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Friday, April 11, 2014

A SHORT MUSING ON "PRIVILEGE"

It's funny that, in my experience when "social justice warriors" on-line play the Oppression Olympics game, it's quite often straight, cisgender, white people slapping me with "privilege" because I'm male. They see the world as a simplistic ladder, with groups stacked on top of each other according to their level of privilege. If I wanted to play this game, I literally have fewer rights than most of the goofballs who argue with me on-line about social justice issues; I grew up with fear and suicidal thoughts as many closeted gays do; I've been harassed, threatened and physically assaulted for being gay...

You don't know people's histories, and we all have many identities that interlock. Privilege is relational, not some genetic trait you're born with. I am not eternally privileged because of my race and gender. It's not Original Sin. There are times in my life when I can access white and male privilege and get an unfair advantage. There are other times when I am denied straight privilege and I have a disadvantage, or even have to fear for my own safety.

Ah, but when I encounter the rabid "social justice warriors" on the Internet, I can be fairly certain they'll treat me like crap no matter what the situation. Because they treat everybody like crap who doesn't kowtow to them, and they misuse social concepts like privilege as an excuse to do it. It's obnoxious and unhelpful, and in the worst cases (which are all too common), zealous "social justice warriors" dogpile and go after people they disagree with, spread rumors about them, and try to actively harm their reputations. Which is why I continue to oppose their awful behaviors and tactics, regardless of the fact that politically, we probably vote for all the same politicians and legislative measures.

That's all.

Monday, April 7, 2014

WHAT FTB/SKEPCHICK WANT...

Why is it that the dramabloggers at Skepchick and FTB, and their fans, don't ever think twice about writing the most awful shit about people they have never met, naming them, going after them to harm their public reputations... but I am here, hesitant, to talk about what I think is plainly obvious: that all the available evidence suggests that Karen Stollznow is unstable, dishonest, and has a history of both abusing her partners, and making up false sexual harassment claims to spitefully get back at former lovers.

Hey look, I normally don't give a shit about strangers' personal lives; but it was the shitty FTB and Skepchick bloggers who spent months and months and months shoving this shit in our faces, making people's personal lives the subject of public gossip. Most people I know and associate with want to avoid drama when we can. PZ and Rebecca and the rest of the shitty asshole brigade are the ones who don't want to let go of the drama. Fine then.

We have an extremely public claim about somebody, accusing them of criminal activity, and all these shitty blogs encouraging people who have never met either party to form opinions. Karen's most prominent supporters are the shitty drama bloggers themselves, who have already attacked and lied about a dozen other people. I read the 25-page court documents, I read the e-mails, and I read about Karen's prior arrest for domestic abuse. And in light of this evidence, I think it's plainly obvious that Karen Stollznow is an unstable, dishonest, violent nutjob.

I really don't see how anyone could come to a different conclusion. The woman has been arrested for abusing her partner, for christ's sake. The dramabloggers at Skepchick and FTB have been trying to paint themselves as the people who especially care about domestic violence and sexual abuse... and they seem to be TOTALLY comfortable with the fact that Karen was arrested for abusing her husband??? WOW. Well, okay, crazies. I mean, I have long suspected you were all full of shit and don't REALLY care about the issues you routinely lecture other people on. So color me not surprised.

This is what dramabloggers at FTB and Skepchick want. They want people to gossip about the private lives of people they happen to take issue with. Well fine then. The evidence points to Karen being fucking batshit insane. I probably won't go to TAM this year, but if I did, I would avoid her like the plague. Between the arrest record and e-mails, it's pretty clear that she can't be trusted, and is willing to lie about other people and harm them out of spite.

That's where the evidence so far leads. Wanna change my mind? I'm actually open to that, but in order to do so, you'll need a whole lot MORE evidence... not shitty drama bloggers making wild, baseless claims. I wouldn't trust the shit FTB and Skepchick dramabloggers say if my freaking life depended on it.

Monday, March 31, 2014

I NEED A REASON TO BOYCOTT

So now apparently I'm supposed to be boycotting Firefox, because the CEO once made a personal contribution to Proposition 8 in California. Prop 8 hurt real people and their families, and thank god it's overturned now. He sounds like an ignorant dick. But has he used any of his company's money or influence to support his anti-gay cause? No? Well then... what is the issue here?

Professional working adults will work alongside people they disagree with sometime in their lives. It's part of being an adult. If it has nothing to do with the business, then it shouldn't matter. I would hate for someone to judge me for my own pro-gay activism and art, if they have nothing to do with a job I was hired to do. That would feel very unfair, and unprofessional. I have worked for CEO's I suspected were conservative Christians. I say suspected, because I think that's right, but also, I didn't bother to go digging too much into their personal beliefs or political activities. I have been out of the closet to my superiors at every job I've had since I came out. None of my managers or CEO's discriminated against me on the basis of sexual orientation. I would not work for any company that had anti-gay policies toward its workers or customers. I am at a job to do work, and I expect to be judged by that work. My superiors can worship Mothra in their free time for all I care. That's business. That's professionalism.

But boycotts are all the rage these days, it seems. It's weird how many of my fellow liberals and/or gays just expect me to hop on board these bandwagons, and seem surprised when I question them. Let me explain my very simple formula for whether we should boycott a business for being anti-gay. Does the company discriminate against LGBT employees or customers? Are company funds being used to promote anti-LGBT legislation? No? Then I don't feel the need to boycott.

Let's run down the quick list of recent boycotts, shall we?

* Barilla: I didn't boycott. The CEO said some dumb things in an interview. So he's a dummy. And he wouldn't put gays in his commercials. Oh. Well, we aren't in most commercials. Also, gay media itself tends to be focused on eye candy. When gay publications start showing me more average looking families and fewer half-naked dudes with no body fat in underwear, then we can complain about how the mainstream media portrays us. K?

Also it should be noted, I was already a customer of Barilla. I like their Pasta Plus brand, it has more complex carbohydrates but doesn't taste like tree bark, like some whole wheat pasta I've tried. I was appalled to see some of my fellow, well-fed Americans throw unopened pasta in the trash, and show off the pictures on social media. If you don't want to keep perfectly good food, then give it to a local food bank!!! Lordy.

* Stoli: I didn't boycott. This company had already been a supporter of gay events. The boycott was a misguided attempt to punish Russia for its anti-gay laws. People incorrectly assumed it was a Russian company, and that a boycott would "send a message" to Putin. Yeah good luck with that.

Stories of gay bars pouring Stoli down storm drains made my inner alcohol-loving Wisconsinite softly weep. If you're going to pour out perfectly good booze, pour it into my mouth. K thnx.

* Firefox: Not boycotting. I only use it rarely anyway, I'm already a Chrome user. But until you can prove that this guy is enacting anti-gay policies either toward his employees or his customers; or using company funds to harm gay people and their families, then it's his own business what kind of jackassy things he does in his spare time.

* Chick-fil-A: I would boycott. There are none in my state, I went to one once in my life when I was visiting an ex's family in San Antonio. This was NOT just one guy saying shitty things in public and making an ass of himself. This company actually partnered with anti-gay groups. That crosses the line. They deserve every ounce of criticism they received.

* Salvation Army: I boycott them. They have explicitly anti-gay hiring policies. I have even heard horror stories from friends who were turned away in times of need because of their sexual orientation. This, also, crosses the line. I have successfully gotten previous employers who were thinking of supporting the SA for the holidays to change their minds. I simply showed them the evidence that they discriminate, and I made my case reasonably and professionally. And I'm damn proud of that.

* Any business that would turn away gay customers based on the owners' "religious convictions": I would boycott. Because duh.

* Ender's Game film: I didn't boycott, however this was a bit unique because the author was so outrageous in his anti-gay rhetoric. My personal stance here was that I did not grow up with the book, I had no interest in watching the film, and I wouldn't be able to enjoy myself because in the back of my mind I would be thinking about the absolutely horrendous anti-gay shit Orson Scott Card has spewed.

It was a personal enjoyment thing, not a boycott. And I didn't fault any of my gay friends who loved the book and were excited for the movie. I certainly did not accuse them of being blind to social injustices, either. At least two of my friends who love the book and saw the film are very outspoken on LGBT rights, on a daily basis. One is a professional activist who does outreach and education workshops teaching people about LGBT issues, women's health care rights, and human sexuality in general. If I were some goofball on twitter throwing judgment around, I might accuse him of being a homophobe for liking Ender's Game. I would be wrong, stupid, and basically crazy if I did that.

So there you go. I think I have a fairly simple formula in place for deciding whether to boycott a product. I just need a logical reason. Is it too much to ask?

SLACKTIVISM SUCKS

So why does Internet "social justice" slacktivism piss me off so much? Aside from some data I've read about that suggests people are LESS likely to give time or money to a cause after being bombarded with it on social media... take a look at this "Cancel Colbert" nonsense. The issue here was about Native Americans, and the offensive way they are portrayed by the team name "Redskins"; as well as the efforts of team owner Daniel Snyder to give concessions to Native tribes and make his brand appear more racially sensitive. For some, those efforts not only fell flat, but seemed racially insensitive in their own right, and only exacerbated the problem. This is what Colbert's segment was meant to address. This is the segment that gave rise to the quote on twitter that everyone is up in arms about. The twitter account that quoted him out of context is not controlled by Colbert himself, but who needs facts when they can settle for emotional outrage, right?

Much of this is moot at this point, because the original issue has been completely drowned out. What are most people talking about now, instead of the Redskins and the rights and dignity of Native Americans? Suey Park. Who is not, by the way, some random, innocent person who just "dared to speak out" and then was met with totally unwarranted hostility. She is an activist and author with a particular knack for stirring the pot and making twitter hashtags go viral. "I know what drives corporations and Twitter kind of crazy", she has said. And indeed, she has done it.

This "controversy" so far has followed the same general template as other ones I've seen. A person, usually a woman, is embroiled in a divisive social media outrage event. This person usually has, already, a very large fan base prepared to defend them in the on-line arena. This person is cast as an innocent victim by their fans and supporters. Often - and this is kind of important - troll comments are conflated with *all* other criticism of this person, even when the criticism is perfectly reasonable and civil. Adria Richards, Anita Sarkeesian and Rebecca Watson all have very vocal fan bases that will happily accuse anyone who dares to question them in any way of being "misogynists"; and in the case of people of color like Richards, her detractors also get to be called "racist". This language is not only reserved for privileged white males, either. Women and other people of color who dissent are abused with the same hostile language and accusations as anyone else. It's about protecting the Queen Bee.

I saw a tweet in defense of Park that read: "If the amount of people defending Colbert with racist remarks didn't tell you anything.. I don't even know." That does tell me some things, a few I already knew, and they are utterly unsurprising. Racism still exists and there are trolls on the Internet (DUH!). Some trolls might be real racists, although it's a bit hard to tell, since a defining characteristic of trolls is that *they write what they think will bother you the most*. If you are a woman defending feminism, you have painted a troll target on yourself that screams: "here is what you should say to me to get my goat". Your trolls will use sexist language. If you are accusing a beloved television performer of racism based on an out of context joke, some of your pushback will include racist language from trolls. I have made art that explicitly argues for gay rights, and guess what? Some of the negative response I've received has come in the form of deeply homophobic language. Hardly shocking. The difference here is that I would rather make an honest living developing my skills as an artist, rather than capitalizing on troll abuse and manipulating good intentions in order to crusade against public figures I don't like. I keep most of my anti-gay detractors' comments where they belong: in the trash.

People often jump the gun without looking at all the facts. Upon closer inspection, however, you often find that the supposedly unassuming figures at the center of these social media firestorms are not unassuming in the least. They are perfectly intelligent, driven, egotistical people who are good at communicating and accumulating social capital on-line; and also very good at capitalizing on other people's genuine desires to combat injustice in the world. They get people mad at social inequality, and then harness this power AWAY from the actual issues and causes that were originally supposed to be under discussion; and redirect it toward boosting their own brands, blog hits, ad revenue and notoriety. I don't know Suey Park, but from what I've seen, she is not stupid. I can easily imagine that she knows full well that Colbert's joke was taken completely out of context and warped into something racist, instead of what it was: which was satirical political commentary mocking racism. So some people ask "are these people REALLY that dumb, that they don't understand obvious satire?" And I say no, probably not. I think they understood it just fine, and didn't care. They saw an opportunity to further their own careers, at the expense of the Native Americans affected by the real, original issue; and they took it. It ends up looking a lot more like narcissism than "social justice activism", if you ask me.

And if you ask me, if you want to "cancel Colbert" instead of focus on the original issue - team names and mascots that are considered by many to be offensive and dehumanizing to Native Americans - then you not only missed the point, you were totally duped by an Internet faux celebrity.

Friday, February 14, 2014

FACEBOOK GENDER IDENTITY ADDITIONS

I sort of saw this coming, a lot of people I know are totally confused by facebook's new gender options. Keep in mind I live in hippy dippy Madison, Wisconsin. We are a liberal oasis, our university has a strong LGBT Studies program, and our city generally is very accepting of the LGBT community as a whole. People are still confused, and that says something just a bit sad about the state of public understanding of transgender issues, I think. But I'm still confident it's nothing a little explanation can't clear up. But it also isn't a simple topic so this might get lengthy, sorry about that.

Well first, when people know next to nothing about this topic, I like to refer them to the American Psychological Association's fact sheet. It's pretty straightforward and its major weakness at the moment is that the terms people use to describe their gender identity change so quickly, that some of the words facebook now lets you identify as won't be in this pamphlet.

So far, other than some people who don't even know what the hell transgender is at all, I've seen the following questions raised:

What's the difference between "trans" and "trans*"?

The word "transgender" used to be a catch-all, umbrella term for a variety of different gender identities - transsexuals, cross-dressers, genderqueer, etc. This is the way the word is used in the APA pamphlet I linked to. These are all different things, but all those people are similar in one way: their gender identities diverge from what is commonly considered the "norm" for men and women in our society. So in that regard, they will have some common social and political issues going on, and in some cases it can be useful for social scientists to group them all together under one big word that means "all these people transgress our society's prevailing gender-based expectations in one way or another".

When you see an article or blog using trans*, they are most likely trying to be non-specific, and talk about very broad concepts like gender-based discrimination that can affect all transgender people, even though they might be different from one another. It's like the term "people of color". Sometimes, as in the history of the United States, discrimination was based on white people being favored in society, and everyone else was discriminated against in various ways. That "everyone who isn't white" obviously includes a whole lot of different types of people and different races, but they all had to deal with the fact that they weren't white. In that context it can be useful to group them together in order to study social and legal discrimination that was based on maintaining white supremacy. It doesn't mean all people of color were the same as each other, it just means for some purposes historians and sociologists want to focus on the similarities of what was happening to all the different non-white races. Sometimes if you see the word "queer" it's being used in an even broader sense to mean anyone who transgresses society's prevailing expectations about gender and sexuality, which can include gay men like me. "Queer" can mean the whole LGBTQ (plus whatever other letters you might see added to the alphabet soup). Again, this can be useful for historians and sociologists, especially if they're studying anti-LGBT attitudes. To put it very simply, when some social conservatives say they hate queers, they aren't distinguishing between gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, or even heterosexual cross dressers... they think we're all sick queers and they don't really care that I personally happen to be gay and not transgender. It's all the same to them, they see the world in very black-and-white terms.

So "transgender" used to be that umbrella word for people who transgress the prevailing gender norms. But then after a while so many people started using the word transgender to mean, more specifically, transsexual people (people who transition from one sex to the other), there stopped being a convenient "umbrella" term that could point at the commonalities between all these different groups. Trans* with an asterisk is trying to fix that. So if you read the APA pamphlet and note how the word "transgender" is being used as an umbrella term, that's the way trans* is being used now on the Internet.

There are so many different gender identities, I feel so out of the loop!

Suddenly being confronted with over fifty new gender terms can seem overwhelming if you aren't even used to there being more than two! However, I don't really think that over fifty, distinct ideas are being represented in facebook's list. There are duplicates, slightly different ways to word the same things, and really there are probably about five general categories being presented here:

1. Typical males (also called cisgender males or cisgender men)
2. Typical females (also called cisgender males or cisgender men)
3. Male to female transsexuals (people born biologically male who transition to being women)
4. Female to male transsexuals (people born biologically female who transition to being men)
5. People with more ambiguous gender who don't fit neatly in this binary, which can include words like genderqueer, androgynous, etc.

Additionally there might be some confusion because the word "Intersex" is not actually about gender, it's about sex. If you read the APA pamphlet you'll see that social scientists separate sex from gender in order to more accurately study each concept - sex refers to physical sex characteristics: genes, hormones, genitalia, etc.; while gender refers to the social aspects: what roles men and women are expected to take on in society, what they are expected to wear, etc.

Intersex is basically the modern term for "hermaphrodite", it means a person is born with ambiguous sex characteristics. There are a variety of conditions that can cause this to happen. "Hermaphrodite" is not really a word you'll want to use by the way, it's archaic, it would be like referring to a black person as a "negro". It's not necessarily a hateful slur, but it does sound really insensitive and out of touch.

And, "two spirit" sticks out to me a bit because I studied that concept in college too, it's an umbrella term for people who fulfilled various mixed gender roles in Native societies. The thing about that is these types of roles have been documented in many tribes, but they weren't always the same thing in each tribe. Modern people might use the term to identify themselves but that doesn't exactly tell me whether they are transgender, or Intersex, or maybe they are gay, who knows. Native societies simply did not construct their gender roles exactly the same as we do now, and not even the same as each other. So this could get into another huge discussion, but I already wrote those essays for college and don't feel like doing it again right now. :) Suffice it to say if you see someone identify as "two spirit", it's probably safe to assume they are queer, and they have Native American ancestry and feel some connection to their ancestors' culture.

So why over fifty terms?

I've been discussing this with my friends and we came up with some pretty good answers to this. For one thing, we should all know by now that facebook is all about targeted marketing. As my friend Shane said, "this looks like typical Facebook data structuring, dupes and ambiguity." There probably is not going to be much of a real-world distinction between my calling myself a "cisgender male" or a "cisgender man" or a "cis man" or just "cis". Facebook wants a lot of terms to cover all their bases to allow people to identify with the word they feel suits them the best, and to grab as much demographic data as they can for marketing purposes.

Some people prefer specific terms because others rub them the wrong way. Think of it this way, I happen to be a gay man, and another word for that is "homosexual". I personally don't mind either term, but there are people who think the term "homosexual" sounds too clinical or archaic. There have even been studies done showing that the word "homosexual" trends better for anti-gay campaigns. Anti-gay activists know this and tend to favor its usage for that reason, which is also why in their media guide, GLAAD suggests not using it.

Giving people lots of options lets them use the words they like best. Generally if you have a product where people are expressing who they are - either a social media platform like facebook, or a video game with customizable avatars - you want to give the consumer as many options as you can to cover everyone.

Now keep in mind there may be queer theorist types who will disagree with me that a lot of these are straight up duplicates, since there is an idea popular in some academic circles that gender is entirely socially constructed and fluid. Some people want to think gender isn't a real thing, or that there could be infinite genders. I do not hold to that idea, and my own academic background isn't in queer theory, it's in LGBT Studies. Queer theory is an ideology concerned with challenging or even overturning concepts surrounding gender and sexuality. I'm not a postmodernist, I don't want to break down or deconstruct anything, I want to expand my knowledge and understand things properly as they really are, from an objective, scientific perspective. My own studies involved a lot of evidence-based history and biology lessons. Now of course some things about gender and sexual norms should definitely be challenged, for example if it's generally a popular notion in our society that women shouldn't have careers, that's obviously sexist bullshit. But I won't go calling into question the very idea of "woman". That's something that's a bit too ivory tower and disconnected from biology than what I'm comfortable with. I've entertained some of these "radical" notions and frankly find them naive, politically motivated and lacking in evidence. But hey if you find them compelling then have at it.

Having studied transgender issues it seems pretty clear to me that some people are trans, just like some people are gay or left-handed. Adding a whole lot of gender options to identify as might seem a bit confusing to some, but it's good for facebook to facilitate targeted marketing; and it's good for transgender people who wish to express who they really are, and were not previously able to do that properly with only two gender options.

And really if it's still all that confusing to you, and you aren't a transgender person who would be interested in this new feature anyway, then just ignore it. Stick with the "male" or "female" options, they haven't gone anywhere.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

RANDOM NONSENSE GENERATORS

I think generally if a random quote generator can capture your movement's jargon, and be indistinguishable from the real thing, that's a good sign that your movement is bullshit. I'm taking a short break from my drawings to start collecting my favorite random nonsense generators:

THE TUMBLR INSULT AND RANT GENERATOR: Indistinguishable from many of the "social justice warriors" who hang out on Tumblr, twitter and facebook, and think insulting strangers all day from behind the safety of a computer monitor and keyboard amounts to real "activism" for LGBT or women's rights. Silly gooses! This is what you sound like.

THE RANDOM POSTMODERN ESSAY GENERATOR: Oh lord, this sounds exactly like the "art theory" nonsense I was subjected to in grad school. I still have to read Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word at least once a year to keep the flashbacks at bay.

THE RANDOM DEEPAK CHOPRA QUOTE GENERATOR: Nobody knows how to say absolutely nothing and get suckers to pay him money for it like the good ol' Deepster. For an added bonus follow this scathing parody twitter account.

THE TEA PARTY INSULT GENERATOR: Apparently taken from actual insults on John Boehner's facebook wall. Heh.

Enjoy!! :D

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A LATE NIGHT GAY RANT

Was discussing recent Aaron Rodgers gay rumors, and someone said they were baffled as to why people care so much who people have sex with, instead of how they play on the field. I'm not baffled. It's utterly expected. Anyone can be shallow, but for gay men it's embedded in our culture and media, and normalized in a way it isn't for straight people.

Barilla pasta must be boycotted because the CEO said he wouldn't put gays in his commercials and doesn't like the idea of gay adoption; never mind he actually supports civil marriage equality and doesn't give money to anti-gay politicians.

We wanna be in commercials!! Be nice to us!!

The Advocate photoshops "NOH8" (originally a marriage equality slogan until it turned into an excuse for celebrities to pose naked in overexposed fashion photos) onto Pope Francis' face and declares him a gay hero just because his rhetoric isn't as awful as the blatantly awful guy that preceded him; never mind that Francis has not changed a single anti-gay Church policy.

He talks better!! We love him!!

Alec Baldwin gets fired for allegedly using anti-gay slurs; never mind he has never shown himself to be anti-gay in practice at all, and his fan base is probably, generally very liberal.

We wanna hear people say nice things!! We don't wanna hear them say mean things!!

Oh, what's that? A random rumor that a pro football player is gay? We want that to be true!! Share it, 'like' it, tweet it, reblog and repost to get the message out!!

Yes, imagine how FABULOUS it would be to have an out pro football player! Who gives a shit that this is a real person we're talking about, that the flimsy evidence originated from some gossip website, and that we might be totally wrong about it; or, if he is gay, that outing him in this way could backfire and jeopardize this guy's career and relationships. WHO CARES HOW HE FEELS. Imagine how it would LOOK to the world to have a handsome, successful Green Bay Packer representing US!!

(And thank god he's good looking because you KNOW if he were ugly we would not even care enough to be talking about this)


Shallow narcissism. And all too often, this attitude characterizes our "gay community", whatever that even is. It's not uncommon, it's not an outlier. It's the default.

I'd be more baffled if people started treating each other with dignity and respect, getting to know them as thinking beings, celebrating their skills and achievements rather than judging them by their hotness or what they can use them for politically. THAT would surprise me.