Episode #14 – “The Big F Word”

Episode #14 – “The Big F Word”

Oct 08

Our fourteenth episode features Tzufit and Apple Cider discussing what it means to be a feminist in and and out of the World of Warcraft. We cover reader questions and comments, what a path to feminism might be, and why this is important to playing the game.

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Below the cut is a full transcript of Episode 14, “The Big F Word.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Hey and welcome to Justice Points.  We’re here today – we’re going to be talking about a subject that is near and dear to both of our hearts.  We’re going to be talking about being a feminist in World of Warcraft, and what an intense journey and focus for our discussion today.

Tzufit:  Yeah, definitely.

Apple Cider Mage:  We decided to breach this discussion topic because it seems like in the World of Warcraft community, or at least the World of Warcraft community that we interact with, that not just saying you’re a feminist but doing and living your game time in a feminist way actually is really complex and also is really misunderstood.  We wanted to talk about why we’re feminists, how we became feminists, and what feminism really has to do with World of Warcraft.  I think a lot of people say to us, or say to themselves in general, “It’s just a video game.  What does feminism have to do with a video game?”

Tzufit:  Yeah, absolutely.  I think I would add to your list there that it’s apparently oddly controversial as well.  We have easily received more comments and more feedback, particularly on Twitter, this week when we put out the call for questions about being a feminist and playing Warcraft, or being a feminist gamer.  We’ve easily gotten more responses, both positive and negative, to that question than we have anything else we’ve put out there for people.  I find it very interesting because we certainly have made no secret of the fact that we’re feminist.  It’s in the tagline for the show.  It’s in everything that we’ve talked about so far.  But apparently, from the moment that we really highlighted that on Twitter, all of a sudden we got this storm of responses.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I think that’s one of the things that people don’t always realize, despite the fact that we are “Azeroth’s feminism and social justice podcast.”  I think the topics that we talk about aren’t automatically registering with people as being feminist topics at all, which is very strange to me.  But again, this is why we’re doing this episode.  We want to kind of get into what it means to be a feminist in World of Warcraft, what it means to be a feminist in general, and that ultimately being a feminist is what led us to start the podcast.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  That was really the point.

Apple Cider Mage:  Without feminism, you wouldn’t have this great, amazing podcast to listen to.  It’s interesting to me – and this is where we’re going to start our discussion first.  Why is feminism important to World of Warcraft?  Why is it important to us as gamers?  It’s interesting.  Anita Sarkeesian – and I’m always surprised when people hadn’t heard of her, but I forget that I am a person that spends unreasonable amounts of time online looking at feminism and video games in general in just my regular life, not even my WoW life.  Anita Sarkeesian is one of the big names in video games feminism because she decided to take her Feminist Frequency YouTube and make it also about video games.  She Kickstarted a ton of money, and I’m sure you’ve heard about this.  She Kickstarted a ton of money and got wildly harassed online.  I mean hate campaigns and people tagging up her Wikipedia page and making Flash games about her being beaten up.  She decided to tackle video games from a feminist perspective.  I think it’s one of the easiest ways to explain to people, or to get them interested in why feminism is so important to video games in general, and following from that, why feminism is important to World of Warcraft, particularly as a video game that is not only a video game, but also massive and also social.

Tzufit:  Yeah, absolutely.

Apple Cider Mage:  World of Warcraft obviously has like 8 million people, 9 million people.  Something like that.  7 million at this point.  I don’t know.  I can’t remember.

Tzufit:  I think we’re between 7 and 8 at the moment.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  So that’s a lot of people.  So you have 2 areas for feminism to be applicable.  You have as it relates to you as a person and the other people that you’re going to interact with in World of Warcraft, and you also have what we do predominantly, which is look at the video game itself as a “text.”  That’s kind of a little bit of an academic use of the word text, because granted, quests have text and that sort of thing.

Tzufit:  Well, I think one of the important things to me is that video gamers in general – there’s been kind of this push and this fight lately that a lot of gamers really want video games to be held up as an art form, just the way that we read novels as an art form.  We watch movies as an art form.  We watch television now as an art form.  That’s certainly, even for television, that’s kind of a relatively newer way to consume the media, but absolutely there are shows out there now that are very much interested in doing intense character studies or approaching different philosophies.  All those types of things are absolutely happening in media all the time, and we evaluate media based on that understanding that it is an art.  It is a text.  It is something that we want to look at and say, “What messages are we getting from this media that we’re consuming?”  So given that World of Warcraft specifically and video games in general are a type of media that millions and millions of people are consuming, and given that it is also a type of media that is going through the growing pains right now of trying to figure out what it means, if it can be, and if it is also an art form in addition to being a type of entertainment; then I think it’s absolutely crucial that every possible critical lens is used to analyze that media and see what messages we’re getting from it.  That absolutely includes feminism.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I think it’s what a lot of people mistake is that feminism isn’t just a political ideology.  It’s not just a “women don’t get paid as much as men” or sexism in the workplace, or things like that.  It is a critical lens.  It’s not just political issues.  It is a critical lens.  Imagine it like if you had goggles strapped to your face all the time and it helped you sort of focus in on things and look at things.  That’s a very literal way of looking at a critical lens, but there’s no way of not seeing something like World of Warcraft from a feminist perspective.  It just gives you a tool and it gives you a framework and it gives you an ideological grounding in how you look at anything really – art, and because of that, video games – from a feminist perspective.  It’s intensely interesting to us to look at World of Warcraft – the quests, the players, the raid bosses, everything like that – from a feminist perspective because we’re women, we play video games, we think about video games, and we’re feminists as well.  So how video games talk about women, how they portray women, how they show women in and out of the community, in the games and out of the games.  This is all important to us and how we react to that and how we talk about that is definitely informed by feminism.  Ok.  We’ve explained why we even look at World of Warcraft from a feminist perspective, because – you know – we are feminists.  So why do feminists need to be here in World of Warcraft?

Tzufit:  This strikes me as an interesting question because a lot of the negativity that you see expressed toward feminists who are in video games, and Anita Sarkeesian is certainly a good example there, is that video games are a pretty traditionally masculine space.  So what you will see people saying is women certainly can come in and play video games.  We don’t have an issue with them doing so.  But why do women need to bring their agenda?  Why do women need to bring their specifically feminine concerns into a masculine space that has always been masculine?  We’ve been functioning this way for 40 years now and it’s been Ok for us.  So what does it matter that feminism has some qualms when it comes to video games?  We’ve been getting along this well so far.

Apple Cider Mage:  [buzzer noise] Wrong!  I’m going to use a big word here.  It’s hegemonically a traditionally masculine space, meaning that men are not all encompassing in the video game community.  They are a part of it and yet their concerns, their desires, their group has been marketed to more strongly, I’d say, in the last 10 years than the entirety of video games in general.  Yet they’re seen as the arbiters and the sole providers and consumers of video games, and likewise World of Warcraft, when women have been playing video games since the same point that men started playing video games.  Same with every other group of people – queer people and people of color, and all of that jazz.  We’ve all been here since the beginning.  It’s not just for men, but I think that appearance, that image has been played up by marketing and the community itself and now that men have to recognize that we’ve been here all along, that our concerns are valid, they’re getting pissed.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  I think it’s pretty hard to defend a stance when that stance is essentially, “Yeah, you can come and hang out with us and play with us, but you have to play by our rules and you have to suppress any part of your identity that doesn’t really conform to the identity that we find acceptable.”  I just don’t really see how anybody has a leg to stand on with that kind of argument.  It’s pretty obviously terrible.

Apple Cider Mage:  You can definitely see where the problem is because you have people who have been playing video games for so long, women, who have only ever been able to play games that are from a male perspective, who have had to identify stories as a dude, which is funny because a lot of men are like “Well I won’t play a video game because I really just can’t get into a woman’s headspace,” despite the fact that we have been getting into men’s headspace in many different video games for years.  But also, that some of the messages and some of the characterizations and aesthetics of how women are portrayed, if they are portrayed at all, are very problematic.  If you’re a woman in the video gaming industry or if you’re in the video gaming community or the World of Warcraft community in particular, you feel conflicted.  You see things that make you feel gross or unwanted or marginalized or just icky sometimes.  You just see things and you’re like, “Well that doesn’t make me feel good about myself.  That doesn’t make me feel great to be a woman when I see all of these women characters that should be smart or funny or complex or flawed or anything, just kind of either flat or ‘crazy’ or are killed off or get shuffled off to the side once they become pregnant.”  How is it supposed to make you feel as a woman?

Tzufit:  Right.  That’s really the thing about feminism and it’s something we’ll get into as we discuss our paths to feminism later in the show, is that one of the things that you will notice when you become a feminist is that having that ideology, having that lens or as Apple Cider described it in a literal sense, wearing those feminist goggles means that you see everything that way.  It’s not just your interactions in real life with other people that you see that way.  It’s every single thing you watch on TV.  It’s every piece of news that you read.  And absolutely, it’s every character, every interaction, that you see in a video game and in World of Warcraft.

Apple Cider Mage:  That’s why I think feminism has a really great place and a place that’s necessary in World of Warcraft, because there are so many issues as players, there are so many issues with the story or the writing or the quests or how women characters are portrayed that need to be deconstructed, discussed, critically thought about from a feminist perspective.  We need to be here because I think those things need to get talked about.  That’s another reason why we started the podcast is we don’t think that there were a lot of those conversations happening and we wanted to share our own thoughts and feelings.  We’re feminists in the World of Warcraft community so of course we’re going to talk about it.

Tzufit:  Right.  I think we can’t discount either the fact that WoW is easily, by far, the most popular and the biggest MMO out there on the market, and in some ways the biggest video game on the market as well in terms of exposure and the number of people who have played it over the years.  So the messages that WoW in particular is sending to women gamers, or to any marginalized community of gamers, is even more intensely important than we see in lots of other video games specifically because its reach is so vast.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  The media that we see and the media that we criticize, it’s always important to really look at the things that people really love and people really enjoy on a wide scale with the most critical breakdowns because a lot of pervasive notions about things like gender and whatnot are informed by the media we consume.  WoW is not different from that.  It also has an effect on the kind of community that you’re a part of.  I would say that that’s very much my other obligation to World of Warcraft as a feminist and why we both need to be here is this stuff has a dramatic effect on the community that you’re around.  It’s not easy, a lot of times, being a feminist in the world, or being a woman.

Tzufit:  Right.

Apple Cider Mage:  Let’s make it broader, being a woman in the World of Warcraft community.  So if we take the game itself from a feminist critical lens – Ok, we put that off to the side.  The kinds of things that women deal with in video game communities or video game culture or the video game industry are definitely here and apparent in the World of Warcraft community.  It’s not any different.  There’s a lot of scummy stuff that happens.  Again, this is also why being a feminist really helps and really supports and also looks at the things that go on critically.  A lot of women – and we’re going to talk about this later in the show – a lot of women who identify as feminists or just in general have talked to both of us or one of us about how they’ve gotten harassed, or stalked, or abused in some way from people that they’ve interacted with in the World of Warcraft community.  That’s one of easily the biggest places to do feminist work is to help, support, and provide a space for women who have dealt with that stuff.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and on the other side of the spectrum too, even in instances where we have women who are talking to us who have not necessarily experienced that harassment or that stalking, they have gotten to the point in their career with WoW where they go to pretty significant lengths to shield themselves from having to see a lot of things and experience a lot of things that are extraordinarily problematic for them.  So even that necessity of having to adapt the game and adapt yourself to fit into a place that is not particularly happy that you’re there is also a really difficult position to be in.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  One of the reasons why, again, feminism is so important is it helps make a space for you in a community that keeps saying “You’re not welcome here.  This is not your place.  You shouldn’t be here.  Get back to the kitchen.”  Am I right ladies?  That sort of stuff.

Tzufit:  Yeah.

Apple Cider Mage:  I firmly believe that I probably wouldn’t be playing World of Warcraft anymore if I hadn’t gotten really into feminism sort of early on in my World of Warcraft playing career.  I would also argue that World of Warcraft helped me get into that frame of thought because of the stuff that happened to me through the community.  On that note, because we are talking about – we talked about how feminism relates to World of Warcraft, and I just brought up the fact that I wouldn’t have gotten into feminism if it had not been for World of Warcraft, I think we’re going to actually talk about how did we become feminists, how do you become feminists, it is a thing?  What’s the path?  I know that I wrote a blog post about it, so I’m going to put that off to the side.  Tzufit, why don’t you explain to us how you became a feminist and how that relates to World of Warcraft?

Tzufit:  Well I guess for me it was kind of just a long process.  I certainly suggest that – we’re going to put a link up here on our show notes to the blog post that Apple Cider Mage wrote a while ago – and I certainly suggest that everyone go read that because the path that she describes really is not that different from my own.  A lot of feminists, particularly in geek communities, struggle with some initial realizations about themselves.  So you sort of notice that, “Hey.  I like things that aren’t traditionally for girls.  I like things that are more traditionally for boys.”  Sometimes you can meet resistance from family or friends, etc, who don’t necessarily approve of that.  The harder part is when you actually meet resistance from other people who are interested in the same thing that you are, and they also don’t seem to think that you should be there.  So I guess, for me, becoming a feminist was really a long journey because I went through a lot of different steps of, “Ok.  I don’t like the way that I’m treated because I’m a woman.  So what I will do is minimize those things about myself that make me seem more feminine.  I want to be ‘one of the guys.’”  That is a pretty common thing that happens to a lot of women who tend to make their way into traditionally male spaces.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, it feels like the first step to becoming, particularly a geek or nerdy feminist because you’re in a hegemonically male culture – geek culture – you whittle yourself into this idea of the kind of girl or woman that these men think you should be, which usually means acting like one of the boys until they want to see you as a woman and then it’s in a very narrow way.

Tzufit:  Yeah, so it’s the idea that you’re acting like one of the guys for the most part.  You’re using their language.  You’re using their idioms.  You kind of adopt their behavioral patterns.  As you said, the one exception to that is when they do want to turn and see you as a woman, and at that point it’s really sort of a highly feminine, sexualized thing where-

Apple Cider Mage:  Where you’re seen as an object, not a person.

Tzufit:  Yeah basically, because it’s sort – it’s that status symbol both for you and for the guys that you’re hanging around with because, “Hey look.  We have this girl who is part of our community and she thinks we’re pretty cool, and that sort of immediately validates us in some way,” but then also to the woman because she’s invested in the idea that her worth is going to be determined by whether these men look at her and think that she’s attractive and think that they want her to be there.  So it’s this really weird mutual benefit that’s extraordinarily problematic because it’s completely based upon the gender of the people involved and it’s from a very sexualized point of view.  I understand that probably a lot of people who have been through that are very unwilling to recognize it as such because in the moment, what you think of as “Look at my awesome guy friends.  I get along so much better with guys than I do with women,” which is something that you will hear women in geek space say a lot.

Apple Cider Mage:  That usually comes from the fact that when you come into geek culture, you want to fit in with them because a lot of times as women you’re socialized to do that.  You’re socialized to be friendly and tractable and complacent, and you want to please the men because they’re considered the nerds, the geeks, the gatekeepers.  You want to please them and you want their validation because, again, geek culture’s position is very masculine, very for men.  They don’t have to prove their cred.  Their cred is already there just by being a dude who’s into geeky things.  Your cred is going to get checked.  Suddenly, if you get validation from other men that you’re doing the right thing and you’re one of the guys, of course you’re going to be like, “Well, I just get along with them better than other women,” because also as a woman you’re told that other women are – you’re given messages, sexist messages, about your gender.  Other women are crazy.  You’re not crazy.  You’re not like one of those other girls – they tell you, to your face.  “You’re not like those other girls.  You’re not emotional and you don’t cry about your period, or say crazy stuff.”

Tzufit:  Yeah.  You want to be the cool girl that they can talk to when their girlfriend’s being stupid to them.  That’s the initial desire there.  Prove just how different you are.  Show just how much you are not like other women.  Show how cool you are.  Show how much of a bro you are.  All that sort of stuff.

Apple Cider Mage:  Because being a woman is bad.  That’s the message.  Being a woman is bad.  And you’re not like that!  You’re totally not like that!  Because you’re cool, right?

Tzufit:  Yeah.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, it’s very hard to get around that – very, very hard.

Tzufit:  And then what’s worse from there is that in addition to wanting to separate yourself from the way that other women are, you’re also kind of actively degrading those other women too, because it’s really important for you to show how different you are from those other women.  So part of that process is saying, “Well look at what she’s doing.  I would never do that obviously, because I’m part of the group.  I’m part of the crowd.  I’m in with you guys.”

Apple Cider Mage:  And you will say or do things that, looking back – if you get into feminism – looking back you’ll feel really ashamed about.  Let’s go full disclosure here.  When I was not a feminist and didn’t think that it was important and didn’t think that sexism was a thing, I used to have – I made up this whole elaborate system of how to determine the difference between a girl that’s a slut and a girl that isn’t.  It was always positioning myself to all of my geeky friends – it was kind of a joke, you know, a “joke” – I always positioned myself as totally not a slut and all those other girls, they were sluts.  It was like this whole big thing that I used to always talk about and all my guy friends would totally agree with me.  “Oh yeah.  Nico, you’re so smart.  You’ve totally got a handle on things.”  And do you think that they went and turned around and said that sort of stuff to women?  Absolutely, because guess what?  A woman was backing them up.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and that’s the really scary thing about it too.  When you give that validation to the misogynist claims that people are making around you, especially because you’re speaking as a woman to them, you’re being sort of their advocate as a woman to say, “Yeah, you’re totally right.  People just need to get over this.  They need to stop doing X Y or Z.”  So you’re giving them what they see as a go-ahead to say, “That’s right.  There’s no reason for people to get angry about this.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, because look, this woman isn’t getting angry about it and if she says it’s Ok – you become the basic foot soldier for a non-unique set of patriarchal values that men espouse about women all the time.  It’s hard because it’s internalized.  You hear it every single day of your life as a woman and you internalize it.  So of course you’re going to regurgitate the, “Oh well that woman’s a slut,” or “That one’s a bitch,” or this that and that other thing because you have heard that literally every day of your life.  You don’t want to be a bitch.  You don’t want to be a slut.  You want to be cool and you want to be in with these guys when nothing you’re saying is new.  It just makes you hate yourself.

Tzufit:  Right.  That’s part of the hardest part when you start to get out of that cycle is that you have to realize that what you’re doing doesn’t actually help you in any way in the end.  What you’re doing is actually repressing pretty significant parts about your identity because you’re being told that that’s how you get ahead and that’s how you get accepted.  So don’t talk about things that make you uncomfortable when it comes to the language that’s being used or the media that you’re seeing, because basically there is no problem unless you make it a problem I think is the way that people want to see it and the reason why we kind of got some shit this week about being feminists talking about WoW.  I think the idea is that there’s no real problem unless people create a problem, and that’s the message that we’re given.  So of course, when you’re in that stage of things, you don’t want to create a problem.  You don’t want to rock the boat.  Absolutely not.

Apple Cider Mage:  But it always comes to a point where it gets to be too much.  The thing that I always say to young women who are getting into geek culture, getting into feminism, is – there is always going to be a part, there is always going to be a time when they will come for you too, because it always happens.  You are not shielded from men and patriarchal values 24/7.  It’s not going to happen.  They will always turn on you.  They will either say something or do something or you will inadvertently say or do something and suddenly, all of the guy friends that you had will vanish, or in a lot of cases they will actively be hostile to you.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and it can happen in a million different ways.  I’ve heard from people where it’s happened in so many different ways.  Either it’s just speaking up about something that’s been bothering you and asking for people to make a change, or something scary where it gets to the point that people assume that because you’re close and you’re friends that all of a sudden that means that they can impose some sort of assumptions about your romantic or sexual involvement in that person too.  Of course, part of what you’re doing the entire time that you’re part of this in-crowd is probably flirting with these people as well.  So at some point, if they decide to interpret that as anything other than casual flirting – there you go.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Kind of what it was for me is – and I remember this very distinctly, and it’s funny because feminism usually talks about this as like “taking the red or the blue pill” because you have that moment where you realize that the world is very different and you have to kind of move forward.  A friend of mine on Twitter, Dysmorphia, wrote a really good post about this particular moment that schism where the cognitive dissonance falls apart and you’re kind of left with do you accept the things the way they are and just pretend it didn’t happen and “go back to sleep,” or do you take the pill and wake up and realize that it’s been shitty up to this point?  She wrote a really good blog post about it, so I’ll link it in the news post.  But that moment for me was a guy friend of mine making a rape joke at me.  It was so profoundly awful.  We were on Vent.  I can remember this.  This was in Burning Crusade.  We were all on Vent.  It was a guild full of guys that were all raiders and I was friends with all of them and we were just joking around.  One of them basically joked that he would come over and rape me, and everybody laughed.  Being a rape survivor, needless to say, that did not go over as a joke.  It actually triggered me quite a bit and I had to tell him on Vent, “Hey.  That’s really not cool,” which is funny because that was definitely, definitely not cool but I kind of kept it together somehow.  Suddenly, one by one, none of my guy friends stood up for me.  None of them said, “Hey man.  Hey.  Wow.  Why would you say that?  Why would you do that?”  None of them said a fucking word.  None of them.  Little by little, they all started to drift away and then I got a boyfriend and all of them definitely started to drift away after that.  Suddenly you wake up and you have no friends, you have no support.  I mean I had friends obviously.  I was in a guild.  But a lot of the people that I didn’t do stuff with in guild were all gone.  That was that moment.  I remember it very distinctly for that reason.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and I think it’s worth breaking down why exactly they thought that that joke was funny and why they thought that you overreacted to it.  I think the assumption, when you are a woman in a circle of men, and the men are very aware of the fact that they are paying you lots of attention as a group because you are the woman there, that when somebody says something terrible like that they’re going to come to your house and rape you, you’re supposed to somehow be complimented by that fact because it means they’re sexually attracted to you.  The backwardness of that logic, I understand, is almost impossible to be able to grasp, but that is truly where it is coming from.  It’s this sense that we are bestowing this affection and attention upon you and how could you possibly be offended by that?  Why would you ever turn around and throw that back in our faces?

Apple Cider Mage:  You should be grateful that we’re giving you attention because otherwise you’re just a chick and no one has to listen to you and no one has to like you.

Tzufit:  And you don’t need to be here.

Apple Cider Mage:  Exactly.  It can cause a lot of conflict because I think a lot of what’s even hard for feminists to get around is that you do not, at any time in your life, need men to tell you that you’re a good person.  You do not need a man to do that for you.  You do not need attention from men to be a beautiful, wonderful, special person.  But we’re taught from day 1, which is funny because it’s not even just straight women, it’s all women in general, are taught that the only way that you are a whole, complete, special, unique, cool person who is worthy of everything in life is only if a man is telling you you are.  That’s patently untrue.

Tzufit:  It’s especially true in the gaming community that you’re receiving that message because the notion is that you need to have the in of other gamers to be accepted within the gaming community.  If you want to be on a raid team, the other members of that team need to believe in your ability enough to want you there.  So particularly in an MMO, in a large MMO like WoW, it is important that you have the acceptance of other people in the community or you’re not going to be able to participate in certain things.  So that is kind of the carrot that’s being dangled in front of you to say, “We need to accept you or else.”

Apple Cider Mage:  I think it’s interesting that you bring that up very specifically from a WoW perspective.  I think that need has gotten a lot less in years because World of Warcraft has so many things that you can do casually now that you don’t need to rely on other people’s credibility to get places; whereas in Vanilla and Burning Crusade, you absolutely had to make ins with people, especially if you wanted to raid, because you had to get attuned, you had to get geared up, you needed a raid team to do a lot of stuff.

Tzufit:  Right, and certainly the advent of things like LFR and Looking For Group and all of those has made it much more possible for people to engage in group content even if they don’t know the other people in that group.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  That’s actually a good point.  I think we might want to hold on to that thing and discuss it a little bit later in the show, but that’s kind of the path that you take as a feminist.  You have that moment – everything leads up to that moment and once that moment happens, you very quickly start to see how the status quo has failed you.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and prior to that moment, it’s a very, very common thing – and I would hesitate to say “all,” but I imagine most feminists who you talk to will tell you that they absolutely had a point in their lives where they said specifically, “I am not a feminist.  I do not identify as a feminist.  In fact, I identify as sort of opposed to feminism.”  A lot of people go through that moment as a part of getting to where we eventually end up.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, or “I’m for real equality,” because we’re always presented – Anita Sarkeesian did this as a part of Feminist Frequency – the idea of the straw feminist.  It’s this constantly angry, hairy, ugly, lesbian sort of thing.  “I don’t want to be that.  I want to be for real equality.  I don’t want to be some man-hating, castrating, matriarch that just wants all men to die.”  When you start to get older, you start to realize that maybe that’s a cool thing to be, actually.

Tzufit:  I think part of it to is, we often get the messages that – and this is not unlike what I was saying earlier about – there are only problems when people create problems.  There’s only an issue when people force the issue.  If we all just hang around as gamers and get along together, then there won’t be a problem.  It’s just simply not at all true because what you’re saying “If we all hang around as the hegemonic example of what gamers are supposed to be, then we’ll all be Ok.”  You’re not actually saying, “Everybody gets to be themselves.  Everyone gets to be an individual.”  It’s not that message and people say that as if they’re being inclusive and progressive and it’s not.  It’s not helpful.  It’s actually counterproductive.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  When the culture devalues you for your identity, being a gamer is a really shit piece.  It’s a really shit piece of shit.  When being a gamer means and devalues your identity, it basically means that being a gamer is actually a pretty shitty deal and you really don’t want to be a part of that community.  Whereas, if it was really open and tolerant, you would be able to be ugly or pretty, or hairy or not hairy, or black or white or brown, gay, straight, trans, cis, everything.

Tzufit:  And be able to point out the things that are problematic both in your community and the game, and people would have intelligent discussion with you rather than saying, “Well why are you bringing that up?  It doesn’t matter.”

Apple Cider Mage:  That kind of conversation happens when you challenge the status quo, when you challenge people’s privilege because a lot of people in the gaming community don’t have to deal with this stuff.  They don’t have to deal with looking at a video game and feeling awful about themselves or not even seeing themselves represented.  Full disclosure, both of us are white.  Both of us are white women.  There are at least other white women characters in video games, as opposed to the maybe 5 I can think of in the entire history of video games of black women in video games.  Not to mention, if you are anything other than a white, straight, cis dude, you’re pretty much not going to see characters that represent you at all or, if they do, in a very stereotypical, narrow, flat sort of way.  So you get to this point where you’re becoming a feminist or you’re kicking and screaming into becoming a feminist, and it’s really depressing at the start.  It’s hard because – think of it kind of like exercise.  You know the first couple of weeks when you start getting into doing exercise, you feel like shit all the time because it’s a muscle you’re not used to using or you’re achy or you’re tired.  You just feel beat up.  That’s kind of how feminism is.  That first little while is depressing and it’s seeing things around you that you liked and cared about shitty, shitty shit.

Tzufit:  It’s absolutely an uphill battle when you start out – and, well, all the time – but especially when you start out.  Like you said at the beginning of the show, I just like the goggles analogy, because it’s like you strap on the feminism goggles to your face and you – everything that you have ever experienced up to that moment in time, you look back and you go, “Oh.  That interaction was something completely different.  That conversation was something completely different.  That video game was something completely different than what I thought it was.”  Then the worst part is when you look back and realize not only has all the media and all the people and the interactions in your life been affected by this thing that you couldn’t even see until now, you look back and then you realize all of the shitty, terrible things that you, personally, as an individual have done to contribute to that.  And that’s where you just kind of hit – like I would call – feminism rock bottom.

Apple Cider Mage:  It happens a lot, especially if you are white in particular.  This is something that a lot of white feminists have to grapple with is you are not only learning about the shit that you had to deal with as a woman, but you have to unpack all of the shit that you did to other people, to other women, particularly to brown and black people up to that point as well, because you also are unpacking things like white privilege.  It’s like a backpack.  You open up this backpack and suddenly it’s like, “Oh wow.  I was a terrible person and I didn’t realize all of these things that I said and did.”  You have to go from there.  You have to do work to undo that way of seeing the world, and you have to do the work to not be a shitty person going forward.

Tzufit:  And it’s such an active way to have to see and interact with the world at all times.  I joked around with Apple Cider the other day because we were chatting in an IM conversation and I used a word and then I looked back and reread the sentence and realized I don’t like that word at all and I have to remove that word from my vocabulary now.  It’s funny because it is that absolutely constant, 24/7 evaluation of yourself and of the things around you, and making sure that you are looking at everything with a lens of empathy and justice because you probably weren’t before and because most people don’t.  So a lot of the stuff is just taken for granted and is thrown out there and is part of the lexicon.  Having to be so hyper-aware of everything that you’re doing and saying at all times can be absolutely exhausting and completely depressing.  It is understandable why there are a lot of people who don’t choose to go that route.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, because you’re heading up against a wall of really scary, really huge problems and it feels like you have to focus on everything all at once.  You get really depressed.  You also get angry, too.  I think one of the – I think the stages of grief and the stages of feminism are actually really similar.  There’s denial, and then anger, and then bargaining.

Tzufit:  Yeah.

Apple Cider Mage:  I mean that’s a very rigid way of putting it and it’s mostly kind of for hyperbolic humor effect, but you do get angry.  You get angry that the world has shit on you.  You get angry at yourself for being whatever or doing whatever or saying whatever.  You get depressed about things like privilege.  You get depressed about the inequalities.  And you have to work through that framework.  You have to work through that.  You also lose a lot of friends.  You lose all those guy friends, but a lot of people, when you start to get past that point of seeing everything as shit and then starting to talk about everything being shit with other people, you will lose a lot of friends.  You will become the unfunny, humorless, oversensitive, judgmental feminist person very quickly with your friends.  They will get mad at you for saying, “Well, but that TV show was really shit about how it wrote that woman character,” or “This video game has a really problematic portrayal of minorities,” or that sort of thing or, “Why would you make a joke about undocumented workers,” that sort of thing.  That critical voice that sits in the back of your head 24/7 now is slowly coming out of your mouth, whether it’s in social media or whether it’s your real life or your parents or your colleagues or your workplace buddies.  You’ll start to find out who your friends are really quickly.

Tzufit:  And you’ll also start to find out who the people are that are not on the same phase of the journey as you are at that point.  It’s going to happen and maybe they’ll eventually take that red pill and maybe they won’t, but unfortunately it’s extremely difficult for people who have kind of reached that point where they want to “do feminism” to find common ground with people who are still at that point where they want to be accepted in nontraditionally female communities.  There is very little that either of those 2 people can do help each other or to talk to each other at that point because they’re practically speaking different languages.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I mean you don’t want to be rude or nasty, particularly to other women who aren’t in the same place as you are.  I have a lot more sympathy, for sure, because as much as you were angry about feminism, you don’t want to shut other women out.  It’s hard because a lot of other women will put up just as much static as men will.  But I try to have more sympathy for women because I’ve been there.  I know what it’s like.  But on the other hand, you will always have to contend with people that are there to pick apart what you say and to get in your face about it.  There’s always this huge decision – do I come in on this angry or do I come in on this polite and gentile and try to sway them to what I’m saying?  It’s a very hard decision all the time.  But there’s positives.  You come into feminism and suddenly you have a lot more women friends than you used to.

Tzufit:  And you have people who really care about and are happy to discuss with you all of the stuff that you’re working through, because you will be working through so much stuff at that point.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Once I started really getting into feminism, I suddenly had a lot more women friends.  Absolutely.  And it was great because, guess what?  You could turn to your friends and be like, “This shit is really terrible.  Why did we deal with this?”  And they’re like, “Yep sister.  I know what you’re going through.  I know what you’re talking about.”  My guild now largely is most of the women that I became really good friends with 3 or 4 years ago after I really started to get into feminist stuff.  It helps to have a support network because you’re going to need it because even if you have feminism to guide you or to give you backup, you’re still going to be dealing with all the shitty things that made you a feminist in the first place.

Tzufit:  Oh yeah.  I mean, you know feminism is great because it helps you look at something and explain, “Well I understand this is why this happened to me in this way,” but that doesn’t make it any easier to work through.

Apple Cider Mage:  It doesn’t stop it from happening.

Tzufit:  Right.  Yeah, absolutely not.

Apple Cider Mage:  You’re still going to get harassed and you’re still going to get picked on and men are still going to be creepy.  The only thing that feminism really does is give you a way of explaining why that occurs.  It also does give you some coping mechanisms.  I will say that.  But there’s a reason I went through therapy for 2 years.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  I think another thing that’s important to point out, especially for us because we’re talking about World of Warcraft, is that one of the things that feminists will get told or anybody who’s looking at media critically will be told is, “If you hate this so much, if you find so many problems with this, why are you playing it?  Just go away.”  That has always really bothered me, whether it’s World of Warcraft or a TV show I like, or a movie I like, or a book that I like because it’s specifically that I love this media so much that it matters to me what it is saying.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I mean World of Warcraft – we both love World of Warcraft, but we are also very critical of it because in feminist discourse, in particular with media criticism, you can absolutely love something but you also can be absolutely critical of it at the same time.  It is Ok to like something that is problematic.  It is Ok as long as you realize that it is problematic and don’t defend it.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  I mean that’s the thing that I spend a lot of time explaining to people is that you can watch a TV show and realize, “Man, this is really – there’s some issues here with the way this woman is being portrayed or the way this narrative has developed.”  You can have that realization and you can talk about it, and you can still tune in and watch that show again next week.  It absolutely works that way.  Now I think there’s a threshold, probably, for most people, for most feminists, where it gets to the point where like, “Ok.  This is so problematic that I do not feel comfortable watching this anymore,” or “I don’t want to give my support to it in the form of viewership anymore.”  Like absolutely there are moments with certain pieces of media where you may reach that.  But if it’s something that isn’t so egregious that you’re not willing to throw your money or support behind it anymore, then absolutely you can still enjoy a piece of media while simultaneously pointing out that it has some problematic messages.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  There’s no master list of things that are or are not approved by feminists because feminism is not a monolith.  It’s a lot of people from different backgrounds and different places and a lot of it also has to do with personal tolerance.  What might bother me might not bother Tzufit or vice versa.  There’s some shows that are pretty Ok but I can’t watch them due to sexual content or violence.  It’s all sort of a choice and it’s all sort of dependent on what you can tolerate.  Yeah, like you said, in general it’s completely Ok to have a threshold.  It’s completely Ok to watch something that you find problematic because what would do as feminists if we didn’t look or watch or read anything that was problematic?  We would do absolutely nothing except sit in a room all day and do absolutely nothing.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  It’s so true.

Apple Cider Mage:  That’s the part of it.  We’re in a society and we’re in a world that is problematic.  There is nothing that really isn’t.  So unless you want us to like-

Tzufit:  Hang on, I need to go delete every single piece of music off of my iTunes right now.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I need to stop being friends with everybody and I need to get rid of all my social media.

Tzufit:  Unsubscribing from Netflix.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yep.  World of Warcraft – gone.  Mass Effect – gone.  Final Fantasy XIV – gone.  Everything in the trash.  You also can’t make jokes either.  I’m sorry.  You can’t make jokes because what happens when you become a feminist is you actually lose your sense of humor.

Tzufit:  It is a prerequisite.  Before they will hand you the feminism card, you have to hand them the sense of humor card.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Absolutely.  You can’t be a funny feminist.  It just doesn’t work like that.  You have to be humorless and a killjoy and funny at no moment ever.  So now that we’ve described a little bit of the path of becoming a feminist, we actually – most of the show we actually wanted to focus on is what questions and experiences did people have either as a feminist or questions for us as feminists.  We’re going to go through first questions that our audience had from either Twitter or email and answer some of them really quickly, some things that didn’t get talked about earlier in the show.  Tzufit, you go first.

Tzufit:  I’m going to pick out this one from @Orkchop on Twitter, who asked us, “What are some tips for being a good ally (even if you play Horde)?”

Apple Cider Mage:  That’s a really good question.  This is kind of skipping ahead to some of the Feminism 101 stuff.  Men – how do men fit into the feminist equation?  Ally is a very specific term that kind of gets bounced around in describing people who are not part of a marginalized group, so say dudes basically, when it comes to feminism.  How do men be allies to feminism?  How do they help?

Tzufit:  I think that my answer to this question would be, just as we talked about earlier that being a woman and being a feminist means constantly evaluating the things that you are saying and the things that you are doing, one of the most important things about wanting to identify yourself as an ally is knowing that somewhere along the line you’re probably going to screw up.  You’re going to say something that offends somebody, that’s problematic to somebody, that hurts somebody.  When that happens, you really have got to leave the ego behind.  No one wants to think that they are capable of racism.  No one wants to think that they’re capable of sexism.  But the fact is that because it is so absolutely ingrained in who we are from the moment of our birth and maybe even before that, it’s going to happen at some point that you are going to make an assumption that it’s Ok to do X or it’s Ok to do Y, and somebody is going to get hurt by what you’ve done.  When that happens and you get called out on it – because you will, if you’re in a feminist space and identifying yourself as an ally – you have got to say, “You know what?  I’m sorry.  You’re right.  It won’t happen again.”  That is the only response.  Doubling down and trying to explain, “Ok, yeah, but I didn’t mean it that way because this,” or saying, “Right, but you shouldn’t take it that way,” that is not being an ally.  It’s not being helpful.  So if you are truly committed to that label and to that title for yourself, it’s knowing that you are capable of screwing up, you are capable of assuming privilege, and being able to adapt appropriately when somebody points it out to you.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I’d also say being a good male ally to feminism is knowing when to listen, which is 99% of the time, because a lot of these issues are things that women go through and not men.  So listening instead of talking because, as a man, your voice and your opinions are already privileged and given central location to the discussion when it should really be centered around women’s concerns.  Something proactive that male allies can do – call out your shit and collect your dudes.  If a dude is doing something problematic, it’s not being a white knight if you pull them aside and say, “Hey dude.  That’s not cool.  Stop doing that.  That’s sexist.”  That is one of the biggest things that male allies do not do is step in and collect men.  I notice it a lot on social media.  A woman will be absolutely flooded with bullshit on Twitter and guys do not say a fucking word.  They’re completely Ok with giving their opinions in a conversation that women are having amongst themselves, but they don’t step in to say, “Hey.  That’s gross,” and push the guy away from the woman.  They don’t step in and do something when part of being an ally of anything is collecting your people.  It means grabbing a guy by the ear and saying, “Hey.  Not cool.  Cut it out.  That shit’s fucking gross.”

Tzufit:  I know we had an email as well that came in that was kind of about someone’s experiences as an ally.  Do you want to go ahead and read that?

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  This was from our listener Christopher.  He says:

I’ve been playing WoW with roughly the same group for the past eight or so years. I’ve been friends (more or less) with this group for around ten years or so, and we’ve moved from game to game, depending on where interest goes.

These are people who are close to me. Our general motto has always been “no one fights alone,” which is really fist-pumpy and whatever. We’re close. We even meet in “real life” every summer! You get the idea.

Unfortunately, over the last couple of years things have gotten, uh, awkward.

When the whole PA [Penny Arcade] thing happened a few years ago, [Note to our listeners:  That’s the “dickwolf” controversy thing.] I found myself questioning a lot of what I believed. I went from someone feminist-agnostic to someone who couldn’t ignore all the bullshit that was around me.

My friends, however, did not feel the same, and were openly hostile to feminism.

But that was okay! I figured it would just be a matter of time — water against the rocks, and all that.

Years later, and… no.

Whenever something vaguely feminist reaches the gaming circle, I hear about it. Loudly. I hear about how Anita Sarkeesian is the worst person in the world. I hear numerous ~jokes~ that I’m just supposed to shrug off. I can’t mention my academic work without being laughed away from people who are, theoretically, supposed to be my “support” group.

At our yearly meeting in July, my friends sat around a table while we were playing some board game. They started making rape jokes. My fiancé sat next to me, clearly uncomfortable. I spoke up and told them to stop — and they did, but not without looks.

I heard about it later.

No one apologized, mind you — they just complained. Complained that I was turning into “that guy.”

It goes without saying that I don’t really enjoy playing games with most of them anymore. I don’t even enjoy being around them.

I’ve found the same thing is mirrored in WoW — most of the people I meet align with the “feminism as an annoyance” belief. Despite being a “focused” gamer, there’s no fucking way I can stand/deal with the community that surrounds most raiding guilds. And arena? Hahahahaha. In my eight years of playing, I haven’t been on a single “high rated” team that doesn’t have AT LEAST one MASSIVE asshole on it.

And yet, despite all of this, I know I can just “turn it off.” I’m King of Privilege Mountain. While all of it bothers me, it doesn’t impact me. It doesn’t prevent me from existing in the space — it just prevents me from being comfortable in it.

But even that just makes me angrier.

I don’t really know where all of this rambling is going. I guess the message here is that if you ask people to not be assholes — if you ask them to have a little empathy — you will likely hate everything about That Thing You Loved.

Kind of a depressing email, but it does illustrate the sorts of things that male allies have to deal with, which is you get the whole hatred of everything that some feminists get, but you still have a responsibility to make that space comfortable for women, if only by calling shit out, really.  So here’s a good question we actually got from one of our Twitter listeners, @cranberrylock on Twitter:  “As a feminist, do you think feminist groups and other activist groups have a tendency to be too exclusive?”

Tzufit:  That’s a really interesting question because I think it’s kind of a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it’s very important to maintain extremely high standards.  This kind of goes to a lot of what we talked about in our last episode regarding having a guild that’s a safe space because it’s super important that, above all else, you make sure that that guild stays a safe space.  But it also does mean, and this kind of goes to what I was talking about with being an ally, that occasionally some people are going to be told that they’re doing it wrong, essentially.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  It’s hard because as a feminist, when you’re talking to people who are outside of feminist discussion or feminist thought, you don’t want to be hyper-critical because it just gives them an in to be also critical.  But feminism isn’t just an activist group.  It’s not just a group.  It’s kind of an identity and it’s kind of a political ideology and it’s a ideology in general.  So it’s kind of hard for it to be inclusive or exclusive.  But feminism historically has been pretty exclusive.  I say this from a very particular – I say this in a particularly nuanced sort of way.  Feminism technically is not that exclusive.  On the other hand, due to things like privilege and historical and societal structures, feminism has a very huge problem from the inside of not centralizing a lot of different women’s viewpoints.  Feminism – mainstream feminism – versus trying to approach feminism from an “intersectional” perspective, which means valuing and centering many different aspects of privilege and oppression in feminism.  Coming from a mainstream point of view with feminism – feminism has been largely white.  It has been largely white women setting the discourse, making money off of it.  If it’s been exclusive, it’s definitely been toward women of color.  A lot of women of color do not call themselves feminists.  They either just have feminist discussions and thought or call themselves womanists, but don’t like the feminist label.  A lot of trans women are excluded and hurt by mainstream feminism, feminism in general.  A lot of groups of women – poor women, disabled women, women with mental health issues – there’s a lot of women, queer women as well, are definitely not included in many of the discussions and frameworks of feminism.  So yeah, in a lot of ways feminists groups can be very exclusive, but not quite in the ways that you’re thinking of.

Tzufit:  Ok, and one more question from Twitter.  This is from @sokotep.  “What would a socially just WoW look like from a feminist point of view, and what is one thing in WoW that’s aligned with a feminist point of view?”

Apple Cider Mage:  That’s kind of hard because saying “feminist point of view” means that there’s one feminist point of view and there really isn’t.  There’s a multitude.

Tzufit:  I have a little bit of trouble with the first question because WoW, since it is a game that’s so influenced by the people who play it, it’s hard to imagine a socially just WoW without like having a socially just gamer community in general or world in general.  That’s just kind of a huge goal.

Apple Cider Mage:  Let’s say we somehow, tomorrow, were socially just.  There was a radical revolution of all social structures and governmental structures and tomorrow they’re just all gone and it’s completely fixed.  New world and a new World of Warcraft.

Tzufit:  Gotcha.  Alright.

Apple Cider Mage:  What would it look like?  I mean we’re being kind of facetious here, but a good start – because I don’t think we can envision an end goal without radical changes to our entire society – a good start to a socially just World of Warcraft would be to have respect and empathy for all players, to be inclusive at all levels.  That means in your guild, in your interactions with other people, in Trade Chat, in all chats.  That raiding groups would not use inflammatory and offensive language in public, that raiding guilds wouldn’t have exclusive policies toward people signing up because they were women or people of color.  We would have a World of Warcraft that would have deep, meaningful, complex, varied characters, particularly women, particularly higher representation of people other than straight people in the games.  We would have way more diverse people in the gaming industry in general.  I mean, that would be a good start.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  Not a long list or anything.  Can we have that done by 5 o’clock tomorrow?

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, seriously.  Can we just get on that?

Tzufit:  So what do we think is one thing in WoW that’s aligned with a feminist point of view?

Apple Cider Mage:  I don’t think there’s any one thing in World of Warcraft that’s aligned with a feminist point of view because I think World of Warcraft would have to start to be created and more open to being picked apart by feminists in general.  I think if there is any one thing in World of Warcraft that’s aligned with a feminist point of view, it’s the work that feminists are doing in World of Warcraft in the community.

Tzufit:  Yeah.

Apple Cider Mage:  So those are a couple of the questions that we actually got that we hadn’t already answered in the show, because we got a couple that were like, “Well what does feminism even have to do with World of Warcraft?”  So we decided to sort of generally answer that as part of the show.

Tzufit:  You know, that we do every week about feminism in World of Warcraft.

Apple Cider Mage:  What?  This is a feminism podcast?  What the fuck?  I thought it was about lore.

Tzufit:  I gotta go.  I got stuff to do.  My pool’s on fire.

Apple Cider Mage:  We did get a lot of comments from other feminists in the community that we definitely wanted to highlight.  So we’re going to read a couple of those.

Tzufit:  So we have one from @FeministSonar, who tells us, “I had to stop playing WoW because I couldn’t deal with the harassment I got as a woman playing a female character.   I once had to log out because someone was challenging me to a duel REPEATEDLY, calling me a little girl.  As a feminist, I’m only interested in playing video games where I feel safe, which basically means I just don’t play games with online interactions whatsoever.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  We also got a tweet from – I know who she is in real life, but I cannot pronounce her Twitter name – it’s @ytrahne.  She said, “It’s still an ugly/misunderstood word to about 75% of the gaming population.”  She was talking about feminism.

Tzufit:  Another one we got from @runycat:  ““Being a feminist WoW player is hugely unrewarding and extremely tiring, especially if you choose to be outspoken.  It’s a Sisyphean task, really, and it means making yourself vulnerable repeatedly. Explaining the same things forever.  Upside is that I’ve managed to make some cool friends with other like-minded players.”

Apple Cider Mage:  This is one of the best comments I think we got is from @unholyglee, and they write: ““When I was young, dumb & outed myself (didn’t know that’s what it was) as a queer, womanist, woman of color in WoW?  SHIT HIT ALL THE FANS.  I’d always gotten shit for playing a dark-skinned (for WoW) human woman paladin but when folks realized = actual black woman player?  LOOK.  It went from jokey-asshole “Dude, why’d you roll a black chick?” to flat-out-racist-and-sexist-asshole scary fast.  + Which is also why 2 of the guilds I’m in think I don’t own a headset/mic because SOOO OFTEN woman gets on voice chat = sense out the window.  And then there’s that old saw of “But you don’t sound black, so you’re lying!  PICS OR GTFO.”  Which. No. Just no.”  That’s really an interesting perspective, especially because – like we said, this show is run by two white women, so our experiences with feminism in World of Warcraft are still very informed by us both being white.  We don’t have to deal with racism on top of sexism and yet that is a thing that many women deal with in that when you approach World of Warcraft from the place of being a woman and a woman of color, you have to deal with racialized misogyny and racialized sexism.  That’s even worse.

Tzufit:  Yeah.

Apple Cider Mage:  That’s kind of one of the reasons why intersectionality is so important is that even as a feminist in World of Warcraft, a lot of the things that you deal with as a woman and a feminist in World of Warcraft or in life in general is going to be coming from a different place than other woman.  Whether it’s race or ability or being cis or trans or being straight or queer, all these different things intersect.  So it can mean privileges or oppression, depending on which direction you go.  You have to have empathy that other people’s experiences are going to be radically different from yours.  There’s just some things that I don’t have to worry about on a regular basis that someone like @unholyglee does.

Tzufit:  So to round out the show today, we wanted to bring up one particular incident, one particular small moment of dialogue that has been a rallying point for the feminist community, certainly, in WoW, but also just for a lot of women who play WoW.  For me, I find this particularly interesting how people react to this because I think that a lot of people who actively don’t want to identify as feminists still had a moment where this piece of dialogue happened and they went, “Huh?”  That of course, is the moment in the Well of Eternity dungeon when Malfurion turns to Tyrande and says, “Hush, Tyrande.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.

Tzufit:  That was such a moment.  I’m almost kind of amazed that that piece of dialogue has not gotten changed or removed or something along the way because so many people – and not just the “usual suspects” who get angry and feministy about these kind of things – so many people saw that happen in that dungeon and just went, “What in the hell is wrong with you, Malfurion?”

Apple Cider Mage:  Seriously.  I think a lot of us, despite the fact that it was two night elves standing next to a giant swirling vortex of unimaginable magical power and demons, could still identify with the fact that it was a dude telling a woman to shut up because he was talking to the other dude.

Tzufit:  Yeah, exactly.  Shut up about the fact that there is some really horrible serious shit going down right now that all of us are worried about because I’m talking.  I got the plan.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Even if you don’t identify as a feminist or identify with feminist thought – which is Ok, there are quite a few women who don’t for various reasons – I think all of us can kind of still rally behind the idea that this was intensely problematic, and I think it was because it seemed germane to so many of our experiences just as women.  That whole feeling that you get when you’re just brushed aside because the men are talking.  That’s why representation in video games matters, and that’s why media criticism matters, because if you are sitting there and a video game does something, characters in a video game do something, and it makes you feel a thing, then that is a thing that you should think about.

Tzufit:  I always think of that as sort of a point of demarcation, I guess.  Alright, go into this dungeon, listen to this dialogue.  If you come out of that experience feeling even the slightest bit like maybe Malfurion needed to be slapped upside his head, then you might be a feminist, or you might have some feminist feelings.

Apple Cider Mage:  And that’s Ok.  Looking at gender and looking at sexism as a woman in particular is going to be part of your life.  The fact that this stuff is in a video game and you play a video game, it’s like why does that need to be there?  It doesn’t need to be there.  We need to have video game characters treat each other the way that we would want to be treated.  It’s an important point about how women are represented and why media needs to be deconstructed.  To kind of cap the show off – you don’t necessarily need to be a feminist in order to do and think and do the work, because a lot of people don’t like the title.  A lot of people don’t like the label.  That’s understandable.  A lot of people have to do a lot of soul searching before that label becomes comfortable or relevant.  A lot of people reject it outright but still work within that framework, I should say.  A lot of people look at the work and look at the framework and say, “That’s not for me.”  That’s understandable.  I get it.  A lot of people don’t want to be like how media how often portrays feminists.  It’s a choice.  It’s definitely a choice.  I don’t think a lot of women are bad people for not wanting to identify as a feminist.  I think that the thoughts and the framework have a lot more importance than the identification.

Tzufit:  On top of that, a lot of people don’t want to have to put the amount of energy and the amount of emotion into it that, as we’ve described throughout the podcast today, that it is exhausting, that it is largely unrewarding, that it is sometimes very, very depressing when it’s at its worst.  So I understand why some people wouldn’t actively want to choose that path for themselves.  I get that.

Apple Cider Mage:  My only thing is that as long as you’re thinking about it critically, as long as you’re coming to this sort of thing honestly and as long as we’re all being respectful and critical, then that’s the bigger thing here.  Feminists, if they want to break down World of Warcraft, you let them do that.  You let them look at it, especially because for a lot of us, it has to do with how we feel as women in a video game community, how we feel safe or unsafe as the case may be.  A lot of times, being a feminist is a way of labeling ourselves to say to other people, “Hey did you go through this shit?  I went through this shit too.  You want to talk about it?  You want to cry on my shoulder?  That’s completely Ok.  We’re completely here for that.  Let’s hash it out.  Let’s have a conversation about it.”  I think a lot of times I’m Ok with calling myself a “Feminist” (capital F Feminist) and putting that out there because I know that if another woman or somebody in need wants to really talk about something and they’re really scared about it, then they know that maybe I’m a better option to kind of get that stuff off their chest because they know that I’m going to be coming from a particular place when we talk about it.

Tzufit:  I think that’s pretty much it.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Well this has been a very illuminating discussion and I hope that sorts a lot of things out for some of our listeners.  So to kind of recap:  1.) This is a feminist podcast.  It’s run by two feminists.

Tzufit:  If you were looking for the patch notes podcast, you got off at the wrong exit.

Apple Cider Mage:  And most of all, I think we want to reiterate that looking at the media we consume critically is really important, that being a feminist is not a bad thing, but mostly if you have questions, if you want to talk about stuff, it’s good to have questions.  You’re not going to know everything from the start, especially if you’re coming into feminism.  You’re not going to know everything off the bat.  Apologizing, being honest, and asking questions is basically the best stuff that you can do.

Tzufit:  I would point out too that for those who don’t necessarily completely understand why we would want to apply a critical lens to a video game, I’ve got to tell you, it’s a lot of fun.  I spent time getting a degree in applying critical lenses to lots of different types of media.  That’s what interested me, and so that’s why I bring that part of myself to WoW when I play WoW.  Yeah, I think it’s a fun thing to do and, sure, sometimes it’s also a really hard and really sad and depressing thing to do.  But above all, I enjoy analyzing media in that way.  So I would suggest that maybe, if that’s something you’ve never done before, take a look at what your TV shows are telling you.  Take a look at what your movies are telling you.  Take a look at what World of Warcraft is telling you and see if that’s a message that you can get behind.

Apple Cider Mage:  I definitely agree.  Looking critically at media, media criticism is stuff that I actually went to school for as well and it’s what I like to geek out about.  I know some people are into like Star Wars and stuff like that, but I’m really into media criticism.  That’s kind of what was my importance behind starting a blog, two blogs actually, and a podcast.  That’s why we’re both here.  I think we both really like talking on and on and on about World of Warcraft from a feminist and critical lens.  So thank you for coming along on the ride with us and we’ll see you next week.

2 comments

  1. Loved this listen, today. Thank you for doing it!

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