Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Zon: Follow-up on Penny Arcade and dickwolves

| »

The following is a guest post by Zon.

Editorial Note: For the sake of disclosure, I hadn’t heard a peep about the dickwolves controversy before Zon first posted their original commentary, and my current opinions on the matter are vague, apathetic, and irrelevant to this guest post.


I seem to have opened Pandora’s Box on the Dickwolves guest post I put here. I certainly didn’t expect it to get the comments it did, but I am also grateful. However, I will say that when I made the original post, I was not sane (read: sober) and thus, I didn’t explain my points as well as I should have.

Some people in the comments were nice enough to post some links, which I have been going through. However, I don’t think I took away what they wanted me to. I may make those who read the first post very angry; however, these are my conclusions. I would like to say that first of all, I am not trying to change anyone’s mind here, nor am I looking for an argument. I am trying to relay the points I have made more clearly, with the hope that people will keep them in mind, allowing them to see the argument from both sides, and add their own reasoning to it.

The first thing I realized is that I didn’t explain my own personal triggers the way it is. Allow me to explain. When I was younger, I had a cutting habit that got quite bad for me. It had become more of an addiction than a way to escape stress, and it was only with heavy counseling and support from my educated friends (more on this later) that I was able to escape the cycle of self-destruction. That being said, I still do have triggers. I will be perfectly honest: To me, blades feel really good. They are an escape from the world for me. However, the risks are insane, not to mention the social stigma of the scars on my arms and legs, forbidding me from ever wearing short sleeves or shorts in public. Whenever I have sex with someone, it is, at its best, a topic for pillow talk; at worst, it is a turn off for them.

Part of the reason it had gone on so long for me was due to the public mentality of cutting as an “emo” trend. I had a number of friends, uneducated on the subject, who simply assumed it was cool, or a fad, or I was trying to fit in with the emo crowd.

That being said, this is my view on triggers: Whenever I see anything involving cutting (as in actual, purposeful self-mutilation), I want to do it again. Since I received counseling and considered myself broken of the habit, I have relapsed twice – once was with two cuts, the other was with five, neither of them were anywhere near what I have done in the past, and it took all that I had to stop.

I am the instrument of my own destruction. I am not trying to alienate those who have been raped, or say that my problem is worse. Both are deadly serious, and require serious care and counseling. However, with every trigger I see, I want to cut myself open again. I do not expect the world to avoid triggering me. If I am reading a blog on cutting, I am always happy to see the trigger warnings, because that allows me fair notice to get as far away from all blades as I can before reading, while establishing the website as a location that understands what I am going through. However, the rest of the world has a right to do and say what they want, and I am not pushing for trigger warnings on every single incident of cutting. P!nk’s music video, ‘Fuckin' Perfect’, was my way of trying to illustrate this. It is a good video, and I can only hope it raises awareness, but cutting awareness isn’t the focus of what I am trying to do here.

With triggers out of the way, I will move to the links that were posted for me. The first (aside from the Debacle Timeline, which I also found immensely helpful) was Derailing for Dummies. It even linked to a section on Educate, which states thus:

If You Won’t Educate Me How Can I Learn?

Whilst seemingly simple on the surface, there is some intertwining subtext embedded within this one.First of all, you’re placing responsibility for your education back onto the Marginalised Person™. As they are obviously engaged with these issues, and care about them, they are hopeful that Privileged People® may one day start listening and taking in what they have to say. By placing responsibility to educate in their hands, you tug at this yearning. You may even successfully make many question themselves and their selfish expectations that you utilise the hundreds upon hundreds of resources on the subject available to you as a Privileged Person®! After all, anyone who expects you to be able to research a topic by yourself also clearly expects you to be far more of a functioning adult than you're acting!
By insisting you can only learn if they right then and there sacrifice further hours of time going over the same ground they have so often in the past, you may also make them give up and go away altogether, enabling you to win by default.But further, you give the impression that you really want to learn, but they’re holding you back! That’s right, using this tactic you can suggest that full understanding is what you crave – you want to be a better, more connected and compassionate person – but it’s not your fault! Nobody ever gave you the education! And now that someone is here who is so obviously qualified, they’re denying you your Privilege®-given right to have everything you want handed to you on a platter!
Which brings us to another key component of this argument – it is very important, in conversations with Marginalised People™, to constantly remind them that you are, indeed, Privileged®. By demonstrating your belief that Marginalised People™ should immediately gratify your every whim, you remind them of their place in society. After all, they’re not there to live lives free of discrimination and in happy, independent and fulfilling ways! Please! Marginalised People™ exist for your curiosity and to make you generally feel better about your place in society and don’t let them forget it!

I do have some problems with this link. I hope I can explain. I am a literature-minded person. That is my specialty. If we are having a discussion on Victorian literature, or the romantics, or the realists, or the Beat writers, modernism and postmodernism, I can speak volumes. However, being of a literature mindset, I am woefully ignorant of computer science, chemistry, biology, mathematics, physics, etc. I do know a bit of feminist theory, however, and only in regards to making feminist interpretations of works of literature. The same goes for queer theory, race theory, Freudian theory, etc.

It is my opinion that if any two people are having a discussion, on any subject, they make all attempts to educate the other, on all fronts. Now, demands that the other person educate them is bullshit in and of itself, however, situations do arise. It is my opinion, and hopefully people agree, that all discussions, regardless of the subject, should be open for education on all sides. This particular link is filled with the shifting of responsibility, that the effort for education should be placed on the shoulders of one, when there are two people having a discussion. That should be true and open discussion, with education on both sides, with the desire to not force their view down the other person’s throat, but allowing a free and open environment for information to allow each of them to reflect on what they know and understand.

Derailing for Dummies did make me laugh, but I think that is only because I didn’t take it seriously – it is satire, after all, one of my personal favorite genres. However, people reading it should not take it at face value, instead keeping it in mind when they structure arguments.

The other link that was posted was the Shakesville link on Rape Culture. I did read it; however, it still didn’t seem to explain what Rape Culture was. It did give me a decent grasp on the concept, but the conclusions I gained from it were far from what, I am sure, the poster expected.

Now, allow me to make people very mad when I say that Rape Culture, in and of itself, is a completely pointless term. Hopefully, those that read this will stay while I explain myself. The weakness in the idea of Rape Culture is its emphasis on sexual violence, and not included in that of violence as a whole. In the definition pulled from Shakesville:

A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm. In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death or taxes. This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.

According to the post, she pulled the definition from a book called Transforming A Rape Culture. Now, here is my analysis on it, which will lead into my problem with feminist theory, and all social theories in general.

The idea in this definition is that of violence against women. It is a society that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. The emphasis here is on the female. Now, while the numbers and statistics show the most common is “male on female” rape, other types of sexual assault do occur, including female on female, male on male, and female on male, albeit in extremely small numbers. It exists, and it happens. Maybe not as often as male on female, but it does occur. This definition, however, ignores that, and sets the definition of a rape culture on male aggression against women.

There is no room, therefore, to explain strict non-sexual violence of all types. It is not all inclusive. On top of this, it shifts responsibility away from the individual, and onto society. It is a societal paradigm that is contributing to the views of rape, and the mentality is shifted to an emphasis on “Us against Them.”

This is where my problems with all social theories start. I see a strict line between feminism, and feminist theory. Feminism is simply a way to describe a mode of thinking, activism relating to problems of gender inequality. I am in full support of this. I am a feminist. Feminist theory, however, is a philosophy, taking the ideas relating to feminism and expanding them to create a feminist view of society as a whole, with ideas relation to those of feminism, and not to the rest of the world. This occurs across the board. With feminist theory, it is a female society against a male dominated society. With race theory, it is the minority against a white dominated society – which, by the way, includes white women. And so on and so forth.

Finally, allow me to get my final thoughts on Penny Arcade out into the open. Yes, they were insensitive. I have already stated that they are not perpetuating any kind of rape culture, and this belief is not going to change. However, I can understand why people are saying that, which is something I didn’t have when I made the original blog post.

The tweets that Gabriel made were uncalled for, but not entirely unexpected. He was simply ridiculing a term that he had no understanding of, and was left to discern its meaning from its component words, something I was mocked for doing, until some kind people educated me, going against the views set in Derailing For Dummies, which placed the responsibility for education on my shoulders.

As for the Dickwolves shirt, I have yet to find any real idea why it was there. I have heard people say that it was done to mock the critics of the strip, and I have heard others say that it was in response to a fan demand. I have no idea, so I will leave that argument up to others. I still stand by my statement that a shirt will not make PAX an unsafe environment.

Finally, there are a few links that I simply do not understand. One of them is this, which I assume is run by Kirbybits, given the link to her wordpress on the side:


I can see no good coming of this website, from either side.

It is full of pointless insults, going against respectable discourse. This is not activism of any kind, this is anger and rage, filled with wonderful things such as:

“I didn’t make this tumblr to change your mind or educate you. As I have said before, I’m not interested in civil discourse. There are many, many other places you can go for that—and the vast majority of them are far more popular and prolific than this tumblr. All I want to do is laugh at neckbeards, talk shit about Penny Arcade, and call out misogyny and rape culture as I see it. I sincerely do not have any world-changing motives. I don’t care about your feelings.”

Now, allow me to work this out. If a comic, where Gabe and Tycho are commenting on a term they do not understand, is contribiting to a culture where the impact of rape is diminsished, how is this tumblr at all going to help feminists be understood? I understand that the stereotype of feminists as crazy, insane, and male-hating are wrong – from what I understand, even males can be feminists. [Damn right. — JM] But all this is doing is contributing to the stereotype. As she said, she is not here to educate anyone, or interested in civil discourse. In this case, anger, even righteous anger, is obscuring the larger picture. With this tumblr, and what she is saying, I can fully say that she is a person who is missing the forest because she is too busy looking at the trees. There is no point to this tumblr other than to talk shit about Penny Arcade. I’m certainly not against anyone saying something bad about people they hate. I understand a lot of her motives. I simply disagree with this aspect of the controversy at large. The only way I think I can describe this is “Deliberately Antagonistic”, and instead of putting the effort to correcting mistaken impressions, she is perpetuating them.

Kirbybits (assuming it is her) is not the only person doing this. When a friend of mine commented that she wasn't sure what to think of this controversy, and that she hadn’t been following it, she was called a “an idiot white privileged male”, never mind the fact that she is Asian and female.

Hopefully, this blog post seems a bit more clear than the last one. Like I said, this was not meant to change anyone’s mind. I simply wanted to present my views as they are, and hope that people keep them in mind and build on the information and opinions provided on all sides.

Edit (10/31/11 3:01 AM) – Minor edit to Editorial Note at the top.