I am pissed off because Laci Green, one of the most promising young content creators on YouTube, has been forced off the Internet by death threats—apparently driven by her casual use of the word “tranny” in a video she made more than three years ago. (She apologized and even took down the video.)
Laci makes wonderful, hilarious, sex-positive videos that have been tremendously helpful to millions of people (including me). She makes people feel less alone and less ashamed. She’s wonderful, and YouTube and tumblr are very lucky to have her, and we should all be really pissed that her ability to make stuff has been compromised by threats.
Here’s the truth, although we don’t say it often: You want to know why there are so few women in the Top 100 most viewed lists on YouTube? Because women are far more likely to be stalked, threatened, and attacked on the Internet, and they are far more likely to see those attacks move from cyber-bullying to real life threats, which too often forces them to abandon their work and their audiences.
I’ve been making videoblogs for more than five years, and I have a large audience, and a few overeager fans have found out where I live over the years, and you know what they’ve done about it? They’ve left me candy. Now, to be clear, I was still very uncomfortable and freaked out by this. But they didn’t send me death threats with pictures of my apartment building the way they’ve done to Laci.
And Laci is not alone. Most of the women I’ve known from YouTube—from those with 5,000 subscribers to those with 500,000—have dealt with harassment and stalking, and it has affected their ability to create stuff.
It’s not acceptable. It’s not acceptable to respond to a transphobic comment with a threat to kill someone. It’s not acceptable to harass and stalk women because you want their attention. And it’s not acceptable to use threats and intimidation to silence women you disagree with.
YouTube and tumblr should respond aggressively to these reports, and we need stronger laws to combat this crap, because I’m tired of seeing brilliant women driven away from the Internet by trolls with nothing to contribute.
John Green dropping truth bombs like a mofo. Best wishes to Laci
UHHH… SOUNDS A BIT RAPE-Y TO ME.
If it takes you that many no’s to get a yes… HELL if it takes you a fifth of that many no’s to get a yes, your game sucks shit. And she probably still doesn’t mean yes. And you’re probably a fucking rapist, but not to worry “BRO,” the law is on your fucking side…
I’m talking about racialized individuals that bitch about the feminist individuals for being privileged for their race, and the gay individuals bitching at the racialized individuals for being privileged for their sexuality, and the trans individuals bitching at gay individuals for being privileged for their gender.
And now, for fuck’s sake, cis-feminists are bitching about trans people for undermining reproductive rights activism. What the flying fuck??
Can we all just calm our shit for two seconds and realize that many people are marginalized in different ways, in similar ways, in varying degrees, with different histories, and stop bickering about who is more oppressed. It’s not a fucking contest, and even if it were, are the winners of this fight really winners?
Stop turning against each other and realize that we’re all fighting against the same evil! We all want to live our lives the way we want to, equal to everyone around us. We all want ignorance to end. We all want acceptance. And most importantly, I want all you pretentious fucks to shut the hell up and perhaps be happy when one group has a victory, and help each other in the fight for equality.
I don’t want to be a feminist anymore. Like a five-year-old, I want to close my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears, stomp my feet on the floor and scream “No! No, you cannot make me, I won’t, leave me alone!” I am, simply put, too tired. So very, very tired.
I am tired of fighting with my friends. I am tired of arguing that someone groping and slapping my butt isn’t “what I have to expect”, just because I’m at a bar, and the one attacking my butt has a drink in the other hand. I am tired of hearing “boys will be boys” and “when you’re dressed like that …” and “that’s just what guys do”. I am tired of trying to drown those sentiments in loud, repetitive no’s, screamed over and over again, till my throat is sore and my voice weak – just to hear them repeated, as soon as exhaustion threatens to silence me.
I am tired of being afraid. I am tired of seeing someone writing something offensive, sexist, racist, somewhere online. I am tired of seeing those writings getting likes and lol’s, and SO TRUE’s. I am tired of being consumed by confusion and anger, typing, typing, typing and typing a seemingly endless response, including research, links and statistics, and then hesitate clicking “submit”. I am tired of knowing that I hesitate because I am afraid of the flood of responses that will come. I am tired of knowing that I will be bombarded with lighten up’s, stop whining’s and get a sense of humor’s for so long, that I will start to wonder if I am indeed wound up too tight, a nagger and humorless. I am tired of the fact that I’m afraid of being called a cunt, even though I don’t find genitalia insulting or demeaning.
Objectifying women by LITERALLY reducing them to baby vending machines…
Our community, much like society-at-large, needs a paradigm shift as it relates to our sexual assault prevention efforts. For so long all of our energy has been directed at women, teaching them to be more ‘ladylike’ and to not be ‘promiscuous’ to not drink too much or to not wear a skirt. Newsflash: men don’t decide to become rapists because they spot a woman dressed like a video vixen or because a girl has been sexually assertive.
How about we teach young men when a woman says stop, they stop? How about we teach young men that when a woman has too much to drink that they should not have sex with her, if for no other reason but to protect themselves from being accused of a crime? How about we teach young men that when they see their friends doing something inappropriate to intervene or to stop being friends? The culture that allows men to violate women will continue to flourish so long as there is no great social consequence for men who do so. And while many men punished for sexual assaults each year, countless others are able to commit rape and other crimes against women because we so often blame the victim instead of the guilty party.
Holding women and girls accountable for preventing sexual assault hasn’t worked and so long as men commit the majority of rapes, men need to be at the heart of our tactics for preventing them.
Let’s stop teaching ‘how to avoid being a victim’ and instead, attack the culture that creates predators in the first place.
I am in this same river. I can’t much help it. I admit it: I’m racist. The other night I saw a group (or maybe a pack?) or white teenagers standing in a vacant lot, clustered around a 4x4, and I crossed the street to avoid them; had they been black, I probably would have taken another street entirely.
And I’m misogynistic. I admit that, too. I’m a shitty cook, and a worse house cleaner, probably in great measure because I’ve internalized the notion that these are woman’s work. Of course, I never admit that’s why I don’t do them: I always say I just don’t much enjoy those activities (which is true enough; and it’s true enough also that many women don’t enjoy them either), and in any case, I’ve got better things to do, like write books and teach classes where I feel morally superior to pimps.
And naturally I value money over life. Why else would I own a computer with a hard drive put together in Thailand by women dying of job-induced cancer? Why else would I own shirts made in a sweatshop in Bangladesh, and shoes put together in Mexico? The truth is that, although many of my best friends are people of color (as the cliche goes), and other of my best friends are women, I am part of this river: I benefit from the exploitation of others, and I do not much want to sacrifice this privilege. I am, after all, civilized, and have gained a taste for “comforts and elegancies” which can be gained only through the coercion of slavery.
The truth is that like most others who benefit from this deep and broad river, I would probably rather die (and maybe even kill, or better, have someone kill for me) than trade places with the men, women, and children who made my computer, my shirt, my shoes.
Nerds and Male Privilege (definitely worth a read!)
I want to tell you a story.
A few years ago, I was dating a girl who was decidedly not nerd curious. She tolerated my geeky interests with a certain bemused air but definitely didn’t participate in ‘em… not even setting foot inside a comic store on new comic day. She’d wait outside until I was done… which could be a while, since I was friends with several of the staff.
She came in the store exactly once, after I’d explained that no, it’s a pretty friendly place… well lit, spacious, organized and with helpful – and clearly identified – staff members who were willing to bend over backwards to make sure their customers were satisfied.
She was in there for less than 4 minutes before one mouth-breathing troglodyte began alternately staring at her boobs – evidently hoping that x-ray vision could develop spontaneously – and berating her for daring to comment on the skimpy nature of the costumes – in this case, Lady Death and Witchblade. She fled the premises, never to return.
When both the manager and I explained to him in no uncertain terms as to what he did wrong he shrugged his shoulders. “Hey, I was just trying to help you guys! She couldn’t understand that chicks can be tough and sexy! Not my fault she’s a chauvinist,” he said.
And that was when I shot him, your honor.
So with that example in mind, let’s talk about a subject I’ve touched on before: Male Privilege and how it applies to geeks and – more importantly – geek girls.
MALE PRIVILEGE: WHAT IS IT, EXACTLY?
I don’t think I’m breaking any news or blowing minds when I point out that geek culture as a whole is predominantly male. Not to say that women aren’t making huge inroads in science fiction/fantasy fandom, gaming, anime and comics… but it’s still a very male culture. As such, it caters to the predominantly male audience that makes it up. This, in turn leads to the phenomenon known as male privilege: the idea that men – most often straight, white men – as a whole, get certain privileges and status because of their gender.
(Obvious disclaimer: I’m a straight white man.)
In geek culture, this manifests in a number of ways. The most obvious is in the portrayal of female characters in comics, video games and movies. Batman: Arkham City provides an excellent example.
The women are all about sex, sex, sexy sextimes. With maybe a little villainy thrown in for flavor. They may be characters, but they’re also sexual objects to be consumed.
I will pause now for the traditional arguments from my readers: these characters are all femme fatales in the comics, all of the characters in the Arkham games are over-the-top, the men are just as exaggerated/sexualized/objectified as the women. Got all of that out of your systems? Good.
Because that reaction is exactly what I’m talking about.
Y’see, one of the issues of male privilege as it applies to fandom is the instinctive defensive reaction to any criticism that maybe, just maybe, shit’s a little fucked up, yo. Nobody wants to acknowledge that a one-sided (and one-dimensional) portrayal of women is the dominant paradigm in gaming; the vast majority of female characters are sexual objects. If a girl wants to see herself represented in video games, she better get used to the idea of being the prize at the bottom of the cereal box. If she wants to see herself as a main character, then it’s time to get ready for a parade of candyfloss costumes where nipple slips are only prevented by violating the laws of physics. The number of games with competent female protagonists who wear more than the Victoria’s Secret Angels are few and far between.
The idea that perhaps the way women are portrayed in fandom is aleetle sexist is regularly met with denials, justifications and outright dismissal of the issue. So regularly, in fact, that there’s a Bingo card covering the most common responses. Part of the notion of male privilege in fandom is that nothing is wrong with fandom and that suggestions that it might benefit from some diversity is treated as a threat.
But what is that threat, exactly?
In this case, the threat is that – ultimately – fandom won’t cater to guys almost to exclusion… that gays, lesbians, racial and religious minorities and (gasp!) women might start having a say in the way that games, comics, etc. will be created in the future. The strawmen that are regularly trotted out – that men are objectified as well, that it’s a convention of the genre, that women actually have more privileges than guys – are a distraction from the real issue: that the Privileged are worried that they won’t be as privileged in the near future if this threat isn’t stomped out. Hence the usual reactions: derailment, minimization and ultimately dismissing the topic all together.
As much as my nerdy brethren wish that more girls were of the geeky persuasion, it’s a little understandable why women might be a little reticent. It’s hard to feel valued or fully included when a very vocal group insists that your input is irrelevant, misguided and ultimately unwelcome. It’s small wonder why geekdom – for all of it’s self-proclaimed enlightened attitudes towards outsiders and outcasts – stil retains the odor of the guy’s locker room.
HOW MALE PRIVILEGE AFFECTS GEEK GIRLS IN REAL LIFE
Don’t make the mistake of thinking male privilege is solely about how big Power Girl’s tits are, fan service and jiggle physics in 3D fighters. It affects geek girls in direct, personal ways as well.
Remember the example I mentioned earlier with my then-girlfriend in the comic store? Her opinions were deemed mistaken and she was told she didn’t “get it”… because she was a girl.
Y’see, one of the issues that nerd girls face is the fact that they are seen as girls first and anything else second. And before you flood my comments section demanding to know why this is a bad thing, realize that being seen as a “girl” first colors every interaction that they have within fandom. They’re treated differently because they are women.
We will now pause for the expected responses: well that’s a good thing isn’t it, girls get special treatment because they’re girls, guys will fall all over themselves to try to get girls to like ‘em so it all balances out.
If you’re paying attention you’ll realize that – once again – those reactions are what I’m talking about.
Y’see, nobody’s saying that women don’t receive different treatment from guys… I’m saying that being treated differently is the problem. And yes, I know exactly what many of you are going to say and I’ll get to that in a minute.
Male privilege – again – is about what men can expect as the default setting for society. A man isn’t going to have everything about him filtered through the prism of his gender first. A man, for example, who gets a job isn’t going to face with suggestions that his attractiveness or that his willingness to perform sexual favors was a factor in his being hired, nor will he be shrugged off as a “quota hire”. A man isn’t expected to be a representative of his sex in all things; if he fails at a job, it’s not going to be extrapolated that all men are unfit for that job. A man who’s strong-willed or aggressive won’t be denigrated for it, nor are men socialized to “go along to get along”. A man can expect to have his opinion considered, not dismissed out of hand because of his sex. When paired with a woman who’s of equal status, the man can expect that most of the world will assume that he’s the one in charge. And, critically, a man doesn’t have to continually view the world through the lens of potential violence and sexual assault.
Now with this in mind, consider why being a girl first may be a hindrance to geek girls. A guy who plays a first person shooter – Call of Duty, Halo, Battlefield, what-have-you – online may expect a certain amount of trash talking, but he’s not going to be inundated with offers for sex, threats of rape, sounds of simulated masturbation or demands that he blow the other players – but not before going to the kitchen and getting them a beer/sandwich/pizza first. Men will also not be told that they’re being “too sensitive” or that “they need to toughen up” when they complain about said sexual threats.
Men also won’t have their opinions weighed or dismissed solely on the basis of how sexy or attractive they are. The most common responses a woman can expect in an argument – especially online – is that she’s fat, ugly, single, jealous, a whore, or a lesbian – or any combination thereof – and therefore her opinion is irrelevant, regardless of it’s actual merits. This is especially true if she’s commenting on the portrayal of female characters, whether in comics, video games or movies.
Men can expect that their presence at an event won’t automatically be assumed to be decorative or secondary to another man. Despite the growing presence of women in comics, as publishers, editors and creators as well as consumers, a preponderance of men will either treat women at conventions as inconveniences, booth bunnies or even potential dates. Many a female creator or publisher has had the experience of convention guests coming up and addressing all of their questions to the man at the table… despite being told many times that the man is often the assistant, not the talent, only there to provide logistical support and occasional heavy lifting.
Men are also not going to be automatically assigned into a particular niche just based on their gender. A girl in a comic store or a video game store is far more likely to be dismissed as another customer’s girlfriend/sister/cousin rather than being someone who might actually be interested in making a purchase herself. And when they are seen as customers, they’re often automatically assumed to be buying one of the designated “girl” properties… regardless of whether they were just reading Ultimate Spider-Man or looking for a copy of Saint’s Row 3.
Of course, the other side of the coin isn’t much better; being dismissed for the sin of being a woman is bad, but being placed on the traditional pillar is no less insulting. Guys who fall all over themselves to fawn over a geek girl and dance in attendance upon her are just as bad. The behavior is different, but the message is the same: she’s different because she’s a girl. These would-be white knights are ultimately treating her as a fetish object, not as a person. It’s especially notable when it comes to sexy cosplayers; the guys will laude them for being geek girls and celebrate them in person and online. They’ll lavish attention upon them, take photos of them and treat them as queens…
And in doing so, they’re sending the message that women are only valued in geek culture if they’re willing to be a sexually alluring product. Everybody loves Olivia Munn when she enters the room ass-cheeks first as Aeon Flux, but nobody is particularly concerned by the girls dressed in a baseball tee, jeans and ballet flats. One of these is welcomed into geek culture with open arms, the other has to justify their existence in the first place.
WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN TO YOU?
The reason why male privilege is so insidious is because of the insistance that it doesn’t exist in the first place. That willful ignorance is key in keeping it in place; by pretending that the issue doesn’t exist, it is that much easier to ensure that nothing ever changes.
Geek society prides itself on being explicitly counter-culture; nerds will crow about how, as a society, they’re better than the others who exclude them. They’ll insist that they’re more egalitarian; geeks hold tight to the belief that geek culture is a meritocracy, where concepts of agism, sexism and racism simply don’t exist the way it does elsewhere. And yet, even a cursory examination will demonstrate that this isn’t true.
And yet geeks will cling to this illusion while simultaneously refusing to address the matters that make it so unattractive to women and minorities. They will insist that they treat women exactly the same as they treat guys – all the while ignoring the fact that their behavior is what’s making the women uncomfortable and feeling unwelcome in the first place. They will find one girl in their immediate community who will say that she’s not offended and use her as the “proof” that nobody else is allowed to be offended.
Changing this prevailing attitude starts with the individual. Call it part of learning to be a better person; being willing to examine your own attitudes and behaviors and to be ruthlessly honest about the benefits you get from being a white male in fandom is the first step. Waving your hands and pretending that there isn’t a problem is a part of the attitude that makes women feel unwelcome in fandom and serves as the barrier to entry to geeky pursuits that she might otherwise enjoy.
Bringing the spotlight onto the concept of male privilege as it exists in nerd culture is the first step in making it more welcoming of diversity, especially women.
*Thanks to Madoka for bringing this to my attention.
Transphobic tequila advertisement in Interview Magazine, April 1996.
The above ad is a clear illustration of trans-misogyny. The set up in the first image is the standard sexism that women generally experience to different degrees. The first image implies that all this woman’s social worth is tied to her looks and assumed availability to the target heteronormative male reader. And it reads like this target audience is being encouraged to participate in some sort of street harassment scenario.
The second image delivers the anti-trans “punchline” when it indicated that the woman, who was first read as cis, is actually trans. Or, rather, the second image misidentifies her as “a he.” By the very fact that she is trans, the woman’s social worth is reduced to absolutely nothing. And this is emphasized with the tag line: “Life is harsh.” So what started as an invitation for street harassment then takes a turn for the worst and escalates to one of possible physical violence against the woman in the ad.
This is something I’ve personally experienced in my everyday life. At first I might be mistakenly read as a cis woman. While I may experience street harassment when this happens, there is a clear shift in the form and intensity of the harassment once the harasser(s) realizes that I’m trans. The more the harasser found me attractive when he thought I was a cis woman, the more abusive and aggressive he becomes once he realizes that I’m a trans woman. He usually reacts as if I had intentionally tricked him. If he’s with a group of friends the danger goes up even more.
Not only is it assumed by the people who made this ad, the target audience, and the average street harasser that women exist to please them. But by extension, it is therefore assumed that all trans women want the attention of men. That is, as the trans-misogynist logic goes, since women exist to please men, then the only reason trans women would possibly transition is because they want the attention of men.
This sets up all trans women who are misread as cis as “traps.” Now, I’m your classic women-oriented dyke with absolutely zero interest in men. Nor do I try to pass for cis. But neither of those things stop those men who harass me from believing otherwise. When the anti-female intersects with the anti-trans life is most certainly “harsh.”