It has been heart warming to see honest conversations about sexism, harassment and prejudice in story-sharing communities (be it gaming, books, or comics). Sometimes it makes me cry a little. I find it interesting that now that men are talking about it a lot more it has become news, and I find it a huge relief that men are talking about it. It’s nice to see men talking about men’s behavior in a way that makes my humanity feel heard.
So mostly I’ve been watching and listening, pleased with the conversations, and passing on links.
John Scalzi wrote: Who Gets To Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants to Be. In response to a guy who who wrote for CNN and who’s “not sexist but…” and there have been some great follow up posts. I’m scared of writing down my thoughts. I’m scared that I might be judged negatively, and the guys seem on top of it. But I feel like my words might be useful, and it’s a perspective I have not yet seen in the conversation.
I’m a 6ft tall triple D cup with long hair and a small waist for my height. My face is fairly symmetrical and I smile frequently, which has trained my face to have a pleasant affect.
I love books, comics, games, I don’t remember my first D&D game because I was three, and when I was looking for archetypes to live up to I really wanted to be Tanis Half Elvin, but came to the sad conclusion that I was just Caramon (and because of that I was tanking in real life before the term was invented).
I am friendly, affectionate and have social skills – skills I developed through blood, sweat and tears. Being a tall, assertive girl, who would not bow her head, and with a sense of style stranger than Dr Who, I got bullied a lot. Three times, in two separate schools, people stole items of clothing and mutilated/set fire to them.
If I meet you at a convention for pros or a convention that has a strong stance against bigotry I’m a fairly affectionate person. I am exuberant, I am joyful, we may hug at some point (if you’re a huggy person yourself).
At NewYorkComicCon, or SanDiegoComicCon or conventions with a high degree of sexual objectification – I am still socially capable, but my professionalism is more edged and I am wary of physical contact. I am still friendly, but part of me is reading the room before anything as ‘girly’ as physical contact happens. I wear suits. I like wearing suits to conventions anyway, but at SDCC and the like it becomes protective armor. The armor helps, but stuff still gets through the chinks.
I hope some day I will have enough of a visual brand that people won’t assume I’m a booth babe. I hope some day I can go to SDCC or NYCC or a convention with a lot of cosplaying without my breasts being an issue. Without someone treating me like arm candy or asking me sneeringly if I read comics while at a comics event, or some random thinking that shouting out to me “Nice shape” in a sleazy tone associated “Nice tits” is somehow complimentary. Or feeling like an impostor because people assume I’m the girlfriend of whatever male professional I’m standing next to.
Even at the sleaziest conventions I’ve been to, the majority of people I’ve spent time talking to have been excellent. We’ve had wonderful conversations, witty banter, thought provoking conversations and even consensual non-skeazy conversations about my boobs.
I hate to miss out on those excellent people, BUT the background radiation wears me down. The knowledge that I need to prove my humanity and ‘realness’ repeatedly if I want to participate wears me down. The knowledge that if I was shorter and dressed more generically I would go from the “booth babe” problem to the “just plain invisible” problem, wears me down. It wears me down and my sense of humor is getting shorter and shorter. As I get older I’m rolling with the punches less and it’s hurting more.
One thing I like about Peacock’s misogynistic rant about the evils of ‘fake geek girls‘ is that it shows what a lot of the general misogyny looks like, the land of “I’m not sexist, but”. I’ll got out on a limb and say every bad experience I’ve had convention comes from a little Peacock or a group of Peacocks assuming that I’m not real.
So thanks to everyone who’s doing their bit to shift culture. This ‘fake geek girl’ salutes you.
Added thought after conversations and feedback on twitter
I called Peacock’s actions “I’m not sexist, but,” because by going to great pains to talk about how he knows Felicia Day is ‘real’ he is trying to contextualize himself as clearly ‘not sexist’. Therefore it would be mean to read his thoughts as sexist, because that’s not his intention.
Intentions don’t matter, except that your chances of providing a good apology and becoming a better ally increase. If you feel a need to credential yourself as ‘not sexist’, so that people get you’re ‘not sexist’, chances are you’re doing it wrong. Peacock’s intentions may have been good, but his article and the follow ups I’ve seen from him err more towards protectiveness of his white male privilege. Dude, there are good models on how to recover after you’ve punched people in the face!
And yeah, I don’t care how awesome he has been to kittens or how much we might bond over how fantastic Transmetropolitan is. I care that with an article that starts its thesis with “There is a growing chorus of frustration in the geek community with – and there’s no other way to put this – pretty girls pretending to be geeks for attention.” goes downhill from there, and has in its concluding remarks “However, you “6 of 9s” out there? You’re just gross…and don’t be shocked when they send you XBox Live messages with ASCII penises.”
He is, through his actions, encouraging and normalizing misogynistic actions and attitudes. I do not agree with his argument, and I do not agree with his placement of blame.
Jay Smooth is one of my heroes of thoughtful activism (when we were moving to America he was one of America’s ambassadors of awesome) and his video on How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist is something I return to. And to draw from his examples, it doesn’t matter that you thought you were providing a compliment or it was funny when you yelled at an attractive woman crossing the street. What matters is that woman just had “yargahbargahargah tits” yelled at her from a moving car, again. It doesn’t matter what she’s wearing, it doesn’t matter if she’s ‘real’ or ‘fake’.
And Mr Peacock, if you happen to read this, thanks for dropping by. This video might help you listen. Race and gender are different aspects of human experience, but the heart of how to listen to the criticism you are receiving is the same: