This is one of those times I’m going to write a serious entry. I’m going to talk about kyriarchy, and some feminist principles. I’ll try not to get too polemic, but this is one of those things that’s pretty close to my heart.
Chris Brown performed at the Grammys last night. If you don’t know who Chris Brown is, he’s the guy who beat Rihanna to the point of unconsciousness and threatened to kill her. He was sentenced to five years of probation, which in Hollywood time is WAY LONGER than anyone’s memory, so I guess we should all be surprised it’s even taken this long for people to “welcome him back and forgive him.”
Republicans, who reauthorized this act under GWB, didn’t want to advance the Violence Against Women Act out of the judiciary committee. Republicans proposed an alternative version that cut funding for shelters and support services, and didn’t include language about making sure that women who reported violence weren’t discriminated against for being gay or trans*. The amened version also didn’t include the modest increase in visas for undocumented women who reported violence. Because much like with abortion, we know “those women lie to take advantage of the system.”
A woman asked for blatant objectification of women to be banned on RPGnet. Because she’s a roleplayer who would like to enjoy the forums without having to be confronted with pages of softcore porn images, and commentary on such. A number of responders basically talk about how that would be impinging on their freedoms, and how basically women should be responsible for policing the forums and posting what they see as harrassment. (With a bonus dose of “but my wife likes…” for flavor.)
On the surface, these things all look disconnected. The Grammys, the VAWA, and a forum on the internet (which is where all women expect to be harrassed, right). What could they possibly have in common?
What they have in common is the throwing under the bus of women and women’s concerns for men’s comfort and convenience. Rather than even ban Chris Brown from the Grammys for the length of his sentence (a paltry 5 years of probation), he’s been welcomed back…with no thought to whether or not his victim would be made uncomfortable and endangered by this. And before anyone gets on the “she could just not go” bus, let’s think about how that could affect her career, enabling him to STILL have power over her.
The reauthorization of VAWA is easy to connect to that, both because it’s about violence committed against women…and because it’s being used as a political token. Instead of agreeing that violence against women is bad, and we should do something about it, the VAWA debate has turned into questions of which women “deserve” help.
We live in a culture that prioritizes narratives of men’s comfort and convenience over narratives of women’s safety. The RPGnet issue is the tip of an iceberg, or the front of an avalanche, in which women are told it’s our responsibility to keep ourselves safe, it’s our responsibility to police the actions of others, and it’s our responsibility to understand that those who threaten our safety or comfort wouldn’t do so if we just reported them or avoided them. And when women dare to suggest that maybe the responsibility isn’t 100% ours, we get an “exceptional woman” thrown in our faces who doesn’t have a problem with it, so why should we?
With so much cultural pressure in “straight” life to be the kind of woman who doesn’t speak up, who accepts the dangerous old sexist tropes as okay…I’m a little disappointed, even though I’m not surprised, to see it in Geek life too. I want geek life to be a place I feel safe and comfortable, and a place where others feel safe and comfortable, which is why I wrote this. Because I’m hoping the next time you see something like the RPGNet thread, instead of saying something like “but my girlfriend doesn’t have a problem with it,” you’ll remember the curve outlined here and listen. Before it becomes a space where women feel deprioritized, unwelcome, and unsafe.