You’re Not Raising Awareness. You’re Just Being an Asshole.

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October, my favourite month, is coming up and you know what that means!

That’s right. It’s time for those highly annoying, misogynistic, and cis-supremacist bullshit “breast cancer awareness” games to make the rounds on all your favourite social media sites.

It’s also the month I’m not allowed to leave the house with a lighter, because then I’ll burn all the bras they string across the grocery stores.

There are so many problems with the pinkwashing of breast cancer I don’t even know where to begin. There is no beginning; it’s just a clusterfuck of oppressive, awful, bullshit.

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Independence! …from harassment. Hopefully. Someday.

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(x-posted here.)

If you’re involved in the SF-o-sphere you may have seen the internet go boom in the past week. Elise Matthesen was sexually harassed while she was at WisCon, and formally reported it.

This is actually news, because reporting is so rare – mainly because society in general makes it incredibly difficult for people to report this sort of thing and incredibly easy for the perpetrators to get away with it.

Elise asked several friends to post her essay on their blogs, including John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig, both of whom I already read on a semi-regular basis. (There is a list of the rest of the posts here, along with a resoundingly thorough link round-up.)

I’m not going to talk much about the event itself, because I’m not really all that active in the SF-o-sphere or the Con circuit. I’d like to be, for the latter, but I’m not. (I also haven’t done nearly enough reading yet about the incident, nor was I present for the convention. So I don’t feel comfortable speaking at length about it.)

What I am going to talk about is one specific reaction that has come out of it – John Scalzi’s new policy on cons and their anti-harassment policies, or lack there-of.

He’s said that he will not be a guest, guest of honor, or participant at any con unless these guidelines are met:

  1. That the convention has a harassment policy, and that the harassment policy is clear on what is unacceptable behavior, as well as to whom those who feel harassed, or see others engaging in harassing behavior, can go for help and action.

  2. That the convention make this policy obvious by at least one and preferably more than one of the following: posting the policy on their Website, placing it in their written and electronic programs, putting up flyers in the common areas, discussing the policy at opening ceremonies or at other well-attended common events.

  3. In cases when I am invited as a Guest of Honor, personal affirmation from the convention chair that a harassment policy exists, that it will be adequately publicized to conventiongoers, and that all harassment complaints will be dealt with promptly and fairly, with no excuses or rationalizations for delaying action when such becomes necessary.

(The Mary Sue has also done a write-up about this.)

This is important, obviously, because John Scalzi is using his powers for good. He has leverage with cons because he’s an award-winning, well-known author in the SF circuit. They want to put him on the guest list to attract fans to come to the con, because fans coming to the con means the con actually goes on. (You can’t run an event without money flowing somewhere.) This is Event Ecology 101.

What’s even better? A lot of people are co-signing. Myself included.

While many of us do not have anywhere near the same clout as Scalzi does, numbers matter. Enough committed people can start a revolution. There are 377 comments on the co-signing post at Scalzi’s blog.

Numbers matter.

Hopefully, with enough co-signers + Scalzi’s clout, cons that do not have harassment policies will get them. If your favourite con has no such policy, I urge you to write them and tell them they’ll lose your business until they get one. 

I realize some people are not going to see the point of this. People who don’t get harassed, or, if they do, are able to deal with it without much trauma. Whatever, you may say, it’s just a part of going to cons. 

No, it’s not. It’s not “just a part” of life, either – or it shouldn’t be. And what you allow, continues. 

I’ve been to one fandom con in my life. Dragon*Con, 2009. I was lucky, because I was there with a large group of friends – friends who watched out for me, protected me, looked after me. Especially when I was twenty sheets to the wind, stumbling down the streets screaming “I LOVE YOU ATLANTA!” (1 large Pixie Stick + 1 pint of vodka X 2 = Starbuck!Kat).

I didn’t get harassed. The closest anyone came, if I recall correctly, was when I got a picture with some dude dressed like Snape and he was a bit of a creeper. PSA, folks: if you get a pic with someone you don’t know and you have your arm around their shoulder, don’t rub their shoulder with your thumb. Not alluring, not seductive. Just gross.

But otherwise, no. I had a safe, fun time at my only con, free of harassment. People were nothing but kind to me.

And I realize, fully, that had I not been surrounded by friends I may have had a bad time. It was my first con and it’s probably the biggest con out there. It’s likely I may have been harassed.

This is not a “oh, it only happens at those cons” thing either. It happened at WisCon. The feminist SFF convention.

Harassment happens everywhere and anywhere, and for a long time our entire culture has been helping perpetrators find more victims while throwing the victims under the bus. It is one thread in the tapestry of rape culture – the culture we’ve built that tells folks consent and boundaries don’t have to be respected, tells us that certain folks are entitled to certain things from other folks, tells us that if we follow the rules it won’t happen to us, tells us that if it does happen to us it must have been our fault, somehow.

Read any comment thread on these issues and you’ll see people spouting the same bullshit arguments, ranging anywhere from standard victim-blaming to “OH NOES ,THE FEMINISTS R PUSHING THEIR AGENDAZ ON US”. Yes, the agenda of getting people to stop harassing other people. What a fucking concept.

(Now, granted, the original posts linked in the link round-up will be, probably, much better with the comment threads than, say, the internet in general. But I’ve not even finished reading Scalzi’s comment thread and already people have come in with victim-blaming and OH NOES TEH FEMINISSSTSSSS. So even at a place with excellent comment modding, it will happen.)

So I’ve signed. I don’t have the clout Scalzi does (yet), and so far as I know there aren’t any readers out there who really want me to come to a con (yet). But I am a participant in con life, or I was for one brief shining moment when I could afford the trip out there. And I plan on going to cons in the future – as participant, as guest, as fan and human being.

And, like Scalzi, I don’t want to support any con that does not have a clear harassment policy in place. What you allow, continues, and not having a policy (with teeth!) is essentially the same as allowing these behaviors to continue.

Not only for my safety, but my current and potential fans’ safety, for the safety of any people I bring with me, and – most importantly – for the betterment of our small piece of the world.

SFF, geek, fandom, con culture – all part of a subculture that has been my home for my whole life, it seems. But it continues to perpetrate the oppressive power structures found in the overculture it comes from, and that’s a problem.

I want to see a subculture of the future that is better than that, and I think that we can do it. Especially as SFF fans and creators. We can imagine and do better, guys.

In the next week or so I’ll be compiling a list of cons that have adopted harassment policies I’m satisfied with. There’s a list here already, but I think there may be more out there, so I’ll be doing my own research. I will then list the cons you may see me at in the future.

I’m willing to put in my bit of work to make a future that I can feel better about bringing my future Loon-spawn into.

Are you?

-Kat

This is Rape Culture — addendum to my Amanda Todd post

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Trigger warning: description of rape, rape culture, misogyny, bullying, suicide

Something I didn’t really get into in my last post about Amanda Todd’s suicide is the misogyny, sexism, and clear and present rape culture apparent in the details of the case. I did originally write about it in my post, but decided I wanted to focus on suicide and not misogyny in that post, and that I could write a follow-up post later.

This is that follow-up post.

Most of the posts about Amanda attribute her suicide to bullying and tend to ignore the fact that it was more than bullying. It was sexual harassment. It was assault based on slut-shaming.

She was convinced to flash a guy on webcam. We don’t know if she was coerced or not, but it’s likely. Regardless, she regretted doing it.

Then she was stalked and harassed by a guy who had gotten a hold of a screenshot of that flash, who told her to “give him a show” or he’d distribute the picture to all her friends.

That’s rape culture.

The idea that men are entitled to women’s bodies, and that if they don’t get what they want they can force the issue — that’s rape culture. The idea that stalking and harassing a girl because she flashed someone once online is acceptable — that’s rape culture. The idea that she got what she deserved because she slept with someone who was involved with another person — that’s rape culture. The framing of the story by certain news agencies to moralize about how girls shouldn’t show their breasts on webcam because, oh, look what happens — that’s rape culture. The fact that no one is really talking about the misogyny, sexism, and slut-shaming present in her case — that’s rape culture. The comments on various sites by “trolls” — rape culture.

And social media has made rape culture more pervasive and more dangerous.
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13 reasons this book made me homicidal: a review of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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Cover of "Thirteen Reasons Why"

Cover of Thirteen Reasons Why

I picked up Thirteen Reasons Why recently because it was on my list of “to read” and it had received much critical acclaim. Also it was one of two books I’d brought with me while traveling (not including the two I read on mom’s Kindle). I figured it might be okay, at least.

Allow me to give you 13 reasons I dislike it. And by “dislike”, I mean “hate psychotically.”

[TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE AND ASSAULT]

[SPOILERS]

1. Support of the “Well, she didn’t technically say ‘no’ so it’s not technically rape, right?” trope. The character who gets raped [I’m talking about Hannah; the other character who gets raped is tossed aside like a piece of garbage, her views never explored] is herself unsure if it was rape or no, which is very common because we all get taught that we’re dirty and naughty unless we shout no! in a loud voice — but we’re trained from an early age to never say no, because then the menfolk might get violent. That’s not what I have issue with; I have issue with the book itself seeming unsure regarding the conclusion. If the character who’d been raped could not unequivocally call it that, then another character who knew about it (there were three) should have been clear. Without that clarity it seems the author is saying he agrees that it’s “grey-area rape”. Anything short of enthusiastic consent is rape. Not saying no does not equal consent. The fact that the character was crying and clenching her teeth just to get through it should have alerted the others who knew about the situation that it was rape. Instead, we get vague hand-waving of “well maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t,” and this is wholly irresponsible of the author and holds up standards of misogyny and rape culture.

2. The structure of the book is highly manipulative. The reader is lead on a very deliberate route, leaving no leeway for interpretation. Asher has a conclusion that he wants you to reach and he makes sure you reach it. This leaves you feeling used and abused once the book is done.

3. Horrible characterization: there is no sympathy for Hannah Baker. She’s badly written. Hannah is portrayed as cold, calculating, selfish and childish. Suicidal people get portrayed as selfish all the time, so this is an old, tired, trope. Instead, you feel sympathy for Clay Jensen, who is a basically good guy [even thought he’s been raised steeped in patriarchal rape culture but that’s not really his fault and despite it he seems to turn out okay, at least] who is in love with Hannah. He had no idea how deeply disturbed she was, and feels she didn’t really give him a chance to help her. The added blow of giving him the tapes will give him guilt and anger towards her, which is unfair and childish: suicidal people usually don’t plan big manipulation games like this. We’re too lost in our own pain to even fucking care about how our deaths are going to affect others — and no, that’s not being selfish, that’s called having bodily autonomy. Also, if you can’t understand what it’s like to just want to die because you’re in so much pain, shut the fuck up about suicidal people being selfish. You have no idea.

The attitude of Hannah, the whole “I’ll just kill myself and THEN won’t they be sorry!” makes her look like a spoiled child, and not someone who’s truly in a lot of pain.
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