Since I posted “Privilege“, I’ve had a number of discussions with clueless folk about the privilege they do not believe they have or would like to discard because they are tired of being called out on it.
First, I am going to go over some basics (in a list that is not comprehensive):
Congratulations! You have privilege.
White people: You have privilege. You aren’t immediately flagged as potential trouble in stores and airports. You are more likely to get a job than the more melanin-enabled. People don’t assume you will be lazy, or late, or trouble on the streets. You don’t get extra targeted by cops. There is no such thing as Driving While White. You get to wonder why the brown people are upset about racism in movies and tv, because it’s just entertainment.
Men: You have privilege. You don’t worry about being sexually assaulted if you go out alone. You don’t have to automatically wonder if that guy in the elevator with you is a creep. You get paid more than women. Nobody assumes that you don’t know what you are talking about professionally just based on your gender. You don’t have to sue companies for promotions, universities for tenure, newspapers to be allowed to get out of the researcher/secretary pool. You get to wonder why women get so upset when you approach them on the street.
Rich folk: You have privilege, and everybody knows it. You get to wonder how families can possibly live on only $250,000/year.
Straight people: You have privilege. You don’t have to constantly fight for the legitimacy of your intimate relationships. Your right to marry is not up for a vote. Nobody says things like, “I’m not heterophobic, but…”. You don’t have to wonder if your state will let you adopt a kid, or if you will have any parental rights over the kids you are helping to raise. You don’t get bullied, beat up, maimed, or killed for being openly straight. You get to wonder why the queer folk want to deal with the misery and complications of marriage.
Cisgendered people: You have privilege. You haven’t had to go through an extensive (and expensive) medical, psychological, and emotional process just to feel like your body is your own. You haven’t faced bigotry from every single community around you because your outsides don’t match your insides and you need to do something about it. You don’t get bullied, beat up, maimed, or killed for identifying as a gender that does not match the one on your birth certificate. You get to say stupid shit like, “That’s so weird. I would never put myself through that.”
Educated people: You have privilege. You have never had to have somebody read a document to you because you cannot. You have never faced the embarrassment and shame that our culture heaps on the uneducated. You aren’t stuck in jobs that nobody else wants because you never had the opportunity to finish grade school, let alone high school and college. You have never been without a voice. You get to wonder about and mock all the godawful grammar on the internet. (Approximately one in seven people in the US can’t even read this post I am writing.)
Tall people: You have privilege. Just kidding! I know it sucks to be able to reach everything.
Second, I am going to make a point I seem to have to make repeatedly, but never seems to get taken to heart:
The lack of one kind of privilege does not cancel out all other forms of privilege.
Grew up poor as shit, but still straight, white, cisgendered male? Guess what? You still have privilege. Grew up poor, brown, gay, and male? Guess what? You still have privilege. Poor, brown, queer, female with an amazing education? You still have privilege.
I can keep going with the combinations until this looks like an LSAT question, but I won’t, because the LSAT sucks. (I get to make that shitty joke because I get to claim educational privilege.)
Third, I am going to expand on what I discussed in “Privilege”:
It’s just something you have.
No, you didn’t ask for privilege. You aren’t necessarily looking for the special treatment you receive because of it. You may not even be conscious of it. That’s all well and good, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have it.
The thing about privilege is that the benefits are automatic and not always visible to the privileged. Which is another way of saying, you don’t notice you aren’t being discriminated against. Men don’t notice that they aren’t on constant alert against being sexually assaulted on the street. Straight people don’t notice that they aren’t being treated differently when with their partners.
When you get called out on your privilege, nobody is telling you to change it. Nobody is telling you that you are a bad person because of it. Nobody is saying that it’s your fault. What you are being told is, people who do not field specific kinds of discrimination have a very different perspective on the world than people who do. What you are being told is, what is an intellectual exercise for you may not be for somebody else.
What you are being told is, take yourself out of your privileged shoes and put them in somebody else’s (let me guess—they don’t fit. Kinda uncomfortable, right? You’d like to take them right back off, right? Yeah. That’s what people are talking about when they call you out on privilege). This goes back to my initial post. Because ultimately you need to recognize that you have it. You should acknowledge it. And while acknowledging it doesn’t change the fact that you have it, it does go a long way toward helping you understand where people are coming from when they say, “Dude. You realize you just spilled a bunch of cold unpleasant privilege into my lap.”
Don’t be afraid of those uncomfortable shoes. Seek them out. Walk in them for a minute, if you can. Marvel at the blisters and bruises. So that when you put yours back on, you can appreciate how well they fit, and how comfortable they are. That, metaphorically, is what you should be doing when your privilege is pointed out to you.
ETA: Since enough people have the need to make this argument, I feel it ought to be addressed. There seems to be a new “solution” to the use of the word “privilege” that seems to have been created by people who are deeply afraid of the word. I have tried to unpack it in this post, but I guess I can’t stop people just reacting to it instead of seeing that. So let me please state: calling discrimination “human rights violations” instead of using the word “privilege” changes absolutely nothing about the above post. All it does is try to shift focus and say, “I don’t have privilege, these people are simply being wronged.” Not only is the use of “human rights violations” a bit overwrought, it doesn’t work that way. People are being wronged, it’s true. But it is on a systemic level, and thus it is what actually creates privilege. The fact that people are suffering from various kinds of discrimination and lack of safety on a systemic level is the very reason that people who do not suffer—on that same systemic level—experience privilege. Taking the focus off of the privileged for these discussions does nothing to change that, it just makes those who are uncomfortable with it and think people who are using it are calling them bad people feel a little better in the moment. My suggestion is that you stop reacting to the word and start really considering what it means in this context.
I had high hopes for 2012. 2011 was such an unbearable year, I thought that it could only get better. Briefly, it did. And then it all went to hell, for me and mine.
The death toll of 2012 rivaled the first five minutes of a Michael Bay movie. Loved ones and loved ones of loved ones were lost to accident, suicide, illness, and just shitty, shitty luck. When I wasn’t powerless with regard to my grief, I was powerless in the face of grief suffered by people I love deeply and dearly.
My attempts at finding love or even a halfway interested lover failed repeatedly, and early 2012 brought me a very badly broken heart and an utter loss of hope, not to mention a great deal of frustration and confusion. Many of my friends were unlucky in love and went through relationship strife as well.
There were a number of friendship upheavals about which I remain unsure, and I believe 2013 will involve some restructuring.
Things began to turn around for me toward the end of the year. Slowly, like the Titanic attempting to avoid the iceberg.
- I finally got a full time job at an amazing organization, working with phenomenal people and the best office dog in the world. I love my job. And it almost pays me enough to live on.
- As part of a last-ditch attempt to find somebody I might want to date, I showed up to a bar one evening with a book and a thirst for Scotch, and hoped that the woman I’d messaged on OKC wasn’t going to be a complete waste of time. Since I was pretty much over dating by this point, I wore the same unwashed jeans I’d been wearing for the past several days and a shirt I never checked for stains, and I didn’t bother to wait to start in on the whisky. I’ll go ahead and skip to the end of this one: She’s wonderful, hysterical, loving, caring, and has the prettiest, smiliest eyes. We just finished moving the rest of my possessions to her apartment in SF. She likes my cooking. (ETA: She has corrected this statement to make sure I know to call it OUR apartment.)
- My cat Thumper is in good health and happy in our new apartment, which is much smaller than our house in Oakland, but cozier and has many soft and warm things for him to sleep on. He even has his own chair, from which he can observe his neighbor cat girlfriend, Foxy. He and my lady absolutely adore each other.
- I opened up about a very serious topic in a very public forum and was rewarded by a show of love, support, and trust from individuals known and unknown to me.
2012 still sank, but I and many of my friends ended up on life rafts, paddling toward 2013.
I don’t think anybody expects 2013 to be amazing. But I am hoping that we all have the space to recover from losses, strengthen new and old foundations, and remind each other that we love and care for each other, that we are there for each other, and that we may occasionally want to give up on everything, but that we won’t give up on each other.
I can’t help but be a little optimistic; I’m in the best place I’ve been since maybe 2008. I’ve found love and employment, I have a roof over my head, and my cat has the most adorable mitteny paws in the world. Things are not easy; I don’t know if they ever will be. But it isn’t all difficult, and for the first time in a long time I really feel like it’s worth it to keep working, keep fighting, and keep pushing through. I am not in a place where I can say, “Bring it, 2013, I can take whatever you have to throw at me.” I am, however, in a place to say, let’s do this.
So. 2013. Let’s do this.
This morning, I found out about #1reasonwhy. In the last day, many women working in the game industry have been posting on Twitter, each of them sharing their experience as a professional woman working in an industry that, even today in 2012, struggles with sexism and discrimination. Reading their stories was shocking to me, as a woman and as a long time gamer. It made me sad for an industry that I had higher expectations for. But at its core, the AAA game industry suffers from the same assumptions that plague many “old boy’s club” companies: it is a male dominated field that believes they have no reason to market to women, that women can only make “games for women”, and that women don’t enjoy the same things in a game that men do.
This is bullshit.
I am 38 years old, a woman, and a gamer. I’ve been a gamer since I was a child, playing Pac-Man and Frogger. In my teens, I played Dungeons & Dragons and Magic the Gathering. As an adult, I continue to play “tabletop RPGs”, computer and console games. I don’t play Facebook games. I have no interest in them, when I could be shooting aliens in Mass Effect 3 or Gears of War 3. There is this perception that women only play Facebook games, or that only women play them.
This is bullshit.
A good friend of mine plays Facebook games. A lot of people, both men and women, do. A lot of them aren’t “gamers”, and some of them are. Some of them are kids, and some are grandmothers. My friend who plays on Facebook? She got tired of the limitations and asked me, a gamer, what else she could do. Now she plays Diablo 3 on her PC. I guess you could say Facebook games are gateway games that anyone can play, not just women.
The gaming industry is big money. A best-selling console game now makes as much (or more) money as a blockbuster movie does. No one questions whether or not men and women go to those movies. But apparently the gaming industry believes that only men buy their games that sell over 3 million copies in the first week. Many companies believe they don’t need women to design or contribute to these games, because after all, women don’t buy them.
Leaving aside the completely asinine idea that women don’t have anything to offer a game marketed for men, I think the games industry is really missing the boat by ignoring the female gender. In the distant past, maybe games were something largely played by boys and men, but that stereotype is as incorrect as it is outdated. I think the games industry believes that all they need to make is Call of Duty X: The Same as The Last Nine Games. And you know what? That’s a very successful franchise, but it’s my husband’s least favorite first person shooter, because it is the same damn game over and over! Like many gamers I know, male and female, he is appreciative of more.
I am a girl gamer, and personally, I think games could only benefit from having more real input from female designers, writers, developers, artists, you name it! I’m not saying there aren’t men who do these jobs, and do a great job at them. But I am saying that the games industry is depriving their product of something special when they don’t give women the same chance to contribute on every level. This is true for all of the male players, but guess what games industry? WOMEN PLAY GAMES. More than that, we play the so-called AAA console games!
I am a girl gamer, and here are some of the games I have played or currently play: Gears of War 3, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, the entire Mass Effect trilogy, including Mass Effect 3 online multiplayer, the Assassin’s Creed games, the Dragon Age series, Skyrim, Fallout…yes, as you can see I have a “type”, RPG, or roleplaying games. However, I am just really discovering multiplayer online games such as Gears of War 3, and do you want to know why? Because Mass Effect 3, an RPG game that has a recognized female gamer following, took a risk and added an online multiplayer mode. And it was fun! First and third person shooter type games don’t market to women. They should. They should give us characters to care about, a story to enjoy (it doesn’t have to be as big as an RPG story), and female characters to play. I like to play Anya when I play Gears.
I am a girl gamer, and I don’t just share my husband’s Xbox; I have my own damn Xbox. I play my own games. I play games with him. I play games with my male and female real life friends. I play games with male and female players I’ve met online.
I am a girl gamer, and I have friends who are girl gamers. There are enough of us in my own circle of friends that we can have an all-girl team when we play Diablo 3 or Mass Effect 3.
I am a girl gamer, and my husband’s friends text me to play with them as much as they text him, sometimes more.
I am a girl gamer, and often when I play online, there are male gamers who are surprised that I am a girl, that I play, and that I like playing. They ask me how they can get their girlfriends and wives to give it a try, and to answer that, I return to my original point: the game industry needs to wake up and realize they have two genders to make games for and market to.
I am a girl gamer, and I don’t want games about puppies, or shopping, or fashion. I like games where I get to be the heroine and save the universe. I like games where there is a good story, where I care about what happens to the world, the universe, and the characters. I like games where I get to be the badass.
I am a girl gamer, and I like games that have a romantic subplot, or hot male characters to look at, just like men like games with hot female characters. This isn’t necessary for me to enjoy a game, but I think most female gamers and game designers will agree with me when I say it sure doesn’t hurt!
I am a girl gamer, and I like to play online with other gamers. I am learning to be brave and try games I would never have tried before because of the male gamers I play with. Not because of the gaming industry, which doesn’t market these games to me, but because my male gamer friends tell me “If you like X game, you should really try Y, because I think you’d like it.” And sometimes they tell me when I shouldn’t try a game, because they know I won’t enjoy it. Sadly, this happens more often than it should. More often than it would, if female developers were given the same weight as their male counterparts.
I am a girl gamer, and I support female game designers, writers, artists, developers, and more. They should not have to deal with sexism in their field. They should not be condescended to, or minimalized, or ignored. I believe they could bring something special to the gaming industry. I believe they could help make the kind of games that I want to play, that other women want to play, and that men want to play, too.
Wake up, games industry.
In addition to being a gamer geek, Charity Vandehey is a writer, jewelry artist and espresso addict. She’s been writing online in one form or another since 2002. Visit her Etsy store, Byzantium Lotus!
I don’t post my poetry here, mostly because it is bad. But also because it increases my vulnerability on this blog. But tonight I was feeling this. A lot. So here it is. Wartime. I wrote this 7 years ago. I wish it were not still relevant.
there must be some sense of betrayal
involved in falling out of love with somebody;
in that space between;
the tongue becomes confused when it says
“i loved,” instead of, “i love.”
i loved you so.
we built this like a fortress, and now i see
why wise kings murdered their architects;
i see, now. i see you.
with your blueprints and your cannons.
Twitter is, among other things, a forum for people who think that they have the ultimate definition of life, love, and friendship. Most of those tweets make me sigh and shake my head. Every once in a while, one resonates.
This tweet, which somebody RT’d, is one of them: “The best way to see who your real friends are? Lose your job, lose your BF, lose yourself[...]and see who’s left standing beside you.” — @Ms_Moneypenny_.
In 2010 I lost my job. I lost my girlfriend. And over the course of the next two years I lost myself. And you know who stood by me? My friends. ALL of them.
For two years of unemployment and being constantly on the edge of losing everything, my friends showed me consistent and unfailing generosity with not so much as a hint that they expected anything in return. Loans (of not insignificant amounts) were forgiven, dinners and drinks purchased, groceries subsidized, shifts at clubs found and arranged for me, computers, Scotch, and other necessities and luxuries crowdsourced. My best friend has covered my rent more than once. The very computer on which I am writing this post, and which I use at work, was purchased with money donated by my friends. I posted a link on FB to a guitar I desperately wanted and couldn’t afford, so my cousin made me one.
For two years of decreasing belief in my ability to find gainful employment and eventually get my shit together, my friends have sent me leads, passed on my resume, and expressed repeatedly their belief that I would find a good job, one that I deserve. Even when I wanted to give up, they wouldn’t let me. And their faith made it impossible to give up.
For two years of anxiety, stress, depression, and decreasing buffers from my anger and frustration at my situation, my friends have provided advice, love, patience and comfort. They’ve endured my increasing negativity and what I am sure amounted to quite a bit of self-involvement. They’ve helped me work through various issues with regard to relationships, work stress, money stress and just generally trying to make it through.
For two years of failing to find a healthy, steady relationship with a woman who loves and respects me, my friends have been encouraging, supportive, and satisfyingly outraged and confused whenever a woman decides not to keep me around.
For two years, I have been at my worst and not a single friend of mine has given up on me. On the contrary, their love, support, and faith in me has been nothing less than stunning and humbling.
For two years my friends helped carry me in so many ways without once showing fatigue, frustration, or a desire to drop me and have done.
I know who my friends are. And you know what? My friends are fucking magnificent.
Last night I was talking to a friend of mine who is going through a really tough time, and she mentioned something that I related to entirely: the active and conscious effort she is having to put in to not jump in front of a bus. Now, before you all start screaming about intervention and 5150, let me explain something, first.
Because I think, given some of the ridiculously stupid shit people say about suicide to me and to others, it’s time to come out of the closet: almost every day for the past couple years (and actually, for much of my life) has included the conscious decision to survive the day. Some days, that’s easy. Some days I have to actively remind myself of why I should choose to live. Some days I just make myself numb with weed, watch tv and let the hours slide by, because that’s all I trust myself to do. But I choose to live, every day, whether it is a good day, or a bad day, or a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
People talk about suicide in terms of weakness and strength, selfishness, rudeness. All of those things are factors. But there’s also the issue of perspective. Which is to say, what might seem like piddlyshit to one person might be devastating to the next. I have yet to meet the circumstance that would be sufficiently devastating to send me over the edge, but that doesn’t mean I won’t (doesn’t mean I will, either).
2010 and 2011 were brutal, and 2012 has brought blow after blow after blow and let me tell you, I am fucking tired of wishing that my heart had an “Eject” button. I am tired of living with everything I’ve had to live with (here is where I will get the “Buck up! That’s just life!” comment from some jackass who has never experienced the desire to just fucking end it. Save it. I know life is hard. But when every day in a given week—or every other day, or even a single day—feels like being thigh-deep in the Swamps of Sadness after watching Artax die, it becomes a little overwhelming).
Thus far there is nothing I haven’t been able to weather. People call this strength. But strength is a trap. When people expect you to be strong all the fucking time, showing weakness is nigh on impossible, which is why for the vast majority of my friends, this post is going to be news. There is no real break from being strong. There’s (prescription) drugs, but in the rare event that they work—my body laughs at most drugs and tells them to come back with something stronger, next time, in a bad Russian accent—while they mute the depression they also mute everything the fuck else, and I would rather feel everything I am feeling than feel nothing. I will resort to them when I know it is impossible to drag myself out of some pit without them, but not before.
And it’s really difficult some days when somebody says, “You’re strong, you can do this” to respond with, “I know,” and not with, “Fuck you. I want to be weak, this time. I want to give up.”
I don’t call it “strength”. I call it “determination”.
People talk about how selfish people have to be to commit suicide. Yes. Ultimately it is a selfish act. It is an act done for that person and that person, alone. They may have convinced themselves that people would be better off without them; obviously most of the time they are utterly incorrect. But that justification at its foundation remains a selfish one.
The experience will be different for everybody, but part of my conscious decision to live involves remembering all the people who would be hurt and confused by my death. But, as I said, I have yet to experience something devastating enough to make me lose sight of them, and I remain fully aware that this is a possibility. So I never judge people who have genuinely attempted or committed suicide—not for their selfishness. I just assume that the decision was made at a point where the people they loved stopped being real to them in the face of whatever anguish drove them to the act.
I find that the people who don’t understand this have little-to-no experience with that level of depression and pain, and are assuming that whatever depths of sadness they have experienced are the most extreme anybody else might suffer as well. I have begun calling it “emotional privilege” in my head. I’ll never forget the day I was watching The Wall with a woman I was seeing and she turned to me halfway through the movie and said, “But why doesn’t he just get over it?”
(Click to see entire picture @ the source)
Now, let me make something clear: I am not defending suicide as an option. If I thought it was viable, I might not be sitting here in my messy room writing this post while I have Top Gun on in the background to unheavy this shit a little bit. I have lost people to suicide. Both friends and family. I have experienced that particular hurt and confusion, the search for answers, the need to find meaning in an act that causes such extraordinary pain to those who have been left behind, the endless questioning—what if I had been there, called more, texted back, remembered to say “I love you”? Oh, God, what did they need? What could I have done?
But what I am saying is that this has been my experience. And I am not the only one who feels that way. And talking to my friend yesterday was helpful to me, and hopefully to her, because when it becomes a shared experience, when you can remember that one other person has some understanding of it, then it becomes more difficult to forget that there are other people in your life, in general, and more difficult to lose sight of them.
Most days I’m fine. I’m not always walking around in a lightless slimy pit of despair, and I don’t want to give the impression that I am.
This post isn’t a ploy for attention. It is not a plea for help. I am not writing this for your advice (in fact, unless you have something in mind that is mind-blowingly new and possibly alien, don’t fucking bother. I’ve been dealing with my own issues far longer than you have and I have made my decisions for how to manage my situation consciously and with pretty comprehensive knowledge of what is available to me). Actually, it was really difficult to make the decision to write it, because I don’t want my friends to change the way they act around me or talk to me. I don’t want people to freak out, or worry. I am hoping that everybody realizes that this is not new and that I am still exactly the same person they knew before they read this. I want the opposite of attention.
This post is partly an attempt to educate, but mostly putting myself out there in the hopes that the people who need to find this post, do. And when they do, I hope they reach out. I’ll be waiting right here.
So, as you might discover if you are anywhere near the internet, Daniel Tosh is an asshole and the debate over whether rape jokes are funny and acceptable continues.
However, that’s not actually the issue, for me. Comedians walk, cross, leap over, smudge, and kick the line of what is appropriate—that’s their job. We don’t have to like what they are saying or doing. We don’t have to appreciate it. We don’t have to approve of it. We can say what we like about it. But what Daniel Tosh did was far worse.
Because he made a rape joke, and a woman pointed out to him that she didn’t appreciate it, and he got angry. And his response was to single her out, and then threaten her and intimidate her with rape. Guys, that wasn’t a joke. That wasn’t part of his routine. Tosh got mad and threatened a woman with rape. And it doesn’t matter whether he was serious or not, although what he said, he said in anger and that really makes me question where he was really coming from.
This isn’t an issue of whether he gets to make rape jokes. That’s covered by the First Amendment. He gets to make rape jokes. Tracy Morgan gets to go on homophobic rants. The Westboro Baptist Church gets to picket funerals.
This is an issue of a man who, as Molly points out in this fantastic piece, lost control and threatened somebody with violence. This is an issue of an audience that laughed when he did it. This is an issue of people who are suggesting that a woman deserved to be threatened with rape because she dared to speak up about it in the middle of his routine. This is an issue of the tweeters whose response to that woman’s story was to threaten her with yet more violence:
(Collection gently ripped off of @sfslim‘s Twitter feed, because he totally and unwittingly did that homework for me like a champ. And no, he didn’t RT these assholes because he agrees with them. Quite the opposite.)
The issue is that we live in a culture where it is okay to threaten a woman with rape, because it was, in theory, “just a joke.”
ETA: Some doubt has been cast on the accuracy of this woman’s story, which may excuse Tosh to a degree, but still does not excuse the reactions of those who felt rape and being threatened with rape are appropriate punishments for her. So I’m gonna let this post stand as is.
Here’s the blog entry that started this brain a’churnin. Check it out, I’ll go get a beer.
It is cool to think that even a fraction of Slave Leias out there are striving for more than cheesecake photo ops and geek-gawk-points, even if the majority are probably sans that nobly-intended kickassery. I dig that at least some of those women think more than just “Look at me, look at me, LOOK AT MEEEE!”
However, even if some of them are going for “fierce bikini warrior” rather than “desirable chattel”, they have a responsibility for the whole message they send with that costume, not just the part they like. Along with the “Grrr, don’t mess with me or I’ll choke your blubbery ass” is “I am a lap dog.” Along with “I am a sexy object, covet me” is “the smaller my outfit, the better I look, the more I am worth.”
The reason the Slave Leia outfit is not merely a skimpy costume (according to this blog) is because while she is dressed like a compliant pleasure-slave, she’ll actually fuck you up. Don’t judge by what you see. But inherent in that statement is that what you see is a degrading costume.
I mean, c’mon. They didn’t throw her in jail like they did her male counterparts, she was dressed in a bikini and a leashed collar while Chewie and Han were in the clink. She was forced to sit there, humiliated, in that giant, pudding-y lap as decoration while a giant turd-shaped alien yanked her around by the neck and stuck his slimy, slimy tongue out at her. Dang, son. That shit is embarrassing.
OMG he’s touching me AGAIN.
Now, ultimately Leia did kick major ass. She was there on a daring attempt to rescue her boyfriend in the first place. She killed that bastard Jabba with the very leash he put around her neck. Go, girl. But her triumph wouldn’t have been as epic if she hadn’t done it from such a place of obvious subjugation, which is what the outfit symbolizes. You don’t get to cherry-pick the “I’m a badass” out of it and leave the rest.
Also, despite Leia’s many heroic actions during the trilogy, we just don’t see the brave and imperious white-gowned (fully-clothed) leader of the Rebel Alliance at cons very often. Or the fearless soldier in the camouflage poncho screaming through the woods at breakneck speed, intent on fucking some storm-trooper shit up. No, nearly all of the Leia incarnations we see have chosen to dress like an objectified slave.
The second part of this has to do with that choice. The choice to don skimpy bikini wear instead of countless other amazingly hot nerdy women’s costumes in the first place. It’s a choice that size privilege affords to some, and one that slaps an automatic penalty on those not wearing Nerdtoria’s Secret or those who try less successfully. (I’m not on a slut-shaming rant here, btw, bear with me.)
Truthfully, I wouldn’t wear SL in any case (not a fan of the outfit, donchaknow), but even if I wanted to, I am a fat girl and don’t have that choice. I would never be seen the same way as a “normal” woman in SL. I would be the Fantasia hippo version of a ballerina, pictures of me would end up on lol-loser websites, I would become another cautionary tale for all the ladies out there who aren’t the correct size to play dress-up.
I’m not complaining about my size, mind you. Or anyone else’s. I’m pissed about the structure in which SL has become the standard, and I am naturally sub-par because I refuse to bare my midriff to the unavoidable mockery and shaming that would result.
“When geek culture says, Don’t be Slave Leia, what I hear is: Don’t unsettle us. Don’t make us think about the consequences of our misogyny, or our entitlement, or our privilege. Don’t remind us that female sexuality can be a power as well as a commodity.”
“I find it troubling when there’s a whole category of women that we are Officially Allowed to Mock and/or Hate. Because that line is a really arbitrary thing, and it’s really easy to imagine that, some day, I’ll end up on the wrong side of it.”
Would at least one of you think about choking that corpulent bastard?
Fighting back against misogyny: hell yes. Doing it by wearing identical slave girl outfits? C’mon. There’s plenty of ways to claim the “power” without the “commodity”. As a fat, nerdy- type woman, I am plenty aware of privilege and entitlement, and who has it. I am already in a “category of women that we are Officially Allowed to Mock and/or Hate.” Perhaps a little more effort to smudge and remove those arbitrary lines, and a little less jostling competition to be on the right side of them would help.
Beyond SL outfit in specific, there’s this whole Booth Babe/Cylon Funtime Barbie/Nearly-Naked (insert any recognizable geek- icon here) thing going on too. It’s about the teeny-tiny-con-bikini, so standard now that women not wearing one might as well be invisible. It’s about how those of us who aren’t the appropriate shape might as well just stay home because we don’t count. At this point, most cons should just be called “wizard-boob-a-palooza, no fat chicks.”
Nerds, banded together through common interests and a mutual understanding of how cruel the non-nerd world can be, are surprisingly closed down to us who score fewer points on the Slave Leia Value Scale™. That scale seems to rank based on how closely we resemble Boris Vallejo paintings, which is funny considering how few of them bear any passing resemblance. But I digress.
I’m not saying no one should ever wear the ole purple and gold; at this point it’s as classic as plastic pointy ears. The Bikini and Leash has stopped looking like a costume, and started looking like a cheerleader uniform. But fuck it, it’s Sci-fi, it’s Fantasy, it’s a party, it makes you feel sexy and fierce, so be it. Let your freak flag fly. All gazillion of you.
Just please, be aware that wearing it sends multiple messages, and they are not all as awesome as “If you fuck with me, I will end you.” You are also perpetuating some pretty harsh “isms” along the way. If you feel good, then strut your stuff. Wear it proudly, just know everything you’ve got on.
[Whiskeypants note: I posted "In Defense of Slave Leia" to my wall on Facebook, and Tanya responded with a comment that I was not above begging her to turn into a blog post. Fortunately she didn't make me actually beg for it. That never looks good on Facebook.]
Last night, C. and I came home from the memorial party for Donovan, fell into bed, and wrapped ourselves around each other, seeking warmth, comfort, affection, love. I lay there, forcing myself to be in the moment for as long as I could, and focused on appreciating how absolutely perfect it was: her head resting on my shoulder, my arms wrapped around her, our legs tangled together—like we were puzzle pieces that had been snapped into place.
She eventually slept, and I did everything I could to memorize how wonderful she felt in that moment.
Memorials exist as things or events that help us remember. Monuments, sculptures, benches, trees, parties. They are how we attempt to honor those who have left us behind, how we create ways to maintain a connection with people we can no longer see, hear, or touch. Simultaneously, death reminds us that we live and are surrounded by the living and that we must remember to connect with the people around us, to not take them for granted.
But often the moments we most want to remember are the ones we are least able to capture.
The past couple of weeks has also reminded me how random and stupid life—and death—can be and as much as I want to, I can never assume that such a moment will happen again. That reminder is terrifying; it has made me face how vulnerable we all are when we allow ourselves to love our friends, our families, our boyfriends/girlfriends/partners/lovers/husbands/wives. It has made me face all the ways in which we cannot protect the ones we love. We just have to let them go and hope they come back to us safe, whole, with the smiles, laughter, hugs, and voices we adore. We have to let them go with our blessings every day, and be grateful when they think to let us know they are okay. And we have to do it like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
Most of the time, I can, and do. Right now, it’s incredibly difficult for me, and it will be until the rawness from and hyperawareness of this fades with time.
I kissed C. goodbye this afternoon and sent her off to her cousin’s, and I did it with a smile. But I would be lying if I said there was no part of me that wanted to hold her tight for hours longer, days longer, possibly just forever. It’s just not a part of me to which I wish to succumb. As we all learned from the ever-amusing Strictly Ballroom, “A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.” But acknowledging the fear is as necessary, sometimes, as acknowledging the grief that it follows.
I am at my wits’ end. I have been trying to find work for a couple years, now, and I cannot so much as get a response from the employers to whom I am applying. I am hitting rock bottom, financially. Additionally, my perspective on the world around me is increasingly negative and I am losing focus. In short, with the exception of my love life, which is suddenly amazing (although I fear misstep in that area, too), I feel like I am going about life entirely wrong, and that I need some guidance.
Hollywood, I am going to say it outright: I need you to send me a magical negro. A magical negro would fix everything. Nobody gives out life advice and guidance like a magical negro. Obviously, Sidney Poitier and Joe Seneca (see: Crossroads) are no longer available, but I would certainly love the services provided by Morgan Freeman or Whoopi Goldberg, and I would absolutely settle for Will Smith, because, you know: Bagger Vance. Djimon Hounsou is a real up-and-comer, too—and we all know he is extra magical because of his accent—so if he’s looking to expand his magical negro resume, I’m down to help.
Now, normally I’d ask for a fairy godmother. However, while she might fix everything with a wave of the wand, I don’t know how I will learn all the wonderful life lessons and find whatever I need to find in my soul without a journey by the side of a magical negro. Also, I have plateaued on my guitar playing lately, and I just don’t think anybody could help me with that like a magical negro, preferably one in a battered hat and clothes that were in style somewhere between 1860 and 1960. And Hollywood, you know as well as I do that the kind of wisdom magical negroes offer sounds better when they look and sound like they stepped directly off the plantation or out of some ramshackle blues club in Mississippi or Louisiana. That is, of course, unless he’s a displaced African tribesman (also totally acceptable but probably less helpful for guitar).
Admit it, Hollywood: you know this is the obvious and best solution to my problems.
Please get back to me with your plan and method of delivery (e.g. wall of mist, pretend janitorial staff, surprise trip to Africa or the Crusades).
We only send magical negroes to white people. Negroes don’t need magical negroes because you are all inherently magical or criminals who either cannot benefit from advice or who need a helping hand from some upper middle class WASPs. We have faith that you will figure it out despite the handicap of also being part Native American, and therefore likely incredibly naïve and in desperate need of protection by white people, who will also play you in whatever movie we make of your life. Best of luck in your endeavors!
Dear Stephen King…
One of the things I am realizing now that I have begun dating again is that, while my head is in much better shape than it was a year ago, my heart is still pretty badly wounded. I recently described it as being held together with nails and bubble gum and random crap off the street, and I should probably have included duct tape and string. Seriously, you could totally list my heart on Etsy, and it would probably show up on Regretsy within hours. Upcycled heart, vintage nails, found objects, bubblegum that has only been chewed by hungry underprivileged children in Detroit. A perfect accent for your office or nursery!
I thought about that for a while, yesterday, while I was trying not to doze off during the slower parts of a mock trial (for which I was a mock juror). And I realized, I can’t really offer this to anybody. Not like this. It’s all in pieces, and the gum is kinda gross, and there’s the issue of tetanus, and is the duct tape a little grimy? And what is that?
So what to do with this damn thing? Will somebody really want it, as is? If I take all this crap out of it, will it hold together on its own with a little help and a little encouragement? I kinda can’t tell anymore. I know this thing still works (I listened closely and it’s still ticking), and theoretically it’s still good. But I’ve been hurt so much and so often that I can’t really convince myself that I am going to have any other experience, and I’m running out of things to hold this heart together short of encasing the whole goddamn thing in resin. At which point, it would definitely feature on Regretsy.
Also, fuck that noise. What’s the point of having a heart at that point?
Lately, I’ve been absolutely loving Florence + The Machine’s Shake It Out, which I have been informed is about a hangover, but which I interpret more personally as a call to let go of the shitty past and start anew (also, there’s no shaking anything when I have a hangover, unless it’s the bottle of Excedrin to see how much I have left, and maybe that’s what she’s really talking about, there). That is, of course, easier said than done, but still a worthy goal. The line that strikes me hardest is, “And I am done with this graceless heart/So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart.” I have no idea how to do that, or if I should, but it sounds ideal.
Maybe it’s time to rewatch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Good lord, I’m wordy. All that when I could have just said, I’m scared. I’m scared, vulnerable, and every step forward requires a deep breath and determination. But I am moving forward.
I’m finished with running away.
So, not too long ago, I posted this status on Facebook: “In a weird turn of events, I might be about to start dating somebody who actually likes me.”
While to my delight this post received a surprisingly high number of “likes”, there was also some concern (both on Facebook and off) that if somebody were busy making me happy, this blog would become, as my friend Mike put it, “all fluffy bunnies and hearts.”
Gentle Readers, don’t worry.
This fantastic, amazing girl may be making me pretty stupidly happy thus far, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a million things to be angry or frustrated about in the world. Privilege and privilege deniers still abound. Wall Street is still fucked up. The Republicans are still waging war against women, minorities, and the poor. The queer community in general is still comprised of second-class citizens in some way or another. Black kids are being murdered by racist fucks, who seem to be getting away with it. I remain constantly teetering on the edge of being unable to support myself. I still suck at guitar. I still work at two clubs. I still ride public transportation. I am still surrounded by other human beings because the stupid zombie apocalypse is late.
I could go on. But you get the point: This blog will never, ever be all fluffy bunnies and hearts. Or fluffy bunny hearts, because I want to keep the five or six readers I have.
I promise: if I have accidentally found actual romantic happiness, almost nothing will change here. The irritable snark is alive and well at terminallysnarky.com. And while I would find it extremely disappointing, this girl could always decide to dump me in some horrible way that includes kicking me in the shins and laughing while I’m down. It seems unlikely, but for those of you who are still worried about the potential for this blog’s descent into cheerful bliss, you can always hope for the worst.
So there was a minor uproar, recently, when post-racial America flipped the fuck out over the fact that Rue and Cinna were OMG BLACK. I am positively fascinated that this was an issue. Well. I’m negatively fascinated. Oh, and horrified.
As most of the literate world has figured out, if you read The Hunger Games, Rue and Thresh were described as having dark skin and hair, and Cinna wasn’t described at all, apart from his makeup.
And yet, somehow, the fact that Rue, one of my favorite characters, was oh-so-suddenly Black, ruined the movie for people. Despite the fact that Amandla Stenberg is a stunning little actor, who took what little of her character the filmmakers thought to include in the film and still managed to make me adore her. Despite the fact that watching a child die, brutally murdered by another kid so that the evil wealthy folk might keep their fancy, frivolous boots on the necks of the twelve districts should be heartbreaking regardless of her race. I cried when I watched Rue die. And it had nothing to do with her race, and everything to do with the fact that she was wonderful, lovable, and fucking tragic. Even Katniss, for all that she has the social aptitude and compassion of your average turnip, figured that out.
To be perfectly honest, my primary concern was not that Rue is Black. It’s that both Black tributes come from the same district, which hints at segregation (I know, the film showed District 11 and there were White people there, but it wasn’t that clear in the book, and I really wonder how much of a conscious choice that was). But that’s neither here nor there for this particular discussion.
As for Cinna, he could have been any race at all, so the choice of Lenny Kravitz for such a wonderfully sympathetic and essential character must have been positively devastating for the bigots who defaulted to White in their limited imaginations.
America, what the fuck. This is just gross.
Look, I don’t have scales over my eyes about the racism that is rampant in this country. I am not surprised by this. But that doesn’t stop me from being disappointed. It doesn’t stop me from being disgusted. And while I am not saying anything new or deep in this post, I still have to say it. In the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin, in the wake of the attempts to free Zimmerman of blame, in the wake of tweets complaining that a character in a movie was Black (and that one tweet from the individual who was less affected by Rue’s death because of the color of her skin), in the wake of those godawful “Don’t Re-Nig“ bumper stickers, being speechlessly horrified feels a lot like silence.
And silence, in the wake of these things, won’t do.
I am robbing the cradle.
There is no question about it. No leeway. There is no math that turns it into a socially acceptable age difference (she’s old enough to drink, I swear I am not a pedophile). I have a hard time even saying it out loud, sometimes, but that’s mostly because of the reactions I get.
Turns out it’s annoying as hell to tell people about your dating life only to feel judged and receive completely unnecessary lectures.
Turns out, it’s annoying as hell that people forget that you are a ridiculously intelligent and mature adult the moment you explain that the person you are all twitterpated about is some absurd number of years younger than you are.
And while a handful of my friends are quietly letting me make my own mistakes or even being supportive (thank you, either way), a larger number of people have taken it upon themselves to inform me of all the bad things that come with dating younger people. Within this group there are:
- The people who continue lecturing me about it even after I’ve made it clear that I am aware of the potential issues (because apparently the fact that I don’t jump up to dump her when their wisdom has been shared is a sure sign that I am blind to the danger no matter what I say).
- The people who are passively suggesting I preemptively dump her.
- The people who are actively suggesting that I preemptively dump her.
- The people who feel the need to tell me, “she’s going to break your heart.”
Many of these people haven’t even met her, yet. Many of these people forget that my last girlfriend was nearly twice her age (and had half the maturity and discipline of the woman I am dating now, no joke). All of these people have forgotten that the odds of my getting hurt or fucked over by somebody closer to my own age aren’t lower. As it happens, people will fuck you over at any age.
So friends (Romans, country…folk)? I get that you are trying to be loving and protective, but seriously: Stop it. Just. Fucking. Stop it.
If you can’t be happy or supportive about the fact that I’ve found somebody I get to be excited about, even if it ends tomorrow (which it won’t, because I promised her BBQ on Sunday), then at the very least, keep this negative bullshit to yourselves. She may very well break my heart. So could anybody I decide to date. I don’t fucking need you to tell me it could happen when I am trying to share something good with you. Something I am guardedly happy about. Something I am enjoying. I was well aware of the danger when I asked her out, and I didn’t stop being aware when I realized I was more serious about her than initially intended.
But I also know that if I don’t give it a try, I’ll never know what might have been. I know that everything I have seen of her thus far is worth the risk. I’ve never been about playing it safe when it comes to relationships, and I am not going to start, now. And if I get hurt, y’all can say “I told you, so,” but hopefully you will be more concerned with the fact that I am hurt than with the fact that you were right. I guess we will see.
Here endeth the rant.