Fuck your “free speech”

Credit: FemmeThreads

To all the white dudes that think they’re so brave and strong and rational for shitting on safer spaces: your ignorance is showing. I know you think you’re breaking new ground and “fostering discussion,” but that’s only because you live in a bubble and have no idea what’s going on around you. You have no idea that we’ve heard these same, tired arguments a million times before. They’re not original, they’re not edgy, and they’re definitely not brave. All you’re doing is playing into the hands of people who have a whole lot more money and power than you do, and you don’t even realize you’re doing it. Also, FYI, your defense is pitiful. You may not have noticed, but a lot of us got past “yay free speech!” a long time ago, mostly because we’ve never bought into the idea that your version of “free speech” ever existed in the first place. Only the most sheltered, coddled individuals could imagine that it’s not only desirable, but possible, to be able to speak freely without consequence. Only someone who has never had to fear being shunned by their friends and family, publicly humiliated, assaulted, or raped for saying the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time could believe that this kind of “free speech” is something that exists on this planet for anyone but the most privileged. Only someone who has never been arrested, beaten, mauled by dogs, and pepper-sprayed for daring to join a public protest could believe in “free speech.” Only someone who has never been fired by their boss for suggesting that workers should unionize could believe in “free speech.” Only someone who has never had to directly interact with the criminal justice system as a sexual assault survivor could believe in “free speech.” Only someone who has never worked on a temporary visa and been threatened with deportation could believe in “free speech.” Only someone who has never been the only person of colour in a room full of white folks could believe in “free speech.” Only someone who has never been in the closet for their entire life because the alternative is too frightening to bear could believe in “free speech.” Only someone who has never had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, or protect their sources, or had their ideas butchered and thrown out by marketing and legal departments could believe in “free speech.” Only someone who has never heard of intellectual property rights and take-down notices could believe in “free speech.” Only someone who thinks that profit has nothing to do with what the media does and does not choose to cover could believe in “free speech.” Only someone who knows nothing about how power works in our society could believe in “free speech.” If you’re really that oblivious, then fine, go ahead, join the circle jerk. We know you’re insecure, we know you’re looking for validation, we know it feels good to be told that you’re right, to feel like you belong, to feel like you’re contributing to something bigger than yourself. Just don’t complain to us when you finally wake up and notice that history has left you behind. People are fighting to make things better, and you can either join that fight, or you can cling to an idealized past that never really existed in the first place.

And just a point of clarification, this rant isn’t for you, Mr. Anonymous White Man, because it’s not like you’d listen to me anyway (speaking has always been your strong suit, listening not so much). It’s for me and everyone else that’s sick and tired of dealing with your repetitive fucking bullshit. Because that’s all that it is, and all it will ever be. So do us all a favour, and drop it.

The 4 F’s- Feminism, Friendship, Filmmaking, and learning to not give a Fuck.

By Erin Rexe


Have you ever been watching a TV show that somehow speaks to your soul? Something that reflects your feelings and emotions, makes you laugh, or weep, or proclaim “THIS!” ? Believe it or not, this has only happened to me within the past few years. My experience in life is certainly not extraordinary, but as a girl growing up with incredibly funny friends, an occasionally bizarre sense of humour, and a penchant for both mischief and quiet observation, I never truly saw more than a brief glimmer of myself or my friends reflected in the female characters who dominated my TV screen.

I sat down with my dear friend Danielle Lapointe, who has created her own web series Shooting the Moon, which debuted this May on Youtube. I was very excited to ask her about bringing her ideas to life, especially in the form of a female created and fronted web series. As TV lovers, pop culture addicts, and feminists, we had a super fun discussion on what we’re watching and observing in the world of pop culture, social and digital media, and how to remain inspired in a world of constant (and instant) creation.

Erin: So Danielle, what are you watching right now?
Danielle: I’ve been watching The Mindy Project, I watch Catfish because I enjoy it, I watch Inside Amy Schumer and Broad City…oh, and Girls.
Erin: Have you watched the newest season of Broad City?
Danielle: Oh yeah.
Erin: I was talking to someone earlier about your series Shooting the Moon and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the first season of Broad City, where Abbi and Ilana are just really doing their thing and navigating some hilarious and awkward social situations. Has Broad City been a source of inspiration for you?
Danielle: The cool thing is that when I was writing Shooting the Moon, it was 2014 and I was mostly watching The Mindy Project, which you had actually recommended to me–
Erin: Oh yeah, and I was totally late to the game on that one.
Danielle: …And I had heard about Broad City but my main exposure to it when I was writing the series was their 1-minute Youtube shorts. That’s how I had envisioned Shooting the Moon- these really simple Youtube videos that we could do in a week. Some of those Broad City shorts are just so good and well done, and revolve around these awkward situations created by young people being so connected to technology. So it’s totally possible they’ve influenced me– especially in the sense that our generation is becoming increasingly socially awkward because we’re online all the time, and so creators are becoming more in tune with these socially unstable situations that come from growing up in a digital era.
Erin: Yeah and I definitely think lots of things can exist at the same points in time without necessarily being aware of it, and like you said with digital culture there is this youthful awareness of what makes life hilarious and finding a way to communicate that to other people, especially peers.
Danielle: Totally, though I don’t think it’s a coincidence that people only believe that something is possible when they see it already existing—and I’ll admit that if none of these things already existed – The Mindy Project, Girls, Broad City, Inside Amy Schumer, then it would have felt a lot less possible for me to make my webseries. I felt a sense that women were finally telling stories: about their bodies, periods, their sex lives, their dysfunctional job pursuits and people are watching and talking about them and we’re ready for it– women and men both. It’s crazy how this has felt like a new mainstream conversation in the past few years, but I definitely think that rubbed off on me and it made me feel like I could make a series about my life and that it wasn’t self indulgent. And I think Lena Dunham did a lot to be like “yeah, maybe it is a bit self-involved, but so what?” There are a ton of male centric comedies that revolves around a male protagonist. So it’s okay, you can make stuff about yourself and if it’s funny and it’s great quality, then people are gonna really appreciate it.
Erin: I think in general it’s kind of amazing how up until this point in time how as a young woman– a young person– how we haven’t been able to turn on the TV and actually feel it is reflective of your life or experience in the slightest, certainly sitcoms didn’t do that.
Danielle: You and I have had conversations when we were both going through breakups and you were like “you need to watch Mindy!” . That modern feeling of being heart broken has never been very well captured, or the emotions that really come with it, you know? So to me it’s not a coincidence that a woman is in charge of creating The Mindy Project, it’s important that we can watch this and be like “yeah, I totally get this.” Watching Dawson’s Creek or shows like that growing up I never felt any connection to it, or to the female characters.
Erin: Well and they’re so scripted it’s just not reflective of life at all– things just don’t happen the way things happened in Dawson’s Creek or Friends or other popular shows around that time. But to add to the point about Mindy, I think it also says something about how shows like that keep getting rescued when they’re on the chopping block of a major network, like maybe it didn’t appeal to a wide enough range of people or whatever the criteria is for keeping something on a major network, it’s not a police drama–
Danielle: Oh god, police dramas! Well and I think something they’ve clued into over the past 5 years or so is that you should forget about TV when you are considering a show’s popularity– that anyone who has cable or even owns a television is someone who is probably over 50. And therefore if you’re judging popularity of a television show by that demographic it’s like, my mom does not know who Mindy Kaling is. But if it’s me and my younger friends, they’re all streaming it online, and Netflix and other companies like that are starting to clue in that there is a huge viewership there of people who are watching it.
Erin: So you mentioned Catfish before, and now I will tell you that my shameful TV secret in my dark university days was watching The Hills and Gossip Girl.
Danielle: Oh that was a lot of people’s shameful secret!
Erin: Totally, and I think Gossip Girl was like The Young and The Restless for millennials, no one would admit to watching it but everyone knew what was happening.
Danielle: Have you ever watched or re-watched Laguna Beach or The Hills as an adult?
Erin: No, absolutely not.
Danielle: It’s pretty unwatchable. When we were teenagers and someone told me that it was a cool show to watch, and therefore I thought “this is the sort of life I should aspire to.” These 19 year old beautiful tanned Californians. They’re really nonchalant about the life they’re living, and I guess you might think that about whoever is financially a step ahead of you, but yeah…wow, I remember drinking that show down like a smooth sip of tea and now it burns like acid hahaha.
Erin: And I think it could be totally related to Keeping Up With the Kardashians in today’s world. Going back to watching kind of weird television while having a hard time in my personal experience, I watched this marathon of Keeping Up With the Kardashians while going through a breakup and I literally sat on the couch all day long and watched it because I didn’t have to think about it.
Danielle: If you ever watch a scene and take out what is actually being said, there is often no information at all. It’s a lot of speaking with no information. It’s a powerful thing and it makes it really enjoyable I think, and they’re smarter than many people give them credit for–
Erin: Oh, they are savvy business people those Kardashians, that’s for sure.
Danielle: I find Kim Kardashian really interesting– especially when it comes to her naked selfies– because it makes you wonder if she does have a feminist agenda. The sad part was that on Twitter, in front of 50 million followers or whatever, other celebrity women criticized her, and instead of her being body positive about her choice to take naked selfies, she insulted the women who criticized her, which in my opinion made it a lost opportunity for her to articulate what I suspect was in her case a bold feminist statement about owning your own body and owning your right to document and publish images of your own body.
Erin: Twitter is such an interesting tool. It’s pretty amazing how celebrities once seemed so completely untouchable or something and now with a few keystrokes you can reach out to them. Or in the case of Kim have other celebrities feud with you over a nude photo of yourself.
Danielle: Twitter is really super interesting with how it can actually turn celebrities into accessible people who will actually sometimes respond if you tweet at them. I was binge watching The People vs. OJ Simpson in a flu haze and decided I would tweet at some of the actors how great they were doing in their roles, and some of them were tweeting back at me, or maybe their social media handlers, i dont know haha. But yeah it’s a platform for giving people a microphone- and it goes both ways for positive and negative interactions with people. The negative parts of Twitter for women, and especially celebrity women is also pretty massive– Amy Schumer hit the nail on the head with a sketch in her show’s current season about a hypothetical Twitter button that says “I’m going to rape and kill you”. I won’t give too much away about it if you haven’t seen it, but watching it is a very concise and accurate depiction of what a lot of female entertainers have to deal with every single day on Twitter, and why some women like Lena Dunham or Iggy Azalea have had to step away from it.
Erin: So I wrote down only 5 questions to ask you, and most of them we have covered in a roundabout sort of way, but this one is actually my favourite: If you could be any animal, what animal would you be?
Danielle: Oooh, I’ve always wanted to be an otter, I just feel a real kindred spirit with the otter. I think it’s how they go in and out of water with such ease, and I love swimming. Here I am justifying my connection with the otter, haha!
Erin: No no, you don’t have to justify it! Any animal you feel a connection with is important.
Danielle: What about you?
Erin: Well I think mine changes from year to year. For a long while it was a fox– I weirdly had never seen one before, living in the suburbs, and I went through this stage where I was staying out late at night and suddenly I was seeing them on a regular basis and it felt like it meant something. But right now I think it’s a bird of some kind, possibly a chickadee, one because they’re so darn cute and two because every time I look for a chickadee I will see one.
Danielle: Oh that’s really interesting. A young me might have said a lion. You really look to nature to signal out what your next thing is, huh?
Erin: Totally! I feel pretty driven by what I observe in the natural world, but I don’t know, maybe that’s because I can drive out to the country in 10 minutes and feel like I’m in not in a city at all anymore.
Danielle: Ugh, I miss that about Peterborough sometimes, just driving into the country and laying on the hood of my car and looking at the stars and the darkness. I don’t really think about that in my everyday life, but then I come home and do that.
Erin: Do you think you’ll stay in Montreal, and do you find the city influences you in certain ways?
Danielle: I don’t think I’ll ever be someone who can say “Oh I’ll definitely spend my whole life here” or “my home is Toronto or Peterborough or Montreal”. There are just so many different factors that come to play, so I have no idea if I will stay here or not. The farthest I can plan is for one year. But the other question is really interesting, does Montreal influence me as a person or as an artist?
Erin: Hmm, as a human being.
Danielle: I think it does, I’m just not exactly sure how. As a human being it’s so closely linked to the things I do and the things I create, and there are so many people creating things here that of course it’s inspiring but it also drives me. I see all my peers making stuff and I feel as though I’m in this environment that really fosters creativity. I think there are just so many people making really exciting things and doing exciting things that it keeps me on my toes.
Erin: I think it’s also great that you find inspiration in that too. For me, I can be a little weak willed or pacifistic or whatever and feel like too much competition could also be deterring sometimes from creating something.
Danielle: Well it can be, yeah. But that’s something I’m finding very freeing and I think it’s coming with age. Just in the past year even. I’m letting go of what this idea of success means. I was meeting people and being like “oh they have their own production company” or “oh they’re making this or that film” and that alone would make me feel jealous or lesser than or I would criticize myself. But today I can have a friend making something and be excited for them, and it could be something totally different than what I would make, and maybe this is naive or small town-ish, but I really do think there’s room for everyone. I made a comedy web series that’s lighthearted, it’s bilingual, it’s set in the indie film scene, and that isn’t going to be for everyone. Some of my friends are making experimental films or doing installations for galleries. There’s just no point in comparing because there is no comparing: everyone’s work is such a unique reflection of themselves. The only sense of competition is that we might be competing for grants or funding, and for example maybe their project gets funded and mine doesn’t, but it’s satisfying to feel finally that I’m going to make things that I feel are right and hopefully I can get money to do it, but if not I’ll find another way to make it happen because it means something to me. This mindset has only happened over the past few years, and the web series becoming reality has helped me feel more confident.
Erin: Right? Something that started off as just an idea is now a fully fleshed thing that is happening. That’s a super great point to make, not necessarily feeling a competitive edge that having so many people around you creating could have, but turning that into a drive, that is definitely something that comes with a mature viewpoint.
Danielle: Your creativity will be completely dissolved by you wanting and desiring things that other people have. The only important question to ask yourself is “What’s holding me back?”. When you’re really excited about a project and you’re going to make your best work, you need all your energy into that project alone.
Erin: It just seems like as long as you can bring an idea to life, that’s a pretty great thing.
Danielle: Absolutely, and while you wait for divine fictional inspiration to hit, there’s nothing stopping you from making a webseries about your life… Maybe we can make one about your life working at the library reference desk!
Erin: Haha, Hmm, I’ll think about that.

Danielle Lapointe is a Montreal based filmmaker whose web series Shooting the Moon is streaming now at http://www.shootingthemoon.ca

Erin Rexe is a pop-culture junkie, library lurker and worker, and freelance writer based in Peterborough, Ontario.

Humorous Disruptions Colloquium: Laughter and Technologies of Disruption in Feminist Film and Media

Coming soon on Friday, October 16th and Saturday, October 18th, a colloquium called Humorous > Disruptions is taking place at Concordia University. The event is an in-depth exploration of the way humour is used within feminist media theories and practice, and it is open to the public – so if you’re in Montréal that weekend, do check this out.

The colloquium will explore the diverse possibilities humour offers as a technology, representational practice, and tool for renewing dialogues with feminisms in all their manifestations today.

In addition to the twelve artists and scholars who will be speaking during the colloquium (full schedule available here on their website), there will also be a public exhibition of works that bring together a diverse collection of videos, animated images, and online games, registering affective and humorous engagements with race, gender, cybernetics, and the body.

The exhibition will feature works by:

  • Copenhagen Game Collective (Ida Marie Toft, Andrea Hasselager, Sabine Harrer and Raimund Schumacher)
  • Erin Gee and Kai Cheng Thom
  • Kara Stone
  • Larose S. Larose
  • Peter Lu & Lea Schönfelder
  • Skawennati
  • Sophie Houser and Andrea Gonzales

The exhibition will take place on Friday 7:00pm – 9:00pm, October 16th 2015 in EV 6.735, SGW Campus, Concordia University, 1515 Ste Catherine Street, Montréal.

Concordia University’s downtown campus is accessible by metro (Guy-Concordia) and public bus (#24 Sherbrooke, #165 Côte-des-Neiges, #747 René-Lévesque).

Event Website & Schedule

A (partial) guide to treating women with respect and avoiding subtle sexism

This is a (partial) guide for any men who want to build considerate and respectful relationships with women. If you think you already know how to do that, you should probably read this anyway (especially point #11) since a) it never hurts to have a refresher, b) you might be surprised by some things and, c) you can then make an informed decision about whether or not to recommend this guide to other men. A lot of men who consider themselves to be feminists still unintentionally engage in behaviours that hurt and marginalize women. This may be due in part to the fact that a lot of feminist discussions assume that people already know “the basics”–they have to, or else we would spend all of our time repeating ourselves. However my experiences, which are based mostly on working in academic and game-related communities, suggest that a lot of things that seem basic on the surface tend to be overlooked, particularly when they’re expressed in a more subtle fashion.

Subtle sexism is, in some ways, harder to tackle than the obvious stuff–like the use of sexist slurs, sexual assault, or refusing to let women vote–because it’s almost invisible to people who aren’t on the receiving end. This “death by a thousand cuts” still has a huge effect, however, on women’s lives. It also impacts men, who often don’t understand why women react in the ways that they do to behaviour that seems perfectly harmless to them. This guide is intended to help address that gap in understanding, although it should be understood from the get-go that it’s very incomplete and not without lots of caveats, exceptions, and exclusions. With that in mind, the first step to creating respectful relationships with women is…

1. Give women space to talk and make sure you listen when they do

Listening is a highly under-appreciated skill. It’s also a skill that is absolutely crucial to building a more just and equal world, not just between men and women, but across other categories of difference and oppression. Listening involves two steps, the first of which is learning to recognize when you’re taking up too much space by talking over others and not giving people an opportunity to respond on their own time and in their own ways. Sometimes that means letting go of that really smart remark that you’ve been dying to share, but it also means opening yourself up to lots of amazing insights that you might never have encountered otherwise. Remember to keep in mind that traditional gender roles designate men as the speakers and women as the listeners (despite the “chatty woman” stereotype), so there’s a good chance you’re underestimating how much the men in the room are talking, and overestimating how often women talk.

The second part is actually listening, especially when the person is saying things you don’t really want to hear, either because you disagree or because they’re being critical of you or your actions. The moment you start to feel defensive in a conversation is the moment that you should be turning the “listening dial” all the way up, because that’s when you’re most likely to learn something new. Also keep an eye out for gestures, shifts in vocal tones, and other social cues. Is the person you’re talking to displaying any signs of discomfort around you, such as nervous laughter? Are they looking away frequently and avoiding eye contact, or shuffling and fidgeting? It’s ok if you have trouble reading these kinds of signs; staying attentive and checking in verbally if you’re unsure about something can still help to create a safer environment.

In some cases the safest way for women to deal with certain issues is to create a space of their own, outside the presence of men. If the idea of women meeting on their own is frightening or if it makes you feel angry or excluded, you might want to think long and hard about why you have so little trust in women operating outside the supervision of men. You might also want to think about why you feel entitled to that space, given that there are lots of spaces where women can’t go, either because of an explicit rule, or because the conditions in those spaces are unwelcoming and unsafe for them. Rather than challenging the need for such a space or accusing them of being “divisive,” allow women to make their own decisions about what they do or don’t need.

2. Be prepared to take “no” for an answer.

This is absolutely key, and something that a lot of people still struggle with. Rejection can be painful, and for a lot of folks the most “natural” response is to lash out against the person who rejected them. Unfortunately men are often encouraged to behave this way through subtle cultural signals and cues, which teach them that their masculinity, and thus their self-worth, hinges on their ability to assert dominance over others, to demonstrate persistence in the face of adversity, and to not take “no” for an answer. For example, think about the ways that male athletes, entrepreneurs, generals, and superheroes are often portrayed. Women, on the other hand, are taught to view persistent, non-consensual behaviour as “romantic,” and a sign of men’s dedication, confidence, strength, and overall superiority (Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey are well-known examples). These gender norms are incredibly harmful, creating an environment where care and consideration for others are viewed as a sign of weakness–something to be avoided at all costs–while violence and domination are glorified and celebrated.

It also makes consent impossible, because it’s not consent unless the person giving it is free to say no, without repercussions. You may think you’re asking someone for their consent, but if your response to their “no” is to scream at them, shun them, insult them, fire them, or physically attack them, then you aren’t really giving them much of a choice in the matter. The fact that this sort of response is what many women expect when a straight man propositions them should give you an idea of just how common this sort of behaviour is, even among men who declare themselves feminists. It should also tell you something about why women will often give a noncommittal, half-hearted response rather than a direct no, because a direct no is too risky, especially if the woman is also poor, racialized, trans, dealing with a mental illness or disability, is a member of a stigmatized religious minority, or is otherwise disempowered. Which leads to the next point…

3. Don’t get mad at women for “failing to communicate” their needs or expectations.

The important thing to remember here is that women are often punished for communicating their needs. Sometimes the punishment is subtle, for example when a woman complains about how she’s being treated by her male colleague and is immediately told that she’s being “too sensitive,” or is questioned about minor details by people acting under the assumption that she’s unreliable, and is probably making things up. Sometimes it’s more overt, like when women talk about feminist issues online and receive death threats and doxings in return. In other cases, their concerns are heard, and then promptly ignored, which is disempowering and a form of punishment all on its own, since it’s the equivalent of saying that that women’s needs and safety are unimportant. Regardless, the result of this repeated punishment is that many women are either afraid to speak up or, perhaps even worse, are convinced that whatever problems they face are their own fault, a result of their personal failings rather than external factors that are outside of their control. In a lot of cases, women will simply “suck it up” and bear it, even when someone is being abusive towards them. When the behaviour becomes unbearable, they’ll leave the space (if they can), rather than raise a complaint and risk repercussions, sacrificing a lot of opportunities, and personal or professional connections, in the process.

If a woman isn’t communicating with you, there’s probably a reason. It may be because of your personal behaviour, or it may be because of the factors described above. In any case, the best way to deal with it isn’t to punish the woman for “misleading” you, but to think about how you can contribute to creating an environment where that woman feels comfortable being direct and upfront with you. No one owes you their trust, regardless of your relationship to them. Trust is something you have to earn, and insisting otherwise reveals a sense of entitlement to someone else’s time, as well as their private feelings and experiences. In other words, it’s just another way of asserting control and domination over others.

4. Don’t insist that women explain sexism to you.

There are lots of resources available online that will help you understand how sexism and other forms of oppression work. In many places there are also workshops and community organizations that are focused on educating people about these issues, and can help you find resources. If you see a woman talking about her personal experiences with sexism, don’t jump in and demand that she explain to you how and why it’s sexism. Chances are this is something she’s had to explain a hundred times before, and it’s exhausting having to repeat the same lines over and over and over again, especially when you suspect that the person asking isn’t really listening to you, but is instead looking for a way to prove you wrong. A lot of the time these questions about why something is or is not sexist are asked in bad faith, because the person asking has already made up their mind. This unfortunately impacts men who genuinely don’t understand what’s going on, since women are less likely to respond to them. This isn’t the fault of the women however, but rather of all the people that have tried to derail their conversations about sexism, questioned their personal experiences, and punished them for speaking up. Rather than forcing women to explain sexism to you and then getting angry at them when they refuse, try doing the research yourself.

5. Don’t make her responsible for the harm you cause.

It’s ok to make mistakes, everyone does. What matters is how you respond when someone calls you out. If you fuck up and hurt someone, take responsibility for your actions, rather than placing that burden on the person you’ve hurt. This applies toeveryone, but it’s particularly important when you’re in a position of power in relation to the person that you’ve hurt, and when the critique is specifically about how your actions reinforce that relation of power (for e.g. when a man is sexist towards a woman, when a white person is racist towards a non-white person, when a cisgender person is transphobic towards a trans person, etc.). Some general guidelines include:

Don’t make false apologies like “I’m sorry that you’re offended,” which shifts the blame and the focus of the conversation from your actions to their reactions.

Don’t insist that the person you’ve hurt is “overreacting,” or that they “misunderstood” your intentions. Your intentions aren’t what’s important—even the most well-intentioned people can cause a lot of harm. What’s important is the impact of your actions.

Don’t try to turn a critique into a personal attack on you and your morality. Again this is just another tactic for shifting responsibility onto the victim, while insisting that only people who can be proven to have “bad intentions” (i.e. virtually nobody) can be criticized. Chances are it was extremely difficult for the person criticizing your behaviour to even raise the issue in the first place. By arguing that they’re just trying to shame you or make you look bad, you’re actually implying that they’re the one at fault, making it more likely that they’ll keep silent the next time something bad happens to them.

6. Treat women as potential friends, colleagues, and fellow human beings first, everything else comes second.

Just because you’re attracted to a woman doesn’t mean this is the only way you can or should relate to her. Keep in mind that a lot of women are used to being treated as potential sexual partners, or “conquests,” first and foremost, while everything other than their physical appearance is either ignored, or else exploited in an effort to “win them over.” As soon as men discover that these women aren’t available for dating or sex, they suddenly lose interest in talking to them. This can be a pretty disheartening experience when it happens over and over again, particularly since women are taught–through everything from Snow White to cosmetic ads–that their main source of value lies in their ability to attract and please men, a lesson that is repeatedly reinforced by these sorts of experiences.

To avoid unintentionally playing into the sexual objectification of women, try to be conscious of how your level of attraction to a woman affects your behaviour. Are you more polite or friendly with women that you find attractive? Are you ignoring qualities about them that are more relevant to the given context, such as their professional background or technical skills, while paying undue attention to their physical appearance? Why? Would you be acting any differently if they were men? Note that casual sex and respect for women aren’t mutually exclusive. Just because you don’t want a long-term relationship, doesn’t mean they’re less deserving of your respect and consideration.

7. Don’t dismiss her just because she presents in a feminine way or likes “feminine” things.

Many of the things that are coded as “feminine” are also seen as less serious, frivolous, unprofessional, or juvenile. Sparkles, frills, ribbons, jewelry, the colour pink, cute stuffed animals, and cheerleading are all examples. The additional layers of meaning that these objects and activities have is partly a result of embedded sexism, and allowing those meanings to dominate your perception of the women who own or like them is essentially the same as viewing them through a sexist lens. The fact that a woman wears a lot of pink clothes with sparkles on them says absolutely nothing about her personal or professional accomplishments, her intelligence, or her ability to carry out “serious” tasks. The same goes for men and genderqueers who like feminine things or present in a feminine way.

8. Be careful with your compliments.

A lot of “compliments” that are directed at women aren’t really compliments, but rather a means of asserting control over them. They do this by making women feel obliged to show gratitude and acknowledge the person “complimenting” them, or else risk being punished by the man or their peers.

When the women suspects that the man complimenting them is attracted to them, but they don’t feel the same way, the simple question of if and how to respond can become a virtual minefield. On the one hand, they need to be extremely careful not to be too friendly with the guy, or they’ll be faced with more unwanted advances, and may be accused of “leading him on”–an interpretation that plays into the “seductress” and “slut” stereotypes. At the same time, they don’t want to be rude or come off as a “cold-hearted bitch,” another common stereotype, which could also escalate the situation or even lead to violence. As a result, women will sometimes feel trapped in situations that, from the outside, seem relatively harmless.

One way to avoid creating such a situation is to make sure that you get to know a woman before you compliment her. This will not only make your compliments more meaningful, since they’re more likely to be based on a real assessment of her strengths and interests than on some superficial feature of her appearance or her personality, but it will also give her a chance to assess where you’re coming from, and how you’re likely to respond to her actions.

Another possible way is to compare the compliment to one you would give a male friend or colleague. If the compliment sounds even slightly inappropriate to give a male friend or colleague, question why it seems appropriate to pay this compliment to the women you meet. Note that this thought experiment has its pitfalls, but is a good starting point when reflecting upon the comments and compliments you could make.

9. Don’t show up unannounced.

You might think that showing up at a women’s home or workplace is fun, casual, spontaneous, or “romantic,” but for many women this kind of behaviour is threatening and scary, particularly if they have been stalked, harassed, or abused in the past. By showing up without their permission, you’re signalling to them that they have no control over where or when they see you. If there is any uncertainty at all about whether or not it’s ok for you to come over without asking, even if you’re close friends and you’ve been to her place before, make sure you ask. Don’t assume it’s fine just because she “seems chill” or has been friendly with you in the past.

10. There’s no universal line for discomfort or distress.

These guidelines aren’t meant to apply equally to all women in all situations. Some women may be fine with you showing up at their place unannounced, while for others it could trigger a panic attack. The key is that you ask them first. Don’t assume they’re fine with it and then wait for them to tell you otherwise. Similarly, don’t assume that because one woman is ok with something, other women must feel the same way. Women all have different experiences and histories, and while there are definitely some common patterns that emerge, there are also countless variations and exceptions. Asking that someone spell out to you, in precise detail, a universal rule for when something is or is not ok is an impossible demand, since it depends both on the people involved and on the specific context. Power relations are tricky that way.

11. “Feminist” and “ally” aren’t badges for you to wear.

There’s nothing more frustrating than watching someone who claims to be a feminist or an ally use these words as a way to hog the spotlight or deflect criticism when they’re called out on oppressive behaviour. Ally isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card or a badge you can wear to signal that you’re part of “the feminist club” whenever it’s convenient; it’s an approach or a way of acting in a given situation that is about transferring power to, and operating in solidarity with, the marginalized and the oppressed. What this means is that you don’t get to decide when you are or are not being an ally. It also means you need to be accountable to the groups that you’re trying to support. Just because you did something helpful for someone that one time doesn’t mean that you have now been branded an ally-4-life and are free to do whatever you want. Taking on oppression requires constant effort and is a never-ending learning process. If you think that you’ve already got it all figured out and have nothing left to learn, you’re probably doing it wrong. If you love to talk about how you’re an ally but haven’t actually done anything to change your behaviour, you’re probably doing it wrong. If your response to being told that you’re doing it wrong is to shut down the discussion or “quit”… well you get the idea. Yes it can seem like a lot of work, but just remind yourself how much harder it must be for the people who are part of that oppressed group, because they don’t get to choose whether or not to care about their oppression, they live with it every day.

Thanks to everyone that helped me put this together.

Tin Can Telephone | Issue 1

Welcome to a brand new aspect of The Tree House, something somewhat inspired in part by the tradition of personal letters, blameful post-mortems and newsletters. News from the Tin Can Telephone is going to be something of a weekly or every-other-week blog post, filled with local and not-so-local tidbits about going-ons in the artistic universe (or sometimes other universes) that intrepid ambassadors from the Tree House (or sometimes just myself) want to bring attention to. As with everything from The Tree House, it is highly experimental and likely to morph whenever we need it to.

This week’s inaugural post on Tin Can Telephone features a beautiful illustration by Tara Ogaick. Thank you so much Tara! It’s a beauty.

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Pronouns, sexual attraction, bodies, parental acceptance, privilege and passing, these are some of the topics in the conversation between Quark and Lex in the videogameConversations We Have In My Head by Squinky. Quark and Lex are former lovers, who broke up over ten years ago, but Lex is also a figment of Quark’s imagination.

The first time I played Conversations I forgot about even checking if the game accepted user input. I had recently played Squinky’s game Interruption Junction at Princess of Arcade, and that game’s primary player mechanic is to allow the player to abruptly interrupt the ongoing dialogue. But unlike Interruption Junction, where the text of the game is too convoluted to really keep track of (think Simspeak), Conversations pulls the focus from the interruption mechanic to the content of the text itself.

It’s speaks to the quality of the writing and the concept that the game is greatly worth listening to at least once without trying to affect the outcome of the conversation. What really made the monologues and the back-and-forths compelling during my playthroughs was the intimacy of the conversation. The emotional closure available (and simultaneously unavailable) throughout the introspection of Conversations is paradoxical but also immensely desirable. That closure, which Quark finds in their conversation with Lex, can either feel like it is giving Quark a deeper understanding, and closeness, to Lex and Quark’s past (and present) selves, or it can feel distancing, the distance that becomes undeniable after ten years of silence post-breakup.

Squinky’s Interruption Junction and Conversations We Have In My Head rely on the player deciding to interrupt or not interrupt. Both games contain a character who gradually fades away, and both those characters are the self (or aspects of the self). Junction is a game about alienation while trying to participate in a social situation that may not have space for you, or what you have to say. Conversations takes that loneliness even further, exploring our need for closeness and closure within ourselves. With the same mechanic, Squinky is able to explore different emotional landscapes, as well as intimacy, loneliness and social interactions from two very different perspectives.

To find out more about Squinky and their games:

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Bloom by Caelyn Sandel is a serial fiction about a transwoman named Cordelia who comes to terms with her identity. Featuring illustrations by Kiva Bay and soft melodies on the piano (a few written by Caelyn herself), Bloom is striking, not only as an example of how beautiful Twine games can be, but also because of the sheer quality of the writing. Writing for Twine (and interactive fiction in general) is as unique a writing methodology as writing for the stage or for national radio – and Bloom delivers one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had with videogames writing.

Bloom is also technically superb. Betraying here my own admiration for aesthetically pleasing hypertext, it is often mesmerizing to watch Bloom‘s javascript deliver the lines (sometimes even taking them back for a moment).

Spoilers, and perhaps rampant speculation, ahead. If you have not playedBloom I highly recommend you go play it right now first.

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This apartment space becomes really familiar over the course of the prologue and five episodes. A large part of Bloom is played by investigating Cordelia’s most intimate and personal spaces – her apartment, her work – though we also follow Cordy to meet her family and on the metro.

I have to admit that last sentence on the page featured on the screenshot above – “The front door is intact and currently closed.” fills me with dread. The sentence is counterbalanced by the state of the kitchen door, but I look at that intact front door and still wonder what lies ahead.

Cordelia’s story, as Caelyn Sandel explains, is a “realistic depiction of midlife gender transition” and is extremely moving even if often distressing. I can’t wait for Episode 5.

To find out more about Caelyn Sandel and her work:

Some really good writing from Mattie Brice was published right at the end of July. I’ve always found Mattie Brice to be an incredibly thoughtful writer, and Passing and Self-Identification: Managing the Power and Visibility of the Closet is a very interesting piece on the difficulties of self-identification, power, and relationships, and some of the problems inherent in queer identitification.

I don’t think many people were ready for the messiness of queerness as a political identity. In effect, most people involved in the LGBT are fighting to be ‘normal,’ to be treated exactly as straight people are and to have those two groups live harmoniously with their owned houses, 2.5 children, and laberdoodle [sic]. Yet the pervasive adoption of queerness instead of LGBT is completely at odds with that vision, instead trying to move beyond straight vs gay, where straightness inherently contains queerness by the very virtue of defining them against each other. Heteronormativity is prevalent in LGBT communities, with straight- and cis-passing people being valued as inherently more attractive and sought-after. Queerness can’t hold a straight vs gay paradigm, but it will definitely let you get off to it.

Queerness is a concept in revolt – it always seeks to position itself as the “other” to any standard of normalcy. Queer itself is a word that was formed in retaliation (to a perceived, but some would argue very real) conservatism developing in gay communities, but for something that always defines itself as subverting heteronormativity, it can sure be easy to fall back into the pitfalls of the binary. Ideas like queerness are built to work as solutions – but we’re often unequipped to deal with the problems that these solutions create.

Embracing the messiness that queerness is means embracing what can go wrong, what has gone wrong, and taking responsibility for that. That’s part of the reason it’s messy.

To find out more about Mattie Brice’s website and Patreon.


by Gersande

On ModelViewCulture.com: Flickering the Gaslight: Tactics of Organized Online Harassment

This past March I had the privilege of being published in Model View Culture, where I wrote an article called Flickering the Gaslight: Tactics of Organized Online Harassment. I dissect violent tactics that permeates online spaces and spill out into professional and social spaces. In particular I’m concerned with gaslighting and the misappropriation of technology and the effects on communities and people.

Recognition of terminology is foundational to the process of validation. When prominent GamerGaters and MRAs use words that have been developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, or to describe the violent institutions of white supremacy in our countries, they are not “reappropriating” or changing the meaning of the word through the elasticity of language and culture: they are actually enacting violence on the people who need those words to validate their own experiences and existences.

(Read More…)

This piece on technoculture and online violence was well-received and I am immensely grateful to those who helped me put it together. I’m really proud of it. Thank you.

About The Publisher

Model View Culture is an independent media platform covering technology, culture and diversity.

Model View Culture publishes the original work of technologists, activists, writers, educators and artists. It aims to present compelling cultural and social critique, highlight the work and achievement of diverse communities in tech, and explore the use of technology for social justice.

To support Model View Culture or read past issues, check out their website and their Patreon.

On This.org: Finish him! The feminist battle for Gamergate victory isn’t done

“When it comes to feminism and Gamergate, I want to say that feminism—unquestionably—won. But then I think: at what cost? Maybe it’s better to say: we know unequivocally we are on the right side of Gamergate.

Even former avowed Gamergaters have hung up their trilbies and abandoned their positions as everything became more extreme and untenable—or they suddenly found themselves on the opposing side of the harassment campaign. Those within the industry openly made statements against Gamergate, including: gaming companies such as Blizzard and the Entertainment Software Association (commonly know as the ESA and gaming’s top trade group); publications like Game Informer, Polygon, and Giant Bomb; and creative luminaries such as Tim Schafer and Damion Schubert. Some statements where measured, like the ESA’s assertion that “There is no place in the video game community—or our society—for personal attacks and threats.” But others weren’t. Schubert called it “an unprecedented catastrofuck,” which remains one of my favourite combinations of words ever. Even the vaguest of questions about the legitimacy of the movement seemed to evaporate.

And yet—and yet—it is still happening.”

Read the full post here.

On Amplab.ca : On PETA and the appropriation of anti #GAMERGATE rhetoric (in Minecraft)

In using that particular wording, PETA has essentially co-opted the abuse that Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, and countless others have suffered in the name of Gamergate. PETA has criticised videogames before, as well as used videogames to create messages in the past, but this Minecraft server has little to do with Minecraft and more to do with jumping into the Gamergate fray. On the surface, it may seem that they are using anti-Gamergate rhetoric in order to further animal rights – but under the surface they are exploiting the abuse of women in order to further their own ideological marketing.

Check out the original post.

by Gersande