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.