A Return from the Wild, or Teaching is Really Hard

It's been five months since I last wrote an article here. It's also been five months since I started teaching for real. You make the connection. 

In that time, a whole lot has happened--in the wide world, in the geek sphere, and in my personal life. They've all been increasingly overlapping, and that is ultimately what's forced me to return. I have so many disparate thoughts and feelings, but there seems to be a single thread running through them, connecting them all like the dominos in that epic scene in V for Vendetta.


A List of Things That Have Been On My Mind, In No Particular Order: 

  • The sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination within the geek community--when don't I think about this? But really, these past few months have shown evidence over and over and over again that these issues are not quieting down. They are not going away. They are not one-and-done controversies, and they never will be again. And exhausting as that is, I'm glad. I'm so glad. As adversarial as it forces those of us who are in the perceived minority to be, just to survive, part of me is really glad this shit is getting out. Part of me is satisfied this is getting thrown down, because it needs to be talked about, and yelled about, and fixed, not swept under the rug.  

    So there was GamerGate. If you're reading this, I'm assuming you know all about it. If not, go educate yourself. More recently, there have been some excellent articles on this in the past month discussing the larger issue of privilege within the community and the problematic discourses it stems from and results in. The privilege, for instance, of someone like Scott Aaronson, who claims that he couldn't possibly have any privilege because he spent his adolescence terrified of sexual desires, women, and rejection by women. Because no woman has ever experienced those things. And no man who has another sexual orientation has ever experienced those things either. And of course such a life is much worse than one lived under the kyriarchy--the intersection of systems of oppression that dominate by race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, and so on. 

    There have been some wonderful responses from great writers: Laurie Penny, Amanda Marcotte, and Arthur Chu to name a few. My good friend Michi Trota has an excellent article in the newest issue of Uncanny Magazine (she's also its managing editor) where she discusses the way that all of us who are considered minorities in the community have been under assault for years. 
  • The main problem is that there are some seriously mistaken assumptions about privilege here. And I get it. Being told you have privilege is uncomfortable, because we've all internalized the idea of the American Dream and assume that what we get is what we deserve. But until we admit just how huge of a lie it is, we won't be able to move past it. Here's what having privilege doesn't  mean
    • That you are actively sexist or racist. But here's the thing. You don't need to actively oppress others--you just need to live in a society where oppression takes place, and not protest that oppression. 
    • That you are a horrible person. We're simply saying you're unaware of the part  you play. 
    • That you can never change. If we thought that was the case, we wouldn't be bothering to have this conversation. 
    • That you have never suffered. Everyone has personal struggles and sufferings. But not everyone lives under structural oppression. Recognize this. 
  • Here's what having privilege does mean: 
    • This discussion is not about you. So just sit down and listen. Check out my previous article on how to be an ally for more.  
  • The state of race relations in this country--and around the rest of the world. Because while the Brown and Garner verdicts surprised no one who's used to the parody of justice our country engages in regarding race and policing, its brutality and force and complete devotion to maintaining the status quo still hurts so much. It still hurts because I spent so much of my life living with the illusion that things had changed, because it was easier to believe that, and my privilege allows, supports, and encourages that. The fact that I was willing to live with that for so many years says something about me--and that something is not something good. 

    And it makes me angry. I'm angry that when blacks get angry about issues of social justice, they're rioters, but when whites destroy property over a victory, they're revelers.  It makes me angry that so many of the conversations on Dr. King's birthday revolved around the wonderful things he did in the past, rather than how this nation has mythologized and heroized this man to make ourselves feel better about our present. 
  • Je ne suis pas Charlie. Because hate speech should not be defended. I do not stand in solidarity with a satire magazine that takes satire to a point that is so cruel and xenophobic. I do not approve of a country who feels that its heart and soul lies in such a publication. I do not support a government that colonizes, oppresses, marginalizes, and harasses against a Muslim minority--and then wonders why hate groups form. I do not feel comfortable with a media that spends day after day recounting a disaster in Paris, but fails to mention that there has been a bombing at the NAACP office in Colorado Springs. Which is far from the first time that the organization has been attacked. But no, it couldn't be part of a pattern. We privilege stories--this I know. But I am really getting done with the way that we privilege lives.  

I have thoughts. I have feelings. And they're coming out. So keep your eye on this space. There may be ideas about Into the Woods. Or The Hobbit movies. Perhaps the script for revolution in Mockingjay. And more reflections on the way we read, the things we write, and the stories we don't tell. 

Got thoughts? Please share them in the comments below. They're always appreciated.