Tag Archives: feminist frequency

Why I wrote Player vs. Player: @FeliciaDay @FemFreq @Spacekatgal @ChrisWarcraft @TheQuinnspiracy @gogreen18

I’m gonna get my bona fides–or lack thereof–out of the way up front.

I’m a gamer. I’m a feminist.

Am I a hardcore gamer? I imagine by most definitions, the answer would be no. I don’t have time for it; I have a son to raise and books to write. I drift in and out of gaming when something catches my attention. Whenever I’ve tried to be a hardcore gamer–for a while my husband and I had an arrangement for me to be able to take Friday evenings off from parenting starting at 7 PM so I could raid with my guild–it never worked out. 7 PM for me was 10PM for many of my guildies, so they wanted to start raiding at 5:30 PM, just when I was eating dinner with my husband and son. I always felt guilty because either I was letting my guildies down or I was ignoring my obligations to my family, so I just stopped trying to be a raider. Trying to do RaidFinder-type raids resulted in me being rejected and sometimes harassed for not being geared to their standards, so now I mostly stick to single-player games or do solo and small group content that I can work on in my own time.

While I am a feminist, I also don’t pretend that I’m the most educated and informed person on many of the issues. I’m very reclusive and sometimes that puts me behind the ball on current events and issues.

So, there. I’m by no means either an expert gamer or an expert feminist. I’m just someone who cares enough to try to call attention to issues when and where I can, using the voice and the medium I have available to me. Which, in this case, means as an author of LGBT romance.

When I started writing Player vs. Player , it was about a year after the harassment of Jennifer Hepler (formerly of Bioware) had taken place, and slightly less than a year after Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency had received such toxic backlash for starting her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games Kickstarter.

Those incidences stayed with me because I knew that internetting while female could be a nasty business, and because the harassment was so very vile, because it spoke of such a deep-seated hatred in gaming culture toward women, part of me thought, “Dear God, what is going to happen when one of these people goes from trolling to actual violence?”

It didn’t seem like a far-fetched possibility to me. In fact, it seemed downright inevitable. Because that’s the way things work. Bullies egg each other on and make one another feel bolder and try harder to impress each other and the bullying keeps escalating. That’s the way it’s worked ever since I was the bully-magnet on the playground when I was a kid. One kid would say a cruel thing. The other kids would laugh, so he’d say something crueler. Someone else would try to one-ups him. Next thing I knew, I’d be cornered with them all trying to out-do each other and intimidating me physically. A few days later, someone would be walking down the halls right on my heels, stepping on the backs of my shoes to try to trip me, pushing me into lockers, or, when I got older, grabbing my ass to impress his friends when he came across me browsing the book aisle in the supermarket.

Bullying escalates. So it didn’t seem at all unrealistic that the sort of treatment Hepler and Sarkeesian had received could eventually morph into actual physical violence. After all, what is the point of disseminating someone’s personal information such as their phone number and home address unless you’re trying to encourage someone to go after that person physically, and trying to intimidate that person with the possibility of an actual physical assault?

So that is what I wrote about. But I’m a writer of LGBT (primarily m/m but that may be subject to change in the future) romance, so I used the platform I had, making the story a murder mystery with a romantic subplot between two male characters. At one point I tried to contact Ms. Sarkeesian and see if I could get any more insight that would help me craft that story, but I imagine the amount of email she gets is tremendous so I’m not surprised that mine didn’t catch her notice, and that’s okay. I wrote as best I could, with the information had.

I thought I’d seen vile. I hadn’t seen anything yet.

I hadn’t seen an ex-boyfriend with a sexist ax to grind mobilize a bunch of misogynist trolls against Zoe Quinn (see next paragraph for explanation of this event.) I hadn’t game developer Brianna Wu driven from her home by threats. I hadn’t seen a college campus massacre threatened just because Anita Sarkeesian was going to speak about misogyny in video games (see below.) I hadn’t seen Felicia Day, the darling of geek culture, doxxed less than an hour after cautiously standing up and saying, “this isn’t right.”

(It should be noted that a couple days earlier, former NFL player and notable gamer and LGBT-rights activist Chris Kluwe said the same thing Day did, only much less diplomatically, but he hasn’t been doxxed. It’s only women being targeted.)

I’ve been posting recently about GamerGate, both here and on Tumblr. Maybe some of you don’t know what that is. I’m not going to try to explain it, because many people have done so much better than I can. I will refer you to this article, which explains it nicely.

ETA: After you’ve read that, check out this for a series of screencaps from discussions on 4chan in the first few days of the GamerGate operation, where we see it transition from a misogynist harassment campaign that wasn’t getting any traction to a concerted, calculated effort to try to cloak the harassment under a veneer of legitimacy and co-opt social justice hotbutton issues and language in an attempt to turn other women against Zoe Quinn.

But let’s just make one thing very clear. Despite subsequent recruitment of well-intentioned but misguided stooges and efforts to cloak themselves in legitimacy and claims of being about journalistic ethics, GamerGate is and has been from its very first inception about harassing women in the gaming industry, and women who critique gaming and gamers. It is a misogynist movement whose supporters are willing to make terroristic threats to silence people for suggesting that maybe, just maybe, using images and tropes relying on sexualized violence against women (and people of color, and LGBTQIA+ people) is at best, unimaginative and at worse, harmful to actual people.

GamerGate came along right after I had finished final edits on Player vs. Player. Part of me wishes sometimes I had written it a year later. It would have been a much more informed book. What was primarily on my mind as we were wrapping up PvP was Elliott Rodgers and the UCSB shooting. I even addressed the dedication to his victims and started the book with a quote from vlogger Laci Green, where she said about the shootings: “Misogyny actually kills people.”

At the time, Laci’s message was topical to PvP because that is, at its heart, what PvP is about. It’s about the misogynist/homophobic/racist backlash against gamers requesting (and game developers delivering) more diverse gaming content.

Misogyny actually kills people. That’s an important point to make. We know–especially right now in the aftermath of the murder of unarmed young black men in Ferguson and elsewhere across the United States–that racism kills people. We know that homophobia kills people. And misogyny kills people.

What is so very terrifying about GamerGate and the anti-diversity backlash in gaming is that it’s a perfect storm of misogyny, homophobia, and racism. These people are making terrorist threats against people who are simply asking for fewer harmful tropes and more diverse representation.

A very sad, jaded part of me wonders if the fact that Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, Zoe Quinn, and now Felicia Day are being terrorized, threatened, even driven out of their homes, would be getting as much play in the press if these women were black, and an even sadder part of me knows the answer to that question would be “no.” We’re taking notice because this is happening to white women (Correction: Ms. Sarkeesian actually identifies as Armenian, I’m told, and her family is from Iraq.)

If I were writing Player vs. Player today, the murderers in the story would identify themselves as supporters of GamerGate. The only reason they don’t is because I wrote the book a year too early. In the author’s notes at the end of the book, I reference Jennifer Hepler and Anita Sarkeesian and explain how their incidences informed the writing of the book. If I were writing it today, that list would be a lot longer, and the book would probably actually be a lot grimmer, because the situation is far more toxic than even I envisioned at the time I wrote the book.

Ms. Sarkessian, Ms. Hepler, Ms. Quinn, Ms. Wu, Ms. Day, this book is for you, and for all the women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ gamers who have been and are being harassed into silence. It’s for cypheroftyr and dragonreine, two amazing LGBTQIA+ female gamers of color who are running the Why-I-Need-Diverse-Games blog and the #ineeddiversegames hashtag. It’s for more people than I can possibly hope to mention, who are refusing to be silenced, despite the best efforts of these misogynist, racist, homophobic trolls to turn gaming and simply being online while female into a culture of terror.

Thank you for fighting the fight. I know my contribution is nothing next to yours, but I’m doing what I can and I will always, always have your backs.

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In honor of the #INeedDiverseGames tag, I share an excerpt from Player vs Player @RiptideBooks

For those of you who aren’t aware, I have a mystery/suspense novel coming out in December titled Player vs. Player. This novel is set within the gaming industry and deals with the rampant misogyny, homophobia, and racism in gaming and geek culture, and more specifically, the violent backlash against anyone who speaks out and threatens the status quo. It was inspired by, among other things, the way Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency has been treated for her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games video series.

Today, CypherofTyr on Tumblr started the #INeedDiverseGames hashtag on Twitter and a Tumblr blog called Why-I-Need-Diverse-Games. It only took a couple hours for trolls to appear and start trying to derail a tag that has already picked up some absolutely awesome momentum. In support of this, I thought I would share a particularly relevant excerpt from Chapter 18 of Player vs. Player.

Cast of Characters:
Rosena Candelaria: (Latina, pansexual) CEO of Third Wave Gaming Studios
Niles River: (Half-Turkish MOC, gay) Lead writer at Third Wave
Jordan River: (Half-Turkish MOC, gay) Niles’s identical twin brother, marketing director at Third Wave
Angela Payne: (Black, lesbian) Police detective
Timothy Wyatt: (White, bisexual) Police detective

Continue reading

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Some weeks there’s so much to say that you can’t say anything

So, last week I was mostly offline except for blog tour stuff. Nothing going on, I just felt the need to crawl into my hole for a while, and then my kid had Friday off as well as Memorial Day so it was a long weekend parenting. Except for checking email, I went totally dark. No Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, whatever.

The point being, I was a day or two behind the ball learning about the UCSB massacre.

How did I find out about it? Well, my husband emailed me a YouTube video, which I ignored for a day because he often sends me links to miscellaneous stuff he has found interesting so I didn’t think it was pressing.

This was the video:

I’ve spent the week wanting to say something about it, but honestly I think Laci says it all in that video. I’ve been following the posts on Tumblr and the #YesAllWomen hashtag and vacillating between being saddened to the point of tears and enraged to the point of wanting to do violence myself, particularly at some of the male responses (and even some of the female ones.)

We live in a world where women who are killed by men for rejecting a man’s advances are being held culpable for their own deaths in the court of public opinion. Honestly, what is there to say about that? I can’t even. My mind goes blank and I just want to go HulkSmash! all over everything.

I read the #YesAllWomen hashtag, though, and while each and every anecdote fills me with sorrow and impotent rage, I actually don’t share most of those experiences. See, I’m pretty much a shut-in. I go out into public only when I absolutely have to, maybe 2-3 times a month, and usually it’s just to run a specific errand and head home, interacting with as few people as possible. The thing that saves me from sharing the nearly universal experiences of women trying to exist in our society today is a nearly pathological level of reclusiveness. Which is ridiculous. Is that honestly what it takes to escape the invasive sexism in our culture? Living like a hermit?

It seems almost a portent that this should happen the same week I contracted Third Wave with Riptide. I was originally going to self-publish Third Wave due to some scheduling conflicts that wouldn’t allow it to be released when I was hoping to release it, but those got worked out and now my family can go on our first vacation in almost four years rather than paying the editing costs for the novel.

Why do I say it seems a portent? Because Third Wave is about misogyny and homophobia, wrapped in a whodunit set in the gaming industry and geek culture. The same week that Laci Green says in her video, “misogyny actually kills people” I signed a contract on a novel about exactly that issue. My MC, Niles, is a gay man, yes, but an equally important character is his boss, Rosena Candelaria, the CEO of Third Wave Studios, which produces video game titles with mass appeal that specifically make a point of giving equal representation to women, POC, and LGBT players. It’s a book about feminist politics (and make no mistake, homophobia is at its heart an issue about misogyny as well, because there would be nothing threatening about people who blur the line between masculine and feminine if masculinity weren’t considered a gold standard that needs to be defended from any taint of the “inferior” femininity) and the backlash against anything that threatens the status quo of white cis-het-male privilege.

And just when I feared people would sneer or think I was exaggerating the problem, that no one would actually KILL over something like that, well, look what happened.

So remember that when you read Third Wave. Remember it’s not blown up for dramatic purposes. It’s very, very real. In the book I show some of the tweets and texts that Rosie and Niles deal with, and I will say right now that every single one of them is a paraphrase of a real tweet or text shared by feminist activists like Anita Sarkeesian of FeministFrequency, or the Fandoms and Feminism Tumblr, or Fat, Ugly, or Slutty.

So, stay tuned for more about Third Wave in the months to come. And pray/meditate/do whatever you do for the victims of the UCSB shooting, their families, and the women living in daily threat of similar violence being visited upon them.

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Interneting while Female: women and online harassment

Let me tell you a little story. Actually, let me tell you a few of them.

Let me tell you a little about Jennifer Hepler. She was a writer for BioWare, a gaming company known best for their Star Wars, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect franchises. She wrote some very popular characters, but one day she made the catastrophic mistake of creating a Twitter account. Within just a few days, trolls had dug up a quote of hers from years before about the direction of gaming (most notably that games would probably adopt a “story” mode for players who were playing for the narrative rather than the combat) and had declared war on her. They targeted not just her Twitter, but her personal life. If you want to see even just a fraction of the abuse she was subjected to in those few days, check out this entry for her at Encyclopedia Dramatica, where the trolls continue to take their pot-shots. (I recommend you take anti-nausea medication before you do so.)

Then, right on the heels of the Jennifer Hepler harassment, there was another major incident in gaming circles.

Now, understand that I don’t even know the whole of it, only what I’ve read in articles and blog posts. I would really love to sit down with Anita Sarkeesian and talk about it someday. If you’re a woman on the internet, particularly a woman in “male-dominated” communities like sci-fi and gaming, this woman is a hero and you need to be aware of her. She’s on the front lines fighting the fight so we don’t have to.

Anita Sarkeesian runs a website called Feminist Frequency, which is dedicated to analyzing the representation of women in pop culture. Instead of telling you what happened when she took on a project dealing with the portrayal of women in video games, I’ll let Anita do it in her own words:

The TED-talk in the video was over a year ago. The harassment it details was nearly two years ago. Now look at the date on that tweet at the top of this post.

It’s still going on. (Though Anonymous has disavowed any involvement.)

“Every day I’m encouraged by the women who persevere, who continue to engage, and who refuse to be silenced.” — Anita Sarkeesian

This. So much this.

Some of you may know I hang out on Tumblr pretty regularly, and I follow a number of feminist blogs there, particularly http://fandomsandfeminism.tumblr.com/. So every day on my dash, I see dozens of messages from the person running that blog, dealing with not only sexism, but minority representation, homophobia, transmisogyny, and racial issues. A lot of those messages are asks–messages sent directly to the blow owner–that are very hostile, and I don’t know if she responds to them all, but I know she responds to a lot of them. Enough so that I’m exhausted watching her do it.

I honestly don’t know how every day, she and Anita Sarkeesian go back out there and take on the fight. I’m not sure I could do it. I’d like to think I could, but realistically? I think I would get too weary and disheartened.

Homophobia is another issue in online gaming spaces, though I admit I’m not as conversant on the subject. But take a look at this video:

The tenor of homophobic harassment in gaming seems to be different, but it’s still quite toxic.

What’s the point to this?

About a year ago I decided I wanted to pay some tribute and shine a spotlight on these issues in a book I was writing. The book is called Third Wave, and it’s an honest-to-God whodunit, a mystery who’s main characters are a pair of gay twin brothers and their female boss at a video game production company called Third Wave Studios. The boss, Rosena, is a bit of an amalgamation of all the women I’ve mentioned above, dealing with the same sort of harassment as she attempts to run a studio dedicated to creating video game titles which are not only successful, but also present positive and non-stereotyped LGBT, POC, and female heroes. One of the twins is the lead writer on the studio’s most controversial franchise (controversial because of its LGBT characters and content) and the story deals heavily with the battles they face.

I’m almost at the end of writing the story, then I need to go through and make some revisions because the plot took a few turns that I need to account for earlier in the story. But I really want to present this story as a sort of homage to the people on the front lines of the battle of gendered and homophobic harassment in online gaming spaces, do my part, however small, to spread awareness of what is going on in the underbelly of our pop culture.

But this post isn’t to pimp my WIP. It’s about the people I’ve mentioned here, the ones who wake up every day and fight the fight I don’t know if I’d had the guts to. Read the links. Watch the videos. And just…be aware. Know that this is going on, even if it’s not happening in your line of sight, and that if you’re not in the middle of it, it’s almost certainly far, far worse than you assume it is.

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