Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Choose Your Own Adventure

Reading a few more WFA links on the whole "being nice/vagina-no vagina/bad, bad Wizard" thing makes me think that a few different topics are kind of melting together at the edges.

Anyway, a lack of foresight prevented me from marking down where I saw this comment, but really, it's pretty generic, and was echoed elsewhere by a few different people:

"I'm tired of being nice." Followed by a brief statement about the ways in which "being nice" hasn't got her(?) anywhere.

And now, probably at the risk of offending any black people who read this, I compare two people: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Both influential civil rights figures, both assassinated. Malcolm X's style was angry and confrontational, while King, though he was certainly passionate, specifically denounced violence, and attempted to find an accord with influential white figures, something Malcolm X criticized.

(I am aware that this is a gross simplification.)

Whether or not you think one person or the other's tactics were right, proper, or just, look at how each is regarded years later in history. Both are admired by many (most/all?) black people, but among whites, it seems to be King who is revered more. Even in commentary that criticizes current actions of black figures, King is treated as unassailable, flawless, even used as an example of how current figures are failing to live up to certain ideals. Malcolm X, however, depending on the bias of whoever's commenting, can be portrayed either as a brilliant, influential leader or a raving terrorist madman, with various stops inbetween.

The title of this bit comes from the thought that was running through my head as I wrote it, of those "Choose Your Adventure" books I used to see around way back when. "You have been insulted. Do you slap the insulter's face? Turn to page 65. Do you say you don't like what they said? Turn to page 27. Do you do nothing, turn the other cheek? Go to page 56"...

"Being nice", if you choose to accept that path, isn't something done for short-term gain. Perhaps not even for any personal gain. It's a slow-moving, tedious process that often may appear to not be working. But "being nice" would go far in countering charges of "crazy feminazism" by all but the most rabid, inflexible opposition.

But hey, do what you like, you know, it's a free will world, baby! You turn to that page you've picked. It's your adventure.

Unlike the books, you don't always get a chance to turn the pages back, though...

18 comments:

James Meeley said...

"I'm tired of being nice." Followed by a brief statement about the ways in which "being nice" hasn't got her(?) anywhere.


You know, I've often wondered just how much people who throw out a line like that actually did try "being nice."

I mean, to me, "being nice" isn't just some mask you pull out and put on, it's a state of being and a way of thinking. Basically, you either are nice or your aren't. If you are "trying" to be like that, it would suggest that you aren't that way normally and are going against your own nature.

So, I highly doubt these people who claim to have tried "being nice" and are simply tired of it "getting them nowhere." More likely, they are miserable people, who, perhaps, didn't flip out as they normally would, and when things didn't automatically get better, they decided "being nice" doesn't work. Of course, that's not what "being nice" is like and it shows the fundamental difference between "nice" and "tolerant." The two are not interchangable.

"Being nice", if you choose to accept that path, isn't something done for short-term gain. Perhaps not even for any personal gain. It's a slow-moving, tedious process that often may appear to not be working. But "being nice" would go far in countering charges of "crazy feminazism" by all but the most rabid, inflexible opposition.

Exactly. I've said things like this before myself. "Being nice" isn't some "magic bullet" to making people change to your side of a debate/issue/viewpoint. It merely helps to keep hostility out of the discussion, so that the real concerns get addressed and not end up lost in a sea of insults and defensiveness. It is no gaurantee that the outcome will go how you want it to.

This is yet another miscomprehension for many of those who cry about "being tired of being nice." Like you said, "being nice" doesn't work fast or easy. And that's what these people want, a quick and easy solution to making others see things their way (which, according to them, is the right way and, most likely, the only valid way).

They want a short-term solution, to what is commonly a long-term problem. Much of their anger and hostility, which ends up getting vented all over in their rants, comes from the frustration that none of their short-term tactics are getting them the results they desire.

I liken people who say "being nice doesn't work" to people who say "God doesn't answer prayers," when the outcome they want isn't the outcome that happens. Of course, the problem with that line of thought is, that it ignores another very real possibility. It might be that God DID answer your prayer. It's just that the answer was "no."

And that brings me to the final part of this, which is how, in society today, now more than ever, nobody will accept "no" as an answer (unless it's the answer that benefits them).

These feminists want things done their way and nothing should of the comic industyr copitulating with that will be an acceptable reply. This is why things like "make the comics" are seen as insults by them, because it would allow their "enemy" to continue with what they do, even if they would finally get what they wanted (i.e. more female-friend works, more female creators and retailers, ect.). It's not just about getting the positive aspects for themselves, but removal of what they see as the "negative." Because if it isn't, they will not allow themselves to enjoy the positive. You see, they can't accept "no" as an answer to either side of their desires. There is no compromise, no middle ground, no give-and-take. And anything other than the removal of what they hate and the inclusion of what they like, is saying "no" to them. and that just will not be accepted.

Thus, this pointless dance will continue on and on. Like some sick cosmic joke, that we will never quite get. That's why you have to find you enjoyement where you can. Just don't get too attached to it.

LurkerWithout said...

"Even in commentary that criticizes current actions of black figures, King is treated as unassailable, flawless, even used as an example of how current figures are failing to live up to certain ideals."

Are you high? Or just lazy? Commentary that criticizes black figures has called Dr. King everything from a communist to an adulterer. And thats just things I've seen in the last 5 years...

As for nice vs. not nice, what BOTH men got was shot dead by assassins...

Anonymous said...

I'd say the "mean" side of feminist comic book blogging is still closer to MLK than to Malcolm X. It's not like anyone is recommending the use of violent force. All that's going on here are harsh words.

Also, I think it reasonable to suggest that MLK alone would not have made so much progress without Malcolm X having also existed. I believe that the range of tactics was important.

Eric Grant said...

I think anger is overrated because anger itself is much more often noise than signal, but

Without intending to dignify your comparison (I'm not seeing any heirs of King or X blogging about comics lately)...

it seems obvious to me that if you want to describe two main schools of working for social change as Xist and Kingist, then careful consideration suggests that when you have both approaches happening at the same time, you have the greatest chance of achieving change.

And man, if you want to suggest that the best way to evaluate the worth of a black (US) activist of 50 years ago by how white (US) society views him today, well, maybe the Onion is hiring.

Anon, A Mouse said...

lurkerwithout:

What commentary is that which blasts King? From what source? What is the reaction to it from the general public? Maybe I travel in "nice" circles too much, but anything I've seen that takes a serious stance against King in recent years has usually been dismissed as lunatic/extremist rantings, endorsed by fringe groups. You can find someone who declares Ghandi a terrorist, if you look hard enough, but that doesn't make it a common view.

Did I not mention that both were assassinated?

Which one got a holiday?

anonymous:

What you're proposing is some sort of "good cop/bad cop" method of approaching arguments: "You should see things my way because my friend over there, she's not nearly as forgiving as I am."

I will grant you that few of the feminists actually call for violence (though I have seen a few wish for death/misfortune upon the opposition). However, I think there's a difference between a militant tone: "Do what we want or else we'll eventually somehow force you to do what we want", and a more persuasive tone: "You should do what we want because it's the right thing to do".

Does a range of voices help "sell" such concepts in the end? I'm not sure I agree. Malcolm X certainly motivated black people, but how many white folks did he convince? I don't have any real answer for that, but I can't imagine it was a particularly large number.

Anon, A Mouse said...

eric grant:

"And man, if you want to suggest that the best way to evaluate the worth of a black (US) activist of 50 years ago by how white (US) society views him today, well, maybe the Onion is hiring."

Look at it this way: If white men are supposedly the ones with all the power, than any relinquishing or sharing of that power is going to have to come either by force, taking it away from the white men, or by convincing the white men to share it. In that regard, how white people see King today is fairly relevant. See my previous comment. Right or wrong, it's him that's credited with the larger share of success in the civil rights movement.

s33r said...

Sorry to butt in - and I don't claim to be an expert here - but I was always taught that if it weren't for Malcolm X, MLK wouldn't have been nearly as successful as he was. It was the two different approaches that convinced those in power to listen to MLK, on the basis that if they didn't, they would be forced to deal with Malcolm X. Not that I'm advocating militancy or anything, but if it weren't for the militant blacks, the issues might not have treated as seriously as they were.

Extremism does two things - it forces those in power to notice the issue, and it makes those who don't advocate extremism look more reasonable. No one actually wants, say, for Wizard to become a feminist magazine, to give up ALL its homophobia and sexism and become as bland as Highlights for Kids. But after the initial knee-jerk reaction, it may be possible to use that outrage as a springboard and point out changes that wouldn't inconvienience them too much.

Heavy Armor said...

The thing is that not many people really understood why MLK's "non-violent" means actually worked.

The intent was to bring the ugliness of the American public to light - and have people scrutinize themselves.

Writing about thousands of people having to declare what was already guaranteed in writing by the US Constitution be applied to all is one thing. Watching these same people attacked by "police officers" with blunt objects - and sometimes guns; having high-powered water hoses sprayed in their direction; being mauled by police dogs; and so on...however, is another matter. This does not count the beatings, the killings, the shootings, the cross-burnings, the lynchings, before, during, and after the attempt to force the US to acknowledge, respect, and appreciate the rights of Americans not of WASP ancestry.

As for MLK and the "Communism" tag, one must understand that there were and are many people in positions of power that were not going to give them up without a fight. And, yes, there were many "politicians" that called MLK a "Communist" or "Communist Sympathizer." And the FBI's clandestine spy program COINTELPRO tried to find (and fabricate) MLK's Communist ties in an attempt to discredit him, the movement, and remove any sympathy by screaming "Blacks are in bed with the Godless Commies...we can't give them any rights!"

Sad history.

Anonymous said...

I think you also have to define "nice". In my family being a "nice girl" meant following the rules and not making a fuss. Rosa Parks was not a "nice" girl if you define it that way. What isn't nice? Is it disagreeing with you? Is it raising our voice to you? Is it calling you names? Is it protesting with signs? Where do you draw the line... where do we stop being acceptable?

Anon, A Mouse said...

Heavy Armor:

"Writing about thousands of people having to declare what was already guaranteed in writing by the US Constitution be applied to all is one thing."

Interesting thing about that sentence: I was just listening to NPR the other day, hearing some guy talk about his new book about the American Revolution and the formation of the government. He made an interesting point about that very fact, that the original writings called for the end of slavery and equal rights for the sexes, and these things could have been had very early on. However, it was thought that trying to impose all this freedom all at once on the various states would have meant some states would have broken from the union, so these matters were deliberately deferred.

Granted, in the case of slavery, it ultimately led to the Civil War, but the author pointed out that other contemporary revolutions that grabbed everything NOW didn't turn out nearly so well, ending up with just another despotic force in charge to replace the one that they'd overthrown.

The very violence you bring up is one reason I don't necessarily think Malcolm X's tactics would have been particularly effective. Because when you come right down to it, if authority is determined to not give an inch, authority can always bring in the dogs and water cannons. And there's less public sympathy for a march of angry militants than there is for peaceful demonstrators.

anonymous (2?):

"I think you also have to define "nice"."

I don't think it's as simple as drawing a line and just sorting everything in a binary "nice/not nice" fashion. There's a sliding range both in what people do and in what people perceive as "nice". Surely some folks think any dissent at all is not nice; others may tolerate a wider range of protests. If you have a militant bent, you may see fairly aggressive, insulting behavior as, if not nice, justifiable.

I think it's more useful to ask if possibly alienating the people you want to change is going to help or hinder your cause in some way. In your own family dynamic, you have the choice of staying safe, keeping things as-is; complete disobedience, where you tell your family to get bent and do whatever you want regardless of how upset it makes them; or some spot in a wide range inbetween. Do you rebel briefly, only to tolerate a scolding lecture later? Do you merely try to verbally persuade your family that their position is wrong? What tactics, if any, work, and is convincing them really your goal?

Because, look: if what you want is just to yell out how much you dislike something and how horrible you think some folks producing comics are, and you want to call (I dunno, for recent example) Brian Bendis a misogynistic sadist or something, that's fine. But does anyone HONESTLY think Bendis is going to read something where someone calls him angry names and think, "Gosh, that angry person is really angry, maybe I've done something wrong and should reconsider my writing," or is he more likely to get defensive and say "oh, screw that insulting jerk, I'll write what I wanna"? How does that serve the purpose of convincing anyone to mend their ways?

And though there are more reasoned, rational discussions of these various incidents, sometimes they get overshadowed by someone verbally blowing their stack, to the point of contaminating all discourse on the matter with the label of "crazy fanatics".

Anonymous said...

I don't think you're getting my meaning. When you say a female should be "nice" you're saddling her with a whole bunch of crap that you (if male) never had to deal with (yes I know you had to deal with being Manly, but we're not asking you to act Manly). "Nice" girls don't have sex. Nice girls don't play in the dirt, they play with dolls. Nice girls don't swear or wear reviling cloths. Nice girls don't get raped, or get divorced. Nice girls cross their legs when wearing skirts and let their friends decide what to play. Nice girls don't read comics or play sports.

If you think the female fans should be civil, that's a different flavor of wording all together.

Anon, A Mouse said...

"I don't think you're getting my meaning. When you say a female should be "nice" you're saddling her with a whole bunch of crap that you (if male) never had to deal with (yes I know you had to deal with being Manly, but we're not asking you to act Manly)."

Well, that's a difference in parsing semantics, then, and unrelated to the issue. The argument, as I have been understanding it, has been oriented mostly on issues of politeness and civility, and other people, the very feminists who were discussing the issue, used the words "nice" or "not nice" as shorthand for what was going on well before I said anything about it.

You want to read more into what is actually there because of a word choice, that's your business, but don't assume that just because a word has a charged, elaborate meaning for you that others share that definition, or are using that definition at any given moment.

Anonymous said...

Actually my point is that there are almost two arguments floating around about this subject. Some are reading "nice" as being civil, and others are reading "nice" as being the way I've defined. One is pretty clear cut, as most can agree on what being civil is. The other is more murky. Wording is important because in the case of the second meaning, it's putting people's backs up. It's interesting that you feel free to say that how we word something doesn't matter when you're wagging your finger at us about the words we're using.

Anonymous said...

Let's be clear here. In some contexts, including arguments of this nature, "be nice" is a command, an order, to "shut up and be quiet." That's not a stretch. When your mother wanted you to behave, to be silent when others were talking, she said "be a nice boy/girl and sit in your chair quietly." If you're trying to communicate "let's keep the conversation civil and non-confrontational" by all means just say that. If you want to have a rational, reasoned discourse on the nature of sexism in comics and fandom, citing examples, presenting your point of view in a calm manner, more power to you.

However, telling someone that they're "too shrill" and "should just be quiet and not make waves" is diminishing the emotional nature of the issue, and therefore the target's feelings. Sometimes one has to be loud to get the attention of the powers that be.

A true jerk is going to ignore any criticism, no matter how "nicely" it is presented. A sensitive and thoughtful individual is liable to be offended by shrill criticism - but that sort of individual is, perhaps, less likely to create situations where aggressive responses are required. However, for those cases in the middle, where the individual is oblivious or inattentive, a good shove might wake them up...and make them change or at least take a good, hard look at their opinions and prejudices.

People are more passionate about things they want to improve, things they really care about. In this case maybe "nice" can take a backseat to allowing true involvement in change.

James Meeley said...

A true jerk is going to ignore any criticism, no matter how "nicely" it is presented. A sensitive and thoughtful individual is liable to be offended by shrill criticism - but that sort of individual is, perhaps, less likely to create situations where aggressive responses are required. However, for those cases in the middle, where the individual is oblivious or inattentive, a good shove might wake them up...and make them change or at least take a good, hard look at their opinions and prejudices.

Actually, a true jerk will ignore any criticism, no matter how it is put, be it "nice" or insulting. They truly just don't give a damn about anything anyone else says. That's why they are a true jerk.

As for the "middle folks", in my experience, NO ONE takes kind to being "shoved" (be it a literal or figurative kind). They won't change from such actions, except to maybe act out like a true jerk, because they don't like being shoved.

This is what anon is getting at. That the tatcics some feminists are employing towards the "middle folks", are more than likely to put them against the ideas and suggestions they want heard, not more likely to get them to see and understand them. And a lot of the "middle folks" tend to be the people in the power positions, whom you'd think they would want to have hear them most of all.

People are more passionate about things they want to improve, things they really care about. In this case maybe "nice" can take a backseat to allowing true involvement in change.

Having passion for something is great, provided you know how to properly channel that passion into ways that are of benefit to the goals you want to accomplish. But passion left to run wild usually ends up doing more harm than good. Most likely because in the heat of their passion, those involved do forego things like civility and courtesy.

If "being nice" (i.e. of the civility kind, not the be quiet kind) can take a backseat in the discussion of matters like this, don't expect any real or meaningful changes to happen any time soon... in fact, you can almost pretty much expect them to not happen at all. Because no one takes kind to being talked down to, exspecially if, as is the case with most "middle folks", they want, and are trying, to help.

But if creating the enemies of tommorow is what you want, then just keep on keppin' on with the hostility that i see so much of right now. You will ensure the struggle for feminism will continue, because it will have to. I guess you could call that "job security."

Anon, A Mouse said...

"However, for those cases in the middle, where the individual is oblivious or inattentive, a good shove might wake them up...and make them change or at least take a good, hard look at their opinions and prejudices."

I often wonder what leads people to believe this actually works.

Not to say it couldn't ever work, for some people, in some situations, but to me it seems counter-intuitive.

What's more, in some cases (see my comments on John Solomon and co. in past posts) this reasoning is used as a rationale, an excuse to deliberately be a jerk, "for their own good"...

James Meeley said...

"However, for those cases in the middle, where the individual is oblivious or inattentive, a good shove might wake them up...and make them change or at least take a good, hard look at their opinions and prejudices."

I often wonder what leads people to believe this actually works.


In my expreience it's a sense of "superior morality." They just think they know so much better than the people they are talking/preaching to, that they can treat them verbally with whatever amount of disdain they want. And if you speak up against them for that, it is only because you refuse to see how "right" they are, and thus you are deserving of that attitude.

I also agree with you that plenty of jerks use it to simply justify being a jerk, as if their being that way is mollfied because they do it for a worthwhile cause.

The whole this is very counter-productive to bringing any meaning ful discussion about, much less leading to any valuable or lasting changes.

In a way, it goes back to the old adage that "you can be right or you can be happy." People who feel as this person you quoted do will always opt for the former, no matter how detrimental that will be towards the latter.

V_Vendeta said...

"I'm tired of being nice." Followed by a brief statement about the ways in which "being nice" hasn't got her(?) anywhere.”
I don’t know if you are speaking about me bur if you are, then you are making a lot of false assumptions.
First: “if you choose to accept that path, isn't something done for short-term gain.”
If 18 years its short term, then yes, you are right. But you know, maybe I’m foolish but I would like to see some improvement while I’m still alive. I’ve being reading comics since I was 5 years old (weren’t mine but I read them anyway), I’ve being buying my own comics for 18 years. I know, I know, social changes take time but it’s still disheartening when things go backwards instead. And it’s not about the sex, European comics have a lot more sex than superhero comics. It’s about the lack of interesting female characters.
Second: You seem to think that being tired equals to being more aggressive. That’s not true, at least not for me. That just mean that I stopped going to cons, where there’s always someone that harass you and I barely go to comics shops anymore.
“ But "being nice" would go far in countering charges of "crazy feminazism" by all but the most rabid, inflexible opposition.”
So what? Most people don’t consider me as a feminazi but that doesn’t mean that they changed their mind or even listen to me, that just mean that they want to date me. And that doesn’t improve the comics I read. When was the last time you write a complaint letter just because a female friend of yours gets offended? Most people won’t do it, even if you support them when they complained about the killing of one of their favorite characters or help them organizing a con. Or write a RPG adventure for them when they couldn’t or DMing in their place or… Sorry but for us don’t work that way even if for you do.
I guess that from your point of view having male friends would mean that you would have support in changing comics, but you should consider that your experience it’s different from mine. You said that you can ignore harassment, but ignore someone graving your ass don’t make him take his hand off, on the contrary, he would think that you like it. And that’s in some way what happened with comics. When I were a hardcore fan usually men use me as an example of a girl who didn’t mind sexualized female superheroes, even if I said that I didn’t like it. I already had erotic comics for that and there don’t draw men as Ken dolls. And when I confronted them, they asked why I didn’t complain (even if I did). Well, some women are complaining now. And since the first comely complaints were ignored, some (not all) are getting more bold. Others like me have given up.
People try to explain to you that our experience it’s different to yours. That people not always listened when you ask nicely, not even the people that is supposed to be your friend. But to put an example you could relate better, is a if I said that I don’t get why male comic fans complaint so much about not getting a date with someone who liked comics when I never have problems with that. How could you not get a date when I just have to walk in to a comics shop to get one? And of course the answer is very simple, your circumstances aren’t mine.

But one thing it’s true, we should write our own stories (and I think that’s valid for every one). That’s what I do now. Internet it’s great for that. Sadly I lack the resources and the talent for doing that well. And sometimes you just want to read a comic. That’s when the “feminazis” reviews come in handy for people like me, they save me from disappointment and point me to comics I could like. So when you said that they’ll achieve nothing, well, that’s just your opinion. In my opinion they helped people like me to find comics that I’ll never would have known other way. And that’s something even if for you didn’t count.
I would suggest that before denying others experience try to remember that things don’t always work the same for different people. After all, the fight for black rights it’s not the same as women’s. It’s not even the same here than there.