09 July 2010

An open letter to ForeverGeek

(Warning: NSFW pictures below the jump. Possibly triggering, because it's naked ladies with their identites removed.)

Dear ForeverGeek,

I'm concerned that you don't know what the word "political" means. First, I pointed out to you on Twitter that it was weird that this post didn't include any of the (many) explicitly American-, Christian-, or capitalist-centric images of violence from this artist. You told me that "we aren't too political at ForeverGeek." And "Not always do you have to look for a reason behind everything." Whatever. I let it go.

Later, I use your blog as an example of the objectification of female fans (and women in general) in geek communities, and you insist! Again! Nothing political at ForeverGeek! Hilariously, you use this opportunity to invite me to blog there:
Courtney, why don’t you join the geek subculture at ForeverGeek and be part of the team. Then you will notice how little agenda there is and that everyone just posts about their favourite geek discoveries, AKA what they find cool at that time.

Any geek topic one is passionate about or finds just utterly cool is welcome, also writing about being a woman who tries to participate and does not want to be considered as an object. And yes, you can even write with an attitude trying to play with the audience.
(Aw! Folks, did you know that feminism is just "an attitude" designed to "play with the audience?" Because I'm never serious about sexism. I'm just riling you up.)

Look, dudes, just because you don't have a coherent "agenda" at ForeverGeek doesn't mean that your blogging choices don't have political consequences. When you publish (over and over again) posts in which you gush over objectified hot ladies in the contexts of your geek obsessions, you don't get to call those decisions "not political." Especially in the geek context, where female fans already get the near-constant message of Tits or GTFO, you cannot pretend that this is an innocent choice, devoid of any sexist consequences. I don't really care that you don't mean it that way, or that you just like hot chicks and Star Wars. Seriously, don't care. The message you send when you wax poetic about naked models with Storm Trooper helmets on skateboards is that you like to objectify women. (These women don't even get to have individual faces, so the viewer doesn't have to do something icky, like remember that these models are real, invidivual people, with, you know, desires and needs or their own. Nope! They exist solely for your geeky sexual pleasure as airbrushed, interchangeable bodies.)

Telling me that praise of this art project is not political is in fact a political statement. By arguing that there's no agenda in posting about how this is so! awesome!, you normalize the objectification of women. You side with the geek men who think that women just need to stfu and get naked already, because they're really only good for sex. And if geek women don't want to just be interchangeable bodies that exist solely for your sexual pleasure? Then they're just being political. With their opinions and not-airbrushed bodies. Gross.

If I sound pissed, it's not because I think your intent was malicious (though it's possible it is). It's because you perpetuate misogyny in the geek community when you keep insisting that treating ladies like anonymous sex objects is a normal, apolitical activity. And that affects me personally, both as a geek and a lady.

So, I won't be joining you at ForeverGeek, particularly since your invitation was not framed as "we care about what you have to say," but as an attempt to prove to me what is patently untrue: that ForeverGeek is devoid of political decisions. I made this blog in part to get away from having to engage too much in the toxic environment that is (parts of) the geek community, and I know how ugly geek men can get if you challenge their privilege. I don't intend to do that in a space I don't control.



annajcook said...

So, I won't be joining you at ForeverGeek, particularly since your invitation was not framed as "'e care about what you have to say,' but as an attempt to prove to me what is patently untrue: that ForeverGeek is devoid of political decisions

I remember reading an article about ten years ago in which the author made the point that "politics" isn't just about elections, it's basically about how we live our lives together as human beings out there in the world. If you leave your house, basically, you make political decisions (or, if you aren't living your life consciously, you take political actions without thought). Even if you stay in your house, that's a political decision not to engage with others. You can't really be truly apolitical, just like you can't not breathe or eat if you want to stay alive.

I think about that article when I read stuff like this about folks who try to insist they aren't interested in politics or are totally NOT political. 'Cause opting out really isn't an option.

Meredith said...

Sing it, sister!

R.B. said...

Can one person give a standing ovation?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing up the "Tits or GTFO" thing, I've been wondering what you had to say on that subject. I mean, obviously you wouldn't be fond of it... I just look forward to hearing what you have to say about certain things, and the "Tits or GTFO" mantra present in gaming/geeky communities is definitely one of them.

Courtney said...

I love you guys.

Anonymous, "Tits or GTFO" is actually going to be the first part of my title for a sociolinguistics paper I'm working on now. (Something like, "Tits or GTFO: Geek women on the Internet.") So I will talk about it soon here.

Anonymous said...

what is this? Everyone knows there's no women on the internet.

Meg said...

Telling me that praise of this art project is not political is in fact a political statement.

So, so true. I think this is one of the hardest things for people to overcome when it comes to discussions about privilege. Realizing that inaction is just as political as taking action. Part of having privilege is not having to deal with (or even acknowledge) issues that don't directly affect you unless you want to, and part of fighting privilege is actively trying to find ways to confront it and deconstruct it.

Most people with male privilege aren't raging hateful misogynists who beat women, just like most people with white privilege aren't cross-burning hate-crime-committing Aryan Nation types. But not being a horrible human being isn't exactly good enough. If you aren't willing to check yourself, then it really doesn't matter if in all other ways you're a super swell person with lots of black/gay/lady friends, you're still actively holding up systems that oppress people, and that's not cool.

Emmy said...

THANK YOU, Oh God. I feel like I see the "we're not political here" defense all over the internet as a way to shut down any conversation that might be critical or make people (specifically, privileged people) uncomfortable. I think there's a sense that if you're the one calling out a wack post for its gender issues, you're the one who's upsetting the peaceful, friendly environment. And I used to kind of understand that in that blogs are personal, and if I don't like what's being said in them I can just go elsewhere. But the more I've had to live with that the more it really grates. Like, I'm not trying to be that annoying dude at the party who always has to have a "friendly debate" over some issue he doesn't actually know or care about just to feel the thrill of a good argument. I just honestly don't want to be reminded every hour of every day how shitty it is to be anything other than a white, straight, able-bodied cis dude. "We're not political" is just a way of turning it around whenever someone calls you on your shit.

amasama said...

This is fantastic. About the "but we aren't political qq" comment, abstaining from something doesn't make you not political, it just subtly allies you with one of the two sides you are claiming to avoid.

I read a great argument about that here: http://www.fugitivus.net/2010/07/07/great-now-i-hate-everybody/

The relevant quotes: "This, to me, is comparable to people making personal decisions by “not choosing sides.” What is perceived to be a third option is, in effect, only one of the two options; it’s just masked in a way that feels ethically, morally, or vindictively better. [...] “Not taking sides” is “I don’t support you,” dressed up like morality and the higher ground. If “sides” was the problem, further discussion, introspective consideration, and information-seeking would effect a solution."

So sure...be as "not political" as you want, as long as you understand that you are just quietly supporting sexism and avoiding the issue of your own internalized sexism.

Adrienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adrienne said...

Holy crappola! This! This and heightened to the nth degree.

I try not to be bitter. Seriously, I promise that I really really try. It just fails a lot. But- I've gotten to the point that when I hear someone say "I'm not political" or "That's not political" that I understand this as code for "This is 'normal'/great/majority and therefore I get to say it's apolitical. This art is apolitical. And by that I mean- this is about BEAUTY!!!! TRUTH!!!! And of course those two things are tottttttally apolitical. This music is apolitical! I'm just talking about liiiiiiiiife, man. This blog about hot objectified chicks is apolitical because geez man... clearly all men like staring at hot chicks... with no faces... in which we consume women's body. And yeah geeks of the world... totally apolitical." Uhh... please stop talking. For like... the next fifty years.

You're political! You're constantly being political! So yes, please please please... learn what the hell political is. Because you're concept that we're only being political when we're campaigning actively against mainstream concepts or discussing inflammatory concepts... is... oh so very. very. very. wrong. You're life, beliefs, desires are political. Things incredibly mundane like clothing, gestures, language... guess what? Political.

P.S. I'm sorry I've not been active lately. Moving is time consuming and exhausting.

root said...

As ever, there are not enough high-fives in the world.