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.
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.