Feminist blog historical record

Liz at badgerbag is looking for information on the history of the feminist blogosphere.

Here’s what she’s looking for:

– When did you start finding feminist blogs?
– What were the first ones you became aware of?
– Which ones did you read, and how did you think of them? How would you describe the character of the blog, its evolution, and the evolution of your thought about it?
– Which feminist blogs are part of your regular, or sporadic, reading now?
– What were the top 10 , or top whatever, or most important, feminist blogs of 2005? What are the most important now?
– If you would like: what is a feminist blog? what makes it feminist?
– What issues are/were important on feminist blogs (and, if you can remember, when were they important)
– What controversies, surges of discussion, did you see begin/continue?
– How have feminist blogging and anti-racist blogging combined, enhanced each other, or not done well enough, in your view?
– How about forums, wikis, mailing lists?

You can answer there, via e-mail (see the original thread), or in the comments here. Liz and I are in touch on the matter, so anything you say will be used to great purpose. Great purpose, I say!

Anyway, please participate even if you consider yourself to be a feminist blogging newbie. The more data we have, the better of a picture we can form of how the blogosphere has grown and changed over the years.

For male gamers and readers, something embarrassing

The backstory: Assassin’s Creed is one of the most anticipated games of the year. When Yahoo! is talking about your game on the front-page, you know the buzz is pretty significant. The producer for this game is Jade Raymond who, like the lead-producer of every other game created in the modern age, gives a good portion of the interviews with the press. That is, if you’re a producer of a game and you’re noticeably articulate, you’re the one talking about it, you don’t tell the advertising executive or the intern to do that. As the game is being released, a comic/drawing surfaces, most infamously on the Something Awful forums depicting Jade performing fellatio on male fanboys (not to be confused with the photoshopped nude photos of Jade that are floating around). This comic is seen and shared by members of the SA forums at which point Richard “Lowtax” Kyanka of SA receives a cease and desist/threat of lawsuit letter from the legal representation of Ubisoft telling them to shut it all down and to let them know everything about where they get the image, who drew it, etc. At this point, the story becomes popular outside of SA and other blogs start picking it up, forming their own opinions (yes, just like me and just like this one). The story appears on digg and with it a rash of the most sexist comments (and some countering the sexist comments) appear.

The fact that someone felt the need to draw a pornographic comic of Jade Raymond is in itself is pretty disturbing. But what’s also mind-numbing is the consequent backlash you read from the blogosphere because Ubisoft dropped the hammer on SA. Reading some of the comments on SA, on digg and you start to see a trend. Most notably, the criticisms of Jade and Ubisoft go something like this:

1. It’s just a drawing. You made it a bigger deal than it was. By you making the lawsuit you just drew more attention to it so now more people know about it.
-Actually, no, I think it was SA who posted it on Digg saying that they were being contacted the attorney from Ubisoft so in fact they brought it to the public. It seems like Ubisoft wanted to keep this matter under wraps but Kyanka wanted to appeal to the public and get sympathy from the digg community (which, sadly enough, he actually seems to be getting). But getting back to the larger point, if someone draws something unbelievably offensive about you, you’re supposed to just ignore it? Brush it under the rug? Isn’t this what we tell women who get sexually harassed at work? “You don’t want to cause a fuss, it’s just going to take forever to fix it anyways to better to just ignore it.” If you ignore it then it implies that they don’t think it’s offensive. Ubisoft is doing what any employer should do when one of their own gets attacked like this: you stick up for your staff. Ubisoft is doing the right thing.

2. She’s just a pretty face who Ubisoft is using to “pimp” the product. She deserves what she’s getting because she’s just a show model for the game.
-Now, I didn’t think anyone would really be this stupid to actually say this publicly but alas, I am proven wrong again.

Quick history lesson. In prehistoric times, pretty cavegirls with cleavage hanging out sold rocks and sticks to horny cavemen. Sex sells. It’s always been that way and will never change. Everyone knows that. So when Ubisoft started pimping Assassin’s Creed, released this week for Xbox360 and PS3, they made pretty girl/producer Jade Raymond the poster child for the game. Whether or not she’s qualified to represent the game, or really had any involvement with its development is besides the point. To the jaded videogame nerd, she’s a set of breasts saying “Buy my game!”

It’s “besides the point”? Really? How is that besides the point? I think it very much is the point. If Ubisoft hired Jade Raymond and sold her as the “producer” and she has no experience or education whatsoever, then of course she’s there as a spokesperson, but Jesus H. Christ, look up her biography, she actually studied this shit as some people have figured out already. How are you going to dismiss the fact that this is what she does for a living? Have you seen one single interview of her talking about the game? There’s an obvious difference between a producer talking about a game and a spokesperson talking about a game and she very obviously is the former.

3. “That a surprise..Jade will act slutty to sell her game but can’t deal with the consequences of that.”
-Now, I haven’t been following this game obsessively since conception to release but since the story of this comic broke out i’ve been watching clips, interviews, reading stories, etc and i’m really struggling to see where this person gets where Jade acts “slutty.” She doesn’t pose for Playboy or Maxim, she doesn’t take “sexy” photographs (I mention these things becase they’re usually seen as indicators of one being “slutty”). I honestly think that his perception of “slutty” is Jade merely being in a stereotypically male-dominated space and simply being a woman, being attractive and having pictures of herself online where she’s smiling and looking happy and actually being confident, intelligent and articulate.

I can’t begin to imagine how something like this has to make a person feel after all the hard work they’ve put into something like this. After all the crap that she’s probably already gotten on the daily as a woman in the video game industry, to have this incredible achievement in her career marked by a select few idiots who decided to try and reduce her to a sex-object. Let’s make no mistake here, the men who do this are uncomfortable at the idea of women in power and women being in spaces where they see it being male-dominated. The men who do shit like this draw comics of women professionals performing oral sex on their “male fanbase” because it’s their literal attempt at inverting the actual reality: a woman producer is at the helm of an innovative game that is getting a lot of buzz and people are buying up in hordes. I don’t think these men can accept the fact that Jade is a success, I really don’t. I don’t think they can accept the fact that she did this without posing in Playboy or pandering to their ideas of what those Game Expos say women should look like and do to sell a product: wear practically nothing, smile, pose for pictures and just look pretty.

3 steps on how to attempt on fixing this mess:
1. If the comic is still around somewhere, delete the image of the comic, delete links to it, delete posts to it.
2. Apologize. To Jade. Whether you created the comic or spread the image or posted it on a forum.
3. Shut up about the game being some advertising ploy with Jade as the sex-tool. You’re going to make judgements about someone’s credibility as a professional when you don’t even know them? You’re going to base everything on her being a woman and you believing that she doesn’t belong in what you see as a “man’s space”? Really?

More on harassment on the internet

So, the Angry Black Woman posts about an experience she had with a troll who, when banned, continued to harass her. The post itself is worth a read, but (oh so predictably) another troll shows up in her comments to start telling her how bad and wrong she was for informing the guy’s company of his actions online.

Now, I’m not here to talk about that, but rather to highlight two of the comments that came out of it because I think that they make very important points about the kind of harassment that occurs on anti-oppression blogs and why it’s important to not lie down and accept it in the name of “free speech” or “tolerance” that shouldn’t be just a footnote of another post.

The first one is by Nora about the difference between a normal troll and the racist, sexist, etc trolls that come to harass us:

Here is the crux of the issue: I just don’t think that initiating arguments with a troll is actually helping the social problems-
Wait, wait, wait. ABW does not go to these people’s blogs and make anti-racism speeches. They come here and start shit. So please remember — she’s not “initiating arguments” by any means.

The thing you need to remember is that this blog does not operate in a vacuum. Look at the links along the right side sometime. ABW is part of a vast and growing network of anti-sexism, anti-racism, anti-other-oppression blog sites, and she’s only the latest in a long line of textual crusaders. There have been many others since the internet was popularized. Quite a few of the pioneering sites have died — enough that we’ve learned a few things about the tactics of racists on the ‘net. For example,
a) Racists are not ordinary trollers, any more than stalkers are ordinary annoyances. Racists aren’t just out to have some fun by pissing people off; harassment is not an end in itself for them. They’re trying to disempower others, using harassment as a weapon. This distinction is important, because it gives them great incentive to persist long past the time when a troll would’ve gotten bored and moved on.
b) Like harassment, persistence is also a racist weapon. Racists do not go away. When they realize they have free reign, they usually take encouragement from the silence. There are never as many of them as they want you to believe, but to make up for their small numbers, they never shut the fuck up.

c) Racists act out of fear. They fear the loss of their power; some fear the loss of their “racial purity”, some just fear change. Regardless, frightened people are irrational people, and irrational people are dangerous. Would you ignore an irrational person who was coming after you over and over again, and getting worse each time? I don’t care how Zen you are; that’s not smart.
d) All this has the side-effect of silencing the non-racists, who get tired/frightened by the ugliness.
And of course, d) is what kills blogs.

Then there’s ABW’s response, which talks about why taking steps to stop harassment is, you know, a good thing not a bad one:

One of the things we learn as children is that actions have consequences. the fewer consequences a child is subjected to in their early years, the more they get the impression that they can do whatever they want. Same works for adults. If a person spends their day being a racist troll and nothing comes of it, they learn that being a racist troll has no consequences and continue doing so. For minor trolls, the mere act of banning them is consequence enough. They go “Oh, no one likes it when I do that. Ah well, I’ll go away.” Hopefully they go away to be a better person, but my instinct says they go away to be a racist troll somewhere else. If so, my hope is that others will ban them and, finally, the consequences will mount up and either change that behavior or drive them into a small hole where they have no one to talk to but other racist assholes.

The bigger the entitlement, the harsher consequences must be. The guy who replied to my banning him with “I’ll just keep trying to harass her until I get to do it again” was obviously in need of harsher consequences. because he believed it was his right to continue being an asshole on my blog. Well, it wasn’t. This is why I took things to another level. not because I enjoy calling people’s workplaces and informing on them, but because otherwise, they won’t get the message that what they are doing is not okay. Consequences are important.
Sometimes the mere threat of consequences is enough to make people realize where they are in the wrong. or, at least, get them to back off. Michael sent me a note very soon after this post went up to say that he would not darken our doorstep again. He tried his own version of consequences by implying that I had threatened to expose his name and daughter’s name and address publicly (which I did not). He wanted me to take this post down. Maybe he was afraid his employers would see it. He was definitely afraid of me going to his HR department, that was clear.
In the end, I didn’t have to do any such thing. I just had to let him know that I meant business. Hopefully this post will serve as a similar deterrent to others. Now that they know the consequences, they won’t be so quick to think “I can just keep on doing what I’m doing.” That’s the problem with Internet trolling. people think they can do it without any consequences. I’m here to say: you can’t.

Not Michael, this may offend your Zen sensibilities and I’m sorry for that. But it’s not as if I’ve actually physically hurt someone here. Also, even MLK and Ghandi brought consequences. they didn’t just stand around and yell that they wanted equal rights or a free India. they *did* something about it. that something was not war, that something was not physically fighting, but that something was NOT just turning the other cheek. It was refusing to meet violence with violence but instead with protecting one’s self and showing the futility of violence.
I could respond to trolls by just being nasty back at them and that would be the equivalent of meeting violence with violence. Instead, I show them the consequences of their actions. for MLK, it was to bring hundreds or thousands of people to the government’s workplace and to show them that injustice would NOT be met with silence and would NOT be patiently endured. That they were prepared to take action 9though that action would not have been violent). I’m doing the same (though not comparing myself to MLK or anything). Harassment will NOT be met with silence. I won’t come to your house and beat you up or anything, but I will use the resources available to me.

If you’re expecting some deep and thoughtful commentary, I’ll have to disappoint. I’m still technically on blog break. But, really, I think the comments above speak for themselves. Harassment is not okay, and cyberstalking — what Micheal was starting to do — is a crime, people. You don’t have the right to systematically harass another human being, whether offline or on. One would think that this would be common sense, but the 84 responses that the original thread has gotten would say otherwise.

So, in summary, stay in school and don’t harass people because there will one day be consequences that you probably won’t like.

Reasearch: Call for Participants

So, I’m taking a class on Iranian Society this semester, and our major assessment item is a small selected-sample study on outsider (ie, people not in Iran) perceptions of Iranian society. Given my postgraduate study plans (whilst being somewhat uncertain at the moment given the state of my university department) involve exploring feminist blogging and community, I thought I’d take the opportunity to actually explore that area to some extent.

To that end, I’d be most appreciative if the feminist bloggers among you would help me out by completing a short survey. The questionnaire has been provided by my lecturers, but if you have any concerns that come up in completing the survey, I’ll be happy to hear about them.

Whilst I don’t really want to get into credential-checking, I’ve agreed with my lecturer that asking those who wish to participate to include a link to their blog is, though imperfect, a good screening mechanism. I know that cuts out regular commenters, but for the sake of simplicity, I want to stick with those who have their own blogs or participate in groupblogs which have a significant focus on feminist issues.

Of course, all identifying information, including links to blogs, will be kept confidential, and whilst the research is for assessment purposes only, I’d be happy to e-mail the final assessment to those participants who are interested, once it’s been submitted.

If you are interested in participating, please e-mail me at ariella.drake@gmail.com with the subject “Iran Study”, including a link to your blog, and I’ll forward a copy of the questionnaire. I’m running on a bit of a timeline, so I’ll need completed questionnaires back by May 14th.

PS. Anyone who feels like passing this along to others who might be interested in participating, I’d be most appreciative.

Harassment, silencing, and gaming communities: follow-up

I just wanted to do a quick follow-up on my Harassment, silencing, and gaming communities, posting some relevant links.

First up is Lake Desire with her thoughts on my piece. My favourite part is where she says this:

I want to be able to speak up in mainstream places without being ignored, having my character attacked, or called names. But I’m not willing to grow a thicker skin, to censor myself, to have to constantly, preemptively watch my back. I’m not asking for special treatment, just to be treated with respect owed to all human beings. Until the mainstream is ready for that, I’ll continue to blog from the margins where I can call some shots.

Next is something not related to gaming, but related to the incident that spawned my post. Apparently my reference to Something Awful was closer to the truth than I knew. Richie over at Criticisms has the scoop on Lowtax’s misogynistic and downright hateful response to the Kathy Sierra incident (warning: reading through that entire thread is downright depressing).

And so as not to end on too much of a downer, I just wanted to highlight a post by m of my grown-up life, i love being a woman, to remind us why it’s so darn important to not let women’s voices be silenced:

and in the end, i am happy to be a woman. i’m happy to know women who are happy being women. i’m happy to know men who really love women. but most of all, i’m happy that there are folks out there with voices, who can teach girls and women of all ages, my little girl included, that it is a beautiful thing to be born without a y chromosome.

Yes, Kotaku, you WERE the reason why we started TIN! And also, Santa is real.

Brian Crecente of Kotaku has tried to take credit for the inception of The IRIS Network. I’m not even joking:

In my caveman like attempts at prodding talented, strong-voiced women into writing more vocally about gaming I have stirred the ire of several feminist gaming writers who recently banded together to launch the IRIS Network a group, which will strive to bring women’s perspectives into the mainstream.

And if you don’t think that’s an obvious enough attempt to steal credit, then please review this exchange in which Crecente uses second-hand information in order to rebut Brinstar for saying that TIN wasn’t a direct response to Crecente’s post.

First, Brinstar says this:

However, Kotaku’s reporting isn’t completely accurate. The creation of the IRIS Network wasn’t in direct response to Crecente’s blogging. From what I understand, it has been in the works for a while now. This just seemed to be the opportune moment for the creator to launch.

To which Crecente responds:

@brinstar: To quote the Guilded Lillies post:
Their resolve to make this happen was fueled in part by a recent post on Kotaku which asked the question – Why aren’t there more female gaming bloggers? – written by editor Brian Crecente.

To which Guilded Lily responds that he was misconstruing what she said. Which, really, isn’t surprising given the amount of lazy journalism on Kotaku. Crecente not only puts GL’s banner up to promote TIN (ignoring the button that is being used elsewhere for that purpose), but then he also quotes someone who wasn’t even one of the founders of the group in order to “prove” that he deserves the credit for the inspiration of the organization. Even after his mistakes were pointed out to him several times he has not taken the time to correct his post.

Mia from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has something to say about that (thanks, Revena!). As do the awesome bloggers at Feminist Gamers.

If you want to know the real story behind how TIN was launched and conceived, go here.

Kotaku Wants Women Bloggers

Well, it’s official, Kotaku blogger Crecente has done his homework and decided that women just don’t blog about video games! This, of course, on the wake of Kotaku link blogging Guilded Lily’s post on covers she wants to see without giving any sort of nod to the meme that inspired it, or the other female video game bloggers who participated. Guilded Lily was not one of the women video game bloggers mentioned, by the way.

Of course, when Kotaku regularly inserts sexist turns of phrase into their posts, especially in ones that have little or nothing to do with gender, I am not exactly at a loss for an explanation as to why they would overlook resources like Women Gamers (the first hit when you google “women gamers”, just so you know) or Killer Betties. But, I mean, it’s us “gamer chicks” who have the “treat me better because I am a girl gamer attitude” according to one Kotaku commenter.

Let me put it another way. When bloggers like Faith, who put up with a lot of sexist shit being flung at them every time they post, say you’ve gone too far, your chances for getting a woman to blog for you, even if you find them with your severely lacking internet searching skills, is probably pretty low.

You want diversity at Kotaku? You want to add a woman to your staff? Then take down your damn “White Boys Only” sign and, at the very least, stop shoving your contempt for women down our throats in any post that even remotely can relate to women.

We are not your “whores”.

We are not your “bitches”.

And we are not going to sit down and kiss your feet for your half-assed attempts at including us.

Who gets to decide when women are oppressed?

This is the first post in the newly created category, Privilege in Action. Posts in this category will be devoted to highlighting and analyzing small bits of privilege that crop up in everyday life. This category is part catharsis and part evidence gathering for the people who say that they can’t see how their group is privileged.

Background: Two women-only mailing lists for wiki editors were advertised on the foundation-l mailing list. As is typical for discussions of gender inequality, the thread exploded.

Today’s Privilege in Action example [emphasis mine]:

Since women have the ability to contribute here the same as men, I really don’t see why this is needed. Surely the scepticism being shown to this idea from many men is proof positive of the fact that no-one is being opressed. How ironic to have women in this day and age proposing their own seperate mailing list from men, since so many feminists fought so hard for gender equality. This looks to me like a step backward.

[From [Foundation-l] Introducing a new mailing list by Corum O’ Fallamhain, message from Tue Dec 5 00:29:23 UTC 2006]

On the surface, what Corum is saying seems supportive of women. He takes for granted that women “have the same ability as men” and because of this he sees a women-only mailing list as working against gender equality.

Now take another look at the bolded part. What’s being assumed there? That men, not women are the appropriate sounding rods for whether or not women experience oppression. According to his argument, men’s opinion of women as having the “same ability as men” is more important than women’s perceived experience in deciding whether or not a mailing list for women to feel safe giving their opinions is needed or not.

Given that he was assuming women to be equal to men, I don’t think anyone would call Corum an anti-feminist or otherwise think that he was actively working against women. But that’s exactly the point.

Privilege isn’t about hating non-privileged groups.

Privilege isn’t about thinking that those non-privileged people are less than you.

Privilege is about not thinking about how your actions and opinions don’t give non-privileged people equal weight to those of privileged groups. Even in cases, like this one, where the issue is one that primarily affects the non-privileged group.

For Those Of You Coming From Destructiod

I do not hate Faith or gamers like Faith. Indeed I have tried to be respectful in my limited dealings with her and I even openly expressed support of her personally when she was being abused by the Kotaku goons for calling a boycott of the site. I disagree with some of her politics, as she obviously disagrees with some of mine. I have never attacked her personally, and if I have attacked the women who subscribe to the politics that I disagree with rather than the politics themselves then I apologize.

For the record, I do not appreciate or agree with the brush she paints my blog with. It’s one thing to disagree with and critique what is put forth here and another to accuse me of “hating” gamers like her, or believing that they represent everything that’s wrong with girl gamers.

I think that female gamers deal with enough hatred as it is without any of us heaping it on each other. I do not, and never will, support hating a woman for the choices that she’s made in life, even if I am critical of those reasons. That includes all female gamers; gamers like Faith, gamers like myself, gamers who don’t care either way about gender issues… it doesn’t matter, none of us deserve to be crapped on for the way we view gaming.

Faith, if you read this, please know that I certainly do not hate you and I do not wish there to be bad blood between us simply because our gaming politics differ.