liz writes stuff down
27Aug/16Off

The underappreciated men’s rights activist as a character background

As we all know, men's rights activists are grossly misunderstood. On the surface, the men's rights movement looks to be about getting equal rights with respect to things like adoptions and custody disputes[1], but actually, the movement is primarily a coordinated attack on women. After all, nothing says "we just want men to have equal opportunity" like threatening violence against women (content warning: rape, death threats).

With the men's rights movement coming into its own more and more, it's been the background motivating an increasing number of adventurers. I playtested a sun elf warlock who has my variant pact with the Patriarchy and this new men's rights activist background yesterday - it was loads of fun.

From page 125 of the Player's Handbook:

Every story has a beginning. Your character's background reveals where you came from, how you became an adventurer, and your place in the world.

Here's a new background for the increasingly popular men's rights activist:

Men's Rights Activist

You have spent your life oppressed by women. You have watched other men share this fate, and you have formed a small brethren with some of these men to serve as the sole force for progress towards true gender equality in the world.

Choose a cause to focus on. Are you going to be the one to champion the cause for male adventurers to get the same increased recognition and pay as their less talented female colleagues? Are you going to fight for magical teachers to revamp their mentoring to focus only on the underserved needs of restless male wizards-to-be? Perhaps you will be the one to combat the discrimination men face in not being allowed to unconditionally unleash their barbaric rage? Figure out how to channel your anecdotal experiences to make necessary systemic progress.

Skill Proficiencies: History, Insight
Languages: Dialects of Abyssal and Draconic in which all sentences begin "Well, actually"
Equipment: A tinderbox, a scroll of the collected offenses against men from a dying male elder from the town you grew up in, a set of fine clothes, a pouch that automatically disappears whenever anyone allied with you asks you about how much money you have, and 30 gp you have inherited

Feature: Authority on the Hierarchy of Privilege

When you meet someone, you are able to immediately determine every way in which they are better off than you. You are also able to recall knowing someone who is even more privileged than they are in the town you most recently visited.

Suggested Characteristics

Men's rights activists are shaped by their experiences with the women they have known and their imagined ideas about women they have never met. Their reflections on half thought-out what-ifs affect their mannerisms and ideals. Their flaws might be that fiction often affects their reality as much as their obviously fully unbiased observations.

d8 Personality Trait

  1. I envy a particular woman's position in life and constantly belittle the unnecessarily hard work she has had to spend her whole life to get there.
  2. I can find common slights against even the most dissimilar of men and empathize with them completely.
  3. I see the potential for discrimination against men in every event and action. Women try to ruin us, we just need to see it.
  4. Nothing can shake my paranoia.
  5. I slander women in almost every situation.
  6. I am tolerant of other people as long as they are men.
  7. I've enjoyed high status and undeserved aid from society. Easy living coddles me.
  8. I've spent so long interacting only with men that I have little practical experience relating to women.

d6 Ideal

  1. Equality. Everyone, not just men, benefits from equal opportunity. (Good)
  2. Power. I hope to one day push women to the lowest class in society. (Evil)
  3. Change. We must help bring about the changes the world needs to advance us all. (Any)
  4. Awareness. The path to power and self-improvement is through spreading knowledge. (Neutral)
  5. Responsibility. It is my duty to protect and care for the men who cannot do so themselves. (Lawful)
  6. Respect. I must prove that I can do anything I want despite the oppression of my gender. (Chaotic)

d6 Bond

  1. I would die before admitting a woman deserves her lot in life more than I do.
  2. I will someday get revenge on the woman who wronged me.
  3. I owe my life to the man who enlightened me about the oppression men face.
  4. Everything I do is for the common man - man, not person.
  5. I will do anything to protect the men I know.
  6. I seek to destroy the unfair ways society advances women.

d6 Flaw

  1. I judge women harshly, and give myself a pass on all my faults.
  2. I put too much trust in those who enlighten me about another way men are oppressed.
  3. My self-righteousness sometimes prevents me from noticing my hypocrisy.
  4. I am inflexible in my thinking.
  5. I am suspicious of strange women and expect the worst of them.
  6. Once I notice something oppressing men, I become obsessed with it to the detriment of everything else in my life.

[1] Interestingly enough, feminism champions these causes.

12Nov/140

Instead of facing misogyny, we’re talking about banning the word “feminist”

Apparently, Time has decided to vote off the worst word of 2014. The goal is to eliminate a word that causes you to "definitely cringe", "exhale pointedly", and possibly "even seek out the nearest the pair of chopsticks and thrust them through your own eardrums like straws through plastic lids".

Time's Worst Words of 2014 poll

One of those words is "feminist".

"Feminist" is a word near and dear to my heart. It saddens me that there are people out there who cringe at hearing the word for treating women as their equals. And it fucking pisses me off when those people want to get rid of a word to help erase the history of people fighting for the rights of women.

But it doesn't stop there. "Basic" is explicitly gendered according to the article. "Bossy" may imply that we should stop using the word as Sheryl Sandberg's campaign to encourage girls to take the lead desires, but the tone of the article implies that it actually means we should ban talking about the campaign. "I can't even" is an expression that people describe girls as using to say they're stupid. "Obvi" makes the list because people consider it to be "popular with people of limited intelligence, generally of the 13-year-old girl variety".

Anecdotally from my little slice of the internet, "sorry not sorry" and "literally" are associated with unintelligent girls. I admit that I assumed they made the list because I made that association, and I feel really bad about that.

So 7 of the 15 words are likely to be associated primarily with women and girls, while none are near as explicitly gendered with men and boys - unless you assume that successful tech workers and businesspeople are men. It's society wanting to censor women and girls' manners of speech.

From Time's list of "Which Word Should Be Banned in 2015?", I only use the word "feminist" with any frequency. Not today. Today, I'll take a mess of these words as my own to point out how much the gendering of this list upsets me:

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7Oct/14Off

Why is it easier to teach girls to code than to teach ourselves to treat women well?

When we ask ourselves "why aren't there more women in tech?", we're quick to discuss how the pipeline fails young women. I would be lying if I didn’t think there’s room for improvement here - I’ve written about my own negative experiences as a young programmer - and it’s exciting to dream about new ways to expose eight year old girls to programming, with or without pink. Unfortunately, we only have limited efforts to put into solutions, so it’s important to understand how we can be the most efficient. Wanting to get more girls interested in computer science is fun and non-threatening. Changing workplace environments would have a more immediate impact.

Half of the women in technology leave.

We know that we lose women over caregiving issues. There are too many maternity leave policies that show workplaces are uninterested in their female employees having healthy family lives, and we expect mothers to put in time at odd hours just to keep up. Our industry needs to find ways to be flexible with talented women who also want to have families.

But the main reason we lose women isn’t related to caregiving - it is a myth that pregnancy is the main thing that holds women back when it only accounts for a sixth of women who leave engineering. We primarily lose women to toxic work environments: misogyny and sexual harassment are commonly cited as reasons for leaving. This ranges from assumptions that women can’t possibly be good engineers to a man erasing the work of a woman because she refused to date him. Treating women fairly could very well be the simplest way to increase the number of women in technology.

But we don't discuss the importance of fixing these problems like we discuss the importance of the pipeline. Discussing the pipeline is convenient - we've agreed that improving the pipeline is a complicated and daunting task that we can't be expected to solve in a quick timeline. So we're able to put it off and pat ourselves on the back for thinking about how to fix things in ways that make us feel good about ourselves. Blaming the pipeline means we don't have to confront the internalized misogyny in our day-to-day environments. It's a cop-out.

Admitting that the culture can be hostile is admitting that there's something we can work on changing now. It’s time for us to decide to change.

The next time someone asks you to help get girls interested in technology, also ask them what they’re doing to support the women who’ve already made it through the pipeline.