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This post contains misogynistic/sexist language, discussion of triggers, violence, murder and brief mentions of rape and suicide. Discretion is advised.

I don't generally talk about things like this here. I reserve discussions of a more...controversial nature for my 'real' comics blog. Keeping [livejournal.com profile] dr_von_fangirl a safe space that's free of drama is incredibly important to me, and I do my utmost to enforce the rules with a kind but firm hand so that can happen. If you've been especially horrible, or pushing my buttons for awhile, I lose my patience, but in general, I'm pretty easy going about keeping this place running smoothly, and am lucky enough to have only ever had to issue a couple of very, very mild warnings.

But every once in awhile, something happens that cannot pass without comment, and this is one of those times. Jeopardizing my readership for the sake of my ethics may seem like a difficult decision, but it's not. Integrity is entirely too important to me for there to be any question about what my response should be.

It all started innocently enough. A female character who is disliked by a large contingent of comics fans who are familiar with her walked out on her love interest, Spider-Man. Commentary ensued on scans_daily, comparing her being written out to Poochie's leaving The Simpsons and Henry Blake leaving M*A*S*H, both of which were sudden, awkward departures...which happened to result in death.

I can't find the clip from The Simpsons, but Poochie, a cartoon character who has outstayed his welcome on The Itchy and Scratchy Show, is written out. He decides, at random, to return to his home planet for no apparent reason, and then a card is flashed onscreen:



The other example in the thread, from M*A*S*H* follows:



One death was played for laughs, one was played seriously, but both were sudden, and neither made much sense from a narrative standpoint. To reference either scene in connection with another awkward departure seems like a no-brainer, as metafictional commentary on what is a popular trope that is often indicative of poor writing. A character is in the way, so they're written out in the most expedient manner possible, regardless of whether or not it works or doesn't within the context of the story at hand. Sometimes this trope is used to great effect, with emotional impact--as it was in M*A*S*H--but other times, let's be honest, most of the time, it's handled sloppily. In any case, both examples are valid when comparing a narrative technique to another piece of fiction that uses that narrative technique.

We, as geeks, speak in pop-culture shorthand; references are our bread and butter. We speak a language of metaphor, where you can say to a fellow geek who speaks the same language, "You are being such a Big Blue Boy Scout." or "Shaka, when the walls fell." and they'll understand immediately what you're implying. The implication of either of the references above should be clear to anyone familiar with them: a character is being written out of a storyline awkwardly.

However, a moderator took issue with these references, pretty clearly having no idea that's what they were, or what their context was, and then proceeded to call out the members who had made them for breaking the rules--and please make special note of that fact. The thread can be read here, but the comment in particular that I would like to address is here.

The accusation is that "Carlie died on the way back to her home planet" is advocating violence against women. This is bullshit from so many angles I can scarcely begin to count them.

First of all, death isn't inherently violent, and to suggest it is adds to the stigma that already surrounds the topic. Death is something many people are already afraid of; implying that death by unspecified means is automatically an act of violence isn't just harmful, it's also statistically incorrect. Did you know that, in the United States alone, fifteen times more people die of heart disease every year than those who die from suicides and murders combined? Even if I throw automobile accidents on the pile, it's still more than seven times more likely that you'll die of heart disease than from suicide, murder, or a car accident.

My next point, dear moderator? By all means: please tell me where in the list of rules for scans_daily that it says merely discussing violence against female characters isn't allowed. You can't, of course, because it isn't there.

Just to be clear, you can have a gander at scans_daily's rules yourself, here. The first two are the ones we'll be discussing.

As detailed in the rules, personal attacks, including threats of bodily harm, aren't allowed towards other members or creators, but there's nothing about characters. Since she isn't a real person, it doesn't fall under Rule #2.

Furthermore, since the discussion about the proposed death of Carlie Cooper--and not even violent death of, no matter how many times the moderator in question insists it is--has nothing to do with her intrinsic traits, her status as a woman or anything similar, this doesn't fall under Rule #1. Not even "overtly objectionable commentary based on people's intrinsic characteristics" because the commentary in question has nothing to do with her intrinsic characteristics.

And, down thread, someone posed the question of whether or not it was okay to cheer when a female villain takes a beating. The mod's response?

There's a pretty large difference between joking about a love interest getting killed and expressing approval when a mass murderer villain gets a beat down. We are able to take context into consideration, so don't worry about this.

I see. So wishing violence on a woman is okay under certain circumstances, then, and cheering that violence isn't against the 'rule' about approving of/condoning/advocating violence against women at all, which makes it seem less like a rule and more like an arbitrary guideline. I guess women who are criminals just don't deserve to have the same sympathy applied to them as "good girls" do, and that attitude doesn't migrate to the real world where female criminals are regularly abused in prisons without repercussions and are afforded no protection because of their status as criminals. Right. This is not a harmful attitude reflected in the real world at all.

So, salinea.

Are you having fun making it up as you go and expecting people to follow a rule that's printed on the profile page in invisible ink? Because in this case, you are completely in the wrong from every angle. The community's own rules don't support your stance, despite your assertions that they do, and presenting something as a rule when it isn't just to justify your numerous mod notes is so entirely dishonest that I'm completely disgusted with you for actively abusing your power as moderator.

And that's what this is: misrepresentation, or if I'm not feeling charitable, outright lying, and abuse of power.

You should be ashamed of yourself, if not thrown off the mod team for this behavior. And if the other moderators support your stance? That doesn't change the fact that you are all expecting the community, as a whole, to follow a rule that's only in your heads, not out where anybody can see it.

How can you treat the members of your own community in such a way, expecting them to adhere to rules that aren't in the rules and then rebuking them for not following them? Especially in light of this, from down thread:

Because no one in the Mod team is a mind reader[...]

But the community members are?

Whether I think any of the posters who made the pop-culture references are right or wrong or offensive or not is immaterial. I can see it as sarcastic metafictional commentary pointing out a trope, I can also see it as not caring if a character lives or dies, which certainly comes off as callous and uncaring, but not quite the equivalent of actively wishing violence on a human being, real or fictional. Both these viewpoints are valid.

However: you are conducting yourself in a way that is unbecoming of a moderator, is entirely unfair to the community and that makes it damn near impossible to ever hope to interact on scans_daily safely without fear of retribution for things that aren't actually against the rules. Making up rules that aren't actually in the rules and then enforcing them is wholly unethical, unreasonable and unfair. Let's be frank, here: it's wrong.

And don't even get me started on the fact that you're jumping all over this shit while letting several comments about douches and douche bags go unpunished, when those insults are so deeply tied to the sexist belief that vaginas are filthy and that women are dirty that they might as well be spewing, for example, "cunt rag", all over the thread.

This is especially problematic and distasteful considering the fact that the mod team called someone out for using 'hysterical' because it has negative connections to the uterus that are several thousand years old and is a reference to sexual dysfunction in the eighteen hundreds, both definitions of which are no longer in use, and incredibly obscure, as opposed to 'douchebag' which is negatively connected to the vagina in a modern context within the past fifty years and douching, which is still performed to clean out icky, icky vaginae.

More than that, you won't even consider that 'fridging', which conjures images of a woman brutally murdered, possibly even cut into pieces and then stuffed in a refrigerator is a more violently evocative reference than 'died on the way to her home planet'...because a brutal murder is far less violent than just dying through unspecified means, right?

It's just too hard to change your terminology even though casual discussion of brutal murder can be triggering, isn't it? Honestly, do you guys even think about what you do? About what it's like to be someone with triggers trying to maneuver in a world full of them? No. You think about how a Simpsons reference that doesn't even imply violence, merely death, is more offensive to you than a reference to a woman being brutally murdered and stuffed in a fridge.

You do know how triggers work, right? I'm assuming you do. I had PTSD from a severe car accident and couldn't see one in a movie without literally fainting. My mother was a rape survivor and couldn't hear the word without having a panic attack. A friend of mine with a relative who'd been murdered in robbery still can't stand to even think about any aspect of the gruesome method of his murder as a concept without it ruining her day.

A vague reference to dying without specifying method? Mod notes for sexism.

Hysterical? A word with negative connections to the uterus that are several thousand years old? Mod notes for sexism.

But Fridging? Totally fine. Totally not harmful. Totally not up for discussion or debate, even when someone points out how problematic it is.

Douche/douchebag? A word with modern negative connections to the vagina? Totally fine. Totally not sexist.

Furthermore, consider what you're defending. You want to talk about something that's damaging to me, as a woman? Carlie Cooper's death isn't it.

Carlie Cooper, the selfish, irrational, spiteful female character whose only in-universe hobby expressly puts her on display for a primarily male audience, is merely a convenient extension of the male hero without her own personality, who means so little to the creative team that her appearance is completely inconsistent and in a constant state of flux--leaving me with the impression that women are all interchangeable to them--and who is somehow portrayed as the perfect girlfriend is just as harmful to me as Cosmo's insistence that I should be manipulative and passive aggressive in my interpersonal relationships because tee-hee that's just how women are supposed to be.

Do you think that kind of thing doesn't feed into the consciousness of the fanboys in comic shops and at cons who treat me like shit because I'm a woman? You think it doesn't directly validate their views of women as bubbling cauldrons of irrationality? Really?

Seriously. Think.

And yet, scans_daily claims to care so much about being female friendly?

Oh, and look, now you've banned a commenter because you don't like his tone. You're using the tone argument. You're seriously, honestly using the tone argument and see no irony in this.

This is why I pretty much left the community once it moved from LJ. The hypocrisy is just too much to bear.

After all, I'm posting this here, rather than in a comment on s_d, because all I can realistically expect from you and your fellow moderators is "This isn't up for discussion" or "This thread is frozen."

Rather than opening a dialogue with members, or listening to/validating/just acknowledging their complaints about your own language and irrationally accusatory behavior, all you've done is shut them down. As a moderator, you should be just as responsible and accountable for your actions as the rest of the community is, if not moreso. Thus far, you haven't been.

I don't expect you to be, either, because after all, scans_daily doesn't actually care about its members, or upholding its own anti-oppression policies.

The fact that you've let a bunch of sexist shit slide in the comments of the very post I'm talking about and are defending a character who is a walking negative female stereotype just on the basis that she's female, without considering what she represents and what kind of impact her existence has on the way a woman is treated amongst other fans, and what her portrayal says about how Marvel feels about women, is proof of that. But hey, there are plenty more examples I could cite of your hypocrisy as a community, if the numerous examples from this single post aren't enough for you.

What used to be a huge, thriving comm with dozens of posts a day, and where I felt a sense of fellowship and safety as a queer, disabled girl geek, is dying and it's because you are killing it. Your intentions may be good, but I'm sure you're well aware that intent isn't magical, especially not when you repeatedly fail to live up to your own ethos.

scans_daily is in its death throes, it has been for quite a while, and to be perfectly honest, I am not the least bit sorry to see it go.

Shame on you for abusing your power. Shame on you for making problematic statements while calling out the problematic statements of others. Shame on you for taking the legitimacy from anti-oppression theory by treating it as a means of doling out punishment rather than a means of improving your space and thus turning it into a joke. Shame on you for using the tone argument. And shame on you for expecting your members to follow rules that aren't there.

PLEASE NOTE: Comments on this post are closed. Why? Because this isn't a community. This isn't an open forum. This is my personal space. You are not members. You are not Moderators. By the grace of my goodwill alone do you have the ability to comment here. You do not have rights, you have privileges, and since I have neither the time, energy nor inclination to deal with any s_d members or moderators who've had their feelings hurt because I've called out a bunch of hypocritical tripe, comments are closed.

Does this make me a hypocrite myself? Well, no, because this isn't an open community where you should automatically reasonably expect to be allowed to share your opinions and, furthermore, in the interests of keeping [livejournal.com profile] dr_von_fangirl a safe space, it's really better not to risk that a bunch of scans_daily moderators will bring their latent oppressive bullshit here and spew it everywhere, when, considering all the damning evidence above, I have a reasonable expectation that they will do so.

STUFF AND NONSENSE

This is the back-up account for what I hope will be the Ultimate Catwoman Fan Blog--Dr. Von Fangirl on LiveJournal. You should go check it out over there. I much prefer the original article.

November 2011

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