Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

prison-barsHopefully this puts an end to and a line under all the nonsensical fuss that’s bubbled along constantly since my ‘In Defence of Rape’ article. At every stage the accusations and opprobrium have gotten worse and worse until in the last blow up I was not only accused of rape apologism but of making rape threats and even being responsible for sexual assault myself. Ludicrous and unfounded.

A chap, John Stavropoulos,  who I don’t really know and who has me blocked on various networks (I made fun of vegetarians) took it upon himself to look into the accusations and to try and find out if there were any substance behind them. His findings are below, followed by my commentary. I would like to thank John for his concerted effort to get to the truth and living up to his own professed ideals. I’d also like to thank Zak Smith for his involvement and support. I’m not comfortable repeating his naming and shaming as its unclear from pluses etc whether people actually supported the accusations or not.

Final Update:

I’ve gone through many emails, links, and messages on this subject.

To review:
1. James has been accused of allegedly threatening his critics with rape.
2. James has been accused of allegedly being a rape apologist.
3. These are serious allegations and as someone with friends and family who have been raped, I don’t take this topic lightly.
4. There is a track record of people spreading misinformation about James. One clear example, there was a petition against James that included libel.
5. I don’t know James, I don’t care for his work, and I disagree with many of his opinions (for example, I’m strongly in favour of anti-harassment policies at conventions, have written several, and have implemented many). I’m not here to defend James. James was one of the first people I blocked on G+ for reasons unrelated to any of this (he made fun of vegetarians).
6. I’m personally disturbed by the seemingly vast number of people who seemingly accepted the above allegations as seemingly truth or who strongly suspect these allegations are false but have said nothing.
6. As a potential consumer of products and services from companies affiliated with James and as someone who is very aware how these topics can destroy people’s lives, I would like to know what is going on.
7. So I asked anyone to send me proof. In this thread. In email. Anonymously. In any way that anyone is comfortable with.
8. I’m going to present what I know and move on from this topic. Don’t ask more from me. I’ve dedicated a lot of time to it, and have chosen to end several friendships because of it. 
9. This is NOT a witch hunt. I’m not going to name names. This isn’t about shaming. Part of the point of this thread is to fight against potential witch hunts (which some have alleged that James may have been the target of). I’m not an attorney, judge, or jury, and my words are primarily opinion. You should make up your own minds.
10. The rules for this thread still stand, don’t post unless you have proof.

That all said, I’ve received several links in this thread that I’ve reviewed and you can read about in detail above. Additionally, I’ve received many more emails on this topic.

Let me flat out, in the clearest way possible state:

I have received NO information that proves, in my opinion, that James has allegedly threatened his critics with rape.

Unfortunately, the rape apologist allegation is much more complicated and the more I look into it, confusing. Why?

The definition for rape apologist seems to vary substantially and it’s often unclear what definition someone is using.

One (of many) definition is that a rape apologist is someone who argues that rapists have no control over the sexual temptation they experience in response to the victim, therefore the victim could have avoided awakening the irresistible rape temptation by behaving differently. From what I’ve seen, I don’t think it is reasonable to accuse James of any of this. But we don’t know what definition of rape apologist someone is using.

Another (fairly different) definition is that a rape apologist is someone who communicates that rape isn’t really rape or claims that allegations of rape are untrue or exaggerated. Some have claimed that James may match this definition because of statements here, https://talesofgrim.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/kickstart-your-tart/, specifically: “I’m sure RAINN does a lot of good work but they’re mostly known – to me – for their promotion of what appear to be vastly inflated rape statistics. I am deeply uncomfortable with my objection to the project having lead, indirectly, to funding an organisation that seems to use and abuse poor statistics. I don’t, personally, believe that you need to inflate the figures. Rape is a horrible crime and making people more afraid than they need to be doesn’t help.” and James links to a controversial news article http://goo.gl/HuCk7 which contains problematic content (an article which makes me personally uncomfortable), but it’s impossible from James’ blog post to determine if James agrees with the specifics of that news article, or if he is simply linking to it to explain his hesitation with RAINN itself.

Another (again, fairly different) definition is that a rape apologist is someone who is an apologist for rape culture (which we would need to nail down exactly what rape culture means to argue this point as this terms also has several definitions that many don’t agree on) and may not be a direct apologist for rape itself. This definition is so potentially large and potentially vague that you could potentially accuse many people of various degrees of supporting rape culture or being a rape apologist for rape culture. It’s very difficult, using these definitions, for me to make any definitive judgements on this topic.

Given the vagueness of what rape apologist might mean, I don’t want to potentially add to any potential misinformation to this topic, so I won’t. I’m going to move away from the whole rape apologist thing and concentrate on the more serious primary allegation.

While rape apologist may be an unclear term, alleging that James has threatened his critics with rape, is not in my opinion, unclear at all. So let me repeat again, in the clearest way possible:

I have received NO information that proves, in my opinion, that James has allegedly threatened his critics with rape.

Does that mean there is no proof to be found? No. But I don’t have any proof to offer and no one I know has it or is willing to share it. And given the seriousness of these allegations, I feel VERY uncomfortable with people alleging such things with such absolute statements and no information to back them up. Given that, I’ve been moved to do all this work and share it with you. Additionally, I’ve chosen to end several friendship because of this.

Rape is a serious real problem that affects many people and there is already too much misinformation around rape and it already can be so difficult to prove, that I feel it is important we do what we can to fix these problems. But potentially false allegations, in my opinion, only make this serious problem, worse. And while it is convenient for many to look the other way, I will not.

Never forget, the standard you walk past, is the standard you accept.

Some people have been big enough to apologise, given this. I’ll call out Dave Michalak in particular for the most sincere public apology. Others have been… less gentlemanly and indeed have doubled-down or shifted their accusations or started trolling. Generally the usual suspects.

It’s been a tough couple of years and extremely wearing on my mental health. I can only imagine what that strain must be like for those falsely accused of actual rape and formally charged. However it has brought a lot of things home to me and has settled a lot of thoughts in my mind.

It has made me a better advocate for free expression and has made me far more willing to call out hypocrisy and stupidity amongst activists when I see it.

It has made me much less tolerant of sexism towards men, of dangerous assumptions about male sexuality and of de-facto censorship in the creative communities.

It has galvanised my resistance to ‘anti-harassment policies’ (scare quotes because that’s not what they actually seem to be) and has prompted me to campaign against the UK porn ban and criminalisation of BDSM imagery and erotica.

It got me involved in Bannedwriters to campaign against the economic censorship of erotica writers.

It has made me acutely aware of just how rapidly word-of-mouth can get out of hand and how spurious accusations can stick, no matter how innocent you actually are. As such I have an even greater appreciation of the need for formal law over mob justice and the necessity of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, just at a point where the hysterical mob seems to be usurping any real sense of honour or justice.

Am I going to change?

Not likely. The same topics still interest me. I still stand by the majority of the original post and the work that so seems to upset some people. I’m still open to changing my mind but only in the presence of good evidence, not beasting, scaremongering, lies and scoffing. I remain opposed to ‘anti-harassment policies’ at conventions and remain concerned by the spread of de-facto censorship and the demonisation of male (or seen as male) interests, characteristics and aesthetics.

I remain hopeful that there are some people who can disagree with me politely, intelligently and still remain friendly when we don’t agree. I also remain hopeful that if you don’t like something someone does, your solution is to make/promote something that you do like, rather than to try and stop others from making/consuming what they like.


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Men grunt, grunt, grunt
Men fart and scratch – don’t listen.
If they don’t agree with you then there must be something missing.

Mansplain, man ‘splain.

Men swear and punch and act out ’cause they don’t have the words.
Touching, feeling, talking out – that’s just for the birds.

Mansplain, man ‘splain.

Men are silent men are strong.
Men endure, they’re always wrong.

Mansplain, man ‘splain.

Men shout and yell and butt heads, men settle arguments with fists.
Men suck it up when you hurt them, don’t file it away in lists.

A woman likes the strong silent type.

Oh yeah, a woman likes a man who doesn’t dare to disagree, who doesn’t call her out when she’s wrong.
Sweet reason doesn’t apply, feelings conquer all. Don’t argue with your lover, if you do she might be gone.

A woman likes a man who knows how to ‘lose’ an argument.
A real woman likes a really good loser.

Men condescend, men patronise, logical thinking’s a patriarchal affliction.
Accuse them of anything and it must be true, it couldn’t be fiction.

A woman opens her mouth, only misogynists disagree
A wise man keeps his trap shut, submits and bends the knee.

Mansplain, man ‘splain.

A man’s words can be ignored now
And ignored later.

Men, ‘splain.

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So, for those of you who don’t know, at the end of Pax in a stage interview Penny Arcade (as a collective) stated their regret about pulling the Dickwolves merchandize (T-shirt and pennant) back in 2010. As you can hear on the video this is quite a popular opinion and it’s one that I share. Further, despite having had my own controversies and having handled them in sub-optimal ways I think they probably shouldn’t have engaged any more than they did with their first response comic which, for all the complaining that they didn’t understand, is the character of the sort of complaints one gets from the ‘mob’ once they get a bee in their bonnet.

I was disappointed, then, to see the response to this in Wired and elsewhere, being a step up of the ‘boycott Penny-Arcade’ cries that have been bouncing around for a couple of years and, even worse, to see Stevens (of Diesel Sweeties) slamming another webcomic crew and, even worse, Warren Ellis retweeting Stevens on this. Neither of these two are, shall we say, entirely free of controversy and both have been misunderstood in the past. To single out PA for special treatment when they should know the sting of the mob themselves to some degree is disappointing, especially in creators who should be protecting free expression.

Quotes are from the Wired article, cross check there for attribution if you’re not sure.

Whether or not the strip was offensive in itself isn’t really relevant at this point: More than the comic itself, what made the most impact was how Penny Arcade responded to the readers — including rape survivors — who said it upset them. First, they mocked their critics with a series of posts and a flippant non-apology. In a subsequent “make a strip” demonstration at PAX Prime, Krahulik further needled the issue by drawing a dickwolf, and Penny Arcade even monetized the discomfort over the rape joke by making and selling “Team Dickwolves” shirts and pennants.

The original strip was only offensive if you completely missed the point of the joke. It did not trivialise rape, the point was that in these arbitrary quests in these MMOs all anyone cares about is completing the quest. The plight of the prisoners in the strip is irrelevant, no matter how horrible their fate it. In this case rape and hard labour. The ‘dickwolf’ is a riff on the fantastical and stupid creatures you see in any number of fantasy settings, worlds and games.

Having been on the receiving end, myself, of these kind of hysterical mobs (yes, I know feminists hate that word but it’s a good word to describe frenzied, emotion-driven and irrational reactions and I don’t mean it in the Greek sense) I can tell you with some certainty that their responses of eyerolling and sarcasm were to the kind of people who make insulting and nonsensical claims that such material is rape apologia or contributes to ‘rape culture’. To reasonable human beings not steeped in outrage culture and gender studies such accusations are both:

a) Incredibly insulting.
b) Ludicrous.

In that context their responses were perfectly valid. Of course, the fusses that the ‘Social Justice’ mobs create are great publicity and polarise people into supporters and attackers and producing Dickwolf merchandise is as perfectly rational way to both cash in and to allow people to show their support. It’s also funny to think of stupid fantasy creatures being mascots for school/college sports teams.

You don’t have a lot of time to think how to react to these mobs, it whips up a frenzy very rapidly and you’re always caught on the back foot. People  want responses or apologies NOWNOWNOW and that leads to poor communication on all sides.

Given the ridiculousness and extremism of many of the people making attacks, I understand and sympathise with the nature of the response. As Jefferson once said:

“Ridicule is the only weapon which may be used against unintelligible propositions.”

Many of the objections are just that, unintelligible.

And then on Monday at PAX, in front of an audience of thousands, Krahulik told business manager Robert Khoo that he regretted pulling the Dickwolves merchandise from the Penny Arcade store — merchandise he had created as a “screw you” to rape survivors who had had the temerity to complain about a comic strip. While the audience burst into applause, Khoo nodded sagely and said that now they knew better; now they would just leave it and not engage.

I don’t think the merch was created as a ‘screw you’ to ‘rape victims’ but rather a middle finger to humourless dingbats, ‘social justice’ warriors and the kind of people who seem to think that nothing offensive should ever be made. It was also a way for people to show support for PA in the social media shitstorm that was created. It was a ‘screw you’ to the kind of people accusing them of contributing to ‘rape culture’ or being ‘rape apologists’. Victims of sexual or domestic abuse and censorious arseholes are – as I’ve found in recent interactions with A+ – not a singular demographic but, rather, an overlap in a Venn diagram. There’s a lot of victims that don’t want to be coddled and wrapped in bubblewrap or to have well-meaning but tone-deaf keyboard warriors fighting their fights for them.

As they seem to have settled on here, they should have just not responded, not engaged and let the argument and the fight fade into obscurity. I doubt they were expecting this reaction this time around, after all, what’s been expressed is nothing new.

@BrendanAdkins – Incredibly disappointed to have volunteered until midnight at #PAX three days running and then hear @cwgabriel still mocking rape survivors.

I’m not sure quite how you get ‘mocking rape victims’ from ‘it was a mistake to pull controversial merchandise’ but this is illustrative of the hysteria-driven hyperbole I was talking about earlier. Some people are determined to receive a different message to the one transmitted due to their own biases.

Cartoonist Rich Stevens of Diesel Sweeties reached out to WIRED when he heard we planned to report on the PAX incident. “It’s just so disappointing to see people I’ve known since we were all new and broke turn out to be such tone-deaf, old man bullies. He’s Rush Limbaugh with tattoos. I could get over the original comic if they’d just moved on or apologized, but they had to make merchandise out of rape just to poke back at people and then encourage fans to wear it to a convention that supposedly has pro-woman policies,” said Stevens.

Pax etc do have ‘pro-woman’ policies, if by ‘pro-woman’ you mean ‘anti-sex’. There’s a hypocrisy about objecting to booth babes and simultaneously objecting to some male geeks’ wariness about ‘fake geek girls’ especially given some of the reasoning to object to booth babes, but I’ve talked about that before elsewhere. This policy has even been extended to cosplay and I think regarding it as ‘pro-woman’ requires a particularly narrow point of view of what that entails.

I don’t think the merchandise is ‘of rape’ either. It’s about the incident and it’s about the silly creature  they created. One that will now live forever in infamy due to the Streisand Effect – something else you’d think ‘social justice’ warriors would be aware of as they create and sustain these popular ‘monsters’ of things they object to. As to the accusation of bullying, there is definitely bullying going on, but it’s not coming from PA who are, after all, still on the defensive.

Sampat also has firsthand experience with the dangers of criticizing Penny Arcade. This week, she posted an impassioned condemnation of Penny Arcade and PAX, outlining the company’s history of inappropriate public comments and behavior, as well as its failure to address the harassment and alleged assault of a volunteer by another volunteer at PAX East. Since then, she has received thousands of angry comments, including rape threats and death threats directed not only at her but at her children. (In 2010 and 2011, critics who wrote about the original dickwolves incidents were similarly flooded with harassment and rape threats.)

Alleged assault. Alleged behaviour. Alleged harassment. Frankly, these are not really jobs for convention staff, they’re jobs for the police. As we’re seeing throughout geek/hacker/skeptic culture there’s a big push for rather draconian convention policies that presume guilt and are enforced to the letter. These policies and the strict application thereof are starting to backfire with the cancellation of a talk by Violet Blue causing some backlash and, ironically, Rebecca Watson of Skepchick being tossed off a con’s trading table for breaking their rules (Tablegate). We don’t know the specifics of the case – which is only alleged – and so we should not be passing judgement or holding anyone accountable for something that may not have happened.

As to trolling, as with the Streisand Effect I’m amazed that anyone active on the internet for more than five minutes hasn’t figured out that spurious trolling and threats is just that, spurious trolling. Show yourself to be a target and you’ll get shit for it. This doesn’t excuse the trolling behaviour – not victim blaming here – but using that reaction as a weapon to beat the people you’re actually having the above-ground dispute with is not acceptable either. Trolls gonna troll.

“Mike’s reaction when he’s criticized for this kind of behavior is always to comment on how he hates bullying, and how he sees himself as fighting back against a bunch of internet bullies,” Story told WIRED. For her, the primary conflict is about Penny Arcade’s continual abuse of power. “The unexamined privilege in [Mike’s] viewpoint is sort of breathtaking — the fact that a straight white male, a celebrity with countless followers who will agree with anything he says, doesn’t see that he is in a position of power over other significantly marginalized groups is almost beyond believing. What he is doing is bullying, no question, and it’s not excused by the fact that kids were mean to him when he was in school.”

This is not acceptable. Mike IS fighting back against internet bullies, they just do not – or cannot – see themselves as such because they’ve bought into an heroic narrative that they’re fighting against the big bad and that excuses anything. If you’ll pardon the hyperbole, this is not unlike the mentality behind terrorism.

Mike’s heterosexuality, gender, his colour and his celebrity are irrelevant to what is true or not. It’s a ‘poisoning the well’ fallacy and it’s racism, sexism and heterophobia. I’m not saying it’s ‘reverse’ any of those things, prejudice is prejudice and its ugly in whichever direction it’s aimed. Can people in positions of assumed authority and power be bullied? Absolutely. The minorities in this case are using their victim status to lend authority to their claims that something bad is going on here. Nobody wants or likes to be seen being sexist, anti-woman, to be picking on rape victims or anything of a similar ilk and so these accusations can create a panic reaction. One well exploited by those abusing the victimhood of others or identifying themselves only by their minority status.

Yes, absolutely, marginalised groups can be bullies, when they have the means to do so.

Mike Krahulik is not a brave upstart defending freedom of speech, even if that’s a defense Penny Arcade has hidden behind time and again. Freedom of speech is not and never has been in danger here: Krahulik has every legal right to be shitty to rape survivors and trans*people and react like a child told he can no longer break the other kids’ toys. There is no law preventing him from flaunting the fact that he has a lot more financial and social power than the people criticizing him for abusing it; nor is anyone arguing that there ought to be.

Yes, he absolutely is. They all are. Free speech includes ‘icky speech’, to quote Gaiman. They and many other creators are engaged in a war of attrition with an absolutist mob with no sense of context, nuance or humour. Free expression is no longer at the mercy of governments but in private hands and the attempts of these mobs, with their false accusations and hyperbolic interpretations, are not directed at criticism but at boycott and censure by other means than the law. You have control over your media intake, if something bothers you, don’t consume it and – unless it breaks a law – let that be an end to it.

And that means that if the gaming community’s going to keep moving forward, the time has come time to leave PAX behind.

I don’t disagree here. I think Pax, gaming, writing and almost every other endeavour would be better served if the mobs went their way and the creators who don’t give as much of a damn about their pet hates went their own. Pax will not be harmed by a few extremists not going any more and may in fact strengthen for it.

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby

If you want characterless, lifeless, riskless entertainment and dull, safe events. Go make your own and let the people who want something else have their events too. Make your own games, make your own comics and stop trying to turn your personal dislike for something into a massive social ill that NEEDS ADDRESSING RIGHT NOW.

Let’s all go our own ways, make more art and compare notes in five years time.



Mike posted some clarification etc here, something I don’t think he should have done (no engagement after all) but it makes a few points that could stand to be covered.

If we had just stopped with the strip and moved on, the Dickwolf never would have become what it is today. Which is a joke at the expense of rape victims or a symbol of the dismissal of people who have suffered a sexual assault. the comic itself obviously points out the absurd morality of the average MMO where you are actually forced to help some people and ignore others in the same situation. Oddly enough, the first comic by itself is exactly the opposite of what this whole thing has turned into.

This is the part I don’t get. The initial strip so obviously and inarguably had rape as a bad and terrible thing and poked fun at the artificial indifference to the problems of the NPCs that the ‘level grind’ MMO atmosphere creates. It isn’t Mike and Penny-Arcade that turned the Dickwolf into a symbol of dismissal and, in fact, it still is anything but. The people who turned it into something more are the very people who supposedly hated the message it allegedly made. Ironically, they’re the ones that turned it into something it wasn’t and you shouldn’t apologise for the actions of others.

If you saw the panel you know that someone in the audience shouted out and asked us to bring the merchandise back. Both Robert and I immediately said no way. We have worked very hard to make PAX a safe place. We have an incredible anti-harassment policy, a “booth babe” policy that you will not find anywhere else in the industry,and panels that cover all the social issues facing gaming today in a meaningful way. That’s the heart of PAX and that will never change.

Those policies are things that I also think are mistakes (to an extent). Give an inch and people take a mile and as PA continues to rediscover, there is simply no way you can satisfy the demands of the ‘social justice’ warrior. Nothing you do is good enough, your motivations are suspect and they just keep going and going like an Energiser bunny with an axe to grind.

What I can promise is that we will continue to be honest with you. There’s no bullshit, no PR, this is just Jerry and I and we’re doing the best we can. Hopefully we will keep getting better.

For me that’s the best possible thing. Honesty. Nothing short of abject grovelling will ever satisfy these people so you can’t win there. You can maintain an honest and ‘real’ attitude and in the long run that’s a lot better. Plus it doesn’t run the risk of a complete breakdown, preachification and – as a consequence – becoming desperately unfunny.

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leda and the swanTired of people linking to this article (or more specifically this article’s title) without paying attention to the content. IDoR a link to the original. To remove any ambiguity whatsoever, the point of the article was simply this: No topic should be off limits. Nothing should be exempt from being story fodder. Whether rape, murder, torture, mutilation, cannibalism, racism or any other nasty thing anyone can think of. Artists must be free to explore without being censored, controlled or limited. The mere existence of something nasty in a story, game or piece of art is not sufficient reason for the art – or the artist – to be pilloried. Nor should we only allow people we consider (subjectively) skilled or politically acceptable to tackle difficult subjects. TL;DR – Censorship is bad, offence, upset or discomfort isn’t a good enough reason to prevent something being made. If you still object to that, stated as plainly and simply as that, we’re going to have a problem.

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