Thursday, June 21, 2012

Project 52 (25/52): On Dismissing Issues (Because They Don't Matter To Us)

.:Project 52 (25/52): On Dismissing Issues (Because They Don't Matter To Us):.

Two issues recently came to my attention the past week: the so-called bill to "ban God in the government" by Kabataan Party-List representative Mong Palatino, and internationally, the Kickstarter project "Tropes vs. Women in Videogames." Yeah, they seem to be as disconnected as can be, that is, until you take a gander at the kind of opposition both undertakings are currently facing.

In the Philippines, an editorial denouncing this secularist bill was published, and has found a lot of support from people who never even read the contents of the bill to begin with. Oh, look! It's exactly like the RH Bill all over again: knee-jerk alarmists who still think that Catholics are the victims when it is clear that they are the privileged group in society.

On the internet, Anita Sarkeesian was met with an unbelievable amount of vitriol over a video project she hasn't even done yet. Of course, it was awesome that she made nearly thirty times the $6,000 she initially required to carry out her project. Despite that, I don't think being subjected to the kind of online abuse she had to endure could possibly be justified even to the tune of $150,000++. Other Kickstarter projects have had similar success without nearly the same amount of cyberbullying.

When you look at these seemingly disjointed issues, you see an obvious, common thread: the opposition is mounted by people in positions of privilege. The average Catholic does not get discriminated against in the Philippines the way the average agnostic or atheist would. The average male would not get regular sexual harrassment while online solely because they're male. In both cases, the privileged classes, the ones whose entrenchment is both put into question and challenged, are fighting back. And how!

I. The Great Divide Over Secularism

This image never gets old.

Some people questioned the relevance of this proposed bill, saying that this does not represent the constituency of the Kabataan Party-List representative. Except it actually does. The youth are part of a global village more than the old guard are, and as such, should be more sensitive to secularism.

Not only is it relevant, it also simply upholds what should already be common sense as what our constitution has provided for: why is the government giving special treatment to a particular religion? Why does it have public prayers that naturally exclude non-believers, chapels funded even by Muslim taxpayers, and so on?

At no point does this proposed bill say that religion should be abhorred at all costs. What this bill is proposing is a level playing field: that the default assumption about a person doesn't involve their religious affiliation being Catholic, which, I am quite certain, you will notice happening a lot all around us.

Is this really so bad? This bill respects people's freedom to have their own religion. All it does is prevent certain religions from dominating the government's domain when church and state should actually be separate. You want to pray? Pray without the state having to enforce it. You want to go to church? Do it in a church that wasn't paid for with tax money.

It's simple: the minute you spend for a single Catholic church from tax money, it becomes valid for every other religion to ask for the same kind of consideration. So, in the interest of fairness, either all religions should receive consideration from the state, or not one religion should receive consideration from the state.

The reason religious people, especially Catholics, are pushing back against this bill is clear: they don't like not having these special considerations. They are so used to assuming that the default setting of every person they meet is Catholic unless established otherwise that when the default is changed to religious-neutral, they suddenly lose their privilege.

The kind of privilege that has allowed an archbishop nigh immunity from legal repercussions for multiple cases of sexual harassment. The kind of privilege that means we begin every session in congress with a prayer as if agnostics and atheists didn't exist, and as if a moment of silence wasn't sufficient for people of all creeds to pray to whomever they wish to pray to. The kind of privilege that allows a former president to lie through her teeth about her promise to not run for president again because "God told her to run."

Well, cry me a river.

We keep on claiming we want to live in a just and fair society, yet we are so willing to throw people who don't share our beliefs under the bus because it's convenient for us? This is just and fair? Really?

Look at it this way: if Christianity is true, then non-believers are already going to Hell after they die. Is that not enough? Why do we need to make the rest of their lives a living Hell by forcing upon them things they already do not believe in, to begin with?

You want to be a missionary? You want to crusade for your God? You are free to do so. Nobody's stoning those bus preachers, right? Just don't expect government backing while you're doing it. Check your privilege at the door, and use the exact same tools available to every other person who wants to become evangelists for their own belief systems, or even their lack of one.

The problem with some religious people is that they are so focused on the martyrs of old that they now forget they are no longer the underdogs: they are now part of the dynasty.

II. Misogynists Assemble!

A woman outside the kitchen? SEIZE HER!

A great number of male gamers called it unfair that feminists keep on harping on the issues of sexism in video games, either by denying this is an issue altogether while hurling sexist commentary at the feminists without a hint of irony, or derailing the discussion altogether by citing instances where men were supposedly also being discriminated against.

Here's the funny thing: nobody was telling them they can't talk about problematic depictions of men in video games. They were clearly just bringing these issues up to silence a woman who dared speak up about her issues. We can't have that going on, no siree.

Why don't these men who feel their rights are also being trampled upon start their own kickstarter? One of two things: they're either too lazy, or they themselves realize their problems aren't actually worth fighting for. And you know why not? Because the straight male is privileged, and virtually every discrimination that happens against a man comes with them not being "man enough" (Whatever the Hades that means.), not simply because they're a man.

Yes: misandry is brought about by misogyny, yet again! How dare a man become a *gasp* woman?!? Shocking!

It was like a beacon call just happened without anyone noticing it, and next thing you know, Anita Sarkeesian was swarmed by misogynists. It was a staggering effort, and it makes you wonder how much good these neckbeards could have accomplished if they did something better with their energy.

Nobody's saying that men don't have issues, but why are we shoehorning these in a discussion about women's issues? Some people dismissed this project as some kind of attention grab, all the while being oblivious to the fact that the men who want to shift the discussion to male issues are the ones trying to grab attention! They can always discuss their issues in their space. Why do they need to bring it to the one space set up by a woman for the explicit intention of discussing women's issues? Why the overwhelming need to dominate the conversation with our own agenda without giving quarter to the Other's agenda?

The trolls who wanted to silence Anita were doing so because the status quo was being challenged: oh, noes! No more sexy girl characters! Ridiculous. Men and women alike can all be sexy without having to be objectified. If a little sensitivity, just a tad consideration, can make the gaming experience of a girl gamer just a wee bit more enjoyable, is that really so much to ask?

Well, apparently, if you're one of these guy gamers, then yes, that's too much to ask! You know why it's too much? Because it puts in jeopardy the privilege males have had ever since society became a patriarchy.

It's the kind of privilege that has allowed Aris Bakthanians to harrass his own teammate and not so much as be slapped with legal action for it. It's the kind of privilege that has allowed men to not have to worry about random people asking them "dick or gtfo" while they're playing their MMORPG. It's the kind of privilege that has allowed men to say "women should be grateful they can even vote" as if this excuses every other instance of institutionalized unequality between men and women. Ever.

Well, cry me a river.

We keep on claiming we live in a just and fair society, yet whenever a woman gets on her soapbox to say something, instead of actually debating her, we just try to shut her up. Why is that? is it because she has something to say that could possibly upset us?

Here is a prime opportunity for dialogue. A chance to look at what a woman feels are problematic depictions of women in video games, that, if addressed, could possibly allow women to be somewhat less uneasy about playing video games. It could result in better sales for games, and by extension, better motivation to create more well-rounded and thoughtful games.

And we address this opportunity by telling her to shut up? Really? Really?!?

III. No, Really

Well, screw it. Maybe the issue of secularism isn't important to a huge swath of Filipinos out there, but it's important to me. And as a Filipino who pays his taxes, I believe I have just as much of a say in this lawmaking process as everyone else who also pays their taxes.

Maybe the issue of women portayal in video games isn't important to a huge swath of gamers out there, but it's clearly important to Anita Sarkeesian, and 6,968 people who gave money to make the project happen. As people who put their money where their mouth is, I think they have just as much of a say in this entire process as everyone else who disagrees with them. And yeah, this topic is pretty important to me, too, so count me in as someone who actually wants to see this series get produced.

It's beside the point whether you agree or disagree with either issue. The point is that there is room for dialogue for both issues. Sure, you're free to dismiss them (I did dismiss the whole Corona issue, after all.). However, this doesn't mean that your opinion on the matter will have a magical binding effect on stopping this dialogue from happening anyways (My lack of enthusiasm for the Corona issue didn't stop it from happening, after all.).

Privilege is only cool if you're the one benefiting from it. The more people realize that not everyone gets the same deal, the sooner we'd all be able to finally get to working towards a fair and just society, and not just some vestigial mockery of it.

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