This piece will talk about story spoilers and various other game spoilers for SOMA. I suggest playing the game yourself or watching an LP of the game before reading this piece. You can also look over the SOMA wikia to inform yourself of the story and key events. Without this game/story knowledge, this piece may be confusing.
Content/Trigger warning for links: Miosgyny, violent threats, sexism, racism, antisemitism and slurs.
GamerGate has been covered as a hate movement by various places from Kotaku, to the New York Times, to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the BBC News. However, they often decry that these are a few people in their vast movement which is “actually about ethics in gaming journalism”. However…
You cannot claim to be about ethics in journalism when you break literally every journalistic code in the book. Ethics is defined by “moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior”. This is obviously a very broad and subjective term. However, GamerGate is specifically about journalistic ethics in gaming journalism. Interesting considering that gaming and reviews are something subjective, as with all arts.
So let’s look at ethical standards already in place for journalists. According to the Society of Professional Journalists there are four main points an ethical journalist should follow. These points are broken down into smaller points, almost all which are broken by GamerGate as well. However, this article will stick to the four main points.
None of my coworkers or customers know I spent the first 20 years of my life being assumed to be a woman. They have no need to. It’s never come up and unless it is relevant, it is strictly irrelevant information. So, when it comes to how they treat me, I am treated just like every other guy, which has led to some insight when it comes to men interacting with one another.
Customers and coworkers alike have stated blatantly misogynistic things to me and expected me to agree. They automatically assume that I am misogynistic. This has come from anyone from teenagers to the elderly, both in words and actions. For example, I recently had a customer come in and begin complaining about a female employee from another store. He expected me to agree. He attempted to get me to agree. I was silent. I shrugged and listened. Then he left. I was baffled.
I had a coworker show me photos of a woman who had apparently slept with five guys (who were Black, cause apparently that just adds to the shock) and quoted Chris Brown “these hoes ain’t loyal”, I flat out told him maybe if he stopped beating women and calling them hoes, they’d be more inclined to stay. He seemed taken aback. I didn’t agree with his racist and misogynistic comments? What?
MTV has just launched a pilot of a new TV show called ‘Faking It’. Here is the synopsis from MTV’s own website:
‘Faking It’ is a new romantic comedy about two best friends who love each other — in slightly different ways. After numerous failed attempts to become popular, the girls are mistakenly outed as lesbians, which launches them to instant celebrity status. Seduced by their newfound fame, Karma and Amy decide to keep up their romantic ruse.
MTV’s new TV show is about two straight high school girl’s pretending to be lesbians in order to become popular. This is a little more than just problematic. I mean, lesbians are constantly held up on pedestals by their straight peers, right? Being an out and proud queer kid in school totally makes everyone want to be your friend, right?
Of course we can ignore the fact that corrective rape is a severe problem in our society that believes that most lesbians just need the ‘right man’ to show them the way? Let’s ignore the fact that there is a heavy stereotype that lesbians and bisexual women are just acting out a fantasy for the gaze of straight men. In fact, let’s just take this stereotype that actively damages queer women, leads them to be raped and sexually assaulted to ‘turn them straight’ and make it into a TV show! Sounds like a wonderful idea!
There is something that is talked about very little in the trans* community, or when it is talked about, is only talked about in a negative fashion. Detransitioning, where a trans* person decides to no longer transition and/or live as a gender other than the one they were coercively assigned at birth, is something that is often only brought up in a negative light. People who have detransitioned are often used as evidence that trans* people should not transition. There are people who have detransitioned who are also very vocal advocates for not allowing people to transition due to their personal experiences. There are people who also detransition who are not vocal opponents of those who are transitioning or seeking to transition. These people live the rest of their lives as happy cis folk. They realize their experiences are their own.
There is nothing inherently wrong with detransitioning. We are afforded (or should be afforded) bodily autonomy to do with our bodies as we please. People detransition for numerous reasons, some simply because of no longer identifying in that way, others due to the stigmas associated with being trans*, and others for more complex and varied reasons. There is no wrong reason to detransition. If we are to be afforded bodily autonomy to transition, we must acknowledge the same respect for others. While we may not agree on the reasons, we must allow people to do with their bodies as they wish for their happiness.
My body is my own. My body is no one else’s. My body is my own to do with as I please. What I do with my body, consensually, does not harm anyone else. My body is to do with as I please. I say this as a trans* person. I say this as someone who has to have doctors upon doctors tell me how I can use my body to make it more of my own. I say this as a person with body mods, which society dictates makes me a rebel and an outcast. I say this as someone who in the future wishes to cover HIS body with ink and art, which society tells me, makes me stupid.
My body is my own. I have every right to do with my body as I please. To say anything else is oppressive violence. Seems like a strong word, but it is truth. Dictating how a person uses their body and controls their body is the very way oppressors take away power. They dictate what people can and cannot do with their body. They take away their right to own themselves, since they cannot make up their own choices about their own flesh and blood. This is oppression, this is violence. They make laws against our bodies. They institutionalize their control over our bodies. They invade our very bodies as much as they can, forcefully and violently.
Privilege is something that is granted and gained. Privilege is something that is given, and taken away, by other people and society. People do not just roll over and decide to be privileged one day. If it was that easy, there are a lot of people in the world who would love to hit that privilege switch. Privilege is something that is handed to people society deems worthy, mostly white, cis, straight men who aren’t poor. Just as privilege can be given, it can be taken away, almost in the blink of an eye. A trans* person who is perceived as cis has passing privilege that can be easily removed the moment they are known to be trans*. A queer person who is perceived as straight can lose their ‘straight passing’ privilege the moment their identity and status as a queer person is known. Take it account how many people do not know of their privileges until the moment it is taken away.
One of the better examples is when a person of privilege is a victim of a hate crime for being perceived as a queer person. A trans man who is perceived as a woman by his attacker and is assaulted as such in a misogynistic attack; a straight man that is perceived to be gay and thus is the victim of gay bashing or a verbal assault. People can experience the violence of being perceived as queer without actually being queer due to the perception of another. Denying this experience strips the victim of their assault, whether verbal, physical, sexual or a combination of such. Take the first example. This man has become a victim of misogyny due to his attacker perceiving him as being a woman. While the attack may be tinged with cissexism, trans*phobia, and maybe even homophobia, the attacker still carried out the attack as one meant to be rooted in misogyny. It is almost as if the other causes are accidental. Denying this denies the impact that such violence has not only on queer people, but on the majority as well.
On Sunday, October 27th, Cathy Brennan was a guest star on Roseanne Barr and Kathleen Wells’ talk show. This was of course in regards to Brennan’s stance on trans* rights, especially trans women. I decided to take a listen and see what this show was going to be all about, a “know thy enemy” type of deal. I do want to mention that this is my own personal review, feelings, and analysis of the show. I will try to go in chronological order of events as they happen in the show, with commentary woven throughout. I will mention some things out of order as they may tie into the current discussion. This is because Brennan’s thinking is very circular and repetitive due to her simplistic understanding of gender and trans* people.
The show is opened with Barr saying she was away for a meeting with a friend. This meeting was for a conspiracy theory involving the US government using mind control on its citizens as well as enslaving people as spies. Good way to open a show with a guest star who is obsessed with the conspiracy that trans women are forcing lesbians to have sex with them, among other ridiculous claims, but more on that later. I’ll be honest, I did not pay attention much to this section as it was of no interest to the reason I was listening to the show.
After they introduce Brennan, they talk about her history involving her activism with LGBT rights. She includes trans* people in this because at the time the “trans* community was very small” (this was early 2000s) and they were not pushing much for rights. She goes on about how she was active in even passing legislation for trans* non-discrimination policies. This was because she believes that gender and gender stereotypes are damaging and inherently oppressive. Brennan wants for the abolition of gender in its entirety since it is a system of oppression, specifically aimed at women (mainly cis women). Brennan mentions how damaging stereotypes are, yet is a person who holds trans women to gender and sexual stereotypes. Brennan believes that trans women uphold gender stereotypes by simply existing since according to her, all trans women embody female stereotypes and are hyper feminine beings.
“I make it very clear that if people treat me with respect, I will treat them with respect,” Brennan said on an article, recently published on Bustle. Let me give some back story on who Brennan is. Cathy Brennan, also known as Bug Brennan, is a lawyer, and also a radical feminist of the TERF (Trans* Exclusionary Radical Feminist) variety. Brennan does not believe trans* people exist. In fact, she believes that the very existence of trans* people, specifically trans* women, rapes cis women. Yes, that is correct. Brennan believes that the existence of trans women is raping cis women and cis women’s bodies.
Brennan is also a biological essentialist. She believes that biology trumps everything, despite also saying that biology does not define women. Cis women are only the ones free from being defined by biology. Anyone else is defined by their genitals, especially if they have a penis. According to Brennan, those with penises are programmed to rape those with vaginas. Also, those with vaginas cannot rape people. According to Brennan, woman on woman rape does not happen (unless they are trans women).
Privilege is always a sticky discussion. It is something almost everyone experiences in varying degrees in some aspect of their lives whether it is gender, sexuality, race, social status, etc. Privilege and the lack of privilege is something that is extremely important in the discussions about intersectionality and oppression in feminism. However, as someone who presents and IDs as male, I’m left in a weird gray area.
As a trans man, where do I stand in feminism? I’ve experienced misogyny and sexism in the past, especially since I worked in a video game store for most of my working adult life. For 20 years of my life, I presented as female even if my gender identity did not match this, this is how I was perceived by the world. Working in a male dominated area, I experienced sexism and misogyny. I have a history with these things, a very personal history. Transitioning does not erase my history, as my history is part of me. I do not deny being trans* and fully embrace it as part of my identity. I should not be excluded from feminist spaces (not women’s spaces, as a man, I do not belong there). I also must sidestep and let women speak before me. I must acknowledge, accept, and understand how my new privileges affect me in my life. I am seen as a man (most of the time). However, this does not erase my history with sexism and misogyny.
Feminism is defined as advancing the rights of women so that they are equal on all platforms to that of men. More modern definitions focus on the equality for all genders in regards to rights, social status, politics, bodily autonomy, and beyond. No matter the definition of feminism you believe in, there is always something they share: Equality. All definitions of feminism focus on equality for all people so that they are no longer marginalized or oppressed based on their gender or perceived gender. However, there seems to be a strain of feminism that excludes women from their take on the movement, despite the bonding idea of equality.