An Open Letter to Kyle Payne

There are a number of things I wanted to write about this week. There are a number of new things that have happened that weren’t on my original list, and I wish I could be writing about them, too. Instead, I’m writing about Kyle Payne. Why? Because Kyle Payne wants me to be writing about Kyle Payne, essentially. And because if I don’t write about this, I will likely continue to feel unable to write about anything at all for several weeks, continue to avoid the internet, continue to only skim my RSS reader because any mention of Kyle Payne just makes my skin crawl right off my body.

So, without further ado, addressing young Mr. Payne:

I know, somehow, that all this increased attention is actually satisfying to you. I know it feeds into your self-image as a persecuted martyr, the victim of a “smear campaign” perpetrated by a pro-pornography blogger. I know that there is not one brain cell in your entire narcissistic skull that is devoted to anything that is not you, what these nebulous “events” say about you, what people think of you, how your reputation and your friendships have been affected. I know that your main goal is assuring all of us, not least yourself, that your deep down in your soul, you are a True Feminist Spirit, a Good Person, and that the most important question on your mind is how, how, HOW such a thing could have happened to such a man as you.

But despite all that, I can’t let it go. You win this round, it will, in fact, be about you.

I can’t imagine it would ever occur to you how it would feel for any of us to get that email you sent, to see the name of a confessed sex offender in the sent line. I’ll be perfectly honest and admit that it fucking freaked me out, and I spent some time assuring myself that no, my real name isn’t actually on this blog, being again thankful that I remain a tiny, tiny fish in this big enormous virtual pond, and therefore not likely worth more of your time than that form letter took, but I did have to take that time. Because the fact that you sent that nice personal email and wrote that oh-so-revealing post says to me that you’re one crazy fuck, and I do have to step back and think rationally about just how fucking crazy you might be.

And then, because I deserve to know – we, as a collective, deserve to know, and I, personally, as one of many recipients of that email, deserve to hear what you have to say for yourself. I deserve to read your description of what that woman looked like, the vulnerable position that she was in, the urges that you felt, the actions that you took in violating her and the confusion that you felt at the time. It has to have occurred to you just how many rape survivors you sent that email to. It has to have occurred to you that many of us were raped by people we trusted, after we had been drinking, by people with some degree of authority over us. It has to have occurred to you that this story is all too familiar.

The thing about “making amends” is first that you have to have actually changed in order for it to matter, at least enough for you to recognize when your so-called amends are causing harm. One of the first questions male “allies” to feminism ask – and here I mean real allies, which you can tell because I identify them as the ones who ask – is what they can do as men to help women. To help women deal with male violence, with pressure and double-standards and past traumas and current fears, to help end “rape culture” and the ubiquity of sexual violence. In your case, there’s a really simple answer to this question: stop violating women.

You say you were unprepared to deal with these feelings because of your personal feminist politics. I consider myself a pacifist – I still get the urge to punch people in the face every so often, but somehow I’ve managed to avoid getting myself arrested for assault and having my pacifist hypocrisy laid out for all the internet to see. I also have a pretty solid grasp on the fact that pacifist or no, my desire to punch somebody in the face generally comes when I’m feeling pissed off because they’re not doing what I would want them to and I want some way to assert my power/control/dominance over the situation. Make of that what you will.

You’re telling me that I “deserve” to listen to what you have to say, that I “deserve” to think about the impact that has had on you, that I “deserve” to see your name in my email box, and you know what, no. I don’t. I deserve to live my life not having to think about what goes on in the minds of narcissistic predators – I’ve damn well spent enough of my time thinking about that, and I’d really like to be free of it from here on in.

I hope you deal with the abuse in your past. No one deserves to have that shit in their head. I hope you get free from it, so that you can stop using it to tie up others. For what it’s worth, I genuinely hope, from the bottom of my heart, that you recover from what you dealt with, and that you come to a place of peace and comfort with who you are, what has happened to you, and how you can truly amend what you’ve done. But I have absolutely no desire to hear about it, not at destination point and not at any point on the journey along the way.

I think I speak for many when I say that if you were to disappear and remove yourself from all of our blog-lives, that is the only possible favour you could ever do for us.

Moment of Clarity

Every so often, a situation hands you exactly that way of explaining clearly why a given behaviour is bullshit in a way that even people who really struggle with this feminism thing can find kind of revealing.

I often want to forget how difficult it is at times to explain to people why street harassment sucks, and that it’s not designed to compliment, it’s designed to intimidate. Betacandy did a fantastic job spelling a lot of this out in a general way a while ago. Specifically, I really like this point:

Most often, catcalling at a woman is a way men socialize with each other. You’re trying to impress each other with who can say the most outrageous things, or who can get a smile or glance from the most passing women. The woman is just part of the scenery, so it’s no surprise you’re oblivious to her feelings. Her responses don’t represent a person with sensitivities to you; they represent a finish line, and tell you whether or not your verbal volleys are scoring.

I don’t know how many different ways I can explain to some people that what they’re doing is decidedly not treating women they’re catcalling like human beings, so I do like these convenient anecdotal demonstrations of the point – A friend just told me a story about how she was walking home from work a couple of weeks ago and a bunch of guys started giving her the standard bullshit catcalls. “Hey baby come on over here” kind of shit, whatever whatever whatever. They’re in a group of about ten or twelve, she’s by herself. She’s ignoring them, making a point not to look at them, and speeding up her pace.

Suddenly, one of them recognized her, and realized she’s someone the entire pack of guys knew, so he said “Hey guys, stop it – it’s M. Leave her alone”. And they did. A couple even shouted apologies (which she also ignored).

If asked, I’m pretty sure these guys would not have copped to trying to intimidate random women on the street. But as soon as it was someone they knew, there was this level of consciousness to it – oh, we’re bothering her, and she’s someone we like, so we should stop. She has a name, she’s someone we’ve spoken to, she’s a damn human being – and lo and behold, as soon as that gets recognized, her emotions and discomfort are clear, and this is an unacceptable way to treat her.

Again with this women are people thing. Why the fuck is this so damn hard to grasp?

Night Shift Blog Binges

It’s a strange combination, being on a slow night shift when the world is pretty much completely silent all around me, while I seem to, for some unknown and presumably ungodly reason, actually have some energy.

Not to mention the boredom that leads me to reading the Hamilton Spectator, and whatever it is that’s actually causing standard, garden variety misgynistic bullshit to raise the bile in my throat tonight [sidenote: given that I’ve been feeling rather apathetic and emotionally distant about most everything of late, it’s kind of nice to get that energy again], but memo to the Spec:

When, heaven forbid, a woman reaches a position of relative prominance, do you really think the first question that you ask her, and primary focus of your article, should be about how she balances her work and family life? Do you really think that the freshest, most exciting, catchiest bit of information possible to glean from this woman’s story – the part that you turn into your headline – is “The Struggle to Achieve a Work-Life Balance”? Really? Because, just in case you’re unaware, I’m far more interested in how this person’s history of social justice activism and commitment to community-based efforts is going to affect the leadership at the university, and the relationship between that institution and the grassroots organizations in which she has thus far been active.

Some days, it’s only the most heinous bullshit that even pings my radar. Other days, I feel like ripping my hair out that we’re still covering the basics.

How To Get Women To Like Sci-Fi

Tell them it’s good. Convince them that much of it has great storylines, exciting action, interesting characters and uses metaphor to make complex points about human nature/interaction/politics/religion. You’ll find this strategy works much the same way on your male friends who have also always assumed that sci-fi is mainly just childish wish-fulfillment and gadget-driven drivel.

Pardon the exceptionally simplistic title and the snarky opening paragraph, but it’s rare that I find myself able to say anything in so many fewer words than anyone else at all, and this article (which, as usual, I stumble across a week late, at which point anyone who might have cared has already moved on) pissed me off.

The above-described methodology for selling sci-fi to women is based on the fundamental premise that women are people and they like the things that people like. This is well-covered territory (it’s pretty much the driving point behind The Hathor Legacy, to which I continue to hold out hope that I will return as a regular poster/participant, even as my brain is still in its ongoing state of progressive rock-formation). I think what probably frustrated me more about the article was the underlying attitude that it’s the responsibility of women in het partnerships to learn to like what their man likes, because the poor guy has to watch BSG and Dr. Who by himself. Now, personally, I think anyone who categorically dismisses science fiction is likely to be too closed-minded for me to appreciate hir company, because it’s a pretty diverse genre, and like any other, it has its gems and it has its lemons, but I have to admit that there is a simple element of personal taste at work, and variety/spice/life etc.

I’ve read Megan McArdle articles before, so I knew enough to expect exactly this kind of sexism from her, but as a young woman who thinks BSG is by far the best show on television, who has been counting the days until Dark Knight comes out, who has a box at the local comic book store, and who regularly gets told by geeky tech boys that she is a “dream come true”, I have to protest to her enabling that bullshit. Because, see, geeky tech boys who see me as a “dream come true” don’t actually see me as a person. They see me as a trophy that talks, and their interest in me generally extends about as far as a checklist of interests and traits that they can list to their buddies, the white whale they’ve finally managed to capture. Not to mention the fact that liking these things – and being a dream girl – comes with the additional expectation that I will essentially act like a man, but with tits, and that my tech boy won’t have to deal with any of the silly girly baggage that is usually the mandatory, nearly unbearable, cost that (het) men have to pay in order to get any sex at all. McArdle fortunately absolves them of this notion immediately by acknowledging apologetically that she does actually also come with a shoe addiction and an irrational, flighty focus on decorating that will have to be tolerated by any interested tech-boys (fortunately, the side effect of these things is that our male friends can be assured of their ongoing intellectual superiority and greater depth of appreciation for the wonder that is the Dalek).

I find it frustrating to devote feminist energy to thinking about how to negotiate the hetero dating scene, but every so often when I come across something like this and I do think about it, I wonder again why we’re still stuck on this “women = people” concept.

WisCon and Rachel Moss

The Angry Black Woman is rightfully angry about What Rachel Moss Did, and has a great post up covering the whole thing. I think the way she describes it there covers what this was about for Rachel Moss: making sure that the world is aware of the inherent superiority of Rachel Moss.

Rachel Moss understands the meaning of indigenous identity and can mystically/scientifically/intuitively assess whether someone has (deserves?) it or not. Rachel Moss is Totally Not Fat and therefore fully qualified to dispassionately consider the issues surrounding fat acceptance, condemn those who advocate it as entitled whiners and contribute further to mocking and shaming them lest they remain unaware of their inherent inferiority. Rachel Moss has eleventy billion degrees in biology, psychology and medicine that mean that we should automatically trust her word when she calls fibromyalgia a “fake disease”. Rachel Moss is able to cut through the concept that individuals on a panel discussing the current presidential election are individuals with individual political opinions and immediately see what the casting directors were trying to prove by putting them up at the front of the room (except for how it backfired and the individuals turned out to have individual political opinions not neatly corresponding to the expected narrative).

I generally don’t like to post rants, or to take on topics that make me nothing but angry, but after clicking through to the google cache of the original post, the first paragraph tipped me right over the edge on this one:

If you are unfamiliar with this con, it is like any other sci-fi con, except that well over half of the attendees are female, about a third of the panels are political, there is no gaming, and absolutely everybody is a huge bitch.

This is my second year attending WisCon. I go because I love this. I remember how much I hate my fellow women, and then I go the whole rest of the year thankful that normal life is never this horrible.

I’ve never been to WisCon, because Wisconsin is really kinda far away, but at least one of my fellow Hathorites (Revena) has been several times and will likely post a very well-written, pleasant analysis of what she heard there this year within the next couple of weeks. I’ve seen a couple of people other than abw comment on this post, and most of them have been unfamiliar with what WisCon is, which is one of the reasons that this presses some buttons for me. Sci-fi/gaming feminism is a subculture within a subculture, and anti-racism, fat acceptance and queer advocacy are a subculture within that. It’s like gold to find a place where you can talk and share passionately about issues that concern you, with other people who share your concerns and who don’t immediately dismiss you either because

  1. Science fiction/comics/fantasy/gaming has always been male-oriented, sexist and homophobic and if you don’t like it, just stop reading it; or
  2. Feminism/anti-oppression activism has better things to worry about than pop culture, especially niche markets like science fiction/comics/fantasy/gaming, so if you really cared, you’d start talking about what really matters

And Rachel Moss, not really being a member of this subculture within a subculture within a subculture, has access to a wider audience, and not really caring about the people who are members of this community, she can use that forum to make them all well and truly aware of just how small, irrelevant and downright idiotic they are. It’s classic bullying, and it fucking pisses me off.

If you love to hate your fellow women, just stay the hell away from me. If you enjoy whatever feelings of smug superiority you get when you talk about just how silly, stupid, bitchy and ugly others are, when you publicly mock them for it, when you name them and post their photographs for the expressed purpose of reminding them of just how silly, stupid, bitchy and ugly they are, if you enjoy going into spaces full of people that you find horrible, I seriously hope that you seek help, because it can’t genuinely be pleasant to feel that hateful all the time.

Apparently, since posting this, Rachel Moss has gotten some threats, and whenever one talks about something like this in that context, it is obligatory to mention that such threats are absolutely, 100% not okay.

My note to Rachel Moss: Point taken. You are, in fact, better than those sci-fi/fantasy/gamer geeks who also happen to be feminists/anti-oppression activists, myself included. I’m really glad that your life, other than WisCon, is so much less horrible than mine, involves a much lower proportion of bitches, ugly people and little boys who are “pussies”. I can’t be positive, but I’m pretty sure that the male sci-fi/fantasy/gamer geeks in your life, like the dudes who frequent the Something Awful forums, whose opinion is clearly something that you value, have also received the memo that you are not, in any way, like those other bitches, myself included. Your superiority having been duly noted, you can joyfully choose not to attend WisCon next year and save yourself what is clearly a miserable experience for you. Your hard work and mockery have not gone in vain.

Ignorant Comment of the Day (So Far)

The CBC has a story posted today addressing the question of why only half of the girls who are eligible for free HPV vaccination in Ontario have actually gotten the vaccine. The answer, of course, is that under the influence of Catholic school boards and the like, parents are choosing not to have their daughters vaccinated in order to avoid the horror of teen female sexuality.

 

I read the article early on, when there were few comments, and most of them were in support of the vaccine, but I found even those ones telling, because several commenters seemed to think that it was worth pointing out that these women should be vaccinated, because even if we made good and sure to keep them virginal, they may end up infected by their husbands following marriage. While this point is of course true, the uncritical attitude toward male sexuality and the underlying assumption of the value of female virginity was pretty heavily present (I’m always struck by this kind of thing from those who seriously believe that they’re making new, persuasive and revolutionary arguments through the use of these kinds of sound bytes, even though I know it’s a really uncharitable thought).

 

The ignorant comment of the day, however, comes from a Mom concerned about her three daughters becoming sexually active (which, in her mind, is of course inevitable, or at least more likely, following this vaccination), who says:

For my girls to engage in sexual activity before marriage would almost certainly increase their risk of death from STD’s and abusive partners

(emphasis obviously mine)

 

It would be tough to argue that those who remain abstinent until marriage don’t carry lower risks of death from STDs, so I’ll give her that one (how much their risk of such drastic consequences as death would be increased might be a conversation worth having, especially given the availability of health care following contraction of the disease in addtion to, oh, I don’t know, vaccines). But abusive partners? I’ve done some work with women’s shelters and sexual assault centres, and I’ve read quite a bit of research on intimate partner violence, and I’ve never seen a reference to any evidence that suggests that abstinence until marriage decreases the likelihood of a woman ending up in an abusive relationship or ultimately marrying an abusive husband. Google searching risk factors turned up no reference whatsoever to abstinence before marriage as a factor that has ever even been studied.

 

It’s possible there’s a correlation, but to say “almost certainly” and to throw your protective resources behind encouraging your daughters to stay abstinent instead of becoming educated and educating your daughters about the actual dynamics of abuse demonstrates an insane amount of ignorance. This assumes first that the daughters won’t end up married to (and presumably sleeping with) an abuser, and second, that somehow, not having sex makes all relationships non-abusive. And when I really start thinking about what that implies, I wonder how much it speaks to an attitude that “Yes, well, you can’t expect a man to respect your body (by not beating/raping/murdering you) if you don’t respect it yourself (by not having consensual sex outside of marriage).

 

When you’re telling your daughter that if she’ll just keep her legs crossed until the ring is on her finger like a good little girl should, then she’ll be better able to avoid being murdered by an abusive partner, not to mention suggesting that you would rather she didn’t get vaccinated against a potentially fatal illness in case she misinterprets this as a shiny new license to have all the sex she wants in Grade 8, then I have to think that the handle of “love2learnmom” was a really poor selection on your part.

Sorry to Let You Know, But…

I was raped.

abyss2hope had a series of posts a couple of weeks ago detailing the problems with the criticism people raised against some t-shirts that say “I was raped”. This one is takes apart a particularly egregious comment, the salient point of which is: “Be rational, silly women. This is only going to turn people against you because you’re making them uncomfortable by letting them know you were raped”.

Marcella focuses on the hubris inherent in the assumption that he’s in a neutral position here (I’ve discussed before why this is bullshit, and of course it’s also classic male privilege to come in to a topic to which others have devoted years of their lives in studying and considering, both from a societal and personal perspective, and assume that they’ve all just been waiting around for him, the voice of truth, which they could not possibly have seen without him. Sorry…end rant). But the comment gets at something I’ve been thinking about with respect to privilege – our friend James here seriously thinks that when we’re talking about rape, those of us who’ve experienced it should make sure we’re polite about sharing it, because it’s unseemly and makes people uncomfortable. What he’s missing, of course, is that the reason the shirt is revolutionary and can be seen to challenge things is because of exactly that mentality, not to mention that none of us ever got to decide that we weren’t going to think about it. Didn’t exactly come up politely, you know?

Now, I’m not confident as to the purpose of these t-shirts, myself, for one thing because I’m very, very wary of trigger issues, and I know I wouldn’t wear one myself. The point is, it is insanely self-centered and myopic for someone who has never been raped, never really dealt with the fear of being raped, and never even had a friend disclose rape to him (and honestly, I’m immediately apprehensive of most people who say this, with few exceptions) to turn the focus back around to how thinking about rape makes him feel icky, so he’d kinda just rather not.

I was going to try to draw a whole bunch of connections to recent events, and to other thoughts and other kinds of privilege, but I’m just too tired. I do like that I came up with a pithy new category, though. Pithy categorization makes my day.