I have been a semi-regular reader of the blog Feminist Gamers since its conception, but after reading this post I don’t think I’m going to be going back there anytime soon. I admire that Mighty Ponygirl wants to foster a stronger bond between feminists (don’t we all?) but I disagree with her chosen methodology.
If we’re being perfectly honest here, I have to admit that I take her words personally because I’m pretty sure that I was one of those “internet feminists” she was chiding. I say this because she and I exchanged words on a post where I said that I was strongly considering dropping the “feminist” label because I feel that a failure to address privilege in all of its forms is fundamentally incompatible with the feminist quest for equality. If you notice, she pretty clearly references the term “retard”, which was also referenced in the ableism discussion.
Mighty Ponygirl’s attitude is actually a pretty good example of what frustrates me about the mainstream feminist movement. Over the past few months, I would say that the Feminist Gamers blog has become the representative feminist gamer blog to the greater gaming culture. As such, MP has the unique power to influence (to a certain extent) mainstream gamers’ opinions of feminists and female gamers in general. As I see it, she is the gamer version of famous internet feminists such as Amanda Marcotte and Jessica Valenti. Like them, her success is owed to various factors such as being intelligent and witty, passionate, knowledgeable about her subject matter, dedicated to regular/semi-regular posting, and — of course — that ever present element of luck.
However, I would also argue that part of what makes her popular is that she’s a more palatable version of a feminist than, say, I am. As much as I would like to believe myself to be a middle-of-the-road type, I know that I get placed firmly in the “hardcore”/”militant” category because of my steadfast insistence that, while focusing on gender equality is a good thing, it’s not good enough if we don’t also acknowledge and incorporate other anti-oppression movements into our theories and actions. Simply put, someone like me is too scary to be the face of feminism.
Sure, there are times when Mighty Ponygirl can be scary (like when she’s ripping a troll a new one), but that’s a kind of scary that gamers can relate to. The way that she’s scary is the way that they’re scary: ready and willing to lob snark at people who earn their ire. In a lot of ways, she fits in with gamer culture. This is, of course, a good thing; she fits in so people like her, when people like her they listen to her, when they listen to her they begin to understand the fundamentals of feminist thought, and when that happens for enough people feminist thought begins to be normalized.
But when it comes down to it, part of why she’s palatable is because her message doesn’t rock the boat too hard. Although she does help familiarize gamers with the fundamentals of feminist critique (thus giving them the tools to better understand misogyny and sexism and how they operate in gamer culture), ultimately she is asking more for the inclusion of a certain group of women into the clubhouse rather than for gamers to understand oppression and how they (wittingly and unwittingly) contribute to it.
Despite all the words about unity and understanding in the second paragraph of her post, the first paragraph is basically saying that those of us who believe in anti-oppression activism aren’t allowed to express our anger/disappointment over mainstream feminism’s seemingly inability to recognize that women come in more combinations than just straight, white, able-bodied, middle- to upper-class (etc etc). According to her, we should just STFU and accept that some people are assholes and some feminists will only see feminism as a fight for gender equality (which somehow doesn’t include groups like women of color or women with disabilities).
But, you know? I can’t do that. I don’t sit down and shut up like a good little girl when some jackass is spewing misogynist shit in my face, and I’m damned well not going to do it when I see someone who’s supposed to be a feminist contributing to the image of feminism being for rich, cissexual, straight white women only. Women of color? Women. Telling them to take race out of the oppression equation and only focus on gender is like telling them to pretend that they are white and that their experiences as women of color are the same as those of white women (hint: they’re not). Transwomen? Women. Are you really going to tell them that they should keep quiet when some asshole feminist says they shouldn’t be allowed in women’s spaces because they’re really men? What about the woman with a mental disability who has to deal with taunts of “retard”? You gonna tell her that when internet feminist #49058 called an ideological opponent a “retard” it had nothing to do with her?
If it were just one or two assholes, then maybe I could follow MP’s advice. But it’s not. It’s Seal Press and Michfest and how it feels like every month there’s another woman of color being trampled on by some well meaning white feminist who can’t bloody get over her damn self and admit that maybe she was acting from a position of privilege. As long as feminism is “just about gender equality” it will be hurting women. I took on the feminist label to help women, not just to further my own equality.
Maybe I’m just not a very good feminist. But, then, isn’t that the problem?