Masculinism Is Not A Word
Well, I do realize I’ve been a bit flighty recently, but each time I go to put together a post I keep getting distracted by some stupid King demanding that I kiss his ring, and then 10 hours later, I realize I’ve just spent all that time playing Civilization IV: Revolution. Anyway.

Blah blah blah, there’ve been quite a few posts about feminism going around lately, as I’m sure you know. Since it’s actually something of one of my favorite topics, I’m surprised myself that I haven’t commented on it earlier, but I’ve had some pretty bad backlash from doing so before, so I decided discretion is the better part of valor. Also, since gender issues are sorta “my thing” if you will, then maybe it can be explained by my own admission that there is no way I can address the topic of sexism in WoW, and keep it focused on WoW, and not go on a full-fledged rant.

And then this morning Chas posted what I think is quite possibly his all-time best post at Righteous Orbs, and it really touched me. And then I decided “Valor” and “Discretion” can both go have a cup of tea with Stalin for all I care, because RANT INCOMING. Consider yourself warned.

I’ve mentioned previously that I was once in a PhD program at a nice school in the Eastern US and that certain events led to me withdrawing after one semester, and therefore giving up all my little hopes of being a professor, and all that jazz. Well, here’s one of the other major components of that story.

My first semester, I focused most of my attention on Feminist Geography. Every time I tell people that, I get scoffed at by people who have no idea what that means, and as much as it irritates me that instead of asking what it entails, people merely laugh at it, it’s not particularly important for this story. Suffice to say I spent my time essentially in Women’s Studies, and exploring how gender issues are affected by where people live, work, etc. My professor and advisor, someone I’d admired for years, was a product of the old school bra-burner generation, and I had a lot of respect for her for that, mind you. So when I presented my research at the end of the semester, it was heartbreaking to me that she was absolutely NOT impressed.

Maybe it’s simply because I am a female, and I prefer to study things that are foreign or novel to me (which is why I get such a kick out of British TV), but I was much more interested in the way sexism negatively affects men. Because it does, and to say it doesn’t is to be just as blind as someone who says that all women who complain about sexism are making mountains out of molehills.

How many single dads do you know? When I went to try and get demographic information on this, imagine my surprise when the published numbers from the 2000 US Census I found only documented single mothers, and not single fathers. When a friend of mine who is a single dad was unemployed, I told him he should try operating a daycare out of his home because he’s so great with kids. He laughed, and informed me that no one would give him the business, and that he would likely get in trouble for it – men aren’t supposed to spend that much time with children, or they are pervs, didn’t you know? This was brought even more to light by a long-standing policy by British Airlines which was finally brought down this week: Before a recent lawsuit, lone male travellers were not allowed to be seated next to unaccompanied children.

It’s hard enough for women when they are victims of rape… but what about men? I used to live in a pretty shoddy area, and during the three years I lived there, I know of four men who reported being raped, and I really felt for them. Chas’s tale of the comedian in Edinburgh made me think of those 4 young men in my old neighborhood who were victims. Did they go to the University Women’s Center for support and empathy after their attacks? For the men who are victims of domestic violence (and you would be shocked by how common it is, because of how rarely it is reported), do they go to the special women’s shelter for abuse victims? I’m all for having these support groups around, mind you, and I fully recognize that I’m getting caught up in semantics, but when a gay man decides to join a GLBT support group after being bullied for being “girly”, maybe it would be a little more supportive if he didn’t have to visit the Women’s Center in order to employ it.

I’ve got a pretty good sense of humor, and most of the time I can roll with the punches. In general, terminology that people use does not really offend me. I’ve got a bit of the sailor in me, if you catch my meaning, but one thing I absolutely cannot stand is jokes about men getting raped. The jokes that suggest that a man can’t be raped, or “you can’t rape the willing”, or something to that effect enfuriate me. Jokes about raping a boss don’t bother me, nor do people using the dreaded “c” word… but jokes about men getting raped? I will throttle you. The reason it bothers me is because it reflects a societal belief that genuinely exists and is not subject to nearly enough discussion and debate… a vast majority really do believe that a man can’t really be raped, and it sickens me.

I didn’t want to study Feminist Geography, I wanted to study Geography of Gender… and at the time, that was simply unacceptable. There is this idea that the dreaded Patriarchy is some group of old white men sitting around a table trying to think of ways to keep the woman down, but it’s not like that. The concept of patriarchy is just that – a concept. It’s a vast structure of societal and cultural beliefs that affect both men and women. There is an underlying cultural belief that women can’t be truck drivers and coal miners and still be heterosexual, just as much as men can’t be flight attendants or nurses and still be heterosexual. The whole Patriarchy is the enemy of not just women, but men as well. Maybe a lot of men do benefit from it, but most are victims just as much as women are.

I am a Feminist because I believe women should be treated with equality. I am a Masculinist because I believe men should be treated with equality. The fact that my spellchecker just alerted me that the word “Masculinist” does not exist is very telling in and of itself.

Err, and to bring this rant back to WoW, enter the invisible and incredibly awkward segue...

I hate that the choices I have for toons in WoW are generally so disgusting to me physically. I love my female dwarf, and everytime I log in in Dalaran, or join a pugged raid or a battleground, there are comments about how rare female dwarves are. Female dwarves are so butch, after all! But they aren’t… they are quite possibly the most realistic body image for women, and I wanted my toon to be a reflection of me (even though I’m 5’10). The closest thing Chas can find to what he looks like is a Blood Elf male, who are considered the “girliest” of male toons, much like the femdwarf and the femorc are “butch” toons.

There have been a lot of comments that suggest women in wow need to step up and play more tanks! Play more DPS! Step away from the female-as-a-healer stereotype! (I’m exaggerating, by the way) Well, as a dedicated and permanent female healer myself, I absolutely fit the stereotype, but that’s okay with me. Just play whatever role, whatever toon, whatever class, you love most: And damn what other people think about it. If you feel like you ought to play something you don’t enjoy as much merely to make a point, then I think you might, in fact, be missing the point. The idea behind what others were saying, is that if you have even an inkling or a notion that you might enjoy tanking or DPSing, then go for it, and I and many others encourage you to do so, ladies.

But also… More men as healers, plz! (But, you know, only if you're into it)
22 Responses
  1. Jaedia Says:

    You know, I was getting really bored of reading posts about gender. There have been some great ones, of course, but both Chas and yourself have somewhat livened up the discussion because I was also getting tired of being dismissed for.. well.. "lessening the importance of female issues" by mentioning that men might also be victims of prejudice too. I was starting to think that I wasn't allowed to have feelings about the inqualities women face AND the inequalities that men face, but the thing is, I was brought up by my dad since I was 7 years old, I've seen the inequalities that men face in this world, I've heard my dad's pain when people ask "why isn't she living with her mother?" And I don't think it's right that not only do men's issues get ignored in general, but we're almost told we're not allowed to discuss them.

    I love your post, all I can say is "my feelings exactly".


  2. Syl Says:

    I have to stop reading so many blogs or I will start writing about this too....that said, I like your viewpoints on the matter.

    I gotta say I never liked the word feminism at all and I really try to avoid it. i dont understand what its supposed to mean anyway - is a woman that fights for fairness and equality a feminist? then shouldnt we all be feminists really, the men included?
    there's a 'label' for women that want equal rights....that in itself vexes me.

    I also believe that equality shouldnt just mean 'equal chances' like men - it should mean that all of us have the freedom to chose who we want to be and that these choices do not have to be 'equal' in order to be of 'equal worth'.
    if i need to assume male corset in order to be equal, i'm just as free as men are and they really aren't so free either.

    i'd like to be free of the do's and dont's. I wanna plant a bunny circlet on my female priest when i feel goofy and I'd like to split horde skull in battlegrounds when I feel like pwning - without these things making me anything but human.

    I play the same wicked holy priest for years because I actually kick ass at multitasking and love the power I got over my party members, harhar. I will also most gladly tell a bossy tank or DPS to not wet himself or gtfo. how's that for a devout healing stereotype?

    longtime reader of your site btw, nice to see you back posting!


  3. Pewter Says:

    I agree with a lot of what you said, and it's one of the reasons I've started to use the word Kyriarchy.

    It's why I started the post 'what about the men', because men's issues need good discussion in their own right, and not in opposition to women's issues.

    Anyways, thanks for this and including it in the links round up.


  4. Grimmtooth Says:

    The more I read the more I see to comment / post on. The issues just dig into the root of our psyches, don't they?

    Thanks for putting another layer on the cake (I mean, if you're into cooking and all, that is).

    >.>


  5. Daniel Says:

    *applaud*

    I've always enjoyed reading your site, but now I absolutely adore you.

    I won't go into detail, but what you said reflects what I've been thinking for some time now. Only, when I bring it up I get all but tarred and feathered by females who think that women are the only ones who have a tough life.

    I will not say that gender doesn't play a role in our society; like it or not, it does. It should not however define what we can or can't do.

    Thank you for your post.


  6. Ophelie Says:

    Awesome post! (Although I would expect nothing less of you!)

    I don't really get the "talking about men's issues undermines women's" either. An issue is still an issue, even if others have it worse elsewhere. I usually focus on women when I write, but because I don't think I'm informed enough to be qualified to write about men.

    I actually have 2 male friends who were raped (as children) so when people write that "using the word rape inappropriately is sexism against women", I can't help but think that they're being sexist against men. Maybe rape happens more often to women (it's hard to know, though, since rapes are highly under reported), but still does happen to men. And rape isn't just something men do to people. One of the autistic boys I was taking care of one summer had been sexually abused by some female attendants. In one of my psych classes, we also studied a documentary on children who were sexually abused by their mothers. So again, maybe it doesn't happen as often, but it still happens and it's still terrible.

    I like the term "humanist", promoting well being and equality for humans.


    In WoW, I'm a huge promoter of just do what you want to do, play how you want to play. Sure, sometimes you might get some bad attitudes if you try to do something unexpected for your gender/accent/sexual orientation, but 9 times out of 10 you won't. Our biggest limits are the ones we impose on ourselves.

    And the more people doing a thing unexpected for their gender (or other), the more expected that thing becomes.


  7. LarĂ­sa Says:

    Sign on what Ophelie said here. The reason why I encourage more women to do what is unexpected of them isn't that I want to force an unhealing-role on them against their will. But I think that we put a lot of limits on ourselves and that to break the boundaries, we need to encourage and inspire each other. That goes for men as well as women.

    I've always claimed that I'm first and most a human. Being a women is really not such a big issue to me.


  8. Chastity Says:

    Technically, the toon I found which looked most like me was a female troll...

    Men's rights are a really difficult area, because they're so mired in dickery on all sides. I've actually found most modern, mainstream feminism to be very supportive of men's issues as long as those issues aren't being used as a silencing tactic - unfortunately they often are.

    And yeah, male rape jokes are really annoying. I remember ages ago Tam and I were watching /40 Days and 40 Nights/ (a rom-com in which a guy swears of sex for a bet) which ends with the guy's ex girlfriend *raping him* which is treated as an opportunity for a hilarious comedy misunderstanding with his new girlfriend. Fail.

    And there was the recent Penny Arcade fail as well of course.


  9. Jen Says:

    This might possibly be my favorite post in the "series"... since you actually studied this, I don't think anyone will come tell you that you don't know what you're talking about and how men are privileged and all that. Plus, the conversation is already interesting!

    And, a bit offtopic:
    1. Sorry, can't like female dwarves. A guildie of mine recently race changed and he kept saying his new dwarfette was so sexy, but I just can't see that. Maybe because around here the body type is more likes nelves? "Malnourished ex-Commies" as a friend likes to tease me, but we're just... skinny. Not super model skinny, but the dwarfette type is not really common here. (I was a bit shocked to read on Wikipedia that I might pass for a size 0... on the border with size 1, but still.)

    2. Since Chas mentioned PA: I don't see the problem. Really. It was ironic. They were making fun of the fact that gamers *ignore* serious issues like rape. They weren't making fun of it or condoning it - they were making a comment about how quests are essentially heartless: you save 10 people from a horrible circumstance, but you won't do anything for the 11th since that won't help you level up.


  10. Chastity Says:

    I think the issues with the Penny Arcade strip were:

    1) That offhand references to rape can actually genuinely give people flashbacks which they find disturbing and upsetting.

    2) That there was a perception that having the rape victim be a man made it the *funny* sort of rape not the *bad* sort of rape.

    What was really infuriating about the whole thing was that they then wrote a new strip specifically to dismiss and belittle the criticisms of people who had been offended by the first strip.

    The original strip was actually quite funny, but it didn't need an offhand rape joke to work.


  11. zusterke Says:

    Sweet Lord Halleluja! (And I'm not even religious!)

    I can not count the number of heated discussions I've run into simply trying to tell people about the male discrimination. Some people actively work their ass off to ignore it. To find someone with a similar view makes me wanna throw my hands in the air and do a happy dance. This is definitely something I might link to people in future discussion! Very very big thanks for this post.

    I do have one discussion point, and though it is a large comment, it is certainly not meant to counter the article! While I didn't take it as oversensitivity, I agreed less with your notion on 'bad jokes'. Despite the fact I'm motivated to work about discrimination on both genders, I would not like to take it out on humor, even bad humor. I feel doing so will only make matters worse. Yes, this means I'll try to be tolerant about insensitive jokes about very sensitive matters.
    We could talk about 'respect' and other social imprinted patterns to condemn such humor but I believe humor should exactly free itself from those patterns. As I may lack convincing words on this so I hope you'll forgive me plugging in references to comedians who, in my opinion, did a great job of defending it.

    I start with Hans Teeuwen, a Dutch comedian who made very crude (and bad) jokes about muslims. In a talkshow, some women were offered a chance to publicly interrogate (and often burn) a few people that they felt had insulted their community. The extract of the show can be seen here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcCOktdsz-0
    It's in Dutch, but I hope this free translation is good enough:
    "Why do you keep insulting us?"
    "Because everything that is given a status (which we aren't allow to laugh with) obtains a form of power and control which will always lead to corruption. Everything must be permitted to be ridiculed. When this is no longer permitted, you obtain scary situations and dictatorships. That's why insults even -should- happen.
    ...
    Do you consider being offended then a privilege that should be restricted to certain people? Do you believe I don't see things on TV that insult me? You develop a shield against it because that's what you do in a free society where you can be confronted with things you don't agree with."

    Steve Hughes even had a brilliant stand up show on it, in English this time:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cycXuYzmzNg

    I'm not trying to defend douchebags but... well... maybe just their freedom of speech. You have a voice of your own, return the favor.


  12. Grimmtooth Says:

    @several

    I think we need to be less focused on woman's rights vs men's rights and focus instead on plain old human rights and general equality amongst peers. I think everyone's hitting around the edges of that, but there you are.

    @several others

    I agree that the PA strip in question was using the "rape wolves" as a stand in for "most disgusting creature you can imagine". And let's be honest, they are not known for tact anything residing in the same neighborhood. They ARE insensitive clods, anyone that has read the strip for any amount of time knows this. Move on.

    Gabe's follow up said it best, and I quote for truth:

    "I just don’t understand that. Did the comics about bestiality, suicide, murder, pedophilia, and torture not bother them [long-time readers]? Or how about the fruit fucker? I mean, we have a character who is a literal rapist. What comic strip have they been reading all these years?"


  13. @Jaedia

    Kudos to your dad, and here's to hoping that future single dads won't have to put up with so much BS!

    @Syl

    I know, I tried to resist for so long, and then finally gave in to my penchant for ranting XD

    I don't like the word feminism either, though I think that the fight for gender equality can be mostly attributed to the original feminism movement. Before that, most people just didn't bother to ask these kinds of questions about men OR women.

    I like what you said about the concept of equality too. I don't want to feel ashamed of wanting to stay at home with my kids, because I don't want to live my life constantly working on an agenda. I want to live how I want to live, and I want to be able to do it freely without judgment, and with choice. I may choose to stay at home with my kids because I want to and am able to do so, not because I'm supposed to. And if my husband says he wants to stay home with the kids, he shouldn't be made to feel like "less of a man" because of that.

    @Pewter

    I've been keeping an eye on it all ever since you first posted... like a piece of chocolate cake I was resisting because I knew I couldn't have just a small bite. Now I'm devouring it all, and I feel inclined to write even more. Thanks so much for starting up this whole discussion!

    @Grimm

    Well, cooking isn't really my thing but uhm, eating cake is.

    @Daniel

    It's such a controversial topic, there's no way to discuss it without getting flamed, but honestly, it's important that people talk about it. Nothing will ever change if people are too scared to bring it up for fear of criticism.

    @Ophelie & @Larisa

    Thanks! I just want you two to know that when I commented about advocating that women pwn more face via tanking or dps in game, it wasn't meant as a criticism btw - I knew what you meant about encouraging people to step away from the stereotypes. Obviously, people should just do what they enjoy, but it's a good thing to encourage people to step outside their comfort zones and out of the stereotypes! I loved both of your posts on the topic.

    @Chastity

    Shh. I had to use the Blood Elf reference for the power of rhetoric. Don't ruin the effect.

    I'll reiterate what I said in response to a previous comment, but I think that gender issues just in general owe a lot to feminism. The fact that it's still called feminism is really just an outdated semantic, and I wish more institutions would update their language, to be honest. By using the feminist terms, the whole issue becomes polarized and splits people apart instead of bringing them together as much as it could.

    @Jen

    Nelves or Blood Elves? Unfortunately, I can't handle a toon who's ears get caught in doorways. Although, I do manage to pull a lot of accidental trash with my dwarf-ass, but thats pretty much what happens to me IRL too, so I'm okay with it!

    @Zusterke

    I think you're right about the jokes component. This is specifically why normally jokes don't bother me on even controversial topics. I think the male rape thing irritates me so much because it's just not something that is very often discussed, and so it strikes me as less of a joke and more of a statement such as "that's about as realistic as pigs flying". However, it could be a reflection that the issue is being addressed more often nowadays, and my sensitivity to it is a bit outdated. LOVED your links!!!


  14. failadin Says:

    Just wanted to let you know, I play a male Dwarf Holy Paladin and I absolutely LOVE it! I'm not so sure that there aren't many male healers either, amongst the healers I know, it's about half-half male/female.

    I personally think that he (my character) matches me better than any other character. If I would roll another character (which I have) then it's because of all the contradictions. For example, I have a male Draenei Death Knight. Not because I'm so fond of male Draenei (I'm not) but because I think the character matches well with what I want him to do. Hulk-smash his way through evil monsters and stuff.


  15. Saunder Says:

    So what does it say about me that as a male healer who pugs a lot, on multiple toons in and out of sissy robes, that I have never been called a girl or in any way indicated that I might possibly be female because I'm healing ... Maybe it's best no to know the answer to that one! :D


  16. Jen Says:

    @MissMedicina: Nelf (or human, or draenei, I guess). I was a bit shocked to read on wikipedia that a few years back I would've been a size 0 (and I'm not too far off now either). I thought that meant anorexic-skinny... for me it was just normal-20-year-old.
    (Belves, on the other hand... yeah, too much.)

    @Chas: I understand that some people are sensitive to certain issues, but I think it's impossible to avoid reading about things that might be disturbing. Say someone was raped and a teddy bear happened to be near her. Now the teddy bear will always bring flashbacks of that horrible moment. Should everyone ban teddy bears from TV just in case? It's unreasonable. I can't pretend to know how a rape victim feels, but I don't think they expect the world to shelter them... (And if someone does expect it? Well, they're in for an unpleasant surprise.)


  17. Syl Says:

    "I may choose to stay at home with my kids because I want to and am able to do so, not because I'm supposed to. And if my husband says he wants to stay home with the kids, he shouldn't be made to feel like "less of a man" because of that."

    - thats exactly how I feel about things too. I've had this convo so many times with people but it seems not everyone is aware of the pressure they put people under by calling things certain names that are ultimately negative/positive. -.-

    ah well. I've been weaker than my resolutions to stay away from the topic, but after all its important, so what the heck! :D


  18. Chastity Says:

    I understand that some people are sensitive to certain issues, but I think it's impossible to avoid reading about things that might be disturbing

    Let me put it this way.

    If you *knew* somebody was a rape victim, knew it for a fact, would you tell them a rape joke?

    If you knew somebody was a Holocaust survivor, would you tell them a joke about the Holocaust?

    When you are writing for a large, varied audience you have to recognize that your audience *will* include people who have been affected by some very broad, very straightforward social issues. A broad audience is *extremely* likely to contain one or more actual rape victims, and you *should* take that into account when writing for a broad audience.

    Now I have no problem with "edgy" comedy (although I think it's frequently cheap and boring): you want to make jokes about rape, feel free. You want to make jokes about the Holocaust, or paedophilia, or the Columbine shootings, or 9/11, feel free.

    But don't do it in the middle of a light-hearted comic about video games, and don't react to people's *genuine offense* by writing a comic about how they're stupid and shouldn't be offended.


  19. Syl Says:

    I find it a little phony how people reacted to the PA strip - I agree with Jen on this. people watch series and movies that depict rape all the time, it's a common topic or 'tool' in books ('heroic' literature too) and other media, but once it's used to actually make people aware of the issue in a comic, the author gets torn apart? i'm sorry, but isnt that first class bigotry? if anything, the way the topic was used in the strip made the horror of trivializing rape in games and other media more apparent, not less. how can this be interpreted any different?

    and i dont agree you can take every individual into account as author or writer - I agree that it would be insensitive to tell a victim of violence a similar joke but here you are dealing with a wide audience. and I really don't think this comic was making fun of anything.

    if it upsets you due to pesonal experiences I can fully empathize but then people that undergo such trauma arent necessarily the best 'judges' / naturally more sensitive on the matter, wouldnt you say so? I think one can misunderstand the PA based on this, but I give them the benefit of the doubt.

    not sure this article is widely known, hence the ref: http://geekfeminism.org/2010/08/17/heroism-vs-multiplayer-game-mechanics-and-rape-as-a-fantasy-trope/


  20. @Syl @Jen @Chas

    Regarding the PA comic strip, I did not think the original comic was bad, merely because I think it is a contribution to the discourse of the concept that rape is a truly horrible thing. It was used as an example of something heinous particularly for that reason.

    However, their response to the critics was stupid and dismissive. Had they used an ounce of intelligence in the matter I'm sure they could have found a clever and funny way to explain just that - that the rape reference was acknowledgement of how horrible the act is. Instead they pretty much made themselves look like complete idiots.

    Now all that having been said, the comments section here is probably not the best place for the discussion, since no one at Penny Arcade would ever see it - I'm simply not that interesting! It sounds like there is a lot more that could be said regarding it, however, and you guys might try making posts about it. It's more likely to be noticed in the meat of a post then here nestled in the comments.


  21. Forreststump Says:

    "But also… More men as healers, plz!"

    *cough*
    *COUGH*
    **COUGH**

    Yeah, shot that down pretty easily...


  22. Anonymous Says:

    You mentioning about healing differences with respect to gender caused me to remember this interesting poll/survey and one of the things they compared was the "women heal" stereotype. In the U.S. at least this isn't true, which I was a little surprised at. "In other words, in the US, men actually do more healing than women, point for point. But as a ratio of damage, men and women in the US have approximately the same healing ratio. From this point of view, the stereotype of women preferring to heal is not true for the US. " I thought that was really interesting, they have other findings up and are still posting more of their results. ^^ http://blogs.parc.com/playon/2010/08/23/damage-and-healing/


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