First times

>> Friday, November 30, 2012

I'm trying to process this, figure out if I have anything clever to say about it or whether it's just one of those things you just kind of observe and move on.  On the one hand, it was sort of educational; on the other hand, it isn't like it's the kind of thing I have to go through daily or against my will.

I'm one of those guys who usually ends up playing a female character in a videogame.  Not always, but often.  I'd love to tell you it's wholly noble and wonderful and open-minded of me, but I'll go ahead and confess that one reason I do it is entirely objectifying and therefore, some would say, sexist: if I'm going to be looking over the shoulder of an avatar for hours on end, I kind of prefer looking at something I like looking at.  But that's not really important, it's just sort of a preface.

So, I'm playing Star Trek Online when I arguably should be writing.  "Arguably" because of the issues with my writing I wrote about a couple of weeks ago; I've been trying not writing when I don't really have the words in me, so I logged on to this MMORPG I'm lately obsessed with and played a bit.  And in this game I have a female toon, Stephanie Maturin, named after the sidekick in the Patrick O'Brian books.

And I have Stephanie out there on a fleet mission, blowing up some Borg with some other players, and at some point this person using the handle "Aestu" (and also, perhaps oddly, playing a female toon) begins talking about what an angry feminist girl gamer I must be, because, apparently, I use capitalization and punctuation in the chat box when messaging other team members.

I know, weird, right?

But the really weird part is he--if it's a he, gods know, "Aestu" might have been an actual girl gamer who was trolling ((s)he seemed at least vaguely familiar with Hanna Rosin; then again, I'm a guy and I'm vaguely familiar with Hanna Rosin)--the weird part, as I was saying, was that (s)he/it kept on rolling with it.  I tried to deflect it with a comment about working through his neuroses after the battle was over, but he kept on going, going, going.  Obsessively, compulsively.  Maybe I should feel bad about joking about the guy being a neurotic.

Then the mission was over, we all returned to wherever we'd been in the Trek universe before we'd been called together to shoot at things--and the guy keeps going.  I kind of experimentally wanted to see how long he'd go on, but eventually confessed I have balls--and he didn't believe me.  And kept lecturing me about feminism being a dying movement and he has some kind of duty to belittle it and feminists in order to drive it underground, and he had some kind of weird metaphor involving the final scene from X2 (which I admit I'd completely forgotten about--a tiny blow to my geek cred, I'm afraid), and so on and so forth.  It was just weird.

I don't know if he'll show up around here or not.  I asked him to visit the blog and look at the author photo.  Don't know if he'll comment or not if he straggles round.

If he does, he's expecting a "vitriolic blurb".  (I told him I might just write about the whole thing.)  I enjoy vitriol, as regulars know, but I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint: I found the whole experience a little surreal and pathetic.

But I was also painfully aware that I have a luxury in feeling that way: after all, this guy's bullying another man, which makes the whole thing sad and funny.  And I turn off the computer and I'm not going to go into work in the morning and have someone make a comment about my tits or ass or how I'm dressed; I'm never going to get wolf-whistled, ironically or otherwise; I'm never going to have to wonder if I was passed up for a raise or promotion is because of my gender.  I get to laugh the whole thing off, shake my head at the wonderment that this guy seems to be dead certain I'm a woman because of the way I type.

I have to wonder how I'd feel if I were my little sister, reading this text scrolling by in the little box on the edge of the screen, or how the ScatterKat would have viewed the whole affair if she'd been down here instead of having retired early to bed.  I have to think I'd probably be really angry and upset if I had a lousy day at work, came home to retreat into a fun little fantasy, and then had some wiseacre calling me, "just a feminist loser" in a direct message, or announcing to a team I was a part of, "the reason stupid girl gamer trash like Maturin worship feminist idols who are so idealized they are essentially fiction is because they fail at competing in life".  (I'm not inventing these lines: I CTRL-A'd and C'd the chatbox and copied it into a Notepad file before I logged off for the night.)

Yeah, I think I'd be pretty pissed.

And there are two things about this, one of which is that there are people who wonder why there aren't more females playing games, and of course this is one of the biggest reasons: that there are people who will attempt to drive them away merely because it amuses them in some obscure way.  You have to wonder what's wrong with these people, what's wrong with them that that's how they get satisfaction.

And the other is that it's somehow even sadder when this kind of thing is happening in Mr. Roddenberry's neighborhood.  I don't want to oversell the man or blindly extol the guy, who absolutely had his shortcomings on the gender issue.  He had a kind of lecherous reputation and there were the infamous astronauts-in-miniskirts-and-go-go-boots running errands on the good ship Enterprise.  He once described a character thus: "a strip-queen figure even a uniform cannot hide.... She undoubtedly dreams of serving Robert April with equal efficiency in personal departments."  And yet I don't think it's at all unfair to point out that said infamous miniskirts were part of a second-pilot effort to make the show sexier and cooler, and that Star Trek's original pilot,"The Cage", featured a female first officer who was clearly intended to fill the role Leonard Nimoy's Spock ended up playing when they revamped and mostly recast the show (Nimoy appeared in both pilots, but the original star of Trek, Jeffrey Hunter, was replaced by William Shatner; John Hoyt by DeForest Kelley, etc.).  In spite of sharing a lot of his generation's attitudes about gender and race, Roddenberry was, I think, always straining at the bounds, always trying to imagine a more-inclusive universe, always coming back to the idea that people were people (whether or not he always managed to see the individuals he worked with or wrote about quite so free and clear of whatever soft bigotries he sometimes couldn't wholly get past).

You might think everybody playing a Star Trek game would be a feminist, or feminist-ish.  Or something.  You certainly would think that anyone attracted to the optimism and ideologies that Roddenberry put front-and-center in Trek (even when they got in the way of storytelling, which was especially a problem in early seasons of The Next Generation) would be anti-bullying, would be kind and more forgiving.  The chat channel, of late, has actually been depressingly filled with a fair amount of bigoted chatter, much of which I expect will fade away as we get farther from the political season here in the States. And then there's somebody like this "Aestu" character, who gets his kicks relentlessly disparaging someone--in a game set in a 'verse where that kind of behavior is explicitly derided as archaic and uncivilized.

It's kinda a bummer.

Coincidentally, this came up randomly on the playlist when I was tweeting that someone had tried to amuse himself abusing me.  Seemed a little apt and I might as well toss it up as an epilogue.


Megan Friday, November 30, 2012 at 9:01:00 AM EST  

Using capitalization and punctuation in the chat box? You have never been hotter.

Janiece Friday, November 30, 2012 at 9:07:00 AM EST  

I agree with Megan. Rowr.

But yeah. Welcome to our world.

TimBo Friday, November 30, 2012 at 12:35:00 PM EST  

The Canadian one dollar coin, with a picture of a loon on one side (and a bird on the other), is called the Loonie. The two dollar coin is the Tooonie. As a Canadian I find your link to the definition of the word Toon to be accurate. I think we missed a big opportunity to call it a Dubloonie.

And I guess that's the only comment I can come up with about a post about sexism. Preparing for Janice to call me an asshole ... ;-)

Janiece Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:04:00 PM EST  

Hehe. I apologized for that, TimBo.

TimBo Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:38:00 PM EST  

I know you did, Janice, but now I will use it against you forever. Bhahahaha!

Eric Friday, November 30, 2012 at 9:16:00 PM EST  

It was a pick-up group queue: next five in line for the ride, etc.

Looking at his comments on the Star Trek Online forum boards, it's a toss up as to whether anyone who'd dealt with him much would invite him: he tends to be condescending and arrogant, but does seem to have a solid familiarity with the game. Probably a useful troll to have around so long as you don't actually have to talk to him.

Janiece Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 1:03:00 PM EST  

I was actually asking about TimBo, but since it's your blog, and all, I suppose I shouldn't bitch too much about you getting back on topic...

Eric Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 1:48:00 AM EST  

My getting back on topic was purely accidental: I misunderstood your question.

A year ago, I wasn't playing any MMORPGs and wasn't sure if I ever would (a bunch of us had discussed Star Wars: The Old Republic and signing up when it came out, etc., but I wasn't wholly committed). Old Republic came out in December and around the end of the month, I downloaded it and started playing. Played for a few months and it was terrible, but it got me interested in trying others--DC Universe Online and now Trek.

Point being, the whole culture is new to me. I sometimes have to look up lingo and acronyms online. Etc. So asking how a total stranger ends up on your team--or how you, as a stranger, end up on someone else's--seems like a perfectly reasonable question to me, the kind of thing I might not have known the answer to this time last year, though it's possible everyone else here already knew that. But, anyway: seemed like it could be a reasonable question.

TimBo Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 9:49:00 AM EST  

I thought you were talking about me but when I saw Eric's reply I didn't want to reveal how self centered I am.

I wasn't invited, I pay Eric for the Platinum subscription to SOTSOGM which specifically allows me to make silly comments that Eric is obligated to leave until he notices them. It's expensive but I think ultimately worth it.

- CGL - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 10:56:00 AM EST  

I think this post is one of my favorites, Eric-San ... And I miss your writing. (Self-identifying as a Spoiled Blog Reader, I'm afraid.)

Fortunately, my friend made me aware of this Highly Useful Positive Reinforcement Tool for writers, which I am happy to be able to share with you:

Thank you for your insight and your humor and your marvelously offbeat way of looking at the universe. You are wildly appreciated!

Aestu Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 1:01:00 PM EST  

Hi, this is Aestu, came across your blog Googling my own name.

You're not a man, pretend all you like, you're not, no man thinks as you do, with all your pontificating about "male privilege" and how butthurt you were someone said something you didn't like.

The fact that you need to pretend to be a man to feel you have credibility just demonstrates what a fraud feminism is and how profound your self loathing is.

Feminism doesn't exist in the world of Gene Roddenberry because it's contrary to the message of Star Trek which is one of tolerance and human dignity.

It's no coincidence that the later Star Trek series in which feminism figured prominently (DS9/Voyager) were also the worst and ran counter to Roddenberry's message of tolerance (i.e., DS9 with the whole "Hogan's Heroes" bit).

The fact you need to lie about who you are and what you believe, and that you're so incredibly bothered someone sees you for what you are and says it like it is betrays that your ideology of hate is doomed. Had a good laugh though.

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