immediately pull up on Google. A quick search on RAAIN says that rape has gone down 60% since 1993 and that the incidence is now 1 in 6 women in America. So, yay.

http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims

Except that... that's America only. So there's that. The world-wide incidence of rape is very possibly higher. And 1 in 4 fits my social group (both on and off line) much closer than 1 in 6, so it's possible that RAAIN is being optimistic, or that there's some kind of statistical padding somewhere. Either that, or I just happen to know a lot of rape survivors.

Izzy said...

The other thing worth pointing out here is that...um, women game too. As indicated by this post. Feminists game. Casting the issue as "gamers v. women" is not helpful, particularly.

Neither is conflating criticism with censorship. Yes, the PA guys were rebelling--but in the most annoying and unjustified form of rebellion. I have no more sympathy for them on this issue than I do for the guy who decides that deodorant is a tool of The Man, or that stealing tomatoes from the supermarket is a meaningful form of social protest (as seen over on The Vine). Like, are you six? Shut up.

I like PA. I do. I think it's funny. I didn't mind the original comic. But the response, plus the fact that Gabe in particular has been an entitled neckbeard before--writing entire whiny posts about how PUA tactics were justified because women were just so meeaaaaaan what with their tastes and standards and not offering their genitals up to any unwashed geek with a bunch of daisies--definitely made me think less of the guys.

Kit Whitfield said...

Can you explain 'PUA' and 'being a neckbeard' to laypeople, please? :-)

depizan said...

Pretty sure PUA = Pick Up Artist. Neckbeard is an unpleasant (usually arrogant/self important) and unkempt person in nerd/geek circles, such as gaming.

Kit Whitfield said...

Thanks, depizan. Why 'neckbeard'? Is this a fashion, or just a reference to scrappy shaving?

depizan said...

Not a fashion so much as laziness. Or perhaps laziness trying to pretend to be a fashion. A guy will stop shaving and grow a kind of half-assed beard. Actual beards, as far as I can tell (not having one myself), require trimming and maintenance and shaving around the edges and the like. They'd just sort of end up with an amorphous fuzzy area, which somehow never becomes a long beard, either.

This is one of the few stereotypes that actually seems rooted in something. While I'm sure there are guys with those sorts of not-quite-a-beards who aren't arrogant self-important asshats, I've only met the asshatty variety. Of course, I've also met arrogant self-important asshats who shave.

Kit Whitfield said...

Thanks, depizan. I feel much better informed. :-)

If I were a man, I'd want a nice thick, full beard like Karl Marx. What kind of beards would the other women here want?

Izzy said...

Oops, sorry, pre-coffee. What Depizan said.

And yeah. There are other facial hair choices that make me roll my eyes--the porn-stache, the little-fluffy-like-on-an-actual-goat-goatee, the bloatee, and so forth--the neckbeard is the only one that also says "this guy thinks that casting a female Starbuck ruined BSG, and he probably pees into empty Mountain Dew bottles so he won't have to leave the WoW session for three minutes".

I'm not much on facial hair, myself. That said? I think I could rock a Clark Gable style pencil-thin mustache.

Dav said...

I know some men with neckbeards who are lovely.

I don't really like facial hair on others, and one of the things I like about being a woman is that I can skip shaving for days at a time, but I do think it could be fun to try various things. Many of them would require radically different genetics than the ones I have now. But I would enjoy having a fine set of muttonchops like Toot Joslin, the 2009 Muttonchop Champion. Until the maintenance drove me mad and I shaved it all off two days later. I'd rather spend personal grooming time elsewhere. (I still sometimes miss bits of my legs when I shave. For some reason, it just pushes all my "this is pointless" buttons, and I do it mostly because I like the feeling of sheets on bare legs.)

Kit Whitfield said...

Bloatee?

Mind you, I can totally see you with a Gable 'tache.

Izzy said...

To quote Achewood: "When a dude of gravity tries to distinguish his neck from his face by arbitrarily shaping facial hair, that is the bloatee."

It's like the jowl version of the three-hair combover: both of the You Are Not Fooling Anyone, And It Would Be More Attractive If You Stopped Trying species of fashion crime. See also Go Up a Size, For Fuck's Sake, They're Just Numbers and You'd Look Way Better. I'm not sure if You Cannot Converse Like a Byronic Hero While Wearing a Cosby Sweater, Hoss* belongs there or not. It's a fledgling brand of taxonomy.

*I've been watching old Twin Peaks lately, and I've come to the episodes "featuring" James Hurley's road trip.

Izzy said...

Oh, true.

But...it's like the fake tans, or the three-inch nails, or the Ed Hardy: like, if you're *not* a douche, perhaps not so much with the dressing/grooming like one? Because, and I will generalize a little about human nature here, but I think it's accurate, I'm willing to make exceptions if I get to know someone, but we are visual creatures, and "that guy has chosen to dress in a manner made famous by people everyone avoids at public gatherings" is not going to be conductive to the getting to know, so much.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm not sure I completely follow, but I should probably issue the kindest, gentlest, softest, completely-organic-and-not-harsh-to-the-skin, chemical-free reminder here that this is a body acceptance blog. :)

Talking about what we like is, of course, very affirmative, so I will say that if I were a man and told to produce a facial hair style, I would go for Cary Elwes in Robin Hood: Men In Tights. Alternately, I would look like Kevin Smith. :)

Izzy said...

Thanks for the reminder--sorry, explanation of slang went off-track.

Anyhow, related to the original post, I meant to mention at some point another explanation for the mostly-male responses: sexists tend to listen to men more often. Jim C. Hines has mentioned this occasionally on his blog, when talking about rape culture and similar--he's in a position where he can talk about these things.

I've seen it myself on old Slacktivist. Kit and MadG and I and all the other women would be pointing out that Poster X was saying sexist things, and would either get ignored or dismissed. One of the guys would make the same point, and Poster X would respond to it.

Ana Mardoll said...

Quite alright, and thank you. :)

I did not know that Hines was a feminist ally. I'm ambivalent on him as a writer in terms of personal taste, but if that's the case, I might need to re-read some of his books.

Izzy said...

He's made of awesome, yeah. I haven't read the books in a bit, but as a guy, he rocks.

Ana Mardoll said...

It's funny how knowing the author's viewpoints can color the reading. I put down "The Stepsister Scheme" in disgust because I was annoyed by the "Charlie's Angels" trio that takes time out to have sex in the stairwell or whatever during an important kidnapping case because a girl has to have sex, amiright? I thought it was dreadful characterization, but maybe I should have stuck with it and it would have been a sex-positive treatise and not a harmful stereotype. I'll see if I can't dig out my copy -- I don't think I resold it yet.

Brin Bellway said...

I like having not much in the way of hair that isn't on top of my head*. I especially like that this level happens without me having to shave. I suspect if I had face, chest, belly, etc. hair I could get up just enough attachment to my body and its appearance to want it gone, but not enough to actually do something about it.

*That hair is a different story. I've never cut more than a lock or two from it. It's usually somewhere between my waist and butt, depending on how curly it is at the moment.

Kit Whitfield said...

I've seen it myself on old Slacktivist. Kit and MadG and I and all the other women would be pointing out that Poster X was saying sexist things, and would either get ignored or dismissed. One of the guys would make the same point, and Poster X would respond to it.

Ohhhh yeah. Those Guys.

Which is why, non-sexist men who see a sexist running his mouth and women protesting and think, 'Should I say something? Looks like the women have it covered and I don't want to pretend I'm speaking for them?' ... yep, you should say something. Because if you're thinking that, you'll probably say something we agree with, and the sexist might actually hear you.

Dav said...

In general, I find being hairy irritating, in a "oh, I guess I should probably shave if I want to feel socially acceptable at that wedding" way, but I do find the types and patterns of hair and hair growth fascinating and kind of fun, and it's not a big deal as long as I'm not Dressing Up, which I avoid as much as possible for unrelated reasons. I'd like to try being hairless, but not enough to actually do anything inconvenient or painful or expensive, which . . . pretty much covers all the current options. Besides! Hobbit toes! Who doesn't want hobbit toes? I'd rather be able to see better, because then I could go outside in rain/snow without my glasses getting all fogged/rained on/frozen.

mmy said...

And 1 in 4 fits my social group (both on and off line) much closer than 1 in 6, so it's possible that RAAIN is being optimistic, or that there's some kind of statistical padding somewhere.

One of the problems is that not everyone understands rape to mean the same thing. I know women who don't think they were "really" raped because it was a date, or because they shouldn't have been at that party where they were roofied or they weren't bruised and battered.

I had a hard time explaining to a student of mine that "a professor requiring that female students allow him to stick his tongue in their mouths in order to teach them some vocal technique" was a form of sexual assault.

Ana Mardoll said...

One of the problems is that not everyone understands rape to mean the same thing.

Agreed, but I would hope RAAIN controlled for that by asking "has this X thing happened", "has this Y thing happened," etc. and not just "Raped? Yep/Nope."

I hope.

mmy said...

I would hope RAAIN controlled for that by asking "has this X thing happened", "has this Y thing happened," etc. and not just "Raped? Yep/Nope.

Noodling round the RAAIN site -- the source for they cited for the 1 in 6 statistic was a National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention survey from 1998. Further noodling on the NIJC site suggests that they used the following definition forced vaginal, oral, and anal intercourse. Unless RAAIN is doing its own surveys, using its own questions it seems that they are taking their numbers from surveys that rely on the much criticized definition of rape used in FBI surveys.

As for the professor in question...he got away with it and went on invent "posture improvement" techniques which required that he touch women's breasts.

Dav said...

Eww. EWWW EWW EWW. I am totally creeped out.

Ana Mardoll said...

Well, that answers the question on the 1 in 4/6 disconnect, then. The 1 in 4 study that I recall asked situational questions that controlled for problematic terminology.

depizan said...

Huh, our system doesn't allow for that kind of adjustment at all. A card is a card. (Which does not prevent people from calling up in rage because their kid came home with something they object to. Though it happens less than one might expect given the city in question.) Allowing parents to restrict their kid's access makes more sense than the reverse (as was done by the library where I grew up), and seems more in keeping with my understanding of ALA guidelines. Barring children's cards by default doesn't seem right. And, given how much trouble my parents had to go to to un-bar mine, they may have invented that policy just to avoid their access restrictions coming to the attention of people who might object.

I wish all of the librarians here felt like you do about circulation clerks, though. *sigh* We're underpaid, overworked, and looked down on, unfortunately. (The underpaid part is probably a result of, again, where I am. Contrary to local belief, taxes aren't actually evil.)

Kit Whitfield said...

It's not particularly insightful, but I just wanted to say that librarians are marvellous and I love our local ones. There's this fantastic lady called Joan who runs a half-hour party called 'Rhyme Time' for toddlers every Wednesday morning where she leads the singing, and it's just brilliant. Librarians, quite literally, rock.

Ana Mardoll said...

BDZ, I'm not going to respond to the rest of your post at the moment, but regarding this:

It is. It refers to head injury victims. There is no usable term for what you want to say (dissonant and strange, but not actually mentally insane).

Thank you. I would not have put that together. Would "eccentric" be ableist?

hapax said...

Ana, you could go with "zany", which derives from the Italian word for "clown" -- ultimately from a stock character, like Harlequin or Punch.

Ana Mardoll said...

ZANY!! Thank you, hapax, I wouldn't have thought of that. Thank you! Zany Ana. It also has a nice "zed alpha" ring to it.

Ana Mardoll said...

Incidentally -- ZOMBIE THREAD -- I noticed this on shakesville this morning.

http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2011/10/so-house-passed-hr358-last-night.html

Since we were talking about the erosion of women's rights in the very recent past.

Kish said...

Somewhat ironically, if I hadn't read this comment, I don't think I would ever have realized how remarkable it is that he has a fantasy series in which one of the three main characters is a woman whose preferred tension-release mechanism is casual sex, and no other character has yet to indicate seeing any moral problems with it.

(Talia has reasons to find it distressing, but it's not a moral issue for her either.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Is that unusual? I thought that was pretty common in the Heinlein / Anthony genre set...?

Kish said...

I wouldn't know. I don't read Heinlein.

If Anthony has ever written a female character who actually enjoys sex instead of doing it for a man, it's news to me.

Ana Mardoll said...

His demoness characters are sex-positive, but in that vaguely creepy, "wouldn't it be awesome if women were like that because then I'd get more sex" vibe that I thought I was getting from Hines.

I'm going to have to read past Chapter 3 soon. I WANT to like it - I love fairy tale re-writes. :)

hapax said...

I didn't get that vibe at all from Hines, but I wasn't looking for it, either.

I did get that he doesn't quite ... empathize? ... with how pregnancy actually works.

Ana Mardoll said...

I had to look this thread up today and this comment still brings LOLTEARS to my eyes. Has anyone done this Jeeves / Terminator thing yet? Because it needs to be a thing.

Also, Dav, I totally miss you. I hope the weather-related migraines (it was migraines, right?) are easing up.

Kit Whitfield said...

I haven't been without a pen or two stuck in my braid since I was twelve.

Interesting thought. I don't think it would work with me because I have passive-aggressive hair, so I'll just have to rely on the pen-carrying device known as 'my husband'. Male pockets are apparently infinite.

Dav said...

Alas, I have fine, limp hair that won't hold hairspray, much less a writing utensil. Maybe a wig is in order. It would be nice to wear my one pair of pants without pockets without getting anxious about writing utensils.

The Janissa back-story and post reminded me of something, and now I remember what - it's very similar to the whole dick-wolves thing that Penny Arcade was involved in. Except in that case, some women did write in (and post on blogs), and the response was essentially "why are you being so serious about this" and "you should really be concerned about other kinds of misogyny" and "this isn't really offensive". (And then things escalated from there - http://debacle.tumblr.com/post/3041940865/the-pratfall-of-penny-arcade-a-timeline gives a fairer blow-by-blow than I can.)

So, you know, offensive material: respond or don't respond, you're a bad woman. Gee. What a shock.

Ana Mardoll said...

Dav, I missed that Penny Arcade thing. Thank you for the link.

sekushinonyanko, I'm fascinated by your story. I tried to count the number of Fail, but I couldn't. I'm having trouble understanding why being a gay man would necessarily provide insight to being a heterosexual woman. Speaking as a heterosexual woman, I feel somewhat confident saying that the reverse isn't true -- I don't consider myself having special insight into being a gay man.

depizan said...

Coming from a family of people with androgynous names*, I'd love to know how it was detained that no women wrote in in the first place. I can think of no particular reason to give one's gender when writing a letter of complaint. And, given the comic book industry, I can think of plenty of reasons why a woman might not clarify her gender or might even use a fake, male sounding name.

So, on top of everything else, I think it's highly likely that women did write and complain. They simply didn't advertise themselves as such.

*sample: Chris, Terry, Pat, Marty, Clair. Which two are the guys?

Ana Mardoll said...

@Dezipan, yes! That bothered me so much, because unless EVERY SINGLE ONE of the letters started with "I'm not a woman, but I found this offensive" then I don't think they can/should say no women wrote in to complain. Maybe "no one wrote in specifically identifying as a woman", but...

The naming thing just strikes me that we tend to normalize everyone as male unless indicated otherwise.

And I used to know a girl named Bobby.

depizan said...

Yep. Male is default. It shouldn't be, of course, but it is. I'm sure the assumption is also that people are white unless they specify otherwise (or have a name that suggests otherwise).

I went to grade school with a girl named Bobby. I also had a college class with a woman named Mike (I believe it was short for Michelle, but I don't know for sure). On the flip side, I used to take my car to an awesome auto mechanic named Kim, who was male. Names are tricky things.

Dav said...

@sekushinonyanko: It wasn't [[redacted by request]], was it?

MODERATED TO REDACT NAME

Ben Reis said...

I, as a male, can attest to the power of male pockets and believe that pockets should be for all, without silly concerns like "fashion" getting in the way. Also, the subversive attempts by jeans to rid the world of useful pockets must be halted.

sekushinonyanko said...

Yes! It was!

DavidCheatham said...

Indeed. When I first experienced the term 'rape culture', I actually became slightly less confused. Because I'd heard the real statistics about rape, and had been convinced they were correct...and I couldn't really figure out where all these rapes were happening. Were there a thousand people wandering around raping dozens of people a day? Were things a lot worse off in very poor areas that I had ever suspected? How could an estimated one in four women be rape victims, or even one in forty? I'm at heart a scientist, and the researchers couldn't be _that_ wrong, but where on earth were all the rapes coming from?

When I learned 'There's a certain subset of men who think anything short of actual physical violence isn't rape, or even just a tiny amount of violence is acceptable, and this subset is probably in the double digit percent.', I said 'Oh!'. And then I learned that women actually knew all this, and hence had to constantly take protection against 'perfectly normal' men. Oh, and said men think this is normal behavior, and we're all doing it, and often joke about it. And I was promptly horrified, and like every man who understand this, started running back through all my friends to try to figure out if anyone's done that with me. (There are one or two conversations in college that I have suspicions about.)

However, Hapax is right. Accusing someone who unknowingly contributes to rape culture of doing so, and explaining the entire thing...get their defense tied up in asserting it doesn't exist. And then they're denying rape culture, so of course they must be actively helping it. Often, they won't know how common rape is, so start denying that also. None of this is helpful.

It's sorta like racism. If you believe racism exists, you can and will judge your actions in regard to it. If you don't believe it exists, or, more likely, believe it's 'been solved' or 'I'm not a racist', then you won't, and, perhaps more harmfully, will start repeating that loudly when you're accused of racism, even if someone was just trying to point out a subconscious bias you might have, and not 'accuse' anyone of anything.

And it's at this point in my post that I realize I don't have a solution to this problem I've explained. But people need to know about these things before they do something that might contribute to them. So I guess education is the answer.

This will not always stop them, I know I've started to do things that probably contributed to rape culture, or thought about a joke I laughed at later and said 'Hmm. When you really think about that...'. And I'm sure I've missed just as many. But I already accept rape culture as existing, so I can actually think about it somewhat objectively, and criticize myself. (And take criticism from others, or at least not attack the idea of rape culture itself.)

Oh, and the term itself is, yes, a little confusing.

Dav said...

If I wrote a letter for every offensive backstory, plot development, character arc, Unfortunate Implication, and world-building detail, even if I just limited it to a single group that I'm part of, I would re-animate the US Post Office from financial crisis. (I'd like to know my duties, though - am I obligated once per series? Once per episode/scene? Once every time the offensive backstory gets rementioned, or only in the initial launch? What if I missed the launch originally, but then discovered the series later? What if the offensive plot element happens in a forest and no pens are around to write a letter? (Being without pens is my nightmare, which is why I always have some stuffed into backpacks, pockets, notebooks, and glove compartments.)

My letters about how scientists are not actually ever just general all-round scientists - I know jack about particle physics - would take 40 hours a week. 40 hours I could be spending doing something productive, like catching up on the massive sleep debt I've acquired.

Ana Mardoll said...

I must confess that as an educator (even a fencing instructor at one point), I think that this Sorceress's pedagogical philosophy is a little dubious.

So I think I hear you saying that this isn't the solution to America's educational woes.

hapax said...

I know that the conversation has moved on, but first I want to stress (all caps warning):

I DO NOT THINK OF CIRCULATION CLERKS AS "LOWLY"!!!!

I assure you, few things torque me off than the sort of librarian who thinks "Without an MLS, you're just a minion, fetch me my coffee." I admire front-line personnel, who have social skills I would kill for; I rely on their local expertise and intimate knowledge of the community; and I trust their judgment on the efficiency, usefulness, and necessity of procedures.

I made the distinction between "librarian" and "circulation clerk" because "librarian" comes with a different skill set, and one of the things that the MLS is good for is thoroughly ingraining a dedication to intellectual freedom in your very bones, while getting a good overview of the intricacies and complexities of applying that principle in real-life circumstances.

That said:

I am rather curious as to how this works when the consent forms are required to check things out, and only then.

I am not sure what you mean here. Mechanically, it works that each format is assigned a different "item type" in the catalog. Each patron record is by default allowed to check out all i-types (within certain parameters; e.g., no one is allowed to check out reference materials, different formats have different preset loan periods, certain formats may have restrictions on the amount one can check out, etc.). However, it is possible to manually "block" a specific patron record from checking out certain i-types.

Practically, it usually works like this: parent thinks "Yay, I can keep my kid from checking out DIRTY MOVIES or signing onto the computers and viewing INTERNET PRON." So we block those i-types.

Then a few months later, kid needs to get onto the computers to complete a school assignment. Or parent wants to check out a movie, but zir own card is blocked due to fines, so zie tries to use kid's card instead. And they can't do what they want, and throw a hissy fit: "Why are you keeping me from getting what I want? I PAY YOUR SALARY!!!"

So we show the parent the form with their own signature blocking access, and they change the N to Y (usually with big thick black angry pen strokes) and we re-set the patron record to the defaults.

Then a year or so later, they find the kid watching OMG R RATED MOVIES and call us up in righteous wrath and we go through the whole song and dance again...

BaseDeltaZero said...

I realize that this post, and presumably discussion, is not actually about the Janissa back-story, but I must confess that as an educator (even a fencing instructor at one point), I think that this Sorceress's pedagogical philosophy is a little dubious.

I think (hope) it was meant to be dubious. Because even the most ridiculous advocates of the tuff-guy theory of training can't possibly think that's a good idea...



sekushinonyanko, I'm fascinated by your story. I tried to count the number of Fail, but I couldn't. I'm having trouble understanding why being a gay man would necessarily provide insight to being a heterosexual woman. Speaking as a heterosexual woman, I feel somewhat confident saying that the reverse isn't true -- I don't consider myself having special insight into being a gay man.


You're both androsexual, so there's that, I guess...


It's also unrepresentative for slaves to be holding pickaxes and chained to a ball. Slaves do exist, but very few are miners. And it's very unlikely for slaves to be rescued by a minotaur of some sort.

Werewolf (ironically enough). And as for 'slaves are rarely miners', that depends on what era you're talking about...


For the record, now I call myself "wacky", which I *think* is not ableist. Please correct me if it is. :)

It is. It refers to head injury victims. There is no usable term for what you want to say (dissonant and strange, but not actually mentally insane).
For comparison, 'crazy' derives from a word meaning 'full of cracks and flaws'. So you've actually gotten worse.



Oh, and unrelated...I often use 'Romance' in sorta the way you do, calling things 'Romance', by which I mean 'Have a message that emotions trumps science', in the way described here. (Although that is very confused and talking about multiple things.) Serenity is not really a Romance because of River...it's a Romance because trying to fix people kills millions of them, and it puts honor above reason.

Of course, I find the idea of making a SCI-FI setting with a luddite theme absolutely hilarious in its rampant hypocrisy.



If the proposed show is a comedy, the problem is arguably worse. Quagmire on Family Guy is openly a non-brutal rapist. His character has not sparked a societal conversation about rape and how it's damaging and tolerated in society; instead, his rapes are meant to be a joke within the context of the show. I'm not really commenting on the show, so much as using it as an example of how we already *have* television characters who rape in non-brutal ways, and it hasn't really undermined rape culture so far as I can see. :/

Family Guy is despicable in general, and so is its target audience.


In fact, you've been rather dismissive of the actual oppression of gamers this entire time.

The 'actual oppression of gamers' is not an especially big deal as oppressions go.


Last time I checked, pornographic films were films.

Last time I checked, the games banned in this way were not pornographic. (The ban was on M (R) rated games, not AO (NC-17) (which are already not available anywhere))

Most AO games are pornographic, only 5 or so games have ever been rated AO for violence.

hapax said...

Was she breaking the law?

This is actually difficult to say without knowing the jurisdiction.

But yes, technically speaking, restricting access based on MPAA ratings is trademark infringement, unless the library in question had licensed them from the MPAA (very doubtful).

I've worked in libraries in (counts in head) five different states, in different regions, and this is ALWAYS the decision of the legal advisors / city attorneys / courts (if it gets that far.)

In fact, restricting access to ANY content based on age is pretty iffy, unless you have signed parental consent forms (usually based on format: "My child may check out DVDs and videos (computer games, graphic novels, music CDs, etc) Yes / No".

Doesn't mean that plenty of libraries don't do it. Generally speaking, we will get in less PR trouble by acting in loco parentis than by pointing out that we have no legal authority to do so --- it's all about protecting THE CHILLLLLDREENNNN, dontcha know?

However, I have also worked in two separate libraries where a circulation clerk (NOT a "librarian", which is a distinction that matters a lot to those who work in the field and absolutely none at all to our customers) was fired by arbitrarily deciding on her own that a child shouldn't be allowed to check out "unsuitable" material.

All of which means we won't give guidance. I've seen young teens over at my "Adult Graphic Novels" section, and asked them "Are you looking for books like EPILEPTIC [shows the cover] or more like NARUTO? Because if the latter is what you want, you'll probably find more books that you'll like in the Teen section."
And I will always tell a parent *who asks me* about any possibly age-inappropriate content in a particular item.

Of course, I will also always add "If MY son or daughter wanted to read it, I would say okay." Which is true. I have never once in my life told one of my children they couldn't read or view anything; although I *have* said, "I'll note that I think that parts of this might embarrass you, so if you want to put it down, that's okay." Or, "Do remember that the last time you watched something with a lot of gore in it, it gave you nightmares, so you might want to watch that one with one of us, so we can talk it through if it gets too intense."

hapax said...

But, remember, folks, if 1% of the right runs around claiming to speak for a vast majority of people, and if a single pharmacist decides he doesn't want to do his job for 'religious reasons', it gets constant news coverage.

May I respectfully note that if you are a women who lives in a one-pharmacy town, and that pharmacist decides that his religion has the right to impose its values on you, whether or not the news coverage is disproportionate or not is unlikely to be your priority concern?

hapax said...

I'm glad it was shot down, although it does seem like there's a reasonable analogy to liquor laws and cigarette laws -- if Walmart can implement a decent I.D. system for those things, it seems like Gamestop could have done the same, but perhaps it would have been an undue burden.

Point of information only, not at all entering the argument on one side or the other:

Most USians are familiar with the MPAA rating system for film (G, PG, R, NC-17 and so forth), since practically every movie theatre voluntarily complies with it, along with other media (e.g., most newspapers will not review or accept advertisements for movies rated NC-17).

Most USians also think that these ratings have the force of law, which they do not. The MPAA is a private company, and extremely secretive. They deliberately do not allow public knowledge of the standards they apply to rate films -- producers etc. have to make guesses based on what ratings films have received in the past.

Moreover, the MPAA is a for profit company; that is, their ratings system is legally protected by trademark law. By publically stating, for example, "This film is rated R" without permission from the MPAA (and usually paying a licensing fee), a venue is liable to a big fat lawsuit -- which the MPAA has not in the past shown itself reluctant to pursue.

Nonetheless, the public expects public libraries in the USA to not only include this rating information in its catalogs, but to *enforce* it -- e.g., not allowing "R" rated movies to check out to minors. I cannot tell you how many times I have had patrons threaten to sue me or have me arrested (in so many words) for allowing their child to check out a movie they don't like -- even after I explain that it would be illegal for me to try and stop them.

Now many comic, graphic novel, and manga publishers are "voluntarily" putting age ratings on their products, which are even more arbitrary and unenforceable. The existence of similar age ratings on games, and the expectations that they carry with them, are a factor (not the only factor, or the deciding factor, but definitely much considered) behind the decision of every library I've worked in not to carry them.

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