Dealing With Intolerance

Trigger warnings: Homophobic/sexist language, anxiety

As much as I hate for one of my errant posts while the festivities of work and holidays keep me out of blogging to be relentlessly negative, I feel like this is something I should post. I feel that often the hardest part of being a woman in a sexist world, especially as a feminist, is putting your values ahead of you. It’s very hard to navigate what is still an openly hostile world and still stick your neck out for what you believe in. I had a situation last night that I dealt with, and while I don’t feel that I was the assertive, unabashed feminist I could have been, I feel like the appropriate people got taken to task and I got out of the situation as fast as my gnomish legs would carry me.

A recap:

Since 4.3 came out, I’ve pretty much quit progression raiding. I recently completed my legendary staff, killed Deathwing via LFR. I’m not left wanting for excitement or content at all right now. I’ve really relished the free time I have, that I’m no longer part of a 25man that actively dislikes the game and can focus on my friends, blogging, and having fun.

That being said, I happened to pick up a casual 10man group made mostly of alts/socials from a top 10man guild on my server. Interested by the prospect of low-stress normals raiding with a decent team of people, I started going along with them. First it was one night, one-shotting most of Siege and then adding a second day for working on Madness bosses. Most of the raid (if not all) is dudes, of the decently nice sort but a couple of them are a little “rough around the edges.” Not surprising, but not terrible. 

However, here and there sometimes they would slip up and say something a little rude or use a slur – mostly things like calling someone “fag” or n-words. Just every so once in a while, and I reported it to the raid leader who said he’d handle it.

Well, we got into the raid tonight and it was just one weird convo on Ventrilo after another; one talking about what cereal looked like vaginas, and how someone in the raid was a whore. I just felt really embarassed and weird. I kept making weird emoticons because despite all of my crowing about how amazingly strong and feminist I am, I’m still cowed by a large group of men online apparently. 

Then right before we pulled Zon’ozz, one of the louder guys said, “If you f*****s don’t all one-shot this boss tonight, I’m going to yell!” and started laughing. I had enough and told him not to call me that, and he shot back like, “See, I don’t understand why a woman would get offended by that.” I whispered the raid leader, told him I was sorry but I couldn’t handle it, apologized for leaving before a boss and peaced out of the raid.  I whispered the other mage later on since he’s always been super nice and said he could talk to me for magely wisdom That’s the only contact I think I’ll have from now on.

My hands were shaking and I got off Ventrilo in a hurry. I have legit anxiety/panic problems with confrontation and this was just piquing it all over the place. I feel not the slightest bit aggrieved that I won’t see normal content or loot, but that’s what LFR is for. I’m just sad that I forgot momentarily that the world outside of my awesome guild is still shitty in the World of Warcraft. I’m also sad that I’m still kinda a scaredy cat when it comes to socially dealing with people who are being offensive.

I feel that sometimes in our rush to uphold the ideals that we want to see in the world, that we forget that we’re all still human beings and things like anxiety, aggression and consequences still exist for those who speak up. While there’s no imminent threat of physical violence for telling some dudebros on Ventrilo to stop calling people fags, it can still be hard to stand up. But I’m glad I did. I still urge everyone who can to do it, and to feel proud about it. You’re definitely not alone. Even though I was scared, I still did it anyways. I feel like I might not always have the power to change the world overnight, but I still have the power to change the world in my immediate grasp. I do this by speaking up when I feel things are going wrong, and building a really amazing guild that’s full of people that respect eachother. It might be small, but I feel it’s a good first step.

Homophobia at Blizzcon and Beyond

Trigger warning: Homophobic language. I also use “queer” occasionally to describe people across the GSM (Gender and Sexuality Minority) spectrum.

I’m sure by now, by way of either the forums or various other blogs on the subject, you’ve all heard about the Blizzcon incident with Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain and Corpsegrinder from Cannibal Corpse. For those of you who have been outside the reach of social media this entire time, the summation is this – during the L90ETC opening act, Blizzard showed a video of Corpsegrinder talking about Alliance calling us “homo” and “cocksuckers.”  He goes on to call blood elves “queers” and “faggots.” Corpsegrinder then took the stage with the band and proceeded to call out the Alliance again before going into the set. There’s some contention as to whether the video was bleeped out or not, but despite any editing or not, Blizzard made a really horrible decision to give this person both a platform and audience for this homophobic grossness. What is deeply ironic is what was going on with me during Blizzcon when this all went down, hence why I don’t remember this very well.  As Mythrai wrote at her own blog:

Strangely, when the Corpsegrinder incident occurred, I was taking advantage of the (supposedly) shorter lines for the Diablo III demo with Apple Cider Mage and sucksmybrain about the Lore Q&A discussion around explicit LGBT characters in upcoming WoW stories, and how excited we’d all be if that came true.   We tossed around cheery ideas about Quae and Kinelory, Koltira and Thassarian, Sassy Hardwrench (come on, with a name like that, you know Sassy is an enterprising young gay goblin.)  To come out from that discussion to find that degrading homophobia was being played, promoted and even implicitly supported by the Blizzard team at the same time we were feeling hopeful about being represented by a major gaming company we loved and supported… saying it was a crushing blow is putting it mildly.

Coming back to the hotel that night to start reading Tweets and forum posts about what occurred was shocking and hurtful. How could Blizzcon support this? Over a Horde/Alliance conflict no less? People were jumping up to make it about some stupid video game faction dispute when the larger problem was looming there. Homophobia should never be a part of a company’s public face, especially at an event that features many, many fans that are queer, gay, or transgendered. Some of whom I hung out with a majority of my weekend and had great times with. Some of whom are me, even. Allowing someone like Corpsegrinder to express the same bigoted language and slurs that we hear in battlegrounds, trade chat, and even in our guilds and raids is damaging. It means Blizzard is condoning that language as a company, despite having rules in their TOS against it.

People started writing letters to the company post-haste, posts were written, petitions were created. A forum threads was eventually made (with a lackluster blue response), and L90ETC apologized. To some people, all it read as was “I’m sorry you are offended” which to some of us this is never an apology, merely a dismissal of the audience’s feelings.  It wasn’t until Mike Morhaime himself (president of Blizzard, also member of the band) stepped up to offer the more sincere of the apologies. My hope is that Blizzard really takes this incident to heart and forever changes their public face in regards to what kind of language they support out of their company, as well as a harsher look at their audience. My deepest desire is that maybe they even make good on their Q&A panel admission that they might see fit to include more LGBT characters in their game should they fit. Unfortunately, regardless of what Blizzard does, a situation still remains looming over our heads.

Because, really, the problem here on a more daily basis is not the giant company. It is society and nerd culture. Blizzard fucked up but the people we play this video game do not even see the error of their ways, despite playing with queer people on a regular basis. Rising numbers of social minorities of all stripes are playing World of Warcraft, and yet the audience still talks and reads unspeakably cis-gendered, straight, white male. This was never more evident than by watching the live raid that also took place at Blizzcon and seeing Blood Legion using racial slurs against a well-known priest called Kinaesthesia (of Learn2Raid fame) from Vodka as well as other inflammatory language and unsportsmanlike conduct. If these are the “leaders” of the raiding community, why does the rank and file have to act better than them?

It galls me and makes me incredibly angry that this is still what we have to deal with every day in the nerdy community and I am set on calling it out wherever I see it. I hope the rest of you have the strength to as well (but I can understand if you don’t.) We need guilds that uphold these things as policy, reports to GMs whenever we see it in-game, and a larger community presence. Because nerd culture needs to wake up to the smell of its own manure that it has been wallowing in all these years and realize that the time of the pervasive racism, homophobia, rape jokes and general disgusting-ness is over. I want an Azeroth where all of us feel safe to be ourselves, to see our stories and strife reflected in the characters we play and interact with, and people to get over their ignorance.

Some other blogs that wrote on the subject:

The ‘mental Shaman – Blizzcon: This is about homophobia not Horde v Alliance

MMO Melting Pot – The homophobic Corpsegrinder rant at Blizzcon explodes