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.