Tag Archives: social justice

Some disorganised thoughts after the Women’s March(es)

So yesterday (21 January 2017), for anyone who doesn’t already know, the day after the tragic inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the (not-so-) United States (I will not give him the dignity of the office and refer to him as President Trump, he’s a loathsome despotic buffoon #notmypresident), was also the day of the Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches in major (and not-so-major!) cities throughout the US and beyond.

Here’s the official Women’s March site and the Sister Marches page.

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on January 22, 2017 in mitchell


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Various Recent Developments in Potterland

I’m sorry, I can’t bring myself to talk about American politics, it’s too fucking depressing. I’ve been trying and failing to come out with anything coherent, in all honesty. So let’s talk about Harry Potter.

Firstly, sometime in September, Pottermore apparently added a feature where you can take a quiz to be assigned a Patronus animal (here’s an article about that). We knew about this at the time but never quite got round to writing about it; let’s just say we found it to be quite the mess.

I personally have not experimented with it at all, I can’t be bothered, but Loten did attempt it and apparently got assigned an osprey (which she wasn’t particularly pleased with, but I’ll leave it to her to complain about that if she wishes to).

[I don’t particularly object to ospreys, they’re nice birds. But there was no comment on what that’s supposed to mean about you, and I can’t see how the quiz led to that specific result – there seem to be a couple of dozen possibilities, but the quiz is just six or seven ‘here’s a few words, pick the one you like best and don’t take too long’. So I assume it randomly assigns you a set of possible animals before you even start.]

That said, we noticed quite a few things that irritated us about the apparent selection of animals. There are a lot of varieties where horses and dogs are concerned, but in many other cases you simply get a catchall term like ‘wolf’ or ‘dolphin’ where there are huge numbers of subspecies being ignored. And then, too, the type of variety provided is questionable: for instance, in many case it’s described as a certain colour of horse (not a breed or subspecies, a colour!). Patronuses don’t have colour. They’re ethereal silvery-looking things, how are you supposed to tell the difference between colours of horses? Somebody didn’t think this through (as if that’s a surprise at this point).

[To clarify – dogs have specific breeds, like huskies or Jack Russel terriers or whatever. The options for horses were ‘grey mare’ or ‘white stallion’ – which is a fail in itself; in equine circles all white horses are referred to as grey anyway. It’s not like there aren’t diverse horse breeds around – you could have, say, a Shire, an Arabian and a Shetland pony, or something. The weird gendering was odd as well – ignoring deer and apparently horses, nobody seems to be paying attention to the (apparently visible) genitalia of their Patronus.

There were also some really random animals as possible outcomes. The ones people seem most disappointed by were a mole and a salmon.]

The questions were also all extremely generic and we couldn’t tell how (if at all) they correspond to the results. You have to create an account to take the test, you can only do it once per account, and it moves through the questions rapidly enough that it would be difficult to record them; we certainly find it too impractical to experiment with and try to figure out how it works (not to mention we don’t care nearly enough, to be honest), and that difficulty is probably why we haven’t seen anyone else doing it either. Let us know if you do come across anyone gathering data about it, though.

Moving on. This thread is very much worth reading, more indigenous peoples’ reactions.

I didn’t feel comfortable contributing (or excerpting), but seriously, go read it.

[Agreed. Go read. We’ll wait.]

As we anticipate Fantastic Beasts, have some more history fail:

In short, it’s a reveal of some more details about magical society in America as fleshed-out for the setting of Fantastic Beasts. For a while, I honestly didn’t know what to say about it, and the article I’ve linked does a decent job pointing out the more obvious problems.

What it reads like is this. It reads like she’s gone down a list of buzzwords that sound American and thrown them together in a blender. As they pointed out at Tor, she has “MACUSA” existing before there was any such thing as the United States of America, under that name. This isn’t necessarily surprising, given the stew of anachronisms that she so often uses in her fictional history, but that doesn’t make it less nonsensical.

Hey, white Americans, maybe now you will understand what cultural appropriation feels like, and what marginalised populations have been trying to tell us? Even if you don’t find this particularly painful – I don’t – look at this amount of cluelessness about your culture, your polity, etc, see how ridiculous it looks and imagine that being nearly universal. Imagine that being the mainstream conception of what you are and what your society is.

If you can understand why MACUSA and Magical Congress and all of these other things are stupid and problematic, you can understand why Native Americans have been and continue to be so pissed off. That’s not nearly as bad as the bullshit they’re regularly expected to swallow.

[I don’t have anything to add here, though I almost want to apologise for Rowling. Almost. #NotAllBritons]

And in other news, there are apparently going to be five Fantastic Beasts films, because somehow this cash cow’s udders have not yet started bleeding or falling off. Fuck everything. I really haven’t the slightest clue how they’re going to get five films out of this when it seems to be primarily composed of history fail and cultural appropriation, and barely has any plot to speak of aside from ‘there are monsters. also there are conspiracies.’ It also sounds like she’s going to be trying to give us detail on the Grindelwald war, because taking history fail into the World Wars and possibly Nazi Germany is a brilliant idea that cannot possibly go wrong in any way. I am utterly atwitter with anticipation.

[Grindelwald is going to show up in the second film. Johnny Depp has been cast in the role, despite not looking remotely like the pretty blond we’ve been told to expect. I assume this means Rowling, Warner et al are fine with the fact that he abused his wife…]

And for the sake of proving I can be even-handed and don’t hate everything Rowling says on principle, I did think this was rather clever.

More to come this month from both of us – expect two film reviews, and hopefully the conclusion of Philosopher’s Stone, possibly more. Watch this space.


Posted by on November 4, 2016 in loten, mitchell


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hypocrisy, thy name is rowling

It may be a bit late to discuss this; Loten brought it to my attention a week or so ago.

The article is titled “JK Rowling Goes Off on Homophobic Haters and Shares Theories on Stopping Internet Trolls.” Here is what she is quoted as saying on Twitter:

“Can’t decide which is more offensive in this tweet, the stupidity or the spite.”

“It’s an arguable point, but I think this focus on how the bigot/troll/bully feels is odd, I’m afraid. Not all ‘trolls’ air their views purely for attention. They want to hurt. They want to intimidate. And the victims get driven out of what should be safe spaces by their venom. If we all challenged hate, social media might feel a much nicer place for minorities, and women and gay people.”

Part of me wants to applaud her for saying this. This is a genuinely nice sentiment, and a needed one, and I don’t actually think there’s much if anything I disagree with in there. I’ve been observing the phenomenon of hateful trolling and harassment on the internet for a while (it’s hard not to if you’re involved in atheism, for instance, or anything remotely to do with feminism and gender; I haven’t personally gotten a lot of it aimed at me, but that’s because I’m a small-time blogger and don’t write much), and this is more or less accurate. Even if not entirely conscious (because the people doing this aren’t generally paragons of self-awareness), that does seem to be the motivation and certainly is the effect; if you’re not aware of how bad things get, go read We Hunted the Mammoth or one of countless other blogs that documents the worst of the internet. Anyone who can push back against harassers and bullies should do so, because the alternative is ceding our spaces to them.

That said, Rowling is saying this?

The same Rowling whose gay characters are closeted until she decides to out them years later (outside the text) for attention? (And which, taken in context, seems to imply that “love” makes you evil unless it’s heterosexual or parental love, in which case it’s powerful deus-ex-machina magic?) Or endorses a play which baits a homosexual relationship between its leads and decides to force them into heterosexuality (via sexual harassment apologism, no less) at the last possible moment?

The same Rowling who claims to be feminist but struggles to depict women outside of the roles of love interests, wives and mothers? Who, again, endorses a play which uses sexual assault for laughs? [And who depicted rape and its aftermath in The Casual Vacancy in such a disgusting way I literally threw the book across the room and have never forgiven her for it?]

The same Rowling who has no problem with bullying as long as the bullies were placed in the proper arbitrary categories, and repeated this pattern so often that an acronym (IOIAGDI, “it’s okay if a Gryffindor does it”) needed to be coined?

The same Rowling who essentially says that unless bigotry looks like Voldemort, it isn’t bigotry? (I present for your consideration Arthur Weasley, who considers muggles curiosities to gawk at and appropriate material culture from, or Ronald Weasley, who doesn’t hesitate to renege on his word and try to cheat goblins, who considers himself above muggle law and uses magic to cheat a driving test, amongst other things. And the “Harry Potter Prequel“, in which the loathsome James Potter and Sirius Black are shown abusing muggle police for fun.). Paternalistic racism is still racism, unintentional racism is still racism; not all racism looks like the Klan or the Nazis. Rowling’s universe desperately needs a Muggle Lives Matter movement.

[The Cormoran Strike books are also full of racism. And sexism. And ableism. And… It’s also worth pointing out the lack of anyone who isn’t white in most of her work. HP has, to my recollection, one explicitly black character and three explicitly Asian characters, and a couple more were later revealed offscreen to also be people of colour. The Casual Vacancy had one family of Indian stereotypes. And the less said about the Strike books, the better, particularly since they’re set somewhere as diverse as London. Not to mention the extremely poor handling of Native cultures more recently with all the Ilvermornay nonsense.]

The same person who wrote all of those things, and many more besides, expects to be taken seriously when spreading an anti-bullying, anti-bigotry message? Truthfully, I find it hard to believe the same person wrote her oeuvre and the quoted tweets. I suppose one could try to argue she could have learned since writing the Harry Potter books… except that, as we’ve learned from examining the Cursed Child play and the Cormoran Strike books, she’s still writing things that are problematic and insensitive at best. Loten speculated to me that Rowling could have outsourced her Twitter account to somebody else; I’m willing to be slightly more charitable, and say that maybe she’s a skilled parrot who repeats arguments without understanding them.

I’m going to make a horrible comparison here; I honestly think this might be like the respondents in Lisak and Miller, and similar studies. Plenty of men will admit to rape as long as you describe it using other words (“no I’ve never committed rape, but yes I have had sex with a woman by force when she didn’t want to”). Perhaps this is a similar case of not connecting a word to its definition – Rowling may know “bullying” and “hate” and “homophobia” are wrong but not necessarily what those words actually signify?

Plenty of us have internalised biases and bigotries, that’s inevitable when living in kyriarchy; it’s difficult to fight against those forces unless we’re able to identify and try to correct it in ourselves wherever possible. There’s an old saying (ironically, from an ancient book full of bigotry) that says to tend to the plank in your own eye before the speck in another’s. It’s good advice, and maybe Rowling should follow it.

I don’t necessarily want her to stop saying these things, because they’re good things and people do need to say them. But it might be nice to see a bit of self-awareness and reflection.


Posted by on August 30, 2016 in mitchell


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An important perspective on Rowling’s new rubbish

I became aware yesterday of this article by Adrienne K. at Native Appropriations (h/t Shakesville), and recommend you read it (these two earlier articles of hers she links to at the end are also well worth a look). She’s been writing about this since June 2015 so it’s probably negligent of me to only become aware of it now, but regardless.

I don’t think I’m really qualified to comment on how to respectfully handle writing about Native Americans in fictional milieu, so I don’t want to say much about it myself. She raises a lot of important issues I wouldn’t have thought of. My first thought was that it’s probably impossible to win, because the most likely alternative is to not include them at all and it’s probably better to acknowledge that indigenous peoples existed and mattered, but that’s an incredibly low bar to set and, as Adrienne points out, misrepresentation may well be equally problematic if not worse (e.g. let’s not forget what happened with Stephenie Meyer, and that now a lot of people only know about the Quileute tribe because of her bastardised werewolf mythology).

Likewise it’s not really fair to say “well, if you don’t want to be misrepresented, you’d better volunteer your time to explain everything to any author who decides they want to write about your culture”, that’s an undue burden to place on anybody… but what’s the alternative, encouraging them to do shoddy research and misrepresent you in problematic ways? Once again, marginalised people(s) just can’t win. I don’t know what the answer is.

But please don’t put too much stock in my whitesplaining of this, go read the original articles.

Quick edit to add: here’s another really good article on this, by Chris Lough at Tor.


Posted by on March 10, 2016 in mitchell


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Yikes. Don’t be these people.


So, there’s a cool dude on the internet called Mark Oshiro, who runs a site or two where he reads books and watches shows that people recommend for him, and he fanboys adorably and films himself doing so. Like so many others, he got started shredding the abomination that is Twilight, but he’s loved pretty much everything else he’s done. (Including Harry Potter, where I have to disagree with him on most things but he’s just so cute about it…)

He’s also covered Tamora Pierce (who shows up in the comments on his posts about her books to cackle at him every so often, because she’s awesome like that), and at one point was commissioned to vlog part of one of my (quite old) fanfics; it’s linked on my FFN profile, so some of you might recognise his name from there.

Anyway, recently he posted something on Facebook about his experience at a particular convention, and I think it’s well worth reading. If only to make sure none of you ever do anything like this.

Here’s the link:

I find it depressing that this sort of thing still happens, but there you are. Feel free to share his post around if you want.



[Edited this to add – apparently I forgot where I’d initally found the link, but I became aware of this via Pharyngula. This article by Rachel Caine he links to there is also well worth reading. ]


Posted by on February 23, 2016 in loten, mitchell


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Recommended Reading: Masculinity as Anxiety Disorder

This rings very true to me.

(h/t to commenter mockingbird at WHTM )

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Posted by on October 6, 2015 in mitchell


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I’m an American, get me out of here!

I can’t apologise enough for the lack of posting recently; my life has been kind of a mess for a while now and I haven’t had a whole lot of coherent things to say that people might care to read. I’m not sure that this will be, either, but I need to get some things off my chest before I suffocate. That’s what blogs are for, right?

The title of this post may go without saying, as it’s how I’ve felt for quite some time trapped in this hellhole of a country. But bugger that, let’s talk about the New Job. I promise it’ll come full circle soon enough.

The new job is a bit odd to explain – basically this company is a sort of intermediary recruitment agency that helps to retrain people for technical positions (mostly software-related) and then hires them out to client companies in exchange for a cut of the salary the client would otherwise pay. The training they offer is meant to fill in the knowledge gaps employers would otherwise be requiring the ubiquitous “2-3 years’ work experience” for “entry-level” positions for, and it seems a sound enough proposition. They don’t pay much during the training period but they do provide housing, which is actually decent enough. I don’t plan on naming them at present for various reasons, even though I have little if anything that isn’t positive to say about them thus far (in point of fact I’m going to use pseudonyms for everyone discussed in this piece and try to be nonspecific as to location as well; I don’t want to identify people here). If nothing else, I’ve appreciated their willingness to be open and honest with me.

In any case, what I want to complain about is (naturally) the living situation in which I currently find myself. (Admittedly this is only temporary, as it’s only for the training period which should be at most two months… but that doesn’t absolve it of its issues, since I still have to survive that period.)

The company provides apartments for people to stay in during the training period, and they are actually rather nice (or at least the one I’ve been placed in is; I haven’t seen all of them and I’m given to understand there is some variation). Unfortunately they are also rather crowded; they have six of us living in a single flat. Though it does have three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and a small kitchen, the bedrooms are small and taken up almost completely by the beds, so aren’t good for much aside from sleeping, and the modest living/dining area ends up being where everyone ends up while they’re here (and isn’t really big enough to be comfortable). And because the bedrooms are shared (and small, and the doors are thin) there’s really no good place to retreat if I want privacy; I definitely feel very exposed here no matter where I am.

That might not necessarily have been the worst thing, if it weren’t for a few other details about the people I’ve been stuck with. Or, at least, some of them; three of them have done nothing yet, and seem like perfectly nice people thus far. Then there’s the uber-capitalist Libertarian in his fifties who insists on turning every conversation into an argument with me (I made the mistake of mentioning in his presence that I identify as some sort of communist/socialist) and WILL NOT FUCKING SHUT UP, oh, and the self-identified Neo-Nazi 4chan Gamergate dudebro. Let’s call them Schmuck and Putz; why waste time coming up with realistic-sounding pseudonyms when I can just use various words for penis?

Anyway, I have never been particularly fond of tech culture, which will probably come as no surprise; that said, I allowed myself to succumb to the naivete of distance and time, and find myself surprised at the intensity of my culture-shock and revulsion. I’d expected to have some issues but hoped they’d be more manageable; that said, this is at least an improvement over the Job From Hell to which I’ve alluded in the past (where I lasted an entire six days before quitting because the bosses/managers were also hateful bigots and fostered an environment of bullying and harassment), though not as much of one as I would have liked.

In addition to the tech culture aspect, though, there’s also the fact that this job is located significantly further south than I’m used to living, and while it’s not in the Deep South or anything it seems like a lot of the people they recruit are from there and many of their eventual placements end up being there as well, so in interacting with people here I’m finding another level of culture shock as well; I seem to be the only person anywhere left of centre, at least amongst the people whose political views I’ve been acquainted with, which is equally alienating. I don’t want to take stereotypes too far here, because there are definitely plenty of people in the South who aren’t right-wing bigots, etc, and with whom I’m sure I’d get along swimmingly (and I’m sure those people don’t care for this stuff any more than I do, so I certainly don’t want to dismiss them as part of the problem; I certainly don’t want to make anyone else’s situation more uncomfortable!), but thus far I don’t seem to have encountered them.

In any case, let’s talk specifics. Schmuck I’ve mostly summed up, I think, except that he seems to hold ignorant or obnoxious opinions on pretty much everything you can think of, and insists on opining loudly about them to everyone around as often as possible. (For fuck’s sake, last night he was going on and on about how he believed there really were alien spacecraft at Roswell!) Disagreeing with him just makes him double down and argue more vehemently, which is frustrating because I don’t want to sit silently and have to listen to his opinions going unchallenged, but neither do I want to get involved and cause him to escalate (especially because when I do he doesn’t take it too well, either). He just never shuts up. And he loves to bring everything back to his pet economic issues… I do wonder if I’m being a bit hypocritical in getting so pissed off at this guy, because some of the things I’m complaining about are like a funhouse-mirror reflection of myself (I too am talkative and opinionated and irascible, and like a good argument sometimes, though of late I find it harder and harder to tolerate people whose disagreement with me is this fundamental – I’d rather debate interesting nuances with people I respect than try to demonstrate people should be entitled to food and healthcare), and I’m not sure I’ve handled the situation as well as I could have. I’ve tried setting boundaries and disengaging, both implicitly and explicitly, but it doesn’t help except in the short term (he’ll just pick up later where he left off, and there’s often noplace to run in any case) and I really don’t think Schmuck knows what a boundary is. I’ve tried explaining that I’d like my living situation to be relatively conflict-free, but all I get in response is a disingenuous “but we were just having a conversation! I like talking about/debating things like this!” Well, bully for you, Schmuck; I don’t like you and I don’t like talking about them with you, so go get your jollies elsewhere. Consent is fucking fundamental in my view of ethics, thank you very much, so take your virtual argument-penis and stop shoving it in my ears, you can perform mental masturbation just as effectively on your lonesome. (“If you experience an erection lasting longer than four hours, consult a physician immediately.”)

He also gets accusatory and plays the victim (at one point he went off about how rude I am) if I disagree too strongly with anything he says, try to put an end to a conversation, or just ask him to leave me be. Because of course he does; why should I expect him to be a decent human being? “Are you calling me stupid? Because a professor at [insert name of prestigious university] once told me I was a very deep thinker. How can you be so arrogant and think you’re so much smarter than everyone else?” Yep, argument from authority fallacy everywhere too, and he really didn’t like when I pointed that out either. For the record: Yes, Mr. Schmuck, I do think you are stupid and your ideas are stupid, and I actually think you are quite a shallow thinker as well. I don’t like to say so to people’s faces, especially because I’ve been walking on eggshells around you for some time because I’d like to minimise anxiety in my living quarters, but as long as we’re being honest with each other here and you’re never going to read this I’ll say what I fucking mean. You’re so full of shit you may as well be a sewer.

And then there’s the guy I’m calling Putz. Who is actually perfectly civil to me most of the time, and can carry on a perfectly decent conversation without touching on ideological disagreements for the most part, so he’s a lot more tolerable. Which is weird, because his views are probably even more odious. In an attempt to break the ice I decided to tell an anecdote about my father’s freshman roommate at university, which was about the worst possible roommate situation a university could create – Dad’s Jewish (I think he was the only Jew in his class), and they put him with the son of a member of the Hitler Youth. Immediately in response to this, Putz tells me he’s a neo-Nazi. I took it as a joke at first, but apparently he’s perfectly serious… the 4chan connection explains where he learnt it, I suppose, but it’s still very disturbing. For the most part he seems to regard me as a curiosity at present, which I’ll survive (he’s said he finds my views fascinating and well-thought-out even though he disagrees with me on practically everything…). But he’s still claiming to be a Nazi, going on about the evils of “cultural Marxism” (whatever the fuck that means; background here and here ), and hinting around the edges of Holocaust denial. Needless to say, I am not amused.

(Also, I should probably not make any further jokes about Sabbath elevators and the like around self-identified neo-Nazis like Putz. I hadn’t realised when this particular gentleman told me such that he actually meant it, because for better or worse I have a bad tendency to assume people I’m interacting with are basically decent and couldn’t conceive a reason other than shock value for anyone to say such a thing. Ironically, for such a pessimist, I tend to be irrationally optimistic when interacting with new people; I think I might project too much.)

That said, I’m not sure yet whether I need to be watching my back, and if so what for. (If I do turn up murdered, though, please mention this connection to the investigators.)

And of course they also looked at me incredulously when I told them I’m a feminist, because the rest wasn’t enough yet. (Both of them support Donald Trump for president, too, which says quite a bit about them I think.)

In particular regarding feminism, I’m not sure whether the underlying issue in many of these people’s cases is an inability to properly identify the scope of the problem, or a deliberate choice to be on the wrong side of it. In many cases you can tell which of those buckets a person falls into (if not both to some degree), but not always. I’m also not sure which is worse to deal with – with people who are openly and deliberately bigoted, it’s at least easy to know where you stand, whereas the (willfully or not) blithering blinkered ignoramuses are frustratingly obtuse and just deny/gaslight everything away. Where economic issues are concerned it’s easier for me to see how people end up with the beliefs they do even if I think they’re equally nuts and harmful, and liable to drive me insane (or moreso than I am already anyway); when it comes to racial or sex/gender-based bigotry, I just don’t understand these people.

I’ll admit it’s entirely possible I’m contributing to the problem here, despite the fact I’ve been acting surprisingly conflict-averse (for me at least) and have been trying to keep my head down. Maybe it’s partially my fault for caring about these things and being sensitive enough to find them painful to listen to. And there is the concern that I could be being hypocritical here… but regardless, these two gentlemen feel like just the tip of an iceberg and I’m already feeling trapped. It probably doesn’t help that these particular flavours of right-wing ideology feel particularly American to me (though it might not be entirely; I do get the feeling that especially online it’s a major export of ours, and 4chan etc isn’t confined to any particular location), and just in general I feel surrounded by reactionary nastiness. My escape can’t come soon enough, and yet I’m likely stuck here in the States for quite a while yet (if all goes well I’ve agreed to a two year commitment with this company, after the training period; I’m just hoping that wherever they place me will be more pleasant than here).

In the meantime, I’ve been drinking like a fish.


Posted by on August 4, 2015 in mitchell


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