The Rape of Kindness

Without ascribing any motivations to the speaker, without even dipping one’s toes into the seething, acrid morass that is the politics of gender and sexuality in the geek community, I wish to state beyond the shadow of a doubt that it is, at best, discourteous to make rape jokes. More than that, it is unkind. Unkind because people do get raped, every day, and in circumstances that run the gamut from horrific to horrifically mundane. To turn it into a punchline or a t-shirt is terribly unkind to the large number of people who have to live with it.

The #diversityinsff tag was very interesting to watch yesterday, both on its own merits and in tandem with the very loud Penny Arcade clash of wills over what is and is not appropriate conduct. What I’m taking away from those conversations is that there are a tremendous number of people who want to raise the level of debate about and the quality of our literature and society. And, regrettably, there is perhaps an even greater majority that does not.

In this geek culture to which I in some ways belong, the white, straight male has for some years been ascendant. Like violence? Video games get gorier every year. Like tits? Female characters are noticeably more naked than they used to be. The Geek was marginalized in high school, but no more! No, now he lives in a bubble where he can judge everyone with comradely good fellowship. Women who want to join in this “inclusive” culture by exercising their talents as authors or–god forbid–cosplay artists are mocked if they aren’t thin enough, or if the Higher Geek Authority doesn’t approve of the ways they bend character design in their outfits or in their stories.

Even worse, this Higher Geek Authority seems to feel they have the right to bring up things that are deeply painful to others and toss them around for a laugh! Mike Krahulik actually wants to walk around wearing a shirt that says, essentially, “Team Rapist,” and thinks that’s an okay thing to do, as a member of the human race. What’s he going to do next, sport a baseball cap that says “Team Cancer?”

That seems willfully unkind, at best. It goes directly against the basic humanity of the person viewing the shirt, as well as the person WEARING it.

So I ask you, men of geekdom–yes, you there, with the passion for your community and your media–is this who you want speaking for you? You really want to support the unkindness, the discourtesy, the striking lack of concern for your fellow beings inherent in how this society is operating? (I am leaving out terms like “power,” “oppressive,” “rape culture,” “misogyny,” “racism,” “transphobic,” and “asshole” on purpose. Just in case you were wondering.)

Furthermore, some of your heroes, your idols, the bearers of your torches are going out of your way to belittle and attack the people and the media who in trying to make it better for themselves, will make the debates richer and the books better and the games more interesting for YOU, as they already have. Why would you let that stand? There is no genitals check when you buy a book or a game or a movie, guys. The way I know that is because you’ve been reading books about women for years. Pern? Kushiel? The Honorverse? Any of these best-selling worlds ringing a bell, darlings?

Perhaps some compassion is in order. Some stepping outside one’s own box. Walking in someone else’s shoes, and realizing that four-inch heels are uncomfortable and dangerous to wear as well as thrilling to look at. They can be both, but they are both, and knowing that is important before you go drooling all over the place. (Or criticizing when someone hasn’t made themselves goddess-like to your specifications.) Doesn’t it make the world more interesting, to consider all these layers? Or are you going to listen to the men who tell you all you want is some more rampant titty to stare at while you shovel the traditionally male-oriented, self-aggrandizing pablum that is much of mainstream SF/F down your gullets? Surprise me. I’ll wait.

I’m not going to ask the question “Why aren’t we all better to each other?” because I’m plenty good to you. I listen to you, I take you seriously, I want you to like me, because hey, we all love the same stuff, right? We all like having friends.

What have I done, except love what you love and make it my own, as you have always made it your own. What am I asking for, except respect, a place at the table, and maybe some affection, as I hold on with all my might to my shreds of respect and affection for you. All it would mean is that there would be more to read, and watch, and see, and think about.

With that in mind, I am going to ask this as kindly as I possibly can.

Why aren’t you better to me?

The Wired article “Why I’m Never Going Back to Penny Arcade” and Seanan McGuire’s Twitter feed (@seananmcguire) inspired much of today’s post.

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