QUILTBAG and Nature — Introduction

QUILTBAG (Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans, Bisexual, Asexual, Gay) — coined by Sadie Lee in a 2006 article for DIVA Magazine — is one of many attempts to cover the full range of gender and sex minorities. As the most inclusive I've personally ever seen (I'm cishet and not a Gender Studies scholar, so it's not like I'm an expert) and by far the easiest to remember of the acronyms I've encountered for the topic it's my favorite and the one I will be using for this series of essays.

What prompted me to take on this topic was the endless barrage of eye-rollingly bad appeals to nature aimed at this particular group of people, particularly those couched in middle school-level biology terms invoking the theory of evolution via natural selection. The proximate case being an argument I had on Twitter a few days ago with someone using a hyper-reductionist, XX/XY-or-bust argument to justify being a dickhead to trans folk, that is the one I will start with.

Yes, that means I'm doing them out of order from the jump, which is why I'm also making this entry, which I will make sticky until the series is wrapped up, to serve as a table of contents.



On Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

One of the more eye-rolling arguments trotted out by Gamergate is that feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian is a con artist based on the fact that her crowd-funded series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games is not complete in the format as originally proposed. I've gotten so tired of dealing with them one-on-one that I'm just going to create this entry so I can dump a link and be done with them.

First off, gators seem quite allergic to defining what a reasonable timeframe for completion of the series would have been. The Kickstarter itself, as far I can tell, had no deadline set, and the series has expanded so much from the initial proposal that such a deadline would be meaningless, anyway. Regardless, none of them I've dealt with seems willing to say "those twelve videos of ten-to-twenty minutes each should have been done by X date", exactly because they know that people with far more experience making videos than they (or I) have will come along and punch holes in their overly-optimistic timeframe. Far better to leave the timeframe nebulous so that no matter when the project is finished, it can be labeled "not good enough".

The main issue I have with their argument, though, is that they clearly have no clue exactly what was being promised. (Nor what Sarkeesian's arguments even are; I have yet to find one that has actually watched even one of the Tropes videos, instead preferring to regurgitate others' strawmen of her arguments.)

The original Kickstarter proposal was for a series of twelve videos of ten to twenty minutes each, for a total of 120—240 minutes of footage. You'll notice I specify the total runtime of the videos instead of just specifying the number of videos, and there's a reason for that, but first, let's look at the proposed topics:

  1. Damsel in Distress — Done
  2. The Fighting F#@k Toy
  3. The Sexy Sidekick
  4. The Sexy Villainess
  5. Background Decoration — Done
  6. Voodoo Priestess/Tribal Sorceress
  7. Women as Reward — Done
  8. Mrs. Male Character — Done
  9. Unattractive Equals Evil
  10. Man with Boobs
  11. Positive Female Characters! — Done
  12. Top 10 Most Common Defenses of Sexism in Games

If gators were actually being honest about keeping Sarkeesian honest, they'd go to the Feminist Frequency YouTube channel and take a proper look at what's been put out, rather than simply tossing off that only five of the promised twelve videos have been produced in the fifty-one months since it was announced that production had begun. For starters, they'd notice that all but one of the episodes completed thus far exceeds the originally proposed maximum length of twenty minutes. The "Damsel in Distress" video is especially noteworthy, as it was released in three parts, each of which is more than twenty minutes long!

In fact, including just the videos that can be unequivocally tied back to the original proposed themes yields over 210 minutes of footage, nearly the maximum of what was promised. The videos produced so far are far longer and go into much greater depth than originally planned. There's also a handful of videos released in the series that can't be matched to the original themes, such as "Lingerie is not Armor" and "All the Slender Ladies: Body Diversity in Video Games", that suggest the breadth of the series has expanded along with the depth, exactly what you'd hope for in a project that raised almost $160,000 when the original proposal was just $6,000! In fact, the total output as of this writing (11 October 2016) exceeds 270 minutes—remember the original proposal would have maxed out at 240 minutes.

Anita Sarkeesian has clearly chosen to take the extra funding and expand both the scope and the depth of the project, covering more topics in greater depth. This is far more honest than what gators insist she should have done: sticking to the original Kickstarter proposal and churning out ten-to-twenty minute videos limited to a predetermined set of twelve topics. This can be seen through a simple review of the Tropes videos posted on the YouTube channel so far compared to the Kickstarter proposal—took me about fifteen minutes to do—but Sarkeesian herself has explicitly spelled all this out! It's been there in black-and-white for months, yet somehow gators—who nitpick every aspect of Sarkeesian's life and work—aren't aware of the format change for the series, or they ignore it and the apparent approval from those who funded the project as it goes against their narrative of crookedness that warrants harassing yet another feminist. (Never mind that any shenanigans on Sarkeesian's part, even if they weren't made out of whole cloth by gators themselves, wouldn't justify an organized harassment campaign. Two wrongs and all that.)

QUILTBAG and Nature — Gay

(This is part of a series debunking the appeals to nature often leveled against sexual and gender minorities to justify discrimination against them or inaction regarding their struggle for human rights.)

As pointed out by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

The mechanisms for the development of a particular sexual orientation remain unclear, but the current literature and most scholars in the field state that one’s sexual orientation is not a choice; that is, individuals do not choose to be homosexual or heterosexual....Although there continues to be controversy and uncertainty as to the genesis of the variety of human sexual orientations, there is no scientific evidence that abnormal parenting, sexual abuse, or other adverse life events influence sexual orientation. Current knowledge suggests that sexual orientation is usually established during early childhood.
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QUILTBAG and Nature — Trans

(This is part of a series debunking the appeals to nature often leveled against sexual and gender minorities to justify discrimination against them or inaction regarding their struggle for human rights.)

One of the most common arguments against human rights for trans people, both from the usual suspects and from some nominal feminists, is that gender is biologically determined and, therefore, a mismatch between assigned gender and gender identity is a sign of psychological problems. However, a number of pieces of evidence show this to not be true. (And with steady research finally being done more accumulates all the time.)

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The end of an era

Yankee living in Argentina seeks employment, preferably in Europe (but won't say no to interesting jobs back in the United States of Jesu— America!) Willing to relocate is a given.

Native English, fluent Spanish, willing to learn any other language. Good technical skills (sys admin-level on Mac), QA and tech support experience. Intermediate coding skills.

Works well both alone and in teams. Good communication skills and can interact with the public without even wishing any of them dead.

Has been told he looks good in a suit and really good half out of one, but isn't looking for THAT kind of job. (That was also three years ago and thirty pounds lighter.)

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On Wearing Color Like a Costume

Some time ago I stumbled on the excellent web series Ask a Slave, which draws on the experiences of a woman who played the part of one of George Washington's slaves for historical reenactment at Mount Vernon. Specifically, the series revolves around her character fielding the utterly clueless questions she was asked by (mostly white) visitors while working there. Series creator Azie Dungey also has a channel (that's unfortunately been very quiet lately) where she vlogs about the experience and portrayal of PoC in entertainment.

The other day I finally realized she might have a Twitter account, looked her up, and followed her. In the process, I noticed she'd retweeted this:

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The Misogyny Edition: GamerGate, MRAs, and Father's Rights

I apologize for my absence, but things have been hectic. I'll do a proper update on my personal life after I settle a few things, but it does seem like the "expat" portion of my screen name is about to be rendered inaccurate.

Next portion requires a trigger warning, so I'll hide it behind a cut. I'll be talking about cyberbullying, rape threats, death threats, and misogyny of the most toxic sort.

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All this exposure to MRAs (Mens Rights Activists… Yeah, IDK) triggered a line of thought that I want to get typed up quickly before going to bed. Remember Greg Fultz, the guy that put up a billboard to shame his ex-girlfriend for getting an abortion? The guy that had his fifteen minutes of fame as a hero for the people who argue that a man contributes half the genetic material, therefore he gets to veto abortions? Yeah, about that argument…

This argument is a very capitalist argument. The analogy here is that a human is like a corporation, and our genetic material is like capital/stock. I'm going to analyze this in three stages. First, I'm going to jump down the rabbit hole and look at the facts within the framework of the argument. Second, I'm going to take a closer look at the genes-as-capital analogy itself. Finally, I'm going to look at the mindset behind the argument.

(I'm assuming the typical twenty-two pairs of autosomes plus one XX/XY pair, i.e. no Down's Syndrome, Klinefelter's Syndrome, etc.)

The argument is basically that the father and mother each contribute half the genetic material, half the capital, if you will, so each has an equal vote and if they can't agree on getting an abortion, they should just let nature run its course, i.e. Mom has the obligation to incubate Dad's baby. But, do they have the same amount of stock in this company?

No. If Dad fathered a boy, he'll have a Y chromosome, with 59 million base pairs, whereas Mom contributed an X chromosome with 153 million base pairs, so Mom has a controlling interest with 94 million more shares than Dad, and can therefore terminate male fetuses at will.* But even with girl babies she has a controlling interest, despite both parents contributing twenty-three chromosomes with equal number of base pairs and genes, because every person's mitochondrial DNA is inherited from Mom, meaning that she has 16 600 more base pairs/shares than Dad even in the event of a girl.

So, even if we accept the framework of the argument, mothers do in fact contribute more genetic capital than fathers, so the father doesn't have veto power. Now, let's look at some of the unintended consequences of this genes-as-stock analogy.

If a father's genetic contribution is reasoned to give him the right to veto an abortion, what right does anybody have to make medical decisions without first consulting one's parents, even as an adult? After all, it's still copies of the parents' genes, and having reached the arbitrary age of majority doesn't change that. Wouldn't the grandparents' collective ownership give them a say, the ability to override the father's veto if three (or just two if both grandmothers, see above) are in agreement that the abortion should continue or that the decision should be the mother's?

This proposed "solution" raises far more questions than it answers. (Pretty typical of MRA proposals, I've found.)

The final implication of this person-as-corporation model that is overlooked by its very proponents — and that it's overlooked is indicative of the economic leanings of its advocates, as this is something no leftist or even centrist would miss — is that it focuses exclusively on the stock/capital and ignores labor altogether. A simple genetic calculus is presented as the yardstick, and Mom's nine-month, round-the-clock labor investment is swept under the rug, not to mention the extremely painful product launch at the end!

We have the usual reactionary technique of using just as much science as is needed to make an argument seem plausible, ignoring inconvenient details and misrepresenting the data — in this case, creating the impression that fathers are due veto due to equal genetic contribution when the reality is that mothers actually contribute more genetic material. We are presented with an argument that looks reasonable only if you give it a cursory glance and don't stop and think about what it's really implying — in this case, that it opens a whole can of worms about who really holds the copyright to Babby's genes. Finally, the argument is only persuasive if you have a reactionary mindset to begin with, as it simply extends free market thinking into biology and child-rearing to selectively create "rights" (privilege, really) for fathers where none is warranted.

* — Yes, I worded it that way on purpose just to freak out the MRAs.