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Thu, Feb. 10th, 2011, 12:24 am
Penny Arcade vs. Shakesville

So that business between Penny Arcade and Shakesville snowballed. I'm not going into all the other people who've responded to this war, but there are a few points that I haven't seen anyone else make.

Penny Arcade made t-shirts (and pennants?), with a sports-team-esque logo: Team Dickwolf. Courtney Stanton countered with a Dickwolves Survivors Guild t-shirt. Penny Arcade later pulled their merchandise, and Stanton also pulled hers, with plenty of commentary and discussion around both.

Mike/Gabe, who seems to me to be clearly hurt and angry about being accused of supporting rape culture and thus rapists, has made snarky comments all along the way (often infuriating the other side). His worst two moments include misunderstanding the word "hypocrisy" when he posted on the Shakesville blog a list of Penny Arcade's previous descents into debauchery (I'm not going to get into the nuances of her personal "safe space" and triggers); and when he said he's going to wear his Dickwolf t-shirt to the convention after this shitstorm.

But Mike/Gabe was also the one who told at least one person who was crossing a line to knock it off on Twitter. What else he and Jerry/Tycho may have done, we don't know. We have no idea what kind of emails they received. I haven't seen them publicly disavow connections to people who went over the line until this point, but they may very well have been 1) unaware of the nasty things other people were doing because they don't regularly read Shakesville or other Advanced Feminist Blogs nor the related umpteen comment threads and/or 2) PA was trying not to stir the assholes up further.

EDITED TO ADD: Being silent about what other people do on the internet ≠ consent or approval. Also, being silent ≠ consent to sex.

When they DID comment on the behavior of others, it was after Mike/Gabe's family were threatened, and that point Gabe begged everyone to drop this already, lines have been crossed and it's time to stop. Jerry/Tycho also commented, saying that they were all talking past each other and nothing productive could be done beyond this point.

Sadly, Melissa McEwan says that the nasty emails she received increased, but to me it looks like she implied that this increase was somehow Gabe and Tycho's fault, and that they should apologize. Then she opened two threads on her blog and invited the whole internet to come vent about it. She got over 1800 comments, which means traffic and money, so she can smugly say (but to be fair, has not) that not only did her community get the last word, but she made some money off of it, too. Never did Melissa say that the whole fiasco went too far, probably because (and here I'M being snarky) she enjoys clutching her pearls on her fainting couch and swooning about being a victim.

And don't dare try to frame this as a "minorities have no power" argument on the heels of Melissa pointing out that her blog has made Real News and that she's been otherwise acknowledged in the wider world. She has power, and she knows it. The folks at Shakesville never saw the connection between claiming that they were/are silenced when others criticize their arguments, and the concern that some PA supporters had about freedom of expression. It's terrible that this boils down to a war between feminist bloggers and comic artists.

But here's the really ugly, nasty part.

Several people, Shakesville regulars included, responded to the threat against Mike/Gabe's family with a "Well, sucks to be you, but we've already gotten a bajillion hateful comments and threats, so now you know how it feels, you misogynist privileged white male." The idea that they should say they were sorry--even in a manner of sympathy--to Mike/Gabe was scoffed at, at best. They have disavowed any connection to people who would ever cross a line regarding the Penny Arcade guys.

Not only is that playing Oppression Olympics. Not only is their claim to being better than that a No True Scotsman fallacy. That threat wasn't actually directed at Mike/Gabe. What I have not seen ANYONE acknowledge was this:

The threat was directed at "his" woman and child(ren).

An unnamed woman and their offspring, the "property," if you will, of a man that they're getting a good hate on. Isn't that EXACTLY the kind of awful misogynistic shit that people at Shakesville are trying to Teaspoon away? And they SHRUG at that!

Sure, it was somewhat offhand. But, best case scenario, it was a "joke."

Goddamn ironic, that is.

P.S. To the Shakers: You understand that comparing a troll on the internet to a literal in-the-flesh rapist trivializes the definition of rape, right? The hypocrisy, it burns.

Not that you haven't done that before, what with your gendered insults: dudebros, mansplaining, flouncing, and variants of douches and bitches and cunts. Feel free to use bad words all you like, but the hypocrisy still burns.

(For those who enjoy rubbernecking, this is a fairly complete timeline.)

Mon, Nov. 8th, 2010, 11:58 am
Rape and Murder in Media

I'm not just late to the party. The party's over and the room has been abandoned. But something happened a few months ago that I've been processing, off and on, ever since.

Penny Arcade (PA) is big on stereotypical, immature, violent, misogynist, video game geek humor. I often find them hilarious precisely because they are poking fun of themselves and the culture that they are part of. When I don't get the reference for the joke, I'm offended, or I just don't find it funny, I move on. For one thing, I believe in freedom of speech, and I agree with George Carlin, who said nothing is off limits for jokes. (Whether or not everyone finds them funny is an entirely separate matter.) While I recognize that some speech has repercussions, and all speech is fodder for debate and analysis, I also don't conflate the fictional personas of Gabe and Tycho with the literal identities of the PA creators, and I recognize that a lot of the most offensive characters in media, including the likes of Borat and South Park, are often specifically trying to use irony to highlight problems with humanity. On the other hand, some people apparently take Stephen Colbert at face value, and I'm afraid that's part of what happened here.

On the other side of the ring, the major player is Melissa McEwan, who runs the blog Shakesville, formerly known as Shakespeare's Sister. They usually attempt to be very aware of current cultural issues and to speak up for the minorities and repressed in society, especially women and rape victims, and supposedly for non-100%-heterosexuals and transpeople as well. Sometimes they fail miserably, and sometimes it's because they are, in my not-so-humble-opinion, so wrapped up in the particular issues which matter to them that they overreact to whispers while ignoring shouts. In the process, they often react with immature snark to valid questions, and their posting policy is basically 'Don't, unless you've been hanging around for awhile and understand all the rules and don't say anything that we won't rip apart or delete before banning you.' They've been accused of being cultish in the past, but I digress.

To summarize the incident in question, Penny Arcade posted a webcomic which most viewers took as a poke at the difference between real-life ethics and in-game morality, by showing an extreme example of a computer-generated non-player character (NPC) being dismissed by a behind-the-keyboard-human's player character (PC) because that part of the game was finished. To illustrate how awful the NPC's living conditions were, they were hyped up and exaggerated: he was a slave who lived in "hell unending... Every morning, we are roused by savage blows. Every night, we are raped to sleep by the dickwolves." The PC's response: "Quest Complete... Don't make this weird." Hilarity was intended to ensue precisely because of the disconnect between the extremely heinous situation of the NPC and the blasé response of the PC.

This particular webcomic ignited a little online fire because of the use of rape in a joke (and to a lesser extent because the victim is male, and boy doesn't that get convoluted), and there's a nice little summary here about why the feminists were upset. Various people chimed in, and made a lot of interesting points along the way, including the idea of raping females as a trope in fantasy fiction. In some instances, the comment threads also explored the topic pretty thoroughly, although I think there was an awful lot of shouting down guests by the ingrained sycophants at Shakesville. Regardless, an opportunity was missed, I think.

A number of people reacted in various ways to the apparent cognitive dissonance in the original response on Shakesville--not written by McEwan but by a guest poster--which included this:

When I have a sense of humor, it is a little offbeat. I have liked, for example, Penny Arcade's comics about the numerous times they've killed each other. I have a dark sense of humor, and I'll admit it.

But unlike Gabe killing Tycho so he doesn't have to share a video game, a slave being raped is a real thing that happens in the world every day. I don't find this "joke" funny because, unlike characters cartoonishly killing each other repeatedly and coming back to life, just as in video games, rape isn't a central feature of (most) games—at least in the actual gameplay, totally aside from the language used by players.

Some commenters pointed out that slavery, violence, and murder are also daily occurences, and on Shakesville were told that their observations were "off-topic" and that rape is special because it's not taken as seriously as murder, as evidenced by the joke. Um, no.

It's true that almost all rapists are male and the majority of rape victims are female, and that most rapes are never brought to the attention of police, much less prosecuted, much less brought to justice. But it's also true that the mere accusation of sexual molestation or assault is often enough to sink a man's reputation for the rest of his life, which is part of why so many victims are painted as shrill, lying cunts who are trying to take advantage of the situation to smear someone's good name. Whether or not someone says it out loud, there is a tendency toward a great deal of speculation on what she was wearing, how she was acting, and whether she was sending mixed signals. I think some of this is due to the psychology of denial, because quite apart from what we believe about men and women in general, it is easier for the human mind to accept the crime of false accusation than the crime of violation, especially if we know the alleged rapist.

It's also true that we put all who are convicted of sexually-related crimes into the box called "predators," which has a distinct whiff of pedophilia. The FBI maintains a sex offender registry for each state, from which you can find all the sex offenders in your neighborhood, and some sites display a local map with photos of these individuals. Meanwhile, only a few states have registries for murderers. For those of us who are parents or simply love children, let's face it: are you more bothered by the idea of a sexual predator living next door, or a murderer? We know, or think we know, that serial killers are very rare and that victims of most murderers are one-time incidents, targeted for personal hatred or insanity. We assume sexual predators are prowling our neighborhoods looking for the smallest and weakest of the herd, indiscriminately. On the second count, we're quite wrong, because most of the time a rape victim knows his/her attacker.

But to link back to the tempest in the teapot on the table at hand, to say that rape in our culture is taken more lightly than murder is quite untrue, and I think a lot of the people who engaged in the fight knew it, at least subconciously. Many of them were outraged over the idea that rape as used as a stand-in for 'the worst thing ever that could happen to someone,' because--in a prime example of cognitive dissonance--that somehow cheapens the idea of rape.

Let's start with the media at hand, which is video games. The first poster as Shakesville admitted that she's willing to laugh at killing characters who are repeatedly respawned in games. It's ubiquitous. From Pac-Man eating the enemy ghosts, to Mario squishing mushrooms and turtles who fall off the screen, to heroes with swords slashing bad guys who fall down and disappear, to the brutal bloody things that are rated M-for-Mature, killing enemies is a staple of video games. Rape, however, is not, and is indeed a stand-in for 'the worst thing ever that could happen to someone' in M-rated games. Most of us are comfortable with our 8-year-olds controlling a character that kills things, but rape is strictly for grown-ups, and I can't think of a game offhand that does more than the mere mention of it as an NPC's backstory. I know they exist, but they're vanishingly rare.

This applies to movies, too. The Disney princesses and others often have characters (usually bad guys) who are killed onscreen: Ursula in The Little Mermaid was speared, Simba's father was murdered by his uncle in The Lion King, the witch in Sleeping Beauty turned into a dragon and was stabbed with a sword, and Pocahontas' friend was shot. Rape, however, is only mentioned in R-movies, and while murder scenes in horror films can get very gory, such as the Saw series, rape scenes tend to be a few seconds long because the audience can't stand to squirm much longer than that.

Of course, some of this lack of outrage is because the murder victims aren't around anymore. While their physical bodies are necessarily subjected to even more intrusive and lengthy procedures than rape kits, they can no longer feel humiliated or angry or grieving or anything else about it. They can't be cross-examined on the witness stand, or be embarrassed by newspaper reports.

But I mentioned earlier that an opportunity was lost. It's been estimated that about one in four women experiences domestic violence. It's also true that women are murder victims more often than men, and they are substantially more likely to be killed by someone they know than a stranger, such as their partners/husbands. And male murderers drastically outnumber female murderers. Rather than go ahead and parse that, and discuss that it's not simply a "rape culture" that we live in, but that violence against women is normalized in general, or that there might be more to the story, the folks at Shakesville decided to lament the lack of trigger warnings in the world for all those delicate rape victims who can't handle anything anymore. The really rich part was when Melissa said that it's true you can make a joke about anything... but that jokes about rape are restricted to victims bashing their rapists.

In closing, I'd like to point out that sticking up for the repressed does NOT mean silencing the voices of anyone who happened to be born with a skin color, sexual orientation, happy family, or other condition/situation that makes them more privileged than you. That attitude is the major reason why so many conservatives in politics dismiss the concerns of liberals as sour grapes and/or bleeding hearts. And providing a safe space is a noble goal, but we can't wrap all the injured in soft cocoons. Life ain't fair, and it's not healthy to wallow in misery and victimhood.

Sun, Jun. 27th, 2010, 09:19 pm
Sobering thoughts for the day

Some people think we've achieved equality. Or close enough to it that the battle is over. This applies to race, LGBT etc issues, and feminism, apparently. I'm addressing the last one today.

In most surgical specialities, women make up less than 10% of the surgeons. The highest percentage is around 33% in ophthalmology. (source)

About a quarter of judges at both state and federal levels are women. (source)

Among lawyers, they are the minority, especially at the partner level, and it is often seen as a choice between being a mother or choosing a career in law. (source)

In the fields of science and engineering, although women are about even with men in earning Bachelor's and Master's degrees and about 33% of the earned Doctorates, 26% of employed doctorate holders were women in 2001. (source)

As of 2009, 17 out of 100 Senators are women. Approximately the same percentage serve in Congress: 75 out of 541. (source: Wikipedia)

Collectively, women earn about 75% of men's wages. (source)

Fri, Jun. 4th, 2010, 08:58 pm
Selling stuff

Anyone interested in some hard-to-find science fiction?

eBay Listing: Destination: Void; The Jesus Incident; The Lazarus Effect; The Ascension Factor

Four paperbacks in rather used, but still sturdy, shape. Sold as a set.

Sun, May. 9th, 2010, 05:13 am
Political ranting: airports, terrorists, and illegal immigrants

For all the anger I've been hearing lately, related to various topics, about how we should make our government more Constitutional, I've lately gotten my panties in quite a bunch over some things I think are infringing on it.

The 14th Amendment, Section 1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any PERSON of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any PERSON within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. [my emphasis]

Notice that the previous sentences refer to "citizens," so I think there's a clear distinction here. Terrorists, along with rapists, serial killers, and Wall Street thieves, deserve due process. So do illegal immigrants, though I understand that a certain amount of "guilty until proven innocent" is unavoidable when dealing with deportation.

Let's start with the mess that is U.S. airport security:
"Ninety-nine percent of individuals who apply for redress are not on the terrorist watchlist, but are misidentified as people who are."

Sadly, this doesn't surprise me. After all, we've seen enough stories about children who can't travel by air without a lot of harassment, even though family members don't have problems. The NYTimes reported in January that: "Over the past three years, 81,793 frustrated travelers have formally asked that they be struck from the watch list through the Department of Homeland Security; more than 25,000 of their cases are still pending." The article went on to say that many passengers simply changed their names.

So, just changing your name works, huh? Man, that's one effective list!

Supporters try to counter-argue with stories like that of Nezar Hindawi, who has been jailed since 1986 after he hid a bomb in his unsuspecting pregnant Irish girlfriend's luggage. You're missing the forest for the trees, folks. The girlfriend's name wasn't on a list. Israeli airport security detained her because her passenger profile seemed off, and then they found the bomb.

I assume Joe Lieberman's heart is in the right place, because he's trying to do SOMETHING about this terrorist stuff. He's co-sponsored a bill that would strip American citizens of their citizenship if they are terrorists. Lawmakers are arguing over whether this includes people who have given money to terrorist groups or who are on the infamous no-fly list, and more importantly, whether the proposed law would be helpful. McCarthy days may be here again!

Meanwhile, in Arizona, ferment is brewing over a newly-signed immigration law, SB1070.
- Section 2, part E: The police can arrest you without a warrant if they have "probable cause" to believe that you're an illegal alien.
- Section 3, part A, 2: If you are stopped and don't have your legal immigration papers on you... part G., 1-2: are guilty of a misdemeanor. If you have a gun (legal or not, it doesn't discriminate) or other "dangerous instrument," a "dangerous drug," a meth "precursor chemical," or property for committing an act of terrorism, AND you don't have papers, then you're guilty of a class 3 felony. Class 4 if this is a second offense or you've been deported before.

I'm personally pissed about this on a number of levels. For starters, supporters say Arizona is only mirroring federal law. If I concede that, then why the #&$*^ are they making a redundant law instead of enforcing the ones already on the books? But I don't concede that. There are a few subtle but potentially nasty differences.

For starters, it might put an undue burden on police officers by forcing them to do Immigration's job. After all, this only applies if the person is being detained for something else, like running a red light. This means more costs if they do this even semi-the-right-way and actually TRAIN those cops to do a job they weren't hired for.

As others have pointed out, there's also a major problem with racial profiling going on here, because let's face facts. About 30% of Arizona's population is Hispanic. It's hard to guess how many illegal immigrants there are, but in Arizona it's reasonable to assume that the vast majority of illegal immigrants are Hispanic. So how many white people who forgot their driver's license at home are going to have to do anything further than the aggravation of taking the ticket and their license to the courthouse to get the situation resolved?

Before the law was even signed, a natural-born truck driver who gave only the name Abdon told reporters that despite providing his commercial driver's license and his SSN, he was handcuffed by Immigration officials and detained until his wife (also natural-born) left work to get his birth certificate. The clencher: "A representative at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) returned 3TV’s calls after researching the incident and she said this was standard operating procedure. The agents needed to verify Abdon was in the country legally and it is not uncommon to ask for someone's birth certificate. She also said this has nothing to do with the proposed bill or racial profiling."

Less than two months ago in Arizona, a natural-born citizen was rounded up as part of a raid and held for four hours.

These are not an isolated cases. Some citizens have been held for weeks or months because of bureaucratic red tape and the fact that suspected illegals don't have a right to an attorney: "'The burden of proof is on the individual to show they're legally entitled to be in the United States,' said ICE spokeswoman [Virginia] Kice."

Since when do U.S. citizens have to provide proof of citizenship to cops? If the detainees in question had immigrated here LEGALLY, substitute "green card" for "birth certificate" and, per the new law, they also get slapped with (at least) a misdemeanor. Legal citizens!

Yes, we have to carry passports if we visit other countries. We're not dealing with other countries, and people who visit here don't (to my knowledge) get charged with a misdemeanor or worse if they simply don't have their passport on them.

There's a good argument to be made that the Arizona law violates the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 14th Amendments in regard to citizens being arrested and stripped of rights if they don't have their green card/birth certificate. Above and beyond that, only the federal government has the right to make immigration laws!

Nonetheless, many conservatives support the law because they see illegal immigrants as a drain on our economy and a problem in terms of crime. A few points to consider:

- The numbers crossing the Mexican border are down already, and the removal numbers are up.

- From that first link: "Illegal immigrants are probably less likely to be associated with drug crimes than American citizens, but more likely to be associated with (petty) property crimes. The latter tendency may be exacerbated by the poor treatment and low wages they receive at the hands of employers within the U.S." The analysis also concludes that the overall criminal percentage comparisons between legal Americans and illegal Mexicans are pretty close.

- Like it or not, illegals make up a significant portion of the bottom-of-the barrel jobs. The employers don't have to make sure they have Unemployment or medical insurance or any other benefits, and they don't have to abide by minimum wage or any other restrictions. Some conservatives argue that in our current political climate, Americans would happily take over those jobs. Really? Then why haven't they done so already? It would be less risky for the employers to hire them, in theory, but we live in a world of capitalism, and the illegals will always be much cheaper.

- They pay quite a lot of taxes, and use less public services than you might think. Nationwide, they haven't been legally eligible for the vast majority of tax-funded services since 1996 (signed into law by Bill Clinton), with a few exceptions by state. It's also reasonable to imagine that the fear of being deported prevents a number of them from even trying. Having jumped through the hoops to get benefits for my family, I'm a severe skeptic that Medicaid papers and Food Stamp debit cards are being handed out like lollipops.

- Repeating this for the people sleeping in the back row: today you can't be lazy and live on welfare, legal or not. Welfare has been replaced with TANF, and there's a lifetime maximum of five years, during which you must be participating in strictly-defined work related activities (college counts... for a year) or it supplements your work income. You must be working after two years (30+ hrs for single parents, 35-55+ hrs for two-parent families) to continue receiving benefits.

I'm repeating what I've said elsewhere, but I think this bears repeating:

I'm a snob. I think our country is the best in the world. And that means that we act like it. We respect human rights even when other countries don't. Once you set foot on our shores, legally or otherwise, you are treated with more dignity as a human being than anywhere else. And I think that's the way it should be.

Fri, Apr. 16th, 2010, 02:27 pm
Every journey begins with a single step...

Obama extends hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners of gays

'Bout damn time, Mr. President! Thank you!

Thu, Mar. 4th, 2010, 08:45 pm
List of paintings

With the help of a few friends, Wikipedia, and Google as my backup, I've figured out MOST of the paintings from the video I posted earlier. Can you figure out the ones with ?'s:

1. The Last Supper
Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1495
Tempera and mixed media on plaster

2. The Birth of Venus
Sandro Botticelli, c. 1486
Tempera on canvas

3. The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp
Rembrandt (Harmenszoon van Rijn), 1632
Oil on canvas

4. Portrait of Henry VIII, King of England?
Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1535
Oil on panel


François I of France?
Jean and François Clouet, c. 1535
Oil on panel


Girl with a Pearl Earring
Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
Oil on canvas

5. The Raft of the Medusa
Théodore Géricault, c. 1818
Oil on canvas

6. The Death of Marat
Jacques-Louis David, 1793
Oil on canvas

7. The Creation of Adam
Michelangelo (Buonarotti), c. 1511
Fresco, Sistine Chapel

8. The Son of Man
René Magritte, 1964
Oil on canvas

9. Neo-Plasticism (De Stijl) homage to
Piet Mondrian

10. Homage to Frida Kahlo

11. Dora Maar
Pablo Picasso, 1937
Colored pencil on canvas

12. The Scream
Edvard Munch, 1893
Oil, tempera, and pastel on cardboard

13. Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear
Vincent Van Gogh, 1889
Oil on canvas

14. Ten Marilyns
Andy Warhol, 1967

15. Gabrielle d'Estrées and One of Her Sisters
Unknown Artist, Fontainebleau School, c. 1594
Oil on panel

16. Madonna in Majesty (Maestà or Madonna Enthroned with Angels)?
(Cenni di Pepo "Giovanni") Cimabue, c. 1285
Tempera on panel

17. Salome with the Head of John the Baptist
(Michelangelo Merisi da) Caravaggio, c. 1607
Oil on canvas

18. Olympia
Édouard Manet, 1863
Oil on canvas

19. Liberty Leading the People
Eugène Delacroix, 1830
Oil on canvas

20. Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden
Otto Dix, 1926
Mixed media on panel

21. The Kiss
Gustav Klimt, c. 1907
Oil and gold leaf on canvas

(repeats of various)

22. The Bride (La Mariée)
Marc Chagall, 1950

23. Las Meninas
Diego Velázquez, 1656
Oil on canvas

24. Sunflowers paintings
Vincent van Gogh, 1887-1889

Thu, Mar. 4th, 2010, 10:10 am
"70 Million" by Hold Your Horses!

For all the art and art history lovers out there, I bring you (courtesy of one of my favorite professors):

70 Million by Hold Your Horses ! from L'Ogre on Vimeo.

Thu, Mar. 4th, 2010, 09:46 am
Young men of the world: show some decency.

I was sitting in the Student Center this morning, reading and waiting for my next class. A group of young men were sitting behind me, busy out-macho-ing each other. For the most part they didn't disturb me. Then one of them raised his voice a bit so all of them could hear his "funny" story.

His girlfriend has been irritating him with her focus on dieting and losing weight, so on their most recent date he told her that if she didn't clean her plate, she would have to give him a blowjob. Cue male laughter.

It might get me in trouble one of these days, but I'm not the sort to let such crap slide in my earshot. I turned, glared at the speaker, and said with my best sneer, "Real classy." Some of his companions had the decency to look embarrassed and uncomfortable. A few just laughed again, including the speaker.

There are times I lose faith in my fellow humans.

Wed, Feb. 10th, 2010, 08:58 pm
I hate winter

There are two inches of slush dusted with powder out there, and I hear about crashes and near-crashes, and I'm sick of school and I'm sick of pregnancy and I'm already sick of having this cold or whatever-the-hell... and basically I'm a miserable bitch right now.

Come back in a few weeks. Maybe things will be better.

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