Archive for December, 2015

2015 in review

December 31, 2015

And the now traditional report on my stats for the past year.

This was my best year ever in terms of views, as I hit about 15,000. For the most part, every month had more views than that month had had in any other year except for the last two or so, which is when I was churning out posts every single day last year. So frequency and consistency of posting and views really do seem to be correlated.

I also posted the most posts this year, rather obviously, hitting 177 as opposed to 150 last year. I’m also only about 20 posts away from hitting 1000 posts. I also had a streak of 27 consecutive days posting, which happens to align with the end of my streak from last year, giving me a streak of 115 days of consecutive posting during that time when I was striving to post every day. That’s pretty impressive for me, but I still don’t have the time to return to that; I’m still sometimes struggling just to hit the Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. But I will continue with that schedule.

Thanks to everyone who read the blog this year.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Akiba’s Trip: Thoughts After Completing it Once

December 30, 2015

So I managed to finish “Akiba’s Trip” once, while having absolutely no trust or influence gained with any of the characters. This, surprisingly, still left me with a relatively satisfying ending, as if the influence is even you get the non-true ending with Tohko, which works, in my opinion, very well as an ending.

What surprised me about the game was that how my appreciation for the characters grew as the game went along and you got to know them better. I started out liking Shizuku a lot, but her personality didn’t fit with my massively goofy character. I also found Shion interesting, although I didn’t get to interact with her character much and so didn’t learn much about her. But Tohko really grew on me as a character, and at the end of the game I found myself liking all of them as potential options, although I suspect that I won’t replay the game enough to get all of the endings myself, even though the game is relatively short.

Ultimately, my comment on this game is exactly like my comment on “Lost Dimension” … I want more. I want more ability to influence and interact with the characters and to build relationships with them with more than just selecting a conversation option (or maybe patrolling with them). I want more of a story, and more and more diverse missions. It’s a good starting point, but it just doesn’t have the depth required to be a classic, in my opinion. But it was certainly worth playing.

The Contradiction of Feminism

December 28, 2015

Over at Feminist Frequency, Jonathan McIntosh has put up a video listing 5 ways men can help end sexism. What’s most interesting about the video is its discussion of the relationship between feminism and men in general … a relationship that pretty much just reminds me of why I ended up being assigned the “anti-feminist who doesn’t seem to hate women” label, a label that I still relate with to this very day.

And, especially, this one, reading the transcript of that video.

McIntosh starts by trying to clarify what feminism is:

Feminism is a sociopolitical movement with the central goal of ending sexism and dismantling gender-based oppression. … It’s important to note that the feminist endeavor, as it has been defined by women like bell hooks, does not simply seek equal access for women within current systems of power, instead it seeks to transform these systems of power and the values associated with them.

So, by this definition, the main goal of feminism is transformative, aiming to change the patriarchal society to, presumably, one based on equal treatment no matter what your sex or gender. It’s, therefore, going to build a new, and presumably equal, world order when it comes to gender.

Fine. Where do men come into the picture? Given that this is supposed to be transforming society, and that men are part of society, it would seem only logical that they’d have an equal say in how this is going to turn out. Even if we conclude that women are oppressed and exploited by the system and men aren’t, we have to conclude that the society that we build has to consider men and women equally; no one gender ought to have a greater say in what that equal society should be, right?

Well, no, as he says later when talking about how men need to educate themselves and not rely on women to do it:

It’s important for us, as men, to acknowledge that when we talk about feminism, we follow the lead of women. … we should acknowledge that our ideas in this arena originate with women …

Wait … why should men simply follow the lead of women here? Sure, you can make an argument that if they have the most serious threats to their well-being, we definitely need to listen to them, but why should they take the lead here? If the goal of feminism is to produce a new understanding, then that understanding has to be based on both sides have an equal seat at the table. This is especially true if men have been given the gold mine while women have been given the shaft (they split it all down the middle, and then they gave men the better half). If this is the case, then men are going to have to give up some advantages and privileges that they have, but feminism, given that, is more than that: it’s about defining what it means to be a man or a woman in this new order. Women cannot determine what it means to be a man for men. That’s the main problem women faced under patriarchy, if their theory is correct. So the feminist movement must be one that doesn’t privilege the perspective of any gender, and so men should not be following the lead of women any more than women should be following the lead of men in this.

This highlights the main contradiction in the feminist movement, the one that in fact makes me an anti-feminist. By the simple definition of feminist, I ought to be considered one: I think that men and women are and ought to be treated equally. But the feminist movement wants to have its cake and eat it, too. On the one hand, it wants us to consider feminism to be nothing more than this sort of equality movement, one that is trying to produce equality between men and women. And yet, it still wants to focus on the perspective of women, and put women first, and put women in charge, using all sorts of theoretical and philosophical arguments to try and justify that. But how can you build a new, equal idea of gender roles when the perspective of women is given priority? They can argue that we already have the male perspective in patriarchal society, but even if that was true if their goal is to build a new understanding the process of building that understanding has to explicitly include it. What is important to men as men has to be considered, and the solution has to consider that just as much as it does for women.

Thus, feminism ought to be something like “gender egalitarianism” instead of feminism. But there is strong resistance to doing that, and it seems to me that the resistance among feminists to that idea is precisely that it takes the focus away from women, as seen in this comic that I’ve talked about before. This leaves us with two options:

1) Feminism is supposed to be a movement about the impact of patriarchy on women, and focused on women’s issues. Which is fine, but then we need a men’s movement — meninism? — to represent the perspective of men, work on the impact of patriarchy on men, and focused on men’s issues. If men have any specifically male issues and are harmed by patriarchy in any way just as men — and McIntosh’s article is pretty much about how men do — then they can’t rely on having those being addressed by feminism whenever women get around to considering it important, or more likely they can’t rely on it being addressed by feminism only when the problem also impacts women, and can’t rely on the solution that’s formed in the context of the perspective of even women primarily. They need a movement that considers things from their perspective first and can work to ensure that the perspective of men is given appropriate representation as we work to build a new, gender-equal society. While I won’t hold up the MRA as that kind of movement, feminists seem resistant to any kind of men’s rights movement.

2) Alternatively, feminism should be, essentially, gender egalitarianism. But then it’s difficult to justify the focus on women and, more importantly, the name feminism. The only real fear is that in a generic gender egalitarianism women would be ignored, and they still have the most serious issues to address … but if women couldn’t get their objectively more serious issues addressed in a movement designed to address the most objectively serious issues, they have much more serious problems to deal with than, it seems, even the serious problems they need to address. They could argue that they can keep the name to represent the history of the struggle … but this would contradict the feminist principle that words matter, and that a word that implies a focus on women will, in fact, encourage the perception that the movement really is all about women. So feminists can’t use that argument and remain consistent.

Thus, my issue with feminism: it needs to decide what it is. If it’s an equality movement, then it has to lose the presumptive focus on women. If it’s a women’s movement, then it has to stop portraying itself as the gender equality movement. And I’ve seen vanishingly few feminists who have, in fact, actually acknowledged this and made their explicit choice. Until the movement itself makes that choice, I cannot support the feminist movement, despite supporting equality between men and women.

The traditional, yet again …

December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the reader of this blog.

Don’t you mean the readers?

Nope, WordPress still says it’s pretty much just the one.

The State of Science-Fiction and Fantasy …

December 23, 2015

It may — or may not — surprise you to learn that when I was younger I was a huge fan of science-fiction and fantasy works, and that I sampled a large number of authors and series. Today, however, while almost all of my fictional reading is science-fiction and fantasy, I don’t, in fact, buy a lot of new science-fiction and fantasy. Instead, right now I re-read the Star Wars EU, the Wing Commander books, the Amber series, and David Eddings’ stuff, among others. If I buy anything, it’s usually a licensed work of some kind. Now, of course, science-fiction and fantasy have, in fact, not stopped publishing things other than licensed works, and have even put out new original series, and so it would probably be in my best interest to pick some up. The problem, for me, is that new books are a little expensive to dabble in, for used books if you find something interesting you can’t always get, say, the first one in the series, and the library nearest me doesn’t have a huge selection. So, given that, what I’d really like is to find some way to read reviews of the various works so that I can find something that I might like and thus be able to reduce the risk that I’ll end up buying something I hate.

Given the current state of Science-Fiction and Fantasy, I’m not sure that that’s possible.

I start from the objectivity myth idea that I’ve talked about previously. While scores aren’t a big deal for me, there’s always the risk that I’ll find a review and have them wax eloquently about their feelings and not tell me anything about the book itself. This trend is not one that appeals to me. That being said, perhaps I’m being overly concerned about this, as this trend is working its way into games as well and yet I still find that I can find reviews that work reasonably well to convince me to buy certain games or not (although at times that’s hard, too). So maybe that’s not a big concern.

The current state of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, however, is. There’s a conflict “raging” there at the moment, one with such broad implications that people as diverse as P.Z. Myers and Vox Day are commenting on it. My general understanding of the clash — putting it in the most neutral terms possible — is that on the one side we have people insisting that science fiction and fantasy ought to be promoting progressive values, while on the other side we have people insisting that science fiction and fantasy ought to be worrying more about good stories and less about progressive values. You get no points for figuring out which of the above mentioned people are on which side [grin]. There’s a lot more to the positions on both sides, but this, I think, is an accurate summary. And this is harkening back to my earlier experiences with science-fiction and fantasy.

When I was younger, for a time when I saw a book that was authored by a woman, I tended to avoid buying it. This was despite the potential contradiction that, at the same time, some of my favourite authors were Mercedes Lackey — and I still like her Wing Commander books, and only prefer Forstchen’s because of the historical details he adds — and Katherine Kurtz, and I also really liked King’s Sacrifice by Margaret Weiss. Given this, why was I avoiding books written by female authors, in particular ones that I wasn’t familiar with? Because, in my opinion, female authors often tended to be focused on making a point — particularly about gender issues — rather than on making a good story. Now, those deemed and often self-identify as Social Justice Warriors will claim that this is an example of my privilege, in that as soon as they talk about issues important to them and not the standard things that apply to “white males” it’s seen as trying to make a point, while talking about the standard things is just being normal. The problem with this counter is that the same notion applies to the authors; if they consider these things to be really important, there is reason for them to try to push the point, and then I might well notice that. So, in essence, I don’t like books that bludgeon you over the head with the point, and I felt that too many of the female authors were more interested in making a point. Given that the SJW/progressive line actually is that we should try to make points and encourage diversity and Change the World!, it seems that I’m probably not going to like what they do.

I’ve somewhat confirmed this by reading some of what Stephanie Zvan thinks are really good science fiction, through her “Saturday Storytime” series. I’ve at least skimmed through a number of them, but I’ll talk about two of them. The first is “Midnight Hour” by Mary Robinette Kowal, which is actually a pretty good short story, as it starts from an interesting premise. The problem is that the premise and overall concept is too large for a short story, which isn’t helped by a — in my opinion — pointless and almost out of character sex scene plunked into the middle of it for no good reason. This makes the resolution at the end not much of a resolution, and in my view a bit rushed. I think this author should really turn the idea into a novel, and if she does that she should ignore the short story that started it, because even that conflict can be done better with more room, and as a driving conflict of the novel.

The second one is “Catcall” by Delilah S. Dawson , and it embodies everything I hate. The fantasy aspects add nothing to the story, which is all about the point being driven into our skulls about catcalling. The twist is predictable, and the heroine was barely sympathetic from the start, and even less so at the end. It reads more like revenge fantasy than like an actual story; more like venting than like a real examination of any issue. And, sure, there might be a market for venting, but it’s not what I look for in my science-fiction and fantasy — from any side. If I want to vent, I’ll vent myself, or go on my blog and vent; I don’t want to read about it, even if it’s mine … and I certainly don’t want to read about someone else’s venting when I’m trying to have fun.

So, given this, you’d think I’d be firmly on the side of the “Puppies” … except that we can’t exclude politics from this debate because it really centers entirely on politics: conservatives vs progressives. I don’t mind reading about progressive or conservative ideas, and don’t want the divide to be made based on that, and the rhetoric suggests that this divide is a key part of the debate here. I don’t want to go out and read what the “Puppies” recommend only to find that it’s too political for my tastes as well, and in general I’m skeptical enough to not trust anyone to not have those biases. Even me. But in purple, I’m stunning!

That being said, to give credit where credit is due, I have liked some of Malcolm the Cynic’s reviews of TV shows and the like, and he has gotten me interested in the Pendragon Cycle by Stephen Lawhead, although I think I might have read some of that already, because I’m a huge King Arthur fan. But I need something broader than that, and again I don’t trust people. Even me. But in purple I’m still stunning!

At any rate, it seems to me that it’s not religion that poisons everything, but politics. And I sense much politics in science-fiction and fantasy.

Your Christmas Sanity Restorer …

December 21, 2015

So, as we approach Christmas, this would seem to be the time when the stress level is the highest for those who really go all out of these things, and so as a public service I’m going to leave you this little song that should brighten your season. You’re welcome!

Patriarchy and Entitlement …

December 18, 2015

So, when I talked about Sarkeesian’s last, explicit, non-DLC video, I talked a bit about male and female entitlement. In pondering it a bit, I think that when we understand patriarchy properly, we start to see how the whole idea of male entitlement — and, by extension, female entitlement — has the whole thing backwards.

Let’s start by reminding ourselves of what “male entitlement” actually is. It’s surprisingly hard to find an actual definition of male entitlement on-line — both Yahoo and Google searches don’t actually have a post that actually defines it in the first 10 entries — so I’m going to use Sarkeesian’s, which I think is basically correct:

…“male entitlement” is the conviction that men are owed something by virtue of their gender.

Thus, female entitlement would be the conviction that women are owed something by virtue of their gender. I’ve already pointed out that the “damsel in distress” line that Sarkeesian pushes is, in fact, more an example of female entitlement than male entitlement, as the men are in fact being asked to demonstrate their ability and value before being accepted by the damsel, while the damsel’s main qualities are that she’s female and attractive. But if we take on from this, we can see that the expectation under patriarchy is this: what men feel that they are owed because of their gender is not the thing itself, but a chance to compete for that thing. Under patriarchy, men get the chance to prove themselves in an occupation or in a business or to fair maiden (who, as Uhura once pointed out, might be neither of those). The big problem with patriarchy for women is that they are pushed into passive roles, and so are not allowed to compete for those things; they get to select from what is presented to them, but don’t generally get to compete for those things, at least not openly.

What this leads to is a culture when men are encouraged to actively pursue what they want, while women are encouraged to passively wait for someone else to give it to them. The reason for that latter, of course, is that society is structured so that women trying to achieve those things on their own is so strongly discouraged that it is almost impossible for them to actually achieve them. So if a woman wants power or wealth or anything else, she needs to get a man to do it for her, under patriarchy.

But what this also ultimately leads to is a culture where men are expected to earn what they get, while women are expected to get that given to them. Again, this is only because the culture doesn’t let then earn what they want to get, which is not a good thing. However, the latter attitude is certainly more “entitled” than the former. Given this, patriarchy actually seems to encourage female entitlement more than male entitlement; women thus have more need to watch for their entitled attitudes than men do.

But isn’t patriarchy just as system where men oppress women? Given that starting point, then you can’t have anything like female entitlement: a slave can never be entitled no matter how well-treated they are. However, that doesn’t seem to me to be the correct understanding of patriarchy. Patriarchy, it seems to me, is best seen as a system that enforced a strong division of roles based on gender. The system worked fine if you were a person who liked and could thrive in that system, and was an oppressive system if you couldn’t. For women, the enforced passivity was a worse issue than it typically was for men, because if the men they were attached to either couldn’t or wouldn’t give them what they wanted, there was no way for them to achieve it. On the other side, men who couldn’t achieve what they wanted usually could eke out some kind of living, and might merely be alone given that they couldn’t fulfill their end of the bargain that would be required to get any kind of relationship … and feel like a complete loser because of that, of course.

This system, then, worked relatively well for those who could live in it, and badly for those who didn’t. It is also interesting to note that the culture also did, in fact, advocate against men taking from women by force, and thus using violence to enforce male domination (which it didn’t discourage among men). Using force on a woman was considered less than manly, at least in part because it was too easy. Real men didn’t need to hit women, and so real men didn’t hit women. Even most feminist theory admits that the violence was not overt and explicit, but was implied, particularly in terms of rape. Even there, “stranger” rape was always considered worse than “date” rape, likely because the date rape was seen as a woman withholding what the man had earned, while the stranger rape was the man taking something he had not yet earned — and likely couldn’t earn. In fact, the approval of marital rape can follow from this as well: having proven his worth, for her to withhold what he had earned is unjust, and so moves to take it are simply seen as righting injustices.

Again, this is not a good attitude. But it is not an entitled attitude, in the sense that it is entitlement based on gender. Again, it is an attitude of having earned what you want using the agreed upon mechanisms, and even seems to link back to my comments on Nice Guys(tm); men are told by society that if they do certain things, they’ll get what they want. If they do those things, and the person reneges on the deal, that’s them breaking the deal, not them being entitled to something they haven’t earned. On the other hand, women must get things that they haven’t earned only on the basis of their gender, because they can’t achieve them any other way. That’s what patriarchy forces on them.

Given this, it’s clear that patriarchy fosters more an attitude of female entitlement than male entitlement, and it is high time that we recognized that, especially if we want to use entitlement as a way of describing the situation and, most importantly, in changing our society away from the restrictive patriarchal one.

Dallas …

December 16, 2015

So, I’ve recently started watching the entire series of the original run of “Dallas”. Amazon recommended it to me at one point, and I remembered that I had always kinda wanted to watch it, but it ran on the cable stations that I didn’t have and I couldn’t find it on DVD. Given the massive amount of hours of the show, the price fit well into my normal “Worth it?” calculations (it’s under $1 an hour if I get through the whole thing), but the worry was that I wouldn’t want to watch it now. After much consideration, I decided to try it anyway.

I’m actually really enjoying it so far.

The set starts off with the original miniseries, but doesn’t actually tell you that, and it starts right in the middle of the story, with Bobby and Pam having gotten married and returning to Southfork to give everyone the “good news”. Obviously, it’s not taken very well, especially by J.R., and this animosity so far is driving most of the first season. From the miniseries, the focus was more on Pam — and her character is actually really interesting — but as it goes along we’re getting into more of J.R.’s machinations, because even in the miniseries he really did steal the show, and developed into the classic soap villain that he’d become.

Acting wise, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Steve Kanaly and Barbara Bel Geddes turn in very good performances. Victoria Principal and Charlene Tilton, at least at the start, unfortunately don’t. But what I noticed in the early episodes is that Principal’s acting ability improves when she plays against stronger actors, like Duffy or Hagman. When she’s interacting mostly with Tilton or on her own — there’s one scene where she’s talking on the phone with Bobby that is massively stilted and awkward — she struggles. That being said, she does manage to pull off facial expressions and the like quite well and believably, which is plus. That being said, it definitely seems like the casting of these two, at least, was based primarily on their looks, especially considering just how gorgeous Principal is in the early episodes. I always thought she was attractive, but my memories were based on the later seasons. I’d say she used to look good to me, but now I find her simply irresistible, except that she always more than looked good.

For the other principles in the series, none of them really stand out; they’re generally okay. Linda Gray is a little awkward, but whether that’s due to her acting or to the character is hard to say.

I’m not even into the really interesting storylines yet, and the storylines right now are moving very quickly with little development, which I’m sure changes in the later seasons. “Who Shot J.R.?” is actually quite early in the run — Season Three — so it’s coming up soon. Over the next six months or so, I’ll probably manage to get through the entire run.

A non-traditional Christmas Carol …

December 14, 2015

… although it might be an Amber. Who can say?

Thinking about the Theory of Codes of Conduct …

December 11, 2015

So, Stephanie Zvan is commenting on someone who describes themselves as a thinker thinking about Codes of Conduct:

Oh, good lord, we’ve got a “thinker” on our hands. Seriously, that’s how he describes himself in the bio for his self-published book about psychopaths (based on his personal experiences rather than psychological research, natch). Only now he’s thinking about codes of conduct.

She pretty much describes being a “thinker” as being itself problematic in some way, with pretty much a “Lord, save us from the thinkers!” type of attitude. So what’s wrong with thinkers? It’s not that it’s that they think, as Zvan herself comments, so what’s the issue?

It’s the same problem that continually happens with people who define themselves as smart or as good thinkers: They forget about GIGO. They come to think of themselves as experts without having done any of the work.

This guy, in true “thinker” fashion, has decided he knows how people who work on codes of conduct theorize and conceptualize them without apparently ever having talked to any of us.

Okay, that might be fair enough, but it might not be. So let’s look at what he said (she quotes it herself, and I’m going to reproduce what he said here):

And indeed, I think the mainstream Code of Conduct model is based on false assumptions. The mainstream theory of harassment (let’s call it “Model A”) has these assumptions:

  1. Anyone can be the harasser.
  2. Harassment is a motiveless act.
  3. Outlawing harassment will stop it

So, what is Zvan’s issue here?

Those are indeed false assumptions. They are also not even close to the premises I’m working from when I talk about codes of conduct.

Note the issue here? He’s talking about the mainstream, standard view here. Zvan, in arguing against that, says that it’s not what she thinks about. But just because it’s not Zvan’s view doesn’t mean that it isn’t the mainstream view, unless Zvan wants to claim that her view just is the mainstream view, I guess because she does so much work on them. But she’d definitely need to demonstrate that. Even more interestingly, Zvan shifts from his view here — which is about harassment — to talking about Codes of Conduct in general. So what she thinks about when talking about Codes of Conduct is irrelevant when we’re talking about people think about when we talk about harassment. Just from this — although, in the interests of full disclosure, I have read all of the original post — it seems that Hintjens — whom she, oddly enough, never refers to by name in the entire post — is saying that we have Codes of Conduct to stop harassment, and that the Codes of Conduct we develop don’t work because they have a false idea of what harassment is.

This is actually really important to note, because when Zvan lists her list of 30 premises, it turns out that her main goal when thinking about Codes of Conduct is not to do that. She mentions harassment exactly once … and only as a special case of “violating boundaries”. Indeed, all of her premises talk about violating boundaries. From this, it seems quite reasonable to conclude that she thinks that Codes of Conduct exist to stop violations of personal boundaries, whether those violations rise to the level of harassment or not.

The problem with this is that when people insist that we need Codes of Conduct, they don’t usually justify it by appealing to violations of personal boundaries. The examples are always of very egregious violations that rise to the level of harassment. So either the mainstream view of Codes of Conduct is that they’re there to stop harassment — and thus, Zvan’s view isn’t the mainstream — or else the people who are pushing for Codes of Conduct really are interested in ensuring that personal boundaries aren’t violated, but are using the specific instances of harassment to justify a broader category than that. And a big part of the issue here is that while you can’t justify not stopping harassment with “People need to handle that themselves with the normal social mechanisms”, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that we don’t need a Code of Conduct to specify what things violate one’s personal boundaries … and, indeed, as those are personal a Code of Conduct can’t specify them anyway. What a Code of Conduct should do, then, is say that if someone violates your personal boundaries and it bothers you, you need to make it clear that it does, and that once you do so if they continue to take that action, then that’s likely harassment and can be reported as such.

As we go through the list, though, it’s clear that Zvan doesn’t want that either:

2. Societally, we consider the boundaries set by certain groups of people as inherently less valid, meaning those people encounter more boundary-violating behavior.

8. Societally, we make certain groups of people work harder to have their boundaries recognized and respected.
9. Societally, we punish the setting of certain boundaries.
10. When we gather together for the purposes of work, requiring people to continually set and enforce their boundaries cuts into our collective productivity.
11.When we gather together for the purposes of fun, requiring people to continually set and enforce their boundaries cuts into their fun by making them work.
12. A code of conduct that sets out certain boundaries up front reduces the amount of individual work participants need to take on.
13. A code of conduct that explicitly recognizes boundaries of certain groups reduces the amount of extra work those groups have to do.

At this point, we’re not really talking about personal boundaries anymore, because you can’t do this for personal boundaries. What we’re talking about are group boundaries, meaning boundaries that it is presumed that everyone has or at least ought to have. And in relation to Codes of Conduct, there are some issues here:

1) We actually already have that, in terms of societal norms, which define what behaviours are acceptable and what behaviours aren’t, and under what circumstances. Given that, we could simply do what some critics do and say that the sort of boundary violations that she’d be worried about here need to be settled with the existing social mechanisms, and once those mechanisms break down you’re definitely getting into harassment territory … or, at least, getting into a dispute situation that it would be obvious that the organizers need to resolve.

2) The existing social mechanisms don’t just specify what things not to do, but what things you can do. If the Code of Conduct doesn’t specify what things are allowed, it will be assumed that anything not mentioned is okay, unless it puts in some kind of vague statement that things not covered might still be a problem … at which point, people need some way to determine what is and isn’t allowed, because the Code of Conduct — which, by Zvan’s own statements, is supposed to save us effort by spelling this out — either will drop us back into the same situation or, even worse, will force people to go through the formal process to find out if it’s a problem or not.

3) Zvan is trying to divide it up by subgroups, and is giving particular priority to “certain groups” whose boundaries she feels get respected less. But if you aren’t going to rely on the societal boundaries, then you have to define this for all groups. She can argue that we need Codes of Conduct to replace the societal boundaries because they tend to exclude these groups and privilege other groups, but she’d still need to include the other groups specifically as well. In short, she’d need to include the boundaries that apply to the so-called privileged groups as well as the boundaries that apply to those certain groups that she’s really concerned about.

4) Even if she can manage this, there may be issues when she has to include every group that has been marginalized by society. For example, one of the clashes has been with people who are in technology fields or who are gamers, but gamers themselves are a marginalized group. Certain behaviours that Zvan likely thinks acceptable might indeed potentially violate their boundaries, like some sorts of flirting or even dress. This isn’t that big an issue for Zvan — as if she was being consistent she’d just include them — until …

5) When you try to set boundaries for the group, you run into the issue that boundaries are, in fact, personal, and so you can never actually define boundaries for the group that cover everyone. This means that the best you can do is cover what the majority think, or rather that you should cover what a reasonable member of that group sets as personal boundaries. But, of course, Zvan disagrees with using the “reasonable person” standard. Okay, so then how does she determine what is and isn’t acceptable or reasonable? If whatever a person thinks is a violation of their personal boundaries counts, then we’re back to the original implementation, except that if she is going to actually use the Code to enforce the “If they think their boundaries are being violated, they are” idea, then people will end up violating the Code for actions that they couldn’t possibly have known would violate someone’s personal boundaries — as it’s unique to them — and if you don’t enforce it then all you really have is a “If someone violates your boundaries, tell them, and if they persist, that’s harassment” Code of Conduct, which is not what she wants.

But, of course, if you actually try to outline specific behaviours so that people know what to avoid, then you’re going to get disagreements over what things ought to actually count as violations. For example, in the earlier discussions I’ve noted that they’ve tried to introduce the idea that you ought not touch someone else without getting permission first, because some people find being touched uncomfortable. I find this idea utterly infantilizing and patronizing as someone who is not exactly comfortable with being touched. You’ll also see the arguments over things like, say, cat-calling, where some women have pointed out that they happen to like being cat-called (I don’t understand it myself, but who am I to argue?). And if you argue that people ought to find out if the person likes those behaviours before doing them, either you effectively ban the behaviours, or else you end up adding lots and lots more work .. which Zvan explicitly wants to avoid. And if the behaviours are commonplace, then you end up fielding a lot more complaints because of some minority of people who might find it uncomfortable but who, for some reason, can’t just make that clear.

Given this, it’s no wonder her attitude towards zero tolerance policies:

23. We have good information from a variety of sources telling us that “zero tolerance” solutions don’t solve these problems.

Yes, zero tolerance solutions don’t work when you’re trying to enforce personal boundaries, because given the variety of people from a variety of cultural backgrounds if you try to enforce zero tolerance solutions you end up either banning most interactions or else being so vague that you’re constantly having to address issues, but don’t really have recourse to say that it isn’t really a violation. But if the Code of Conduct was trying to stop harassment, then you definitely could have a zero tolerance solution, because once it was identified as harassment — essentially meaning that the person either knew or ought to have known that the behaviour was unwelcome — then action needs to be taken. It’s only this vague “personal but group boundaries” solution where you have to make sure that you don’t kick people out for legitimate misunderstandings that, nevertheless, violated the Code of Conduct.

Of course, there are a couple of other problems with not having a zero tolerance policy:

1) The complaint that was raised was that even places that had Codes of Conduct — like TAM — could ignore instances of harassment if the organizers didn’t see it as such. Zero tolerance forces organizers to take the complaints seriously, even if they don’t agree with them. Backing away from that simply reintroduces the problems that specific Codes of Conduct were invented to solve.

2) Less popular and less socially adept people — on either side of the policy — will be disadvantaged by this as they will be less likely to get the benefit of the doubt than people who are more popular and, particularly, are more popular with the organizers than they are. Thus, it is likely that they will be censured for less serious offenses than the people who are more popular. A set Code of Conduct avoids this, but as Zvan notes it doesn’t work for what she wants it to do.

The really interesting thing to note here is the actual lack of thinking in the actual post. I’m not saying that she hasn’t thought about any of this, but all she’s doing in the post is listing a bunch of principles, some of which are poorly thought out. She doesn’t talk about anything else in his post — including his own solution (which seems to be somewhat in line with what she wants). She doesn’t engage his actual solutions or thoughts on the issue, then, and merely dumps this as an excuse to avoid thinking so that she can then say this:

That is what you get if you actually talk to someone who works on these things instead of just thinking up what we must think. And this is why you need real information instead of just being a “thinker” if you want to present yourself as any kind of expert and not be laughed out of the room.

But she never gives any reason to think that he should be laughed out of the room, and never even demonstrates that he’s wrong about the mainstream view. She doesn’t demonstrate that he’s presenting himself as any kind of expert. Her entire post, which starts from denigrating “thinkers”, shows a complete lack of thinking.

Perhaps Hintjens is not the one we should be laughing out of the room.