Sunday, February 9, 2014

Defensive Wounds


“I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a-hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”
   - J.B. Books, The Shootist, 1976


You ever date somebody who takes out every bad relationship they ever had on you?

Somebody, somewhere, done them wrong.

So they’ve decided to get even by making you pay?

You entered into a relationship with what you thought was a whole person, and then without warning, whammo, you get run over by the baggage train? Toot Toot POW! and you’re laying on the pavement dazed and bleeding and wondering, “what the hell?”

That ever happen to you?

It happened to me. Once or twice. Maybe three times.

Maybe four.

Okay, maybe I’m a slow learner.

Way, way back when, I dated this girl who, according to her, had been cheated on repeatedly, verbally abused, mentally abused, physically abused, disrespected, talked down to, unloving distant mom, absent dad, didn’t get a pony, yadda yadda and so on and so forth. 

According to her, all of her previous relationships were with cheating, lying scumbags.

And she was bound and determined to make me pay for each and every one of those jerks.

Needless to say, it didn’t last long, that relationship.

But it lasted way longer than it should have.

And that was my fault.

After repeatedly apologizing for all men everywhere and after pointing out, repeatedly and with greater and greater degrees of stridency, that I was not any of those guys, that I hadn’t treated her badly in any way whatsoever, I finally realized that it didn’t matter. It just didn’t matter what I said or did. It didn’t matter how many times I apologized for my gender, for all of us men, everywhere. There was no defense. Everything was an admission of guilt, because, well, I was a man and therefore guilty by association. There was no way I’d ever be anything but a punching bag for this woman. She was an emotional vampire, a voracious and insatiable taker, so committed to being miserable that she couldn’t be anything else. Misery had become a reflex with her. No amount of apologizing, no amount of patience, no amount of logic, no amount of nurture would ever be enough. She was angry and damaged and dripping pus from festering self-inflected mental wounds and she was determined to get revenge and it just didn’t matter who the target was so long as they were equipped with a penis.

She collected bad relationships like trophies in the Men Are Scum Derby and proudly displayed them to anybody who would validate her damaged worldview.

Defensive wounds. That’s what forensic pathologists call it when they find cuts and contusions on a stabbing victim’s forearms.  Defensive wounds, where they tried to ward off the blows while being hacked to death.  The emotional equivalent of that is when you find that your side of the relationship consists almost entirely of screaming, “Goddamnit! I’m not that guy! I didn’t do this to you, stop taking it out on me! I’m not that guy!” over and over.

At that point, you’ve got two options, bleed to death or walk away.

Now look, don’t get me wrong here. Some men are cheating lying scumbags and they deserve every bit of scorn and contempt heaped upon them. But I’m not that guy. Not now. Not ever.

And so I bluntly explained to her in clear and unambiguous terms that she was a fucking psycho.

I looked her in the eye and told her that it was not me, it was all her. All of it. Every damned bit of it. And that the one single constant throughout every one of her shitty terrible relationships was, wait for it, her. Her. Her. And Her. Goodbye and you’re welcome to slam the door on your way out.

Later I heard through the grapevine that I’d been added to the long, long, long list of guys who’d done her wrong – which makes me wonder about the other men on that list, and just how egregious were their offenses really?

I didn’t lose any sleep over it.

In fact, that incident changed my life.  Up to then I’d had my own string of bad relationships.  You name it, I dated it. A drunk, faithless cheaters (several), a pathological liar (no really, like clinically diagnosed and everything. And yeah, that was an adventure into crazyland), a raving hypochondriac (no, really, like clinically diagnosed by actual doctors), a nymphomaniac (not nearly as fun as it sounds, after the first week), a woman who stole my entire bank account on the way out the door, and I could go on but you get the idea.  But I stayed on, every time, until they tired of me and left.  Until that one day, that one day when the psycho women had torn me open yet again, when I’d finally had enough. When I’d finally been pushed as far as I would go and would go no further. When the light-bulb finally came on for me.

That, right there, is when I finally realized that the one constant in all of those lousy relationships was, wait for it, yep, me

And that, right there, is where I drew the line.

And, My God, talk about liberating. That’s what it is to achieve emotional maturity, liberating.

That was the moment I decided that I wouldn’t be held accountable for every jerk on the planet, that I was done with cleaning up their messes. That was the moment I stopped being an emotional punching bag for other people. That was the moment I stopped allowing myself to be held hostage to miserable damaged people bent on revenge.

And that changed everything. 

I finally, finally, understood what a healthy adult relationship was supposed to look like.

Now, I admit that I’ve only had one relationship since that moment … but so far it’s lasted more than 22 years.


You’ve heard me say this before, likely you’ll hear me say it again and again: You cannot, can not, reason with unreasonable people.


You cannot reason with people who are bound and determined to convict you of crimes somebody else committed.

You cannot reason with a lynch mob.

Saturday was my birthday.

It got me thinking about certain things, about my past, about all the people who encouraged me, but also about all of those sons of bitches who told me over and over who and what I could be, who attempted to force me into a box, who kept trying to slap a label on me and tell me who I was.

As always when I get to thinking about things, I write about it.

It’s nothing special, Saturday’s post, just your basic Hi, I’m 52 and I’m alright with that. No great insight, no pithy middle-aged wisdom, just: you get out of life what you put into it. If you let people label you, you’ll be their slave forever.

Somewhere in the middle of the post I returned to a common theme, that is: There is only one truly inalienable right and that is the right to define yourself.

Nobody can take the right to define yourself away from you, only you can decide to give it up. So don’t. And I believe that. I’m proof of it. And so are many, many others.

You can be beat on and beat down. They can take away your name. They can take away everything you own and everything you love. They can push your face into the toilet and rip out your guts day after day. They can take away your life, your liberty, and any chance at happiness, oh yes they can and there’s often not a damned thing you can do about it.  They can put you in chains. They can force their throbbing politics and their raging religion and their rampant jingoism down your throat. But inside, down where it counts, they can’t tell you who you are – unless you let them.

So don’t.

There is only one truly inalienable right that can’t be taken away by gods nor governments nor men, and that is the right to define yourself.

Gods nor government nor men.

I like that line.

As a writer, I like that line. I’m proud of it. It rings like a bell.

As a guy who spent his whole damned life ignoring those who kept trying to tell me who I am, I like that line.

Now, I often post lines from my essays, ones that I like and that I think stand well on their own, as pull-quotes on Twitter.

And that’s what I did this time, I posted:

There is only one truly inalienable right that can’t be taken away by gods or governments or men, and that is the right to define yourself.

I’ve been doing this long enough to know that somebody, somewhere, will always find a way to be offended over something I said.  No matter what. I post a humorous story on Facebook, told from a male perspective (because, and try to keep up here, I’m male and that’s pretty much how I naturally see the goddamned world), and I am guaranteed to get comments about sexism because I didn’t keep it gender neutral.  I’m tired of having to unfriend people who are offended that I happen to be unapologetically endowed with a Y chromosome – and in fact, seem to think that I should have to apologize for my gender on a daily basis. I’m tired of having to unfriend these people, but I’ll keep right on doing so until they get the goddamned message that they don’t get to label me. 

Hell, it doesn’t matter what I post, it could be a picture of a fluffy kitten chasing after a butterfly among the petunias, and somebody, somewhere, will be offended.

And sure enough, somebody was.

@Stonekettle Didn't need the user icon to know you're white and male…

White and male.

Ah, yes. Of course. White and male.

Didn’t need to even look at my picture.

Because, obviously, no black woman, no Asian, no Latina, no Native American, would ever suggest that she has a right to define herself, see? Nope, just a white guy. Don’t even need to look at the picture.

We’ve never met. I don’t know this person, other than by her reputation. She for damned sure doesn’t know me. But yeah, why don’t you just lead with my race and sex? Sure, Lady, that’s not stereotyping what with your contemptuous little assumption of genderfail, oh no, not at all.

Only a white male would say something so racist and sexist as “You have the right to define yourself.”

Yes, obviously, I must be white and male. A member of the oppressor class. That’s me. Because, hey, you know what’s good for bigotry? Stereotyping!  So, on behalf of white men everywhere, allow me to apologize for every white male who ever did you wrong by being white and male.  And as a white male I hereby promise to only post pictures of fluffy kitties and selfies of me lighting myself on fire. You’re welcome.


What’s that?  She didn’t really accuse me of being a misogynistic racist?

Wrong, that’s precisely what she accused me of. Didn’t need to see your picture to know you’re white and male. This woman happens to be a professional wordsmith, she knows exactly what she’s saying, it didn’t happen by accident. Oh, and just because she went with stereotyping and didn’t bother to actually read my comment in context doesn’t mean I engage in the same bad habit, I read her comments all the way back to the Super Bowl. She didn’t have a problem with the blatant in your face sexism, racism, and homophobia that flooded Twitter then. But me saying you have the right to define yourself? Yeah, that deserved a snide swipe from her majesty. 

Imagine if I’d posted a public response on Twitter that consisted of something, oh, say, like this:

Gee, I didn’t need to see your picture to know you’re an angry feminist with a chip on your shoulder.

That would be sexist, right? Just another nasty comment from misogynistic asshole.  But it’s okay for a woman to casually dismiss me as a sexist and a racist based solely on my race and gender. You can see the hypocrisy, the logical fallacy, right? I don’t have to spell it out for you.

This nonsense pisses me off.

No, wait, pissed off isn’t right, rather it immediately fills me with seething rage.

I don’t appreciate being called a racist and a sexist, particularly in public without a chance to defend myself.  And I said so in a particularly snarky comment, one that might not make much sense to the average reader but this particular woman should have no trouble understanding.

At which point a couple of folks pointed out in so many words that being white and male I have no right to be defensive about being labeled a sexist and a racist in a public forum.

Things went rapidly downhill after that and I ended up going to bed angry and pissed off and woke up angry and pissed off and today I’m still angry and pissed off about it. You goddamned right I’m pissed off about it.  [Edit] And I got more pissed off today when I started getting messages from people who got treated the same way by this very woman, and in fact by the time they’d gotten to this part of my post they’d already begun to suspect exactly who I was talking about.  Then I did some checking around, sure enough, this is her MO. Drive by, toss out a bigotry accusation. Drive on and never look back. [end edit]

So, yeah, I’m still angry about this.

And why shouldn’t I be?  Because there it is, right now, sitting there in public two days later like a turd in the punch bowl.

Two thousand people follow this woman on Twitter, and every one of them is now left with the impression that I’m just another hairy Neanderthal, grunting and scratching my ass and bonking women over the head with my club so’s I can drag them back to my cave.  Because the person who posted that comment is a famous science fiction editor for a famous science fiction publishing house who runs a famous science fiction blog, people noticed, and they retweeted her comment. But, of course, I shouldn’t be defensive about that either.

A couple of nice people offered to, what’s the word? Femsplain it to me – hopefully using simple one-syllable words and grunts so my dull ball-scratching hairy man-brain might understand.  Because, obviously, I don’t have access to, oh, say, a strong willed, confident, self-defined, professional woman who is employed at the executive level that I might, you know, have been married to for the last two decades. And who drops on me like a bag of hammers when I say something stupidly sexist.

I ended up on Twitter futilely shouting the equivalent of, “I’m not that guy! I’m not that guy!

But, of course, you are that guy. Once somebody, especially somebody in a position of authority, accuses you of bigotry in public, even though they didn’t actually bother to read what you actually wrote in the context of where you wrote it, there’s nothing you can say to defend yourself.

And I’ve been here before. Right here.

Years ago, I used to hang out on a famous science fiction writer’s blog. He always seemed like a decent and reasonable fellow and he ran his blog much the same way I run this one – a bit more free wheeling in the comments section, but we’ll come back to that in a minute. This guy was, and still is, a force in the science fiction community, which if you’re not familiar with it, is a form of fanaticism you’d have to see to believe – usually it’s a benign nerdy fanaticism, but not always. Now, I really, really, enjoyed that place. I admired that writer, I thought he had character and integrity.  And the science fiction community, well, they’re mostly a bunch of friendly harmless geeks who spent a lot of their early lives getting beat up for being bad at sports and for liking “that Buck Rogers stuff,” so they make this big deal of being open and diverse and accepting of anybody – only that’s a lie, they’re as vile and vicious as any other mob, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

One day, this writer, he posted a short bit about a group of science fiction nerds, pudgy little dweebs in ill-fitting Starfleet uniforms tucked away in some basement somewhere cranking out a fan-magazine wherein they’d expressed their opinion that smelly girls were “destroying” the science fiction genre (I’m not sure if this particular bunch were Chuck Lorre’s actual inspiration for The Big Bang Theory or not, you’d have to ask him).  This outfit actually suggested that girls be banned from science fiction conventions like Comic-Con – where it’s common practice for attractive women to dress up in comic book costumes (also, turns out there are a lot of female types who just like comic books and scifi, go figure, right?). 

Now, naturally this famous science fiction writer, being all morally superior and a force for Truth, Justice, and the American way, he was appalled and set to snarking about the situation. The gist of his post was, hey, look at how stupid these girl-hating little Klingon-heads are, let’s us point and laugh at them until they crawl away and die of shame hah hah ah hah hah ha. Which, personally, I thought was an entirely appropriate idea.

So, in the comments of this place where I felt welcome and comfortable, I made a joke.  Because, you know, the host said, hey, let’s make jokes about this nonsense. Because one of the ways to fight ignorance and intolerance is with, you know, humor.

Look, the people on that forum were supposed to be smart people. Smart people well versed in popular culture – it’s sort of their thing. These are people who carry on entire conversations in cartoon quotes.  Who speak fluent Klingon. Who pride themselves on being a cut above the knuckle-draggers, socially and intellectually. 

So, I made a joke. 

I couched it in the voice of Foghorn Leghorn, you know, the pompous loud-mouthed self-involved misogynist Rooster from the Looney Tunes cartoons:

Wait, if they ban girls from Science Fiction conventions, who, I say who, will wear the Leia Bikini? 

Now honestly, how can you not get the joke? It’s not exactly subtle. How could you possibly be offended? Especially in the context of a forum specifically about making fun of clueless jerks? It’s cartoon sexism, obvious cartoon sexism. It’s cartoon bigotry for the same reason Foghorn Leghorn is a  clueless cartoon bigot, because that kind of idiotic bigotry is so damned stupid that even a fucking child can see it. 

But not getting the joke is a habit with certain people who are reflexively offended by anything and everything and it wasn’t long before I was accused of sexism, i.e. how dare I suggest that women were only good for eye-candy at science fiction conventions?

No, no, ha ha, you’re not getting the sarcasm, I replied, see Foghorn is …

At which point other folks, mostly women, but some men whom I can only assume were trying to get laid, began to shrilly chime in that I, as a man, was not allowed to make jokes about sexism – on a forum, started by a man, that joked about sexism in science fiction. Because I was a man and thereby guilty of “male privilege.” And I was apparently attempting to “man ‘splain” my joke to a woman, which is condescending see, because, well, I’m a man.

So, to recap, apparently it’s okay to limit another’s participation based on gender in a conversation about gender, so long as that gender is male.  Which is, of course, not at all like how women were excluded from congressional conversations on reproductive rights by a roundtable of male religious leaders. It’s totally different so long as you toss in an angry contemptuous reference to my supposed privilege. See, because attacking exclusion with more exclusion isn’t a logical fallacy at all (if you’re missing the sarcasm in that last bit, I say, I say try rereading it in Foghorn Leghorn’s voice).

I watched this happen with an increasing degree of amazement and horrified frustration.

And then – and then, because the situation wasn’t already ridiculous enough – somebody decided that I must be homophobic.

Yes, that’s correct.


Because, you see, apparently some men, supposedly of the gay persuasion, wear Leia Bikinis to Science Fiction conventions.

Oh, you didn’t know that?

Yeah, me neither.

You don’t see how that makes a difference anyway?

Yeah, me neither.

I protested that I hadn’t been to a convention in years and I wasn’t aware that men, supposedly gay, were wearing Star Wars bikinis at Science Fiction conventions, and that’s when I was told my ignorance was, of course, Straight White Male Privilege.

Naturally because I was white, straight, and male I was ipso facto, a racist, a sexist, and homophobic. You only had to look at my picture to see evidence of that. It’s obvious (Sort of how if you look at a picture of Trayvon Martin, you just know he’s a thug, right? Because, well, of course, you can judge a book by its cover, so long as you shout “privilege!” first). Apparently White Male Privilege is that thing where as a white male if you are unaware of something that you couldn’t possibly have any knowledge of and that has absolutely nothing to do with race or sex or any of the other bullshit labels we like to slap on each other, you’re still held to account for it anyway. Sort of like dating a crazy person. If they could have worked in anti-Semitic they could have yelled Gin! and declared victory.

Look, just to be absolutely clear here, I am not saying that privilege and inequality doesn’t exist, hell, far from it. I’m not even attempting to suggest that I, as a straight white American male, don’t benefit from that privilege, because I most certainly do. And I’ve written about it endlessly, about how it’s bullshit, about how we won’t any of us be free until we are all equal and that, right there, that was the entire point of Saturday’s post and my statement on Twitter:

There is only one truly inalienable right that can’t be taken away by gods nor governments nor men, and that is the right to define yourself.

People like Rosa Parks, she got tired of being defined by other people, so instead she chose to define herself on her own terms – no matter that it was goddamned hard. And that, that one act, changed everything. That, right there, is how the world changes.

The blog host, that famous science fiction writer, who I expected to shut this nonsense down and who spares no chance to brag about how he went to some elite fancy debating school and how he knows a logical fallacy when he sees one, instead pulled a John Boehner Birther Denial Non-Denial on me: Well, Jim, I don’t really know you and I don’t have any reason to believe you’re a sexist pig and a gay-hater, but…” and that’s all it took for his fanatical minions to pile on. Eventually the comments reached more than four hundred and it was decided that I was a sexist, a racist, a homophobe, and just an all around asshole. I gave up, there was no defense possible. Every single thing I said was proof of my bigotry. Defensive wounds. It was like being tried by the religious fanatics of the Inquisition, no matter what you say, you’re going to get burnt at the stake. I quit the forum then and there, but that wasn’t enough for them, they followed me home and continued to rain bile and vitriol on me for weeks afterward. I haven’t been back since and the only time I wouldn’t piss on this famous science fiction writer is if he was fully engulfed in flames. If we’re ever in the same room together I’m very, very likely to loosen a couple of his teeth for him.

The editor in question, the one that snidely drove past my Twitter feed on Saturday and lobbed in the bigotry bomb from her little baggage train? She’s cut right out the same self-righteous cloth. She and the famous writer are pals. These people soured me on the entire science fiction community. They are damaged people who toss about casual accusations of racism and sexism and homophobia. They have no idea whatsoever of the carnage they leave in their respective wakes, the people they casually damage and toss aside in order that they can puff up their chests and feel smugly superior, so that they can take revenge on the rest of us because somebody somewhere who happens to look like me treated them poorly.

But I learned something from them, I did.

That incident is why I won’t, will not under any circumstances, allow that kind of nonsense to go on here.  I will not allow any commenter, even the trolls, to be set upon. I’ll deal with them myself if necessary, because it’s my responsibility as your host, but I won’t allow lynch mobs. Period. This is non-negotiable. This, this incident, is the primary reason I enforce my commenting rules with an iron fist, because I’ve been on the receiving end of the torches and pitchforks and I know exactly what it feels like when the host lacks the moral courage to live up to his or her responsibilities. 

You have my word that while I might boot you off the forum for acting like a jerk, I won’t allow you to be set upon by the blood maddened mob.

And I will not, under any circumstances allow somebody else to define who and what I am.

They can choose to wallow in their own victimhood if they’re so inclined, but I refuse to accept the role of their abuser.

I am not that guy. 

I will not be shamed into apologizing for who I am. I won’t be made to feel defensive because I was born white and straight and male and in America. I won’t be lectured on it. I won’t be bullied or badgered. I won’t be made to hate myself so you can feel better about yourself. I know that I unfairly benefit from this society, I don’t need you to lecture me on it. I’ve written about equality and diversity endlessly. More I’ve busted my ass out in the real world to make it a better place. I don’t claim to be perfect, far from it in point of fact, or without bias or up on some goddamned pedestal, but I’m doing the best I can and you’re not going to get any more than that.

My post Saturday was about labels, about defining yourself, about not allowing others to define who you are and I meant what I said – which is why I will not allow this woman’s comment to go by unchallenged.

There is only one truly inalienable right that can’t be taken away by gods nor governments nor men, and that is the right to define yourself.

And yes, it’s unfairly tougher for some than for others. No kidding it’s unfair, you damned right it is. That was my entire point.

It’s tough, it is that. But, if you choose not to exercise your right, well, then that’s on you.

And you’re not going to pin it on me.

I. Am. Not. That. Guy.


Note: Now, I know exactly what kind of shitstorm this essay will attract. So, comment moderation is on and will remain so. I’m not going to bother to issue the usual warning. You want your comment to post? Then act like a rational adult. You mention privilege in any fashion, tread lightly. // Jim


  1. No Nazis ???
    Hell Jim, You're just fine the way you are.

    1. Like the letter K, the Nazis are silent. But they're there, they always are.

    2. I felt sure they were there....... they're rarely silent.
      New tactic ??

    3. Silent K - as in Knazis?


  2. No, you're not.
    I'm the woman who first heard of you a couple of years ago, and first read every single one of your blog posts a couple of years and one day ago.
    I'm the woman who then wrote to you, "I recommended your blog to my teenage son, and I wish he could know you."
    I was a single mom at the time, and I'm a feminist for all time.
    So for what that's worth, let my voice swell the anti-Jim-hating chorus:

    1. I've been a reader for a relatively short time but have envisioned you figuratively bending over backwards n order to be fair & even handed. I suspect a lot of the problem with Twitter, Facebook, & comment section on websites are poorly served because people cannot see nor hear the person to whom they reply. Body language, a wink, or just a smile would speak volumes more than any number of words. No, I am not defending the woman who commented about your white, male privilge. I think it behooves each and every one of us who use this mefium to realize a large factor of human communication is lost to 140 character limits, lack of visual & auditory cues, and maybe the most importznt aspect of all.....there is a living, breathing human being on te other end who just might don't deserve the benefit of ths doubt. Jim, please tell your wife that
      She's a lucky lady.

    2. There's a reason I call people who use Twitter, Twits. I will not ever subscribe to that service. I sincerely hope that it dies out quickly.

  3. "Now honestly, how can you not get the joke? It’s not exactly subtle. How could you possibly be offended?"

    Oooh! Oooh! Mr. Kotter!! I know the answer to this one!!

    C'mon, Hater. You didn't see that one coming? Lol
    Take pride that you don't live your life looking to be offended, Jim.

  4. I honestly don't get what issue she'd (it's a she, right?) would have with that statement...

    I mean, I get that the world is different for folks of different colors, sexes, religions... I get that there are things that I take for granted that, were I not white and male, I'd probably be shocked by how much harder it is... I'm open and (I hope) thoughtful enough to put myself in other folks shoes and can see that if I were, say, an Asian woman, defining myself might be a bit more trying than it is for me... I get that... I think you get that.

    What I DON'T get is this editor's issue with your statement. I just don't.

    1. It makes perfect sense when you realize that she had defined herself a victim. Most likely of white males and their privileges.

  5. The failing at reading comprehension, it burrrrrrrns. Seriously.

    I think that, for all that that woman holds herself out as a "professional wordsmith," she did not understand your statement at all.

  6. Wait.....What?......Whaddya mean your white!??.....and MALE.....Oh hell no! AND you're straight!??.........Well bugger me with a chainsaw Martha........that's it, I'm outta here.
    Since I have to post this as anonnymouse, my name is Sheldon. (Because my mother was a bitter old woman.)

  7. Yes, This. When you keep doing the same thing, you get the same results. And hanging out with people who use abusing other people to feel better about themselves is just not healthy. The two nameless individuals you are talking about sound like they enjoy utilizing "fire & forget" tactics.

    ps: can't seem to post under my LJ, it will only accept my as "anonymous"

    When I was much younger, I wondered why the men I dated treated me so poorly. I finally realized their attitudes were much like my father's, and if I didn't want to end up in a relationship like my mother's I needed to do something. So I did. I took 5 years off from dating and worked on becoming the kind of woman *I* wanted to be. Happily married 25+ years to the kind of man my father warned be against.

    Self respect works.

  8. Hey, thanks for not being That Guy.

  9. Yikes, cognitive dissonance much? She must be utterly deaf to it. I am very rarely on twitter myself, so I miss a lot of these z-scale tempests. It's probably a good thing. I happen to agree with you. The one right that no one can take from you is how you define yourself. I find that whenever I'm kicking at traces (work-related, private-life related, no matter what the context), it's because I'm feeling a distinct lack of personal control over some aspect of the situation, and unless I fix that, and gain more personal control, I'll continue to kick the traces, possibly even in a self-limiting way. I hate the feeling of being strapped to the nose cone of a rocket. Makes me distinctly uneasy.

    1. I've never been strapped to the nose cone of a rocket. Sounds like fun - I'd like to try it.

      But only in a spacesuit and with a parachute.

      Incidentally, these tempests in a teapot offence seeking and taking things? They're not just limited to twitter. Sadly there's lot of that that does happen on some blogs and venues and by some people online. Sometimes there's good reason to call out some people for some things they've said and make (or read) a lot of it. Other times, not-so-much.

  10. I keep telling myself the same thing, Jim. If I allow someone else to define who I am, I allow them to control me. Sometimes it's hard. But it's always true. Thank you for expanding on the idea.

    (Hate to post as Anonymous, but I almost never comment.)

  11. Given that the person who just did the drive-by on your Twitter is married to the guy who edits Famous Science Fiction Writer's books (at least the ones he publishes through Tor, which is most of them) and has been specifically thanked in the acknowledgements of at least two of said books, I'd say this is Same Shit, Different Platform.
    Note that I gave up on FSFW last year after the brouhaha over the SFWA magazine, where people shouted "sexism!" over a reproduction of a classic pulp cover (Red Sonja, I believe) and Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg reminiscing about Female Editors They Have Known, which included a throwaway comment about how good one of them looked in a bathing suit. Resnick, Malzberg, and the editor of the SFWA magazine ended up getting thrown under the bus by FSFW, who was at the time finishing up his term as president of the SFWA. Ms. Twit(ter) Editor, as I recall, was one of the ones leading the mob with torches and pitchforks.
    You can't win with people like that. They've made up their minds, and God forbid you should try to change their minds about something.

    1. Thanks for not naming him, I'd like to keep it that way, but yes, throwing people under the bus is exactly how he scraped up the voted to get himself elected as President of the SFWA in the first place. As one of the guys who got run over, yeah, I'm still a tad pissed off about it.

  12. Freakin' bingo. The day I met my amazingly awesome husband (who is a white, straight male who just takes it for granted that every human being should be treated as just that, a human being, and acts accordingly - and causes others do the same, at least while in his presence) was approximately 36 hours after I went "wait, I can choose who I want to be REGARDLESS of others' preconceived notions AND I can choose who I allow in my life? You don't say!" And I still maintain the woman who pitched the fit doesn't have NEARLY enough to do.

  13. It took me longer to come to the same conclusions. I ended up putting the head of a drunken, abusive, manipulative, misogynist through the door wall of my apartment and sending his mooching and non-too-bright daughter to a halfway house. Since then, I have managed to keep my relationships either warm and friendly....or very short.

  14. Meanwhile, in the real world, young boys are being left far behind girls academically... are more likely to be medicated for behavior issues, more likely to drop out, less likely to go to college, are more likely to be incarcerated (even for non-violent crimes), and make up almost the entire home-less population. Music to you bitchy bombardier's ears, huh. Nothing like getting even with all those bastards, well, not "those bastards", but any bastards will do. I get it. John Collier,AR

  15. Bearsense beat me to it. As I was reading this, I kept thinking that working the term anti-Semitism does not count as discussing it...A wise Jesuit once told me as I whimpered over someone who had broken up with me over the phone on Valentine's Day: Do not ask if you are good enough for them; ask if they are good enough for you. While that involves personal relationships, the all male congressional meeting discussing female contraception in 21st century is still sad. I know who I am; I do not know why someone who has shared truly personal details of his personal, family and career life has blocked me with no explanation. Again, I know who I am, but I do not always know what I did to bring on such response from a childhood friend of 60 years that she was not talking to me because I had voted for "that muslm (sic) ass." (see, it is always about me; I know that, chuckle) and thanks for sharing.
    Marilyn Ciucci

  16. Yes, very well put.

    (That is all.)

  17. That blow-up led me over here to find out who you are, and I'm glad I came.

    1. Talk about a Silver Lining ...
      Tom & Kerry (long time lurkers ~ HUGE fans!)

    2. Talk about a Silver Lining ...

      Tom & Kerry (long time lurkers ~ HUGE fans)

    3. Talk about your Silver Lining ...

      Tom & Kerry

  18. Thanks, Jim. Good stuff. I actually feel relieved and a bit less depressed with your bright ray of sanity. Self-righteousness hurts my soul... here, you've shown something else, and it really brightens my outlook. Thanks.

  19. Replies
    1. Seconded! Bravo, Bravo.

  20. Just when I think that I couldn't love you any more than I already do, you go out there and prove to be a high standing gentleman. I love a man that only wears boxing gloves in the ring. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for keeping those nuts at bay. It's one of the reasons that I like it here. No one is screaming. Well, mostly.

    1. And now I have a mental image of Jim, in a boxing ring, wearing nothing but boxing gloves.

    2. Paint me like one of your French girls, Jack. Wearing these boxing gloves. Just these boxing gloves...

    3. Jim, they don't make mental eye bleach. Cut that out.

    4. I could stand to see that. :)

      The funny things about all those people in the mob is that many and more of them are white, straight people too. And I would bet they carry as much unconscious privilege as the folk they pile on. But piling on someone else is easier than living mindfully.

    5. Kado: I sometimes think that it is the left-wing equivalent of that thing the right-wingers do: point a finger and call others sinners while making little attempt to live up to your own professed ideals.

      -- Medicine Man

  21. Thanks, Jim. I only wish I'd read this yesterday before a number of pinheads who don't get the difference between analogy and equivalence lost me a night's sleep.

  22. Photos of you in a Leia bikini would do a great deal to make you politically correct.

    If possible swimming to protect an Orca from exploitation.

    1. Oh, oh, I like that idea! Now I have to go find out how to use my photoshop...

    2. Me in a Star War bikini would very likely cause the whales to go extinct. Trust me.

  23. Yup, yup, yup. It is never easy, for any of us, to realize we can define ourselves, and then do it, because we all arrive at adulthood encased in layers of Other People's Expectations and we swim in a constant sea of OPEs. It's far easier to just go with the flow, no matter how miserable it makes us. It took me decades to claw my way out of all the OPEs I'd internalized and accept myself for what I was and always would be, what I wasn't and never would be, and what I could and couldn't do about it all. The end result might not appeal to other people, but it works for me, and that's what matters.

    I haven't gone to look at the Twitterstorm that provoked this reaction; one of the things I've learned is to spare myself the grief of wading through any crap I don't have to; but my guess would be that this woman has chosen a certain role and plays it without regard for the feelings -- the REALITY -- of anyone but herself and her chosen coterie. Seeing what you said in context, Jim, grasping the actual point you were making, would require that she look beyond the comfortable ruts and channels of her chosen role's reflexive reactions -- and we can't have that, now, can we?

    For the record, I am a feminist who's old enough to remember when newspaper classified pages had "Help Wanted -- Male" and "Help Wanted -- Female" separate sections, and my finely honed senses for it have never detected any suggestion of sexism from you.

    1. Never Been Better, you said everything I wanted to say better than I could have said it.

      Jim, I've been a dedicated feminist for about as long as you have been alive, and You Are Not That Guy.

      For reasons I don't understand, I'm not able to post as That Other Jean today.

  24. About two weeks after our Mom passed away and I gave up a budding practice in massage therapy to move in and take over the full-time care of my disabled-vet eldest brother, an older sister called up, out of the blue, and started the conversation by accusing me of '...stealing all mom's stuff to hock so you could pay your bills!"
    And I just stood there drop-jawed with the handset pressed to my ear, blind-sided and flabbergasted, as it escalated from there. When she finally (!) paused to take breath, indignation and years of voice training propelled a single "FUCK YOU!" from my mouth with such force that the cats all scattered to the far corners of the house, not to emerge until late that evening. (I'm amazed the phone remained on the wall, after the way I slammed the receiver down.)
    A year or two later, her husband (who's a very, very nice guy, surprised?) told me she was never going to talk to me again unless I apologized for cussing her out. I asked if she'd told him the story about the conversation, and when he said no, I calmly related it verbatim. He only nodded and said "Yup, 'at sounds like Linda...."
    But I didn't just solidly reject her labeling of me, I bent over backwards to NOT fit it in any way. The house is more-or-less exactly the way it was 6-1/2 years ago, when Mom died. The day I held a broken drinking glass in my hand, making a mental note to pick up some crazyglue so I could fix it, was the day I realized Linda was still controlling me. Like she'd always done for as long as I could remember.
    So I threw the glass away.

    This post of yours brought back that epiphany for me. Thank you, Jim. I really needed to remember it.

  25. The right to define yourself, to control your own outlook: isn't that what Victor Frankl discovered while in the fucking concentration camps? So, obviously, a long histoy of this attitude only being shared by those who enjoy the easy life of privelege.

    And by the way, isn't "Leia" derived from a Biblical name? So, antisemitism! Whooot! You win the jackpot!

    I have also had a relationship with the pathological liar. To this day, if that particular person were to claim that the sun rises in the east, I would get up at dawn with a sextant and a compass to verify!


    1. Someone told me once that 'Leia' was Hawaiian for 'Child of Heaven'. But when I checked, I could only find an ornamental Hawaiian lily with that name. It was probably named for the princess, not the other way around.

  26. Todd, pictures of anyone in a Leia bikini are just not necessary. Honest. I prefer Jim as a himself, thank you. Politically correct or not.

  27. I don't get it. I know a fair number of women. They have real problems in the real world -- problems like pay disparity, problems getting affordable quality childcare, access to reproductive health services, even a rape culture that encourages young men to sexually abuse and assault women (a problem that generally is faced only by younger more attractive women, but still, it's a real problem). But rather than focusing on the practical issues that face real women in the real world, these people who attacked you appear to be holding a pity party about how oppressed they are, rather than trying to solve that in some way. I don’t like pity parties. I’m a solutions kind of guy. But apparently my role in the world is to pat them on the shoulder and give them the pity they want. Uhm, no?

    1. Before I add my thoughts here, it should be noted that I absolutely agree with Jim on this: "...it’s unfairly tougher for some than for others. No kidding it’s unfair, you damned right it is.'

      For me, having the inalienable right to define myself has been the solution to many of those "real problems in the real world." Because I define the value of my own labor, pay disparity is not a problem for me. I am presently a stay-at-home wife and mother (more on that in a minute), but when I did work for income, if I did not find the wage to be adequate, then I did not trade my labor for it. My solution to affordable, quality childcare came in the form of choosing to stay at home and care for my children myself rather than to spend a large portion of my paycheck on childcare. I choose to define myself as homemaker rather than professional working woman (not that this need be an either/or distinction for anyone else. This is me defining me, and me only). Even back when I was in need of reproductive health services, I chose whatever contraception I could afford at the time...which meant that if I couldn't even afford to buy birth control, then I damn well couldn't afford a kid, so I defined myself as abstinent from those activities which might result in conception. I can even speak with some particularly harrowing experience on that whole rape culture, but I choose not to define myself in terms of a particular moment in time, so I won't speak on it. I can't help but to think that if these attack-trolls would become solution-focused themselves, then they may discover that much of their oppression is, in fact, self-imposed. At the very least, they would find that they have far less time for their "cry if I want to" parties.

    2. Badtux, I just feel a need to correct part of this post - rape and sexual assault is not an issue that mainly affects 'young, attractive women'. Not at all. Trust me. I work with victims of crime, and particularly victims of sexual crime. The need to control and violate women and men is not about wanting sex with them. It is about power.

      Many different types of people, of different ages, are abused and sexually assaulted, men as well as women. Rape is not about sexual desire.

  28. One thing I try to do when I'm offended by something I see online is remind myself that all I'm looking at are words on a screen written by a human mind, and what they're trying to say might not have come out as intended. Being autistic myself, I can sympathize; one of the reasons why we're perceived as socially awkward is because what we say doesn't necessarily reflect the intended message because we don't understand many of the nuances of meaning in the things we say, partly because we are unable to pick up on many social cues.

    In many regards, the internet is the great equalizer here: because there are no facial expressions or different intonations to associate with the words on the screen, EVERYONE has this problem when it comes to socialization online, and extraordinary measures need to be taken to fit those cues in (e.g., emoticons, all caps, bold, italic, and underlined text, etc.). It's much the same with road rage, which leads me to suspect that the two might be related phenomena with a shared cause.

    Of course, this doesn't excuse the behavior of people who deliberately take the anonymity of the internet as a license to be douchebags, assholes, and jerkfaces. Extraordinary measures might need to be taken to get them to learn how to play nice with people they don't understand or agree with.

    They're just words on a screen, written by a human mind whose message might not have come out as intended. That's my position unless and until an analysis of their behavior suggests otherwise.

  29. You know, you have your own special way of cutting through the crap and saying what needs to be said. You, Sir, are the singing cricket on the anthill and I am pleased to hear your voice.

    1. And that's going to be my pull-quote for the day. Singing Cricket.

  30. I have to admit that this essay pushed some of my buttons. You see, I used to be part of a forum that started out being quite diverse but eventually ended up much less diverse. The remaining users, all white and mostly men, were constantly saying racist and sexist things. *Horrible* racist and sexist things.

    When I pointed out to them that what they were saying offended me, their reaction was very much along the lines of this essay here. That *I* was just some smug crazy bitch who didn't understand them. That I was bringing in my own baggage along with some supposed hatred of all white men. That I liked to call people "racists" just because it was hurtful (even though I never called any person a racist, I just said that what they had said sounded racist followed by an explanation of why I thought it did), etc. It was very dismissive.

    And all of a sudden, I realized why that forum had become mostly just white men and I left, leaving it entirely white men. It is a space where women and people of color simply have no voice because instead of stopping to consider that maybe, just because they don't see the racism or sexism, that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

    These guys were coming from a position of so much privilege that they perceived as fair things which simply aren't fair. From my point of view, they are a bunch of people with real privilege who can't see it, who perceive any loss of privilege as oppression, and who do whatever it takes to shut down any conversation that is critical about anything they have said.

    So sure, you are right that no one gets to define yourself for you. I certainly don't let those asshats define me as some crazy man hater "race baiter" etc either. I define those guys as hopeless though.

    They'll never get it. They'll never understand why someone thought what they said was inappropriate. However, if they start talking shit around me, I don't feel an obligation not to point out that what they are saying is racist/sexist/offensive and I don't really care if it bothers them to have what they say criticized. Luckily, I rarely ever encountered these folks anywhere other than that forum so avoiding it works great. These guys were pretty bad and actually were making me a little bitter.

    Anyways, while I can't say that I took offense to anything you said initially, your response to it was so dead on similar to what these guy's responses were that it makes me pause.

    1. I've been thinking for a while now about the story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf"--and no, I'm not comparing you to him--and how at the end the kid gets it because there's actually a wolf. The sexists and racists poison the well; if someone uses any one of their defenses, no matter how valid, that defense is just further evidence. It's a no-win situation short of complete and total acquiescence--"yes, you're right, please allow me to self-flagellate."

      I understand the pause. I felt it myself. But from what I've seen about Mr. Wright, it's a valid statement, especially when the response is so vitriolic. Is there racism baked into the system a la privilege? Of course, but the response is to recognize it both ways and work together to address it, not use shame and disgrace as cudgels.

      'Course, if either side refuses to work together... well, reason is not absolute, as it must be based on arbitrary axioms. The definition of "unreasonable people" is therefore something of an arbitrary one dependent on the definer.

    2. This is the unseen part of real racism, sexism, etc.. That many people who could be valuable participants simply leave the space and their contributions lost unless there is an alternative space, which is not always the case.

    3. I get what you're saying, NoName.

      The reaction is very similar because, I imagine, the feelings behind the reactions are very similar. Those cranky, misogynist bigots you were dealing with no doubt felt unjustly accused and, like Mr. Wright, they responded with a counter attack. You are not mistaken when you feel the similarities because there are similarities.

      The key difference is that Jim Wright actually was unjustly accused, which rather changes things. I know it is popular in some circles to judge a person based on how they respond when provoked (your response is [i]very telling[/i] **disdainful sniff**), but the circumstances are actually pretty important.

      Anyhow, I'm sorry if this response comes across as somewhat preachy and condescending, but I'll confess I've actually had some trouble sorting these things out myself in the past; when I have gotten close to an argument, I can sometimes have trouble telling if my allies are themselves being judgmental and overzealous.

      --Medicine Man

    4. Medicine Man- Dang. I've puzzled for 2 days how to say what you did here. I know what you mean, big time.

      I'm hoping, too, that I don't sound preachy or condescending here
      I think there is real value in the idea of discussing/acting on certain issues within notions of structural privilege in human society including the notion that privilege is largely invisible to those who have it.
      As you have found,the what-to-do-about-that gets messy as hell and , personally, I think sometimes resolution lies in kicking the freeloaders out. If folks won't or can't engage they're squatting in your home, your head, without paying their way. Mr Wright's description of the old GF is better put than my way but it is how I've come to see it.
      It is not a resolution of any of the problems of structural privilege but it is a resolution of the type which frees me up to work away where it might be useful.
      I'm mixed race- Alaska Native and white. I comment in some safe spaces for women of color and comment in some much more open forums.
      A few months ago I got into it with a white woman who saw herself as the keeper of the torch for Native Americans on a very open and unmoderated blog. Personally, I get awfully tired of the white savior dealie. It is as obnoxious in its own way as the dismissive stuff you got.
      Generally I save responses to that whole kind of thing to real life situations where it matters but I let that one get to me.
      She was no kind of real ally of native peoples but certainly said some/many of the things real allies do which is a big part of the what-torched-my-shorts about the whole thing.
      It has taken me a long time but I've settled on what I think can be said to be a real ally. I think Mr Wright exhibits a couple of the most important components consistently.The specific and clear moderation of this blog expresses one- the refusal to allow dogpiling, including dogpiling by those of us who agree with him against someone who doesn't, keeps this a safe space on multiple levels.
      Just as important, maybe more important, but harder to quantify, is what Medicine Man is saying.
      Wishing you the very best ...

    5. Hey, thanks for sharing, alaskapi. I'm glad something I've said made sense to someone.

      Personally, I found Jay Smooth over at Ill Doctrine really helpful on this. Some time ago he did a video suggesting how to approach an acquaintance who has said something bigoted. His headslappingly obvious in hindsight advice was to focus on critiquing the behavior, not the person; in other words, "what you just said was kinda fucked up and here's why" not "dude, you are a bigot". I thought about it for awhile and a light went on in my head. As a third party in any argument you can watch for when people start ignoring the argument in favor of throwing personal accusations and take that as an indication of when to start checking people's assumptions.

      If you apply that principle to the tale Jim Wright has presented for us here, things crystallize wonderfully. Jim's accuser did not even bother to state what was wrong with what Jim said, she just went straight to implying things about his character. Whatever justification she may have had for past outrages, it is clear that she is the one using her personal assumptions as an excuse to dick someone around this time.

      --Medicine Man

    6. Such lovely and thoughtful, yet not preachy, responses. Thank you. I have to think on them for a bit.

  31. Someone once said "You can't reason with unreasonable people." I admire your world view, and your perspective on the world. Thank you.

  32. Posting comments online in any forum is like salting an invisible egg, or hugging the air: you are performing a real action on something that exists only in your imagination.

    Usually the people commenting on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc., have never met and never will meet. Without an actual relationship with the other person, 50% of the communication process is lost – the recipient of the communication is not a real person – it’s only a photo (sometimes an actual photo of the person), sometimes a real name, and a handful of comments. This non-person enables (or emboldens) many to post inflammatory or hurtful comments that they would never say if they were within arm’s reach of you. It is a dynamic in communication almost unique to the internet…

  33. I have known people who define themselves as one thing, but then act like something else (usually the opposite. These people are dangerous if you believe what they say they are, not how they behave. So I think "defining yourself" ought to have something to do with "walking the talk."

  34. This made me chuckle and shake my head as I have been in a somewhat similar situation, though the crowd that turned rapidly into a figurative lynch mob was at least in the same room with me at the time. I recently graduated from a very liberal seminary where diversity abounded and being a straight, white male came with some unexpected, unstated, and often inconsistent new rules and social hazards. One day in preaching class we were picking apart a classmate's sermon as usual when I made a comment about how her superbly written and preached sermon might not have been well received if the congregation contained a high number of people who were positively inclined towards the military (serving people, veterans, their families). Although my comment was not intended or worded to offend or spark controversy it quickly polarized the room and resulted in one of my classmates (not the one who gave the sermon) calling me a jingoistic, homophobic, redneck asshole. I was floored, as anybody who knows me would tell you that I am not any of these things. I didn't punch the guy in the teeth like I wanted to, but we had some words after class about how alienating your allies in the struggle to make the world a more just place might not be the greatest idea.

    Later I got to thinking about what I knew of this person's story. I don't know all of the details and I wouldn't give them here even if I did, but I do know that it is a very painful story that involves a bunch of jingoistic, homophobic, redneck assholes who in his words "looked a lot like me."

    This taught me how very easy it is to fall into a mindset and practice that exactly reflects what you are fighting against. Are you fighting against intolerant, bigoted, self-righteous assholes who judge others based upon their gender, skin color, social class, or sexuality from a place of seemingly unassailable moral authority by claiming that God made the world a certain way? The easiest strategy is obviously to turn yourself into an intolerant, bigoted, self-righteous asshole who judges others based upon their gender, skin color, social class, or sexuality from a place of seemingly unassailable moral authority by claiming that God (or a higher source of moral authority of your choice) made the world a certain way. All you have to do is change the basic premises upon which you judge others.

    People fall into this trap so easily. There is even a certain logic to it: the people who hurt me so deeply by judging me based upon the color of my skin, my gender, my sexuality, etc. were able to do so by doing certain things, so doing these things to them in turn would obviously be effective in hurting them back. Guess what? They are.

    And it is very, very easy and tempting to use these tactics to hurt those who look like they are x/y/z, or who speak out and say anything at all that disagrees with the basic notion that people who are x/y/z are evil and deserving of whatever vitrol comes their way. This is what happened to you and me, Jim: we are both white, straight, and male, and we said something that wasn't 100% committed to the idea that we are evil. This sucks, it hurts, and it makes us both angry and frustrated. But we can't afford to indulge in the impulse to indulge that anger and frustration by shooting back at those who would rather see us in the light of our whiteness, straightness, and maleness than see us in the light of our actions and words aimed at bringing about a better world.

    The catch is this: it is impossible to make a better, more just world by acting in the same fashion as those who have harmed you in the first place. However justified any anger and indignation at the way you and others have been treated by people who are x/y/z, continuing these cycles of hatred, violence, and abuse is ultimately detrimental to the cause of creating a more fair, just, and loving world.

    There are better ways, but they are much, much harder.

    1. I want you to be my preacher, and I don't even go to church.

  35. Jim, it all boils down to one phrase...."You can't fix stupid"....you can lead a lunkhead to knowledge, but ya can't make 'em drink. You can try, but I don't think anyone's been successfully waterboarded with smarts.

  36. The SF community is currently under a lot of pressure to change its casual sexism. It's made some people overly sensitive. And unfortunately that's the downside of the power of social media. It's power can be misused, or even misdirected, as easily as it can be used for good.

    The SF community is as diverse as any other. I think me or my wife did something to inadvertently offend, since my invitation to attend panels at both Rustycon and Norwescon were inexplicably lost.

    Last con I went to I was recovering from surgery on my shoulder, but my feet still worked. I spent a lot of time chasing my wife down in between running from panel to panel. At one point I ran into a girl I'd been seeing all over and she stopped and accused me of stalking her. I was running all over the con, from one end to the other. She seemed to be doing something similar, for whatever reason. Us encountering each other regularly seemed a simple matter of fact, not evidence of some malfeasance.

    I was stunned, left standing there agape as she stalked off in her wounded certainty. Then I found my wife and we got ready to leave. We've never been able to afford to STAY at a con. Maybe we'd have made better social contacts had we the chance.

    Then again, maybe it has to do with a right-wing ex-friend of mine who's been going to the cons for years. When he posted that Obama didn't deserve credit for Bin Laden, I told him to go fuck himself.

    People are twitchy. Some for good reason. Some, it's hard to say. It's hard to see where someone's triggers might be, unless they tell you what they are ahead of time.

  37. Regarding your ex: Been there, done that. Borderline Personality Disorder is a bitch. I'm sorry you had to deal with that, too. And you're right. You can only walk away.

    Regarding the rest: You nailed it. And this is exactly what I am imparting to my son.

    Stand tall, and stand proud, brother.

  38. "I have the right to define myself for myself." Sounds like a very feminist statement to me. I honestly have no clue where she got anything sexist or racist from that.
    By the bye, I am one of those female SciFi nerd types. Though I would not wear the Leia bikini. Much more likely to show up as Guinan or Lessa.
    Chandra in MO

  39. So sorry the incorrect doodlebird was nasty. You are of European ancestors, you are male, but you are not sexist or racist or homophobic from anything I have read. As a 70 year old American woman I know those when I read or see or hear them. You don't qualify. Keep writing please.

  40. Any time people lead with the assumption that the other person is an asshole, they're extremely likely to interpret everything wrong. You know what? Women, minorities, queers, the differently abled, all of us who fall into an oppressed class of some kind, we NEED a straight white cis male or two on our side. We could actually freaking help each other, if some of the screaming and finger-pointing would stop. Some men are as eager to shriek "rabid feminist!" as some women are to shout "male privilege!", but it's the knee-jerk mindless yelling that's the problem.

    The voices of straight white cis males get heard easier than others, yes, but that can be useful, because most of you are actually NOT assholes. Especially not you, Jim. I've been reading this blog for years and while I know you're a plainspoken man with little tolerance for bullshit, I also know you're decidedly NOT 'that guy'.

    I'll never forget the day that I, the feminist lesbian, ended up defending the entirety of the male gender from a straight married fundamentalist who believed that all men were basically rapists and cheaters waiting to happen. If I, with my personal history, know that that's bullshit, that most guys are decent people, then why the hell can't the rest of my feminist sisters learn to take things in context? To have a little forbearance? To not leap to conclusions and take offense immediately at anything that even hints of privilege? Reminds me of the saying, "Friendly fire isn't". People who attack like that are shooting down the very folks that are our allies in the overall fight for equality.

    You're good peeps, my friend. Y chromosome and all, manly white military background and all. Hell, I like those things about you. Next time you're in FL come to the northeastern section of the state and I'll buy you a steak dinner. But only if you do a Foghorn Leghorn impression.

    ~Anissa (at work, can't log in)

    1. Very well said Anissa. That first sentence sums up a whole lot of blog "discussions" - if that's the right word for them. I've seen that happen a great many times online.. Some seemingly smart and good people really do need to recognise that and learn not to argue and think that way. I think I'm going to have to cut'n'paste and quote that line on occasion from now on if that's okay. Because it sums up a whole attitude and approach just perfectly.

  41. I've quit many a forum and Facebook thread because of dumassery. A whole lot of people would rather be insulted than read and consider. Oh well. Still love reading your blog.

  42. I didn't get online until about 2003 and cut my teeth on various forums for sci fi shows. I learned online lingo and found out about trolls and flame wars and butt hurt. I wrote fan fic and joined discussions and made some very good friends - many of whom are my good friends to this day and not just online. We visit each other and vacation together when we can.

    I also saw lots of extremist points of view from all points of the compass - far right, far left, north, south, up, down, whatever. I'm not a fan of extremes so I generally back away slowly and wait for the fuss to die down. And such fuss there could be! Heaven forbid someone dare to suggest the offended parties might have over reacted. After all, they have a right to feel their feelings! No one call feel those feelings but them! How dare you not validate the butthurt!

    And that only seemed to run one way. They would forcefully defend their right to be offended and Feel Their Feelings then turn around and deny that right to someone else who they didn't agree with. "Well, * I * can feel butthurt and offended because reasons! * You * are just overreacting and need to shut up and go away. Your being offended offends me so you need to Stop. It. Now."

    As for the line of yours taken so very out of context, I see nothing at all wrong with it. We have the right to define ourselves. Whether we manage to live up to the definition we're striving for is a separate subject.

    As for the comment it spawned - besides the condescending and judgmental tone, it relies strictly on stereotypes. It's also a good candidate for reverse testing. If we flipped it around so that a parallel comment was made about that person, would the comment's fail be obvious? If someone had said to her - "I don't need to see your avatar to know that you are white and female" - I have no doubt there would be all kinds of internet uproar over stereotypes of gender and race and what an utter fail those attitudes carry.

    A few years back I used to hang out at that particular blog by that FSFW. The extremism there could be...very extreme and on a hair trigger response. The ugliness of the Ultra Special Snowflake Syndrome couldn't be ignored and it tainted all of the pleasantness from other posts and discussions. The nastiness was so pervasive that it wasn't worth wading through to get to the good bits.

  43. From this South Asian woman, I can't LOVE this enough.

    There is only one truly inalienable right that can’t be taken away by gods nor governments nor men, and that is the right to define yourself.

    THAT. So THAT.

    I grew up with an emotionally abusive, domineering South Asian father and a mother who enabled him and was pretty much crazy in her own right, not least because she'd let others, including my father, define her.

    But somehow, despite my 'good' childhood and adolescence, I managed to hold onto something that reminded me that I could define who I was. I yelled back at my father when my younger brother wouldn't; I refused to be a completely good girl - in part, I guess, because I read so much fantasy, which is really about coming of age; in part, because I was blessed with adults - teachers, family friends, friends' parents - who cared and believed in me, showing me glimpses of what being loved was really like.

    That meant that when my parents juxtaposed the words 'arranged' and 'marriage' in a sentence, within a fortnight, I moved out, leaving them a note on the fridge. When they came to my flat, insisting on paying off the rent; I threw them out. When my father asked me if I was sleeping around with my male friends to pay the rent, *I hung up on him*. When I was ready, I converted to Catholicism (they're Muslim) and faced their rage.

    So easy it would have been to let them define me, to be the good girl, have an arranged marriage; live that life, path of least resistance.

    Path to certain soul death, more like.

    So I did what I did, and it hasn't been easy. Do I struggle with my Catholic faith? Every damn day. Do I wish I were married with kids? Absolutely, but NOT AT THAT PRICE. Do I make mistakes? Emotionally unavailable, wounded men were my stock in trade. I'm bolshy; not working a job that earns me six figures a year; living in one of the most expensive cities in the UK in a shared house. I've missed opportunities; stayed in places too long; reacted out of past conditioning. Not success by ANY standard the world sets.

    *But it is MY life. *I* have defined it.* And guess what? I'm learning and growing and doing my Irim thang.

    Screw the world, I've succeeded. And so did one of my cousins who was locked in the house after revealing to her parents that she had an American boyfriend. Box by box, via a friend, she shipped her stuff to him, then took a Greyhound bus to him. I wished them a happy 26th anniversary just the other week - they're more in love now than they were then, and have 3 gorgeous boys to boot.

    So no one's going to tell me that 'defining yourself' is the privilege of straight white males. Bullshit. You are NOT telling THIS American ex-pat of South Asian descent living in the UK that it's impossible to define myself. I will NOT let anyone take that away from me - or my cousin.

    Is it harder in some cases? Sure it is. But guess what? I'd bet you that more often than not, it's not how you think: I'd bet in a lot of cases, it's HARDER when you're comfortable, because it's easier to follow the set path; you don't think about it because it's given to you - you're defined, it's easy, why fight it? Growth is our leading edge; growth happens where we're uncomfortable. Growth needs resistance. I often wonder if our family had been a tightly knit South Asian one if I'd have taken the easy road, because it's what I'd have identified with family and love. I just don't know.

    Defining yourself is an inside job, and no matter who or where we are, it is something we can ALL do - and actually, maybe it's hard for all of us - it's just that the difficulty looks different in each case...because we are. xx

    1. First off, Bravo! Good for you Irim.

      You reminded me of so many people who desperately need others around to define themselves. There are so many people out there who think they're proving themselves powerful by stepping on others to gain advantage. It is completely ironic that they miss the fact of the ultimate weakness of that behavior: without others to measure themselves against they don't know who they are. In other words, they don't exist without others. Therefor they are completely dependent on others to exist. It's the worst kind of helplessness.

  44. I enjoy your outlook on life and as a woman, and feminist, I saw nothing wrong with any of your comments. Sad that others can't pull their out of their butts and see what your words really are. The truth. I am married to a white male. He is not a sexist, bigot, or homophobe. Fancy that. They exist. Lol. Keep being you and don't worry what other people are saying. You are awesome. And hilarious.

  45. I am twitchy sometimes, for good and bad reasons. I've been working on it. Anti-depressants have certainly helped, and they are, for me, a lifesaver...quite literally. However, there are things that will set me off. One of them is violence, or the potential for violence. Another is manipulation; I've been manipulated so often that I can see the intent! Oh, yes, and don't tell me what I feel. I don't do it to others, and expect them not to do it to me. "You'll miss him/her/it when they're not around is a particular favourite. Not necessarily, truly.

    But being yourself can be made easier.

    I've learned to interrupt. No, I don't necessarily want grandchildren. And no, I'm not going to nag my son to have children. Yes, I borrow other people's children and grandchildren, and enjoy them. But no, I don't regret only having one child and not having any grandchildren. And no, I don't want to listen to someone who thinks I should.....and there have been many.

    Violence is sometimes necessary....I have used it as a last resort. I would do it again. But only against those who are violent enough that it's the only way to get the point across!

    Life is too short to deal with this stuff on a regular basis. It's one of the reasons I don't often reply to people who are obviously baiting on boards...well, unless I want the amusement of playing whack-a-mole on any given day. Mostly it's easier to just scroll on by or delete them from my feed if they are repeat offenders.

    And yes, Jim, that's probably why I follow your blog and facebook page. No matter how it came to be, we arrived at similar conclusions from different backgrounds.

  46. Your column gave me a lot to think about. Thanks, Jim.

  47. Jim - Thank you for not being That Guy. Thank you for speaking honestly about your experience and your emotions. I try not to be that crazy person who makes blanket assumptions and generalizations such as the ones of which you were a victim, but your essay made me think really hard. I needed to look over all of my associations and reactions carefully to be certain that I can fairly claim the "not crazy" label. Once again, reading one of your posts made me think. Hard. Thank you for that too.

  48. You had me at "who, I say who, will wear the Leia Bikini?"

    I confess, I was disappointed you did not drop my name and say that one of your best friends is gay. *snort*giggle* but they probably wouldn't get that joke either.

  49. Nick formerly from the O.C.February 10, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    As I see it, the trick is to see beyond the obvious and acknowledge that most of us are very complex individuals. For instance, that SF writer dude has done a lot of good things that I'm happy to acknowledge, right along with my acknowledgement that he did you wrong and bears a decent amount of responsibility for the threats you received. His karma.

    The SF editor lady runs a blog that has caused me to think and grow, and I'm happy to acknowledge her for it. Right along with my acknowledgement that she did you wrong and she should think about it. Her karma.

    I wish those two people, whom I admire in many ways, would dig into the complexity of humans and avoid dismissing people based on characteristics they were born with. Judge you by the totality of your words and deeds instead of your skin color and gender.

    That's really all I ask of anyone.

  50. Well, that sure escalated quickly. I'm sorry.

    I pride myself on being part of SF fandom, and of showing by example that, contrary to the popular stereotype, a lot of us SF fans pay attention to our hygiene, social skills, etc....I also pride myself on paying attention to the concerns of the less-privileged. Sometimes it just doesn't work.

    Maybe some people have had so many others claiming the right to define them, and getting away with it in the bigger political and media culture, that they consider "the right to define oneself" as being like the right to have nice things without being hassled by cops and having to prove you didn't steal them; or the right to dress the way you want without being abused: white males have maybe so much of an easier time exercising those rights that it's half amusing, half-offensive, to see us casually commenting about how we all have those rights.

    At least, that's the only reason I can think of, why someone might take umbrage. Be nice if they were a little more communicative about it, instead of lashing out right off the bat. I reckon, you'd have been likely to encourage them to stand up and assert who they were, on their own terms...as opposed to letting them assert who YOU are.

  51. The biggest part of being an adult is to reach your conclusion: you must define yourself and live your life true to yourself. It is only when we can do so that we can claim to have grown up. Bravo to you and all your readers and admirers who have learned to define themselves.

  52. Imagine that, up till this time, I thought I'd seen a hint of pissed off! No sir!
    This showed some serious pissed off! I bet these words flew onto the screen in that blinding rage you mentioned. You just sidled up and licked it's ear on this post.
    Do you think me being a white straight male enjoying this post makes me, look fat?

  53. If someone is determined to be offended, it's very difficult to stop them.

    One of the reasons I quickly abandoned Twitter was because it didn't take long to discover that much of it was the equivalent of reading Youtube comments. After half a dozen, you just want to bleach your brain and abandon all hope for humanity.

  54. Aw, bless darlin'. We wouldn't be human if we agreed with each other every single time.

  55. Wait, wait, I got stuck back there with the image of Jim in the boxing ring with only boxing gloves on. Let's talk about that.- Jim, you have amazing patience and this was a great blog, but really, people who have nothing better to do than put a target on someone else's ass are not worth your energy.

  56. As a straight, white (but tanned, does that count?), male (last time I checked) I can safely state that I'm certainly not going to any cons that don't have legions of green-skinned, bikini clad babes of either gender whose sole porpoise is to fluff me and my fellow nerds/geeks/dorks.

    1. Is that because it's the only place you SF con-ners/geeks/dorks can get any fluffing?

      (Running and ducking....)


    2. Thanks for taking my comment in the spirit with which it was intended. Seriously, the majority of SF geeks I've known are wonderful because they are wicked smart! Unfortunately for me, there is still that SF part which, in spite of my best efforts, I just can't get my head around.



  57. Bullies are everywhere. The only way to beat a bully is to stand up to them and call them by their proper name. Thank you for making it your business to stand up to them when they rear their ugly heads on your watch.

  58. Jim, superbly done, as usual.

    The comments are perhaps even more intelligent and well written than usual and I salute you all.

    So, now on to the stupidity: Jim, "If they could have worked in anti-Semitic they could have yelled Gin! and declared victory."

    Might they not have yelled "Mogen David" or "Manischewitz" instead?

    Sorry. Just the oppressor in me asserting itself.

  59. As an obscure writer, I for the life of me cannot see what in blazes was wrong with your quotation. It is bloody brilliant and should be shared for all embattled souls to embrace. What was her problem? Sheesh!

    1. I don't know. She didn't bother to explain. And my poor little hunchbacked knuckle-dragged hairy man-brain can't figure it out.

      I gave her two days to come back and explain herself. But she didn't feel that she owed me, white and male I guess, even that simple courtesy. I think I was more than fair, two days is more than enough time. So, I addressed it. Here.

    2. I think it was the word, "Men". See, if you use "that word" you are clearly an oppressor.

    3. Could be. Her defenders are upset with me because she's apparently gone offline in response to my comments.

      Good, that way she's not hurting anybody else with her asshole accusations.

      I think I was fair. I gave her two days to take responsibility for her nasty comment. She didn't. So, now she can just plain fucking OWN what she said.

      And you'll note that I did NOT name her, or the famous scifi author here. Despite their bullshit, I showed them the courtesy they didn't bother to extend to me. And I'll continue to do so. But, as the man said: I won't be laid a hand on...

    4. I couldn't figure out the reason for the uproar either at first reading, but then I'm a 58 y-o white male. If you substitute the perhaps less offending "mankind" or "human" it loses some of the rhythm of the single syllable that "men" provides. It just sounds better as written. There's power in words but all the power isn't in historical and assumed meaning, It has to sound right also. Maybe there's a label that the English Lit and grammarians can apply here but if the word fits and there's an internal rhythm that matches, then go with it. Damn the priviledge and full speed ahead.
      Hell, maybe the problem is with the Y chromosome. You know, the little one (wink, wink)..

    5. I suspect her problem was that Jim voiced his opinion at all. Her tweet has a very petty "easy for *you* to say"-type vibe.

      --Medicine Man

    6. As it happens, I think I can explain where that comes from. It's often still the case, and was much more so for girls growing up in the 50's and 60's, that if they tried to define themselves, they were crushed like bugs. I experienced some of that myself, and (e.g.) I know someone who was forced to drop all her math and science courses and study secretarial skills, because her parents thought that was appropriate for a girl. (And I won't speak for non-whites, but I remember Malcolm X, in his autobiography, saying he told a teacher that he'd like to be a lawyer, and being told that he should really consider becoming a carpenter. I note that "housemaid" was almost the only job open to black women for a fair while.) So what's behind her remark is the implication that because it's in general easier for a white male to "define himself," no white male has any right to say it. (Please don't shoot the messenger – the fact that I understand this doesn't mean I agree with it.)

    7. What aggravates me, Cinnabar, is the explicit assumption that I don't get it.

      I get it.

      I get that women and ethnic minorities were discouraged from defining themselves by white men, and far too often STILL are.

      I get it.

      I don't know how many times I have to say that I get it. I get it. I admit it. I agree with it. I do what I can to help rectify the situation. Including speaking out about it even though, as you poined out, some folks don't think I have any right to.

      What aggravates me is the assumption, based SOLELY on my gender and skin, that I don't understand, can't understand, will never understand, and therefor I must lectured on it over and over, or that it somehow justifies snide comebacks to something I said on social media, or that I must be made to pay. You don't ensure the rights of some by stifling the rights of others or through revenge, no matter how tempering it might be. That's what makes Nelsen Mandela a truly great man and not just another freedom fighter.

    8. Let me add that I understand exactly what the female Editor was saying. Exactly. I might even have agreed to a certain extent - IF SHE HADN'T LED HER COMMENT WITH BLATANT STEREOTYPING. It's the passive aggressive hypocrisy and the logical fallacy that I can't stand.

    9. I was actually replying more to Aragon64 at the top of this threadlet, who asked what her problem was, and didn't mean to suggest that anyone else didn't get it -- and definitely not that anyone else COULDN'T get it.

    10. Urf. I'm a overly testy on this subject, not just because of the incidents related above but also because the hatemail generated by this post is AMAZING, so I likely sounded more snippy than I intended.

      If so apologies.

      I understood your comment in the manner you intended, I think, and agreed with the gist of it.

      I'm tying very hard not to let this subject push anymore of my buttons, but I'm not always 100% successful. It's an extremely painful subject for me, and I tend to attack rather than be forced into a defensive position. Again, I don't disagree with anything you said, apologies for sounding like I did.

    11. I figured I'd pushed one of your buttons when I saw your response. I also get testy when someone assumes I can't understand something because of my sex (or race or ...).

  60. As ever, you manage, even when angry (legitimately I might add), to write clearly about a thorny issue that many people just cannot wrap their brains around. This paragraph nailed it for me:
    "...Look, just to be absolutely clear here, I am not saying that privilege and inequality doesn’t exist, hell, far from it. I’m not even attempting to suggest that I, as a straight white American male, don’t benefit from that privilege, because I most certainly do. And I’ve written about it endlessly, about how it’s bullshit, about how we won’t any of us be free until we are all equal and that, right there, that was the entire point of Saturday’s post and my statement on Twitter:

    There is only one truly inalienable right that can’t be taken away by gods nor governments nor men, and that is the right to define yourself...."

    Thank you! You, Are. Not. That. Guy. Not then, not now, not ever.

  61. First of all, a belated Happy Birthday! Second, I want to say that I really REALLY appreciate your heavy moderation. It's so frustrating to try and find the intelligent comments to a blog/article when one has to wade through tons of troll crap.

    Your crazy ex reminds me of an ex of mine. When we met he told me that all his ex's constantly accused him of cheating even though he never did, I assured him that I trusted him and proved it by not questioning his every move. Nevertheless, he continued (over MONTHS!) to complain about ex's and assure me he wasn't cheating (even without any accusations from me). Eventually I realized that he was extremely frustrated because he WAS a cheater, and wanted me to be suspicious so he could cheat and then blame me for, I dunno, being such a clingy bitch I forced him into it. Needless to say, relationship ended after that.

    You can't fix stupid, you can't reason with unreasonable people, and we absolutely have the right to define ourselves. Oh, and I'm so old when I was in 5th grade I was told I could play either a clarinet or flute (instead of drums like I wanted to) because drums were only for boys. So I can smell sexism a mile (or a couple thousand - I live in China) away. Ain't none of that here.

    You (and this place) is sanity in an increasingly insane world!


  62. Anyone who takes the time to read your entire posts IN CONTEXT should clearly comprehend that you, indeed, are not That Guy. I've been a lurker on your blog for awhile now, and this is my first comment. It is unfortunate that we live in a world of idiotic hate-bangers that have nothing better to do than seek out opportunities to be offended. (I think the bikini joke is a hoot, by the way. It conjured up an image of Foghorn Leghorn wearing a bikini since I got the two images swapped and blended.)

    We do live in a society in which some have more privilege than others, that's the facts. When those with a degree of privilege stand up and speak out for those with little or no privilege, we can be glad that they do. Thank you for speaking up and using your voice and your blog to make the world a little brighter with your frankness, your passion, and your grit.


  63. I'm a SF/fantasy nerd, a feminist, and a privileged white female, and all I can say is I love the hell out of you and your blogs. This post is just so full of win I can't even. I just can't. And as for the tw*twaffle that did the sexist drive-by...well, she may be a bitch, but so is karma. I just wish the wait weren't so long.

    1. This is a Navy blog, Ericka. You can say Twatwaffle here.

  64. As a 52 yr old white male, I feel I have nothing valuable to add ;)

  65. I am not trying to create a shitstorm, here, nor am I trying to defend anyone who tries to define others, but it seems to me that the sociological concept of privilege conveys just that--the privilege for one to define oneself to others. 'Cuz those who have privilege, whether acknowledged or not, work very hard to define everyone else. And have the power to do so.

    Thank you for your passion, as always.

  66. I'm sorry. I laughed all through most of this essay, not at you Mr Wright, nor at the white and male driveby routine the twitter person laid on you.
    I laughed because as a gal who decided 40 years ago I was going to be a plumber, a short mixed race female plumber, so I could make decent wages to raise my kid after I chased the drunk ex off, I knew damn well what I got from your remark and what living it can mean- one of those god-if-they-only-knew laughs.
    I've had a pretty damn good run all these years even with all the horsepunky you-can't-do-this-job-cuz-you're-a-girl crap of the early years but I watched a number of other women who coulda/shoulda made it in the trade walk away . Most because they wanted some kind of validation from outside themselves that needs to come from within.Made me sad, still does.
    Sometimes here you say things which put up my feminista defensive antennae and sometimes I wish there was a useful way , in a public forum, to talk about what privilege means in terms of institutional/ structural privilege which doesn't descend into crap slinging and gender bashing and all that.
    Thing is though , by and large, you are an ally. In privilege/power lingo that is a good thing. You do it quite well most of the time. Better than most.

    The driveby twit? Sounds like the old GF in the first part of your essay, to me

    1. "The driveby twit? Sounds like the old GF in the first part of your essay, to me". That is what I thought. The old GF trying to get back at you for the truth telling 25 years ago. I new assholery, assholery was an old BF of mine, and you, sir, are no asshole.

  67. Ah, internet forums. When you scroll below the article, and click on the link that reads: ' ', there should be a popup: "There be dragons." EOD works on nothing so perilous as the court of public opinion; a defusing only goes pear-shaped if you do the wrong thing, as long as you keep cutting the right wires, everyone gets to go have a beer afterward.

    You can trace shit like what you're talking about up there all the way back to elementary school, to the kid who garnered a round of grins & high-fives by calling someone else 'fag' or 'nerd' or 'sissy' or...pick a label. Any will do, for the purpose. It's about humans who have, in turn, been beaten down so thoroughly that, if pointedly-posed the question, could not give you one aspect that makes them exceptional, so they establish their superiority by the only vehicle at their disposal; pushing someone down lower than them. I can say from experience, being the guy who can smack a softball all the way into the creek that ran behind the recess field goes a long way toward getting picked quick for a team. But, calling some kid names who is either too weak, too scared or too smart to manually squelch a verbal bully will serve just about as well.

    You think that, by high school, kids will have grown out of that sort of thing. Then you think that - surely - by college, that will be a thing of the past. Then you meet the professors. Now, I'm not saying that all post-secondary professors are cut from such cloth, but there are plenty who I have sat in class and watched establish their sense of personal superiority at the expense of those who depend on them for their grades. You think that, surely, this does not carry over into the professional world, then you get to work for a boss who, if you close your eyes, you're right there, right back on that playground. It is an infinite playback loop, an 8-track that plays the same damned songs over and over and over until it gets yanked from the deck.

    It's someone who could not, if their very existence depended upon it, demonstrate their superiority over you by talking about themselves. So, they fall back to a tactic they've known since 3rd grade & demonstrate (in their mind and, hopefully, in the minds of at least a few of their followers) your inferiority to them by labeling you.

    Your advice stands, Mr. Wright. They don't get to define you. To say nothing of the fact that, physically & mentally, you're still the kid who can whack the softball right the hell out of the field, so fuck 'em. You're still going to get picked first, man. Just smile & move on.

  68. Got to chuckle at this. I've run into exactly this very thing. (Not the BS attacks by authors, at least not yet.) But being blamed for things that I have never done simply because I was born a certain way is asinine. Do we condone doing that for folks who were born with disabilities? Oh hell no. Yet somehow it is OK to blame me. Dumb asses.

    I was raised pretty much bigotry free by my parents. I was supposed to judge people by their own merits rather than what they looked like or their social status. I have to admit that over the years I have found that I've become somewhat bigoted against some people. Namely those who are so wrapped up in their own bigotry that they can't see me for who I am. Like you, if someone puts an undeserved label on me I will most likely explode. You have every right to call me on the shit I have done, but you have no right to blame me for things I have never done.

    Huh. Must be something about us 52 year old, straight white males.

  69. One of the deepest desires of the human soul is to be understood - and the times I've been the most pissed off is when I've been misunderstood or wrongly accused. As a dedicated observer of human nature, I've come across plenty of "those guys" (they come in a variety of sexes, orientations and colors by the way) and know from following your blog you are definitely "not that guy". As for satire, husband and I are friends with a couple whose political views are pretty right wing (they have other redeeming qualities) and we got talking about two of our favorite TV personalities - Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert on Comedy Central. When our friends said they love Colbert but strongly dislike Stewart, we were tempted to tell them that Colbert just plays the part of a jingoistic, clueless right wing blow-hard - that Steven himself doesn't actually hold his character's political views but is instead making fun of those views. Perhaps we should have told them Colbert's comedy is satire but then figured, what the hell, maybe they'll be exposed to some fair-minded, progressive viewpoints somewhere along the way if they keep watching his show.

  70. perhaps she is bipolar. having been subjected to this kind of thing both on the internet and in the flesh (by my mother-in-law), it sounds eerily familiar.

  71. Wow Jim. This post hits very close to home. There is a person in my community who is P O'd at me for writing about my personal beliefs (I have a teeny, itty, bitty, eensy, weensy little blog that someday, someday may grow up to be a big dog like yourself. But I have no real proof that something like that could happen. It's just that a girl can dream, right?)
    Anyway. This person is sooooooo mad at me. This person has now been sending text messages and emails (not just leaving comments in the comments section). And now the bulk of the messages imply that it is my fault I have been receiving all of this negativity and nasty messages because of the things I have written and the supposed "attitude that I have about the people in the valley."
    Your post really hits the hammer on the head here.
    I'm being accused of lots of things that I've not said or done. And the husband wants to know why I don't just confront the person and say my piece.
    Only thing is, exactly as you point out so gosh darn eloquently, there just isn't any reasoning with an unreasonable person.
    I am going to print out your sentence about my right to define me. Heck, I may even make that into a bumper sticker. And drive up and down the damn ranch road, just to make a point.
    Happy belated bday by the way. And here's to being you! Exactly the way you are.

  72. I was struggling with this the other day and came to the same conclusion: I have the right to define myself. The entailments can be problematic, but they're my problems. Thanks for speaking up. I am 57, white and male, swimming in the deep end of the gene pool, but not straight. I can pass, but why would I want to? Life has only the meaning we give it. I choose to be an ethical, compassionate human being. It's how I create a world worth living in.

  73. [attempt-at-humor alert]

    speaking for all us reasonable feminists, I apologize, Jim! ;-) ...even though "i'm not that guy."

    1. Me too. My first though when I'd read this was "oh hell no, not another idiot giving feminists a bad name". Privilege is a real issue *as Jim has said over and over in various ways*. Sexism and racism are evil, and bad for everyone whatever their sex and race* as Jim has said over and over in various ways. There are people this woman could accuse of sexism and/or racism in the SF community where the accusation would be entirely justified. None of this makes it OK for her to accuse random white men of these things.

  74. I honestly can see both sides of that. Personally I thought the Princess Leia quote was hilarious. But again sometimes people don't see where something is sarcastic as opposed to just a "joke."

    I am am a White chick, so I get bits and pieces of privilege as well as oppression. The quote that is the crux of your argument? That can be seen as something that only people with privilege are successfully able to do. It certainly is not easy to stand up to the sexism and the racism and homophobia and the transphobia and all of the other isms that are out there.

    But that doesn't mean that it can't be done.

    It is only because of the people who held tight to that ineligible right, who chose to define themselves not as the government or their owners or their spouses saw them, but chose to define themselves for themselves, by themselves, as themselves... it is only by holding tight to that one intrinsic personal right that they were able to gain rights for many of the rest of us.

  75. Sigh. There's a one liner just begging to be spewed. One you've written often enough. But I must beat it back. I read the line that elicited such a backlash. "There is only one truly inalienable right that can’t be taken away by gods nor governments nor men, and that is the right to define yourself." Brilliant in its simplicity and depth. Uplifting and hopeful. Empowering for the downtrodden. It should go viral as a Facebook "poster." The inspirational caption over a background of butterflies. And kittens, if you will. "Victims" of the universe's many ills, injustices, prejudices, and tragedies could take up the banner to scream "I will define myself, thank you." Instead, they find fault, privilege, and bigotry?! Incredulous. Oh wait, here it comes, I can't stop it ... you can't fix stupid.

    1. Well, I couldn't find a picture with butterflies and/or kittens (and/or petunias for that matter) that spoke to me about defining oneself, so I found a different one on Wikimedia instead. And made a Facebook poster:


      I think it would be kind of funny if this got plastered all over FB so that when Famous SF Editor comes back online, it'll be right in her face.

      (original pic from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zatoka_Pucka_-_Cha%C5%82upy_-_P%C3%B3%C5%82wysep_Helski_-_pomost.jpg)

    2. @MWT: Working on that last part. It's a pretty profound and poetic piece of prose.

    3. Here's another version, done motivational poster style, complete with kitten.


    4. What, no attribution?
      But I do like the image (the dock)...

    5. Yeah, sorry. I was focused on making it look like a Facebook poster and completely forgot about that until after I'd put it up on my wall (anyone who shares it from there would also get the text with Jim's name in it however). There doesn't seem to be a way to replace the image with an updated one, at least not on Facebook. I'll make a better one tonight and put up a new link here.

    6. http://i220.photobucket.com/albums/dd154/KayarBlue/stonekettle-saying3_zpscb2d98d0.jpg

  76. This is the first time I read your blog. My "don't give me that bullshit" sister told me to check out your writing. What a breath of fresh air! Keep on calling it like you see it.

  77. Oh, yes. I know this issue very well.

    I think the SFF community is in a very strange social transition period at the moment. The Internet really bought out SFF fans and geeks into the open for the first time, and conflicts which - in my mother's time - were usually kept under the rug or within very small cliques of damaged people have spread out into the wide world.

    There is definitely a culture of over-sensitivity present in modern SFF communities. I'm hoping that the wave of sexism and racism and overreactions we've been seeing in that community are an extinction burst of negativity as we struggle onward. We need sane, healthy inclusion counterbalanced by mature acceptance that not everyone is right on time, first time, every time.

    I've been involved on the author side of things for a while now. It is a very bitter, socially awkward little world up there with people who are often very emotional (which makes them good at their jobs, which requires passion, but not so much when dealing with real humans). It doesn't help that SFF fans, writers, artists, and others are - by and large - have really delicate self-esteem. That's another hang-over from pre-Internet days, I suspect. In the past, you could be a successful writer and be temperamental, safe behind your wall of agents and the PR engine. Those days are now over. Hopefully the community grows and learns.

    Incidentally, the politics and elitism that go on at publishing houses are why I'm self-publishing my sci-fi... and will be filtering comments.

  78. I think your line is brilliant. So this person decided to fly in and pack you into a little box, tie it up in a hateful little bow, and *define* you. Seems a little ironic to me.

    I do wonder if it's more about the power and rush of scoring a hit and then zooming out again without even allowing for any kind of discourse. At the end of the day hasn't she defined herself quite clearly? It seems more than a bit cowardly to me.

    I've been reading for a little while now and poking through the archives. I am enjoying it all and really appreciate the effort I know you put into it. Thanks.

  79. I read all the comments hoping that someone would explain how your comment was an attack on others or was evidence of sexism, bigotry etc. I took your simple sentence as a statement of empowerment regardless of one's sex, race etc. and sadly something most only come to realize after they have live through many many birthdays.
    When I was in college, I saw a shrink -- to develop a sense of self-worth and improve my relations with my mother. 30 years later I still do not get along with my mother, but I am comfortable with me that I don't give a rat's ass if Mom doesn't. I know who is important to me, I know what I value and what I care about. I try not to be judgmental, but if you match your hair color to your clothes, I have a hard time getting past that.

    As for your attacker, exactly who does she think should define people???

    1. As for your attacker, exactly who does she think should define people???

      This is a rhetorical question, right?

  80. You managed to encapsulate the exact reason I avoid chiming in on comment feeds. It didn't take me long to figure out I was just making myself a target, no matter how reasoned or benign my comments were. After several genuine attempts to engage in logical discussions on the given subject I opted out. Light bulb flash! Nobody values my opinions like I do. Humor and light (or heavy) sarcasm are magnets. I've been called every name available. It started to pull out the latent troll in me and I caught myself becoming one of THEM. The last time I weighed in was on the subject of George Zimmerman, but I was forearmed on that one. The trolls were all there so I knew I was stepping in a pile of dung. Now, I mightily resist stepping up for abuse. If I'm beguiled into making a remark it's limited to a passing, respectful comment and then I leave the room.

    There's just no point. It's the dark side of the internet; the swirling vortex where the deluded and resentful arrive to gin up even more fear and hate than they can get at home.

    It took me quite awhile to recognize the mirror reflection my personal relationships had to my internet input. Throughout my life I've tried repeatedly to be the savior of damaged people and only served as a punching bag. I'd like claim one success, but actually I was only there for his turning point. He did the lion's share of saving himself. So I stuck with him. Year 14 and counting.

    So yours is one of the few places I go to find a nugget of like minded respite. I'm not surprised you have such a large following. You're running a refuge for those of us weary from the company of the misbegotten. And thank you for that.

  81. "There is only one truly inalienable right that can’t be taken away by gods nor governments nor men, and that is the right to define yourself."

    That statement beautifully encapsulates one of the messages in Dr. Viktor E. Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning". Each of us decides how we are going to respond to whatever life throws at us.

    Thank you for such a meaningful essay. And thanks to all the commenters for describing their experiences.


  82. One of the most painful things that's ever happened to me was when I was called a racist by my actually racist boss. I was written up for it. Didn't matter that what I said was fact and when he asked me about it, I had names and dates and proof. Nope, what I sad supposedly offended a black person who didn't have the courtesy to ask me for proof or clarification. She was a shit stirrer and I was convenient. Everyone who knows me knows I. Am. Not. That. Person. Several long time friends were shocked that the accusation could even stick to me. But it's a weapon and when damaged people are bored, or angry at their situation, they lash out. Of course racism and privilege exist. I do see it all the time. But not in this instance.

  83. I am a SF/Fantasy loving woman who is also a "feminist" head of household. I wonder, would those people who were offended be so if the quote had originated from some "less privileged" source? I think not. They'd have cheered and about how it was empowering. Take the same quote, and read it in the voice of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, or Gloria Steinem, or Rosa Parks or whoever and it's still a good damned quote.

    Love your blog, BTW. I aspire to your level of writing.

    1. Due to brainfart while reading your comment, I now have Dr. King in my head, asking the question "Who will wear the Leia bikini?"

      Giggling the reat of the day-


  84. *tippy-toes in*

    It is a privilege to read an essay like this.

    *tippy-toes out*

  85. I work in an office where we investigate the 'isms' with the goal of making everyone feel safe and comfortable (and also educating the wielders of said 'isms' that perhaps they need to rethink their words/approach/beliefs in light of the fact that we live in the modern world and failure to figure out how to get along might impeded your job prospects). It astounds me that people just casually decide that someone is sexist/racist/homophobic, etc. Unless you know a whole hell of a lot about that person, the context of the comment, their history making such comments, etc., then it's sort of hard to make that call.

    Now, if someone says something that is totally beyond the pale, to the point where everyone who sees it flinches and thinks "wow, THAT is going to start a shitstorm" then fire away. Some folks are just blatant enough to wear their bigotry like a badge, and it's fair to call them on it. But most people - and I say this after a dozen years of working in an office that safeguards equality - do not go around hating other people simply for having X trait. Even those who have been trained from childhood to hate people who are X can figure out that it might not be in their best interest to broadcast that - except for the Westboro folks, and that's a whole other pathology.

    I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt to just about anyone. I am more interested in opening minds than slapping labels on folks simply because they don't agree with me. Dealing with this sort of thing is my JOB, so I have seen a world of stupidity and bias, but even I don't feel I have the authority to tell someone that they are racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. based on a single, innocuous thing they tweet or post on Facebook. But I feel absolutely fine saying anyone who does that is a tool.

  86. Shorter SF-editor-who-must-not-be-named-even-though-she-tweets-in-her-own-name:

    "A hole for every pigeon, and every pigeon in its hole! Hah! Tol' him, di'n I?" [pootles off into the sunset (insert sound of George Jetson's flying car)]

    Not a sentiment any of 'em would own up to, but it's not hard to understand people who feel this way--and their name is Legion--getting a bug up their butts on reading your tweet. Sort of like the bull and the red cape, they just can't help themselves. They also can't really defend it (other than in a group of like-minded friends), hence the crickets.
    This is one of the reasons I don't do Twitter (besides that my nym won't fit). Also too, you can NOT win an argument with them. Irrelevant in this case, as there's no argument to "win". How do you argue with a random drive-by insult? What, "white male!" isn't an insult? Not if you're a white male, it's not, but, as a lawyer might say "it goes to intent". SFEWMNBNETSTIHON certainly meant it to be. Also belittling and dismissive. To a stranger she knew not from Adam. Strange hobby? Maybe so. Or maybe some form of Internet Tourette Syndrome, and she just couldn't help it.
    And I wonder, if she didn't know who you were when she popped off, perhaps she does now? Not that you're an international celebrity, but you have a web footprint larger than most people who also aren't. Maybe she went looking for evidence that she was right, and found out that you really aren't "that guy". And maybe you'll get a back-channel apology.
    And maybe I really *am* Marie, Queen of Romania. On the days Charles Pierce isn't...

  87. Jesus, Jim. I've been reading your stuff for -- what? -- four years now and I somehow failed to notice that you're a sexist homophobe (and likely anti-semite).
    How could I have missed it? Must be my damned white male privilege blind spot again.

  88. Another cathartic post. These days it seems everyone is easily offended. And more often than not, self-righteousness blinds us to these 'teachable moments'. Misunderstanding aside, I personally consider *any* time I'm even slightly offended as an opportunity to self-examine and decide for myself how I feel on a given subject. I just don't blog about it. (That's the self-definition part.) And usually, I look for some common ground or a reason not to dislike the person I'm in conflict with. I used to have more patience, but in the current atmosphere, I seem to have less and I've compensated with trying to look in the mirror with a critical eye. I find it more common that miscommunication and bad interpretation are the catalysts in disagreements. Too often we talk *at* one another instead of *listening* and having meaningful conversation. When you can't agree on something, sometimes it's best to cut your losses and walk away. P.S. This sci-fi nerd met his wife through Star Trek™ and all is well in my quadrant of the galaxy... ;)

  89. Thanks for being an oasis in the vast desert of s**t on the internet.

  90. Jim, I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now. Our life experiences have little in common, but I welcome the view from another angle, and usually learn something when you write about stuff I have no clue about. Probably not coincidentally, I agree with most of your political opinions, since I refuse to waste my time hanging around places that don't somehow add value to my day. In age, I have a decade plus on you, and strongly identify as a feminist, but nothing I've read here ever made me think you were misogynistic, much less a MCP ("male chauvinist pig" in somewhat dated lingo).

    I confess my ignorance of the whole hard-core sci-fi fan world (online or IRL), and, could not begin to guess -- if my life depended on it -- the "famous science fiction writer" whose blog was where you were so badly misconstrued and persecuted. Nor am I a game player (Scrabble doesn't count, does it?).

    However, I recently stumbled on a blog post by sci-fi author John Scalzi in which he postulated a way to avoid the dreaded word "privilege" but attempted to raise awareness in those who experience it. He suggested that, if the Real World were a RPG, being a straight, white, male is "the lowest difficulty setting." http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

    I was impressed by this idea. Not that anyone was "guilty" of or responsible for anything. Just that it was a simple "given" -- the cards dealt at the beginning of a hand (I do play a couple of card games.) He extends the metaphor a bit, but, as it became more detailed, I, as a non-gamer, got lost. The hundreds of comments were all over the place, as you might expect (not that I read them all), but IMO the most interesting ones were those that accepted the premise and began to discuss it with the questions "What should I do then? What implication does this have for me when I interact with other 'players'?"

    From your writings, I can tell that you already recognize, consciously or not, that others may have started out in the game of Real Life with a higher difficulty setting. (Note that while this does not give them a "victim" card to play; it does bear recognition that they weren't starting on a level playing field.) As I see it, you begin from a position of respect for all categories of players, sometimes/often speaking up (in a way) for those who had not been granted the same start. IMO that's an excellent start in answering those questions. And anyone who is trying to answer those questions is NOT THAT GUY!

    You don't even need to tell me, in so many words, "I am not saying that privilege and inequality doesn’t exist, hell, far from it. I’m not even attempting to suggest that I, as a straight white American male, don’t benefit from that privilege, because I most certainly do. And I’ve written about it endlessly, about how it’s bullshit, about how we won’t any of us be free until we are all equal..." I figured that out by reading Stonekettle Station.

    p.s. I cannot for the life of me figure out how "defining yourself" is a Straight, White Male thing. Wasn't that one of the basic ideas of feminism, starting way back when?

    1. I confess my ignorance of the whole hard-core sci-fi fan world (online or IRL), and, could not begin to guess -- if my life depended on it -- the "famous science fiction writer"

      I recently stumbled on a blog post by sci-fi author John Scalzi

      The irony, oh the so very irony. I may not stop laughing for days.

      But, I don't disagree with you.

    2. I found the 2009 blog post you were talking about. Wow, some of those commenters are VERY sensitive. It's best not to engage with such people. I bet having a conversation with them IRL would be a barrel of laughs.

  91. All sounds like the kind of persons generally known as social justice warrior's (SJW), mewling knights of the keyboard who have appointed themselves as society's language and thought police. Nought but authoritarians whose entire mission in life seems to be taking offence and on foot of that piously prescribing how everyone else should comport their personal expression; everyone has freedom of speech so long as it doesn't upset the 'right' sort.

    These types thrive on assuming victim-hood as oppression is the coin of the SJW realm, the more oppression you allegedly experience the greater your in-group standing / voice becomes. So reasonable ideas are taken out of context and to extremes; privilege being one means of tallying your oppression score or an interlocutor's lack-there-of, and thus who is right or wrong on a contested issue. This truth by proxy is so important that they must construct baldly artificial standards so the oppression from which their truth is derived can be theirs alone. Thus the deck was stacked via some mightily convenient and self-serving definitions of their own devising to render it such that as a fundamental property, men cannot experience sexism nor can Caucasians experience racism; another fantastic contribution by PoMo. It also conveniently allows them to mete out abuse on the ideological enemy whilst simultaneously cashing in any return fire for victim points in the Oppression Olympics.

    Hence SJWs are fond of privilege checking an interlocutor, a transparent attempt at controlling and dominating a discourse not with reasoned argument but through hollow dismissal like accusations of 'mansplaining,' or silencing dissent via shaming with labels of racist etc. As though your vagaries of birth are the only valid standard by which the 'right' sort may assess the veracity of your argument; hypocrisy is seemingly endemic to them.

    They also need a victim narrative and seen as that is so often lacking they often must fabricate one by trawling for, and interpreting the innocuous from marked groups in the most absurd, self-serving manner or simple quote-mining. Any disputing is then taken as further evidence of the "malignancy" they so heroically stand against to better gin up their base into a lather of righteous indignation which they apparently get off on.

    In discourse they will only be satisfied when an out-group target is prostrating themselves in abject obeisance to them with fulsome apology, thus demonstrating that the target now 'gets it' as the SJW has defined it for them. Anything but this complete servility is framed as evidence of some form of egregious bigotry so as to merely conflate the target with something generally unacceptable in society; a form of big lie propagation. Then the interlocutor may be, to borrow an apt scientology term, deemed a suppressive person. One to be called out, excoriated, shamed, brow beaten and bullied until they are "educated" or silenced one way or another. This allows all rebuttals to be summarily dismissed as mere 'doubling down' and reassure themselves that whatever they do is not wrong because the target is deserving of it. Which is why a certain dreary musician via nought but assertion, equated people who consume meat to paedophiles and declared same to be supporters of the Holocaust. They lie to themselves to justify the strident opprobrium they otherwise have little reasonable foundation for.

    They are just another stripe of ideologue and much like the religious versions, it is all about you realising your sin and coming to the enlightened for absolution and living according to their prescribed doctrine.

    1. "...they so heroically stand against to better gin up their base into a lather of righteous indignation which they apparently get off on." Speculation on the addictive nature of righteous indignation has been discussed by David Brin in 'An Open Letter to Researchers of Addiction, Brain Chemistry, and Social Psychology,' (http://www.davidbrin.com/addiction.html) as well as in 'A Plague of Outrage' (http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/02/a-plague-of-outrage.html) and 'Who benefits from the politics of outrage?' (http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/01/who-benefits-from-politics-of-outrage.html). Both the Left & Right extremist use it to "lather up" their faithful minions. I find the expression of self-righteous outrage to be a reliable touchstone to expose the fanatical element(s) in the world view of an author of blog or comment.
      In many ways the use of the accusation (of racism, sexism, homophobia or other emotionally charged epithets) related way that small-town gossips enforce their rigid social code over a community (i. e., the small town). Ironically, it was used to enforce the belief system and social structure of the privileged. Or as DarthCynic says above "it is all about you realising your sin and coming to the enlightened for absolution and living according to their prescribed doctrine."
      Thanks for the thoughtful essay and all the intelligent comments.

    2. @DarthCynic: I would as cheerfully beat the ass of whoever coined the "Social Justice Warrior" meme as I would that of the Berkeley leftist who coined the term "Politically Correct."

      Because "SJW" is rapidly becoming the 2010s version of "PC": i.e., a handy acronym to dismiss ANY complaint of someone being a dickhead re race, gender, sexuality etc., whether that complaint is right or wrong.

  92. It does ring like a bell.

    And her reaction to it says more about her than it ever will about you.

  93. I agree absolutely with the right of self definition and liked your wording thereof.

  94. I say...I say I agree here! (please use Foghorn Leg horn voice for effect).

  95. I'm hopeful that, as a society we're making progress on the white, male privilege issue but the clueless morons, if not large in number are still pretty loud. Speaking of which - right before the Super Bowl, did you catch Bill O'Reilly on FOX lecturing President Obama on how tough he had it growing up and he never took advantage of any socialist gum'mint programs? That's rich since O'Reilly grew up in Levvittown, NY, a post-WWII community supported with federal funds so returning soldiers could find affordable housing. Also, President Obama's mother might have been able to live there if she had been married to a white guy and had white kids but the real estate agents there wouldn't sell to black families - said it hurt property values. O'Reilly is clueless - and loud.

  96. Here I am applauding, once again, not only another of your blog posts but also most of the responses from your readers.
    (Btw... I, for one, would love to see a picture of a fluffy kitten chasing after a butterfly among the petunias)

  97. Bravo -- thank you for this, and for all your thoughtful and thought-provoking essay.


  98. "There is only one truly inalienable right that can’t be taken away by gods or governments or men, and that is the right to define yourself."

    As a transman, all I can say is "Yes. Yes, yes, yes."

  99. First, as a FNG I am really enjoying your ethics and honesty. I used to teach a communication class to future health care professionals. One of the hardest things to teach them was that, emotionally, the past is always present within us. That may explain why so many verbally vomit on Twitter.
    On a side note regarding the prior relationships you mentioned. If you are not familiar with Borderline Personality Disorder you may want to do a bit of research. One of the most destructive and least understood disorders.
    Bless you for excellant moderation. It is so nice to read through the comments without having to wade through vitriol.

  100. Sorry for commenting twice. I posted then went to CNN news and read the following; liked to choke laughing it is so appropriate. Oops, and just discovered I can't paste a link. The gist is that some researchers have discovered that 'trolls' meet the DSM IV standard for sadist!!! Ummmm, Duh?

  101. aahhh screw 'em Chief, let's go have a beer... :) jeez,, got post as annon... benlomond 2 here..

  102. I always try to be careful with the labels that I slap on other people, but this post has made me think about it more than anything before. I'm sorry you've had such horrible experiences, but I'm grateful that you share them with the rest of us so that we may learn. Congrats on your birthday, and on being an all-around awesome guy/husband. =)

  103. If my quick reconnaissance is correct, this Twitter troll by which you have been shat upon was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1980 for her support of the Equal Rights Amendment...something in that sentence tells me all I need to know about her, if indeed that action refers to the correct person.

    Of late, there seems to be a growing category of internet lurkers who actively seek out sites and comments that are sure to offend them and then try to appear suave and uber-educated as they attempt to eviscerate the author by questioning his basic right to exist and have an opinion that doesn't jibe with theirs. This increased exponentially during the 2012 elections and shows no sign of abating soon.

    The problem is, as these trolls are looking only for things they disagree with, eventually everything starts to fit their narrow minded defintion of offensive, whether it truly is or not. People in general tend to hear what they want to hear, rather than what is actually said, and this particular group isn't passing cognitive reading this semester...

  104. You see how they got you? Right? You responded to the bait and got suckered out. For what it is worth, I am a big fan, have been for years, and you are doing good work here. We cannot and should not be made to feel "guilty" about our history or identities. However, we should own them. Riddle you that one.

    Please don't censure your truth telling or alternatively give into some commenters who may want to play some type of white victimology game. Look in the mirror everyday, stay strong, and keep walking like a champion.


  105. Been there. Although not with the same online piling on that you experienced. But like you.... I.am.not.that.guy. Everyone who really knows me knows that. It's people who make quick judgements about others without first REALLY listening to what is being said.

    Keep up the good writing.This is my first time commenting. I find myself reading many of your blog entries and saying to myself... "Yes!"

  106. I think twatwaffle is the funniest word I've heard in years.


    I cannot wait to use that in as inappropriate a situation as I possibly can. You know, cause I'm white and nerdy

  107. I'd love to respond to this at great length, because this is a phenomenon that pisses me off so so much. Alas, I'm supposed to be working right now, so I will have to be economical (probably a wise thing at any rate).

    I am really sorry that you have to put up with this kind of stuff, Mr. Wright. It is really, really annoying when some random stranger parachutes in with their own entrenched assumptions and pulsating issues and tries to turn you into their own personal strawman. Sadly, this is a pretty common occurrence on social media. As you have wisely noted, no matter what you say there is somebody somewhere who will be eager to take offense and some people find nothing quite so offensive as a benign statement that can be awkwardly crow-barred into the framing of their pet issue.

    I don't know what else I can say. I've grappled with how to deal with this sort of thing myself. I know that if I let it get under my skin, I've straight up lost from the outset. So much of this stuff doesn't deserve the outrage but this is easier said than done. The only mechanisms I've come up with so far are: watch for when someone is using generalizations to attack something specific and watch for when someone is racing to heap accusations on a person rather than critiques on a person's actions or statements. Both are big yellow flags in my experience; not necessarily wrong but grounds to start checking assumptions.

    I know that none of this is likely news to you but I thought I'd share my thoughts anyhow.

    --Medicine Man

  108. I believe the protagonist in The Shootist is John Bernard Books, not Brooks.

  109. What I love most about all the time and energy you put into your writings is they save me a whole lot of time and energy in writing these things myself. The next time I meet a labeling hater all I have to do is copy/paste the link to this and say "Here read this and pretend it was me who said. Keep google nearby if you need any help understanding the big words".

  110. happy belated birthday! my daughter, madeleine turned 5 that day!

  111. As someone who just had somebody do a drive-by of my blog accusing me of being a racist (on a blog posting talking about economics, of all thing, that had nothing to do with race anywhere in it!), I have more appreciation every day for what Jim just said here. There's one word to describe someone who's willing to make accusations of that sort in a drive-by fashion without talking with you first to clarify what you meant. That one word is, "asshole." Since it was my blog and my rule #1 is "don't be an ass" the comment got properly pied, of course. So it goes.

  112. I'm an avid reader of yours. I thoroughly enjoy reading what you write although have never responded before...I don't always agree with everything, but I think you are pretty brilliant and can think clearly beyond your own two feet. With that said, I think while you state "I'm not that guy", deep down you have been hurt and you DO care. Really care sometimes about what people think about you. Granted you have a reputation to maintain. But, in the end, if we clearly define ourselves and stick with that, and we really know who we are, should we really care what others say or think?

    I have been bashed, chewed up and spit out by certain people in forums and such. But, for me, I just let it all slide off of me. I don't care what they think of me in the end. I KNOW who I am. They don't. I don't care if they know me or not. I think you do care. You care a lot. Maybe this wouldn't have been that big of a deal had you just shrugged your shoulders and walked away?

    Don't get me wrong, I have to maintain some sort of decorum when speaking as well, as I have a little business that getting more and more public. But, that's the business side of things, not the personal ones. And, I truly, truly respect your mind. The sad thing about all this is these people actually have brains, apparently. I don't understand how intelligent people let their emotions run away with them.

  113. I'm an avid reader of yours. I thoroughly enjoy reading what you write although have never responded before...I don't always agree with everything, but I think you are pretty brilliant and can think clearly beyond your own two feet. With that said, I think while you state "I'm not that guy", deep down you have been hurt and you DO care. Really care sometimes about what people think about you. Granted you have a reputation to maintain. But, in the end, if we clearly define ourselves and stick with that, and we really know who we are, should we really care what others say or think?

    I have been bashed, chewed up and spit out by certain people in forums and such. But, for me, I just let it all slide off of me. I don't care what they think of me in the end. I KNOW who I am. They don't. I don't care if they know me or not. I think you do care. You care a lot. Maybe this wouldn't have been that big of a deal had you just shrugged your shoulders and walked away?

    Don't get me wrong, I have to maintain some sort of decorum when speaking as well, as I have a little business that getting more and more public. But, that's the business side of things, not the personal ones. And, I truly, truly respect your mind. The sad thing about all this is these people actually have brains, apparently. I don't understand how intelligent people let their emotions run away with them.

  114. Hmmm

    John Scalzi @scalzi · Feb 12

    Ah, I see someone who should know better is applying for the role of my online nemesis. Blocked and muted. He'll have to go on without me.

    Anybody we know?

    1. I never said, anywhere, in the post who exactly I was talking about - though obviously that's a bit of a dodge because if you're familiar with the scifi community you'd have no problem figuring it out. And despite the fact that these people never extended me the simple courtesy of keeping their minions from piling on, I deliberately avoided using their names so the same wouldn't happen to them.

      That said, how fucking typical. Passive-aggressive to the bitter end. Whether or not he's talking about me, he runs true to form every time. He talks a good game, but if he decides you're not worthy of his little clique, well, yeah, actions speak louder than words, even for writers.

    2. As far as minions-piling-on goes, have no fear on my account. Even if I Twittered, no way in hell would I wade into something like that. I'm not above a little Whack-A-Troll in the right peanut gallery, but aTwitter-fight just seems like being a little too stupid, a little too publicly. Besides it not being my fight. I did get a kick out of some of the Twitstreams I read through, though, and the amount of all-caps some of 'em use (*cough* FSFW *cough*) And I gotta say I don't get the Tweet-a-minute crowd. I just don't...

    3. Uh, Meanie, that's got more than a little of "let's you and him fight" about it. Had I read that tweet - or any of its responses - without knowing a priori about the past problems, I wouldn't have known who it referred to. And in point of fact, I still don't, since it's a blind item and there's nothing to connect Jim Wright to it beyond the events related on this blog.

      In the interests of full disclosure - I do occasionally post on FSFW's blog, and I think quite a bit of some of what he's written there...but I've also been on the receiving end of the hair-triggered, supercilious and abusive behavior he allows slack to. My opinion is, shall we say, mixed. (As it is with JW; while I generally find Stonekettle Station a breath of fresh air, I've pointedly disagreed with him - sometimes publicly - several times since I started reading here. Ditto with FSFW. I've never been hit in either case with outside shit - which is NOT denying Jim's experiences, just saying that A) little me ain't worth the trouble, or B) FSFW has learned better to a certain degree.)

    4. But I suspect you got the reply you were looking for. For whatever reason.

    5. Don, It literally never occurred to me that Mr Wright would sally forth to do battle with FSFW--or anyone else, for that matter--if he didn't already intend to, and especially not on my account.

      This is a perfect example of Meanie's 3rd Law: "Far more messages are received than were ever sent". In other words, yez got me wrong, Mack.

      If you look at my comments here, though they're not very numerous, they tend toward humor more and less toward deep thought than the average. That's just me. I like having fun on the intertoobz, and that's what that was. Also part of why I read this blog. When I saw the tweet, I thought, gee, ya think? Hmmm... Only this and nothing more.

      Also too, though I haven't been reading Stonekettle all that long, there are some things that should be obvious, and one of them is that if our host thought that's what I was about, he'd have no compunctions about a) putting me in my place toot sweet, or b), just shitcanning my comment (which would have been a polite form of "a").

      Couple things, though. Your comment gave me a reason to re-read mine, and I have to admit that the snark about all-caps, though true, was probably unnecessary. And, in 20/20 hindsight, I kinda wish I'd stuck with the "FSFW" already in use, instead of the real name. The I.D. was already obvious, I think.

      But I really *don't* get the Tweet--a-minute crowd...

    6. I still read that other guy's blog, and for the past week or so it's been mostly about a completely different drama going on elsewhere. I'd guess that that tweet was in reference to something going on with that.

  115. If it makes you feel any better at all, I get a lot of that same schtick and I AM female and a feminist, but a humanist first. That last bit…oh how DARE I…so yeah, the blame game and semantics seem to be stomping all reality out of the damned equations.

    Fuck 'em, Jim…we already know they can't take a joke, or much of anything else, either.

  116. Jim,

    This column reminds me of my first wife. She was constantly convinced that I was cheating on her. When I protested that I wasn't, that proved I was, because since she KNEW that I was, my protests were lies, and since I was now a proven liar, when I said I wasn't cheating....

    It also lasted far too long.

  117. As I read this I was amazed at how many parallels to my own life were in this essay. Even in the comments I found common ground with people who have had similar experiences. It has been many years since I allowed myself to be put in "The Box". I too am not That Guy. My first wife could not under stand that and tried to change me based on her assumption of what I should be. This did not work well and as one above commenter noted went on too long. Happily I have found a lady that loves me for who and what I am and does not think the shit she endured was any of my doing since it was long before we ever met. Yes and if I do screw up occasionally she lets me know. The thing is I don't get put in the box with the other defective toys.

  118. Well, I thought your comment about who would wear the Leia Bikini was very funny. Until I realised it referred to a Star Trek character, and not one of Dr Who's assistants. THEN I was offended.

    1. Er.. Vanda. FYI Princess Leia (& I suspect George Lucas of making a rather crude joke with the name there!) was NOT in any Star Trek franchise but instead she's from the Star Wars 'verse!

      She would however have made a good companion for The Doctor in any crossover series if there could be one! (Which would be kinda awesome if it could happen.)

      PS. It may be worth noting that whilst wearing that famous bikini Princess Leia killed an alien monster much bigger than her. Hmm ...

    2. I'm afraid you fell for it there, StevoR. ;)

    3. Oh dear me. What was I thinking? :)

  119. Jim,

    Okay so I just posted on your birthday essay and proceeded to read this essay. I think I have fallen in love...psst don't tell my husband of 34 years! Some people just need to learn how to lighten up.

    I am very much for trying not to offend, judge, label, etc,etc, etc but DAMN if you can't put a little humor into Star Wars what is this world coming to???

    As far as the female her problem OBVIOUSLY was you left out the word WOMAN in your
    statement "There is only one truly inalienable right that can’t be taken away by gods nor governments nor men, and that is the right to define yourself" That must be it.....she needs to lighten the f*#k up!!

    I just love you even if you are straight, white and male....:)

  120. My first comment. Hope this goes well, having read the guidelines and such.

    First things first, I also had that epiphany. That I am also not that guy. And that some people will never, ever, get it. Around the same age as you, Jim. And since I'm much younger, that was just a little more that a year ago. A truly exhilarating moment. I was very touched by both this post and your bell-ringing phrase: "There is only one truly inalienable right that can’t be taken away by gods nor governments nor men, and that is the right to define yourself.", which shall be engraved among my most beloved sayings.

    Also, very belated happy birthday. You're my new hero. I intend to become a regular. All of those usual things you say to a new acquaintance.

    Keep being yourself.

  121. "There is only one truly inalienable right that can’t be taken away by gods nor governments nor men, and that is the right to define yourself"

    I can't see how this sentence can be seen as sexist or misogynistic, I'd say it is rather the opposite.
    And that's coming from a rather loud voiced feminist...

    However, there are a lot of groups who never get the chance to define themselves, due to religious and political bigotry, but you know that. You even fly their/our colours quite frequently in your blog. If anything it is a goal to strive for, that we all should be allowed to define ourself not only to ourself but to the rest of the world.

    As a Sci-Fi "nerd" though, I think you are being a bit too generalising and demeaning about us who happen to line that particular genre. We're not all jerks you know, but you will get no apologies from me. I only apologise for my own mistakes. as far as I understand we agree on this. ;-)
    Love your blog btw. I read it on a regular basis and I'm not even American.


  122. Have you had a chance to listen to or read Lupita Nyong'o's Essence speech? It's virtually the same sentiment as your tweet -- except it's a lesson recited by a young black woman who learns to reject being defined by her race and gender and, "...get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside (because) there is no shade to that beauty."

    Clearly, Jim, you, too, have a young black woman deep inside you that is struggling to get out. Have you thought of maybe changing your avatar? Perhaps Miss Nyong'o will lend you hers...

  123. I didn't see your slave Leia joke then, but I saw it today and laughed. However, as you're learning the hard way, irony rarely survives on the internet. As for the folks you mention, have a little pity for them. They were both attacked by terminally earnest people in a flamewar called Racefail, and now they're both suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.


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