An Open Letter to Intel regarding their support of #GamerGate

Dear Intel,

Recently your actions regarding #GamerGate have come to my attention. First you you pulled Gamasutra’s advertising campaign specifically because of complaints from supporters of GamerGate (and then disingenuously tried to claim you weren’t “taking sides”) and then your twitter account, @intelgaming, was documented favorting tweets supporting Intel’s decision to support GamerGate by pulling the ads.

GamerGate is a hate campaigned aimed at harassing women out of the games industry; it is organized and endorsed by people, mostly men, who vocally hate women and other marginalized groups. It is not just that they have spread lies about industry professionals to further their agenda, they have also made these women afraid for their lives. They use techniques like doxxing and death threats on popular targets–like Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn–not only to intimidate those women in particular but also to send a message to the rest of us. A message that tells us in no uncertain terms that we risk our lives by being a part of an industry that they consider to be for (cishet white) men, by (cishet white) men.

You want us to believe that you aren’t “taking sides” but your actions have shown quite clearly that you side with the harassers and abusers who are eager to hurt women like me because we threaten their perceived monopoly over the games industry. These men believe that, simply because of my gender, I don’t deserve to play games and I sure as hell don’t deserve to make them.

Everything you have done, and not done, in response to GamerGate has told me loud and clear that the GamerGate supporters’ business is more important to you than my business, my job, and my safety. You have made it abundantly clear that the business of a vocal minority of misogynists is more important than the livelihood and safety of all women in the IT industry.

I have had many computers over the years and most of them have used Intel processors. I am the owner of a game-related startup and I chose Intel for my business computers. But I can no longer in good conscience continue to support your company. You have lost my business by supporting a group that wants to see me leave the industry; a group that has more than a few members that wants to see me, and people like me, dead. From today forward, none of my computers will be Intel. Even if it is a hassle. Even if it costs me more money or time.

You have made your choice, and now I’m making mine.

This is why I hardly read blogs anymore

In the past year the amount of (feminist) blogs that I read regularly, or even on an occasional basis, has shrunk to fit on one hand. Literally, aside from keeping up with Iris, the only blogs I regularly read are Hoyden About Town, The Border House, Geek Feminism, Sociological Images, and Shakesville. That’s it. There are a few more that I’ll browse when I’ve already read everything on the above blogs.

Until today, Tiger Beatdown was on the latter list. Now, the writing style of the blog has always rubbed me a bit the wrong way because of how easy it is to cross the line from pointed sarcastic critique to being just plain mean. The posts I had read had seemed to be careful to keep it pointedly sarcastic, though, so I figured I’d stick to a casual readership until I had reason not to. Continue reading

Amazon censors women and queer people

So, I’m sure everyone has heard by now, but Amazon has recently made the decision to remove the sales rankings of so-called “adult” books in order to ensure that they don’t show up in some searches (like the default search) and bestseller lists.

Their rationale? The censoring books primarily written by and for queer people (and, in the case of erotica, some non-queer women as well) was done “[i]n consideration of our entire customer base”:

“In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.”

Just to be clear, the criteria for the “adult” material that they’re using is pretty damn sketchy:

But as an online petition points out the following publications remain on the sales ranking system:

-Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds by Chronicle Books (pictures of over 600 naked women)
–Rosemary Rogers’ Sweet Savage Love” (explicit heterosexual romance);
–Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Wolf and the Dove (explicit heterosexual romance);
–Bertrice Smal’s Skye o’Malley which are all explicit heterosexual romances
–and Alan Moore’s Lost Girls (which is a very explicit sexual graphic novel)

while the following LGBT books have been removed:

–Radclyffe Hill’s classic novel about lesbians in Victorian times, The Well of Loneliness, and which contains not one sentence of sexual description;
–Mark R Probst’s YA novel The Filly about a young man in the wild West discovering that he’s gay (gay romance, no sex);
–Charlie Cochrane’s Lessons in Love (gay romance with no sex);
–The Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay & Lesbian Experience, edited by Louis-George Tin (non-fiction, history and social issues);
–and Homophobia: A History by Bryan Fone (non-fiction, focus on history and the forms prejudice against homosexuality has taken over the years).

There’s already a push to google bomb them by creating the phrase “amazon rank” as a synonym for being censored in regards to queer and/or erotic material (with careful attention to inconsistent logic). It’s made at least one newspaper, a letter writing campaign, and there’s even an online petition.

Here’s the letter I wrote to their customer service:

To whom it may concern,

I am one of the many who was shocked and disappointed by Amazon’s recent decision to remove the sales rankings of certain books in order to keep them from showing up on most searches and bestseller lists. As I am sure many others have said, the criteria for “adult” that the company has chosen to apply is inconsistent and ill-thought-out. Regardless of intention, the result of this decision was to further marginalize already marginalized groups such as women and queer people while leaving the explicit material of privileged groups such as men and heterosexuals largely untouched.

I find this level of lack of foresight and competence in a company unacceptable. For a web-based company, the decision to change even one part of the fundamental structure of its website is something that needs to be undertaken with great caution, thought, and care. In this case, before anything was done those in charge needed to clearly define the criteria for labeling a product “adult”, doing everything possible to ensure that said definition was as internally consistent and free of bias as possible.

By focusing on queer books (regardless of actual explicit content) and erotica (a genre with primarily female authors) while leaving clearly explicit but more normalized versions of “adult” material intact, Amazon has created an image for itself as a company that supports homophobia and sexism. I may be only one person, but I am still part of Amazon’s “entire customer base” and I do not feel that Amazon took my interests into “consideration” at all when the decision was made to make it harder for me to find books on queer theory, DVDs about the queer experience, and depictions of romance and sex written by women for women.

Before this happened I had intended to make a sizable purchase of various books, DVDs, and games from your site, but I cannot in good conscience support your site while this policy is in effect. I hope that this decision will be rescinded quickly with a full public apology given to the authors whose sales you have hurt and the customers who you have inconvenienced, and that any further consideration into the separation of adult material from non-adult material will be undertaken with much more deliberation and care than was taken with the current policy.

Andrea Rubenstein

Amazon’s doing this has, obviously, pissed me off. Even more so because, living in Japan, I don’t have easy access to the kinds of English books and DVDs that I consume on a regular basis and therefore was gearing up to do a major purchase so my dad could bring it to me when he comes to visit. Now I need to take my shopping elsewhere, which will create more hassle for me than working with a company that already has my information on file. But, really, when the decision comes down to hassle versus supporting a company that obviously disdains me and my interests I’ll take the former any day.

For those of you interested in knowing more, here’s a link farm.

Via Tamora Pierce.

All the RE5 discussion needed was a Nice White Gamer

Dear Nice White Gamers,

I am glad that you, unlike the Not Nice Gamers, understand that we don’t live in a post-racial world. It’s nice that you’re able to see the the word “racism” in the same paragraph as “video games” and not launch into the “it’s just a game!”-type knee-jerk reactions that can be summed up as, “”Gamers want games to be taken seriously until they’re taken seriously, and then they don’t want them taken seriously” (hat-tip: Kieron Gillen via Brinstar).

But, Nice White Gamers, you do not deserve the plate of cookies you’re passing around. And, even if you did deserve those cookies, you should not be passing them around. This is because (among other reasons) white people patting other white people on the back for being aware of racism is, in itself, kind of racist.

If a post, written by a Nice White Gamer over a year after the first criticism (made by a POC 1 I might add) was linked in the gaming blogsphere, that offers a shallow interpretation and no links to the more in-depth criticism that has been posted is “the first time I’ve read people actually thoughtfully examine the perception problems of RE5”, you need to stop and think about why it is that you are ignorant of the plethora of writings made by POC (especially when a simple google search of “racism” and “Resident Evil 5” will at least give you a starting point). I’ll give you a hint, it’s something referred to in anti-oppression circles as privilege.

On that subject, it is a Nice Person fallacy that “considerate” conversation is praiseworthy in every situation. Yes, I know we’re taught the whole “you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” line, but “politeness” isn’t a neutral concept. Praising someone who said something bigoted for phrasing it and/or the ensuing discussion “politely” privileges politeness over not saying something bigoted. It puts you on their side instead of the side of the non-privileged individual/group that was targeted by the bigoted remark.

Let me give you a tip, from one Nice White Gamer to another: you aren’t as nice as you think you are. Being one small step above the Not Nice Gamers, who are blatantly racist and/or deny that racism is still a problem, is not praiseworthy; it’s the bare minimum. And, as long as you continue to be satisfied with having only the bare minimum level of awareness, your continued cluelessness regarding oppression and how it operates (and how you, as a white person, benefit from racist systems) will continue to perpetuate harm on POC. In the grand scheme of things, that puts you not on the side of anti-racism, but rather on the same side as the Not Nice Gamers.

For those of you who want to raise the bar and confront your own racism and privilege (in the process hopefully becoming an ally), I’ll give you some advice. Take a breather from posting your thoughts on racism and start doing some reading on the subject. Lurk in forums that regularly have discussions on race, racism, (and for bonus marks, other issues such as gender and sexuality), but don’t participate in those discussions until you have at least a base level understanding of how racism/oppression works and how people (including you) wittingly and unwittingly contribute to it.

Even if you aren’t interested in raising the bar, for the love of little green apples, at least have the decency to keep your thoughts (as they are on something you know very little about) to yourself. If you think a discussion on racism is something you want to post about on your blog, then link what other people (preferably POC) have said on the issue. But don’t act as an authority on the issue (or allow yourself to be praised as one) and don’t act as if your thoughts are new or revolutionary when they’re not (hint: linking other people who have said similar things avoids this misconception).


A Pissed off Anti-oppression Activist Gamer Nice White Lady

1 POC stands for Person/People Of Color; it is the current standard in most anti-oppression movements for referencing anyone who isn’t white. Sometimes, especially in feminist spaces, you will see the term WOC, Woman/Women of Color. Note to Nice White People: know these terms, use these terms.

* My title is a reference to the “What These People Need Is a Honky” trope, which can be summed up as:

White guy flees from his own culture for personal reasons (to set him up as different from those with white privilege). White guy meets natives. Natives educate white guy. White guy learns the way of natives, possibly also converting a native person who was originally doubtful of him, thereby proving white guy’s worthiness. White guy fights for naties. White guy makes dramatic escape while the native guy dies, possibly trying to help the white guy. The movie then ends with a dramatic coda and captions that inform the audience that despite white guy’s triumph, the Situation Remains Dire.

The key to all this is that the entire movie is about the white guy’s personal growth and realization and that people of color serve only to further the white guy’s epiphanies.

I leave it to you, Nice White Gamers, to figure out the connection between that and my open letter.

Responsibility of comedy writers

Although I had never heard of Graham Linehan before, he’s apparently a writer for some fairly popular UK comedies, including one called The IT Crowd.

Now, apparently there was a recent episode of that show that included a sub-plot involving a transwoman named April. The plot was basically that Douglas, the Asshole of the show, goes out on a date with her and during the date he propositions her. She seems reluctant and eventually tells him that she “used to be a man”, to which he says that it doesn’t matter and his offer still stands. Except, the twist is that he misheard her! He thought that she said she was “from Iran”; this leads to a physical fight where she throws the first punch but he ends it by throwing her through a glass window and the last the audience sees of her is her lying motionless in a pile of glass.

All this played up as comedy, mind you.

So, Graham has a blog and on this blog a commenter named Leanne pointed out to him that he isn’t writing in a vacuum and the kind of violence he used as humor has a real life correlation.

The first comment after hers? A guy telling her that she’s “oversensitive”. So far he’s been the only one and no flame wars have been started, so I suppose that’s something.

Graham’s response to her comment was as follows:

Thanks for the letter, Leanne. I’m sorry you didn’t like the show.

I don’t really feel the need to defend it further as it’s a very silly show, and not meant to be taken seriously. But thank you for remaining polite on a matter that obviously means a lot to you.

Ignoring all the other problems with the response, I find his claim that “it’s a very silly show, and not meant to be taken seriously” to be just another cry of “it’s just a television show!” that I’ve debunked in the past. Not only that, but framing it as an issue of being “taken seriously” or not completely misses the point. Just because people aren’t going to look at the show as something 100% true to life, it doesn’t mean that they won’t find truth in the themes.

Graham’s depiction of violence involving a transwoman that resulted from a sexual encounter where the man thought she was a ciswoman draws from real life situations which are prevalent enough that men who commit these violent acts defend themselves using something termed the trans panic defense. It is with this underlying theme that’s rooted in reality that Leanne was speaking to, rather than the “silly” comedy trappings of the final depiction.

In fact, I would go even further and argue that the humor of the scene is dependent on the audience, at least a little bit, sympathizing with Douglas*. While April is upfront about her past (and I do give Graham minor points for not making her “trick” him into having sex under “false pretenses”), it’s significant that she throws the first punch. By initiating the violence, it lessens Douglas’ fault in the assault and one could argue that it even goes so far as to justify said violence***. And, since the violence is played for laughs, the audience doesn’t have to actually think about sad/scary things like how the same kind of violence happens in real life but with tragic consequences.

Ultimately, Graham is right; he doesn’t have to defend his work. He can write whatever he wants to write as long as the networks are buying it. But I find it to be rather intellectually dishonest for him to use “it’s a very silly show, and not meant to be taken seriously” as an excuse to try and weasel out of the responsibility his writing, as part of a fairly popular television show, plays in not only shaping popular culture but also in reinforcing the beliefs of his audience.

* Darren, the commenter who called Leanne “oversensitive”, argued that it was Douglas who was meant to be the butt of the joke**. While this would seem to fit the way that the show treats Douglas’ character in general, it’s hard to agree that April “gave as good as she got and got the better of him in the end” when he threw her through a glass window and that was the end of it. Or am I missing a part where he actually faced some real consequences like jail time for assault (doubtful since she threw the first punch)? What about even some in-show criticism of his actions from the characters we’re supposed to see as sympathetic?

** Darren also argued that we were supposed to see Douglas’ actions/opinions as bigotry, but I don’t buy that as his views are fairly common. One might argue that those opinions are more extreme than that of the average person, but I’m not so sure. In my experience (which has been backed up by the various research I’ve done into trans* issues) most people I’ve talked to about transwomen believe that transwomen are, if not “men”, at least not fully “women”. In the case of the heterosexual men, most of them say that they would not only not date a transwoman, but if they slept with one and found out later that she was trans they would be “disgusted” and more than a few said that they would want to do violence to her. And, mind you, most of the people I have access to, while not anti-oppression activists, are left-leaning and at least try to be conscious about issues of oppression.

*** For evidence to back up my assertion, I cite Andrew’s comment, where he says, “Leeane – if you recall in the episode, April threw the first punch. She started it and so deserved everything she got.”

Highlighting the responsibility of online community leaders

I know I haven’t been around much; my life is busy and I don’t have the time to blog that I used to. Unfortunately, this probably isn’t going to change anytime soon.

Anyway, I’d just like to highlight a post I read today, The Importance of Leadership on Gaming Websites.


The point of all of this is that, despite claims by games bloggers that they have no control over what random people say on the internet, they actually do have a lot of control over the community on their sites, without even getting into moderation: it’s all about tone.

Tone is why Destructoid and Kotaku are sexist cesspools. When you post sexist headlines like “Jade Smells Pretty at London Games Fest“, when you post pictures of booth babes that are completely irrelevant to your post, when you think the height of humor is using the word “pussy” as many times as possible, you are not only engaging in sexist behavior, you are inviting sexist people to your site and making them feel at home, while simultaneously turning away most women and non-sexist men. It is truly the editors that build their site’s communities.

Joystiq generally does not do the above things, so things are marginally more civil there. However, any time a relevant picture of a woman accompanies a post, there are always a slew of sexist comments that go unchecked. I saw this happen to two posts that went up within hours of each other; the first was about a new executive at EA, who is an older woman, and many of the comments were extremely violent and objectifying (one charming example: “I’d hit it… with a crowbar”). The other was about the Lara Croft model, and since she’s young and beautiful the comments were instead about how much they would like to fuck her. It’s true that the posts did not encourage this sort of behavior the way they might at Kotaku, but at the same time, allowing these comments to remain up does–silence is the same as agreement.

For those of you interested in issues such as video games, online communities, and/or moderation, I would highly recommend giving it a read.

No, I don't deserve that cookie

The response that I’ve gotten to this post has been overwhelming (yes, 28 comments on a blog that typically gets 0-5 is overwhelming). Most of it is praise. Heck, I’ve even got an e-mail or two thanking me for writing the post.

If I said I wasn’t happy to get the praise, I’d be lying. But it also makes me uncomfortable, because I feel like I’m getting a cookie for reiterating what feminists with disabilities have been saying forever. I am happy that my post has reached people. I hope that it helps to cause a change for the better in the more mainstream movement. But I was just doing my duty as an ally and calling out others in my group.

What I did wasn’t revolutionary. It wasn’t exceptional. Heck, what I did wasn’t even particularly brave. As an able-bodied person, the risk I was taking was that of being dismissed or called names. Not fun, but also not something I don’t have experience dealing with. It was what every person who believes that people with disabilities deserve equal treatment should do. If anyone deserves praise, it should be all those disability activists out there who write, blog, and otherwise speak out against ableism. They’re the ones who are doing the real work.

And, while we’re on the subject of cookies, guess what group is not on my sidebar? Yup. That would be Feminist blogs that focus on disability activism. I intend to rectify that oversight ASAP, but I need to think of a name for the link category. It needs to be short, so right now I’m thinking, “Disability Activist Feminists”, but if y’all can suggest something shorter that doesn’t sound as awkward I would be much obliged.