Thursday, May 19, 2016

WOMEN'S RIGHTS to all things geeky. (what should be, but obviously isn't, a no brainer)

I'll start with this...

My friend Monica Marlowe shared this photo on Facebook this morning, and for a multitude of reasons I feel I need to share it as well.

In case you can't read the text, I'll quote it here:

     “So, last night an Indianapolis-based newspaper, IndyStar, ran an article about the burgeoning presence of women at Gen Con (and, more broadly, at gaming events in general). The article used a picture of me in my Hawkgirl costume as the lead image.
     The article also included a reference to GamerGate, complete with hashtag.
     I never consented to the use of (or, disturbingly enough, the sale of) the photo nor did I have any input on the content of the article. Despite this, and the fact that I was not mentioned by name, the various contact channels associated with my website have been inundated with rape/death threats, as well as a healthy measure of run-of-the-mill gatekeeping vitriol. I'm apparently ruining Gen Con, gaming, and All Things Geeky.
     I'm grateful that the firewalling measures I'd put in place to protect my identity seem to be holding (knock on wood), and, hopefully, the horde will collectively move on in short order. 
     Cosplaying was such a deeply satisfying creative avocation that simultaneously paid homage to the properties that made me feel fundamentally at home. It's not ever going to be that for me again. As such, I'm gonna take this chance to retire from the cosplay game.
     Hawkgirl was the most frustrating, challenging, rewarding, and wonderful costume I ever completed; I'll always regard it that way and, as I leave the hobby, I'm satisfied with it being my final work.”


O.k., using someone's photo without their permission, without letting them know, and then selling it? Not cool. Not illegal, perhaps... but not cool.

Death or rape threats, though? Abhorrent. Unacceptable. Illegal.

This is an open letter to every geek, nerd, comic lover, and gamer I know, and all of those I have yet to meet. I’ll do my best to stay focused, but I may ramble a bit… sorry about that but I’m seriously passionate about the topic.

First, I know *FAR* more geeks and nerds that are female... than those who are male. Seriously. I’m in no way making a fallacious statement to attempt to support an argument. This is just a fact. A decade ago, this wasn’t true, but thank Stan Lee (or whichever other comic god you like, Rachel Gluckstern will also do nicely) it is true today. Has the gender balance hurt the community? Not in the least! The opposite is true, in fact.

The female geeks, nerds, and gamers I know are, by and large, better spirited, more well educated, kinder, usually more "in the know" about their fandoms, and generally more in touch with good hygiene than their male counterparts in geek and nerd culture. How can having them in the community or as friends be anything but a good a thing? That is unless you are a guy who is petty, small-minded, poorly educated, misogynistic, bitter and perhaps sad and lonely and the mere presence of females makes you anxious, apprehensive, awkward, and unsure of your place in the world and therefore willing to lash out in cruel, insensitive, and hurtfully ways that bullies have used on you in the past. But guys, that’s not who you are… is it? You’re better than that, aren’t you? C’mon.

I mean, guys, the argument can be made, far more easily today than at any time before, that perhaps you are only getting into gaming or geeky and nerdy things simply for all the women. You want to look like you know what’s going on and are adept only to impress and perhaps in hopes of being able to hook up with one of the myriad impressive women of geekdom. “Guys are only pretending to be into gaming and reading comics to impress the ladies. They’re just posers, pretending, so that maybe they can get close to some cosplay goddess.” Right?

I’ll admit that my kneejerk reaction to seeing the photo and caption above was an indignant “how dare you!” that upon thinking about it was well deserved, but perhaps didn’t come to me for all the right reasons. Not right away, anyway. See, when I grew up gamers were Atari kids, Nintendo kids, and PC gamers. We were nerds and geeks that picked on for not being into sports or dressing in the hippest newest styles. We read comics and traded cards. We were the outsiders who went into AV club, chess club, academic teams, choir, band, and theater. We usually didn’t want to be excluded or looked down on, nor did we want to be treated poorly, picked on, or bullied, but it was our lot. We were geeks and nerds. So where I come from in all this is: “How dare you treat other geeks and nerds the way the normal or popular kids treated us.” I think, perhaps that’s a statement on how old I am. I might be a little out of touch there, as geek and nerd culture has become a lot “cooler” these days. I’d love to say we’ve “come a long way, baby,” but clearly we’ve gone backward in some fairly important ways.

Lately I’ve seen blatant slut shaming of cosplayers by ComicCons in New Mexico, cries of “Poser” tossed at people who are into things, and like them, but haven’t let them take over their whole lives due to silly things like careers, families, budgets and the like, and I’m blown away.  This is not the community it once was, and we only have ourselves to blame for turning a blind eye to behavior like this for far, far too long. That has to stop.

However, I’m drifting from my earlier (unfinished) point. I was kneejerk offended for the wrong reason. “How dare you!” was absolutely the right reaction, I just arrived at it the wrong way. Taking a longer look at this I see that where I should have been coming from is a human point of view. I shouldn’t have *just* been upset that other geeks and nerds were being treated this way, and I shouldn’t have *just* been mortified and angered that women were being treated this way, I should have been outraged, in the age we live in, that any human being is treated this way and that it is treated with silent acceptance by those who are not directly affected by it. I’m looking squarely at you, men. The guys who would never do something like this in their wildest dreams, but also don’t speak out against those who are doing it or in defense of those who are being treated this way.

And don't even get me going on the Cosplay is not consent issue (which is related, but not my current topic). If you don't already know about it, you should. Really. Educate your self with a good Google search or just start here.

Ultimately this is where I am, and what I am saying to you...

Sexism? Not acceptable. Death threats to anyone? Not acceptable. Rape threats to anyone? Not acceptable. Racism? Not acceptable. Slut shaming? Not acceptable. Homophobia or Transphobia? Not acceptable. Verbal or text based abuse? Not acceptable. Sexually assaulting or harassing cosplayers? Not acceptable.

Is this difficult to grasp? Really? 

This cannot be tolerated in the world as a whole, let alone tolerated in a community of geeks, nerds, comic lovers, and gamers. Not even in the slightest.

This kind of treatment of women in fandoms has to end, and it has to end now. I cannot stress this enough. Men feeling somehow challenged by women to the point of lashing out with threats of violence is beyond ridiculous. It’s hateful, fearful, weak, and wrong. Moreover it doesn’t just simply violate the law, it violates the sense of community… the very essence… of acceptance of those with shared interests, passions, and loves that are the core of what being a geek or nerd or gamer are truly all about.

Women want to share the fandoms they love. Many of them love them as much, or more, than the men involved. Don't believe me? Check out people and places like "HARPY - FANGIRLHEADQUARTERS WITH DONNA DICKENS" online. Or try something even more revolutionary... approach them as equals, human beings, and respectfully ask them about their love of their fandoms. And if you do and it happens that they don't love whatever obscure thing it is that you adore to the core of you very being as much as you do... so what? It doesn't hurt you. It doesn't take food off your table. It doesn't lessen your ability to love what you love. Stop it. It's 2016, guys. Stop treating nerd/geek/comic/gaming culture as if it were the McCarthy era. Women are fans just like men. They aren't infiltrators. Your fandoms are not religions and those with ovaries are not infidels. Damn.

I am impressed with, and heartened by, the news that Gen Con has caught up withthe age we live in. Men? It's now your turn. You have a moral obligation to not only your community, but to the society we all share.

If you don't behave like this, that's wonderful. Not behaving like this isn't enough, though. Not anymore. You must speak out against it. You must challenge those who do behave like this. This is not something you can just sit idly by and let happen. To do so it to be complicit. If you see this happen, get involved. If you hear of it happening, support those who have been victimized and speak out against it loudly. Use your voice. Push out the offenders. If they are making illegal threats, report them, if you saw it firsthand then be a witness against them. Do not let this happen. Don't let it be someone else's problem. It is a cancerous illness in our community that we must all work diligently together to battle against.

Men and women are equal, and deserve equal treatment and respect. Stand up for everyone. When you let anyone be put lower, or be threatened like this, you are letting them make less of us all.

Now lets all enjoy some Team Unicorn and get down to the business of fixing this! 

No comments:

Post a Comment