On slut-shaming, deleting comments, and respectful discourse

ETA 2011/03/06: It turns out that my comments were marked as spam, not deleted; they have now been published. For some reason Blogspot, unlike WordPress (which most of my experience is with), displays your comment as properly posted after you hit the “post comment” button, even when it’s been marked as spam. I’m leaving the post up, but most of what I was talking about no longer applies to this specific situation.

ETA 2011/04/24: I am closing comments because at this point I don’t think there is any more productive discussion to be had on the subject. The last 2 or 3 comments, which have not made it past moderation because they have been in blatant violation of several of this blog’s discussion rules, have been nothing but abuse of me that ignores the fact that 1) I’ve made the above retraction, and 2) that Wundergeek and I have resolved the situation amicably and with no hard feelings. This post will remain because I take responsibility for my words, even when I have said things that later turn out to be wrong, but as of now the subject is closed for discussion.

Go Make Me a Sandwich is a blog by an artist and gamer called Wundergeek that’s starting to gain some readership and respect within the online feminist gamer community. I write this post because I feel that if I do not make a public record then many people in that community — a community I care very much about — may never be aware of the kinds of lines Wundergeek draws when it comes to what she does, and does not, allow in her space.

This all began as me grumping on twitter about feminists who slut-shame (inspired in part because of how often I noticed while reading Go Make Me a Sandwich, which had made it to my “Read Sometimes” list, Wundergeek calling scantily clad female characters sluts/slutty/etc) and progressed into an internet discussion/argument on slut-shaming language. I had been debating writing a comment calling Wundergeek out on her slut-shaming. I have very little time to waste on futile efforts and while a feminist should understand how to gracefully take being called out, in my experience a lot of feminists just shut down and stick their fingers in their ears. After reading one of the posts I linked, Maverynthia decided to call Wundergeek out. The argument spilled over to a different post and because I had respect for Wundergeek’s deconstructions of the depictions of female characters, figured (wrongly) that it was worth my time to try explaining the problem.

I said (original emphasis):

I am having a hard time understanding why people who can grasp that the objectification of women in games affects real life women are having such a hard time wrapping their minds around how denying fictional women agency by calling them sluts also impacts real women.

I’m going to break it down real simple: the problem with calling characters sluts is the same exact problem as drawing them as under-clothed, impossibly constructed, pornified wank material. It legitimizes the broadly accepted idea that women’s sexuality belongs to men.

Listen, I think it’s an extremely important part of deconstructing the way that objectification turns women (real and fictional) into nothing more than wank material by looking at clothing choices by examining how they fit into a sex-negative culture that simultaneously encourages women to put themselves on sexual display for men while slut shaming them for doing so. But, you know what? Uncritically calling women sluts, even if it’s “just” the digital women, doesn’t call out the sexism, it reinforces it.

If you want to call out the devs for creating women that fit into the cultural narrative of the “slut”, by all means do so. But it’s going to take a lot more than just spewing out the gendered slur in order to make it clear that you’re attacking those who try to reduce women into sex objects rather than the many, many women who have been labeled as a “slut” because she wore something that another person didn’t approve of.

Her reply, which you can read here, was a copy/paste of the comment in the other thread that I was indirectly replying to with the addition of some condescending credential waving of a Fine Arts degree and implications that intent is magic.

In a last ditch effort to try to get her to understand that her choice hurts REAL WOMEN, I responded. I spent at least 30 minutes working on a reply, trying to balance the deep anger that I felt at her and her commenters’ dismissive replies with the wish to get them to understand that calling a fictional woman a slut didn’t happen in a vacuum. I figured that an tangible example of how Wundergeek’s choice to slut-shame had a real life impact on real live women would, at the very least, make it clear that things could have an impact outside of the intended scope.

I told her that her good intentions meant shit to me because the abuse she heaped on fictional women when she called them sluts was a mirror of the abuse my ex heaped on me in real life. I told her that what she was doing was hurting me. I told her that it was her blog so she didn’t have to apologize, she didn’t have to change anything, and she certainly didn’t have to care. But if it mattered to her she should educate herself and said that On victim blaming and slut-shaming was a good place to start. In an attempt to be respectful of her space, I also said that I wouldn’t further derail the thread.

Maybe I was too snarky. Maybe I came across as condescending. Maybe I came across as a troll (although seeing as she’s linked my blog before, I would assume she knows who I am). I would link you to the comment so you can judge for yourself, but I can’t because she deleted it. And I know she’s deleting all my comments, because she also deleted my comment saying that if she had a copy of the deleted comment that I would appreciate it very much if she could send it to me.

Now, as someone who moderates her blog I respect Wundergeek’s right to maintain her space as she sees fit. It’s her space and her rules and if she chooses she can hold for moderation, disemvowel and/or delete any comment that she feels like. That being said, I personally believe that when in the middle of a conversation/argument with a reader on your blog that it is disrespectful, both to said reader and to your other readers, to delete that person’s comment without either warning or a notice somewhere that said person’s comment has been deleted and either a) that person is no longer welcome to comment on the blog, or b) that person is welcome to comment on the blog as long as it isn’t about subject X or in way Y or what have you. On a personal level, it is hurtful to see my voice — put out there because I care and because I respected her and her blog — silenced in such a dismissive manner.

While I believe it is valuable to show, as Wundergeek does in many of her posts, that the “idealization” of women is not equivalent to the “idealization” of men in games, I have come to realize that she’s not against sexism and oppression so much as she’s against things that piss her off, personally. In this she’s not different from many other feminists. But her brand of feminism is not one that I feel should be celebrated and her actions are not ones that I can respect.

It’s especially sad to me because the people in the online gaming community that regularly call out sexism and other -isms are still rare enough that it’s important for us to forge bonds and create a strong connection with each other. But instead of listening when people were telling her, “This is sexist. This is hurtful.” Wundergeek choose to dismiss us out of hand and, when I took the extra step and said, “This hurts ME.” she silenced me as if I were nothing more than a troll.

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10 Responses to On slut-shaming, deleting comments, and respectful discourse

  1. Avatar of tekanji tekanji says:

    I didn’t feel that it belonged in the post, but for the purposes of a public record (and being fair) here’s what I said on Twitter after I posted the reply that later got deleted:

    And this is the last time I’m ever going to Go Make Me a Sandwhich: http://bit.ly/hcpo8y Feminists defending misogyny makes me want to cry

    Reading Wundergeek’s disappointing, if predictable, response & writing that comment has made me feel panicky

    Once of the reasons I really, fucking, truly HATE seeing slut-shaming rhetoric is because it always reminds me of my abusive ex

    If I wore anything that even remotely hinted that I had a body he would go on and on about how I was a slut who wanted male attention

    And how I was a fucking manipulative bitch because I had a boyfriend and drawing male attention by slutting it up was leading them on

    Either that or I had a fucking manipulative bitch agenda to cheat on him (ironic because I know he cheated on me at least once)

    And while he’s obviously a horrible human being, I’ve seen the same dynamic play itself out in other areas

    I had a friend who had a bf who called her clothes “slut wear” and said she only did well in school b/c the teachers liked her tits

    And, frankly, anyone who thinks that those real life instances have NOTHING to do with the way fictional women are depicted is ignorant

    But at least when it’s ignorance b/c of lack of knowledge it can be fixed with education; when it’s b/c of ignoring the evidence…

    What really fucking gets me about the situation is that Wundergeek, who DOES have an art degree, should fucking know about the male gaze

    I know it’s useless to get angry about it; she’s obviously happy in her little slut-shaming world. But, damnit, I expect MORE from feminists

  2. Som_Gye says:

    For the record, the comments you left have not been deleted; At time of this writing, I can see them perfectly fine. I think perhaps you have misjudged the situation.

    I don’t mean to be disrespectful; I don’t know you or whoever writes this other blog, but it bothers me when I see people who support a good cause being unwilling to assume good faith on the part of others.

    • Avatar of tekanji tekanji says:

      Thanks for the heads up, but saying “I don’t mean to be disrespectful” and then saying something completely disrespectful is not allowed on this blog. This is your first, and last, warning.

      And, frankly, you’re assuming bad faith on my part by assuming that there were no legitimate reasons for me to believe that my comments were deleted. Reasons like them showing up to me as properly posted — something that doesn’t happen on other blogging software with comments marked as spam — and having seen the same dynamic I described in the post happen over and over and over and over and over again with people who I had known and respected.

      I was wrong in this case, and I’m glad that I was. I’m glad that there’s still a chance for dialogue with Wundergeek and I think it’s great that there is now hope that good will come of this conversation when previously I thought there was none. But none of this erases that my conclusion came from a legitimate reading of the evidence I had at the time. And I do not appreciate you trying to vilify me for what amounts to an unfortunate misunderstanding.

  3. Som_Gye says:

    My apologies. I honestly hadn’t intended it to come out that way. Awkward as my words sometimes are, I’m genuinely trying to stop discord, not create it.

    You are right, I should have phrased that better. Mea culpa.

  4. wundergeek says:

    Hey. Just wanted to say that it’s the internet and shit happens. It was an honest misunderstanding – you’re not the first person to think I deleted their comments.

    I’m putting up something quick on my blog to clarify about my stance on comments, but my response to the actual meat of your comments will have to wait until tomorrow when I’m not a zombie from 9 hours in a plane/car.

  5. FarisScherwiz says:

    I’m glad it was a misunderstanding, but I’m sad that wundergeek doesn’t seem to take issue with that language. I didn’t notice it at first, until I remember liking some of the sexy armour you could get in games (when I had a choice to wear it anyway, being forced is annoying). I thought, if I chose to wear that stuff myself (irl or in-game), would I be slammed and called “slutty”? I also had an abusive ex that would slut-shame me (usually after telling me to dress more slutty too…), so I get how hurtful it is.

    I hope more dialogue is helpful, I really like her site and she points out a lot of things that I may not have noticed.

  6. Joy-Mari says:

    Why didn’t you contact her (via email) before assuming she had deleted your comments?

    • Avatar of tekanji tekanji says:

      I couldn’t find an e-mail address and, as I said, I had some very good reasons to assume deletion (and therefore assume that any e-mails to her would be seen as me violating her wishes to not have contact with me).

  7. Joy-Mari says:

    Her email address is on one of her linked sites — Browser beware.

    • Avatar of tekanji tekanji says:

      Thanks for the heads up, but as I said I felt an e-mail would be invasive when it was clear to me (based on the evidence at hand, which turned out to be faulty) that she was not interested in having contact with me. This is especially so when her e-mail is not readily available — there is something deeply creepy to me about combing over her personal sites to find an e-mail address so I can send an e-mail that I had every reason to believe she would feel was harassing.

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