Sit down, you’re rocking the boat: on *isms and Geek Social Fallacies

So there’s a thing that’s been going around lately, and I have been SO GOOD and sitting on my hands and letting other folks Fight The Good Fight and say the things that need to be said because, as with I am sure many of you, there is a part of me that feels maintaining community harmony is more important than dealing with the unpleasantness of and fallout from confrontation. THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER.

Then it just keeps getting worse and worse and bigger and bigger and finally there comes a time when my poor bitten nails cannot scrabble for purchase on the rapidly slipping shreds of my self-control and my head starts to spin around and flames come shooting out my eyes and sdflkasjdflk ARO SMASH.

Dear my friends: now is that time.

Now first, let me say that all references to “you” in the ensuing rantscreed can be substituted with “ebola” or “penguins” or “Bud Light Lime” or “that asshole over there who is certainly not me in any way.” I am not talking to any particular individual. I kind of think that goes without saying, but since I am attempting to lay down some edu-ma-cation ’round these parts I figure it will be better to clarify right on the outset.

I want to talk a little bit about Geek Social Fallacies, and specifically GSF1. In case you are afflicted by a case of Internet ADD and/or tl;dr, allow me to sum up: as “geeks” tend to identify themselves as members of their own marginalized group, the community of fellow ostracized, marginalized geeks in which they often find themselves becomes superior to the individual ostracized, marginalized geeks therein. In other words: CONFRONTATION BAD! Remember that thing up there in the very beginning? I struggle with this shit all the time. The sociological theory at play here says that group harmony and the feeling of belonging is so important that it’s a far greater sin to call someone out for being an asshole and encourage people not to hang out with assholes than it is to actually be an asshole in the first place.

Y’all, I love me some Nicely Nicely and everything, but that is bullshit.

Therefore, what follows is a small collection of boats that I am going to actively capsize, because I just cannot take this much bullshit in my life.

But I’ve never seen that happen, so obviously it doesn’t actually happen.

God, this is a big deal. This is such a big deal. I don’t understand why people don’t get this, but I see it everywhere IN EVERYTHING: if an individual has never experienced Behavior X, other individuals who may be complaining about Behavior X don’t know what they’re talking about, and obviously Behavior X does not really happen.

Let’s think about this for a minute.

If you personally are from, say, a desert climate and don’t travel much, and someone else of your acquaintance talks about being caught in a snowstorm, do you automatically assume that they are hysterical lunatics? I mean, YOU’VE never seen snow before. But no, you don’t, because that would be ridiculous, right? At least I hope you think that’s ridiculous. If you don’t, then just move along, because there is no hope for you.

But if you do think this is ridiculous, let’s translate that to a current topic running around the gameosphere: if you have never seen a female-identified gamer being harassed for gender-reasons, or if you are a female-identified gamer who has never been harassed for gender-reasons, congratulations! YOU ARE ONE OF THE LUCKIEST MOTHERFUCKERS ON THE PLANET, and/or everyone you have ever associated with is an awesome, upstanding human being. And that’s great! BUT IT IS NOT TRUE FOR EVERYONE, and putting your fingers in your ears and being all LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU when people try to explain how it totally, totally isn’t is ignorant and naive. STOP IT.

You’re just looking for something to be mad about.

A fun fact: usually one does not have to actually look very hard to see this kind of bullshit. Fat, Ugly, or Slutty is a big deal, and this shit happens every day. It’s not peering deep into the underbelly of the system code, flailing frantically to find a target for your Righteous Rage, when your faction leader comes straight up and says that he would totally hit that rather than saying hello, like he does to dudes. It doesn’t take hours in MogIt to find set after set of armor that comes up as nipple caps and butt floss on ladies but functional armor on men. It’s right there, is what I’m saying. It EXISTS. ALL THE TIME.

Contrary to popular belief, I do not actually like to be mad! I would like nothing more than to never get the Mrs. White flames on the side of my face ever, ever again. Unfortunately, we do not live in my personal utopia, that glorious bastion of equality and *ismlessness where the rivers run with delicious wheat beers and the streets are paved with popcorn and pretzels. No, we live in the real actual world where people can and often are be assholes.

If you would like an out-of-gaming example, perform this experiment that I replicate every time I go to Target, as I am the mother of a toddler girl: pick up a pair of jeans from the Baby Boy shelf. Any size at random will do, even the 3-month size. Now pick up a pair of the same size from the Baby Girl shelf, and lay them on top of the Baby Boy pair. You see that tuck in at the hips and knees on the girl jeans? The cut designed to accentuate one’s ladyparts, built to look sexy? FOR A BABY? Yeah. You don’t have to search for this shit. I am not hunting it out because raging is fun. I am pointing it out because it’s BULLSHIT. If people don’t know that something is bullshit — how many of you have had to buy clothes for a baby girl lately, for example? — then it will never get better, and I want it to get better, for myself, for my daughter, for your daughters, for her daughters, for everyone. No one can fix it if they don’t see that it’s broken, and there’s no shame in ignorance. There’s only shame in actively choosing to REMAIN so. STOP IT.

Just calm down and stop taking it so personally.

DUNH DUNH DUUUUNNNNH aka the tone argument.

I’m not sure if it’s actual irony or Morissetteian irony that nothing, absolutely nothing, makes me see BURNING WHITE-HOT RAEG!!!11 like the tone argument.

A person has every right to be hurt or angry when they’re being dismissed, belittled, and insulted. Whether or not you think they’re correct to be hurt is not the point because someone’s feelings are not about you.

I hate this so much I can’t even swear at it effectively and there is no beer that can assuage my rage. You don’t get to say when, why, or how someone gets to be angry. You don’t get to say that something is not offensive when there’s someone telling you they’re offended. You don’t get to make that choice because IT IS NOT A CHOICE. STOP IT.

If nobody ever said anything that might offend somebody, nobody would ever say anything at all!

So I guess people don’t say nice things in your world? I am very sad for you, because that must be a terrible place. I mean that’s even more awful than my world, and I live in a world where the Powers That Be want my toddler to dress sexy. Your world is a serious shithole, is what I’m saying.

I will let you in on a secret: it is totally possible to hold an entire conversation without saying something hurtful or offensive. I know this is maybe shocking to you, but it is actually totally totally true! And if you do say something hurtful or offensive and someone calls you out on it, all you have to do to start fixing it is APOLOGIZE. It’s not even really hard, I PROMISE. STOP IT.

There are real problems in the world that deserve your attention.

You know what’s a real problem in the world? The fact that one in every four women are sexually assaulted. You know what else is a real problem in the world? People implying that this is not a real fucking problem in the real goddamn world.

The oppression olympics make me insane. This is not a CONTEST, because EVERYONE LOSES.

Every time someone uses a slur of any kind without someone speaking up and suggesting that they perhaps rethink their word choice they get tacit approval for whatever horrible bullshit they’re spouting. They think you are one of them, that you believe the same things they do, that you agree with that slur. Every time. STOP IT.

Just get over it.

There is no such thing as “just words.” There just isn’t. Words hurt, sometimes more than physical hurts; words can drive people to suicide. If your words hurt someone, that’s on YOU, not them. Telling someone to “get over it” is belittling, dismissive, and makes you an asshole.

Look, here’s what it boils down to: if you say something and someone else says they are hurt by it, the proper response is “I’m sorry, I will try not to do that again.” That’s it. That’s all you have to do. It’s not up to you to determine who’s ALLOWED to be hurt by your words or actions or why; the only thing you can or should control is how YOU react to having hurt someone.

I think the key (at least it has been for me) is understanding that people don’t necessarily think you’re a bad person for having hurt/offended/been thoughtless/whatever at someone. We’re human. We make mistakes. Sometimes shit happens. You do not suddenly become a soulless monster the second you use “lame” as a pejorative. REMEMBER THIS, and do not immediately jump on the defensive when someone points out that you maybe might want to rethink whatever statement you’ve made. Be calm, say you’re sorry, and LEARN FROM IT.

…Also, bonus points: First Amendment rights pertain only to laws made by the Congresses of the United States abridging the speech of United States citizens. It doesn’t mean you can say whatever the fuck you want on THE WORLD WIDE INTERNET without fear of criticism. If you say something shitty, PEOPLE WILL CALL YOU ON IT. Crying censorship when they do so just makes you a dumbass. STOP IT.

For a person with normative brain chemistry, social behaviors are learned from the second you’re born; from infancy we’re taught to distinguish between ourselves and the other, that certain kinds of people “are supposed to” behave in certain kinds of ways. This doesn’t mean it’s right, and it doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. You can listen and learn NOT to be a jerkbag, IF YOU CHOOSE TO DO SO.

There is no rule that states people can’t learn from their mistakes and experiences. You just have to DO IT. You can spend the rest of your life growing and changing; I know I intend to. So go forth in empathy, my friends, and conquer assholery. I believe in you. ♥