Army Badgers

Details aside, TERfs are basically gender-swapped incels. Or perhaps more to the point, I’m surprised I haven’t seen much comparison between TERfs and Gators.

They both base so much of their rage in this concept of, “How dare you fakers take away these things that make us feel special and different; get out of our reserved space.” It’s not even a matter of appropriation; it’s of disgust and shame, filled with strawmen:

  • What if someone thinks I’m one of you?
  • What if I am forced to like penises?
  • What if someone takes our panty shots away!

It’s this need to feel individually special, basing it in these external factors and declaring they’re endemic, and freaking out more than anything at the threat of their identities being eroded by letting too many of the impure past the gates. (Ergo, the route to Nazism for all these groups.)

It’s complicated, as whereas Gamers are clearly not a marginalized, vulnerable, or protected group, fully half of our society is still considered slightly less human than the other half. But there’s a difference between looking for equity and human rights, and making a clubhouse—and TERf ideology is entirely like Gator culture. It’s about how we have our own things; we’ve made our culture where we can pretend no one else exists but us, and we’re the powerful ones; now you go away—which is, like, that’s a mockery of what feminism is and stands for. It’s exactly like the Games-Are-Art-but-Keep-your-Politics-Out-of-Games business. What are you doing? Not what you profess you’re doing. You’re not actually trying to make things better. You’re just feuding. But, that’s also where the MRA/incel ideology comes in—this toxic feudalism, where instead of addressing the problems you’re facing, you stake camp, build up an echo chamber, and make everyone outside the walls a bogeyman.

It’s all so fucking middle class. It’s so barfy. It’s just like these MAGAs demanding they get their pedicures and food service. It’s not about the feet or the food; it’s a power thing. They base their identities on a unique superiority over another group based on various signifiers of an in-group or social success or whatever. It’s this mode of thought that interprets respect as obedience, rather than as compassion.

We perceive (correctly, in the case of women; LOL in the case of Gamers) that society does not afford us our due respect, so we will make our own club tailored to our whims where we get to pull all the strings—as opposed to, you know, working to make the real world kinder.

Kindness is for rubes. This world, it’s all about who wins. (Ergo in part why Gamers go fucking ballistic about difficulty levels and things, i guess.) if you win on your own terms, that takes away from our indicators of power and value. Don’t you fucking dare sell your Bitcoin.

All these groups, they’re microcosms of this capitalist nightmare we’re caught up in where we’re pitted against each other for power and resources and our precious bodily fluids; encouraged to factionalize while the gentry sucks the last juice from the husk of society. This is what the ruling class wants from us; it’s what it’s always wanted. Just so long as we keep thinking we could be one of them if we play the game right, and that the only thing stopping us is everyone else in our way—then none of us will think to look up.

And if you happen to not give a shit about winning, and just want to live your life without suffering and as compassionately as you can within the limits of your current understanding, then you’re not playing the game. You’re breaking the rules. You’re negating all their hard work. Time to doxx you, and rid the world of this dangerous anarchist element.

These groups are all the same. All that distinguishes them is the signifiers; the purity badges they wear. Fourteen words, and all. We’re the pure ones. Society is war, they all say, and we’re gonna win, y’all.

And this is how we lose each other. This is how we lose ourselves. This is how we lose the world that we live in. All out of fear someone else has a better bike.

A notable element of the dynamic is the mechanism of picking a demographic who is more vulnerable than the group and labeling them a danger to the group’s identity and way of life; an infiltrating power representative of all the group stands against. Doesn’t matter who; it’s all Mad Libs:

  • For Gators, women and queers and racial minorities are everyone oppressing them by suggesting different angles to the medium than a cishet white male power fantasy.
  • For incels, women unfairly control the bedroom
  • For TERfs, trans women are men trying to, uh, colonize femininity.

Never mind that one for one, each of these outside groups is substantially more vulnerable in society at large. It’s just that when you live in a (gamer) gated community, you’re not a part of society. Society is the danger. And oh no, here it comes. Fetch your rifle.

Note also the way that these groups conflate power and pleasure: identity is self-actualization, is power. Consent and autonomy for others are the antithesis to joy for the self. The thing that your existence threatens to diminish or take away from me, make a mockery of, it’s the thing that gives me carnal joy: pedicures, sex, a certain kind of boring videogame, sex without a potential for penis. This is what freedom means; never checking with someone else first.

Capitalism, baby. The middle class. The power to do what we want, with no questions. You’re not my dad.

Under capitalism, kindness is weakness; it’s submission to someone else’s power. I’m no wimp; I won’t bow to you; how fucking dare you ask me to be kind.

And yeah, for all these groups predation goes right along with the ideology—so of course they project and expect it in others, so as to distract from or justify their own behavior.

It’s what winners do.

The Means of Narration

We need more stories, because stories are power.

Stories change norms just by existing, and centering a perspective as real and heroic. The right had always understood this shit. This is how they keep shifting public opinion over the line of absurdity over and over.

Look how quickly opinions shifted once the protests started, and people got a new story, with new heroes.

Stories outlive civilization. They’re all we’ve got of what came before, and who knows what they leave out.

They’re the most powerful weapons and the most powerful shields, because they’re a statement of value. Every story serves to set terms for what we hold normal and right. They shape reality more than stones, because our reality is us. It’s just people.

The very nature of stories is people over property. Stories themselves are made to be comrades. Intellectual property is a sinister concept, that could only exist under capitalism. It’s a form of servitude of the human spirit,

Control the means of narration. Assert your stories. Make them real in the telling.

Bogey Town

So much of my abuse experience has been guilt over thinking about it, labeling it, bringing it up at all—comparing it to worst-case scenarios and thinking it wasn’t as bad as that, beating myself up for being so weak as to be affected like this, point to anyone other than myself. Then I actually recount what happened, and I see how alarmed people become, and I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface. And I read others’ accounts, and I read long articles and manuals about abuse, and they’re like a glossary of my experience. I’m told it’s a textbook case. Then I look for any little crack. Surely I must be exaggerating. There must be an extenuating factor. It has to be my fault somehow. I know I didn’t always act perfectly either. Sometimes things just happen and they’re messy. Then I look at the damage I’m still working through.

It’s, like. The self-doubt. This is what keeps people down. This is why people don’t speak out. The mind games. Abusers seek out people with low confidence, and they write the story. They make it clear that any contradiction is a betrayal, and in fact an attack on them.

It’s so hard to resolve the imbalance. The mind, it keeps dancing to make things equal. Yes, they did this, but… either it’s not as heavy as it looks or it must offset something on my end. One is so trained toward fairness. A sense of reason. I must have deserved it somehow. Approached as a closed system, you keep adjusting the scale, trying to make it even out. It has to make sense. The person you rely on for everything, that you invest everything in, you adore so deeply, it must have taken something huge on your end for them to treat you like this.

I have breathing problems. It’s not a physical thing; it’s that I keep forgetting to breathe. Even when I remember, stress constricts my airways. For close to a decade I had this mysterious chronic cough and lightheadedness, that went away as soon as I was on my own again.

I used to be a singer, technically. I at least had years of singing lessons. The thing that came hardest to me was breath control. The slightest anxiety, and my body cinched up. My lung capacity shriveled. I didn’t have the tools to work against it, or even communicate my trouble.

My voice lesson the other day, I brought this up. They suggested a few ways to break the tension—applying some outside pressure, some other frame of reference. Pressing on the diaphragm with the heel of one’s hand, for instance. And it’s tough, but it sort of works. So far.

And that’s why they isolate you. That’s why they try to strip you of your friends, your tools, your resources. Why they insist talking about even neutral internal business is considered a betrayal of trust. Because their control is predicated entirely on a closed system. The moment you start to talk about what’s been happening, the moment people can give you feedback, that you can start to compare notes, the system begins to break down. They no longer control the scale. And that’s the moment they live in terror of. Because, what comes next?

This is the moment that it feels like we are entering as a society. Hundreds of years of abuse, it’s all starting to come out. Everyone the world over, to an extent regardless of ideology, is starting to recognize it for what it is—while the powerful scramble, and scream. In the way that they will.

There’s a reason we don’t have healthcare.

There’s a reason we don’t have food.

There’s a reason we don’t have guaranteed housing.

There’s a reason we’re poor.

There’s a reason we’re punished so heavily, for minor offenses.

There’s a reason we’re triangulated against each other.

None of this is natural. None of it has to be like this. We deserve better. We deserve to have our own lives. To be allowed to care about each other. This is all done to us. And just the littlest resistance, it scares them this much.

Their hold is so tenuous. It’s all a story. It’s the story written in these statues that we’re tearing down. It’s a story that weaves and wraps through every unnatural system we’re taught to rely on for our basic survival. Wall Street. Banks. Corporations. This notion of a 9-to-5 job. Productivity. Real estate. Copyright. It’s all just a story.

We can write a new one. A just one. We have everything we need to take care of each other. What if we just… did it?

To every oppressor, and to those who benefit from abuse, the abused are internalized as the bogeyman. They have to keep up the abuse, because what if one day the victims activate and turn against them? If the victims are ostensibly freed, then what if they come back for revenge?

This is in particular the white narrative in this country, and in every other colonial society. It’s the basis for every horror story we tell. There’s a reason zombies are based on Haitian culture. Haiti, the free Black nation that famously overthrew white rule, that we have punished ever since out of fear the ideas might spread. What if They turned on us? What if They came back, and we were called to pay for our sins?

This is the fear on an individual level. This is the fear on a structural level. It’s the fear the in-some-way privileged are coached to repeat to ourselves in our deepest metaphors. It becomes justification for every abuse. It’s necessary, because it’s too late now.

To which my brain responds with… say, for instance, CHAZ. Weeks of police violence; then out of terror of retribution, they left the station to the masses… who occupied that fraught space, and started a farmer’s market.

I’m not talking forgiveness, because what good is that and what does it even mean, really. I just mean, like. Who gives a shit about them. All their power is illusory. We don’t have to grant it. What if we just ignored them, and checked on each other instead. That whole thing where you see someone in danger—a woman, BIPOC, Muslim, queer—and you step between them. You ignore the attacker and you just check in with your old friend whom you’ve never met before. Demonstrate solidarity in the face of irrelevance. Often that’s all it takes.

What they fear more than anything is a loss of power, of irrelevance. Of our realizing we don’t need them, we don’t have to fear them. That we can take care of each other. That against every story we’re told, kindness and compassion and support are what make a functioning world.

I am still very ill, and fraught, and stretched too thin to clearly see, and I don’t know what I have to give at the moment, either materially or emotionally. It’s all theoretical. But. Maybe it’s time to trust a bit in compassion, and a recognition that we are in this together.

The Norm, and Conquest

It bothers me when pundits talk about “destroying norms” like it’s a bad thing. We should constantly be examining and dismantling norms as a matter of procedure. This is how, e.g., science works. What is a problem is when we replace them with much worse, more damaging norms.

That is what freaks people out about Bernie and causes them to equate him with Trump. They’re both out to destroy our norms! It’s the Norman Conquest!

Our norms fucking suck. This is why Trump got elected. People wanted rid of them so much they didn’t care what came next.

Neoliberalism is a lattice of norms that serve to complicate and hide and rationalize the garbage that people have to go through every day, explaining why they should never hope for anything better. It puts people in categories and places while claiming enlightenment.

Norms suck. They only make sense as temporary placeholders, that you check every fucking time you access them to see if they’re still applicable and relevant. And if not, you replace them with something better. This is how life and knowledge and empathy all work.

As an autistic, this point especially rankles. I get a PTSD trigger out of this sense that we need to adhere to unspoken structures just because they exist, never question them. No, dammit. Always ask, why are we doing this? What does it assume? Who does it serve?

Can we be doing this better? Or is this just to protect the power structure?

Because that’s always what it is, right.

Norms are politesse. Politesse is power gaming.

This is what allows the powerful to set people against each other, by saying, “Hey, that vulnerable group is saying it’s impolite for you to behave like this! The snobs! Are you gonna just take that from them?!”

When you’re all wound up, just being asked to be kind to another person can be confused for more bureaucracy meant to put you in your place. Neoliberalism and fascism both depend on this bafflement, which is what makes them such close allies.

Fascism is all about smashing norms as a gesture of progress, only to replace them with even more restrictive norms, over and over, putting people in even smaller boxes. So it’s exasperating, but for the neoliberal, HEY AT LEAST THEY ARE BUILDING NEW NORMS. AND WE’RE STILL SAFE.

“We” of course meaning the business and pundit class. Not the people who need to live (or not) in this society.

Socialism threatens to take away that whole power infrastructure and give nothing in return, because that structure that demands never to be questioned is itself the problem.

Like, new structures will appear! But they will be built to purpose, and reexamined as that purpose shifts.

I can’t deal with invisible power structures. Which is a big reason I am such a mess. Why I have historically gotten in so much trouble. Sometimes for, like, having the wrong expression on my face. Nobody likes them except those they serve. But I in particular cannot manage.

I have zero sympathy for rounding the wagons and protecting the precious norms. The white settlers. Clutching their pearls.

Dismantle it all. Carefully. Like an archeologist, removing a relic from its crust. Pack it away to a museum somewhere appropriate to show how things were.

Life goes on. Work with those who exist here and now, and those we can reasonably expect to come. Meet the needs that exist in the world.

For the norms that are really trenched in good, well.

The Politics in Doctor Who

A fellow on reddit (yes, I know) with a history of GamerGate-related posts went on a tirade in response to another redditor’s post that engaged with a Mark Gatiss episode on a critical level. It wasn’t even that deep; it was that whole “Unquiet Dead” business, where the plot is about refugees who play on sympathies to gain entry to one’s country in order to attack it within. Which, you know, ick. Especially in the current context of Brexit. Mark Gatiss clearly didn’t intend the most obvious reading of the work, but then he’s not a very deep thinker about these things.

Anyway, as they do, the GamerGate fellow rambled on about ethics in Doctor Who commentary and whatnot, insisting that the other redditor was imagining things to suit their agenda, and that politics have no place in Doctor Who and have never been a part of the show except for where people like Russell T Davies have brought them in.

This is, of course, an amazing thing to claim. Yes, there’s all the overt political commentary that Davies and, to a lesser degree, Moffat have brought to the show in recent years — “massive weapons of destruction” and all. But it goes way deeper than that. So, trigger my response:

And Malcolm Hulke, Barry Letts, Andrew Cartmel — all very engaged. Hartnell’s third season had a stern reactionary in charge for part of it, and boy did that affect the show’s tone.

All art is political, by the virtue of being the product of a human being with a perspective on life who exists in a social context. Any art that is consciously apolitical is also political, in that it is saying the status quo is just fine, thank you. It’s making a judgment as to what is and is not appropriate to discuss, which is extremely political.

Screenwriting like any art is a form of communication. By necessity what is being communicated is a result of the author’s frame of reference. The author may or may not consciously draw conclusions (Gatiss does not), but by translating and reiterating that material you are in effect propagating and condoning it. In Gatiss’ case, his source material is in fact conscious and deliberate in its commentary. Nigel Neale is far from subtle in his reactionary views. Quatermass IV is entirely about those dirty hippies and the danger they bring. Earlier stories are consciously about fear of attacks or negative influence from outside the UK’s borders. He never made a secret of that. And when you internalize and then regurgitate this material without considering its meaning… you’re really misfiring as an artist, to start with.

It’s probably worth considering that the very creation of Doctor Who was a political act.

In the 1960s, the BBC was losing viewers hand over fist to its competitor, ITV — so they called in a Canadian expert, Sydney Newman, to figure out what was going on and take whatever steps were necessary to fix it. The problem was pretty obvious: ITV spoke to people in a way that the BBC didn’t. Whereas ITV consciously tried to show a variety of perspectives and reflect the lives of its viewers, the BBC was an establishment institution with a single very narrow perspective. It was staffed largely by old white upper-class or upper middle-class men, who attended the same few private schools — and so naturally its output reflected that, being mostly concerned with what upper-class white men with fancy schooling thought was worthwhile. You got lots of sniffy adaptations of The Classics; lots of prim and proper, uncontroversial children’s entertainment (often based on The Classics); lots of televised plays.

Newman came in, said “Bunk,” and set to overturning the apple cart. Let’s make programs that people actually want to watch. Everyone hated him for it, but he got results.

I’ll stop here to comment on motivation. Newman’s, and the BBC’s, reasons for all of these changes are more easily attributed to pragmatic factors than consciously ethical ones. That doesn’t change the substance and effect of the changes. If you endorse a bill for, I don’t know, gay marriage, you may well be doing it for the votes but you’re still carrying out a perspective with real meaning and potential consequence.

That out of the way, it is clear that the BBC’s exclusionary tendencies were high on Newman’s mind for more than just their poor business value. He was an outsider to the institution; a Canadian, a Jew, and not particularly high in the class structure. There were reasons that he understood a populist voice; he was in many ways sympathetic to a contrarian view toward the establishment.

To that end, he was really fond of science fiction — which at the time was considered extremely low art, and basically worthless on a cultural level. So of course, against all advice, he set about commissioning research to figure out how to make a worthwhile populist sci-fi show. On a bureaucratic level, this absolutely is a political move.

Then when he found a premise that he liked, he went out of his way to staff it with neglected voices. He hired on a young Jewish woman to be the first female, and one of the youngest ever, BBC producers. He hired on a young gay Indian director. This show was something that personally interested him. He wanted it to have a life outside of the old upper-class white male framework that defined most BBC output. This had to be new and fresh and exciting, which meant that it had to be the product of new, fresh (for the BBC), and exciting perspectives.

Doctor Who basically exists to flip the bird to the establishment and show what else is possible within the system that they set up — and, just to prove the power of getting weird, to get people watching.

As a result of this whole context, Doctor Who was pretty much a pariah within the BBC from the day of its commission to the day of its cancellation. It was never the correct thing, that the BBC was supposed to be doing. It was always a waste of valuable BBC resources.

This is political. And given this environment, it should be no surprise that the show’s content has nearly always been itself political, especially concerned with the voice of the disenfranchised. The Doctor has nearly always been portrayed as the underdog, an outsider, sympathetic to (for lack of a more inclusive term) humanitarian concerns. Weirdly enough, the most obvious counter-example is from an era largely guided by a Buddhist pacifist and a politically active Communist — but I guess the military framework provides all the better a canvas to explore things like Apartheid (The Mutants), indigenous rights (The Silurians), environmentalism (The Green Death), and what-have-you. Makes it easier to slip things in.

So, yeah. Of all shows, it’s a pretty strange thing to ask Doctor Who to avoid politics. But then, given how political that demand is in itself, it’s not a very rational argument in the first place…