Seasonal Exhaustion

The holiday is pretty much directly upon me. This weekend I have Christmas with my family. We are going up tomorrow night.

But I don’t feel super merry. In the words of Bilbo Baggins: “I feel thin. Like butter spread over too much bread.”

It has been a long and tumultuous year. The world has continued to terrify me with its ability to be random and cruel while simultaneously delighting me with the warmth and full hearts and adorable cat photos that I have found within it.

Normally at this point in the season I am wearing a festive hat and bouncing around the house to Christmas music like there’s no tomorrow. But I’m not doing either of those things. And what’s weird is that I don’t really care to.

I think the weight of everything that has happened this year has just hit me all at once. The deaths of black women, the burning of black churches, the police brutality, the trans lives that have been lost, rape culture, the everyday harassment that comes along with being femme on the internet or on a street or wherever. Shit, some asshole even killed a lion.

I’ve talked before about the exhaustion that comes from dealing with social justice stuff all the time. The compassion fatigue that we all can feel merely from having access to the internet on a daily basis.

It wears. It takes a toll.

I’m not in a place right this second where I can talk about how to cope with that toll. I’m in it. I’m just looking forward to going home tonight, slapping on some Christmas music and faking it as if I’m going to be making it while I mix up some holiday cookies.

We cope. That’s all we can do sometimes. And I’m just learning now that it’s OK to just cope. To breathe into whatever we’re going through and to be not 100% for a while.

That’s actually a pretty good Christmas gift for me to give myself, now that I think about it.

 

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Cis is not a slur.

Hello, my lovelies, come sit at my feet and let me impart unto you some wisdom.

Cis is not a slur. I say this as a cis person. And a gay person. And a woman. It’s not.

A slur is defined as the following:

slur

See right there where it says that it is likely to insult them or damage their reputation? That’s what a slur is. Now, being insulted is a pretty broad thing. I can be insulted by the way that someone looks at me. But the key to any good insult, when it is a verbal insult, which is when words like cis get used, is in what, exactly, you are being insulted for.

When someone spits the word cis at you in a conversation, what they are likely expressing is their ire at your privilege. And, while that might sting, it doesn’t do much more than sting. Cis, after all, is a term meant to define a group of people who conform with the norm regarding gender expression and physical appearance.

cis

But cis is not a slur in the same way that cracker is not a slur. Having it flung at you can get you upset. But, at it’s root, it’s just a mean word. It is devoid of any threat to your person or reputation. It is neutered.

Now the second part of the definition of slur as a noun is where the real action is. A slur is something that can damage a person’s reputation. In order to demonstrate how this can be done, I’m going to use the gay community as an example. In order to avoid shitty language, I’m going to make up a slur for gay people that doesn’t exist for the purposes of this example. Our new made up slur is “floof.”

When someone uses a word like floof as a slur against a gay person, the moment in which that word is used becomes pregnant with all kinds of possibilities and meanings for the person being targeted:

  1. They may be beaten up or sexually assaulted.
  2. They may be outed to someone who can make their lives difficult, as being gay is not a protected status under hate crime legislation everywhere (yet). They can be evicted from their homes or lose their jobs.
  3. In addition to imminent threats that are brought to bear upon the person having this word flung at them, the word carries with it centuries of oppression enacted upon they gay community. Demeaning words such as floof do not exist in a vacuum. They have been used intentionally for a long time and they carry a history of oppression.

When you hurl a slur at someone, you are effecting their reputation. When that slur is a word directed at someone’s sexuality, that can do serious damage to them internally, over time, as well as externally and immediately.

The fact of the matter is that you cannot make a slur out of a word that expresses a group’s privilege. Slurs are designed to punch down. When they are used by a member of a privileged group against a member of a less privileged group, they do serious damage. When they are directed from one member of an oppressed group to another, they are being owned by that group. Which is why I can call myself a dyke or why white people can’t use the “n” word. And when they are used by a member of an oppressed group against a privileged group, they are virtually devoid of any impact.

Something to think about when you hear the word cis being used in a derogatory fashion is where that comes from. It comes, more often than not, from a place of anger and pain. That anger is the anger of a community of people who are constantly overlooked and undervalued by people who pass unharassed through society. Who don’t have to deal with uncomfortable questions being asked by strangers about their genitals in public places. Who can go into bathrooms without being asked if they’re lost. Who don’t face very specific forms of gendered violence in their everyday lives.

So while it may suck to have someone fling a mean word at you from time to time, cis isn’t a slur. And honestly? Cis people should consider themselves lucky that it isn’t. Because having to endure the types of hadrship that non-cisgendered people have endured in order to make the words used against them a slur? That doesn’t sound like fun to me.

TL;DR Being cisgendered is a privilege. Acting like you are being persecuted by being identified as what you are is ridiculous.


Featured image taken from Shutterstock.

On Vouching for Bastards

A few weeks ago I was at a party. While there, I settled into a deep conversation with a young woman I had just met about her dating history. She told me that she was in therapy and that her previous partners had been varying levels of abusive, with the latest one (who we’ll call Brad) being a drug addict that had, among other things, stolen thousands of dollars from her in order to purchase pills. She told me she was struggling with issues of worthiness. And that the whole thing was really hard. I listened. I commiserated. I affirmed that she was, in fact, worthy. And that I thought it was really great that she was going to therapy and also being open about it.

Later in the evening, I heard Brad’s name cross the name of another member of the group. The man in question was saying how Brad was super cool and they had a lot of fun together.

I interjected, “Brad? Her Brad?”

“Yea,” partygoer guy said. “He’s a really cool guy.”

“I’m sorry, are you aware of his history? That he’s a drug addict who steals from the people who love him?”

“Well yea,” he said, looking sheepish. “But he’s super fun to be around, this one time-”

“No. I don’t want to hear about how fun he is. Why the fuck would you endorse him as the sort of person that one should hang out and have fun with if you know what he’s done in the past?”

He blubbered, then, and said that he understood what I was saying and that he probably shouldn’t do that. I told him that no, he shouldn’t. And then continued with my evening.

Then another guy at the party started going on and on about Brad. I confronted him, too, this time with Brad’s ex in tow. His response to my queries?

“Well, he’s not that bad. He always looks me in the eye when I shake his hand.”

My actual response in the moment was something along the lines of: “That’s not exactly the litmus test of whether or not someone is a decent person, though.” He eventually acceded to my and her joint points and moved on.

But what I wanted to say was this:

OH! He looks you in the EYES, does he? Well then that turns everything on it’s head. Forget his history of drug abuse and stealing from his girlfriend. Forget all of that. He must be a good guy if he can look you in the face. A warm handshake means that all the well-meaning, intelligent women in your life should feel right as rain going on a date with him. Forget that he’s also emotionally abusive and manipulative. He knows how to interact with another human being, so all’s well!

I bit my tongue on that rant, for obvious reasons.

A few days after the party, I sat down with my brother for birthday drinks after seeing a play and brought up all of the above.

“Why, in male culture, is it OK for men to vouch for bastards? Why do they act like they’re nice guys when they’re not?” I asked him.

“Well,” he responded, “would you have called our uncle a nice guy?”

Our uncle was a heroin addict who also stole from family and friends to support his habit.

“No.” I said. “I wouldn’t. Because calling him a nice guy tells the people around me that they should trust him, and I don’t want anyone to trust him. Vouching for someone by asserting their niceness is basically putting the seal of approval onto the idea of friendship with that person.”

We talked about it for a while after that. My uncle and Brad and the way that society seems to call people nice as if that means anything at all. Nice has become this word that we all just toss around to mean that we like people or that they’re OK to hang out with or that they make a good key lime pie or whatever.

But nice means something. When you say that someone is a nice person what you’re saying is that you vouch for them. You think that the person you’re talking to should spend time with them or buy them a beer. But if you know that person is problematic, why would you give another person the idea that trusting them is a sound notion?

I’m not saying that you should spend all of your time running around extolling the horrible minutiae of the personalities of everyone you don’t like to everyone you meet. That would make you look like a dick. But maybe don’t act like someone’s cool to be around when they’re not. And maybe don’t be afraid to tell people that someone might be problematic. If someone asks your opinion about another person who find problematic, you could just say:

I won’t speak more on this without being asked, but I would be careful with Brad if I were you, based on what I know of his history.

That way you can warn the person off without going into terrible detail, but still leaves them room to take or leave your advice. Honestly, I tend to err on the side of being super direct when people ask me what I think of someone. I’ll usually just say that I don’t like them very much. There’s nothing wrong with saying you don’t like a person. If the person talking to you trusts your judgment, they can go ahead and ask for more details. If they don’t, no harm done!

I think the important thing when it comes to dealing with people whose behavior is problematic is that you don’t have to be seen as the type of person who likes and gets along with everyone. In fact, it may be better to be seen as the type of person who tells it like it is, when push comes to shove.

Body Ownership: On shame, humiliation, growth, and acceptance.

I started going to the gym again this week. It’s been a while. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror at work yesterday and did not like what I saw.

As much as I talk about how I want to lose weight to be healthy, I don’t know how true that really is. I am already healthy. I carry a little more weight around, but every time I go to the doctor, it’s all good news.

The fact is that I want to be thinner. I’m tired of my thighs rubbing together until they burn. I’m tired of the way I hate having my belly touched. I’m tired of my arms being thick and dangling. I’m really tired of not being able to wear button down shirts that fit me nicely around the middle because of my belly.

I want to wear clothes that make me feel good and sexy without feeling like a sausage in a casing.

And I want to be able to say that to people. But I feel like, in saying that, they will see me as saying that bigness is a bad thing. It’s not. It’s just not something that I am happy with. I love all my gorgeous, fabulous, loud and large friends. They’re great. And I’m glad that they are happy living in their bodies and admire the work that they have done to get there despite the bill of goods they are sold all the time.

Losing weight is a weird topic nowadays. I feel like I can’t be as excited or expressive about it as I want to be because I will be seen as fat shaming myself. I take great care when talking about this stuff to not say how badly I want to be thinner, because I’m aware that it’s a touchy topic for a lot of people.

If I’m being really honest with myself, what I want is to be thinner. To be able to see my back  muscles in a mirror. I am all about back muscles and I really want to see mine in ripples move across my back when I lift a heavy thing in the gym. I want to have legs and arms that are defined and strong, where you can see the muscles move as I run or climb a rope. I want to see my abs for the first time ever. I know they’re under there. I can feel them when I flex my stomach as I lift heavy things. But I want to see them.

I want to be more confident in my body. And the more time I spend at the gym, the more I feel myself become aware of what I can do. The less afraid I am of headstands and running with my dog and hiking and riding a bike. Because without physical activity, I withdraw from my body. I try not to notice it. It becomes an elephant in the room that I do not talk about and do not want anyone to acknowledge.

When I think about myself I don’t see myself the way that I look in the mirror. I see myself as powerful. And I want to look powerful. I want my muscles to show.

When I walk into the gym as I am now, I feel this powerful sense of humiliation. I feel like the unfit among the glorious. Even though not everyone around me is necessarily thin. I know that the people around me are somehow better than me. And I feel them looking at and judging me. It makes me flustered. Makes me wish I hadn’t come.

The hard part for me isn’t just getting the nerve up to go to the gym. The hard part is staying. The hard part is not fleeing the field in tears because I know that I don’t fit in with these other people who are so much more deserving and hard working than I am.

Afterwards, when I am at home and showering and enjoying the blooming ache of muscles, I feel awake and alert as my body chemically responds to my workout. Those moments are amazing. And the moments when, at the gym, I stop thinking about anyone but myself, about anything but the task at hand. About anything but my goals. Those moments are amazing too.

I live in those moments. I nurture them afterward. I dwell on them as I fantasize about what my body will look like down the line. And I try to feel pride in each little victory on the way.

I have to remind myself: This is something I can do. I am capable. I am enough. And let everything else fall away.

Drive Thru RPG: Tone Policing the Critics

You know when you meet those people who just can’t help but double down on their mistakes? Drive Thru RPG has become one of those people for me.

After the Tournament of Rapists fiasco and subsequent fallout, I really hoped that they would pull it together. I didn’t know what form that would take, but I hoped that maybe Steve Wieck would assign someone else the task of managing offensive content per their policy, for example. Or that maybe someone would apologize for the way that he treated people on Twitter for complaining about the presence of A Tournament of Rapists on their site. I really wanted to hear from a PR person for Drive Thru on this issue, because that at least would net we the consumers of their goods an apology on this issue.

Of course, as always, I am disappointed with the reality of how adults seem to behave when they are caught acting like assholes.

Meredith Gerber, the public relations representative for Drive Thru, published a blog yesterday that made me hopeful when I saw her title, but then made me cringe when I read the paragraphs that followed her introduction, which basically amounted to her tone policing the critics.

In the most condescending language, she explains that:

When having discussions about these types of situations, it’s always important to remember that being professional and kind in feedback will create better dialogue. It’s very difficult to continue a conversation and figure out the message when hateful words are said out of anger and spite. If you do not agree with someone, take a moment to step back and breathe before stating your opinion. There is also nothing wrong with walking away from a conversation if it’s going around in circles with no conclusion in sight.

To which I respond: Fuck that.

Did Steve Wieck do that when he talked down to customers on Twitter? No. Maybe person up and apologize for the fact that your CEO has acted from the jump like he does not give the first fuck about the feelings of the people coming to him about this issue. (If you are reading this and need assistance in how to apologize, you can find a handy tutorial here.) And even if you do not want to do that, at least have the grace to not criticize your customers for coming back to you with the same bile that he displayed.

It is also worth noting that it is not always possible for people to be utterly calm and collected when it comes to certain material. Especially when that material deals with things like sexual assault. This material is triggering and upsetting and damaging to sexual assault survivors and asking them to please tone it down so that you don’t have to hear their rage is completely inappropriate.

Even beyond all of that, the fact of the matter is that we, as your customers, are the wounded parties here. We are hurt by your actions and your approach to this situation. As such, we are not obligated to tone down our outrage.

Over and over again this material has been referred to as “offensive,” and I think that has allowed Drive Thru to have a certain amount of distance from the material they are talking about. I don’t think that Drive Thru and it’s staff are really looking at this from the perspective of sexual assault survivors stumbling through their web site. Just imagine for a moment how upsetting it must be to find that title in among the games that you are perusing for personal use. Imagine the gut punch of the name, and the dawning realization that someone would take something deeply traumatic from your life and decide to play with it like it was a form of entertainment. The layered horror of the fact that people are titillated by your suffering. The moment when your assault comes to your mind, unbidden. Imagine how that must feel. The damage that must do. And then tell me about how this content is just “offensive” and not, in fact, a completely unacceptable publication that should have been apologized for immediately and unreservedly.

The fact that Gerber ends her blog entry by assuring us that Steve Wieck will have final say over what is marked as “offensive” is not even a little bit comforting when you consider the fact that he has already defended this content in his original blog and his original responses to the issue which paint banning this content as a slippery slope. Regardless of what he may say now, the fact is that, based on his history with this content, I and many others do not trust him to be the final arbiter of what is considered terrible enough to ban from Drive Thru’s web site.

Needless to say, the boycott continues. And at this point I doubt it will ever abate.

Internalized Fat Shaming

I have always been the size that I am. Somewhere between a 14 and a 20. Between 180 and 210 pounds.

My mother has always been thin. She and other members of my family never really understood what it was like for me to be the size that I was. They meant well, but they, like so many other people, would say things to me that just made matters worse.

“Thin is pretty.”
“You’d get more clothes if you could fit into a smaller size.”
“Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.”
“You look pregnant.”

I really connected with those things. I thought that I didn’t deserve nice clothes if I was fat. I thought that being thin was more important that feeling nourished. I fostered a terrible relationship with food and a worse relationship with my body.

As damaging as it was to have people say things like that about my body, it was even more damaging to hear what they would say about the bodies of others.

“What business does her fat ass have in that dress?”
“Does she really think she’s pulling that off?”
“People that size should be banned from wearing bikinis.”

What I heard when the people around me said that was that I could never wear those things. Ever. And if I did, people around me were probably thinking and saying those things about me. I also learned that the bodies of women were free targets for aggressive judgment by anyone who felt like doling it out.

I resented the women around me who felt like they could parade around in clothing I had been told was forbidden. I resented their joy. I internalized the judgmental, fat-shaming behaviors of the people around me as correct. I felt shame within myself for the way that I looked, and I turned that shame outward to the women around me. I sat in judgment of women in bikinis at the beach who were my size. At girls in skin-tight dresses who didn’t give a fuck about their belly rolls.

I hated myself. And as a result, I hated the people around me who represented the things about me that I could not accept. I had internalized the messages of my fat-shaming friends and family and I was miserable and lost and angry all the time.

Three summers ago, feeling bold, I put on the bikini I kept in my bottom drawer for the longest time. I was holding on to it for when I got “thin enough.”

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The original caption for this photo 3 years ago was “SuperPhina to the rescue!”

I went to the beach. I swam in the ocean. I felt free and comfortable baring myself in front of the world.

I went home and fell right back into my awkward feelings of mingled self-loathing and disgust with my body.

It took me a while to realize what the problem was. I couldn’t really love myself or accept my body when I was still looking at others’ bodies and judging them. Every time I lashed out privately to friends or even to myself about how someone looked in this or that item of clothing, every time I laid into another woman mentally for how she looked, I laid into myself.

I drew myself into myself. I drew my body further and further away from my thoughts. I hated myself, and I turned that hate out toward other people.

I am coming out into the clear, now, to all of you. I spent years internalizing my fat shaming and then expressing it as if it was some kind of truth, ugly and terrible. The cure for that has been love for other people. The more I poured out praise and love, even if it was just in my head, toward the people around me who were like me, the more I came to love and accept myself.

Untraining that fat-shaming instinct has been really hard and really worth it. The more solid my love for others has become, the more I have felt myself emerge from the cocoon that has held me for so much of my life.

I no longer sit with a cushion over my stomach so that no one can see my rolls. I lean back, arms out, and claim the space that I am sitting in.

I do not sweat in long pants because I am ashamed of my legs. I wear short skirts and high boots and love how good and cool I feel in the summer sun.

I refuse to put on a sweater over my tank tops because I hate my arm fat. I show off my tattoos with bared shoulders and love the feeling of a breeze on my arms.

I am coming out of myself and into a world where I can feel free to buy myself nice clothing that makes me feel good and sexy and beautiful. And I can wear it without giving a single solitary fuck about what someone looking at me will think.

I cannot believe I spent so much time with all of that fat shaming nonsense inside my head. And even though I never vocalized any of this to anyone, I feel as though I need to apologize for my years of wrongheadedness. I am so sorry that I spent so long judging the world around me. I am so sorry I fat-shamed, even if it was just in my head. I regret every instance of it crossing my mind.

To anyone else out there who has had a similar experience, the cure for what ails you is love. Love the people around you and you will come to love yourself. Love the skin that you’re in. Love the body that you have. And don’t let anyone tell you that you are not worthy of that love for any reason.

How to Apologize Like an Adult

In light of the recent mistakes made by people I respect or at least expected better of, I thought I would publish a blog on how to properly apologize. Because it’s obvious to me that this is not something many people know how to do properly or effectively.

I hope this helps some of you out there to become better at apologizing. And that it is a resource for those of you who are trying to talk to others about how to apologize correctly to explain how this stuff works and how vitally important it is.

Step One: Listen.

The first step in any apology is to listen to what the person(s) you have hurt are telling you. If someone says that you did something that hurt them (directly or indirectly), then it’s time to apologize. Listen carefully to what you did and decide whether you care enough about the people involved and the situation to apologize.

This is the step wherin you decide whether or not you are going to apologize at all. Not apologizing is always an option. But if you decide not to apologize, disengage here and tell the person(s) involved that you will not be apologizing. There is no need to drag people through insincerity in order to fulfill some bizarre social cue. If you don’t care to apologize: don’t.

Step Two: Apologize Sincerely.

An apology is not something you just do in the moment to get people off your back. It is not a way to stop an argument. An apology is the first part of a promise that you make to another person or group of people. That promise is that you see that you upset them, see why you upset them, and will endeavor not to upset them in the future.

I know I already said this, but it’s important: If you have no desire to deliver a sincere apology, then do not deliver one. There is nothing worse than an insincere apology. It doesn’t solve anything. And it doesn’t do anything other than erode your relationships by proving to the people around you that you do not care enough about them to really apologize when you have done something wrong.

So, if you are not willing to do the work that is inherent in making an apology, you don’t need to! There will be consequences for that, but some things are not worth working for. I don’t say that to be cruel. That’s OK! Being able to recognize when you are not willing to do a thing is an important part of being a human being. The important thing to remember is that no apology at all is better all around than an apology that is simply lip service.

But if you do decide to apologize, realize that that apology is a part of a larger set of behaviors that you are tying yourself into which include making changes to things you have done in order to ensure the fulfilling of a promise to another person.

Step Three: Apologize for the right thing.

This goes back to the listening step. Were you really listening? Did you hear what the person(s) you hurt were saying about why they were upset? Remember that what you think you did wrong and what they are asking that you apologize for may not be the same thing.

Here’s an example.

Bobby and Suzie just started dating. One night, Bobby goes out with Suzie and her friends. He doesn’t know anyone else at the outing. During the evening, Suzie spends a lot of time talking to John, which leaves Bobby at loose ends and uncomfortable for most of the evening. When they leave the group, Bobby says that he is upset that Suzie left him hanging the entire night with no one to talk to while she talked to John. Suzie realizes that Bobby wants an apology, but instead of apologizing for abandoning Bobby with a bunch of strangers, she infers that he is being jealous and says that she is sorry if he was jealous about her spending time with John.

That is not what Bobby was upset about, it’s what Suzie is reading into the situation. What Suzie needed to do was really listen to what Bobby was saying and apologize for what he told her he was upset about, not what she felt was “really the issue.”

This is a mistake that a lot of people make when apologizing. It’s easy to apologize for what we think the problem is rather than what the person is actively communicating. Don’t fall into this trap.

Step Four: Never say “but.”

Or any other type of qualifying language, really. When you qualify an apology with an explanation, it weakens the apology. Apologize unreservedly. Here’s an example based on our story above of the correct way to apologize:

Suzie: I’m sorry that I left you alone with people. I didn’t realize it would upset you so badly. I apologize.

Here is that apology with a but:

Suzie: I’m sorry that I left you alone with people, but it’s not like you couldn’t have interjected at any point. My friends are nice. You should have made an effort.

Do you see how apology one is much more meaningful and actually reads like an apology?

When you qualify your apology with a “but” at the end, you minimize the impact of the apology tremendously. Doing that can also make it seem to the person you are giving your apology that their actions are somehow to blame for your behavior. In short, it makes it seem like you don’t really care about your apology, which means you don’t care about the feelings of the person you hurt.

Step Five: Do not make the apology about you.

Of course the apology is about you. A little. But it’s not about you, if you get my meaning.

When you are apologizing, address your behavior succinctly and with clarity. Do not do the following:

Suzie: Well I’m sorry I’m not perfect! I’m sorry I can’t seem to give you enough attention so that you feel good about yourself. I’m sorry I suck.

This kind of thing is really unfair to the person you are apologizing to. When you make the apology about you and get upset as a response to another person being hurt by your actions, the other person is put in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with your upset. Which can lead to them comforting you rather than having their needs met. Which is not the goal of any good apology.

If feelings about yourself are brought up during the course of your apology, feel free to address them with the person later on, after a little time and distance have allowed the other person to get into a place where they can support you without compromising their own needs.

Step Six: Follow up.

Sometimes when you apologize, it will be necessary for you to follow up with some changes to your behavior or discussion of how to do things better. This is an excellent part of an apology, because it shows that you are willing to follow through on your promises. An apology is, at it’s root, a promise to examine your behavior and attempt to ensure that you do not repeat behavior that the people around you have found damaging.

So let’s use our above example to show how the follow up to an apology might go:

Suzie: Is there a way that I can ensure in the future that you are more socially comfortable? Would you like to bring a friend of yours to outings? Would a smaller group help? Do you just require more attention from me?

See how Suzie is trying to solve the problem in the future so that she can be more aware of Bobby’s emotional well-being? That’s quality apologizing right there.

Remember that, when a follow-up is needed, it doesn’t always have to happen right then. You can have space between the apology and the follow up. Sometimes that space is needed! When tempers are running high, as they are wont to be when an apology enters the mix, it is not always the best time to calmly discuss solutions to problems. Let everyone cool off a bit if you need to and do the follow-up when you are more relaxed and able to look at the situation from distance.

Step Seven: Follow through.

Remember how I said that an apology is a promise? Well here’s the part where you fulfill that promise. All of the things that we have gone over up until this point mean absolutely nothing if, when the situation that caused strife before comes up again, you repeat the bad behaviors when interacting with the people to whom you have previously apologized.

If Suzie takes Bobby out again and leaves him alone all night? That’s breaking her promise. And all the work that she did during her apology goes out the window when she proves to Bobby that she cannot live up to the things that she promises him when she apologizes.

If, however, Suzie makes sure that Bobby’s needs are met in subsequent instances where the spend time with her friends? Then she has proven to Bobby that she is a person worthy of his trust. It is only at that point that her apology becomes wholly successful.

Step Eight: Enjoy.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of having people around you who like and trust you. If you demonstrate to them when you make mistakes that you are willing to make up for them, that will only increase their liking and trust for you. Enjoy the happy feelings that come from doing the work to make your relationships stronger and healthier through a properly crafted apology.

A Tournament of Non-Apologies

Drive Thru RPG responded to what has been going on over the Tournament of Rapists issue. I just read Steve Wieck’s response on his blog and I have a few things to say in response.

First of all, the fact that he is the person who wrote the response seemed like a bad move to me. Considering that, in the entire 1,937 words of his post, he never once apologizes for minimizing the concerns of people who brought them up to him on Twitter. He was the wrong person to write this blog. Mostly because no one gives a fuck about the opinions of a person who looks at people concerned about rape-glorifying content and then proceeds to make a slippery slope argument. Shit is a logical fallacy. It’s dismissive and ugly and sounds like a rape apologist trumpet whenever it is used in conversations about sexual assault.

Regarding the blog entry itself, he spends the beginning of it talking about trust and how the creators of the content on his web site have been trusted for fourteen years to create good content that is not offensive.

Right off the bat, I have a problem with the word “offensive.” I would not call A Tournament of Rapists “offensive.” I would call it “completely unacceptable.” Calling something offensive makes it seem as though it might offend some but wouldn’t offend others. It makes it seem as if the content in question is somehow subjective.

It isn’t.

In the reactions to my blog yesterday, more than a few people expressed to me that they thought my title was somehow being facetious. It took them reading the entry to realize that the title of the game was not some sort of exaggeration on my part.

So let’s be clear: There is nothing “offensive” about A Tournament of Rapists. The content in and of itself is simply unacceptable for publication. Period.

He goes on to explain that:

If we were to ban a RPG product, the de facto result is very much like censorship. That fact causes me grave concern, for if we were to create a content guideline that all publishers on our store must follow, and then ban titles that do not meet those guidelines, then we would be playing dictator with the RPG art form, and that is a role I am acutely uncomfortable playing.

I get that you don’t want to censor people. I do. But my only reaction to this is that he needs to get comfortable with playing that role. When you are a gatekeeper like he is, there are going to be things that come across your desk that are inappropriate for publication. And honestly, it’s not like we live in the dark ages. People can self-publish. People can Kickstart projects. There are other options out there for people who have an idea than going through his portal for distribution. He’s A gatekeeper, but he’s not THE gatekeeper.

Then he moves on to justifying the fact that the title “Tournament of Rapists” even got published.

As I expected, no one pre-screened the book before it was available for purchase. That in and of itself is an issue for me. I have been assured by people who work with internet software and coding that it wouldn’t be difficult to code a filter that auto-filtered things like “rape” from titles or descriptions. If an author wanted to have something published with that kind of content and was rejected, there could easily be an appeals process put into place for them to bring their work to the attention of Drive Thru who could look over their work and make a final decision.

Then he goes on to say that the rapists are the villians of the piece and that the work should be dismissed on those grounds.

In a word, no.

From what I have been given to understand, first of all, players can elect to take on the role of the rapists within the game, so that statement is not entirely true.

And secondly, who gives a shit if the rapists are the bad guys? Why does rape have to be part of the content at all? The answer is because people find rape salaciously interesting and they think it’s fun to play with. It’s not. And this type of rape culture attitude in gaming narrows the hobby to include only people who don’t think things like this are totally inappropriate content in games. For more information on this, I refer you to the work of Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency, who addresses the issue of rape and violence against women as background decoration in games quite thoroughly.

Wieck then goes on to say that it was flagged as adult content by way of an excuse, which it isn’t, given the things which I have just outlined and will go on to point out. So we’ll just go ahead and ignore that comment out of hand, shall we?

Wieck’s next excuse is that he wasn’t able to immediately get in contact with the publisher so he let the title stand while he did that. Mistake. If he wasn’t sure the title was appropriate, he should have just pulled it and waited to check with the publisher afterward.

In this particular part of the nonpology, Wieck points out that he thinks that “dialogue” is better than just condemning people out of hand. Which I can’t help but see as a dig at those who expressed their anger to him on Twitter over the weekend and who he dismissed out of hand with slippery slope arguments that read like flat-out rape apologism.

To that I say this: Steve Wieck needs to hire a social media person. Because he is terrible at it. And taking pot shots at people who are calling you out for doing a shitty thing is no way to try to get people on your side. Just for the record.

And now we get to the meat of the thing. First of all, he finally apologizes, and it’s as disappointing an apology as you would expect:

It’s time for us to have a policy on rejecting offensive content. I understand that many feel this is too long in coming, that our prior non-policy of “censorship is unacceptable” was tantamount to shirking our responsibility to help keep the RPG hobby inclusive. I am solely responsible for the prior policy, not the other staff at OneBookShelf. I accept that criticism and apologize for not being a better steward.

  1. Again, this content is not “offensive” it is “unacceptable.”
  2. You have to get over your censorship heebie jeebies. You are a gateway and you have to take responsibility for the things that come through you into the world.
  3. Your apology left out the part where you basically told concerned customers that their concerns were invalid while you waited on the publisher to give you some insight on whether “Tournament of Rapists” was an acceptable title for publication.

All that said, Wieck decides that he should model his “offensive content” policy on what Amazon uses. An… interesting choice, considering their weird decisions on banning books and such.

So, without further ado, the Drive Thru RPG offensive content policy is:

Offensive Content: We’ll know it when we see it.

He goes on to say that they will be including a reporting feature and that we should be patient with it, et cetera. Which I have no problem with. But he clarifies the content policy by saying that he will be the final author of what is deemed offensive. Which I have a problem with. Because, as you can remember from yesterday’s blog, his final word on the Tournament of Rapists issue was the following:

So, as the “final arbiter,” Wieck would have neither moved to remove the work or change the title. What about that is supposed to make us as consumers feel better? Because nothing about this is making me feel better.

With all that said, I will continue to boycott Drive Thru RPG. This non-apology was about as unsatisfying as I assumed it would be before it was even written. I am so disappointed in Drive Thru as an entity and in Steve Wieck as a person who does so much for the gaming industry.

But then, as a queer female gamer, I should probably be used to this type of disappointment.

The Perils of Gaming: A Tournament of Rapists.

In case you didn’t know this, I’m a woman. I game. I also GM. I consider the safety and emotional well-being of the people who sit at my tables to be of paramount importance.

I also believe in the value of artistic integrity and consider censorship to be a serious issue in the world in which we live.

tumblr_inline_ntqzy6okt81sqxec5_500That said I recently found out that, last week Drive Thru RPG, one of the places where I tend to buy games when I am not at a convention, put the game “Tournament of Rapists” up for sale. The description of the game is as follows:

The Tournament of Rapists details the sadistic Rape Pure Fight circuit, expanding on what you’ve seen already and introducing dangerous new sexual predators. The sadistic bloodsport takes place in abandoned office buildings and atop Tokyo rooftops. An assortment of superhumanly powerful and inhumanly misogynistic men, and even worse women, step into impromptu fighting arenas, killing and raping the weaker in search of a multi-billion yen fight purse provided by a half-oni billionaire in thrall to dark impulses.

The fact that this exists at all is fucking repugnant to me. The fact that Drive Thru RPG somehow thought it was appropriate to put this game into it’s inventory is completely unacceptable.

And if you think it’s “not that bad” or that this game could possibly be less terrible than it seems, I present you with the Phallic Swarm.

swarm

It’s worth noting that this horrible device is described as “rape incarnated” and is specifically designed to combat people who have already been sexually abused, paralyzing them if they fall victim to it. It also does 1d8 “pleasure” damage… This thing is 100% unacceptable in more ways than I can properly articulate.

The fact that Drive Thru RPG carried “Tournament of Rapists” alone would not be enough to force me to make the decision to boycott them. Mistakes happen. I’m not sure what system they use to determine what games make it to their site, but some failsafe somewhere clearly did not function correctly. Or someone who did not deserve to be in charge of filtering these things put through a game that shouldn’t have been put through. I get that people and companies can fuck up. That’s not the problem. If they had simply pulled the title, apologized, and assured us that this would never happen again, there would be no issue.

The problem here is how Drive Tru RPG responded when they fucked up.

On the 28th, when asked by game producer Jessica Price what they would be doing about game, they were told that they would be removing the pathfinder tag and restricting it to the adult section. Which doesn’t really even begin to solve the problem.

Their latest response (outside of the rest of the mess which you can read here) is the following:

The fact of the matter is that the title is a problem, but it is not the heart of the issue. This is a game that glorifies rape to a degree that I didn’t think possible until I saw it for myself. And glorifying rape – I can’t believe I actually have to say this – IS NOT OK. In good news, game publisher Exploding Rogue are pulling their work from Drive Thru RPG over the production of this title, citing the poor response of Drive Thru to the entire situation as a motivating factor. I can only hope that the outrage over this builds to a point where Drive Thru RPG will be forced to take a serious look at themselves and their behaviors and come out with more than just a half-assed nonpology for how unacceptable this entire situation has been.

Honestly, though, this shit is exhausting. Being a human being in the world is hard enough. Having asshats throw something so over-the-top wrong out there and watching a company that you liked and utilized basically defend them and waffle around about how it’s some kind of ethical decisions slippery slope nonsense makes me just want to crawl into a hole and pull the earth in on top of me.

White Feminism

Why We Need To Talk About White Feminism“The best thing any white feminist can do is educate herself, and listen and engage with the experiences of women of color without silencing them.”

Posted by HuffPost Women on Monday, August 10, 2015

This video was posted by HuffPost Women on last week. Since then, it has been shared over 9,000 times. It has popped up in my social media feed a whole lot and I’ve been tempted to share it each time. But I haven’t. Mostly because I feel like I need to do more than just share this video.

One of the things they say in the video is that being a white feminist does not mean that you are a bad person, it just means that you have a lot to learn. And that is very true. As a white woman and a feminist, I fell into the trap of white feminism early and often.

I can still remember some of my earliest failures as a feminist. In undergrad during one of my many women’s studies, I was chatting with a group of my fellow students on a break. We were talking about the beginnings of feminism and the roots of the movement. I quoted verbatim from a book that I had read about how the feminist movement began when women started to move out of the home and to take jobs in public space.

31 year old me looks back at that me and just puts her face in her hands. Because wow.

So I spout that to the people I’m with and a girl from my class says to me “But women of color were already working outside the home. In fact, a lot of them were balancing work and home life. What did feminism do for those women?”

I don’t even remember her name, but holy shit did I need that truth bomb dropped on me.

I stammered a lot and admitted that I hadn’t really thought of that. And that I clearly needed to. She recommended some books and articles that I should read and basically told me that I needed to shift my way of looking at things to include women of color when I talked about feminism.

She was so right.

The thing is, I’m sure that I had said white feministy stuff before that. And I’m sure I had done it in company. The people I was with just didn’t call me on it for whatever reason. I am so grateful to her for calling me out. For putting me on the spot. And I’m glad that, when she did, I was in a position to really hear her and process what she was saying rather than getting defensive.

Being called out is hard. And this isn’t the only time that it has happened to me, just my most vivid memory of it. I was embarrassed. And a little ashamed of myself. And honestly there was a spark of anger there at her calling me out. Because being called out is hard. Being wrong is hard. And being told that you are wrong in front of other people is embarrassing.

The fact of the matter is that it’s important that we allow people to tell us when we are wrong. And that we admit to ourselves and to the people around us that we don’t know everything. I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older how important it is to reveal our flaws and mistakes and pitfalls to the people around us. It lets other people know that they are not alone in not being perfect. It is deliriously easy to act as though we are somehow perfect. To present a face to the world that is blemish free. To edit our speech so that it is free from grammatical errors. But the projection of those things harms us. It makes us hold ourselves up to a standard of perfection to which we cannot possibly adhere. And it harms the people around us by making them think that, when they fall short, they should never admit it.

All of that is to say that I am far from a perfect feminist person. I have been guilty of white feminism. I have even been guilty of TERF-dom. These are not things that I am proud of. But they are things that, with time and education and good people calling me out, I have very much moved past. And if I don’t admit that to the world, then everyone who is guilty of those things will only ever see me as a person who does not make those mistakes. If I do not have empathy for people who are in the same position that I was in when I first started learning about feminism and social justice, then how can I expect them to listen to me?

So I say this to those of you out there who may be struggling with being called out and all the things that brings up for you: No one pops out of the womb full of perfect knowledge of how to walk the world. We are all walking and growing together. It’s OK to fuck up.

It’s how you learn.