Saturday, May 24, 2014

Elliot Rodger Shooting - A Call to Action

Seven people are dead today. Some media outlets keep referring to the murderer as a "madman," but he was motivated by rejection and the sense that he had been wronged by women-kind. While Elliot Rodger may be a crazier example, he is far from an isolated madman. Many men share the same toxic philosophy and many men on the web are actually sympathetic to this murderer.

Eliott was 22 years old, a virgin, and very into the Men's Rights Movement and Pick-up Artist ideas.

For those of you who don't know about these ideologies, Men's Rights Activism is a misogynistic movement that works to discredit feminism, discredit claims of victimization despite being backed by mountains of evidence, and promotes the idea that feminism is preventing men from being "real men." They believe that women demanding equal treatment and acknowledgment of our institutionalized sexism is somehow emasculating.

Pick-up Artistry is about the "art" of convincing women to date or sleep with you. The basic assumption held by these men is that women are things (not people) for them to win or be awarded or owed for correct behavior or success. Pick-up Art is founded on the belief that if you follow a ritual of moves women will be tricked/convinced into sleeping with you.

Elliot stated that he was going to murder his victims to prove that he was the alpha male, and to punish these women for rejecting him. He felt that he had done the right moves and that, because of this, womankind owed him the reward of attention and sex. Not every Men's Rights Activist or Pick-up Artist or misogynist is a murderer, but the violence is baked right into these ideas.

Misogyny literally killed yesterday.

If you know somebody who thinks women are things to be picked-up, or feels men are owed sex, or who even just seems prone to not seeing women as equals, take this event and time to dissuade them from this toxic thinking. Challenge them. Do not laugh it off. Do not dismiss it as boys being boys. Call them to the mat.

A worthwhile person will re-examine their thinking and work to correct their outlook. I think people should have the chance to see the evidence, and rethink their choices/

A person who clings to this way of thinking, however, is not worth your time. They do not think of half of the population as real people. People who dehumanize others this way should be exiled from your life until they prove themselves safe. If someone does not see women equals - if they see women as somehow sub-human compared to men - how can you trust them to not hurt those they see as less than them?

Elliot's female victims were not guilty for not sleeping with the man (as some people are suggesting,) but, as a society, we are partly to blame.

Every time we don't call this out, we helping feed the problem that led to this.

We MUST fight back. We MUST not be timid about it. I know I have failed in this before. There have been times that I heard men talk this way about women and I did nothing. This is not excusable. We MUST stand-up to this.

WOMEN ARE PEOPLE. YOU ARE OWED NOTHING FROM THEM. THEY ARE NOT PRIZES, NOR DEITIES, NOR OBJECTS THAT WILL SERVE YOU IF YOU ACT A CERTAIN WAY.

Share this basic truth with anyone you encounter voicing these idiotic ideas. One misogyny leads to another and eventually to violence. Misogyny is violent at its core. Stop it before it grows to the point that it reaches firearms.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Maiev: The Danger of Female Power

After my post on Tyrande I chatted over Twitter a little with Keezy Young, who writes for Pixelkin.org, and Emmett Scout, who writes for Next. Pixelkin.org recently named Tyrande as a female role-model for young people. I would certainly agree that Tyrande deserves that title. As I state in my post she is great example of leadership. She’s strong, she makes tough decisions, and she listens to others even if she disagrees with them. We briefly discussed why Maiev or Sylvanas might not make that list.

Unacceptable awesomeness
We agreed that the fact that one of Maiev’s main themes is vengeance edges her out of the running for role-model of the year. The discussion got me thinking though. Despite how well she is written for the most part, Maiev still falls into an archetypical trope of a dangerous female in power. If Tyrande shows the lines within which female power is acceptable, by contrast, Maiev is an example of female power gone outside the lines that the writers felt were acceptable.

"POWER MAKE WOMAN CRAAAAAZY!"
Maiev joins other female characters, from the classic Medea to Shakespeare’s Regan and Goneril to the modern Jean Grey, as a woman who is portrayed as so empowered she is driven mad. In other words, too much power for the implied weak female vessel. It’s a backhanded sexism that suggests female empowerment only to point to it as problematic if pushed too far. It is the same mentality that suggests that a woman may serve in congress but not as president (still hasn’t happened in the US), or can serve in the armed forces but not in combat (only officially fully allowed in 2013.)

Now, I do not think that Blizzard wrote Maiev with this in mind, and Maiev at least does not go absolutely crazy cuckoo bananas and end up the villain. Still, it’s disappointing to have this otherwise amazing, heroic, and honor bound female character thrown into question by the other protagonists for simply doing her job.




First, some quick review or background. Maiev is Illidan’s jailer. Remember Illidan and how Tyrande killed a few night elves to liberate him after 10,000 years? Maiev and her fellow Watchers were down there with him for 10,000 years. There’s no indication that they ever got vacations outside of the prison compound either. Maiev and her fellow jailers just stayed down there guarding Illidan for 10,000 years until Tyrande passed by, killed a few of them, and then liberated the prisoner. Tyrande suddenly doesn’t seem so great when you think about that.

Maiev, the prison’s warden, somehow evaded Tyrande’s forces. I can’t recall why if we’re ever told. Maybe it was during one of her rare chances to rest. Maybe Maiev stayed back tactically in the shadows, or maybe she was just too dumbstruck as Tyrande rolled in, killed a few people who had been dutifully on guard for the past few millennia, and then released the prisoner… that they had been dutifully guarding for the past few millennia.


Someone new - not Tyrande or Malfurion, his brother.
Apparently nobody saw fit to keep track of Illidan after he was released and metamorphosed into a demon-night-elf hybrid either. Whoops. This is where Maiev comes in. She is on the chase to track the mutated Illidan down and bring him back to prison. Despite the setbacks, Maiev takes her job very seriously. What’s more, she’s dressed for the job too. She wears full armor with a cape hemmed with knives. It’s almost as if being sexy wasn’t of concern to her at all!


Too cool to feel required to show you her bellybutton.
She is essentially awesomeness incarnate, and she’s not specially blessed or chosen either. You get the feeling that Maiev go to that point of awesomeness through hard work and practice.

Maiev chases Illidan all over the place. She is referred to as relentless and is presented as being kind of hound-like as she chases her quarry. There’s a sense during the campaign that she has taken the hunt dangerously too far – past the point that is healthy. Honestly, however, what else was she supposed to do? Her job, the entire past 10,000 years of her existence, has been focused on keeping this dangerous person imprisoned. If Illidan’s outside of the box, Maiev’s sole purpose is to get him back in.

Hey wait... yeah!
The writing is initially geared towards having the player sympathize with Maiev. Things start to feel a little odd when we see Maiev threaten Tyrande for having freed Illidan in the first place. 

So patronizing.
Despite Maiev making a perfectly valid complaints about Tyrande murdering her forces and freeing their prisoner, the argument is mediated my Malfurion. Malfurion is presented as a kind of male voice of reason and balance, and this is where things start to go poorly for Maiev’s narrative and Malfurion’s as well. Malfurion tries to keep Maiev and Tyrande from attacking each other’s throats. With the way he hand waves the issues away, however, Malfurion seems to take neither Maiev’s complaint against Tyrande nor Tyrande’s assertion that she is accountable to nobody but the moon goddess as very serious subjects. These are both important statements in the game’s world, but Malfurion seems to dismiss them as the ladies just being catty.


Not strictly true, but you should know that whenever anyone assures you that they saw something "with their own eyes" before you even doubt them... they're probably lying.
The player is fully turned away from sympathizing with Maiev when she tells Malfurion a lie. Maiev states that she saw Tyrande torn apart by the Scourge when she actually just saw Tyrande get swept down a river towards Scourge forces after a bridge collapsed from under Tyrande. The player is meant to see the revelation of this lie through the eyes of Malfurion. 

Deceptive, but solid thinking.
There is definitely something very male-gaze-y about the results. Maiev explains that she lied because she knew that Malfurion would abandon the mission to apprehend Illidan to save Tyrande - which is probably true. Malfurion appears to only have obsessive eyes for Tyrande and her well being during this campaign. Malfurion still labels Maiev a “betrayer,” comparable to Illidan, for lying to him.


Jerk even calls her "woman."
Illidan has willfully murdered dozens at this point and was interrupted attempting to destroy the world only moments earlier. Nevertheless, the player is now expected to join Malfurion in equating Illidan’s crime with telling the lie that Tyrande is dead rather than most probably dead. Tyrande has also now become a damsel in distress or precious object of purity to be protected regardless of whether or not it endangers the whole world.

I even caught him mid-sneer
After Illidan and Malfurion join forces, Malfurion once again just lets his brother go – despite Tyrande earlier having stated that freeing him was a mistake and Maiev sentencing him to death. Malfurion apparently just gets to make these kinds of decisions suddenly. As Maiev does her job and chases Illidan off into Outland, Malfurion just shakes his head and says “She has become vengeance itself, bound forever to the hunt. I only pray that in her zeal, she doesn’t cause even more havoc than Illidan.”

Cool power but unsettling subtext 
Maiev is now presented as a crazed zealot. How is seeking to bring to justice a demonic-hybrid mass murdering criminal like Illidan “causing havoc?” Maiev apparently is just too powerful and aggressive to contain it all in her fragile female body. She is out of her place as determined by the male tyranny now embodied by Malfurion. Her ultimate ability, the spirit of vengeance, is literally a shadowy version of herself that is larger than her. It is a representation of power that cannot be contained within the female vessel.

I hated this ending when I played through the campaign years ago. I felt that I was being pushed to accept something I saw as ridiculous. Tyrande and Malfurion, whom I had come to like in the previous campaign, were suddenly aristocratic tyrants. Tyrande apparently styled herself after Henry VIII and believed herself only answerable to the divine. Malfurion now determines right and wrong for himself and changes decisions of justice based on his brother helping Malfurion save his girlfriend.

After such a great start, Maiev had been ejected as crazy and in hysterics.

"No sir, I promise you look totally cool with those feathers on your arms... not like a ridiculous buffoon at all."
When I later rolled a night elf warrior on World of Warcraft, I didn’t let this go either. I always role-played her as a Watcher who was highly skeptical of Tyrande and Malfurion. She was a good soldier, but pointed out the ruling couple's flaws constantly while extolling the virtues of Maiev Shadowsong. Unfortunately there’s no raid to depose those two in favor of Maiev, but maybe some glorious day they’ll let players take the steps to hold those two accountable.  
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