Wall of text warning.
No day passes where my Twitter feed doesn‘t see some action about sexism / feminism. The article that kicked off writing these words is this one from Fast Company: The Tallest Tower In The U.S. Is Being Built By A Woman, and I’m thinking: is it really the fact that she's a woman the most important thing you need to feature in the headline?
But then doubt creeps in. It seems historically when I thought I grokked a topic, and I mustered some courage to say something, I got it wrong; not because I’m an asshole, but because I failed to understand something core to the topic. The kind of wrong when there’s an abrupt silence in a very crowded place and everyone will hear the next few words you utter. How could they not, those are the only words audible at the time. And you get it wrong. So historically I learned to just ignore controversial topics altogether.
This I can’t. I want gender equality too. Not to receive cookies, but because I see no reason why another human being should be discriminated because they happen to be of a certain gender, whether biological or the one they identify with. See, here’s another fear: in my ignorance, did I get this wrong? Have I inadvertently phrased something in a way that it’s offensive towards a group of people? Is my use of group of people offensive even? Is my thinking that I could be offensive offensive? Is using the word offensive offensive? Do I seem like I’m taking the piss out of the whole topic? (No, I do not.) Am I going to have hateful comments because I focus on gender solely and I don’t go into details of all the other sections?
I feel like my heart’s in the right place, and I genuinely do want to do good. It’s rather overwhelming to read all the blog posts about how to talk to women at conferences, how not to talk to women at conferences, how to respond to them on IRC, Github conversations, Twitter, as a colleague. Reading hard data about gender discrimination?
There is no gender on the internet, only data pic.twitter.com/AKMGldM0BK— S.M.H. Jeong (@sarahjeong) September 25, 2014
Should I punch other men when they’re being dicks? Who am I to judge if they’re being dicks? At what point is it okay for me to speak up and tell other men to cut back on the bro culture? At what point does it go from friendly banter to bro culture? Yes, when women are directly being harassed, to their face / profile / email / phone, this isn’t a question.
Do we hold ourselves back making ourselves bland and boring because we fear to add character lest we trigger people? There is no possibility of playing safe, people’s preferences are sometimes mutually exclusive.
I don’t even know whether I am allowed to call myself a feminist even though I think I am supporting everything that it stands for. It’s just I see so many examples of feminists outing other feminists that I am losing focus. Take this article on the OxfordWords Blog: Feminist language: 5 terms you need to know, in which one can read that, after her UN speech, fourth wave feminists “accused Watson of all sorts of crimes, most particularly that her speech was heteronormative and lacked an awareness of intersectionality”. Why? What are fourth wave feminists even? What is this “wave”? Should I care? Should I know? I mean according to them, obviously, but in reality, does it really matter if I know what any of those terms are?
I read one article, possibly on Medium, about what men can do, that basically outlined that if men even start asking questions about this, that’s a start. (I’m sorry, I forgot which one it was.) I feel slightly guilty about this article, being a boatload of questions. If I were to attack myself, I would say that I am trying to absolve myself for all the crimes that I may have or would probably do.
On the flipside, I do enjoy spending time on www.thechive.com, partly because of the oft hilarious IDGAF compilations, other times for the Sexy Chivers who are Among Us. Am I objectifying women when I look at cute girls who, to the best of my knowledge, gave consent to have their selfies on a high-traffic blog? Am I objectifying women when I enjoy the sight of scantily clad women stretching their tops on the same site? Again, to the best of my knowledge, consensually.
Am I being a prick when I make a joke at the expense of women / girlfriends? Or the stereotypes we all have in our heads? Am I being a prick if those jokes are the same jokes I was smiling at 20 years ago in primary school in a different country? Am I being a prick if the same joke still works if we swap the genders around?
Do all of those make me a bad person? Now that this is known of me — that I enjoy The Chive’s blog posts, and I like to crack jokes I grew up on — make me a bad person? Will I be labeled as the asshole that should be shunned at conferences?
I am highly aware that I have it better than the vast majority of the population on this floating mudball, and I genuinely want to help as much as I can, using as much of my agency as I can.
But sometimes I have no idea whether the thing I’m doing, always mindful about this, is in line with what’s expected of a cisgender white male living in the developed world. Phil Fish is here because what the video is about is related. It’s not about an indie games designer / producer.
I honstly have all these questions at every waking moment. I ask for your patience, and if anything, please point out if I’m being a dick, and tell me what exactly I did that made that thing a dick move, and how it made you feel. I can learn from it, I will learn from it. That much I can definitely promise.