Feminists All the Way Down

I have lived every day of my life
Thinking only of what I should think
When I read back at everything
That I have written
On how I lived my life

And in the process of doing so
I have missed the chance to feel alive.
Just to stay an observer of an impartial observer.

– Every Time I Die, “Turtles All the Way Down”

I’m not going to mince words, the WoW blogging community has been having a sort of tumbling, somewhat-related discussion about women* and their experiences with gaming in Warcraft for the past week or so. Usually when varied opinions on sexism and women in a male-dominated space shake loose, that’s when the huffy nerd feelings come crawling out of the woodwork to tell them how wrong they are. This time though, instead of men, it was women.

And not only was it confusion about where all the sexism was, it was deeply “controversial”** opinions about feminists and their ilk (TW: discussion about rape in the comments). I found it deeply upsetting, honestly, not just from the perspective that it was my life’s work and blog focus being mocked and derided, but the fact that these things were coming out after significant posts about people’s experiences had been expressed (including my own.) It shocks me when people tend to shrug off things that don’t directly happen to them. It hurts when it comes horizontally from other women, those people we know have probably felt the lash and sting of the same things at some point in their lives.

I’m not going to get into a passionate defense of feminism right now, not here at least. Anyone who’s read me long enough knows how I feel on the subject, knows who I am, knows what my brand of feminism is like. It is unrelenting, capable of love and definitely full of anger. Take it or leave it.

Effy’s posts are the ones I fixated most of my complex, snuffly-nosed emotional feelings onto because they stood to be the most personally insulting. It was tied to me, whether she wanted it to or not, and it felt like a slap in the face. After the annoyance subsided, I realized that all that was left was disappointment. I knew where she was coming from and I was saddened that that is where she stood, especially being so close in age with me. It rang like words from a younger woman; that woman being me.

I know that it is the common belief that feminists spring fully-formed from the heads of society; we’re clad with a book on Judith Butler in one hand and a picture of Gloria Steinem in the other. This is not the case, gentle readers. Women in the geekier spheres of society (read: male-dominated hobbies) that come into feminism tend to follow a very similar method of growth –

  • We start our unsure of ourselves, very often because we like things others don’t, and don’t present as especially “feminine”
  • Rise to a special position, “one of the boys” and well-liked for our sexual or geeky value
  • Quickly look to eradicate sources of opposition (other women)
  • Realize that being vociferous defenders of the status quo doesn’t buy us but a temporary reprieve from neckbeards
  • Fall from grace, realize it was all a sham
  • Find strength in other women who’ve been through the same thing.
  • FEMINISM!

Okay so maybe that’s an oversimplification of things, and I’m sure more than a couple of you can disagree that that’s how it happened for you, but I’ve spoken with enough women in the various nerd places I’ve hung out to see a trend emerging about when they precisely got into stamping out sexism in geek culture. It’s how it happened to me. I used to be that woman that was special and cute, an alpha female who was loved and beloved. I said horrific things about other women despite having women friends. But it was pretty terrible because in a lot of ways, the trust wasn’t there. So in that respect, the posts I saw around the blogging community rang true in a wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey way. That’s who I used to be, they said back to me. I started to grow out of it when I realized that my female friends had my back in ways that men didn’t; they’d be the ones that could accurately describe the terror, the disgrace that came from various problems that face young women these days, I don’t need to elaborate it for you. They didn’t make me feel like I only had a value in my looks or acting a certain way. We could curl up together, drinking wine and eating crab rangoon and watching Law and Order: SVU until we got too scared to turn off the lights. As I moved away from college and into the online world, feminism slowly crept into my life. I remember having a discussion with Dysmorphia about this and she described it as “taking the red pill” (oh ho, geek feminists and our pop culture references still make me giggle, but it was still apt) – that moment when you woke up to how the world really is, and that it was largely unfriendly to you solely by the virtue of being a woman.

I know how scary realizing that can be. I know that this is why a lot of women still hold tightly onto the internalized sexism or misogyny they  have. I’m pretty sure this is what inspired a lot of the really shitty things I had to read on Twitter and blogs this week. You don’t want to believe that the men in your life have the potential (notice I said potential) to be shitty to you with little consequences socially. You don’t want to believe that you can trust other women. You’re still working from a place that hurts really deep inside, from a world that tells you that you’re wrong and others like you are wrong. You force it down so deeply that it turns into hate for femininity and women, but it really is hate for yourself. It’s why you can’t talk to women; they are confusing and emotional and you’re clearly neither of those things. You’re accepted and loved by the men of the world. You love the things they are into.

And it’s okay to be that way, but it’s not because men say it is. That’s why I’ve so embraced feminism – it has allowed me to be whatever woman I want to be on the path to letting everyone be those things too. I know that feminism can seem to be full of anger, because it is.  Anger is productive. There’s a lot of justifiable reasons to be angry. It comes from being treated like less for so long. It’s trying to tear down the structures that have crushed us under its heel in our every day lives. It doesn’t affect just us women, but men too, but we need to take care of ourselves first. Men are OP, but instead of “nerfing” them into oblivion, we need to get rid of the whole dang system in the first place so we can all see eachother as how we are meant to be.

I spent most of the last week just circling around making angry noises, unable to really speak or feel positive about much of anything. I had a long talk yesterday with the inimitable Cynwise because I was having problems really framing my emotions and in the middle of it I had a flash of lightning run through the middle of my brain. How am I supposed to explain what feminism means to me, especially when so many people in the WoW community seem to have really false ideas about it? The answer was so simple.

(1:46:35 PM) Apple Cider!: Oh yeah trust me, some of my best feminist friends are all video gamers
(1:46:41 PM) Apple Cider!: It’s been an interesting …
(1:46:43 PM) Apple Cider!: huh
(1:46:48 PM) Apple Cider!: that just gave me a really good idea
(1:47:12 PM) Apple Cider!: thanks Cyn

One of the ways that I found my way out of the scary, dark forest that was getting into feminism was letting go of that old part of myself that didn’t “really know how to talk to women” which as not just a woman myself, but also as a queer woman, was intensely problematic. I’m going to be blunt here; getting into World of Warcraft made me a better feminist. I joined a fairly progressive guild from the moment I stepped into WoW, one that had many different kinds of women in it. One that had women officers. There’s no point in my WoW career that I haven’t been surrounded by ladies in some shape or form. When that eventually lead me to joining a particular woman-based Livejournal community for the same reason, suddenly it was like the world and all of these delicious ideas and opinions came gushing out. Not only was I constantly being challenged about what the notion of a woman or a gamer meant, but it lead me to a discovery of so many more social justice issues than just combating sexism. I came more to terms with ableism and fat acceptance, and unpacked some of my white privilege with regards to racism as well. Now I’ve grown as a better person that respects others deeply, GMs a guild full of radical feminist women in a safe-ish space where they can play video games and not feel abused or scared or marginalized. (Maybe not as good as I could be but I’m getting there.)

There’s not a day that goes by that doesn’t look on everything I’ve accomplished – this blog, my guild, my wonderful circle of lady friends on Twitter and in-game and realize that it come out of my willingness to challenge my own ideas and self-perceptions and embrace something that truly is trying to shape the world. It’s also made me better equipped to chose people (hint: men) in my life who stand beside me, rather than tolerate my presence because I’m sexy and a geek. I want to make the world better for them too. I want it to be better for everyone, and there’s a lot of movements to try and do that. So when I hear that feminism is man-hating and full of bullies, it lashes at my deep inner self. This is the self that is the person behind the blog, behind the cute little gnome. The person who keeps a seperate Twitter to let off more of the “angry” steam at the world that tells everyone they are less than human compared to the majority.  The person that a lot of people don’t know beyond just this blog.

This person, me, I value video games. I value feminism. I value making people feel uncomfortable and pushing them to think about things. I do it because I want people to be able to enjoy their hobbies, their life and live it as they see fit, in a world that lets them exist and do so freely and without judgement. Do I think this is able to be accomplished in my lifetime? I’m not sure.  I don’t have all the answers. But we’ve seen in the last 100 years women move from pieces of property to being able to vote, own land, be their own citizens, so maybe at the end of my life we will see even more. Right now is a scary place to be, even for us enlightened 21st century women, so I have to keep fighting.  However, I couldn’t do it without the wonderful women and feminists that I’ve met online and in real life and I think that everyone should know that.

Even if you don’t agree with me, we’re all in this together.

 

*Don’t call discussion between women about their own culture “controversial,” it’s mega-stupid.
**It’s not controversial to have societally-accepted opinions about other women being terrible.

35 Responses

    • Most of the opinions expressed were pretty heavily skewed in a way that is how a lot people view women. I felt like using that word in particular was a little more incendiary than perhaps you intended. It’s like when people talk about women having “drama” instead of conflict. On top of the fact that the subject matter frequently gets lampooned as women “being emotional” the wording was a little strong.

    • Hugh, when it comes to issues of institutionalized oppression and struggling with internalized sexism and homophobia, sometimes the dictionary definitions aren’t necessarily always the correct ones?

  1. I’d spoken before on my blog about the fact that I haven’t had any experience with online harassment – even after playing WoW for 5 years. But I also talked about why that might be – that my definition of harassment might be different from someone else’s or, maybe, I’m just lucky.

    But really, that doesn’t matter. Just because I haven’t felt harassed doesn’t mean no one has felt harassed, so as a human being I have to pay attention to other people’s experiences that don’t reflect my own.

    I think if more people were willing to accept experiences-not-their-own as being honest and true, we wouldn’t have so much animosity.

    Thanks for this blog post. It’s an important topic.

  2. Much <3 Apple Cider. I totally understand how frustrating it can be putting your feelings into words, especially about such a hot-button issue which much of the gaming community denies even exists. I agree with you 100% and you've done a much better job expressing yourself and staying calm in the face of hostile/dismissive responses than I could've.

  3. Hey Apple Cider :)

    Lovely post, simply lovely. Enjoyed every word of it. However, I’m wondering why at the bottom you linked me under “even if you don’t agree with me”. Were you implying that my post doesn’t agree with your viewpoints? Because I wholeheartedly agree with you! Just curious. :)

  4. Beautiful post, Apple Cider.

    I can imagine what you felt when reading those posts. I felt a combined sense of impotence and incredulousness, and always the anger. Anger at explaining things over and over again to people whose name changes, but whose mind is a calque from people you’ve already met over and over. And then anger at thinking that no matter what you say, there is going to be disbelief, uncooperativeness, and the conversation will get muddy with theoretical propositions that go nowhere, which seem to be constructed just to throw you off balance so they can rise above these *controversial* issues and become untouchable with cold, insensitive logic.

    Thank you for such an amazing post, and for speaking your mind no matter how many times you have to explain the same things to the same people.

    • I constantly found myself re-reading your comment on Spinks’ post, I’m just in awe of how well you speak! Please comment here more. >_>
      Thank you so much for the nice words.

      And yeah, anger was a big part of how I felt this week. Just endless amounts of frustration that it prevented me from writing, really. I need to GET BACK ON TRACK and talk about World of Warcraft.

      • Thank you very much. It means a lot to me. I’m sometimes worried that I might have written something wrong, as I’m not a native speaker. It’s very heart-warming to hear that I get the message across.

        @Ironyca. I’ll be brave and write about it, thank you for the support :)

    • Echoing what Apple Cider said. Well worded, so concise. Consider tackling some of these issues as well, although I know it’s not your blog angle. Would love to read it!

  5. Hi Apple,

    It has always been my understanding that the woman’s movement was about choice. If a woman chose to stay at home and raise her children instead of going out into the workplace – that’s her choice. If a woman sets her sights on the corporate world and has no interest in starting a family – that’s also her choice.

    The problem comes into play when people who say they support a woman’s choice to do things really means that they support women who make the choices that they would have made. If you are going to espouse a message of acceptance and being in this together, it has to include people that you may disagree with or whose choices you wouldn’t necessarily make for yourself.

    You can’t say that we are all in this together and then proceed to associate with people who would harass someone so badly that they would feel like they cannot continue blogging anymore because they have received so much flak and criticism for their choices that it makes them not want to go on. You cannot say that anymore after something like that happens. You just can’t.

    How does pushing someone to that breaking point and inciting people to push someone to that point indicative of anything that you say that you stand for? It’s not. If that’s your idea of bringing people together and your idea of making the world a better place, then that’s something I don’t want to be a part of. And I don’t think I could blame anyone for choosing to exclude themselves from that type of solidarity, either.

    I really do believe that you mean well and that you have only the best intentions when it comes to the things that you feel passionately about. However, I don’t think that this situation and anyone inherently involved with it should be held up as examples of you doing just that.

    Thank you for listening.

    Please take care.

    • Hey O,
      thanks for the response!

      Choice feminism has been one of those hotly contested parts of feminism – one I actually support. The only downside to the upsides that choice feminism (and invariably third wave feminist theory) provides is that we as women have to be at least critical and aware of where the choices we make come from and what they might represent/mean. A woman who wants to slot herself into a “traditional” role like a SAHM but is a feminist at least should be aware that said choice is still conforming to the traditional roles a woman is told to have in our society and that it is privileged to live on one salary instead of two, especially with kids. (It’s something I’m actually quite familiar with!) A lot of the choices women make still have a lot of societal strings attached, but just being aware that they are there when you come to the table in discussions that involved lived experiences and other women’s lives is all I think choice feminism really requires in order to follow it.

      It’s a heavy criticism to say that this isn’t really what people profess AND carry out, but maybe your experiences have been different than mine. It’s a pretty typical strawperson that gets socked around when people discuss feminists in general when most of the third-wavers I’ve trafficked with believe differently (like said paragraph above). I’m well aware that acceptance and togetherness involves everyone, even people who make choices I wouldn’t. I mean, I know a lot of women who do make choices I wouldn’t, like having kids or getting married! Pretty okay with that myself. :) I also understand that working for women’s rights involves rights for women that want to see mine demolished, like reproductive rights (which boggles me to no end, but yes!). I still fight for their rights even if they hate me. That’s what I meant by acceptance and togetherness. I don’t have to like them or believe anything they do, but I still want all women have the same rights in our society, regardless.

      However, I know that’s not really what you were implying, but that’s the gist of what I meant. What you really meant is that you’re mad that I disagreed and openly criticized a friend of yours that blogged about feminism in a pretty negative, false light and some people disagreed with that. Angrily so even. Unfortunately, as you and I both know, having hot opinions means people will disagree with you. Not sure I incited anything so much as called attention to it – when something that so fundamentally insults something I take seriously bothers me, I do tend to talk about it. Everyone usually does. That’s sorta what happens. Criticism however, is not harassment. As far as I am aware, no one was personally insulting, especially not me, despite the fact that I was heavily attributed to said post. If there was harassment going on that I wasn’t aware of, I’m very sorry for Effy, but there was nothing I did myself personally. I’m okay with disagreeing (even angrily so) with someone’s words. I’m sure Effy is a pretty decent person, as are most people, despite their views and how they might conflict with mine. But criticizing what they said publicly is part of communication and open blogging. I come under fire myself for having the “controversial” opinions I do – sometimes they are just angry and annoying, other times they are harassing. I don’t like the harassing aspect, I don’t wish it on anyone. I didn’t think what I saw in the comment strings was that, but maybe I’m wrong! Anyways, I don’t expect anyone to be with me if they don’t choose to – that’s the freedom of choices and beliefs and being parts of movements and such as. I wouldn’t ask anyone to be a part of something they don’t believe in. However, I do stand by my comments, my Tweets, and this blog, regardless.

      Anyways, I disagree with you, but you probably knew that :)

      Have a nice night.

    • There is a difference between believing that people have the right to make choices about their life, and AGREEING with every choice. I think it’s great that women can decide to have a career or stay at home and raise her children. However, if my 16 year old cousin were to announce that she was quitting high school immediately to set upon a course of (say) getting pregnant and being a SAHM, then no, I wouldn’t agree with her actions.

      Also, I don’t see why you think Apple Cider is particularly responsible for the response of others to the original post, or even of the author’s own response to it. We are all individuals, and we can belong to the same gender or the same philosophical affiliation without being held responsible for all aspects of each other’s behavior.

      Frankly, if you’re going to publish provocative articles on a public forum and invite others to read it, particularly articles that seem insulting to a segment of that readership, it seems disingenuous to then get upset because people react to it. And that’s just my opinion.. I speak for no one else. ;)

    • “Choice” feminism is not feminism when your “choice” is a) infringing on others actual ability to make choices and b) when it’s not a choice at all, but what society pressures you into.

      I’m sure that some women “choose” to oppress themselves and other women, and if so, then they are part of the problem. The reality is that you and eff are both just buying into what patriarchy WANTS you to believe about feminism–you’re basically completely susceptible to its message.

      This is a great article that I doubt you will read because, well, you seem to thrive on being “edgy” (read: espousing mainstream views that are offensive to minorities). However, this is great for anyone interested even passingly in feminism, and explains the problems with false “choice” feminism: http://www.xojane.com/entertainment/choice-feminism-isn%27t-a-choice

      A relevant portion is:

      “If there are only a handful of options available to you, then it’s damn fortunate if you like one, but that doesn’t make it OK that there aren’t more. If your favorite pastimes are dieting, getting shiny hair, and having your legs looked at, hallelujah: You will receive plenty of support in doing the things you like best. But liking your limited options doesn’t mean your choice is free. It’s still constrained — you just happen to be lucky.”

      Of course, in this case it goes even further, because “feminism is shitty/sucks” is not exactly not harming anyone else. Your defense of eff’s blog is about the equivalent of “wow why won’t you tolerate my intolerance?” that racists spout when they get flak for being racist.

      In short: choice feminism has hella issues, eff’s post was immature and insulting and deserved flak, and your posts are in the same boat. Please stop supporting misogyny and believing it somehow makes you unique–it just means you’re a perfect pawn for patriarchy and misogyny.

      • I always thought choice feminism was that we support women making choices – even choices that buy into the patriarchy – while at the same time wanting there to be more valid choices available?

        Like, I’m fine with a woman being a prostitute if that’s what she chooses, and that’s what works for her, but I don’t want that to be her only choice because the pay is a billion times better than other jobs she can get. I’m fine with a woman being a SAHM, but I don’t want her to choose that only to increase her husband’s status and not because she truly wants it. I’m fine with a two income family, but I don’t like the idea that two people have to have an income in a family to survive.

        It’s not about the choices the individuals are making, but the system that values certain choices over others. I support individuals doing what makes them happy, but I don’t support the system that perhaps coerces people into these choices.

        Am I understanding incorrectly what this means? I must admit that while I’ve considered myself to be a feminist for some time, I’ve always felt like a bit of an outcast and I’m not entirely sure where I fit into the scheme of things.

        • That’s what the article advocates for, yes. The problem is just like “radical” feminism has been appropriated by reactionary bigots, “choice” feminism has often been appropriated by misogynists trying to call it feminism.

          Ideally, feminism does what you said, ie: give women actual choice, rather than the illusion of it.

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  7. I have added this and few more posts on the subject in a round-up today, together with a more personal commentary: raging-monkeys.blogspot.com/2012/03/few-essential-reads-for-everybody.html

    Apple, thanks for adding another insightful read. I don’t often discuss gender and feminism concerns on my own page, but I like to help spread messages others have put in better words than I can. especially if they’re about matters that concern us all and keep popping up in the blogosphere.

    I feel like adding too here, that feminism is about informing choice, as much as free choice. The second relies on the first, but that one’s not nearly as comfortable (and therefore likes to be forgotten). ;)

    If you put your views out there challenging the views of others, you can expect them to challenge you in return. There’s no fault in that, in fact it’s a way for you to check on yourself and your personal choices, if you manage to swallow your pride, anyway. No opinion is immune to scrutiny. Of course, your own attitude will be reflected in the tone some might choose to respond to you.

    I have sympathy for Effi, but I don’t respect the way she constructed her reasoning. Just because she stood up for her views doesn’t make them sacrosanct; she used sexist, derailing and dismissive arguments to maintain her “opinion”.
    Too bad, having an opinion isn’t enough. Just like men need to look at themselves, women have to. now she can toss all opposition to the winds and every blogger who took the time to respond; or she can take it as an opportunity for herself to review a few things. that indeed is her choice.

  8. The amount of pedantry regarding labels and definitions in some of the links (and comments on those links) is astounding. When I was eleven I was given a gift of a shirt with a quote on it: “women who say they are not feminists have just got their terminology wrong” (shortened quote of the original) – I didn’t really know what feminism was or meant to my life back then, but people (adults, of course, since my fellow eleven-year-olds had no idea, either) always took huge offence to it.

    I wish people could see that feminism is not a barrier to equality, but the misunderstanding of it and the bizarre belief that people they have had negative experiences with are the sole arbiters of feminism and what it means *are* barriers they set up for themselves. I find labelling yourself as not-a-feminist to be quite offensive and puzzling, and if anyone doesn’t know why then they really haven’t read/understood or been open enough.

  9. Conversations of this type invariably remind me of this blog post, particularly when people start throwing around the dictionary definition of feminism in support of their own anti-feminist positions:

    http://tomatonation.com/culture-and-criticism/yes-you-are/

    For the record? I’d have a lot more sympathy for Effy if she weren’t a bog-standard anti-feminist troll expecting to patted on the head for taking a “brave stand” against women standing up for the right not to be treated like crap in a game we all pay to play.

    • I agree, thanks for the link too.

      It galls me on some personal level too to have “criticism” to be conflated with “harassment” unless there was stuff going on that I wasn’t aware of.

  10. “I’m going to be blunt here; getting into World of Warcraft made me a better feminist. I joined a fairly progressive guild from the moment I stepped into WoW, one that had many different kinds of women in it. One that had women officers. There’s no point in my WoW career that I haven’t been surrounded by ladies in some shape or form.”

    That’s the great thing about things like feminism– the more you’re exposed to it, and the people espousing it, the more self-evident it’s correctness becomes. It’s like the flu, only instead of making you sick it opens your eyes to the awful ways some people are marginalized and demonized by toxic aspects of our society, and how horribly, unknowingly complicit you’ve been in it to that point.

    Well, I guess the last part can make you sick.

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  13. This post is perfect.

    People that equate criticism with harassment are… probably not ready to put their opinions into places where the public can read them. As a general word of advice to any and all bloggers that may take such a road: Don’t. If you are going to post something that insults a good chunk of the population of the hobby that you are participating in, expect to be criticized for it, even angrily so — especially if your opinion, like Effy’s, is dangerous (yes, dangerous) to a segment of the population.

    Anti-feminism is dangerous to women. Anti-feminism tells us that no, it’s true, we really are less than, stop trying to believe otherwise, geez.

    Thank you for speaking up, Apple Cider, and thank you for being such a strong voice for feminism in the WoW blogosphere. You and bloggers like you are extremely important, now more than ever.

    Also: Cynwise is the best meerkat.

  14. Oh thank you so much for being eloquent about this. Reading the slew of posts that cropped up on the subject was increasingly upsetting. It really hurts to see multiple people quote a definition of feminism and then conclude “as you can see, feminists hate men and want to make them less than women. I, however, am for equality for everyone and therefore am a humanist.” I can’t stand that willful misrepresentation of actual current feminism and subsequent disdain. Effy was mad that people were interpreting her beliefs as feminist because she assumed it would made her a man-hater. I’m mad that she is interpreting my beliefs as if *I’m* a man-hater! The WoW (and further) blogosphere is full of feminists who care about men, women, and everyone else from all sorts of origins. One of my favorite discoveries about current feminism is the concept of intersectionality.

    • Intersectionality is one of those things I find endlessly fascinating from just a sociological perspective. It feels like a complex balance of scales and levers and such as that define us societally with regards to our privileges.

  15. Pingback: Feminism is Important | Troll Bouquet

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