My Very Complicated – Yet Simple – Stance on Abortion

Many people REGULARLY ask me about my stance on abortion, particularly because I come off as “contradictory.” I don’t blame them, because in a way, my views on abortion are contradictory. I decided to type it out here, because I’m asked so frequently, and this is way more tolerable than repeating myself over and over.

Basically everyone on both sides will end up hating my explanation. That’s ok. I really don’t care.

I am personally very morally opposed to abortion. That’s my personal belief, which I am entitled to. I also happen to be very morally pro-choice.

How the hell can anyone be both?

There are approximately 1.2 million abortions – in the U.S. alone – every year. According to PBS POV, about 135,000 children are adopted each year, many of which are adopted by stepparents and from other countries.

I cannot, in good conscience, say that millions of unwanted children in group homes and centers, without a family or love, sent on their own at 18 with no one to turn to or help them – is more humane. So while I personally am morally opposed to abortion, I’m also morally opposed to abortion not being available.

Fin.

Social Justice and the Socially Unjust Attacks on Joss Whedon

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The word “swastika” has existed in English since 1870, and roughly translates to “well-being.” Both left facing and right facing versions of the symbol have existed in a variety of countries, under a variety of names, for thousands of years. Serving as an important Hindu symbol, the swastika represents God as well as the sun. The swastika was a symbol of eternity in ancient Tibet, marks the site of Buddhist temples on East Asian maps (below), and represents the Sun God in Armenia. Yet, this universal and beautifully diverse symbol became forever tainted when the Nazis and Adolf Hitler got their hands on it. The swastika is now viewed as a symbol of hate and genocide.

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Moving on.

I have never considered myself a feminist. It wasn’t until recently I really considered myself not a feminist either. Feminism was a virtual non-issue to me, something I gave no thought to whatsoever. Thanks, internet, for changing that.

My primary issue with feminism is that its current existence is amorphous at best, and vicious at worst. While the definition of feminism is advocating for women’s rights on the grounds of equality to men, this definition is often warped by a variety of subsections, with different people focusing on different issues and utilizing different methods in order to achieve different goals. Gender feminists are concerned with perceived gender roles, equity feminists with civil and legal equality of the genders. Choice feminists are proponents of women’s agency, anti-choice feminists believe that personal choice is selfish and all women should “choose” based on what is best for the sisterhood. Some are welcoming to male feminists, while some claim that these people cannot exist outside of the role of quiet allies. Many members of one subsection are also often quick to label another “not a true feminist.” I don’t even know what feminism is supposed to be or mean at this point.

Feminism is a swastika.

That being said, feminists, as a whole, are on to something. As a woman in America, I am not equal to any man in this country. I have the freedom to joke about demographic genocide, and will receive more support than if I condemn it. I have the ability to demand exemption from satire, per the “punch up, don’t punch down” extreme left canon, which essentially asserts that only straight white men are able to be joked about in any capacity. I have the ability to be a victim, and feel damn empowered by that. I have the ability to be treated like a fragile child incapable of handling her own emotions, and demand that other people, and even companies, take responsibility for my feelings, interpretations, and insecurities, because doing it myself is just sooooooo hard. And you know what? People will be more worried about my feelings than threats of violence against anyone who doesn’t help me.

I am not equal to any man in this country, because I am not held to the same standard of behaviour as any man in this country. I am unequal because expectations of my actions are lower than that of any man in this country. I am unequal because any action where I am being needlessly cruel will be justified by others as the understandable act of rebellion of an oppressed person against her enslavers. I am unequal because I have been treated unequally, by people who want to try to claim they are advocating for my equality.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Avengers: Age of Ultron

Recently screenwriter, director, and self-proclaimed feminist Joss Whedon was viciously attacked and threatened, as well as being labeled a misogynist, racist, and transphobic without any accompanying examples, resulting in him deleting his twitter account. These claims were made in response to his portrayal of Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Media reports have claimed that Whedon quit twitter as the result of criticism. Apparently threats of real life murder and violence are criticism. Then again, Whedon is a man. We should obviously be more upset about how a fictional female character like Black Widow was portrayed than threats of violence and slander against a real male human being. Because feminism!

Anger over Whedon’s portrayal of Black Widow in Age of Ultron is misplaced for starters, as Natasha Romanoff was an extremely sexual and flirty character in the comics. This is not an intrinsically bad thing. For starters – sex isn’t bad. Sexuality is also not bad. I can’t believe I even have to say this, yet here I am, having to say it. Anger over a director of an adaptation film not changing the entire dynamic of a key character’s personality is not only ridiculous, it also shows both the critic’s lack of exposure to the prior work as well as the inability of the critic to rationally evaluate complex and imperfect characters. In fact, I would go as far as to say that in my opinion Romanoff was given the most attention in character development of any of the characters featured in the film. Sexism!

Aside from Romanoff’s sexuality, there have been additional complaints in regards to Romanoff’s backstory. As was the case in the comics, Romanoff was sterilized as a child by her captors following a black ops project she took part in, and at one point refers to herself as a “monster.” Many critics have complained about Romanoff yearning for that which was taken from her. Because, apparently, humanizing a superhero is a vicious and misogynistic attack on all women everywhere. Critics claim that her character should have had no concern over this, and the fact that “saving the world wasn’t enough for her” was the result of the sexist idea that women are capable of possibly mourning for something that they can never have. Quick, let Wolverine and Gambit know they’re victims of a sexist lady trope.

The final major complaint was in regards to Romanoff being captured and being rescued by the Hulk. Given the current climate of social justice media criticism, the term “damsel in distress” has been thrown carelessly around. Damsel in distress. The shaming of any woman who ever finds herself in a bad situation and needs help. Sorry folks, but the idea that a woman needing help makes her immediately “weak” is more damaging an idea to instill in others than any trope could ever strive to be. Especially when the word “demeaning” accompanies it.

As a man, the brutal social justice fueled harassment of Whedon has been minimized due to his chromosomal patterns. When people believe that the ends justify the means, they will employ any and all means necessary. However, the fact that there is no majority of people who agree on what “true justice” is, even when operating under the same cloak of the same equality movement, the means evolve from a necessary evil to a disgusting character assassination and real life threats.

Sorry to break it to you, but “true justice” can never be achieved by treating someone else unjustly.

Disclosure: Although I have never had a conversation with Joss Whedon, because of my prior involvement in the Gamergate discussion he likely hates me. That’s ok. He doesn’t have to like me for me to defend his right to free speech, creative freedom, and the right to not have his life threatened.

Freddie Gray, The Baltimore Riots, And The Poisonous Media

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What I’m going to say here is going to end up making me unpopular with just about everyone, but that’s okay.

Let’s do some real talk for a second.

I am heavily biased in favor of law enforcement. I have people very close to me who are both cops and amazing people. I’ve seen the legitimate good in what they do. So, whenever anything happens involving a police officer, I typically extend the courtesy of waiting for all of the information before giving my opinion on the topic.

I’m gonna go ahead and not do that today.

I’m not going to do that because, at this moment, I have all the information I need to assert that Freddie Gray should not be dead, and his death was, at the very least, the result of negligence on the part of the officers who took him into custody. At the VERY least.

On the morning of April 12, 2015, after “making eye contact and running,” officers apprehended and arrested 25 year old Freddie Gray, with the reason for the arrest being currently unknown. A video released by bystanders shows Gray crying out in apparent agony, and being limply dragged to a police van, his arms handcuffed behind his back. Bystanders yelled out of concern for what appeared to them to be a broken leg. On the scene, Gray requested medical assistance, as well as his inhaler for asthma. He got neither of these. Once in the van, leg restraints were added. One thing that didn’t happen? Freddie Gray was not secured by a seatbelt – a direct violation of department policy.

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After several blocks, 30 minutes, and two mysterious stops, an ambulance was finally called for Gray. The man from the video, who was clearly screaming, suddenly was unable to speak or move. This is because his larynx was crushed and his spine fractured in three spots. Gray died one week later as a result of his injuries.

“Best” case scenario, his injuries were incurred in transit as the result of not being properly secured in the back of the van. This is negligent homicide. The officers did not follow the procedure of fastening a seatbelt on a man who they have stated was not resisting, and who was both handcuffed and restrained by ankle supports. In the event of a sudden brake or swerve, he would be left unable to shield himself from any sort of impact. They also did not follow their own procedure of providing medical assistance upon request.

“Worst” case scenario, well, you know what that is.

Six involved officers have been suspended pending investigation: Lt. Brian Rice, Sgt. Alicia White, and Officers William Porter, Garrett Miller, Edward Nero, and Caesar Goodson.

 

This is the part where people will probably start to get mad at me.

 

I thought the Michael Brown shooting was justified, given the available information. I feel sad that such a young man is dead. But I also feel it was more his decision than the officer who shot him. I felt it was self defense. This? This was in no way justified. Freddie Gray deserves better than to have his name used alongside Michael Brown’s.

Freddie Gray has not been mentioned as Freddie Gray. Freddie Gray has been associated with every other police involved shooting of a black man, for better or worse. Freddie Gray has been turned into a fraction of a headline. It’s a very scary day when victims stop being individuals, and given individual attention.

To the protestors: Thank You. Something here is very, very wrong. And attention needs to be brought to it.

To the rioters: Fuck You. You are making this about you, and not about what happened to Freddie. What happened was a severe, monumental injustice, and yet everyone is talking about YOU instead of HIM. His name is now tied to your actions forever. You created a legacy for a murdered young man that is now synonymous with “violence,” “arson,” and “looting.” You stealing toilet paper and burning a church senior center to the ground – that’s now Freddie Gray’s legacy. Destroying your neighbor’s homes and putting hundreds of people out of work – that’s now Freddie Gray’s legacy. Parents holding their children in their homes, afraid to get too close to their windows – that’s now Freddie Gray’s legacy. Seriously, shame on you.

But we’re all doing exactly what we’re told to do. What we’re expected to do. We are being intentionally divided by the media.

The media, that tells black men that white cops will shoot them for the sole offense of being black. The media, that tells white people that black men will violently riot any time they are upset by something. The media, that tells all people that they are different, are divided, and must stay that way. The media, who are mostly interested in building paranoia in order to fuel tension and create future ratings.

The media, that has effectively desensitized so many people to everything that is happening through past hype, that few people are actually looking at this case individually, and how seriously fucky it is.

And it’s working. People feel different. People are afraid of each other. People feel divided.

Because when everyday people are fighting each other, they’re distracted from fighting the problem. The law. The media. The government.

The media won’t show the white rioters. They won’t show the peaceful protestors. They won’t show citizens and police officers getting along. They definitely won’t show you these images:

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Please remember: Freddie Gray is not Michael Brown. He is not Trayvon Martin. He is not Obama’s son. He is not Al Sharpton’s pet project of the week. He was Freddie Gray. And he shouldn’t be dead.

Edit: according to police, one of the stops en route from the place of Gray’s arrest was to put the leg restraints on him. The second was to pick up another suspect.

America’s Modern Day Civil War – Freedoms Versus Feelings

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In the United States, the First Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the infringement of certain rights, like practicing one’s chosen religion and speaking openly and freely. It is the definitive promise to citizens of the country not to hinder their right to be themselves. Yet if some were to have their way, the First Amendment would be modified to assert that one person’s right to free speech ends where another’s feelings begin.

Many modern western “progressives” feel that there are only two types of speech: that which is politically correct and that which is hate speech, middle ground be damned. Honest criticism of a particular religion or movement is immediately deemed to be hateful, with the critic branded any of a number of “-ists” or “-phobes.” The voicing of a particular opinion that the moral watchdog brigade view as potentially insensitive grants the speaker that same branding.

Seems crazy, right? So, the big question: how are they so successful?

Intersectional feminism is the concept that varying configurations of oppression exist in relation to a person’s gender, race, sexuality, etc. Therefore, under a single cloak, a variety of societal issues are addressed. On paper, this may sound good. However, this type of movement lumps people together by shared demographic, while demonizing a very specific type of person (white, cis, straight, male) with the black and white assumption of X = Privilege, Y = Oppression, without accounting for class, medical and life experiences, or any other conditions that contribute to an individual’s struggles in life. By combining all aspects of sociological activism, a persons dispute of one facet of the movement serves as disapproval of all aspects. By criticizing feminism, you can now simultaneously be sexist, transphobic, homophobic, and racist. Additionally, it serves as a self-appointed monopoly on equality designed in such a way so that any alternative methods are not good enough.

We have officially entered the age where personal ideology and politics have entered every discussion, and shaming tactics have been utilized to preemptively silence any and all dissenting opinions. Male critics of feminism have been labeled as misogynists before they’ve opened their mouths for their first debate. Female critics of feminism are labeled as conservatives who hate themselves, clinging to traditional values in an attempt to pander to men. Christians who happen to support the free market are homophobic. Anyone who voices discomfort over a transwoman using a ladies restroom or changing room is automatically transphobic.

Thoughts, words, and images- regardless of how clear their message may seem- have and will always be open to interpretation, with context added at the viewer’s sole discretion. Thus, the marriage of any medium with political or social insensitivity has always been a possibility regardless of intent. Today, however, it is less of a possibility and more of a guarantee.

 

Feminism

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Feminism is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. Many vocal detractors of the movement cite the hypocrisy of advocating for equality through segregation. Any mention of issues of inequality that men face are often met with disdain or open mockery. The phrase “Male Tears” is available on a variety of novelty mugs, used with the intention of mocking the concerns and even suffering of men. Any accusation of misandry is met one of two ways: justified as a necessary resource for women to raise up against their patriarchal oppressors, or denial of its existence. The term sexism has widely been redefined by the court of public opinion in order to add the stipulation of power plus prejudice. Because the antiquated expectation of using words as they are defined directly hinders a woman’s ability to discriminate against men without repercussion.

While feminism is a very specific movement, many have grown to view the term as synonymous with “women.” Any who identify as anti-feminist or, god forbid, egalitarian, are immediately branded as anti-women. Any person, male or female, questioning any aspect of feminism’s current Western mission is immediately labeled a misogynist. Additionally any company producing any content, or any figure making any statements, that serve to offend the loudest advocates are met with tantrums, threats of boycotts, and public slander.

National Cleavage Day was started in 2002 by the company Wonderbra, as a means of empowering women and encouraging them to embrace and celebrate their curves. On March 27, 2015, #NationalCleavageDay was used on Twitter to spread images in a fun and lighthearted way. However, when Microsoft’s Lionhead Studios shared an image of a busty barmaid holding foaming mugs of beer in front of her chest from the years old game Fable under the hashtag, the internet erupted. Lionhead was accused of sexism, insensitivity, and encouraging a mindset that women were not welcome in gaming. Somehow.

The tweet was promptly deleted, and an apology issued, stating “Diversity and inclusion are values we uphold here.”

 

Religion

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Antisemitism is defined as the prejudice against, hatred of, or discrimination against Jews. Islamophobia is defined as the prejudice against, hatred of, discrimination against, or irrational fear of Muslims or Islam. Muslims or Islam.

The stark and immediate difference between the two is that antisemitism is considered an act of prejudice against a person or group of people. Islamophobia is is considered an act of prejudice against a person, group of people, OR a religion. Islam is a religion, an idea, and as long as believers in the religion are permitted to practice their faith they are enjoying their rights under the First Amendment. People are protected by the First Amendment, not ideas. Religious believers are protected by the First Amendment, not religions.

Religion has no rights. Those who practice the religion do. Have I said it enough times yet?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born into a Muslim family in Somalia. She was subjected to female genital mutilation at a young age, and fled to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage to a distant cousin, where she was granted asylum and eventually citizenship. Defying all odds, Hirsi Ali was successful in school, and in life. Yet by speaking out against Islam’s promotion of honor killings and female genital mutilation, Ayaan was granted the social justice version of the scarlet letter.

The newest wave of social justice seduces participants with the promise of protection, empowerment, and advocacy of those who have been historically disenfranchised: women, minorities, immigrants, and victims of sexual assault to name a few.

Why, then, was Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Women’s Rights Activist who has long campaigned to raise awareness of violence against women, not invited to the cool kids table and offered support as well? Because Hirsi Ali has been branded Islamophobic, and due to a combination of her criticism of Islam and her recent public criticism of modern Western feminism’s focus on “trivial bullshit,” has received minimal support from those operating under the cloak of “intersectional feminism.”

 

LGBT

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The socially constructed protection of ideas that is extended to Islam and a variety of other religions stops existing whenever the dread word “Christianity” is uttered. The recent implementation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana left many proponents of LGBT causes infuriated. While mostly containing language that addressed employer/employee relations, a gray area loophole was discovered that would allow for the denial of services by a company based on religious purposes. Emotions regarding this bill ran so high that even non-religious cheerleaders of the free market were written off as homophobic bible thumpers.

Sensitivity in words is not expected when addressing those who hold any perceived “privilege” or “power.”  This is typically equated to straight, white, non-trans men and religious conservatives. The promotion of misandry, anti-white, and anti-Christianity speaking has become so commonplace with the growth of internet “activism” that such sentiments carry little surprise anymore. The increasingly common slogan of “punch up, don’t punch down” has been implemented widespread in order to shelter women, minorities, and gay people from awful things like “jokes” and especially “satire.”

While LGBT people in the United States indisputably encounter more inequality at a government level than any other group (marriage equality is jumping out at me), you often hear less about the government sanctioned discrimination and more about manufactured slights fueled by faux outrage. Often, extremists with any sort of agenda, noble or not, will add context to a statement in order to be able to portray it as an attack on a historically oppressed group. It is a method which increases personal relevance, as well as self-victimization.

Obsidian, creators of the game Pillars of Eternity, recently came under fire for the content of one of the graveyard epitaphs in the game. The content was written by one of their backers after contributing a certain amount of money during development. The writing was vague, considering some read the statement as being about a man who got drunk and had an accidental homosexual sexual encounter, and some saw it as the promotion of “transmisogyny” and threatened to boycott the company. While the content was removed, celebration was short lived. The backer created a new epitaph, mocking the outrage the first one caused.

If you haven’t played the game, it also features a tree with the bodies of dead children hanging from its branches – a feature that few people discussed, as they were too busy adding context to a quote in order to make it offensive.

 

Moving On…

 

Whether you agree with Lionhead Studios, or Hirsi Ali, or Obsidian is irrelevant. The issue is whether their right to free speech should be respected. Cultural advancements occur as the result of scrutiny, and scrutiny can not exist without free speech. Yet any issue claimed as the pet project of the “social justice” crowd is not afforded the same opportunity of examination that brought the historical cultural advancements of our country.

Tolerance is a mindset that every individual is capable of. Tolerance comes from a place of understanding. Understanding comes from critical thinking and asking questions. And yet, tolerance of alternate lifestyles and belief systems is being demanded while limiting access to the necessary components of understanding.

In recent months, the politically correct have waged a war of ideas. Proponents of pre-approved sensitive speech employ shaming tactics and assign labels to any person, company, or industry not entirely compliant with the checklist of pre-approved representation and execution of their particular product. Fear of what such irrational branding could mean for their livelihood often leads to self-censorship. Those who don’t comply are left tarnished.

Once upon a time, ideas helped shape a person’s identity. Now, ideas are a person’s identity. The challenge of an idea is seen as a dangerous and violent attack on a person’s character. You can not utter the phrases “men’s rights,” “violent extremists,” or “biological sex” without a mob of the verbally trigger happy ready to tell you why you’re the worst person in the world.

The combination of a one size fits all movement with shaming tactics, manufactured outrage, and the preemptive character assassination of any detractors has made this a terrifyingly successful campaign.

The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech was not enacted to protect opinions that are popular, or easy, or even kind. If only unchallenged and majority-accepted opinions were allowed, then no such protection would be necessary. Freedom of speech is a promise to protect the speech of dissenters from government intervention. No speech is protected from criticism, a sentiment that once encouraged a thriving society of debaters. Ideas are not protected, but a person’s right to have and share them is, and always should be.

America is currently in the throes of a cultural civil war. The war of ideas. The war of freedom versus feelings.  And with companies, industries, and even politicians in fear of the negative branding that automatically accompanies even the slightest dissent, the laissez faire approach is no longer an option.

*This article is riddled with my opinions. Because this is my blog, and I can do that. I welcome any and all debate on the issue, because I feel strong enough about my convictions to be able to handle criticism of them.

How Vanity Fair’s Clickbait Embodies The Spirit of Modern Feminism

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In a recent article, Vanity Fair writer Joanna Robinson criticized Hasbro and Disney for their exclusion of Black Widow merchandise from their Avengers: Age of Ultron lines. Robinson asserted that the lack of Black Widow merchandise provided by these merchants was “part of a larger sexist problem.” The article was later updated to include a statement from Disney Consumer Products, which stated that “Black Widow is a staple in the Marvel Universe with a robust consumer products program. Tied to the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel has over 60 Black Widow SKUS across diverse categories…” Also provided to Vanity Fair were a selection of images of upcoming merchandise.

After sharing this story on Twitter- with my own added criticism- I became engaged in what can only loosely be described as a debate with a gentleman expressing distress over product availability. He expressed concerns over the difficulty he faced when attempting to access Princess Leia toys for his daughter. After I shared several links to merchandise with him, he went on to complain that Leia toys are only available used on ebay. For the record, a brief internet search revealed that Disney, Toys R Us, Kmart, and a wide variety of comic and novelty toy shops carry a selection of new in package Leia figures and merchandise.

It became immediately apparent that this young father, who identifies as a feminist in his Twitter bio, was not entirely sure what it was that he was upset about. No amount of information sharing on my part could possibly matter, because his daughter could not use a Target gift card to buy a Princess Leia doll. In his mind, this one store not carrying a representation of a character that has not appeared in a film in any meaningful capacity since 1983 was indicative of an epidemic of sexism in the United States, and was a severe injustice.

It wasn’t convenient for him to go to a different store, or to buy the toy online. He was in Target (you know, the store where you can also buy throw rugs and televisions) and wasn’t able to access something extremely specific that his daughter wanted. Therefore, sexism is a raging issue in the merchandising of products across the country. All because one store didn’t have one toy.

This reaffirmed what many, myself in particular, already suspected to be true. Western feminism is more concerned with convenience than freedom.

In February 2015, Newsweek published new figures which estimate that female circumcision and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are on the rise in the United States. As all forms of FGM are currently illegal in the United States, these figures are working off a combination of known cases and estimates based on known immigrants and the cultural practice of female circumcision in their country of origin. Ignoring the obvious fact that male circumcision is still legal (that’s a different discussion for a different time) the fact that FGM is in fact illegal means that the procedures are being done in unacceptable environments, increasing the potential for infection and potentially fatal complications.

But no, we should talk about action figures.

Currently in Saudi Arabia, women are prohibited from driving, walking without a male escort, and account for only 13% of the workforce. The Global Gender Gap Report for 2013 ranked Saudi Arabia as 127th out of 136 countries for gender parity.

But tell me more about how Princess Leia action figures aren’t readily available in your local Target store.

The United States has made monumental strides in addressing the inequality of women to men in recent- and not so recent- history, thanks in no small part to the 1963 implementation of the Equal Pay Act. Yet a growing number of women are proclaiming the Unites States is a patriarchal nation, with women only having a “very narrow set of predetermined choices within patriarchy,” and are actually speaking against individual choice and self empowerment in favor of participating in a group determined by little more than the boxes we check off. That feminism is about “understanding what role you play in our collective movements for liberation. It’s reexamining our desires and interests and realizing how those are often shaped by capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy.”

To reiterate that point: self empowerment isn’t enough. You should not make choices based on what you feel is best for you as a person, because that’s just patriarchy making you think you feel that way. Rather, your priority should be contributing to what will benefit others within your shared demographic. You are expected to be unequal by putting the choices of others as a greater motivator than your own personal choices.

 

When inequality works against us, we call it misogyny. When inequality works for us, we call it feminism.

 

We call it empowering.

 

I call it bullshit.

No longer are we discussing an “ends justify the means” movement towards justice and freedom. We are discussing a cult-like colony bent on awarding sameness and shaming all those who are different from us through little more than birth happenstance. A movement looking to destroy “systematic predetermined choices” by implementing its own. A movement which simultaneously states that personal choice is everything while demanding that very personal choice take a backseat to the system of feminism. A movement which ignores the plights of millions of men, women, and children across the globe in order to establish their relevance as a group of empowered infants in the throes of a politically driven temper tantrum.

A movement which has evolved from demanding freedom to demanding convenience.

Nintendo Tries To Raise Awareness of Female Characters, Gets Shat On

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On March 18, 2015 Alexis Kleinman, editor of HuffPost Tech, wrote an article entitled “Nintendo’s ‘Strong Females’ Are Everything That’s Wrong With Video Games.” In the article, Kleinman states that she received a press release from Nintendo which announced the company’s intention to create “Rosie the Riveter-style posters” that would highlight some of their female characters in an effort to celebrate Women’s History Month.

“Paving the way for diverse and interesting female protagonists in video games, Nintendo has picked a few of their popular leading ladies that merit this recognition for the month that honors outstanding women,” the email reads.

The following excerpt in particular garnered criticism from many members of the gaming community:

Here’s the full list of female characters that Nintendo intends on celebrating for Women’s History Month: Tetra from “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD,” Toadette from the Mario series, Bayonetta from “Bayonetta,” Rosalina from the Mario series, Lucina from “Fire Emblem,” Samus Aran from “Metroid” and Bombette from “Paper Mario.” Have you heard of most of these characters? Didn’t think so.

Kleinman then goes on to assert:

By sending out this press release about all of the steps Nintendo is making for women, Nintendo is minimizing the fact that women are not only underrepresented in games but are also sexualized and marginalized in games.

Yesterday my attention was drawn to this particular tweet made by Matt Binder, who according to his twitter bio is an “internet comedian:”

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Using Binder’s specified criteria, I typed the phrase Mainstream Video Game Characters into Google images. The first image at the time was Bayonetta and the fifth was Samus Aran. On the first page at the time, there were two images of Bayonetta and three of Samus before the first image of The Legend of Zelda protagonist Link appeared. At the time of writing this, Samus was the third image.

Binder went on to assert that Samus did not qualify as a “mainstream character” because more people were familiar with the franchise name Metroid than the protagonist’s name. I have yet to locate a study which corroborates this claim.

While most gamers, and many casual game dabblers, will dispute this claim, I would like to address it as though it were true. Assuming none of these characters qualify as “mainstream” to the general public, is that more the fault of the public or of Nintendo? In fact, would Nintendo attempting to highlight its female characters not serve as evidence of their attempt to draw exposure to these characters from a more “mainstream” audience? Why else would they send a press release to a non-gamer like Kleinman? I’m sure they didn’t anticipate honoring existing female characters as an indicator of “everything wrong with video games.”

If the only argument against Nintendo trying to raise awareness of their female characters is the fact that awareness does not already exist (despite three of the characters appearing in Super Smash Bros, one of the top selling games for the Wii U – four if you consider that Samus appears twice – and the fact that multiple publications either nominated or awarded Bayonetta 2 Game of the Year in 2014) then you should also complain that Word of the Day calendars contain words you’ve never heard of before.

Additionally, using a company’s attempt to draw more awareness to preexisting “non-mainstream” female characters to chastise the fact that the company does not have enough “mainstream” female characters seems a bit counterproductive. You are simply asking for more characters for you to ignore the existence of.

Perhaps, if you start appreciating what has been created, more will follow. Or, you know, you could continue to complain about things you aren’t educated about in an effort to spread panic about imaginary gender discrimination. That’s also an option.

Edit: Shit, Shat, yea yea

Trigger Warning: Fuck Jazz Hands

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In a move that has surprised basically no one, feminists in the UK have officially decided they have too many allies. As would be the natural progression, they have turned their sights on the privileged white menfolk.

The National Union of Students (NUS) is an organization representing over 600 member students’ unions at U.K. universities and colleges. Delegates from the unions gathered yesterday and today at the Women’s Students Conference, in part to debate a variety of member submitted motions. The internet was mostly busy laughing over the request NUS made of visitors “Some delegates are requesting that we move to jazz hands rather than clapping as it’s triggering anxiety. Please be mindful!” However, while people were distracted by Chicago memes and Milo Yiannopoulos’ delightful video offering alternatives to clapping, Motion 512: Dear White Gay Men: Stop Appropriating Black Women was passed.

This motion asserts that the “appropriation of Black women by white gay men is prevalent within the LGBT scene and community.This may be manifested in the emulation of the mannerisms, language (particularly AAVE- African American Vernacular English) and phrases that can be attributed to Black women…White gay men are the dominant demographic within the LGBT community, and they benefit from both white privilege and male privilege” as well as blaming a low representation of Black LGBT women delegate attendants on on the “prevalent appropriation by gay white men, which many mean that delegates do not feel comfortable or safe attending conference.”

There are several immediately notable issues with such a motion. The first being that there is an assumed universal behavior of all black women, an assertion which meets the criteria of racism and stereotyping:

The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races

A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing

This motion also reflects stereotyping and racism against gay white men, as there is an assumption as to how members of that demographic should behave in order to be considered culturally appropriate. Which brings me to the second issue with this motion.

This is a policy, that was passed, that targets a very specific demographic. There is no mention of white women, nor of gay black men. This is a policy that was put into place in order to target white gay men, and demand that they act in a specific way not expected of other students. This is, very simply and very indisputably, institutionalized discrimination. Additionally, I suspect it may very well constitute as a civil rights violation under the Equality Act of 2010.

This policing of behavior is the result of the rise of radicalism in feminist culture. White gay men are often identified as holding 2/3 of privilege based on a completely imagined theoretical idea of the holy trilogy of privilege: White, Male, Straight. By this criteria, white gay men are considered “equally oppressed” to straight white women. And let’s be real, we can’t have one of those evil white penis-havers having any sort of leg to stand on as far as being discriminated against. So yea, we’ll accuse them of something so much worse: attacking black women! This isn’t even close to racist or sexist or homophobic, nope!

In addition, Motion 406: Zero-tolerance for prejudice in our Unions and NUS was passed, which resolved to “issue a statement condemning the use of ‘cross-dressing’ as a mode of fancy dress,”  as well as an amendment to the NUS Zero Tolerance Statement policy to “cover all NUS events and conferences; and to encourage Unions to ban clubs and societies from holding events which permit or encourage (cisgender) members to use ‘cross-dressing’ as a mode of fancy dress.” It included a stipulation which granted trans and queer people exemption, stating “drag (in any direction) as an expression or exploration of queer identity is to be encouraged, since it is easily distinguished from pillory of trans people.” I guess I can’t wear my awesome Link hoodie around those parts. You know, because he’s a dude. I fully expect this rule to be equally enforced for both men and women… yea, sure it will.

I hate that I have to say this, really I do. I hate that this is the world we live in, where this is a thing I need to say. Making rules that only apply to a specific demographic is discrimination. It. Is. Wrong. Stop it. Seriously, stop it.

You don’t get to call DIBS on actions, or words, or head movements, or clothing. Your feelings will NEVER trump another person’s rights. And it’s terrifying that you’re not only willing to implement policies which only target specific demographics, but that those policies are being passed.

If you REALLY want equality, start fucking acting like it.

And now, I’m gonna go clap in someone’s face.

The Joke Killers: DC Cancels “Batgirl” Joker Variant Cover

The cancelled "Batgirl" #41 variant cover, illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque.
The cancelled “Batgirl” #41 variant cover, illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque.

Earlier this evening DC Comics announced they would not publish a widely criticized variant cover for Batgirl #41. The cover, which paid homage to the equally criticized comic The Killing Joke, was designed by Rafael Albuquerque and was heavily condemned for supposedly glorifying violence against women, as well as portraying Barbara Gordon/Batgirl in a weak and hopeless state.

The statement from Albuquerque:

My Batgirl variant cover artwork was designed to pay homage to a comic that I really admire, and I know is a favorite of many readers. ‘The Killing Joke’ is part of Batgirl’s canon and artistically, I couldn’t avoid portraying the traumatic relationship between Barbara Gordon and the Joker.

For me, it was just a creepy cover that brought up something from the character’s past that I was able to interpret artistically. But it has become clear, that for others, it touched a very important nerve. I respect these opinions and, despite whether the discussion is right or wrong, no opinion should be discredited.

My intention was never to hurt or upset anyone through my art. For that reason, I have recommended to DC that the variant cover be pulled. I’m incredibly pleased that DC Comics is listening to my concerns and will not be publishing the cover art in June as previously announced.

With all due respect,

Rafa

The statement from DC Comics:

We publish comic books about the greatest heroes in the world, and the most evil villains imaginable. The Joker variant covers for June are in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the Joker.

Regardless if fans like Rafael Albuquerque’s homage to Alan Moore’s THE KILLING JOKE graphic novel from 25 years ago, or find it inconsistent with the current tonality of the Batgirl books – threats of violence and harassment are wrong and have no place in comics or society.

We stand by our creative talent, and per Rafael’s request, DC Comics will not publish the Batgirl variant. – DC Entertainment 

The nature of the referenced threats is not currently known.

In order to discuss the removal it is important to understand the story it was based off as well as the events that occurred after. Released in 1988, The Killing Joke highlighted the darkest side of the Joker that fans had ever seen. Woven with emotional flashbacks which offered fans the first glimpses into the evolution of the character, the story highlights the Joker’s repeated attempts at attempting to drive Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon insane after “One bad day.” The Joker kidnaps Gordon and locks him in an amusement park. Unknown to Gordon, his daughter Barbara – up to this point known to fans as Batgirl – had been kidnapped by the Joker, stripped naked, photographed, and shot. Gordon was forced to view giant images of his daughter in such a state while chained to amusement park rides.

"Batmanthekillingjoke" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Batmanthekillingjoke.jpg#/media/File:Batmanthekillingjoke.jpg
“Batmanthekillingjoke” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Batmanthekillingjoke.jpg#/media/File:Batmanthekillingjoke.jpg

This was a severe, tragic, emotional, and graphic depiction. As a result of the gunshot wound, Barbara Gordon was paralyzed from the waist down. This decision was highly criticized by many, including Gail Simone, with Barbara being dubbed a “plot device.” Is this true? Of course it is. The argument can easily be made that all supporting characters are plot devices. Why is that bad? Either way, after being crippled Batgirl was no more.

But Oracle was.

Regardless of your feelings regarding Batgirl, she was a sidekick. Sorry but she was. She was equal to Robin, a B level hero at best. Dick Grayson was a joke until he dropped Robin and went #FullNightwing. Comparing her weakness to any perceived (wrongly) lack of weakness of Batman is silly, as they were not equal. Barbara came back to us in Suicide Squad #23 with an eidetic memory and extensive computer and hacking skills under the new name Oracle. For the very first time, she was an intellectual equal to Batman. Barbara evolved from a weak and helpless victim to a powerhouse character by shedding her sidekick identity and evolving into a different caliber of hero. Considering most great superheroes are born of tragedy, I see no reason why Barbara should be exempt from this simply because she is a woman.

The decision to depict Barbara in this drawing, in this way, was brilliant. And there was a tragically missed opportunity. Yes, she is weak. Yes, she is helpless. Yes, she is human. We are seeing her at her absolute worst. And yet, we know what she became as a direct result of this instance. She became more than a shadow. She became GREAT. You can’t rise to greatness when you’re already high. This image was not a depiction of helplessness. It was a depiction of hope. So thanks, detractors, for killing that. Slow. Clap.

Much in the way domestic violence foundations and helplines use extreme and often graphic imagery to encourage people to seek help, the artist majestically captured the same emotion – and the same hope – in his depiction, if anyone had taken the time to actually think about it. Comics aren’t just children’s stories with cute little pictures. They capture depth in their stories, build characters you care about. Had she not been crippled by the Joker, Barbara Gordon would be just another sidekick throwaway character. Instead, she was a freaking hero. Show some respect.

Coming Clean

Now that I am no longer involved in the discussion of Gamergate, I feel as though I can finally come clean about my true motivations for joining the discussion in the first place. I have often been asked the question about my initial draw to GG, and games in general, and while I have always answered truthfully, it was an incomplete truth. This will be my final time mentioning Gamergate in any fashion.

I was very sick when I was a teenager, originally diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), Fibromyalgia, and Anemia. I later learned that I actually have Lupus. That did not, however, change the fact that using the medication that was prescribed almost killed me. That I was homeschooled throughout most of highschool due to my inability to function. That I found solace, and true friendship, through gaming. That those friendships most likely saved my life.

While I’m fairly certain those experiences alone would have propelled me into discussion of Gamergate, there is a very big factor that I have omitted until recently, and which was my true primary motivation.

In August of 2014, a friend on Twitter drew my attention to several articles that had been posted, later dubbed the “Gamers are Dead” articles. The first I read was by Gamasutra writer Leigh Alexander. In this article, Ms. Alexander described “gamers” in the following way:

“They don’t know how to dress or behave….. ‘Games culture’ is a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works that they can concoct online ‘wars’ about social justice or ‘game journalism ethics……”

She used an entire article to demonize a certain, and very specific, type of person. A young man, who isn’t socially tuned into her idea of ‘acceptable’ social behavior. Who doesn’t know the right way to behave, or engage, or dress, or shop, or live. Who cares about things she does not.

Leigh Alexander was describing a male version of my 3 year old daughter.

My little girl was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Global Developmental Delay days after her second birthday. We were blessed enough to receive an iPad grant through a local foundation, which opened up a huge world to her. She began using PECS (picture communication) to request time with her iPad. She then began using it to request other things. Her first word was “iPad,” and she had an inexplicable fascination with Fruit Ninja. I had always been the sort of parent to limit television and electronics to certain times and amounts. That all went out the window with her.

Went out the window because the only reason I ever heard my baby girl’s voice was because of a game.

At the age of 3, she can now identify every letter in the alphabet out of order, upper and lowercase. She can count to 30, and backwards from 20, without a single error. She can spell words. She can identify every color and shape. Yet, she can not say “no” if she doesn’t want something. She can not express when she DOES want something. She can not socialize with other children, or with adults. She will fall into a sensory meltdown and can not tell us how to help ease her struggles.

She does not know the ‘right’ way to behave, or engage, or dress. She is the person Leigh Alexander described with blatant and unapologetic contempt.

I discussed Gamergate because I cared about ethics. I discussed Gamergate because I cared about censorship. I discussed Gamergate because I cared about ideological manipulation. But, I started discussing Gamergate because I’m a mother. A mother who’s child was being misunderstood. A mother who’s child was being attacked. A mother who saw a woman – a privileged, spoiled woman – talking about things she’s never lived and could never understand. A mother who watched this woman vilify all of the things I love most about my child – her ability to focus, to understand, to slow down, and most importantly, to be, and love, herself. And that pissed me off.

My motivation, my first, primary motivation, for joining the discussion was selfish. And I don’t apologize for that.

We are all people. We all have our own motivations. We are all human beings, with feelings. And we all deserve to be treated with some goddamn dignity.

IGDA Puerto Rico Closes….. Too Suddenly

PR

Jump Back 2 Months….

On November 21, 2014, it was discovered that the International Game Developers Association had promoted the use of a “blocklist,” which automatically blocks users – and followers of users – of the Gamergate hashtag in their Online Harassment Resource guide. The block list was described by the IGDA as “A Twitter tool to block some of the worst offenders in the recent wave of harassment” under the category Mental Wellness and Self-Care. The blocklist, created by Randi Harper, professionally and maturely welcomed potential users with the following description:

“Takes a list of the supposed ringleaders of GG, looks at their follower lists. Generates a list of sheeple following more than one account, as well as a list of your followers that might be questionable.

This does not rank users. It doesn’t look at bios, it doesn’t look at hashtags. But GamerGate appears to be completely useless at figuring out github when it’s not just a wiki explaining how to be shitheads, so they’ll probably never read this README and figure that part out.”

 

While many mocked the fact that KFC made the list, this action personally affected one of the IGDA’s own employees.

Roberto Rosario, now former chairman of IGDA Puerto Rico, was among the names of ordinary people deemed one of the “worst offenders” of harassment on the internet.

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A brief Twitter spat between Rosario and the list creator ensued.

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The “personal attack” in question was Rosario’s criticism of the algorithm used for the blockbot


5 days later, Roberto was forced into silence on the matter, when his personal information was leaked, including photos of his family, and a veiled threat made against them.

RobertoTweetThreatRobertoTweetRemove

Since this day, Rosario has declined to comment on Gamergate or the blockbot.

Jump Forward 2 Months….

Yesterday, PressFartToContinue, an outspoken supporter of Gamergate (and, full disclosure, close personal friend of mine) shared this story of the Puerto Rico branch of IGDA permanently closing. In his post, PFTC shared this letter:

“A lot of us here in Puerto Rico are ashamed at how some people have behaved in regards of the GamerGate situation. We members of IGDA Puerto Rico just got this message out of the blue.”

” Yours sincerely on behalf of all members of the board of the IGDA chapter in Puerto Rico . As you know, after a great effort last year and a half ago , the first professional IGDA chapter opened in Puerto Rico . Has long been the effort on the way to professionalize our field through this chapter, and along the way we also learned more about the IGDA , you need our community and ourselves . We understand that our job is to work for the collective good , the difference in the industry and promote the growth of professional designing and creating video games on the island. In our lessons we have learned that we lack the structure required to achieve this agenda. The needs of our emerging industry are as unique island protocols of an international chapter unfortunately not go far enough to make the goals. We recognize that there is much to learn to responsibly handle these needs again. For this reason we have decided , unanimously , to close the chapter of Puerto Rico . Since this decision was communicated to the central board of the IGDA in the United States and administrative processes are conducting closing. We greatly appreciate the support and hope to have it in future projects.”

In addition, PFTC wrote:

“There is another communication from IGDA Puerto Rico that I think merits your attention, it relates how two members of IGDA Puerto Rico board colluded with Kate Edwards to remove Roberto as chairman. The first, Ashley Alicea, resigned when Roberto criticized Geordie Tait. Jeb Alvarado resigned when Roberto criticize the Blacklist of Randi Harper.”

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Shortly after posting, PFTC discovered that Facebook and Twitter accounts for IGDA Puerto Rico were closed.

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The message, to me, seems clear. Kate Edwards, Executive Director of the IGDA does not like Gamergate.

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Roberto was brave enough to use his voice. He spoke up, for what he saw as an injustice. As for the result?

He can not comment.

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******************DISCLOSURES******************

*As stated in the article, I am friends with PressFarttoContinue.

*While I never really interacted with Roberto Rosario, I really, really liked the guy.

*I’m a little drunk, and a lottle angry, while writing this.

*Lottle isn’t a word.