Wednesday, July 4, 2012

[Weekly Words on Women] You Don't Get To

There have been a ton of comments, flagraising and posts going on around the net about feminine models and whether they marginalize women, are sexist and/or misogynistic. Most of them have been in response to my pal, who is a knucklehead extraordinaire.

What I found hardest to take was that all of these articles were written by men.  A lot of them have been "in the works" for a long time now. That sounds great until you notice the impetus for actually putting their thoughts out there is almost a 'knee-jerk' response to a post written by my friend. They responded because they were affronted by something another man wrote. 

The level of annoyed, perturbed, frustrated and just generally angsty I had over this turn of events was pretty high.

"Oh, that's sexist." "That's oppressing women." "I've been thinking about this topic for a long time and I have a lot to say about it."

for real ? -_-

You do not get to decide what is and isn't sexist.  You don't get to determine if something is "hateful to women" (because that is what misogynistic MEANS) or whether things are oppressive. You just DON'T.

You know why? Because you're NOT A WOMAN.

Many of these articles are written by guys that have "great intentions". They want to show that they are not primitive screwheads by demonstrating their outrage. Some of these conversations went into highly involved intellectual discussions using sociology and psychology as basis for their arguments.  The men had to "DO SOMETHING". They feel genuinely affronted ON BEHALF OF WOMEN. Well you know, it's nice that you are considering "us"; and it's about time some of you learned to think past your own noses. 

The outrage, the angst, the almost temper tantrum level wringing of hands; it's just as bad as the shit you are complaining about.

The paternalistic attitudes and the idea that women can't (or won't) speak up for themselves is so blindingly enraging I deliberately have not responded directly to any of the posts or articles in question. Somehow, the pervasive notion that women need someone to speak for them has gotten into a whole bunch of minds, and it's just dumb.

I have very strong traits that are traditionally viewed as male. I am exceptionally visual. (I love porn and won't apologize for it.) I have a strong level of desire. I am not afraid to speak my mind, and I don't care if I "upset people". These are just SOME of why no one can speak for me.

I am perfectly capable of talking about things that upset or offend me. I've been pretty good at living up to my name, and I've had some conversations here, here, here and here about gender, gaming and how they interact. I've stated very plainly that for me, "offensive" equals "that which promotes disrespect and/or hate of others". 

Here's where we get to the gritty stuff. This is my personal opinion and experience. I don't get to talk for other women (or men) any more than I want people talking for me. There was an interesting and somewhat meaningful discussion about power in one of the posts that got me all riled up, and the long and short of it was that men have power and so it is up to them to stop things that are wrong. Well, I agree to some extent; and disagree loudly on other parts of the argument.

Men DO have positions of power; especially in the gaming industry. Something I hope to address at a later time is the inequity of women in charge and/or putting on the show in our gamer culture. However, I don't think men strictly "have power"  per se. I think it's more complicated than just "the guys are in charge" and that's all there is to it. I think that as the number of women (or ANY minority whatsoever) in our hobby increases, the dynamic changes and everyone feels it differently.

I've seen a large upswing of women involved in gaming and gamer culture over the past few years, and it's just now that the way the dynamic feels has started to be noticed by more than a few people. That noticeable shift has made a certain number of guys self-aware. The self-awareness has led to some embarrassment that they were associated with "that stuff" and/or "those guys", and a lot of these conversations have been a way to distance those self-aware guys from the messiness of how women are viewed and treated; at least in their opinion and perspective.

Somehow these self-aware guys decided they had to change things, or protest, or be otherwise involved in the tearing down of the established mentality of "how things go" in regards to women.

It's not up to MEN to decide (or not) to fix "how things go" by acting on behalf of women. It's not up to MEN to decide that T&A is "bad for women" or "degrades women". Those decisions, made FOR WOMEN--- BY MEN-- are inherently sexist. The only way to stop sexism is to stop acting in ways that are sexist.

By engaging in "behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex" (definition of sexist); just perpetrates and perpetuates sexist behaviors, attitudes and conditions.

Yeah. That violent outcry about sexy models? FUCKING MISSED THE POINT.

And my buddy? The one that started this recent round of "discussion" (quietly ignoring the ladies that chimed in, btw)? He was guilty of CHAUVINISM. (Please look that one up. It doesn't mean what you think it does.)

He is excessively patriotic to the Nation of Heterosexual Bronx Men. He is unduly attached to a group or place where he has belonged. He won't deny it, either. He's fiercely proud to belong to this clan of mostly minority, working class (or lower), heterosexual MEN from the Bronx. These men are also born and bred into a belief, an attitude, a set of behaviors that lives and breathes macho. Their very existence revolves around being male; their identity is about having dicks (and using them via sex with women).

Of course he likes to look at women, renderings of women, and even fantastic (again, look it up) depictions of the female form. It's part of his nature and upbringing.

As his friend, I have found his fascination with the female form pretty normal. As a woman, his ATTITUDE about women is usually pretty normal, too. It's when he starts talking about MEN that things slide to the left a little.

As I said in my post "The Skin Trade",  the art is not the problem. The problem is invariably how people treat other people. Specifically when talking about this topic, how people treat women.

If women are viewed  and treated as inferior, or incapable, or simply tools to use as pawns for power; this is sexist and I won't put up with it. If by their mere existence, women and their natures are used as insults; it's sexist and I won't put up with it.

I've had many talks with my friend about using language towards men that insults or degrades them by equating them with women. I've told him time and time again that it is "not cool". Part of his upbringing does implicate that the only way to insult a macho from the 'hood is to bring him down to the Nation of Others (women). That doesn't make it right, and I continue to "nag" him about it.

I've often asked my readers not to be "that guy". That goes a lot further than asking you not to treat ME badly; it goes to the heart of the matter. It asks people not to treat ANYONE badly. Treating people like people means going further than just thinking "shiny" thoughts. It means acting in ways that don't hurt others.

Don't be that guy that thinks he knows what's best for me, or thinks I'm incapable.

I'm perfectly happy to tell you when something bothers me. Like now.


  1. Well, if you are talking about miniatures, you're mostly right. (Some exceptions can be found in PP's Warmachine line, just in case you're curious...=) )

    But if we look wider and examine things like art in RPGS, examples of "normal men" become a lot more prevalent. I've seen quite a few pieces that feature scrawny young men, heavier guys, older dudes, and even some fairly unpleasant looking males.

    Thanks for stopping in!

  2. I though I heard somewhere that he's gonna be a daddy. Maybe he'll have a little girl who will kick his butt and change his world view a bit. For most guys (me included) our daughter have us wrapped around their little fingers;)

  3. Really good post, Lo.'

    I never try to tell the women in my life anything, for the record.
    I wanna live, and be able to walk and breathe simultaneously, thanks.

    I was a surprised beyond belief at the reaction my 'Sexy Models' post received. Besides catching me off guard, the debate was, simply put, not something I 'felt.'
    I just...couldn't get into it, because I really feel there are bigger fish to fry, and I LIKE scantily clad models. Granted, my hobby dollars will get spent elsewhere (I'm pretty broke alla the time, and I hafta buy stuffs I can USE, after all).
    But, hey- they're fun to look at.

    I did my best to engage everyone who commented. Did I miss someone? Ignore them?
    If I was dismissive towards anyone who commented, I'm sorry, but I can't PRETEND to get offended by something I'm just not personally offended by. Nor can I relate to the reasoning of those that are.
    With all of the dumb in this world, getting all 'up in arms' about scantily clad models that are plainly silly is beyond me.

    1. You didn't. The rest of the conversation pretended Hark and I were not there.

  4. Interesting read Lo, and much of what you say I agree with to an extent. I said I felt really uncomfortable bringint the subject up as a male. However, when women have brought it up, like Chick Hammer did I'm sorry many people have dismissed her as a B word or a feminazi. So I have a platform and quite frankly I think it was wrong of me to hold off posting my thoughts sooner. But I hoped that a discourse would eventually be started by women and they'd get to frame the debate. I still hope that will happen. But if you think men don't get to discuss this stuff or even have a say on what they think is and isn't sexist... well that's a bit lame. Why? Because we're half of the issue.

    1. As I said on your blog, it wasn't like that.

      You are right, men are half the problem. Talking about it objectively is only going to do so much. It's action that will change things.

      Thanks much for the plug.

    2. I'm not 100% in agreement with you on this one. I think the tone of the article is a bit more hostile towards Frontline Gamer than it could have been (meh, he's a big boy) and I disagree that men have no place deciding these things. If it's a totally new "thing" then sure, men kind of have to wait and see. If it's the same-old same-old neckbeardey sexism we all know and grudgingly tolerate then they can call it, at least one woman has decided that this type of thing is sexist so it's pretty safe to declare a specific instance of behaviour as fitting into the established accepted set.

      As for the practice of actually doing it, I can see a number of reasons why a woman won't call a man on sexist behaviour in this environment. There's the obvious feeling of being outnumbered and not necessarily knowing how much backup is available, the tv-response of "lesbian" as if that would make a difference either way and finally the resignation that if a person is genuinely dismissive of your worth for a reason relating to a fundamental facet of your being then your objection to that is going to be dismissed out of hand because you're "the other". Sometimes the person needs the wakeup call from within their own power group (see also: homosexuals, transexuals, atheists, pro-choice and tee-totallers talking to the religious[okay maybe not tee-totallers]). This obviously doesn't say that a woman shouldn't stand up for herself, but if her standing up for herself in this situation did as much as a man standing up for her then the situation wouldn't exist in the first place.

      And this is why people are shitty and we all end up writing walls of text. Which hopefully made sense.....

    3. What action is required?

      See, to my mind, I'm rather happy SinSynn's ill-advised sexytime post went out. I'm happy Frontline decided to tackle the issue in his usual long-winded and over-analytical manner. Lots of nerdrage was had, and there were enough White Knights for everyone. But if just a handful of those people getting offended starts calling fellow gamers up when they spew hateful language because those posts made them realise they don't want to be in that camp, that's fine with me.

      I'm fed up of being looked at funny because I didn't think it was right to claim that Assault Terminator unit "raped those bitches", or that "You are such a fucking gay" wasn't an appropriate response to a tactical move. My gaming club isn't where I want to hear that kind of crap, and if more people join in on pulling fellow gamers up on it when it's not acceptable then thank the Emprah for that.

    4. My tone was hostile -period. It wasn't directly aimed at any one specific writer. I was clear that there was more than one in question. I was completely upfront that I was talking about the whole batch of articles rather than any one person.

      I keep thinking that the point of feminism was that women get to decide what they want to be and do; and that women are supposed to be equal to men.

      (Maybe I missed a memo. I've said I am not a feminist but rather an egalitarian many times.)

      I don't want it to be "votes for women" again; but I also don't feel I need "defending". (Except in my personal life, where for real; fuck yeah, I am glad I have TheDude).

      In the overall gaming culture arena, I just don't want or need men taking up my banner. I'm perfectly capable of foisting it myself. If I ask a guy to help me, I feel that is different, and very cool if he says yes.

      It's just a lot of annoying to me to hear someone talking about what offends me as part of a large group when no one ASKED me.

    5. I think a lot of the problems surrounding this set of articles is that behaviour and art are being conflated into the same topic when they're clearly not the same thing. If you aren't offended by art then nobody cares, if you are then speak up. If you're offended by someone's behaviour then it gets all kinds of different. If something strikes me as crossing a line in a public gathering then I call people on it (it takes a lot to cross that line, I'm a terrible person) and worry if the others present would like to have defended themselves afterwards. Or we can dogpile, I'm good with that. If that bothers someone then they will hopefully call me on it and then we can throw names at each other and go to the pub.

      I'm probably not the best example to follow really.

    6. I will completely agree that the distinction between art and behavior is being blurred here.

      I personally do not have any concerns with sexy models or pictures. I like them and have quite a few.

      BEHAVIOR is another matter entirely and I DO have problems with behavior -often. I DO call people on it- and I have a"the mom look"; which works pretty well.

      I'm especially dogged with behavior towards YOUNG women who might not know how to use their voices yet.

    7. We've reached understanding then. HURRAH FOR DIALOGUE!

      I'll leave it here.

    8. Well thank you for helping reach that point. I'm not convinced it was completely clear to me (for one) or anyone else because it's so easy for the subjects to align or overlap easily.

    9. I must agree here.
      That was problably one of the reasons things got out of hand between me and frontline over at his blog.
      I felt grouped with the dickheads just for liking certain kinds of art (and thinking of them as "art" in the first place). Whether that feeling was justified, I`m not 100% certain. I will carefully re-read the whole debate onece the dust has settled.

      But theres the good news: Without all this, I would have overlooked your blog, which would be a shame since it is a very good read.Best regards,

  5. I think I hear what you are saying. But seriously I don't get an opinion? Cuz I'm not the right gender? Do I not get an opinion about gay marriage cuz I'm not gay?

    Worse.. your saying I don't get to voice a negative opinion about exploitative models but you don't mind if I voice a positive one.. because supporting the smutty representations is ok but decrying it is belittling women?

    Is that really what your saying here?

    1. Zen,

      I keep getting that comment. And maybe my frustration has made me less coherent than I want to be. I'll think about that and respond accordingly.

      I see an inherent difference between a guy saying "I don't like this model because of how it makes ME feel" and a guy saying "this is misogynistic" --

    2. I really love the discussion. I do disagree however. I can say I think something is Prejudicial against someone and not be that person. The perception I have is valid. That being said my belief that something is misogynistic does not REQUIRE you to agree. I can have an opinion and voicing it is fine as long as I qualify it as not appplying to me.

  6. You do not get to decide what is and isn't sexist. You don't get to determine if something is "hateful to women" (because that is what misogynistic MEANS) or whether things are oppressive. You just DON'T.

    Actually, this sentence is fundamentally and infuriatingly wrong.

    As a man, and feminist (and incidentally father to two girls) I feel absolutely there is a place in the conversation for men to say what is hateful to women. To do otherwise is to step back and allow the hate to continue.

    I also get to express an opinion on what is hateful to many other groups to which I am not a member.

    Also, macho does not equal mysogyny.

    1. Derek,

      I'm a mother to a wonderful young man as well as a young lady. I appreciate parental viewpoints because it's so rare to hear them.

      I'm still considering whether my opinion is

      1) jaded by my frustration over all and

      2) whether my frustration is aimed more at behavior than at art, which is where the original discussion started.

      If it's at behavior, I think I'll probably be writing an addendum and/or appendix because I've already said a lot about art in various places here on my blog. I really have only touched the edges of behavior.

      As a parent, talking about and teaching appropriate and moral behavior is one of the most fundamental things I can do. To me, equality is an absolute and I'm doing my best to teach it the best I can. I get that impression from you as well, but I might be reading too much into a few sentences.

      (I might be expressing it badly. I've accepted that and am still considering it, but don't know where or how to process it yet.)

      Thanks for coming over.

  7. I find the frontline gamer article comical to say the least. In one breath he says he wants the industry to be more inclusive to women and how the Eldar Rape Diorama is so bad and yet he posts on his site the Wet Nurse rape diorama(basically says how great Adam Poots is) and its displayed on the top of the web page with nor graphical warning or anything. If he is so worried about offending women or anyone why not have that picture of that diorama have a warning so people don't go to his web site looking at a review of a game like Dust warfare and and happen to see the wet nurse on the same page below it.

    He also makes assumptions which he has no experience about. At one point he says something about how he could see gamers in a game store toss around the word rape as pretty much common place but he has no experience to back it up. I have been to games stores 100s of times and I have never heard anyone use the word rape. I have heard people say I am going to kick your ass or I got my ass kicked but never have I heard I am going to rape you or I was raped.

    I think he tried to champion women and did poor job of it. His articles comes off making him look like a wannabe champion or someone who really doesn't get it.

    If someone is acting crude around women good luck to them finding a girlfriend or getting laid without paying for it. Eventually they will grow up or live a lonely life.

    1. "Chainsword rape" was a pretty common euphamism for a combat in 40k where one side was hillariously overmatched. It died out a bit last I was paying attention.

    2. Yep I've heard heaps of male gamers use "rape" to mean "dominate" in pretty much any context. Especially online, but also in real life and even at tournaments.

  8. Hey Lo, just read this (a bit late) from the link on Frontline Gamer's blog. I feel a bit ashamed, I didn't actually know you had your own blog as well as HoP and hey, this is Sinsynn's blog too! I've added you to my links now.

    What I'm not ashamed of is how I behaved during this whole whatever-it-is. I presume some of your article is aimed at me, so I'd just like to offer some words in my defence here.

    I did, in fact respond to Hark in the discussion on Sinsynn's post, exactly as I would to anyone else I agreed with. I expressed my total agreement and made a lame joke. I also mentioned her thoughts on Warp Signal. The only reason I didn't reply to you is that you said you would post some thoughts and never did. I kept checking for several days. So I don't know where you got the idea that you and she were ignored.

    I don't pretend to know Sinsynn in real life, but I love his work and I've always treated him with total respect, the same way he's treated me. So kudos for sticking up for your mates, but I do not want to be lumped in with any supposed Sinsynn haters here. Your description of his background sounds pretty much like the average male in an Australian country town, which is where I'm from originally. So maybe that's why he and I normally see eye to eye even though you might not expect that from the way we present ourselves on-line.

    As for over-complicating things and bringing in theories to support stuff... guilty as charged on that one :D

    I don't see this whole thing as a soap box or an issue of the week to make me feel good. It's really complicated and when we all started talking about it I didn't know exactly how I felt or should feel. All of this bullshit and talking and fighting I see just as an opportunity to work that out, and I now feel a lot more confident in my views.

    Of course the behaviour we're talking about is bad. That's bleeding obvious.

    The art, is more complicated. I do think it's a problem, but not because I'm offended. It's because art that would, outside gaming, be regarded as pornographic or at least in really bad taste is often accepted as normal in gaming. That's not cool. It means that gaming is at the level of a men's magazine instead of being a reflection of culture in general. That's not where I want it to be, and I'm not going to stop standing up for what I want because someone tells me I'm not allowed, not matter what their gender.

    Speaking of men speaking for women, I'm afraid there we just disagree. I reckon anyone should speak up if they think something is wrong. I see myself as speaking with people, not for them, just like this discussion we're having now. If you don't see me that way there's not a lot I can do about that. It's your problem.

    PS I know you wrote this a while back now and were angry, but I only just read it, so cut me some slack if I sound a bit angry too!

    1. James,

      I did post my thoughts... I just did it here and not over at HOP. I didn't want to "poison the well", so to speak; I just wanted to express what I felt and thought according to my own rules and with my own perceptions.

      You and I have talked off and on over the months/years, and I have always found you to be a pretty decent guy. As a rule, I appreciate you and your commentary very much.

      As for feeling ignored, I don't know how to explain it. I felt as if what I had to say was deemed irrelevant, and I just kind of gave up. I saw Hark get dissed and talked around, and I decided I wasn't going to partake anymore in the conversation.

      This is a complicated subject. I won't lie. I'm still trying to figure out how to express my POV in a way that gets through (especially to MEN), because it seems as if I'm doing a bad job.

      Men talking for women... I think I'm going to consider more but agree to disagree for now. I can't fathom where you guys are coming from, and I am usually very good at understanding other people's viewpoints AND I usually understand dudes pretty well. This one has me totally lost, and so I am taking a breather until I can muddle through it some more.

      You don't sound too angry to me. You sound like you want to be heard and have a conversation. I'm ok with that.

    2. "I am usually very good at understanding other people's viewpoints AND I usually understand dudes pretty well."

      Switch gender and restate. It's basically the same thing.

    3. @Arquinsiel- I am going to point out my utter and total inability to get what you mean here and ask...

      Are you saying that James as a dude is saying the same thing as me (I'm taking a break and thinking about this), or are you saying I'm talking for dudes?

      Sorry to be dense, but I'd rather understand if I can.

    4. I probably should have included the entire paragraph in the original quote, but I thought it was clear enough. Sorry.

      In the same way that you can understand other viewpoints and often understand guys well some guys can do the same. I'd put money on women having a better handle on men that the other way round across the whole population but it's not an exclusive trait.

    5. @Lo, thanks, yes, I do want to talk about this.

      I don't think you're doing a bad job at getting our POV across, I think many of us just don't agree with it! And there's nothing very surprising about that really. People don't agree on much.

      I think what's happening here is that men, like women, all have their own baggage, experiences, and views. Some men think the way I do about these issues; others don't. Some women do (I know a few personally), others don't, e.g. you. So what? It would be ridiculous to say that all women should agree with you. And I think it's pretty weird to say that all men should shut up about it.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I've deleted my previous comment because it was full of butthurt.

    You're absolutely right. I have mansplained all over the shop. I should have said nothing, led Hark to the post much sooner, and lent her my support when she spoke up.

    At the very least, my comments should have been clearly subjective, discussing the issue as one I find problematic, rather than stating what the problem is. I do worry that that would have rendered them more easily dismissed, but that's not excuse.

    Back to Feminism 101 with me.

  11. sorry to be si lAte to this party but ive been moving so no internet

    firstly some context i am a 6' 2" 16 stone former british para(2para heavy drop). i now run 2 small business i am by any definition a big alpha male.

    now bearing that in mind who do you think calls the shots in my housel i call her she who must be obeyed for a reason
    this whole argument is at least 15 years out og date there was a war of the sexes but it was done by the end of the 80's youve won girls outperform boys at all levels if education every profession has seen the entry points dominated by females. the war is over and bar some small pockets of insurevtion youve won nothing left to do but call in haliburton.

    you also outnumber us 52% to 48%and have a longer life expectancy if anyone needs protecting its men our area of speciality physical prowess is no longer the advantage it was in previous centuries