Get it together white people

I’m very disturbed by the news regarding Cecil the Lion. Not so much because an overprivileged white guy paid a huge sum of money to decorate his home with a protected animal’s head (don’t get me wrong, I am super pissed about this too), but because of the level of outrage shown for Cecil versus any number of outrages perpetuated against people of color in the United States.

When I first heard this story I was astonished by what a dick the guy is. I mean, he already had a felony for illegally killing a black bear. He also settled a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by an employee out of court for over $100,000. Of course he claims he’s innocent and just wanted the matter to go away quickly. I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of money to make something go away quickly. How much do dentists make anyway???

I was also amused by all the angry Yelp reviews for his dental practice. (By the way, Yelp seems a little slow in taking those reviews down, most of them are obviously not customers of his.) I saw news stories with pictures of angry, mainly white, protesters with signs calling him a killer and a coward. And these folks looked REALLY REALLY angry.

But then I was listening to a discussion of this story on NPR and someone pointed out that they’d never seen so many white people worked up about the death of an African before. OUCH! I thought. That truth shit stings. And of course I started repeating this line to people as if I had thought it up myself.

Then I saw this:

I love Roxane Gay and all I could think was HELL YEAH!

Because I’m a masochist, I started reading the responses to her comment and was shocked at how incredibly upset (and defensive) people were about the remark.

“What a selfish twit Roxanne is.”

“Grow the eff up.”

“Why does this have to be a competition?”

 Lions are endangered animals.”

“this lady is dumb & does not realize how hot it is going to be wearing a costume in this heat.”

 “This is preposterous… !!!”

“That’s not fair!”

That’s right, somebody actually cried ‘Not fair!’

Now, let’s be clear. It’s okay to be upset about Cecil. Many people are upset about Cecil AND African Americans being killed by the police. But the comparative outrage is absolutely astonishing and this is what Roxane Gay was pointing out. She was being really funny about it but I’m going to say it like it is: White liberals get more upset over animals getting killed than they do about black people being murdered by the police. Then they get more angry if you point this out. I am saying this as a white liberal: We kinda suck.

I’ve heard this said for years but I was definitely in denial. Now I see it. And I’m sorry. But apologies don’t matter, what matters is how we change our future behavior and I don’t have an answer for that yet.

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We should all be bad feminists

Guess what!? No, I didn’t get a new tattoo or piercing – I am a Feminist!

No doy! You say, of course you’re a feminist! You have a vagina and believe you should receive equal pay for equal work!

Well, yes, I suppose that is true, but I never labeled myself a feminist before. In fact, I spent most of my life not thinking about feminism, and if I did think about it, it was to rejoice in the fact that I did not have to fight for the rights that generations of women before me did. But, as I get older, I realize there is still a lot to fight for as a woman. I talk about it with friends and loved ones and I hear their stories of sexual harassment and inappropriateness. It seems there are a lot of men out there who think it’s just fine to make sexist comments or jokingly refer to their female staff as their whores.” Then, when complaints are made, they say, “Lighten up” and “Get a sense of humor.” I now declare that if you ever say those two phrases you probably need to take a sensitivity class.

My revelation about the need for feminism started when I heard about Gamergate.

If you are not familiar with Gamergate, let me try to summarize it for you: Gamergate emerged when female gamers, game designers, journalists, etc. criticized the gaming industry’s treatment and portrayal of women. A bunch of guys then went completely apeshit and made rape and violence threats against these women in droves. I am leaving out about a gajillion parts of the story here, including vengeful ex-boyfriends, accusations of trading sex for good game reviews, social justice, journalistic ethics, and Adam Baldwin (whom I used to love and now, tragically, firefly is permanently ruined). I recommend you read the story for yourself, Wikipedia has an excellent article on it, although it is rather long-winded.

This story perked up my ears to related stories and, soon after, I was listening to a Book Riot podcast (#97) where they discussed feminism and the harassment of women online. Rebecca Schinsky is my new hero. She is able to passionately articulate intelligent arguments about the need for discussions about diversity, including feminism. She talked about how, whenever she publishes an article on Book Riot about women’s issues or diversity she never fails to get vicious responses from the trolls. Some of these responses include threats of rape and violence. I was shocked. Silly me, I thought we lived in a more highly evolved world. Particularly on a website devoted to the love of books.

Now, whenever I see an article about women standing up for themselves I go straight to the comments section to see what the responses are. I have yet to see outright threats, those are hopefully removed by a watchful moderator, but I do see some pretty mind-boggling responses.

For instance, I read a TED article titled: “This is what it’s like to be a woman in competitive gaming” by Lilian Chen. I didn’t find it a particularly controversial article, she wrote of some harassment online and at conventions and how it caused her to struggle with self identity issues as a gamer and a woman. She discussed how her self-identity skewed how she viewed other female gamers. Interesting but hardly threatening to anyone, right?

Well, here are some of the responses:

“I’d imagine it’d be a lot like being a man…..
Only you’ve got another X chromosome.
Seriously ladies, by posting these ridiculous “what it’s like to be a woman” posts… you’re actually taking steps FARTHER AWAY from gender equality.”

“Arrrrghhhh my god. This again.

“The millenials are wasting time with this crap and are failing to build real assets.

“Yeah. Trailblazing journalism. Susan B Anthony would be proud.”

And, probably my favorite: “All the women I know don’t like to play games.”

There were a few other responses but not as many positive ones as I would like, so I added a few nice words in support of Ms. Chen and other female gamers. I felt compelled to write something because I watched the Monika Lewinsky speech she recently gave at TED and I fully agree with her about the need to bring the positive to battle the negative. And I read the article TED posted afterwards that spoke of the horrendous and wonderful responses to the speech that eventually restored the writer’s faith in humanity and I’m down with being a part of that.

All of this brings up the subject of moderating conversations. Should I ever receive troll-like comments I will certainly delete them. No, it does not impinge on anyone’s first amendment. That amendment is in regards to the government controlling speech. You’re not going to be prosecuted by the law for saying mean and stupid shit. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be consequences. Moderators can stop abusive comments and other commentators can turn the conversation around. It would be ideal if, whenever we see a hateful comment, we outnumber it with positive messages by at least ten to one. I believe that is a good way to start bringing about change.

This is a (excuse the old-timey reference) ‘Read more about it’ subject! I highly recommend Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” (based on her TED speech) and Roxane Gay’s “Bad Feminist.” Both books are wonderful but “Bad Feminist” is one of those books that just makes you see the world differently, especially if you are not used to critically thinking about feminism and racism in popular culture. I will certainly be on the lookout for more books on this subject.

In conclusion, we have a ways to go as a society, but I’m an optimist so I’m going to quote MLK: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”