Mean What You Say, Say What You Mean

White people. Never the victims of racism.

White people. Never the victims of racism.

Welsh marble trunk. Ink’s irascible tumble wanker moose telegraph ant thug wobble star antelope undulate orc water toucan Muppet salt tortoise wench carbolic cardboard. Introvert web dick bumblebee archer oomph whist wind monkey, tingle whiff horseradish mangled constable.

Did that make any sense to you? Of course not. Here’s what it meant though, in my head. I substituted a different word with a different meaning for each word used:

Words mean things. It’s important that words mean things and that we share an understanding of what they mean so that we can communicate. If we don’t broadly agree on what words mean, then we can’t have a meaningful conversation. This has become a source of infuriating annoyance when trying to hold any sort of meaningful discussion with the Antisocial Injustice Warriors of Twitter and Tumblr.

You see, they have their own meanings of words that bear little or no resemblance to what they actually mean. We’re familiar with this problem when it comes to the term ‘theory’ due to tangles with creationist who use the colloquial meaning whereas we mean the scientific meaning. Still the scientific meaning is sufficiently well known and established that it is a specialised meaning of the word and one acknowledged by dictionaries, encyclopaedias and can be identified by context or by prefixing the word with ‘scientific’.

This is not the case with social justice terminology which is parochial and seemingly an exercise in willful abuse of language, engaging in a fallacy of redefinition.

Examples, just from today, would be redefinitions of racism and sexism (and *ism in general), privilege, patriarchy and – a new one on me – ‘majority’.

*ism

Pick a dictionary, any dictionary and you will find a definition of racism, sexism, ageism etc along these sorts of lines:

Prejudice on the basis of race/sex/age.

Pretty straightforward and this is what the vast and overwhelming majority of people understand an *ism to mean, an irrational prejudice towards a type or group of people.

Not your Social Justice Warrior.

Within gender and race studies *ism has been redefined to mean prejudice plus power. This is clearly absurd once you give the problem a moment’s thought because racism is in great extent found within a powerless white underclass of under and unemployed people who have no institutional power and, in fact, feel threatened, slighted and disempowered by what they see as preferential treatment being given to other races.

Similarly it’s ridiculous to excuse the racism of the Nation of Islam and their crazy racial beliefs or that of the New Black Panther Party (criticised by members of of the original Black Panthers for their racism) on the grounds that they’re black and therefore, somehow ‘can’t be racist’. More recently the racist bile flung around by Suey Park or on the twitter hashtag #creepywhiteguys provides glaring examples of ironic racism and sexism on the part of people who claim to be fighting against it.

We already have a term for the powerful acting on their racism, and that’s ‘institutional racism’. It is utterly unnecessary to redefine ‘racism’ itself, especially when so doing is used to excuse the vile racism flung around by many people who just happen to be members of racial minorities.

The same applies to all these other forms of *ism as well.

Privilege

The actual meaning of privilege that you’ll find in dictionaries and encyclopaedias will be something along these lines:

A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.

Let’s pull out a few of the sections of that to emphasise them: Special, advantage, ‘only to a particular person or group’.

What we have in society is a baseline level of treatment that we expect when it comes to our status as a citizen of that country. You could easily rephrase that as rights. As a British citizen I am entitled to various things such as access to the NHS – free at the point of use, access to a social safety net, the right to a fair trial etc, etc.

Some people have privilege, which puts them above the basic line, some people are underprivileged but at no point can that baseline be considered privileged.

If you don’t make a great deal of money you might be underprivileged. If you make a great deal of money you might be privileged. This can be both direct in terms of social status accorded to the rich, or indirect in terms of what that wealth can get you (better lawyers, bribes, entry to certain schools etc).

Everyone has areas in which they are advantaged and disadvantaged to a certain degree, but this is not necessarily privilege.

As the term is used ‘check your privilege’ or ‘you’re a white male’ this term is used to poison the well and as an ad hominem in order to shut up dissent. It has no place in a discussion where the arguments, not who is making them, are important. Ironically (and there’s a LOT of irony in these discussion) the person using the term may well be trying to establish themselves as an authority by their self-identified minority status and thus the privilege of being the only ones allowed to speak to it.

Patriarchy

What is a patriarchy? According to some we live in one, but when you look to the definition you’ll find something like:

A system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.

Unarguably there are and have been patriarchies but do we, here, in the modern western democracies live in one? I’d say not. Men do not hold all the power. Women are not excluded, they can vote, hold office, make laws and can participate at every level of government and business. That they don’t necessarily do so is another issue that’s hard to disentangle from a huge bunch of other things, so beyond the scope of this.

As such, patriarchy technically retains meaning but where we run into problems is when the term is used.

Does something hurt women? Patriarchy.

Does something hurt men? Somehow, also patriarchy.

Does something hurt both men and women? Again, somehow patriarchy.

In the hands of Social Justice Warriors the word has become meaningless. Society does not favour men in a huge number of regards from military service to medicine, welfare, sentencing and – most contentiously and obviously – family courts and reproductive rights. Yet even where women are favoured by the system this is somehow patriarchy as well. Women win most custody cases? Must be because society only sees women as mothers, patriarchy. Men are sent out by their millions to die in wars? This is somehow a privilege and women being insulated from that, spared the mass murder of industrial warfare is patriarchy, as is men claiming the glorious right to be ground to paste in some Flanders field.

It’s meaningless in the mouths of people who will bend anything to fit it just as conspiracy theorists will bend any and all information to fit their pre-existing paranoia.

Majority

This was a new one on me. Majority as far as I’m concerned, and the dictionaries and encyclopaedias agree with me, means:

The greater number or part of something.

If I eat the majority of the cake, my wife has good reason to be pissed off. If whites are the majority racial demographic in the UK, that means there’s more of them than every other racial designation.

Apparently not.

Now, if a group is a minority but holds the majority of positions of power, they’re not a minority with power, but a ‘social majority’.

So the apartheid governments of South Africa weren’t a powerful minority, they were transformed by linguistic gymnastics into an oppressive majority (social majority). Of course, they were a majority of the government while being a minority and minorities with genuine advantages are able to dominate majorities who lack them. British Imperialism was – in part – based on the fact that small, well trained groups of soldiers with advanced weapons could hold large swathes of less advanced territory (especially backed by trade and collusion with local powers).

To redefine majority to mean minority just ends up confusing the matter and seems to be an ideological attempt to reframe domination by minorities into the preferred narrative of majority domination of minorities.

***

Such misuses of language are, to use another abused word ‘problematic’ and get in the way, repeatedly, of clear communication and the advancement of the, supposed, aims of Social Justice Warriors.

As ever, I’m open to informed and respectful discussion on this and related topics, but not if you’re going to refuse to provide evidence to back you up on grounds of ontology and epistemology and that logic, reason, evidence and the scientific method are somehow biased and sexist.

Media Representation

Idris-Elba-wears-Viking-h-006It is often said that persons of colour are heavily underrepresented in mainstream media.

I am not convinced that this is entirely accurate.

Merely asking that question will be enough to get me thought of as a racist etc just as doubting the dominant narratives about sexism or any other issue. Understand that it is not that I have a racist point of view or that I wish to maintain the status quo but rather that I am just interested in what is true, what the actual state of affairs is and why things might be the way they are.

I set about trying to find out if this was true first.

I chose African Americans to be my case study. They’re a minority but large enough (12.6%) that it would prevent any wild swings from even one person of that category appearing and also because their racial identity is relatively unambiguous.

If all other factors in society were entirely even, if opportunity were the same, we would expect to see something like 12.6% representation of African Americans across all media. If we differ significantly from 12.6% then we can say that something is going on to distort that representation – though we can’t necessarily say what.

I decided to investigate across several forms of media:

  • Musical albums.
  • Musical singles.
  • Literature.
  • Cinema.
  • Television.

I chose to investigate the top ten, most popular instances of each over the year 2013. In the case of albums and singles assessing by the artist (or the proportion of the group) that was African American. In literature I went by author. In cinema and television I went by significant cast (IMDB). I chose the top 10 because the most popular items are the most influential and the most reflective of the cultural zeitgeist.

I counted up the instances of African ancestry in each and worked it out as a percentage against the non-Africans.

  • Musical Albums:  30% representation.
  • Musical Singles: 20% representation.
  • Literature: 0% representation.
  • Cinema: 6.3% representation.
  • Television: 11.6% representation.

Is this perfect? No. You’d have to factor total money, screen time etc in, but I think this can give us a general, rule-of-thumb to look at. I don’t intend this to have been a scientific study, I just wanted to look for myself and get some sort of thumbnail view as to what the situation really was.

What we’re presented with is a fairly complicated picture where African Americans are over-represented in some areas and under-represented in others and these conform more than a little to stereotype. The only complete absence is in literature. Cinema is running at about 50% of where it should be and television is about on par.

Why might this be?

Racism? It might play a part, but clearly African American opportunities exist disproportionately in the music industry so it’s not hurting them there. Why in some of the other areas though? To get to racism we would have to eliminate all other potential factors. Those factors include:

  • Capitalist pursuit of the largest market (big enterprises are risk averse, whites as a demographic are larger and less likely to be in poverty).
  • Educational opportunities (often related to money, but not entirely)
  • Cultural and subcultural aspirations and choices.

You can’t come at these things with an expectation of racism or you’ll see what you’re looking for. Much like the gender pay gap you need accurate data that reflects the genuine situation and you need to look hard to eliminate those other factors.

What do you think? How does this reflect on whitewashing and making established characters more ethnic? In written media can only a writer of the ‘correct’ ethnicity write about someone of a particular culture or colour or not? Is it better to try and get it wrong or to avoid the whole problem anyway? Are these all Catch 22 situations?

Why are Millennials More Racist?

Much has been made of this report into the attitudes of millenials on a wide variety of social issues, and it seems to have been coming up again lately. In particular one singular aspect of the survey has been picked up and that is related to race relations. Perhaps this has come from Obama’s Brother’s Keeper initiative or in reaction to the recent Stand Your Ground issues and their relation to race. Whatever the reason, this 2012 survey and report is being much quoted again.

Overall, 46 percent of Millennials agree that the government pays too much attention to the problems of minorities, with 49 percent who disagree. 48 percent also agree that discrimination against whites is a genuine problem. When you disaggregate by race and count only white Millennials, the picture is much worse.

A solid majority of white Millennials, 56 percent, say that government has paid too much attention to the problems of blacks and other minorities. An even larger majority, 58 percent, say that “discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.”

Screenshot from 2014-03-01 14:09:45

Given that millenials are notably more progressive on pretty much any issue you care to name, this appears to stand out as an anomaly. Why should millennials attitudes on race be regressive compared to everything else? The survey doesn’t try to figure out why and no commentator that I’ve read as of yet really tries to ask why this should be either. Minority commentators look at it with a sense of disbelief and point to various issues that stand in opposition to the – apparent – millennial view but little or no attempt has been made to understand it, just to express outrage.

I have a few ideas on why this might be and I don’t think it is a blip, I think it is a continuation of the progressive theme. Here’s why:

  1. Millennials have, apparently, been brought up to see people as people and not to discriminate on these kinds of bases. Positive discrimination or what appears to be unfair division of funds and assistance offends this sensibility and appears racist. Indeed it may well be.
  2. The economic situation during the Great Depression has lessened or wiped out a lot of the financial/living standards divide between blacks and whites which has previously much more strongly correlated to race for various reasons rooted in history and right wing ‘neo-liberal’ economic policy. The playing field has been greatly levelled and now that more people are at the bottom of the pyramid they’re fighting for scraps and see less reason to target that by race. There’s some legitimacy to this point of view and it is one played up to by the right wing internationally, dividing ‘skivers and strivers’ in the UK, for example, or demonising immigrants.
  3. The public conversations around political and economic issues have become tiresomely radicalised with the tea party on one hand and the counter-culture response to that on the other ‘a pox on both your houses’ seems like a reasonable response and one that may hold out some hope for a more reasonable future.

I just don’t think this is – or will turn out to be – a regressive step.

Atheism Isn’t Awful

There seem to be a string of stories lately about various ‘schisms’ or ‘problems’ within atheism. Part of this is inevitable backlash to the ground that New Atheism has won – and is to be expected. If just not-being religious is enough to upset people then it’s hardly surprising that being critical of religion will elicit an even stronger reaction. This reaction isn’t, of course, only limited to the people that follow a religion but the people who are averse to criticising it because its rude or who, patronisingly, think it’s ‘good stuff for other people’.

This article is symptomatic of the problem. A laundry-list of non-controversies, misunderstandings and manufactured arguments that have amounted to very little in the greater swing of things. It then proceeds to blame entirely the wrong people.

Harris has been a target for some of his comments, mostly because he treats Islam without the kidgloves that have come to be expected and because some people are incapable of separating criticism from Islamophobia and Islamophobia from racism. Not that I’m sure a religion with as many problems as Islam can truly be considered to be a feared irrationally. Fear can be a rational response when something is genuinely terrifying.

Dawkins is blunt and grumpy but that – and his wit – is what makes him so effective. Put anyone’s ideas and statements under the level of scrutiny that he is put under by the tumblrgh crowd and they’ll find something to get upset about. The absolute worst interpretation is always put upon anything he says by those with an axe to grind and it’s rather dishonest.

Dennett’s avoided many of the same issues, largely – I think – by being ill and looking like Father Christmas. His criticisms of religion are no less powerful and forthright, he just doesn’t seem to have grabbed the same attention.

Hitchens is, of course, dead – sadly. He, however, exemplifies the ‘angry prick’ stereotype so repetitiously hammered home in the article. However, being an angry prick is what made Hitchen’s career and what made him such a powerful critic of religion, so quotable and so useful in the debate circuses that normally favour the folksy, nice-seeming creationists and religious apologists.

What atheism means is not difficult. It’s simple absence of belief in god/s. If you want to get into atheist activism we can go a little further, but not much. That would be ‘because there’s no good reason to believe in god, religion should not influence education, politics, health’.

It’s really not that hard to grasp. All the schisms that have come in, mentioned in the article, stem from people trying to hitch various other causes to atheism’s wagon.

Being a Dick: We need people willing to be dicks and others who don’t act like dicks. Dennett and Harris – softer spoken types – got through to people that Dawkins and Hitchens did not and vice versa. It’s a cliché, but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and the kinds of people we often deal with as atheists are not amenable to logic and reason. Engaging them, getting them going, on an emotional level will sometimes reach them in a way that simply being logical and right will not. It can also force someone to defend the indefensible, something that can cause reflection later on or show up hypocrisy to the peanut gallery. This isn’t a problem in atheism, it’s a problem with trying to tie behavioural policing and ‘social-justice’ rhetoric to atheism.

The Soft Left: Criticising Islam is not racism nor bound up in fear. Yes there are right-wing groups using the criticism of the horrors of Islam to stir up hatred but while they’re racist pricks that doesn’t mean criticism of Islam and concern about it are racist or invalid simply because the BNP has ‘poisoned the well’. We’re now in the bizarre position where many soft-left talking heads who claim to be against misogyny, violence and all these other things are giving Islam a free pass and exposing themselves as hypocrites. This isn’t a problem with atheism. It’s a problem with conflating other political issues – such as race – with religion and criticism thereof.

Sexism: While there are almost certainly genuine misogynists in the broad, atheist movement (keep in mind it also contains libertarians, Randroids, diehard Marxists and other oddities as well as people that just don’t believe in god) it doesn’t seem to me that it is a particular problem and – indeed – that it is a much lesser problem than elsewhere. What it does have – not unlike other arenas such as gaming, SF&F etc – is a much higher degree of concern and activism by certain parties within it, making the problem seem like it is more prevalent, present or endemic. Again, all that unites atheists is not believing in god and atheists as a whole tend to be rather skeptical. Expecting them to swallow highly politicised and poorly supported gender theory without question is a bit much to expect and treating any questioning or skeptical rigour as hatred is going to attract scorn.

Atheism just means we don’t believe in god and it means we are free to examine things with a more skeptical eye and one that can look to genuine solutions rather than ones that rely on dubious authority. People like the – much praised in this article – Rebecca Watson are not engaging in that, rather they are placing their own unfounded prejudices and biases upon the pedestal that others have placed religion. She’s the poster child for everything we shouldn’t be and the failure of A+ is a heartening example that there’s still hope.

All these issues are not issues with atheism. They are issues where someone has assumed that just because we both agree that the idea of a god is stupid and has no place in public life that we must therefore agree on whatever pet cause they have and have internally wedded to atheism. Atheism and secularism are one thing, hooking other things to that wagon such as radical feminism, over-extended race politics or whatever else narrows the appeal and causes divisions. If you decry ageism, classism, racism and sexism in one breath, then condemn or ignore someone out of hand for being old, middle class, white or male in the next then you’re an obvious hypocrite and should expect to be treated as such.

We need to re-separate the various causes, not combine them. Atheism is just one kind of activism and as atheists we don’t all have to agree on every point past that, singular one. Follow your other causes on your own time, subject them to the same level of skepticism and reason and don’t expect to set up new sacred cows in the place of the one we just knocked over without a fight.

As to the honey, doesn’t it just bring home how fucking stupid the security precautions have gotten?

The only dick here is the linkbaiting @mjrobbins

Shut Up & Listen When I tell you about ‘Check Your Privilege’.

0Xo8hfvI want you to ‘check your privilege’ about the phrase, ‘check your privilege’.

If someone is arguing with you, you should address their points, their reasoning, what they’re saying. When you tell someone to ‘check your privilege’ you are, essentially, engaging in an ‘ad hominem‘ fallacy, an ‘argument to the person’. For example:

“I don’t think that statement qualifies as sexist.”
“That’s because you’re a man, check your privilege.”

Simply because one is male (or white, or rich, or whatever else) doesn’t render one’s arguments invalid, it doesn’t mean you lack empathy, sympathy or imagination, it doesn’t even mean you haven’t experienced racism, sexism or whatever else yourself.

I’m sure in some ideal world ‘check your privilege’ is meant to mean ‘I say old chap, have you considered that your socioeconomic, racial and other statuses might affect your point of view?’ In practice however it means ‘Shut up you white male oppressor, you don’t know shit’ which is – in and of itself – quite startlingly sexist and racist.

I’m hardly the only person to note this.

Add to this things like ‘mansplaining’ (another horrifically sexist term) and the fact that some people think they can’t be *ist simply because they’re members of a self-identified oppressed group (riddle me this Batman, is the Nation of Islam racist against whites or not?) and its not hard to see why the perceived hypocrisy on display costs feminism and other activists a lot of support from people who should be natural allies – such as myself. The problems between the sceptic/atheist movement and skepchick/Atheismplus provide ample example of the problem here.

If your task is to communicate with people outside echo-chamber activist groups and their unquestioning hangers on then you have to listen to the experience and perception of the people you’re talking to. You also CANNOT presume that simply because a person agrees with you on one topic (say, atheism) that they must agree with you on another topic (feminism).

Questioning and challenging are vital to scientific enquiry and rational thought, challenging your claims about X,Y,Z doesn’t make the person challenging them *ist, it means they’re looking for evidence, testing your ideas to see if they’re robust and accurate. When you write these people off you’re harming yourself and your cause which would be much stronger if it did stand up to scrutiny and came out the other side unscathed.

We have all become very sensitised to sexism. I suffered a huge amount of unwarranted abuse over written works making fun of sexism and over a blog article defending what Neil Gaiman would call ‘icky speech‘. That has hyper-sensitised me to much of the hypocrisy I see in the ‘social justice’ movements, many of whom – to me – seem to have become the very things they hate.

In my experience many of these groups and their members are amongst the most obnoxious, bigoted and horrible human beings it has ever been my misfortune to come across – ironically as blind to their own bigotry as they claim others are to their own privilege.

If you’re a feminist and you’re calling out what you consider to be misogyny or sexism you want to be taken seriously and not dismissed, yet all too often this is exactly what happens if a man calls a woman out on misandry or sexism. Rather than acknowledging that men can suffer from sexism – or whites from racism – or anybody else from another other form of prejudice, this is dismissed, mocked, derided in exactly the same way as would not be considered acceptable the other way around.

This is a missed opportunity. We have a whole generation that is now very aware of unfairness on these sorts of bases but rather than going ‘You know what? You’re right, lets fight all forms of sexism together!’ it instead becomes a fight over who is more oppressed than who.

You don’t need to think the discrimination and prejudice is even or equal[1] to acknowledge that its bad and wrong and worthy of opposition.

Prejudice on the basis of sex/race/class/whatever is wrong, whichever direction it passes. Don’t be a hypocrite about it, it’ll cost you.

***

While I’m here I also want to pass comment on another thing that’s been going on lately.

Between the death of April Jones and ill-informed policy makers knee-jerking and Facebook drawing ire over ‘hate groups‘ along with policy signal shifts in the UK and the US the free internet is once again being chipped away at. I’m not saying that these rape joke or bad taste groups aren’t awful, but they are also legal and there’s nothing to suggest they actually harm anyone. After all, a picture of a person isn’t actually a person, its a picture and shock humour gets its ‘sting’ from being shocking, not being acceptable and beneath comment/reaction.

Of particular irony is the objection that these should be removed being on the basis of offence, often by the same people who were up in arms about images of breastfeeding being censored (also on the grounds of people being offended[2]). Personally, my opinion is that as long as it’s legal and age/membership restricted anything should go.

I am particularly worried about the ‘hate group’ reaction ending up being applied to kink/bdsm groups which given previous overreactions is nigh certain.

[1] – While I consider Watson’s ‘Elevatorgate’ fuss to be ‘a huge fuss about nothing’ I also consider this to be on occasion where Dawkins was wrong. That there are greater evils than lesser ones doesn’t mean the lesser ones aren’t also evil – and worth fighting.

[2] – And over-sensitive algorithms. 

The difference between racism and sexism is…?

Subway_Mugger

Read these and then guess which one is the unchanged – and acceptable one.

My black, adopted son is at University. He came down this weekend with his girlfriend to visit and to bring some stuff down from his Residence Hall before finishing up this year and moving back for the summer. He related this story to me;

He was walking home from his girlfriend’s Residence Hall at about midnight. A pretty fast clip, but just walking. Another guy, white, came down some stairs and started walking in front of him. He was probably 12 feet or so behind him at this point. But realize, he was already on the sidewalk – he turned in front of him.

As they are going along he notices that he speeds up considerably. Eventually pumping up the speed to a jog. Simply because he was a black guy, walking behind him. He felt terrible. He told me he didn’t want to say anything to him to assuage his fear because he might get even more spooked.

He is finishing up a semester in Race Studies – he is one of two blacks in the class. He said this experience bothered him so much that he wants to spearhead a chapter of Blacks Against Mugging at his University next year. It may happen, it may not; but this mom couldn’t be prouder of her son.

When he finished his story, all I really said was, “This is white people’s reality.” I could see how that impacted him even further.

***

My son is at University. He came down this weekend with his girlfriend to visit and to bring some stuff down from his Residence Hall before finishing up this year and moving back for the summer. He related this story to me;

He was walking home from his girlfriend’s Residence Hall at about midnight. A pretty fast clip, but just walking. Another girl came down some stairs and started walking in front of him. He was probably 12 feet or so behind her at this point. But realize, he was already on the sidewalk – she turned in front of him.

As they are going along he notices that she speeds up considerably. Eventually pumping up the speed to a jog. Simply because he was a man, walking behind her. He felt terrible. He told me he didn’t want to say anything to her to assuage her fear because she might get even more afraid.

He is finishing up a semester in Women’s Studies – he is one of two men in the class. He said this experience bothered him so much that he wants to spearhead a chapter of Men Against Violence at his University next year. It may happen, it may not; but this mom couldn’t be prouder of her son.

When he finished his story, all I really said was, “This is our reality.” I could see how that impacted him even further.

Sexual_Assault_Rape_Stalker_generic_Image_722

Would we ever see black men, despite the disproportionate statistics and prison numbers (yes, there are reasons for this including racism and disproportionate poverty), tacitly accepting that people are afraid they’re thieves and muggers? Internalising this as somehow their fault and that they should act passively and show concern for people who are scared of them because they are black? Of course we wouldn’t. That’s an example of prejudice, despite the way some statistics can be spun to rationalise the ‘threat’ that they represent. Quite rightly we object to and reject this kind of stereotyping just as we do racial profiling for terrorism threat assessment.

Change race to gender though and suddenly we’re supposed to tacitly accept that we’re scary and nasty. That simply because we’re male we’re a threat and deserve to be treated as though we’re guilty before we’ve even done anything. This is just as unacceptable and yet unlike the example above men are willing to line up to agree that they should be treated with prejudice, with fear that they somehow deserve it just because of their Y chromosome.

This was a real post, made by an otherwise reasonable human being and supported by people who are otherwise reasonable human beings, including men. It was a public post and I have stripped out names etc so hopefully this isn’t overstepping any marks but it was jaw-droppingly insensitive and prejudiced. Any solution to these problems is not going to be met by simply reversing the direction of prejudice.

Racism, Feminism, Eroticism & Porntellectualism.

HERE‘s a link to a really interesting podcast by We Are Respectable Negroes (WARN) which is a prolonged interview with Nica Noelle. It ranges about a lot of interesting issues about the interface between erotic and mainstream culture and issues of feminism, stereotyping, shaming and race which are all topics that interest me as a writer and a game designer of some small notoriety within my niche.

This blog is about atheism and reason but also about the application of rational thought to contentious subjects. So I think it best fits here.

I have come to know Nica Noelle via my friend and colleague Satine Phoenix who is working on the art for Machinations of the Space Princess. Nica is a porn actress, former stripper and current director who is trying to take porn in a different direction with plots, stories, emotions and integrity. What you might call ‘visual erotica’ as opposed to porn per se. She is “beautiful, charming, devastatingly intelligent” and well worth following on Twitter so long as you can stand the occasional naked selfie along with self-deprecation, dog pictures and intelligent meanderings.

This is going to be a long blog post as there’s lots to talk about from this podcast, which lasts over an hour. So it’s going to be a long read. No apologies, but I’ll try to break it up with the occasional picture and I’ll reference the point on the podcast timeline I’m talking about as I go along. I found the whole thing quite thought provoking and drew parallels to culture-wars in nerd culture, games, the trials and tribulations of erotica writers and so forth. I hope you find it as thought provoking and if you can carve out the time, listen and read along with me:

***

keyhole-742659[4.00] Chauncey brings up the fact that going into interviews and appearances, most of the time anyone who works in the sex industry at any level – pornography or otherwise – is usually facing judgement and stereotyping. Immediately the interviewee is placed on the assumed defensive because of the prurient interest or agenda of the interviewer. Nica’s fascination with the sex industry mirrors my own fascination with it. People have such mixed feelings about it, it has such a powerful effect on people, there are such contradictions and paradoxes in people’s consumption/condemnation/views on it.

The stereotype which they talk about [5:50] is that of the ‘broken toys’, that something must have gone wrong, that someone must be damaged to get engaged in the industry. As Nica points out this may have once been more true – though never universally true – but it’s becoming less true over time. Like everything else – it seems – porn and erotica are going somewhat mainstream and people don’t have to be broken or fucked up to get involved. It is gaining some small amount of acceptance.

I’ve known people involved in the sex industry in some manner or another for getting on for 15 years and yes, a lot of them are damaged and as Nica points out, being damaged in some way allows some people to break boundaries in a way those with more conventional backgrounds may not. In my experience though many get involved as a way of defining and controlling the sexual aspect of themselves that they didn’t have in their past. Commodifying and selling their sexuality brings it back under their control. Agency, as Chauncey puts it. There’s weight to what Nica says as well though, owning your stigma gives you power and identity – something that’s also very true of the nerd/geek culture. This is what you identify as, it becomes you. You are a ‘Star Wars fan’, or ‘A stripper’ or ‘A porn diva’.

[9:50] The idea of a ‘porn intellectual’ seems funny or amusing and I suppose, in a way, it is. We’re used to seeing people approach erotica and pornography from the view of literary or cultural analysis, from a feminist perspective particularly but an actual ‘porn intellectual’ seems somehow comedic. It isn’t and it shouldn’t be. It’s a medium – and a powerful one – that deserves genuine academic study that doesn’t come from axe-grinding or distancing but from a genuine desire to understand, analyse and improve. The argument that ‘it’s just porn’ is the same as ‘its just a game’ or ‘they’re just comics’. One shouldn’t lose sight of the fun aspects or the purpose, but an intellectual examination of any medium can throw up useful ideas and methodologies to improve that form.

masks_by_morgan[10:40] Chauncey talks about his experience with meeting the porn star Sierra. He overheard a conversation she was having about having both a ‘porn me’ and a ‘real me’. This is, perhaps, something that people might not have been able to identify with particularly in the past but now we all have an ‘internet persona’ and a ‘real life persona’ to some extent. Is this distancing oneself from what one does? Not necessarily. Porn is a performance as is writing, painting etc even at a remove. Our performance personalities are part of our work – an important part. Meeting an author, artist or game designer can often be a surreal experience because we form a mental image of that person before we meet them, via their work. The ‘real them’ can be completely at odds. The horror writer might be a quietly-spoken butterball of a person, all affection and gentleness in person, despite the image their work creates. I know that I come across very differently in person.

With a porn star, camgirl or whatever else the experience is reversed. We may be intimately aware of their physicality but the ‘real them’ that we must adjust to is their real personality and mind and that – I think – can be even more jarring, possibly because it takes work to figure someone out and trust for them to let their guard down. Certainly I know that once you get past that shell adult workers are some of the most genuine and bullshit-free people it has ever been my pleasure to know. Perhaps this is because those who survive and thrive there or have the strength to get ‘out’ when they want to have to be resilient and genuine and to ‘own their shit’ to work there in the first place.

The other side is that the construction of an ‘alter-ego’  [12:20] allows one to disassociate one’s ‘true self’ from what you do. That’s an aspect of shame or in better-case-scenarios modesty. Its a reason for pen names in erotica (or even in Science Fiction! Look at Ian M Banks Vs Ian Banks) and for ‘porn names’. I’m not entirely sure that’s healthy though I can understand the desire to shield yourself from the condemnation and judgement of others in any way you can. It can be harsh.

[15:10] It’s interesting to hear Nica talk about how devastating the tube sites and piracy have been to the adult industry and it’s interesting to compare that with how it has impacted other industries. Porn is disposable. People pirate or free-view porn with fewer – if any – moral quandries than they would about anything else. Porn is shameful, using porn is shameful, buying porn is something you have to justify and explain to yourself – and potentially your partner. The porn industries have a public image as being exploitative and ‘evil’ which makes it easier to justify ‘stealing’ from them. A subscription to a porn-site on your account is something that will make you red faced. If you can get your smut hassle free and without having to break anonymity in any way you’re going to take the path of least resistance. So this means porn is particularly hard hit by piracy in a way music, books etc are not.

Nica’s mode for tackling this, consciously or unconsciously is to tap into fandom and, in a way, the distributed patronage model. This chimes with the zeitgeist formed from Kickstarter/IndieGoGo and Amanda Palmer’s TED talk. The quotable Nica here is: “People like to be fans of things” and they do! If you have a strong personality, a strong product, if you do things in a way that stands out in some fashion you will attract fans and the 1,000 True Fan model – while not new any more – still seems to be the way things are going.

Nica puts a lot of effort into engaging with and talking to her fans. She spends a lot of time on Social Media, she reveals her true self, she is almost endlessly nice to people and available. She is a living defiance of so many of the stereotypes about adult workers. She’s doing well on the back of that and on the back of taking a risk in having a product that differs from what else is available by going emotional and romantic, by having story rather than – necessarily – going full on hardcore.

What is frustrating, terribly frustrating to me, is that Nica could go so much further if the tools were available for her to do so. Since crowdfunding took off I’ve been looking at it and thinking that it could be an incredible boon for the adult industry in the wake of the problems it is having with piracy. People do seem to form strong attachments to particular studios, particular porn stars, particular directors in much the same way as they do in the mainstream for particular writers (look at Warren Ellis or Alan Moore for examples from the comics/literary world) and they will go out of their way to support people they care about.

400censorshipUnfortunately for adult work it is often banned from these crowdfunding sites, even IndieGoGo which has an otherwise much more liberal political slant than Kickstarter does. There is – as yet – no platform I’m aware of that provides the necessary crowdfunding tools for adult workers in that it has security, accessibility, credibility and a high enough profile for it to work. Just imagine, though, if the money to make adult films and pay those involved could be raised from the fans, freeing those involved much more to choose who they work with, what they do and to meet the expressed needs and desires of their fans. Exploitation would no longer stick, financing would be in place with no up-front risk and there would be the capacity for Nica and others like her to experiment and push the boundaries more.

Part of the reason this hasn’t happened yet is the desire of these sites to maintain a ‘positive brand image’ but part of it is also the shaming and shunning of sex in our culture. Even with erotica we had this – and campaigned against it at Bannedwriters. Payment services, credit card processing, all of them seem to deem it acceptable to slap on extra surcharges and additional hoops to jump through if you’re doing something ‘naughty’, supposedly on the basis of increased risk to them. Are you more likely to return a sex toy or an adult video? I don’t know. We’d have to study that. Our reticence to argue and expose our peccadilloes allows the companies, meanwhile, to screw adult workers, writers and content providers over.

[26:00] The idea of ‘being yourself with the volume turned up’ resonated and I think that’s true for creators and performers across the spectrum. Interesting that the idea apparently came from wrestling!

[26:30] Nica and Chauncey go into a bit more detail about the different eroticism of The Random Encounter versus the Emotional Context and how each have their own appeal. Nice produces material with emotional context while most other pornographers seem to produce mechanical fucking but, as they both point out even a random encounter has some connection, even if its pure animal lust, which is most often missing from adult material. The nuances that make it work. There’s a fallacy, I think, that men are purely visual/physical and don’t crave intimacy in the way that a woman does and while that main contain a kernel of truth men absolutely do crave intimacy it’s just that acknowledging that is ‘unmanly’ and a ‘sign of weakness’ and – thus – to be avoided. That isn’t to say the purely physical or lusty can’t be great, but it doesn’t meet EVERY need. Many men who hire prostitutes do so as much for female company and conversation as physical relief and the same is often true of women who hire male escorts.

[27:20] This section talks about how porn people are funny. About how they’re hilarious and always joking around. This seems frivolous but I think it’s a hugely important point. We all know about the porn parodies and their (often) silly names which are funny, but not necessarily that sexy. Certainly from my experience in writing ‘adult’ game material it is much easier to sell the idea if you sell it as comedy. Humour is another distancing tactic, like euphemism or persona-creation that somehow makes it more acceptable to talk about sex (or death, or drugs, or cancer or whatever else makes people uncomfortable). This is a shame. I know I was terribly frustrated working on some of the stuff I did for Mongoose because I wanted to examine the material in a more serious vein but there just wasn’t the option. The later work suffered because it ended up confused between ‘Lol’ and ‘Hmm’.

[33:00] Nica and Chauncey start to talk about the impact of pornography for couples but also on teens and kids growing up today where porn is much more accessible and only a Google search away from satisfying your curiosity. I think it’s a bit arse-backwards to say porn creates fetishes and behaviours when it is more about fulfilling people’s desire to see certain things and exaggeration of those already extant desires. It’s hard to convince people they need a product they don’t want, it takes a lot of effort and the only example I can think of, off hand, is the invention of halitosis as a term by Listerine and the promulgation of the paranoia over it that they brought about. In other words, people are turned on by cumshots so they seek pornography that includes it, rather than pornography creating the desire to see cumshots. There are all sorts of complex psychological and evolutionary reasons why such a thing might turn us on despite seeming counter intuitive and for that I’ll refer you to the excellent book A Billion Wicked Thoughts.

[35:00] They touch on the idea of exploitation and the exploitation of women in porn when talking about the hardcore ‘gonzo’ material. This is where I part ways with Nica a little in that I still see such material as being non-exploitative because its fantasy and because everyone involved is paid and consenting and that there are people, men and women, who genuinely enjoy such acts. The lack of connection and meaningful power-exchange makes this material less engaging, interesting and causes it to part ways with such behaviour between consenting adults in real life and that’s where there’s a ‘problem’ with it but really this stuff is scratching a similar itch to BDSM.

I’m glad that Nica goes on to point out the shaming that goes on. That women aren’t supposed to enjoy certain kinds of sex and that this pressure most often comes from other women, telling them that they’re being exploited and used for something that they have agency over. I agree with Nica that such judgement is a way to oppress women and to try and enforce a party line. Certainly for me, growing up, it was a revelatory experience in and of itself that I – as a man – could be desired and pursued rather than the other way around and that a woman might want and desire sex rather than it being some sort of ghastly male imposition. This seems, to me, to be an extension of that.

[37:00] ‘Different strokes for different folks’ is something that needs to be understood across all entertainment genres. Something weird happens in education that you don’t normally see elsewhere, say in food. If someone doesn’t like the taste of coriander or (in my case) courgette then they happily go about their lives pushing it to the side of their plate or avoiding it altogether. When it comes to entertainment though, whether it be porn, games, books, comics, whatever else they seem to want to dictate their personal taste upon others and to justify their dislike beyond ‘this isn’t for me’ by turning it into some moral or social issue.

Historically one found this behaviour on the right-hand side of the political spectrum, generally stemming from religious beliefs. A personal distaste (or shame) would dictate that someone would condemn something on religious or moral grounds. This still goes on but increasingly one sees it from the political left as well. A personal distaste for something will be dressed up in the clothing of feminism, sexuality or other activism in order to justify that personal distaste and to portray the thing being targeted as societally harmful. Whatever side of the political spectrum this comes from it is harmful and shaming and needs to step back and think a little more.

tumblr_mairczhrc01rf10qjo1_500[38:00] Inevitably the discussion gets around to 50 Shades of Grey and how BDSM and erotica has abruptly and suddenly (yet again) popped up into the mainstream. Is 50 Shades giving women ‘permission’ to explore their kinkier or more submissive side? That goes back to the shaming culture that surrounds women who enjoy sex, particularly politically incorrect sex and the necessity of having a means to bypass or avoid the judgement of others. 50 Shades is, of course, awfully written and portrays the BDSM community in an appalling light and a manner in which it has reacted to very badly. This happens to every subculture that gets dragged into the mainstream glare whether it’s punk rock, roleplayers, comic fans or Trekkers and its going to be no different for kinksters. Awful or not, it does raise consciousness and does get people to experiment and explore which – in my opinion – is a net plus. Even if it creates some weird ideas in some people.

[39:00] I self-identify as being sexually dominant (don’t laugh) and briefly flirted with the BDSM scene for a while back in the day, in secret, ashamed of myself and terrified of both my own desires and of being ‘found out’. I still identify that way even if I’m not a ‘practising dom’ in much the same way as Stephen Fry used to identify himself as a celibate homosexual. I still find erotica and pornography along these themes the most intriguing in every sense, including artistry and what Nica says at this point about your sexual proclivity and identity not having to carry over into the rest of your life almost made me applaud the computer.

There are way, way, way too many doms (and dommes) who confuse being sexually dominant with being a jerk or a bully. That domination requires one to be an arsehole. That the power exchange is one-sided. That’s simplistic, stupid and ruins people for the BDSM scene much as it did me. Equally on the other side there are plenty of submissives who think that they have to be meek and useless all the time, to have no spine or desire of their own whatsoever, to defer on everything. There are those subs who forget that there’s no small amount of joy in ‘resistance’ before surrender – for all parties concerned and again, equally, this can be massively off-putting. Reconciling a respect and concern for women with the desire to dominate and control a partner sexually was – and is – incredibly shaming and difficult to process. Especially when people are telling you constantly how monstrous it is to have these desires and that, even as pure fantasy, they are somehow dangerous.

[45:00] Back to 50 Shades again and again about how the writing is awful. Nica and Remittance Girl seriously need to be friends and trade notes as they’re both intellectuals in similar arenas striving to better the craft.

Picture_1[46:00] The discussion gets into race in pornography and honestly this is something that has always really confused me and made my brain itch. I think that’s because I don’t have quite the same cultural cues and history as Americans do. That’s not to say race isn’t a big issue in the UK its just not as big an issue and not as woven into the warp and weft of British society as it is in America. Americans are seriously fucked up about race and this has one of its most open expressions in pornography to a degree that you don’t see elsewhere, perhaps because porn is already seen as problematic and shameful and so racial issues on top of that don’t seem like a big deal.

Part of me sees this issue as just another aspect of taste and fantasy. There are evolutionary reasons for us to be drawn to (and repulsed by) the different and the exotic and there are racial archetypes and cultural trends as well as physical aspects that do tie in – however loosely – to things that attract us. There’s nothing inherently wrong in being attracted to black women, Caucasian women, Hispanic women, Asian women, South Asian women or Arab women (or men) though you may find some of these itches harder to scratch than others, again for cultural reasons.

On the other hand, as Nica points out, often the person is there – at least in the adult film – to be nothing but ‘the black guy’ or ‘the Japanese schoolgirl’ and that is their entire and total character. At the same time I wonder why minority actors and actresses go along with it and that’s where I think it gets even more complicated, especially with African Americans and especially with African American men. The ‘thug’ stereotype seems, to me, to be as much a defensive stereotype, one of pride and masculinity, of threat and power as it is an offensive stereotype. The rapper, the pimp, the gang banger, these are shitty, two-dimensional things but they can be a source of strength. If you scare and threaten someone you have power of some sort over them that you may not, otherwise, have. The other stereotype being the super-hung black, the ‘mule’ (Is twoo is twoo!) which is simultaneously insulting but also affirming of dangerous, powerful masculine agency.

The dynamic in the states is such that many people are threatened by these black stereotypes and cultures and are simultaneously drawn to and repulsed by it. There’s an element of humiliation and despoiling in the interracial pornography, especially when it’s a black man (or men) and a white woman. Its a weird, charged mix and one that porn doesn’t shy away from while in other media this is pretty much unacceptable.

It is still a fantasy though and as Nica talks about there are those actresses who refuse to work with black men in movies, but who date black men in their ‘real lives’. They cannot, then, really be called racist but they know (or at least believe) that such a performance might damage their prospects or change their image with their fans. Equally those who make the films are exploiting a fantasy and a fetish that pre-exists.

Its the kind of problem that really bakes your noodle and needs discussion, discussion which doesn’t happen enough. My visceral reaction is disgust and its definitely ‘problematic’ but at the same time it is still fantasy, at a remove from reality, as much as BDSM fantasies are removed from ‘patriarchy’. To me, I think, after consideration it acts to illuminate just how messed up Americans are about race in the wider culture.

[48:00] As a grumbling old left-anarchist I think that a lot of these problems of white, male, middle class dominance are down to economics rather than race and that makes me realise why, in part, what passes for the American Left is so vitriolic and why it turns to blaming privilege in terms of race/gender etc so much. The argument on socialism versus capitalism is 99% lost in the US. It is not really part of the political conversation. The inability of immigrant and racial minority groups to climb the social ladder to the middle classes and nouveau riche on anything like an equal basis cannot be down to economic failure because freemarket, laissez-faire capitalism and trickle-down economics go virtually unquestioned in the American political conversation. If you work from that assumption then the issue must be down to black indolence (if you’re a conservative) or entrenched racism (if you’re white) and nothing to do with money at all.

From my perspective as a European and a leftist, that is (almost but not entirely) bollocks.

[50:00] Nica has proven her point and increased diversity in pornographic representation not by attacking or trying to eliminate the things she doesn’t like but by creating the things that she does. She has ‘made good art‘.

african-metalheads-in-botswan-pics-3047-1304170176-22[56:00] Chauncey brings up V.M. Johnson and, obliquely, the problems and surprise that racial minorities can encounter in the kink scene. This echoes what one finds in the gaming, science fiction and fantasy scenes where the problem is not necessarily the people who are already part of that tribe but rather those around the atypical person who finds themselves liking, loving, adoring something that is seen as ‘white boy stuff’. Certainly the goth and metal scenes have very few members of racial minorities in them and that’s not so much to do with racism within those scenes but rather the pressures upon minority kids to conform to the community into which they’re born. Owning and identifying with their stigma in a way similar to that Nica described for porn stars.

[57:30] Quoting V Chauncey says – to paraphrase – “That’s the politics of it, but whatever gets you off”. This resonates with my with regard to fan/geek culture, despite being focused on race, in that the assumption is so often that if you like cheesecake art in your fantasy games or comics, if you like to rescue the princess in a computer game that this necessarily says something about your feelings towards women. Merely not condemning such material sufficiently for those who hate it is also grounds for you to be branded a misogynist or whatever else. Sexuality is far more primal and powerful and yet V can make the distinction, even when it comes to so bitter an issue as black slavery, that the one thing is fantasy, the other is reality and the two don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other.

[58:00] Alongside the brain-itch from out and out racial issues in porn there’s also issues that come up with playing into the idea of ‘Americas enemies’. Mexicans crossing the border being caught and sexually used and humiliated or Arab (or Arab) women being the target of gonzo porn in the wake of 9/11 (fascination/revulsion at play again). This is no different to how wrestling brings in a ‘heel’ who is Iraqi – or whatever – when there’s a war on.

[60:00] Nica again reiterates about not judging people for their personal kinks and desires, however dark you might think they are or how harmful you might think they are. As she says, people can be exploring these things in a safe environment. I have known more than one woman who, as a victim of rape, sought out rough sex and rape play as a way to play out, process, deal with and work through their issues after the fact. A way of having a safe harbour where control was there if needed. Where they were reclaiming their own sexual autonomy through exploring these things.

From [64:00] to the end is important and valuable, I think, for challenging people’s stereotypes about adult workers and certainly meshes with my experiences and friendships with people who have worked across the spectrum of adult entertainment.

I found this whole ‘cast interesting, intelligent and it provoked the thoughts I’ve set out above. I think its worth listening to and I think people like Nica are worth supporting. I hope you’ve found it – and my thoughts – the same way. I’m going to end with a link to the brilliant Alyssa Royse talking about sexual shame and how its a load of bullshit.

Formulating *ism

Our point of conflict may be that I don’t accept the addition of ‘power’ to the equation of working out if something is *ist or if someone is prejudiced. For me discrimination is discrimination regardless. I regard the addition of ‘power’ as transparently obvious special pleading.

That is many formulate *ism as:
*ism = power + prejudice based on X (gender, race etc).

This is patently stupid on its face. If one looks at, for example, the prejudices of the poor in terms of race it is their own lack of power that leads to their prejudice. Unemployment, poverty and low prospects turning them against – commonly – immigrants.

So I formulate it as:

*ism = prejudice based on X (gender, race etc).

Much clearer, no special pleading and consistent.

Dognative Cissonance

As is depressingly usual, the internet exploded with nerd-controversy yesterday. One more personal, one more public. Both, however, serve my purpose in the ongoing struggle to examine and make sense of some of these peculiar interactions between radical feminism, geekdom and other strands of activism and ‘social justice’ (scare quotes justified by the hypocrisy of so many who self-label as this).

The more personal issue was an eruptive argument about perception and wording. Several rather contentious comments on twitter went up surrounding a blog post ( http://www.xojane.com/issues/i-am-going-to-dropkick-the-next-dudebro-who-tells-me-coercive-sex-is-consenting-sex ) about coercion in sex. Some of the comments within/around/next to the article and in the responses to it (positive and negative) seemed to me to be blurring the lines between coercion, persuasion and persistence.

This observation earned me an immediate branding as a rape apologist (again, le sigh) and some totally uncompromising ‘NO!’ shouting as well as perpetuation of the myth that the article I wrote earlier this year was rape apologism rather than a polemic against concern-troll, de-facto censorship of certain topics in creative endeavours.

Was I saying coercion is good and fine? No. I was saying that perceptions differ between people and from situation to situation. One person’s coercion may be considered by another person to be persuasion or simply being persistent. Consent is negotiated and any romantic or sexual attraction and courtship is an extended exercise in persuasion to acquire consent. The establishment of the idea that one is attractive, a safe bet, a pleasure to fuck.

Shockingly, but unsurprisingly, it was also said that the only thing that matters is the perception of the person on one side. Predictably, the person who decides they’ve been coerced. The feelings of the other party are entirely irrelevant, just as my feelings about being called a rape apologist – or worse – are irrelevant. Yet reverse the positions and feelings are absolutely essential and any insult cannot be tolerated. The problem with feelings is that they’re inherently subjective.

The second incident of note was Tony Harris (artist on Ex Machina) blowing up in frustration on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/tony.harris.313/posts/4441714834591 ) about cosplay girls. The gist of it is he’s unconvinced that cosplay girls are genuine, that they distract and detract from the purpose of the cons and pull people away from traders and creators. I don’t agree, but I can see where he’s coming from. I follow several cosplayers such as Yayahan because I find their craft amazing and, hey, full disclosure, doesn’t hurt that they’re hot too. Tony blows off some steam and in minutes he’s plastered all across the internet as being a misogynist dick which doesn’t particularly strike me as true.

In both instances what really strikes me is how it mirrors what one sees in other areas of argument, or even in the same area of argument. Hypocrisy is rife.

I’m an atheist and so I argue a lot with the religious. Sometimes you get someone willing to actually debate but more often you encounter people who only seek to proselytise, not to listen or discuss. Quite often simply disagreeing with any point is enough to get you written off as being ‘in the sway of the devil’ or similar. Anything you say can, then, be discounted and ignored no matter what it is while the fanatic blithers away on their points without pausing to back them up.

So it seems to go with these feminist arguments. Disagree on the most minor point of order and you will be instantly branded a misogynist, rape apologist or worse. This happens regardless of what you actually think or say and from that point on anything you do or say can be ignored. This most insidiously makes itself shown in the concept of ‘privilege’ where simply because you are a member of one or more ‘bad’ categories anything you say can be discounted.

Male? White? Well, you’re shit out of luck. Nothing you say can have any weight or point and you’re denied even the basic and fundamental human trait of empathy. The irony – given the people dismissing you are often fighting against similar dismissal of people on the basis of gender, race, etc – seems weirdly lost on people.

The fuss about Tony Harris also has its mirror. The comments he has made about cosplay are mirrored less far away than the arguments above. The kind of things he says in his rant are exactly the same kin of things said by feminists and white knights about booth babes. It’s almost exactly identical. ‘They’re not real nerds’, ‘They’re just there to lure people in’, ‘It’s all about the sex, not the product’, ‘They’re distracting’. Convention goers to events like Pax have even said these sorts of things about cosplayers themselves! This makes their criticism of Harris’ views ironic (again) and hypocritical (again).

Another mirror is in the behaviour of these internet social justice warriors and the behaviour of trolls. Just as trolls share the lulz and don’t stop to consider what they’ve actually done. So it is with internet warriors who – after an engagement – do the same backslapping and lulz-sharing dance that trolls do. At least trolls are honest about what they do and why though. Something that almost makes them better.

The reactions to this aren’t particularly helpful either. The reaction to the echo-chamber views of extreme feminism seems to have been for Men’s Rights Activists to create their OWN echo chambers where they can pursue their own, equally outlandish ideas. Again irony comes in as feminists dismiss MRA concerns in exactly the same way their own concerns have been dismissed in the past by sexists.

Dialogue isn’t possible without the venn diagram circles overlapping but so few people are willing to debate and discuss in good faith and with an open mind that compromise or tolerance seems impossible. Those of us who just want to create without our every thought being second-guessed with the intensity an stupidity of an English class dissecting a poem get caught in the middle.

It appears to be impossible to please anyone since the demands being made of the creators are contradictory. A great example of this is in ‘racefail’ ( http://fanlore.org/wiki/RaceFail_’09 ) where there are simultaneously complaints that there are not enough racial minorities in genre fiction but, at the same time, existing non-minority creators are not allowed to write them because they get it wrong, or it’s insulting, or it’s cultural appropriation.

An example closer to home is the insistence that rape is a huge, widespread and powerful issue but one that you’re absolutely not allowed to explore in fiction despite that. Somehow even writing about how bad it is or using it to reflect the harsh, wicked or evil nature of a society or a person is contributing to ‘rape culture’.

With these contradictions it is literally impossible to please these people and one will always be left open to a rhetorical broadside from some pretentious cunt with a bee up their arse about cause X, Y or Z.

If it doesn’t matter what we do or say? If we creators are not listened to. If our actual feelings and thoughts about topics are ignored in favour of what you THINK we do/say/feel then where is the motivation to listen to these critiques and the baseless lambasting of our work, politics or social views?

Whatever else it is, this kind of bullying definitely falls under ‘coercion’.

We need actual discussion, without the recrimination and with people actually willing to listen – particularly on the self-described ‘social justice’ side – to criticism without seeing it immediately as an attack or support for ‘Bad thing’. They need to deal with the cognitive dissonance that sees people supposedly against *isms being some of the most racist and sexist persons on the internet. Dissonance that lets someone simultaneously be outraged by mention of rape in fiction and at the same time threaten to rape my wife to ‘see how I like it’. The same dissonance that sees them supposedly campaign for women’s rights but spam me with anonymail saying things like ‘It figures a rapist would work with a whore’ or perpetuating lies and misconceptions in a way that would never be accepted the other way around.

Fat chance that such a debate can be had, but this door’s open if anyone wants to take the chance in good faith.