Fighting Against Bullshit

Fighting Against Bullshit

Yet another intelligent, hardworking member of the games community reaches a certain level of visibility... and because she is a woman, the hate mail and threats start pouring in.

Have we really not come so far as to see the end of this crap?

Have a read: it's a strong call. We all interact with people every day, in person, in mixed media, social media, and with our purchasing power. Put your foot in and make a difference. It doesn't take much - every person taking a small step would be a great start.

Comments

  • edited February 2017
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  • Thanks, Jeff!

    It is disturbing and strange to see such violent and bizarre behaviour among gamers.
  • She lost me after following up "Maybe I should be raped to death by a pack of dickwolves?" with "so many of those great things are dramatically shadowed by the indifference to evil and the evils themselves that are happening", which is precisely what that comic illustrates. In other words, it's addressing the same bullshit she is, just not in the way she wanted or (perhaps) realized. So obviously the objective alone isn't enough. You have to establish the terms of battle, which she didn't do.

    You want real change? Fine, so do I. But have our current methods made things better or worse? Because everybody knows what the victory condition is, but nobody wants to evaluate the actual consequences of their actions, which sums up every activist movement I've encountered in the last decade. And if the terms of battle can be redefined at the drop of a hat, then the only ones with any real power are the people who do.

    That's the problem, and what I've been struggling to convey in every single political discussion I've had here.
  • You have to establish the terms of battle, which she didn't do.
    She doesn't have to. She shouldn't need to. There is a problem. Someone is suffering. They try to articulate the problem and some possible solutions. They're not 100% successful - fuzzy thinking.

    But, to require this person to be 100% specific before we try to do something feels a bit mean to me.

    I'm aware of (some) of the issues. I do some (minor) things to try to make things better in my own small way. I still fail sometimes.

    The time a young girl couldn't find a pregen Superhero she wanted to play in her first RPG because the other girl had taken the one female character still stings. That'll never happen again.
  • The time a young girl couldn't find a pregen Superhero she wanted to play in her first RPG because the other girl had taken the one female character still stings. That'll never happen again.
    There's a thing Walt Ciechanowski does that addresses that. He runs Victoriana at GenCon. A couple years back, I showed up for a session, and I think five of six players were women, something we all noticed and commented on.

    "I'll play a guy," I said, as I tend to play cross gender a lot and as I'd made the assumption that there were probably 2 female PCs.

    I think a couple others said the same thing.

    "No one has to play a guy," said Walt. "Or everyone can, if you want."

    It turned out that each of the character sheets had two sides, one for a female version of the PC and one for a male. They differed only in the name and the picture.

    In addition to giving folks choice, Walt was trying to make it very clear that, while the default world of Victoriana is sexist, whether or not a group is keeping that element, one need not and should not make the game sexist.

    I've also seen games where the GM lets the players choose gender and name of the PCs. At first I found the second part a pain, because Names Are Hard, and especially at a convention game, I don't want to hold things up while I dither. But, it adds a surprising (to me) amount of buy in.
  • That's awesome, Lisa. I also feel like it would be possible to provide a culturally appropriate name list, like from the Story Games Name book, to make it easier for people to choose their character's name.

    I'm definitely in the position of often running con games with partial pregens, and as much as possible I try to leave gender presentation up to the players. I will say, though, that certain scenarios that deal explicitly with real-world gender issues and tropes, such as my Burning Wheel "Three Musketeers" scenario, do have set default gender for the characters, but there are always at least two non-male characters.
  • One names list I use:
    Dana, Pat, Sam, Alex, Morgan, Kelly, Taylor, Robin, Jamie, Tracy, Jordan, Hayden, Chris, Kris, Mel, Nat, Terry, Casey, Riley, Jody, Ari, Justice, Amari, Phoenix, Sky, Lavern, Kiran, Krishna, Ara.

    I used to do the "male version / female version" thing but it was more work and possibly less friendly to non-gender-conforming folks.
  • When I rewrote Lady Blackbird (for a mechanical hack), I made a point of taking gender out of it (although I left Lady Blackbird female, as an homage to the original). I had to scrap some of the character names, and replace them with names that are believably gender-flexible. This leads to some fun play when I use the hack - sometimes you get Lady Blackbird with a female Captain who is in love with her, but a male bodyguard, for example. Really changes up the assumptions of the gender roles, which can be fun.
  • Yup the bi gendered flip sheets is how I do it now. And I'd started doing it by the time of the convention. I just hadn't made it a priority to convert my Superhero sheets up to that point.

    As an aside, one of my personal projects is to offer RPGs at non-gaming conventions - spread the good news about the hobby and all - I tend to stick bright colourful character illos on my sheets to hook in the newbies. As a white male I wasn't surprised at how difficult it was to find a range of appropriate non-white images for my fantasy sheets. Wrong, maybe, but not unexpected.

    What DID take my breath away was trying to find appropriate female pictures for my D&D sheets. There are loads of female swords and sorcery pictures on the Internet. It's just that they're virtually all soft porn. And those that are clothed are all idealised figures. It's appalling.

    Sorry ladies! I didn't realise it was THIS bad.
  • For a Traveller game I ran a few times at cons, I gave male and female names for characters. The names differed only slightly (Latinate names with -a/-us endings or similar). Note: These are just names, and the names suggest a gender but do not enforce one. Hell, two of the characters in that game were married to each other, and I let the players work out all of the gender details on their own. It's the effing future and I hope to God we move forward, not backward, in that regard.

    For some games I've run, the pregen characters have assigned genders, and when I get a table full of dudes, they're gonna be sad if they only like to play cis-male-straight-white characters.

    A lot of times, I just leave names and gender stuff off the sheet and let the player fill it in. That's harder when you're writing backstory (you at least have to struggle with pronouns and the like).
  • More to the point of the thread, I often have to fight bullshit at the table.

    I haven't seen blatant sexual harassment of players in my TRPG games, but I often notice male players talking over female players, and I have to shut that down hard. Generally, all it takes is me shushing the loud dudes and giving the women a chance to talk without interruption, or calling a break and chatting with the women without the men around, making sure they're okay and asking how I can help.

    As GM, you have a lot of power to "run the table" in terms of who gets to talk, so use that to make sure everyone gets a voice.

    Also, you know, X Card.
  • Doing a Google image search for "female Sith" for my new Star Wars game was pretty traumatic!

    I've had some players get uncomfortable with PBTA games where there's implied sex or romance between PC's in the Bonds section: I've had to emphasize the importance of consent in these situations, and I usually ask if the player is OK with IC flirting or crushes.
  • edited February 2017
    I struggle with fear of the issues she's talking about everytime I post on the internets. And I don't speak out enough, so I guess their tactics are working.

    As a point of correction, the reference to Dwolves was to indicate that someone had said that directly to her, as a slur and a threat. Not a commentary on the comic book. The negative response here pretty much underlines her issues. Lack of understanding, another undermining of her layered on the events she's talking about, etc.

    (edited 1ce)
  • I struggle with fear of the issues she's talking about everytime I post on the internets. And I don't speak out enough, so I guess their tactics are working.
    It pains me to hear that.

    That's one area where I feel like the Internet makes me powerless. I mean, in meatspace, in my immediate social circle I can be protective of people I realize are vulnerable and confront or oust people who I realize are being harmful... But on the Internet, how can I be protective of others, in a way which makes a difference? On the Internet, confronting offenders seems to be ineffective, except maybe at boosting the coward lowlifes' self-esteem ("Look, I'm getting some attention 'cause of bullying people over the Internet! Yay me!") and the only ways I know of to police or sanitize my own social circles amount to isolationism.

    Any ideas what kind of concrete help a victim of Internet bullying could get from acquaintances or concerned strangers, and isn't getting?
  • Any ideas what kind of concrete help a victim of Internet bullying could get from acquaintances or concerned strangers, and isn't getting?
    That's the question of the hour. In a con situation, one can have anti-harassment policies and enforce them. In a conversation online, it's hard to speak up in defense without escalating a situation.
  • Really sorry to hear, too, Emily.

    I think that the most productive thing we can do online is to engage with the intelligent and thoughtful people and ignore the Dwolves. And have good moderators (as we do here at Story Games - James_Stuart has been doing a great job).

    I think we should keep looking for good tactics and approaches, constantly. I welcome any further ideas here in this thread!
  • Hey @AnonAdderlan, I think your points about how to effect change and how to define the terms of battle are interesting, and I'd be happy to discuss them somewhere, but taking Kate to task for not doing it your way in her article seems pretty harsh to me because of the context. She's talking in part about people online trying to delegitimize her speech, and here you are... online... anonymously... deligitimizing parts of her speech.

    I don't bring this up to accuse you of being a hater or bigot or something -- if I thought that, I wouldn't take this conversational approach at all -- but because I get the impression that you do care, and so I hope you'll take Emily's response above to heart. The online environment of hostility is a big part of the equation, and I think those of us who want things to be better need to be diligent about not contributing to that.
  • Well said, Dave. Thank you.
  • I think we're going to need to undertake a really radical rethinking of what freedom of speech actually means in the age of the Internet, particularly as it has to do with feminist concerns. In particular, we need to really reckon with online speech that is either deliberately intended, or has as its necessary and immediate effect, the suppression of someone else's freedom of speech.

    Not saying I know how to do that! It's just something that's really becoming clear here in the dark days of the 2010's: violent threats need to be effectively policed.
  • How's the legal situation on this in the US, again? I get the impression that it's pretty much legal to threaten and incite - is that the case?

    Here in Finland the police has taken a more active hand in social Internet issues in recent years, basically hand in hand with the politicization of the social networking sites; the idea is basically that because it is illegal under Finnish law to threaten people, to calumny people and to incite others to hate crimes, there is actually no particular reason why the police cannot simply record the interactions occurring online and prosecute them in situations that clearly fall under a Finnish jurisdiction. My understanding is that although it's going to take a while for the process to achieve some sort of equilibrium, it has already brought some sense into the screaming monkey pack poop-flinging by the simple virtue of existing. Obviously the use of police powers cannot actually make people virtuous, but it should in principle be able to keep up decorum in online engagements, given time.
  • It's de facto legal, if not de jure, especially via Internet and especially directed at women. The police don't care.
  • edited February 2017
    One thing to remember folks:

    There is a difference between a threat, a warning, and an opinion.

    A THREAT is a statement of impending action, where the actor has the potential to follow through.

    A WARNING is a statement of action that could transpire in the unspecified future if a triggering event occurs, or threshold is reached.

    An OPINION is a statement about belief or preference, with no personal connection to direct action.

    The first is illegal and actionable. The next two aren't (and I would posit that they shouldn't be).

    So:

    I'm going to hurt you/kill you, is a THREAT. Report it, law enforcement should act on it.

    If you attack me or infringe upon my rights in a particular way I will defend myself against you using any force necessary is a WARNING. There's nothing anyone can do about it, nor should they be able to. It's instructive and beneficial to individuals and society as a whole.

    I wish someone would hurt or kill you is an OPINION. Also perfectly legal. Rude, perhaps, but there's usually no legal recourse (in most jurisdictions) and there absolutely should never be. In fact, trying to suggest there should is one thing that leads to me and others warning that such things could lead to us having to act in a way most wouldn't like. The only correct type of response to opinions is ignoring them utterly, or voicing your own in return. "Yeah, well, I think no one should do business with you because you say that about people." Perfectly legit response, and one that has proved effective in certain instances.

    The only thing wrong with free speech (the second two, not the first) in the US is that it isn't broad enough and lacks sufficient protections to ensure it gets used regularly enough. Those failings have created a generation or two of people incapable of dealing with free speech (specifically as it relates to critique). That's a personal weakness, not a reflection of too few regulations.

    BTW, I say this as someone who was mercilessly bullied and physically abused growing up, and continues to suffer some forms of bullying and mental/emotional abuse even today. I just have learned enough to effectively diagnose and deal with the situations.
  • edited February 2017
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  • We fight abuse by... making consequences for those who abuse others
    Thing is we're not doing that. At all. Ever.
  • edited February 2017
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  • I'm not really convinced that "warning" is such a clear cut safe category at all.

    "If you ever post **** like this again, I will **** your **** and your family's ***** until ******" is just as bad as threat, IMHO.
  • I'm not really convinced that "warning" is such a clear cut safe category at all.

    "If you ever post **** like this again, I will **** your **** and your family's ***** until ******" is just as bad as threat, IMHO.
    It's the most grey of the areas, even under existing laws. However, it has some fundamental aspects that keep it existing as a category.

    For instance, "The Second Amendment exists specifically to empower citizens to mount effective resistance against a tyrannical government. I therefore caution all elected and appointed officials that should they choose to ignore established due process and systemic checks and balances (amounting to disregard for the will of the people) they are risking another armed revolution by people such as myself."

    Now when you cut out the flowery language what I just posted is exactly the same as what you just posted. It's telling specific people 'do this and I'll fucking kill you'. The thing is, what I wrote is a close paraphrase to much of the discussion surrounding the very formation of our government and legal systems. As such it's intrinsically permitted.

    So the grey comes in determining just how/when/why such language is valid. So far the courts have held that it's a matter of immediacy of action, ability of action, and warranted action to a reasonable threshold.

    That means that "I'll assassinate all Executive branch officials if they unnecessarily declare martial law without Congressional approval" IS legal, while "I'll assassinate you if you ever wear a cotton shirt again" would likely be actionable (at least civilly) since it's likely to happen in the near future, you're able to do it, and the wearing of cotton isn't a reasonable warrant for such an action. While you may well be able to kill the executive branch too, there's no indication that such an action is impending, and if it ever did happen there would be at least some broad support for it as well as historic precedent.
  • These are unsettled times. A lot of things which would get handled by norms of behavior are now not handled by anything. And rules are getting weakened by people deliberately creating edge cases and working the refs.
  • I think that the most productive thing we can do online is to engage with the intelligent and thoughtful people and ignore the Dwolves. And have good moderators (as we do here at Story Games - James_Stuart has been doing a great job).
    As I understand it, the problem with ignoring is:

    1. If you're the target, it doesn't work.
    2. If you're not the target, the message you're sending is "I don't have your back."

  • But if you don't ignore and instead engage, you run the risk of

    3. stepping in where no help is wanted (white knighting), or
    4. making things worse for the target.

    Communication helps, always.
  • But if you don't ignore and instead engage, you run the risk of

    3. stepping in where no help is wanted (white knighting), or
    4. making things worse for the target.

    Communication helps, always.
    Oh yes.
  • Lisa,

    Your point #1 is entirely correct, but I think #2 is avoidable. (By engaging with the "target" directly and supportively, I think it's possible to make them feel included without also encouraging the haters. "Let's ignore some of the less mature digressions going on in this discussion. Tell me more about what you want to talk about!")

    At least, I hope so.
  • edited February 2017
    My concern is without clear guidelines, people who would otherwise be friends and allies will become adversaries, which I've seen occur with alarming regularity. Perhaps an example can help illustrate...

    #MarkDiazTruman gave us Two Minutes Hate to express how we might go forward in healing the wounds this community has suffered. Sadly he implied one of those steps was to forgive our abusers and invite them back it, which is not the best way to go about things.

    This supposedly led #AnnaKreider to shut down her blog. In the time it's been up she's taken covert photos of the wrong guy, presented Vin Diesel as an example of a white male protagonist, threatened to leave #Indie+ for interviewing the wrong kind of person, and claimed to be more oppressed than a bisexual man just days after the Pulse massacre, which is not the best way to go about things.

    These incidents were brought up on The Reef where #jewelfox decided to take potshots at #MyLittlePony fandom for being full of creepers (it's not) while praising #StevenUniverse fandom for respecting boundaries (it doesn't). I have no idea why she felt the need to lash out at a community she's not a part of, or dismiss the contributions of another woman, but that's not the best way to go about things.

    Then several people dropped support for #AveryAlder's #Monsterhearts #Kickstarter after she announced #MarkDiazTruman would be contributing less than a page of work as a stretch goal. See that $-127 drop on the 11th? And regardless of where they put that money to absolve their conscience, they still demonstrated their support for transwomen (let alone the kind of amazing outreach Avery does) is conditional, which is not the best way to go about things.

    And all because #ZakSmith is just as relentless when it comes to pursuing the same objectives, and operates under a different idea of what the source of the problem actually is.
    to require this person to be 100% specific before we try to do something feels a bit mean to me.
    I only require 99.99999% for actions which potentially put another person's welfare, reputation, relationships, income, and (increasingly) freedom at risk. So hiring diversely? Vague guidelines are fine. Going after designers? You'll have to provide more than innuendo.
    As GM, you have a lot of power to "run the table" in terms of who gets to talk, so use that to make sure everyone gets a voice.
    Which is why I wish games would provide more tools and advice, if not actual mechanics, to address this.
    I struggle with fear of the issues she's talking about everytime I post on the internets. And I don't speak out enough, so I guess their tactics are working.
    So do I, but at this point I'm too exhausted to be afraid, and know far too many people kept silent by their so-called 'allies' to remain so anymore.
    As a point of correction, the reference to Dwolves was to indicate that someone had said that directly to her, as a slur and a threat. Not a commentary on the comic book.
    In good faith I will assume you know her personally and have a better basis for that interpretation. However what I saw was her rhetorically suggesting the possibility and using a clip of the comic to indirectly indict the group behind it without explicitly calling them out. And considering how many in this community have been forthright in their condemnation of PAX, I don't think my interpretation was unwarranted.
    The negative response here pretty much underlines her issues. Lack of understanding, another attack layered on the ones she's talking about, etc.
    I call shit out. I make spaces for others. I outreach to women and minorities. I back projects on Kickstarter that are minority lead projects or projects that have great diverse teams. I defend people who need defending. I give love to those who are being hurt. I hold people accountable. I run games with inclusive content. I was even addressing sexual harassment on rpg.net before that was the cool thing to do.

    But because I use different methods to achieve the same results I've now been accused of not only underlining #BlueStocking's issues and lacking understanding, but actually attacking her, which is what vaguely defining the terms of battle makes possible. And not only are these implications defamatory, they make it harder for me to do those things and protect my friends.
    She's talking in part about people online trying to delegitimize her speech, and here you are... online... anonymously... deligitimizing parts of her speech.
    She's calling on us to target unnamed individuals in the same way #ZakSmith targets named individuals. And I'm calling out the parts of her speech I see as potentially harmful, just like I do everywhere else, regardless of race or gender. Should I be treating her differently because she's a woman? Does being 'anonymous' somehow invalidate my point?
    The online environment of hostility is a big part of the equation, and I think those of us who want things to be better need to be diligent about not contributing to that.
    Agreed, which is why I think the whole #ToneArgument defense is bullshit. Tone matters, and if you can't moderate your speech online, you shouldn't expect people to listen to you.

    So that being the case, how can we implement #BlueStocking's more confrontational suggestions without contributing to the hostility?
    We fight abuse by... making consequences for those who abuse others
    Thing is we're not doing that. At all. Ever.
    Yes. We are. With absolute measures, and often holding the wrong people accountable for the wrong reasons in our eagerness.

    And which moral authority is defining abuse and deciding the consequences anyway? If it were as simple as 'people making death/rape threats/suggestions' should be banned/fired we'd be set. But it's not, is it? And if anyone can define abuse, then all sentencing requires is an accusation.

    #Bluestocking said "there's a threshold where we need to start discussing what makes a person a bad person. And sometimes, when it's pushed far enough, they're just too horrible to say bad. There has to be another word". Yet that discussion did not take place. And until it does, passing sentence on any individual is exceedingly irresponsible.

  • edited February 2017
    As I understand it, the problem with ignoring is:

    1. If you're the target, it doesn't work.
    2. If you're not the target, the message you're sending is "I don't have your back."
    But if you don't ignore and instead engage, you run the risk of

    3. stepping in where no help is wanted (white knighting), or
    4. making things worse for the target.
    This.

    THISTHISTHISTHISTHIS.

    So how do we fix this?
  • edited February 2017
    MOD VOICE:

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure exactly the reason why fisking is dubious is that this thread suddenly is now talking about like 10 instances of internet drama! I think it's probably best to ignore that sudden rush of internet history.

    @AnonAdderlan: I think you can take some time off from here.
  • edited February 2017
    I feel like there are some good intentions being thwarted by communication issues here, but I am at a loss for how to resolve them. :(
  • I agree. There are some really important topics here, and they deserve to be addressed.

    Perhaps it would be helpful to start a few new, more focused threads (after some careful thought, ideally)?
  • Agreed, which is why I think the whole #ToneArgument defense is bullshit. Tone matters, and if you can't moderate your speech online, you shouldn't expect people to listen to you.
    The irony level is just fucking off the charts.
  • (I, too, have a feeling that it's tone here which is driving the conversation away from productive directions...)
  • I just want to say, being that I don't use twitter, facebook or G+ and I usually don't have the patience to read comments to blog posts past the 4th or so, the kind of summary of past Internet drama @AnonAdderlan posted was actually useful to me - as a piece of historical work, to know what happened. That's useful because these incidents are still affecting the conversation, for those who've witnessed them, even when not explicitly referenced: not knowing about them I sometimes lack context to understand people here or elsewhere.
  • edited February 2017
    MOD VOICE:

    @Rafu, having joined the roleplaying community relatively recently, I too can feel like all these hidden stories are lurking, waiting to be told, and sometimes it's good to know.

    However, I think the problem is that each person's interpretation of a mass of drama is pretty personal to them and their worldview, and in a lot of these cases, even the basic facts of who said what/when can lead to a lot of disagreement. (That these disagreements often take place through social media which can be protected makes it even harder to sift).

    These kind of internet dramastorms is not the kind of thing I want to nurture here, or lend validation to.

    Closing this thread.
This discussion has been closed.