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Reminder: The application period for the sci-fi Fate RPG is still going. Please check out the application thread to find out how to apply to be in it.

Now, then. Here's a question and answer from an AMA, or "Ask Me Anything," thread on an internet forum:

Q. Does [your girlfriend who used to be a miko, or Shinto shrine maiden] have any opinion on all of the cosplayers wearing her sacred vestments to look cute?

A. She doesn't care at all. Also they weren't really "sacred vestments" to her so much as a uniform...like a person at a fill-up station or a convenience store. She kinda likes Touhou, or at least she thinks the characters are cute. [...] She thinks Reimu's outfit is cute, and definitely better than what she had to wear.

-- [WARNING: NSFW / sexist / Reddit link] IAmA guy whose girlfriend was a miko (Shinto "shrine maiden") AMA

Sometimes, I get the feeling that it's the people who shame others for finding meaning in Japanese stories, symbols, and mythology, who are the ones that are actually racist. And possibly ageist, since a lot of the media that portrays these things came to North America in the form of "cartoons," "comic books," and video games, which aren't okay to like because they are "for kids."

Meanwhile, real-world Shinto shrines are actually using their connections to manga and anime to attract visitors. Via Green Shinto, an English-language article in a Japanese newspaper explains:

Some may see it as a trivialisation of sacred space, but priests and anthropologists counter this with such statements as, “Since ancient times, Shinto shrines have not been exclusive. It’s good if they are talked about and become attractive destinations.”

The ema with anime characters on them may strike some readers as weird and merchandise-y. But whatever your feelings about mass media and commercialism, I don't feel like it's a good thing to shame people for liking them. And I feel like when English-speaking people police each other for liking Japanese media, folklore, and/or religion, it doesn't come from a place of respect for those things. It comes from a desire to control, and to punish, and to keep racial boundary lines from being crossed.

Cosplay and other forms of self-expression can be used to give offense and to caricature. But I'm pretty sure that Square-Enix execs aren't offended when people in North America write Final Fantasy fanfic, and the priests at the Fushimi Inari shrine aren't upset about foreign tourists buying ofuda. If they are, they'll just have to console themselves with our money.

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[...] pretending that fictional characters have the agency to choose how they’re portrayed is a cheap trick that’s pretty much exclusively used to silence criticism.

- Annalee, Ghost in the Whitewash, the Geek Feminism blog

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(Content note: Racism. Additional content note: Visibly white person having unoriginal thoughts about racism and attempting to cite proper authorities on the subject.)



Q. What do you call a white man* who's an unconventional maverick, doesn't like to play by the rules, and frequently pisses off authority figures?

A. An action movie hero.



Q. What do you call a black man who's an unconventional maverick, doesn't like to play by the rules, and frequently pisses off authority figures?

A. A prisoner. **



* Feel free to prepend "cis," "straight," "abled," and otherwise normative here. Unless we're talking about the dood from Avatar, which is a whole 'nother kettle of alien fish.

** I actually doubt that most of the black male prison population in the United States is composed of assholes like James Kirk from the 2009 movie. I just wanted to point out the double standard, and how the stuff that gets people like him a reputation of being a troublemaker gets people like them destroyed. Fun to think about next time you take in an action flick starring anyone other than Will Smith~

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(Content note: TERFs, transmisogyny, xenophobia directed at otherkin and other invisible minority groups.)

I wrote, awhile back, about some social justice warriors on Tumblr, who take a break from smashing the kyriarchy to enforce it on minorities they don't like.

Not all people who profess a concern for social justice, or identity as SJWs are like this. The ones who are, though, use a skill that I called "mind-reading," but is really more like "depersonalizing someone by claiming their identity is not genuine and is just an extension of their privilege."

Read more... )

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(Content note: Racism. Originally posted on Paizo's product page, under the title "Unfortunate Implications.")

I played this at tier 1-2. This review does not contain spoilers.

The meat of the scenario is a resource-management minigame, which affects a village's readiness for a siege and mass battle. Unfortunately, given the racial and ethnic makeup of the average party of Avistanian PCs versus Shokuro villagers, what it amounts to narratively is Mighty Whitey swooping in and saving the bowing and grateful brown natives.

Seriously, this isn't a case of "the PCs are special and the villagers just happen to be brown." Not only do they turn over complete control of the village to you, to the point where you decide how many people will work the fields versus shoring up the defences, but mechanically, one PC can do the work of five villagers ... even when that work is harvesting rice. In an agricultural village where that is their livelihood. I thought Profession wasn't usable untrained?

It was when I realized this that I said, flat-out, "this is really racist," and the GM was like "yes, it is."

I tried to explain away some of the implications by saying that my PC (a kitsune shrine maiden of the goddess of rice) was performing a harvest ritual or something, while our half-orc fighter could do the work of ten farmhands just because of how strong he was. But it just seemed really unfortunate that these people had no agency and were being reduced to playing pieces ... which was a theme I felt like I had seen in the other Dragon Empires adventures, where the whole continent was exoticised and existed only for "western" people to have an adventure in.

Finally, it may just be that we aced the resource management part. But the epic battle some reviewers liked felt more like shooting fish in a barrel, because this overwhelming force seemed to attack in such tiny waves. I get the impression they were going for something like Dynasty Warriors, and I'm wondering if our GM was just having trouble describing the action.

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I don't remember a whole lot about Jon Huntsman except that he's Mormon, he was campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, and he didn't make it because he's not a climate change denier or young earth creationist.

He also apparently supports same-sex marriage now, and oh, his dad's kind of awesome:

Jon Huntsman Sr. has given away about $1.5 billion to worthy causes – about 80% of his total wealth. He is also spending $200 million building Huntsman Springs, a golf resort and nature reserve in Idaho that will donate all proceeds of real estate sold to his family’s charitable foundation. But neither of these totals include his strict tithing to the Mormon church of 10% of everything he has ever earned.

“My philanthropy is not borne out of my faith,” he says. “They require 10% tithing. I don’t consider that to be philanthropy and I don’t consider it to be part of my philanthropic giving. I consider it as club dues.

“People who put money in the church basket and people who go to church and pay the pastor: that isn’t real philanthropy, that’s just like you belong to a country club. You pay your dues to belong to that church so you pay your tithing or whatever it is. I’ve never added that into my philanthropy in any way because I just think it’s a part of a person’s life.”

This is especially true when you're donating to a "church" corporation that builds shopping malls. >_> But seriously, whatever happened to rich people being philanthropists? Why aren't they all signing on with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, pledging to give away half of their wealth? It's not like they can use it all or anything.

I mean, I know it's because of Ayn Rand and bad preachers and crap, plus racism here in the States. But still.

Maybe it should surprise me less that a handful of people break out of this mold, and more that nobody holds the others accountable. When effort and reward are as badly decoupled as they are in this society, a high net worth is a bug, not a feature.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

That's the most commonly rendered version of Google's motto, which most people invoke ironically these days as they point out the latest evil thing Google did. But you can do a lot of evil stuff without ever seeing yourself as evil. And if you're measuring how good you are by how evil someone else is, you get to be one of those people who wants a cookie for not being as terrible as someone else.

I personally feel that if you are alive, then you deserve to be alive, by default and until proven otherwise. I believe that "kindness is goodness;" that you are a good person just for being the kind of person you are, and that if anyone says otherwise or tries to prevent you from being yourself then they are being unkind to you.

I believe that some people are damaged, disabled, marginalized, or ill. I believe they deserve to exist, and to participate fully in society. I think it is the responsibility of abled people to accommodate them. I believe in solidarity with these people, and in giving up privilege or inconveniencing myself in order to keep them from having to do without things that they need or that I take for granted. I believe this is best done not through individual acts, but as a society, so that the responsibility is spread out and so that they do not need to beg.

I believe that some people are dangerous, including (but not limited to) carnivores, narcissists, and white European Americans. I don't believe that being dangerous means that a person is evil or must be destroyed. I believe there are ways to coexist, that do not have to involve harming innocents. But I believe that the burden is on the most dangerous people to find those ways, not on their victims. And I sympathize with those who resist them.

I believe that Chaotic Neutral is the best D&D alignment, because I feel it encompasses (or can encompass) all of the above. I believe you don't have to be "good" to be kind to others and empathize with them. I believe that the concept of "good" is overrated, and is often used to cover for dangerous people's actions, or to condemn those who resist them as "evil."

If "good" exists objectively, it is willing self-sacrifice on behalf of another. I don't feel that it's needed in order to be kind to others, because I feel that most people are naturally kind (or at least not dangerous) so long as their needs are met. But I do feel that kindness -- both in the sense of being yourself, and respecting the rights of others to do the same -- is a prerequisite for the kind of self-sacrifice that is helpful.

Otherwise, you end up seeing self-sacrifice as good in and of itself. You don't trust people who don't give up enough of themselves for "the greater good." And you give your all for other people, who you then expect to do the same for others, until there's no kindness left in the universe because everyone's trying so hard to be "good."

Or at least, to appear good. Which is much easier.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Valerie Aurora wrote an extremely good essay addressing what to do in this situation, and who is responsible for doing it. It starts by explaining what's wrong with telling suicidal people to "reach out and talk to a friend," as though this would save their lives and not merely be an added burden, and goes on to address things like sending the police to intervene. It argues

that we, as as [sp] society, should take more responsibility for making people’s lives bearable, and focus on supporting more concrete ways to prevent suicide, like helping people contact professional help, supporting research and treatment of depression, and fighting for social justice.

For instance, in the case of my parents of origin apparently calling a United Way suicide hotline which in turn sent police officers to my door -- as described in this somewhat visceral entry which I've now made public -- more helpful things they could have done to diminish my risk of suicide would have been:

  1. Encourage me to seek mental health treatment when I began having "emotional problems," about 12 years ago while we were living in Utah, from a licensed therapist who places my well-being ahead of adherence to Mormon doctrine.

  2. Read the Mormon version of Supportive Families, Healthy Children, a booklet published by the Family Acceptance Project. It explains how treating me the way they did when I came out to them as transgender increased my risk of suicide significantly, and shows how to relate to LGBT children in a way that the data show better upholds Mormon teachings on the importance of families.

  3. Treat my increasing unwellness and depression while living with them as our problem, not my problem, with the goal of helping me become healthy and not self-loathing (and gender dysphoric). Instead of communicating to me in a number of ways, and bringing me to a church which taught me explicitly, that if I can't live a sufficiently Mormon-y life it's better if I killed myself.

  4. Reach out to me with the intent of making restitution for the "mistakes" they admit to making and the damage they've already done. Such as my father of origin beating me as a young child, terrorizing me once I became sexually mature, and then breaking his agreement to co-sign a long-term lease and effectively raising my rent by $100 a month once I came out to him.

(Although I haven't counted, that last one is pretty easy to put a price tag on, and it is looming over every interaction or potential interaction with them. Why should I even talk to them when they directly caused me $XXX in damage, and show no sign of wanting to make up for it?)

Anyway, while that's all specific to my situation you can see how it applies to many other suicidal persons or marginalized groups of people. Instead of giving unhelpful advice, or using force to intervene, if you're concerned about someone you should educate yourself about their situation, and then (personally or as a society) take pressure off of them so that they can regain their emotional health. This applies doubly if you or your society are responsible for the state someone's in, like with young persons, victims of abuse, persons of colour, indigenous persons, poor persons, and gender / sexuality / species / romantic / religious minorities.

Whose choice is it, anyway?

The way things are set up right now, in the quasi-theocratic settler state that I live in, suicide is basically a crime, no matter how hellish your life is. The only way that makes sense is if your life isn't your own.

As Valerie says:

I want to put in a word for suicide as a legitimate, reasonable option in some cases. If you can’t imagine a situation in which killing yourself seems like the best option, you simply haven’t suffered very much. Suicide is, in a sense, the last form of protest against suffering that is too strong to make life worth living. Sometimes that suffering is purely organic – there’s something wrong with your body and it’s caused by nothing related to society. But sometimes, suicide is a protest against being forced to function and give support to a society that is so unfair and unequal that it’s not worth staying alive.

And finally,

If you really want to help, don’t do things because they help salve your personal feelings of loss and guilt, do things that lessen the suffering and illness that cause suicide.

She gives a list of these things towards the end of her essay.

Thank you to everyone reading here who has helped with those things.

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Danah Boyd wrote a review of Alice Goffman's "On the Run," about the way that the poor Black community interacts with (or is fractured by) "law enforcement." She also shares her own experiences with police abuse and corruption.

Not being able to be identified as a POC, I'm shielded from a lot of these terrors by white privilege. On the other hand, I'm poor, I look kind of genderqueer even while presenting as male, and I experience mental illness. All of these things make me vulnerable to maltreatment from pretty much any institution, and I'm always surprised when I don't get it.

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Eventually — perhaps a generation from now, perhaps two, but not much longer than that — there will be a statue honoring Kate Kelly in Salt Lake City. People there will find it confusing. Either it will confuse them because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will have become more inclusive, and so the idea of excommunicating an advocate for women’s ordination will seem strange, or else because the LDS won’t have become more inclusive, and thus most people seeing the statue will have a hard time remembering what a Mormon was.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2014/06/25/dont-even-speak-of-the-beat-menace/

The last time this happened, with black men being ordained to the priesthood in 1978, institutional Mormonism (separate and distinct from the personal faith of a number of Mormons) was able to basically sweep it all under the carpet. You can bet the black community remembered, but they're so underrepresented within the LDS church's membership that I could have Sunday School teachers give me racist explanations for the ban without anyone challenging them.

This is going to affect roughly half their membership. Even if they make it an optional thing, that women don't get until they turn 19* or go on missions or something, it's still going to be huge. I don't know what effect the Internet will have on it, since a lot of Mormons self-censor their web usage, but there are a lot more who are informed about their history and feminist issues this time around than there were during the Equal Rights Amendment battle.

A lot of them are going to become tomorrow's leaders. The only question is whether this will happen inside of or outside the LDS church.



* Mormon boys (meaning young Mormons assigned male, since they don't "get" gender identity) are ordained to the priesthood at age 12, if they pass a "worthiness interview" which requires them to discuss their sex life with a middle-aged man one-on-one behind closed doors. They repeat these interviews at least every two years, until they are ordained an "Elder" at age 18. If they confess to masturbating, it is often (usually?) seen as a reason to deny their ordination to the next office of the priesthood, which amounts to public shaming and causes a great deal of "concern" for them.

This is how Mormon boys learn to lie.

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~ Fox | Gem | Rei ~

We tell stories, paint minis, collect identity words, and share them all with our readers. If something we write helps you, let us know.

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