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...]

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...]

Amber Scott’s Sword of Burning Gold: Inclusion in an Incursion

An image showing the cover of The Worldwound Incursion. A green Orcish woman with short black hair, wearing resplendent gold armour and bearing a sword and shield dominates the cover, while in the background a white dragon fights a red demon in a dramatic battle.

This article is crossposted from my latest feature for the Border House; that version can be seen here. What is staggering about much that passes under the banner of “fantasy” is how decidedly narrow its escapist vision tends to be. In both fantasy and sci-fi, far from transcending the fetters of real world limitations, we see our own world with its myriad failings reinscribed in uncritical verbatim form with only a smattering of chrome, Medieval grit, or magic to poorly disguise the copy. Dungeons & Dragons, long the towering mainstay of fantasy roleplay whose name is synonymous with its genre,  has at times been either a magnificent carnival of fantasy or a pitiless mire of the same tired clichés about gender, race, and sexuality that bedevil so much of nerd culture. This schismatic approach to its material is, I believe, a psychic scar left by the culture wars of the 1980s when D&D was accused of various and sundry evils; all ranging from reefer madness with dice to … [Read more...]

Reproductive Justice and the Invisible Sisterhood

sisterhoodispowerful

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...]

At the Edge of Night: Who Owns a Woman’s Truth?

One of Chloe Sagal's games, Homesick.

UPDATE 2: Chloe is doing a good deal better and has started a new fundraiser for her SRS which can be found here. She has also told her side of the story in a revealing post at Indie Stone here. UPDATE: I'm leaving this article up for the time being but everyone concerned with the issues discussed here should read this roundtable between Chloe and Allistair at Gamers Against Bigotry. This post at Destructoid also gives some further updates and details about the case, and Allistair Pinsof himself has replied to this article; you can read his response and my reply here. Needless to say, I'm overjoyed Chloe Sagal is well enough to discuss what happened and I look forward to her joining our community very soon. I still welcome you with open arms, sis. By now word has spread like a nauseating shockwave through the various channels and tributaries of the Internet: independent game developer Chloe Sagal “defrauded” online contributors to her IndieGogo crowdfunding campaign for what … [Read more...]

And if My Life Is Like the Dust…

Trans100 Logo

Much to my great shock I was nominated and added to the Trans100 List, a curated, non-ranked list of US trans activists working intersectionally to improve conditions for the community—I accepted with profound gratitude, and I feel humbled to know that I’ve been added to a list that includes some truly astounding people, considering I’ve only done a fraction of what some of them have. I can only hope to live up to the very high bar that my sisters, brothers, and siblings have set. The Trans100 list is a project that I didn’t even know about until a week ago. But it grew up from We Happy Trans*, This is HOW, and other projects dedicated to the proposition of trans visibility, and the idea that the lives we live—even in the midst of a stricken world like ours—are worth celebrating. That’s an idea I can get behind, to say the least, and coincidentally I wrote something this past week that gets at why I think we need things like the Trans100. I was expressing my discomfort with the … [Read more...]

What I Would Say if I Weren’t Afraid: “Lean In” Reviewed

lean-in-by-sheryl-sandberg_original

Editorial Note (5/1/14): I no longer stand by the views I expressed here but leave the article up because I don't want to hide the historical record of my writing. There are some thoughts in here that I still believe have merit-- the use of sociological research in Lean In, the issue of impostor syndrome and my thoughts on it, the fact that different feminists can work different "sides of the street" without being accused of selling out, etc.-- but I have come to the conclusion that Sandberg's philosophy is a very imperfect vehicle for these issues and that the bad of "Lean In" as a political-personal enterprise outweighs the good. The reasons for this have been expressed quite well in articles like one linked in the comments on this piece. I leave this piece up because my blog is a record of my writing and development, but I wanted to make my current views clear. A good friend of mine captured a certain zeitgeist best when she said that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Lean … [Read more...]