The Philosopher Queen of the Night: On “Hate Plus'” Oh Eun-a

(Note: This essay contains spoilers for both Analogue: A Hate Story and its sequel Hate Plus; in addition it assumes knowledge of the game and its story.) “I just can’t believe a woman is responsible for all of this!” exclaims *Hyun-ae as you finish reading the most revelatory letter in all of Hate Plus’ archives. Her fury boils over—the regressed patriarchal nightmare that had taken hold on her colony ship, the Mugunghwa, the ninth circle of hell she had awoken into when her stasis pod was shattered by a feckless noble in want of a marriageable daughter, the same man who would steal her voice with steel—all of this was sired by a woman who made of her ideology a terrifying suture to bind the wounds of womanhood. Oh Eun-a, no less an emancipated woman than the President of Mugunghwa University herself. She was the architect of the neo-Confucian patriarchy that the Mugunghwa degenerated into. If pressed to name my favourite character in the series, I would—to no one’s … [Read more...]

The Chapel Perilous: On the Quiet Narratives in the Shadows

A classic, surrealist painting of a castle in a spiral configuration converging on the centre, its channels in between populated by figures.

Michelle Goldberg’s feature in The Nation magazine about “Feminism’s toxic Twitter wars” landed in the social justice community like an incendiary cluster bomb and its merciless conflagration is still raging online. The article, framed around discourse about race among feminists and implicit villainisation of Mikki Kendall (of #solidarityisforwhitewomen fame), enraged many who saw its misrepresentation of complex discussions skew towards condemning forthright voices of colour and protesting the innocence of the most privileged, white feminist leaders. As someone who was interviewed in the piece, I feel a certain sense of responsibility for this and an obligation to speak out about the impact of something I had contributed to. If I had known that this was the article Ms. Goldberg would write, I would have advised her to write or frame it differently at the very least, or even hand it off to a writer from the communities she was describing who could better handle the fjord-like shoals … [Read more...]

Beyond Niceness: Further Thoughts on Rage

An androgynous woman striding confidently down a green hallway wearing a shirt that says "Hack the Galaxy", the air around her alive with holographic screens, a guard behind her laying incapacitated from ongoing laser fire, approaching a door where screens warn her she is unauthorised.

The response to my previous article has been overwhelming and humbling; indeed, the various social media responses left me with vertigo as I looked down mile-long threads. To everyone who shared the piece, who added their experiences to its abstractions, who disagreed thoughtfully and respectfully, who vowed to speak up more often, I thank you. There’s always more to be said, of course, and I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify my views and what I am advocating. A noteworthy critique marshalled against my article and the others like it was that we are advocating “niceness” in lieu of robust advocacy. I cannot speak for my friends and colleagues, naturally, but in speaking for my own intentions, nothing could be further from the truth. There can be no doubt that our political discourse-- at all levels-- suffers from a rapidly oxidising corrosion; in response many “civility” initiatives have appeared, constellating around what one might fairly call “a cult of nice.” In their … [Read more...]

Words, Words, Words: On Toxicity and Abuse in Online Activism

An image of a dark haired and light skinned woman, eyes closed with two fingers pressed to her temple as she is surrounded by a number of holographic images.

To all new readers: I've written a follow up to this article. Not long ago my partner and I were seated in her car discussing the arbitrary nature of certain holidays and I opined, perhaps halfheartedly, that New Year’s was a worthwhile holiday simply for it being a useful vantage point for reflection, however arbitrary. It provides an overlook whence one can see a year of one’s life and world. A recent tranche of writing by several prominent members of the trans and queer feminist gaming community has renewed my faith in that idea-- with the overleaf of the year we suddenly find a great deal of penetrating insight into activist discourse and the risks incurred by our silence about certain excesses that have come to define us too often. The wages of rage in our communities, and the often aimless, unchecked anger striking both within and without have created a climate of toxicity and fear that not only undermine our highest ideals, but also corrode the comforts of community for the … [Read more...]

Do It In the Name of Heaven

A bishop's mitre, white with elegant golden trim along its base and up its centre, with two tails aback.

I am not a cynic on Pope Francis; though he's clearly very well managed in terms of PR, I do believe there is a meaningful difference between this pope and his predecessor which has the potential to, perhaps, bear some fruit down the road."Potential" is the operative word there, however. The Advocate's bestowal of its "Person of the Year accolade on the pontiff is unconscionable in light of the fact that Pope Francis' record remains resolutely anti-LGBT; his particular gentle approach is a welcome change in tone, but in practise it merely de-italicises the Church's standing antipathy to LGBT people. To simply say "don't judge the queers" is redolent of the "hate the sin, love the sinner" pseudo-compassion that drives a particular strain of prejudice among the spiritually inclined. Even just considering the narrow band of issues that animate The Advocate's editors, Francis has not been terribly encouraging-- his spirited opposition to Argentina's tranche of progressive LGBT and … [Read more...]

Crowds Are Calling Your Name

A young feminine person with light skin, a tattoo of a skull on her right shoulder, long pink hair and glasses, wearing gloves, a collar, and a corset, looking at a glowing tablet.

"As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy." --Christopher Dawson The cyber conflagration that began with Bachelor producer Elan Gale’s live tweeting of his “epic” takedown of fellow airline passenger “Diane” has now metastasised into that most schismatic of internet events: the hand-wringing-cum-bacchanal with outposts in Salon, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, and beyond, either celebrating or decrying the episode. It is easy to roll one’s eyes at this—whether “this” is Gale’s own immaturity masquerading as street justice (aisle justice?), or the proliferation of articles on the subject (my own included). But I would not be so quick to dismiss this incident as insignificant piffle, or a joke that got a little out of hand. Nor does it really matter if Diane didn’t exist, as some have suggested. Elan’s behaviour itself, even, matters less than the true acme of our problem: … [Read more...]

Enough

My approach to Cathy Brennan has long mirrored my approach to Ann Coulter; I generally refuse to dignify their deliberate attempts to cruelly incite. Rising to meet their hate, which is deliberately designed to provoke outrage, feels like a vindication of their strategy; what they desire most is attention, and giving it to them hardly feels like a victory for those on the side of the angels. However, after seeing a relatively sympathetic article about Brennan in the online magazine Bustle-- which apparently misgenders a trans woman and which some of my friends have fairly derided as a “puff piece”-- I felt there are some matters which merit clarification. During the interview she clearly set aside the instruments of her usual rhetoric and put on her most reasonable mien. Unsurprisingly, nothing she says justifies her behaviour, and much of what she does say is premised on assumptions that have no basis in our shared reality as women. It is that latter point that Brennan struggles … [Read more...]

Reproductive Justice and the Invisible Sisterhood

I delivered this speech at the opening plenary of the 2013 State University of New York-- New Paltz Women's Studies Conference. I present it here in its original written form without additional comment. (Well, one additional comment: If you wish to follow along with audio and hear the voice of Nuclear Unicorn, click here. My profound thanks to Eli Mann for the recording.) *** Patriarchy does not begin in our bodies. Contrary to those theories, feminist and otherwise, that seek an “origin myth” for patriarchy that germinates somewhere in the uterus, patriarchy has no starting point in reproductive organs of any kind—there is nothing in our marrow as women, our DNA, that sets us up as ontological victims of men whose bodies, whose bits, predispose them to oppression. In the words of legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon: “It is one thing to identify woman’s biology as part of the terrain on which a struggle for dominance is acted out; it is another to identify woman’s biology … [Read more...]

For She Has Tasted the Fruit

Kreia against a teal background. She wears a dark brown, hooded robe that covers her eyes, has grey hair braided with golden bands, and wields a green lightsaber.

I’ve written extensively about Kreia from Knights of the Old Republic 2 in the past, and with good reason. She is not only one of the most interesting characters in all video gaming, and a perfect example of the kinds of women we need to see more of therein, but a character with complexity worthy of even high literature. To wit, she interests me as much as Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth. But one of the things I’m yet to write about in any worthy detail was something from KotOR2 that echoed across time to me. It was what I consider one of the most (likely unintentionally) feminist moments in all of video gaming. (A brief note: there will be spoilers, doubtlessly, and some of the lines I quote and the video used are culled from parts of the game that were not added in time due to KotOR2 being rushed to market. They still speak to Kreia's character, however.) If you’ve pursued a light side path and kept the Jedi Masters alive throughout the game you will come across what is, perhaps, one of … [Read more...]

State of the ‘Corn: “Eat the Press” Edition

16 bit video game screen showing Princess Peach wearing a white dress with red trim jumping between two green pipes against a clear blue sky with a goomba running around on the ground below.

So, I updated the space with a meaty new article a few days ago, but you can still rightly be forgiven for wondering where you're unicornish correspondent has been these many weeks and months. I've been doing a lot of travelling and a fair amount of work of late. I've also been interviewed for a few media outlets about gender in gaming. First is this article in the Wall Street Journal, hitting the streets tomorrow morning: "Fans Take Video Game Damsels Out of Distress and Put Them in Charge." I was very grateful to be interviewed here and pleased to see the Journal covering this important angle of gamer resistance. I should, however, add further commentary lest my lonely remark be misinterpreted or taken out of context. I think that this trend of 'flipping the script' in these games shows that people want to see women protagonists and are willing to both make and support these hacks. It is also worth adding that even as there has been opposition and some vocal nastiness, a lot of … [Read more...]