By Anthroslug - 18 Apr 2012

The Friend Zone…Like the Twilight Zone, but Less Real

[This originally appeared on Anthroslug’s personal blog on April 2, 2012.]

I loathe the term “the Friend Zone.”  It is one of those terms that seems to get thrown around without much thought, generally by men as an excuse for why they have had little success with dating and/or sex.  My dislike for this term comes from my often-stated dislike for sloppy thinking and irrational claims, and as such I am not going to get into a discussion of whether or not the idea of the Friend Zone is born out of issues pertaining to privilege or misogyny (besides, more articulate individuals than myself have already done so).  Instead I will explain that my dislike for the term and concept comes from the sheer idiocy of it.

First, a bit of background.  I used to believe in the Friend zone.  More, I thought that I was one of it’s sad inhabitants.  Throughout my teens and much of my 20s, I made very little progress on the relationship front, often feeling bewildered by the social situations in which I found myself, finding that anytime a woman was interested in me as anything more than a friend, she lost interest relatively quickly, and I usually ended up feeling hurt.  Like many young men, I found myself looking at the poor treatment being dished out by some of the other young men, and figured that women were attracted to assholes.  Unlike some other young men, though, I at least was reflective enough to see that my own behaviors likely had something to do with me being alone.  Still, nonetheless, I believed that there was a “friend zone” from which one could not return once banished, and that it was populated with nice young men like myself.

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By Sasha - 16 Apr 2012

I’m not a racist but why are there brown people in my game?

There aren't many D&D characters who look like this.

Today I’m going to put on my nerd hat. I’m a tabletop roleplayer. I’ve been playing D&D and similar games since I was 12: 24 years. Over on Tor.com Mordicai Knode wrote a great editorial calling for a greater depiction of diversity in the human characters from the art directors of the upcoming new edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Most commenters are in favorite of the idea. Some even pointed to a great Kickstarter project to hire artists to create a free library of art depicting diverse heroes for other creators to use. I applaud this project and encourage you to donate.

Some dudes are all bent out of shape. There were even charges that the original plea and the Kickstarter are “race baiting”. I want to focus on one comment from one commenter, though. You see there’s a totally-not-racist guy calling himself leame who has a hard time identifying with people of color and proposes a “Separate but Equal” approach to fantasy gaming art: (more…)

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By Sasha - 13 Apr 2012

We Need to Talk: Can men be feminists?

There is a debate within feminism about men. That debate is whether a man can really call himself a feminist. Some argue that since men have privilege that women do not have we cannot really understand the lives of women and therefore can be pro-feminist nit not actually be called feminists. Others say that this is limiting and is in it’s own way sexist, creating a women-only club that needlessly excludes male allies.

What do you think? Can men ever really be feminists? Is it oppressive or colonialist for men like me to call myself a feminist rather than pro-feminist or a feminist ally?

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By Matt - 11 Apr 2012

The Death of Trayvon Martin and How Far We Have To Go

I think by now you’d have to have been living in a rather deep, dark hole to not have heard at least something about the sad case of Trayvon Martin’s death at the hands of George Zimmerman.  Rather than rehash a lot of what has been hashed out and speculated upon ad nauseam regarding the case, I would like to speak to what I see as some broader questions.

First, I will say that the purpose of this blog post is not to make an argument for the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman, nor will I speculate on whether or not Trayvon Martin instigated the encounter, nor will I go into the question of whether or not so-called “stand your ground” laws are a good idea.  I feel, given my lack of solid knowledge of specific details of the incident, it would be irresponsible for me to take a public stance one way or the other on any of those questions.  If you’re reading this entry looking for an opinion on or answers to those questions, then you might as well stop now.

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By Sasha - 09 Apr 2012

“I just see people.”

"I just see...people."

One thing that white men like myself really love to say is “I just see people.” This is super easy for us to do. It lets us tell the world “Hey, I totally don’t mind that you’re black/a woman/disabled/queer/trans” while also apparently letting us get out of actually acknowledging privilege and oppression. It also lets us change the subject so that we don’t have to keep listening to oppressed people’s feelings. THe thing is, you can’t opt out of society that way. People of color are oppressed. Women are oppressed. Disabled people are oppressed. Queer people are oppressed. Trans people are oppressed. Just because we aren’t oppressed and just because we don’t personally have a problem with any of those oppressed people doesn’t mean we get away with just saying “I just see people” and changing the subject.

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By Sasha - 06 Apr 2012

We Need to Talk: What pissed you off this week?

Good, it’s Friday. I’ve written before about microaggressions, those tiny, maybe apparently innocuous phrases, questions or comments that make us feel excluded, insulted, or objectified. I had one of those happened to me yesterday. Remember how Wednesday I wrote about my body and how my deviation from our cultural “norm” sometimes makes people feel entitled to treat me as an object? The very next day I was riding my train home from work. I was listening to music and reading. A teenager stopped in front of me and started talking. I paused the music, set down my Kindle and said “What?” The kid replied “I’m selling chocolate to raise money for school. Want to help? I know you like candy.” Because I’m fat, ya know.

What did someone say or do to you that pissed you off, made you feel self-conscious, or singled out because of your difference from the (white, male, theist, thin, able-bodied, straight, cis) “norm”? How did you feel? Did you reply?

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By Sasha - 04 Apr 2012

Public Bodies

Your freakish author with Phil Plait, 2011 (Photo: Taylor Proctor)

I’m a very large man. I’m 6’5″ (~196 cm) tall and weigh in around 400 pounds (~181 kg). I started losing my hair when I was 16 years old. I wear glasses. Those are things I have little-to-no control over. I also have tattoos that are almost always visible and a beard ranging from goatee-and-mustache with stubble to full, depending on how ambitious I’ve been lately. I’m funny looking. My appearance attracts attention.

Not only would I make a terrible bank robber because of how easy I am to pick out of a line-up, but my appearance frequently invites comment from strangers on the street. I’m asked if I play basketball, football, or if I’m a wrestler. Drunks say “I wouldn’t want to fight you!” When I worked in a night club drunks would attack me to prove their courage. More commonly they say or shout “Damn, you’re big!” Usually once a week complete strangers ask me how tall I am. Monthly a stranger violates social taboos and asks what I weigh.

I’ve had more than my share of very uncomfortable moments in elevators and other enclosed spaces where people violate my personal space to discuss my body. Usually they are curious, often they are insulting, occasionally they are threatening. In our society I have privilege as a man. I don’t usually worry about violence being done against me, but there are times that privilege is gone. There are times when I am reduced to my body and feel harassed, annoyed, and even unsafe.

My point here is not to feel sorry for myself. What I’m talking about is that my freakish body gives me an occasional, unpleasant, and very unsettling glimpse at what every woman lives with every momement of every day. I am singled out and I am objectified (and not in the sexual way we usually think of when we use that word) because my body deviates from the norm. In our society every woman is treated as if her body is abnormal. By being gendered as a woman in society makes her body public.

I sure as fuck hate that that happens to me, I’m sure you would hate if that happened to you, and I can only imagine how maddening and frightening it is for women.

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By Sasha - 02 Apr 2012

I am an angry feminist.

Whenever someone points out that someone, somewhere has said or done something sexist there’s a dude who chimes in with “But not all men are like that…” Then they or someone else gets angry and says that the person pointing out the sexism is a bigot or a misandrist or is making sloppy generalization because, you know, not all men are like that. (We’ll save for another time why so many male atheists think “not all Christians are like that” is silly but stick to their guns on this one.) I get angry too when someone points out sexism. I get angry at the sexists.

Once upon a time I was one of those insecure, defensive dudes who felt like any discussion of men doing something wrong was somehow personal. I always wanted to stand up and say “But I’m not like that!” Sometimes I even did. Then I thought about why I felt so defensive. If I’m not a sexist, why do I get so butt-hurt when someone talks about male sexism? I think it is because I thought I was an innocent bystander and my malenesss excluded me from doing anything but not being sexist. Then I realized how silly that was. In the 1950s and ’60s many white people stood beside people of color and decried racism. They got angry at the injustices they saw and they did something about it.

Since then my policy has been “don’t get defensive, get angry.” I get angry that people are doing shitty things. I get angry that more men don’t get angry at sexism, but get angry as people pointing out sexism. There’s nothing wrong with being angry, especially not an angry feminist. We have a lot to be angry about. When you decide that theists calling you an Angry Atheist completely undermine your argument we’ll listen when you tell us not to be so angry.

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By Sasha - 30 Mar 2012

We Need to Talk: Harassment Policies

After work today I’m heading to literary science fiction/fantasy convention. I’m pretty excited. It’s probably too late for you this year, but next year you should consider going to FOGcon here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ll buy you a drink.

Anyhow, FOGcon has a clearly articulated and posted policy on harassment. This is something many conventions and conferences do. TAM has one as well, but there was a bit of a furor over it, including talk of boycotting the event.

What are the benefits, for you, of their being a clearly stated and enforced policy on harassment? What arguments have you heard against such policies? Is there an argument against a harassment policy being written, posted, and enforced that isn’t horrible?

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By Sasha - 29 Mar 2012

5 Ways Skeptic Men Are Trained to Hate Women

Some men see this as a trophy holding a trophy.

Over on Cracked.com David Wong has a piece titled “5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women” that I though would be useful as a tool to explain the ways that the “But I’m an atheist…” argument doesn’t hold water. Just because you’re a skeptic or and atheist doesn’t mean that you’re not influenced by the society around you. Here are some examples:

#5. We Were Told That Society Owed Us a Hot Girl

If you pay attention you’re going to notice that many of the women who get the most hate from skeptical and atheist anti-feminists when they speak out about women’s issues are younger, and more conventionally attractive. I don’t want to name specific examples because I’m reticent to make their appearance more of an issue than it already it. But basically, when the pretty woman they have a crush on isn’t interested in them or doesn’t agree with them, they get angry.

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