I Know It When I See It (“It” Is Sexism)

When discussing obscenity, one Supreme Court Justice whom I am too lazy to look up right now* said that he would “know it when [he sees] it.” Like most moralistic crusades, rules against obscenity, sexuality, and sexually suggestive dress/behavior are usually left vague, opening them up to a lot of subjective interpretation. And wouldn’t you know it, that interpretation almost always winds up punishing women worse than men. Isn’t that just so weird?

Everything from school dress codes to online nipple bans tells women that literally everything about their bodies is sexual or sexualized. Female nipples? Indistinguishable from a male nipple in a closeup picture, but super sexy. A two-inch gap of skin between the end of your skirt and your knees? Super sexy. A bare shoulder? Oh baby, oh baby. A wedgie in your swimsuit? Sexy enough to disqualify you in a swim meet. (Google it, I swear to God.)

Twitch, the popular streaming platform, forbids “sexually suggestive content or activities.” And how they define that seems to be…. broad. And sexist. And subject to pressure from online harassment campaigns. Last week, streamer Quqco was suspended for three days for just such a crime for cosplaying on her stream as Chun-Li, a popular character from Street Fighter whose qipao involves a thigh-high slit. Now, again, this is cosplaying as a character from a game. A game that you can stream yourself playing on Twitch. But not, apparently, stream yourself dressing as.

Twitch’s guidelines seem to be purposefully vague. Cecilia D’Anastasio outlines this vagueness in an article:  

“Attire intended to be sexually suggestive and nudity are prohibited,” Twitch’s community guidelines read. For streams like Quqco’s, they “recommend attire appropriate for public settings, such as what you would wear on a public street, or to a mall or restaurant.”

As anyone who has ever been in public can tell you, “attire appropriate for public settings” covers a very, very large swathe of clothing. Like, all clothing. And Twitch seems to have banned just about all clothing at one time or another, at least when it is being worn (or drawn) by women. Nathan Grayson illustrates a few more recent bans that show that there is actually very little rhyme or reason to the way Twitch enforces its policies:

In addition to Quqco, several other notable streamers have received suspensions or warnings from Twitch about sexually suggestive content in the past few days. Late last week, IRL streamer Bridgett Devoue was given a three-day suspension for “sharing or engaging in sexually suggestive content or activities,” but Twitch did not elaborate any further. Over the weekend, Overwatch streamer Fareeha got hit with a warning (and a 90-day probationary period) after wearing a sports bra and baggy shorts at the gym. Also over the weekend, art streamer Saruei found herself on the wrong side of a warning for drawing “nudes,” despite the fact that her characters—while hentai-inspired and scantily clad—are clothed. Today, Twitch suspended her for three days.

Twitch has given the people it has punished very little in the way of explanation, and the victims of their vague guidelines worry about speaking against the platform for fear of further punishment or deplatforming. A few of them do point to online drama with the subreddit Livestreamfail, and YouTube or Discord channels aimed at harassing streamers, who often mass report streamers they don’t like, increasing the chances that Twitch will do something in response.

It’s my personal belief that much of Twitch’s eagerness to police women’s bodies is due to fears of retribution from FOSTA/SESTA, which would hold the platform accountable if certain vaguely or explicitly sexual content was hosted on it. But while I have empathy with this fear (because FOSTA/SESTA is garbage legislation that is actively harming women and other groups) it doesn’t excuse Twitch for its vague policies, inconsistent enforcement, gendered focus, and willingness to follow the desires of an online mob.

Signed: Feminist Fury

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*Justice Potter Stewart of the United States Supreme Court, in the case Jacobelis v. Ohio, famously said “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that. “

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Featured image is a screenshot of the “Chun Li vs. competitor” screen from the game Street Fighter II for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, with the competitor as the Twitch company logo.

Revisiting an Old Topic


When we started the new site, we started off with a bang (I apologize in advance for this joke). My first piece was on gun control, and was one of the starkest, most-likely-to-piss-off-my-loved-ones posts I’d ever written. Over a year and I-don’t-even-know-how-many mass shootings later, I stand behind most of what I wrote. But I’ve also learned a lot in that time, and I would like to address my changing perspective.

I am very upfront about the fact that I am a middle-class white lady. And while I try to constantly educate myself about various issues and perspectives, I have inherent privilege that means that I overlook things. One of the things I have overlooked is the racial aspect of gun control, and the interplay between militarized police forces and unarmed civilians.

When I wrote my first post, I was legitimately not thinking about (and possibly not aware of, I can’t really remember) the way that gun control laws have historically disproportionately affected Black people, or even been passed with the express purpose of oppressing Black people and other people of color. Following the Civil War, Southern states passed “Black Codes” that ensured that Black people were unarmed. One of the first bans of open carry was signed into law by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan, Patron Saint of Fox Newscasters, in response to the Black Panthers entering a Sacramento courthouse while armed. The next year, in 1968, the Gun Control Act was signed by Richard Nixon, Secret Patron Saint of Fox Newscasters. At the time, the NRA supported these laws, because White People Were Scared. (Kind of like how when the Black lawful gun owner Philando Castile was murdered by police, the NRA was suspiciously silent about the supposed natural rights of gun owners.)

Given the fact that pretty much every law, from prohibitions on weed to bans of “loitering,” are disproportionately enforced against Black people, there’s very good reason to believe that gun control laws will be equally disproportionately applied. And there are studies that back this up (that I am admittedly paraphrasing from an episode of Adam Ruins Everything). “Stand your Ground” laws are often not an acceptable excuse for Black defendants.  An analysis of ten years of ATF stings focusing on gun crimes found that 91% of people arrested were people of color. Stop and frisk policies in NYC allowed cops to just assume they might find guns or drugs on Black men, and thus harass millions of citizens. Gun possession penalization also adds to our mass incarceration problem. And the fact that so many people of color are left with felony records further disadvantages communities of color when it comes to legally purchasing guns.

One of my off-the-cuff responses to someone saying that we need guns because we need the ability to overthrow a dictatorial government is to say, “Well, the government has tanks and nukes, so good luck with that insurrection.” And honestly, I still think I’m mostly right. The police forces in small towns have tanks, SWAT gear, and chemical weapons that aren’t actually allowed in upfront combat but are apparently totally cool to use on protestors. So we’re in a very different situation than that the Founders faced in the 1700s, where both the government and the rebellion had muskets that took 30 seconds to load and about a 30% chance to hit. We simply don’t have access to the same weapons and force that the government does, and it’s (in my opinion) kind of ridiculous to think that your Far Cry 5 Bunker O’ Whiteness and Guns is going to stand up against the force of even a medium-sized suburb.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s entirely fair to ask communities to disarm themselves when said militarized police are not doing the same. You’re probably not going to be able to take on a police tank with an AR-15, but you probably have a better chance of it than you would without a gun. And if you are a person of color living in a community with increased chance of police violence or civilian acts of hatred, it seems downright dangerous to ask people to disarm. I don’t necessarily think that the answer to this issue is, “Everyone keeps all their guns!” so much as it is, “Maybe we should ALL have fewer guns, including the police.

As I said earlier, I do think that a lot of the things I said in my original post still stand. I sincerely believe that domestic abusers shouldn’t have access to guns, and that we need to close some of the loopholes that allow people like domestic abusers (or, y’know, white nationalists) to access guns. I really don’t think that it is a good thing that we have such easy access to weapons that are meant for the battlefield. But I also think that there are a lot of different things we also need to be doing. We need to de-militarize the police, so that they are ALSO not using their guns to kill people (namely people of color and mentally ill people). We need to stop treating the NRA as if it speaks for gun owners (it doesn’t) and start treating it as if it speaks for gun manufacturers (it does.) I think we need to have serious conversations about how “open carry” laws mean it is impossible to tell a “mass shooter” from a “responsible citizen.” We need to talk about how we can prevent necessary gun laws from having a disproportionate effect on communities of color, or being used as an excuse to harass men and women of color.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think anyone does. But I’m always trying to learn more so that the answers that I come up with are better.

Signed: Feminist Fury

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Featured image is a screenshot of a tweet by Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) reading “the “A” in “USA” stands for ArmaLite.

Stop Getting Mad At The Wrong People


Look what you’ve done. I should be editing my novel. I should be making another trip to the hardware store. I should be plastering a wall. Making dinner. Reading Ibram X. Kendi’s brilliant How to be an Antiracist. But here I am writing a post, because you—maybe not you specifically, but generally you—keep getting mad at the wrong people.

Imagine, for a moment, that you had to suffer through something awful. Let’s say you spent ten years “digging up” to get out of student debt.

Say you finally managed to get to a place of financial solvency. Great. Congratulations. You overcame a massive hurdle and a frustrating ordeal against the odds and at great personal sacrifice, and you should be proud of yourself.

Then someone comes along and says “let’s cancel everyone’s student debt.”

You, a hard-working success story, have two ways to respond, and the reason I’m writing this is because you keep responding the wrong way.

The right way is to say “Fantastic, now nobody will have to go through this unnecessary hardship ever again! The world is becoming a better place, and I am glad of it.”

The other way is to say “Hey! I had to go through this awful experience, you should too!” This is, to put it bluntly, asinine.

No, it isn’t fair that you had to struggle so hard for education, for something that should be a human right. But the reason it’s unfair isn’t that someone else is not going to have to struggle like you did. The reason it’s unfair is because you had to do so in the first place. Nobody should. If you’re going to be mad, be mad that it didn’t get fixed in time for you to take advantage of it. Be mad that you had to struggle. But don’t be mad that others won’t have to in the future.

Education debt isn’t the only place I’m seeing this asinine reaction. I’ve legitimately had to tell people this about healthcare in the past couple of weeks. Healthcare. Someone genuinely said to me that they worked hard so their family could have good health care, and if other people don’t have it, then they should just work hard too. Readers, many curse words were ungraciously sputtered in sheer disbelief. This genuine, bona fide asshole honestly thought that the roughly thirty million people in America who don’t have healthcare just don’t work hard enough to merit it. As though healthcare weren’t something you merit by the simple virtue of being human.

And before you start in on boomers, this mindset isn’t just limited to boomers shouting “back in my day” without realizing that in their day you could afford a house in the suburbs with a two car garage and two cars to put in it on the minimum wage. That would be one thing. But this is Gen X’ers and even older Millennials (such as my 36-year-old self, yes: we’re getting older now) who have legitimate grievances. Yes, we went through hard things. No, we shouldn’t have. NO, this does not mean you can blame the recipients of a better world for the fact that you didn’t live in that world.

I didn’t get Polio as a kid. I didn’t get Polio because I was vaccinated against Polio. It was a nice privilege I inherited because of the hard work of others. They not only invented a vaccine, but pushed for it to be given out for free. At no point would it have made sense for someone who managed to survive Polio to say “I got Polio and overcame it, why shouldn’t you have to?” Why? Because that’s bafflingly unreasonable, that’s why.

Your endurance and survival of negative things does not mean others should have to endure and survive them, too. You’re mad at the wrong people. And if you’re not going to help make the world a better place regardless of its benefit to you? Well at least do us all a favour and get the hell out of the way.

Signed: The Remixologist.

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Featured image is the meme image known as “Side Eyeing Chloe.”