Friday, October 17, 2014

Now Will Sommers Listen?

[Content note: Terrorist threats, misogyny, anti-feminism]

I wonder what (anti)feminist video game culture expert Christina Hoff Sommers has to say about the recent misogynistic, anti-feminist terrorist threat made via email toward Anita Sarkeesian, who was scheduled to speak at Utah State University earlier this week (at an appearance that was later cancelled when authorities would not disallow firearms to be present during the event).

You know, since Sommers spent several weeks looking at video game culture, and all.  In addition to alluding that Sarkeesian is a "hipster with a cultural study degree," Sommers waived away all critique of video game culture, saying:
"I spent several weeks looking at gamer culture, talking to gamers, looking at the data, and I don't see pathology or imminent death.  What I see is a lively, smart, creative subculture consisting mostly of tech-savvy guys from all over the world, but also including a small, but distinct, group of very cool women.  Now, if you love games, they don't really care about your age, your race, your ethnicity, your gender, or your sexual preference, they just. want. to. game. My suggestion to their [feminist] critics: Stand down!"
Now that's a fun reversal, yeah? Because, you see, it's feminist critics of video game culture who are violent, not the misogynists. Just to recap, the person who threatened Sarkeesian, wrote:
"If you do not cancel [Sarkeesian's] talk, a Montreal Massacre attack will be carried out against the attendees, as well as the students and staff at the nearby Women's Center. I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs. This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history and I'm giving you the change to stop it….. 
…. Feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge, for my sake and the sake of all the others they've wronged."
Anti-feminists have threatened Sarkeesian's life multiple times for merely speaking.

I really wish I better understood what motivates anti-feminist women to excuse, dismiss, and enable male violence toward, and hatred of, other women - particularly feminist women.  I think Dworkin was on to some of these motivations when she wrote Right Wing Women, but with women's expanded opportunities since the 1980s, surely the patriarchal head-pats and protection for being a Good Anti-Feminist Lady are becoming less valuable, right?

Or, do professional ideologues, personalities, and blowhards really even believe half of what they say?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cross-Gender Convos About Feminist Interactions

Over at Shakesville, Liss has written some helpful tips for how men can communicate more effectively in good faith conversations with women about feminist issues.

I thought I'd share both because it may be helpful to some male readers who may be seeking such advice, and because I think it can also be helpful for many women to see these suggestions articulated.  I know that when I have engaged with men on feminist issues, even if all parties are engaging in good faith and with good intentions, the interactions have still felt hostile.

Yet, like men, many women have internalized the stereotype that men are more objective and rational than women and so sometimes when men are engaging in sexist behavior it can be hard to immediately recognize and name what's going on.

I agree with all of the suggestions Liss makes, and in the comments I added one of my own:
When discussing feminist issues, "joking" about how scared you are "as a man" to be in the conversation is not helpful (eg, "I'm just going to say this and *duck* outta the way!"). These kinds of statements usually precede statements that are hostile to women while simultaneously putting the onus on women to center the man's feelings and ensure that he feels safe and not-too-challenged at all times in the conversation.
Even guys who are generally open to feminist arguments will trot this jokey-joke out. I've gotten, for instance, "Don't kill me for saying this, but Title IX should have never happened." The "joke" has always felt so unfair to me, and it wasn't until relatively recently that I really began to consider and articulate why.  Through the "joke," the man gives himself permission to say something offensive while pre-emptively framing any response that's not 100% appeasing as unduly hostile.

Now, when I see men make this "joke," I recognize them as men who are not adult enough to stand by their positions.  It's the equivalent of if feminists preceded gender conversations with men with, "Don't get pissed about this, but all men should be kicked in the nuts twice a week. Whoa, whoa down boy! You mad?"

On Humor and Civility

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Anti-Equality Spokesman Warns of Civil War, Because of Course

Welp, the Family Research Council is publishing reliably reasonable statements about the recent marriage equality victories in the US.  Via the agency's blog, authored by Rob Schwarzwalder:
"I’m haunted by the memory of William Seward’s comment, immediately before the Civil War, that strife between North and South over slavery constituted 'an irrepressible conflict.'
Millions of Americans simmer with resentment at the coerced redefinition of marriage the courts are imposing on them, despite referenda in dozens of states where they have affirmed the traditional definition of marriage quite explicitly. 
The Dred Scott decision did not decide the issue of human bondage. The Roe v. Wade decision has not decided the issue of abortion on demand. And the continued federal court confusion over same-sex unions only postpones a day of legal reckoning that could create a measure of civic sundering unwitnessed in our nation for decades.
Even if the Supreme Court has valid reasons for postponing their decision on this issue, postponement is not resolution. I fear that whatever decision the Supremes finally reach will not resolve it, either."
Three observations.

One, from the blogs of the conservative advocacy groups that I read, the "simmering resentment" primarily seems to be that of the dozen or so well-off white Christian heterosexual anti-LGBT men who lead these agencies and who are therefore big-time pissed off that they are publicly losing on the marriage equality front in the US and might have to come up with new strategies to maintain their relevancy and livelihoods.

Two, it's neat how white Christian heterosexual anti-LGBT men so often co-opt historical slavery, which so many of them insist, in other contexts, has had no lingering impact on African-Americans today. If this man were a person of color threatening war and civil uprising, especially a non-Christian, he'd be widely lambasted as an un-American terrorist.

Three, I'm somewhat intrigued by the rightwing "bunker survivalist" mentality.  Like, I watch those shows on Netflix of people who stockpile food rations and, oh yes, guns. Lots of guns and ammo and traps and such. And, it seems like they're almost always featuring white hetero families with a strong patriarchal figure leading the charge, at least when all the guns and militaristic planning is involved.

I don't doubt that some of what many of these people do is genuine concern about civil unrest and survival.  I mean, I have a plan - do you?  If you see something, say something!

But,  and perhaps it's due to that way they talk about their armaments, I always get this inkling that, like, maybe some of these people want the civil unrest to happen? I don't know because maybe they're unhappy with the current societal structure and set of rules, but if something BIG happened, they would finally get to be like, BA-BAM and shoot shit up without consequence. Like, all the planning, all the warning maybe is a bit of a hopeful fantasy for some people?

Anyway, my point is that of all the harms to society that bigots tell us will result from same-sex marriage, the suggestion that it will cause civil war is just so fucking absurd that I start questioning what else is going on behind such a suggestion.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When Some Men Say Sexist Things

It can be oddly validating.

Via Bloomberg Businessweek:
"At a Sydney technology startup conference, Evan Thornley, an Australian multimillionaire and co-founder of online advertising company LookSmart(LOOK), gave a talk about why he likes to hire women. 'The Australian labor market and world labor market just consistently and amazingly undervalues women in so many roles, particularly in our industry,' he said. When LookSmartwent public on Nasdaq in 1999, he said, it was one of the few tech companies that had more women than men on its senior management team. 'Call me opportunistic; I thought I could get better people with less competition because we were willing to understand the skills and capabilities that many of these woman had,' Thornley said…. 
Thornley went on to say that by hiring women, he got better-qualified employees to whom he was able to give more responsibility. 'And [they were] still often relatively cheap compared to what we would’ve had to pay someone less good of a different gender,' he concluded. To illustrate his point he showed a slide that said: 'Women: Like Men, Only Cheaper.'”
Yes.  Women being paid less than less-competent, less-qualified men.  Hmmm, kind of like what feminists have been saying since forever.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

Further Thoughts on Defiance

As a follow-up to this post, where I mention that I've been enjoying the TV show Defiance, I am now far enough along in the series to where virtually everything about the Nolan character is irritating to me.

I don't like that he, the white human guy, gets to be the city's Lawkeeper practically his first day upon arriving in Defiance and run about with virtually no checks and balances just There aren't any other qualified candidates around? However did the city survive before his arrival?

I don't like that he's always there to Save The Day, just because of course he is.

I don't like that the Season 1 DVD image literally centers Nolan, just because of course it does, even though dozens of more interesting characters than the "angsty white badass dude who plays by his own set of rules" exist on the show. At least 4 alien races, so far, exist in Defiance, along with a female mayor, and New Guy Nolan is the centered star of things?


And then, when you put the DVD in your DVD player, the home screen image is Nolan's face taking up half the screen, with the Gateway Arch taking up the other half.  Because of course.

Nolan is basically every male character in every video game ever.  Yes, I realize that's an exaggeration on my part.  I mean, I recognize that it's progress for science fiction to have multiple female characters, I'm just expressing my frustration with this constant catering to, and centering of, white men within the genre even if they are surrounded by characters who are, by far, more interesting than them.

That is to say, Nolan is not my avatar.

Yet, I think it would be a startling news revelation to some creators of science fiction games and media that fans would maybe identify with, and find interesting, characters other than him (and the zillions other like him).

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Blankenhorn Concerned About Donor Influence

"It’s also worth remembering that there’s no such thing as a donation without expectations. As long as we have think tanks, we’re going to have donors with motives."  
- David Blankenhorn, in a blog post at the Institute for American Values (IAV) website, entitled, "Think Tanks, Fundraising, and What Money Shouldn't Buy"

Blankenhorn made this statement in the context of discussing what he recognized as an inherent conflict of interest when foreign nations seeking to influence US policy give money to US think tanks.  

Although IAV no longer seems super involved, at least explicitly, in the same-sex marriage debate in the US, I have kept their Family Scholars Blog in my blog reader even though they now call it a "magazine" and no longer allow comments.  I've been curious about what would be next for such an agency, beyond same-sex marriage, and have to admit I'm a bit perplexed by its current focus on "thrift."  

However, overall I do agree with Blankenhorn's overall message in his latest post. More than anything, I was surprised to see him articulate a position acknowledging that money donated often comes with implicit or explicit strings attached to produce certain outcomes or opinions.

The relevant conversations have since been deleted from their site, but when I was a guest blogger at Family Scholars Blog, I remember Blankenhorn defending Mark Regnerus, who was being widely critiqued for (a) his substantively bad study, and (b) not disclosing his funders' possible influence on his infamous study that anti-gay organizations now use as "proof" that same-sex parents are bad (even though the study doesn't actually prove that).

Specifically, back in 2012, Blankenhorn wrote a post hyperbolically entitled, "Corrective Labor Camps, Perhaps?" (post and comments preserved here) taking issue with a journalist filing an open records request to investigate the ties between Regnerus and the conservative-leaning Witherspoon Institute, the funder that many suspected influenced the study to impact public opinion and court cases about same-sex marriage and parenting.

The American Independent eventually provided evidence that the Regnerus study was influenced in part by its funder, and that W. Bradford Wilcox was both a paid consultant on the study and a director at Witherspoon.  Wilcox was also previously a blogger at IAV's Family Scholars Blog.