Saturday, March 17, 2018

Is Walk Up not Out Victim Blaming?

The Origin Story:

On February 14th of this year, 14 students and 3 teachers were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  In response, the survivors of the attack issued a call to action for the one month anniversary of the tragedy.  They called for students across the country to walk out of their classrooms on March 14th, stand in solidarity, and demand change in our nation's gun laws and gun culture.  This is where the story begins.

In the days leading up to the Walk Out, there was a new movement beginning to take shape on the internet.  It was a call on students to Walk Up Not Out.  It issued a challenge to students to seek out and befriend other students who were lonely or bullied and befriend them.  It was a call to be nice.  And what is wrong with being nice?

What Is Wrong with Being Nice?

So let's all be clear here:  There is nothing wrong with being kind.  There is nothing wrong with being respectful.  There is nothing wrong with reaching out to those who are hurting and offering a shoulder to them.  There is nothing wrong with seeking to spread positive energy.

A friend suggested that the Walk Out vs Walk Up Not Out has become just another division in our culture, another battle line that we didn't need.  That reasonable people have staked positions and that it's a silly thing to be fighting over.  Can't we all just get along, already?

So before we delve any deeper, dear reader, let's put that particular issue to bed here and now.  There is no reasonable objection to a call to civility in our communities.  There is no reasonable objection to a call to end bullying.


Being respectful, being civil, being welcoming and being kind are core values we should all strive for in all of our communities.


But before starting up the next sub-title, let us take note that being a thoughtful partner is a wonderful goal in a marriage.  There is nothing at all objectionable to asking people to share labor, share affection and support each other.  Who can argue that when two people are together, that they are strongest when they share responsibilities?  This will come up again.

What is Victim Blaming?

If we're going to talk about victim blaming we need a working definition.  While there are many definitions out there, let us consider this one:

Victim Blaming is the act of attributing the cause of an assault to the victim of such instead of the perpetrator.  It also is the act of assigning responsibility for the prevention of the assault to the would-be victim rather than the would-be perpetrator.

For example, a woman does not have dinner on the table when her husband comes home from happy hour.  Angered, he hits her and blackens her eye.  When her friend sees her the next day her friend says, "Well what did you expect?  You didn't have dinner ready."

A second example could be the same friend saying to the woman in the afternoon, "Don't you want to get home and get dinner on the table?  You know he'll hit you again if dinner is not ready on time."  In this case the woman is not yet a victim, but it is still her responsibility to act in a way so as to avoid being assaulted.

And most important in this responsibility, is that it requires her to take special action to avoid this assault.  She must act to avoid being hurt by another.

The Issue of Timing

One of the first major challenges in this new "debate" is the timing of the call to kindness.  The memes most circulated on the web do not show a suggestion that kids simply be kinder but they present an either/or choice.  The message is "Instead of Walking Out, Walk Up!"  The goal of these posts is, apparently, to present an alternative to action against guns and gun culture.  And it is cleverly designed because the act of being kind cannot possibly raise objection.  If a student is forced to choose between being kind or marching out to protest guns, and they still elect to walk out, doesn't that mean they are rejecting being kind?

Of course not, yet that is the argument implied when Walk Up Not Out is presented as the alternative.  It is a well crafted message that permits some to vilify students who walked by labeling them as unkind.  They have rejected the "alternative" of Walking Up by Walking Out, so they must reject being kind as well.

It is impossible to separate this new push to kindness from the timing.  The implication is clear:  If you walk out, we will all say that you do not support being kind because we are presenting it as a choice.

If Walk Up Not Out were truly about being kind, it would have come at any other time than to be presented as the alternative on the day of action called for by the survivors of the Stoneman-Douglas shooting.  It would have come after any other act of school mass murder.  It would have come immediately after the Parkland Shooting.  It would have come as anything but an alternative action on March 14.

But is it Victim Blaming?

In a video of one of the Walk Outs, a young lady addresses the crowd and asks challenging questions.

“These shootings are happening from these kids that you’re cornering out, that you’re bullying...because you think it’s funny. And it’s not funny,” she said. “All of these kids just want to be themselves, they want to be who they wanna be in their own schools.” (Source Link)

This is a thought provoking challenge but it is also dangerous in its implication.

Remember our earlier agreement about being partners in a marriage?   Let's reframe this girl's words in that context:

"That black eye happened because you didn't have dinner on the table.  You didn't care and you should have.  All your husband wanted was to have dinner on his table."

Can there be any doubt that this is victim blaming?  In the re-written statement, the blame falls squarely on the woman. She did not perform as she should have in order to avoid being hit.  She should have done something different.  She should have been more aware of her husband's wants.  And for that she was beaten.

Many of us know what it is like to be bullied, marginalized and "cornered out".  We lived that torture daily.  We were picked on, hazed and harassed.  We looked out into the crowd for a kind eye, or a hand to pick us back up.  We wanted to be respected.  The call to be kind resonates.

But look again at the words of the young woman. "These shootings are happening from kids that you're bullying."  In other words:  Your bullying is causing these; if you stop bullying and start being nice, the shootings will end.

In other words: You didn't have dinner on the table, what did you expect him to do?  Of course he beat you.

You didn't reach out and befriend him.  So, of course he murdered your classmates and teachers.

Does This Mean Bullying is Okay?

We as a culture absolutely need to address bullying.  Bullying is not okay.  In the information age, it has become frightfully easy for bullies to predate though social media and private messages.  As our world becomes ever more connected, it is easier for those who want to abuse and harass to do so.  And that is not okay.  That is not acceptable.

Bullying is not okay.

When a Call to Kindness Becomes Victim Blaming

If we are to suggest that being kind will end these school shootings, then on who's shoulders have we placed the responsibility?

If, when called to action to end gun violence and address gun culture, we instead send our students out to be kind to each other instead, what have we said about our own beliefs about the causes and who should repair the damage?

When students have cried out for action, the Walk Up Not Out movement answers with "stop being bullies".  When the actual kids who ran past the bodies of their friends asked us to stand with them, many schools instead said "We hear you, but today we want to spread positive energy because that's more important to us."

What is consistent in all of this, from the memes calling on students to Walk Up Not Out to schools sponsoring school-wide act of kindness is this:  students are being forced to take the responsibility to end gun violence in the school.  They are being told, just as the woman was with dinner and her subsequent black eye, that it is up to them to prevent this.

Rather than hiring more counselors to address troubled kids, students are given the responsibility to be nicer and reach out instead.

Rather than reducing class sizes so teachers, who can use their experience to get to know their kids and reach out, students themselves are given the responsibility to be nice and all will be fine.

Rather than addressing the ease with which a trouble kid can get a powerful gun to bring and use, students are give the responsibility to be nice to him, and hope he won't want to fire it.

Rather than moving reasonable and sensible legislation forward, students are told that their acts of kindness will be the only real fix.

And rather than telling the survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shooting that their loss will be the last, they are told that they brought this upon themselves with their bullying ways.

 "These shootings are happening from kids that you're bullying."

We Cannot Force our Children to Fix This

It is not up to our children to be counselors.  No student should feel compelled to eat lunch with a kid they don't like because they are afraid of becoming a victim.  No girl should have to smile at a boy she doesn't like out of fear he will bring a gun to school.  It is not up to our children to make this right by being there for everyone else, regardless of their own wishes and desires.

By reacting to the March for our Lives Movement, the #NeverAgain Movement and others with commentary about bullying and about being kind, we are effectively laying the responsibility for fixing this at the feet of our children.

That is victim blaming.

And it's wrong.

It is not the responsibility of our youth to address gun violence in their schools by simply being kinder.  Should they be?  Of course.  Everyone should be kind.

But that is where the responsibility ends.  Not with befriending the neo Nazi.  Not with taking taking a date with the stalker so that he will be appeased.  Not with smiling at the boy who calls girls he dislikes dykes and boys he dislikes faggots.  None of these are the responsibility of our youth.

And it is sad that our refusal to lead, as adults, has forced us to the point it even needs to be said.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

An Open Letter to Modest Mom

Dear Modest Mom,

I read your recent post about your choice to cancel your family trip to Disney.  I have to say that I feel bad about your choice firstly on the principle that a trip to a Disney park is an amazing experience.  Even when my wife and I traveled there without children it was exciting; with our kids it was down right magical.

I am also saddened by the nature of the response you've received.  Bullies are an ever-present problem and no one deserves to be demeaned in the manner you've shared on your blog.  My heart fell for you and your family.

As a fellow Christian I want to talk to you, frankly, about what I see as a disconnect in your words and your deeds.

This tea-pot-tempest began when you posted your reasons for not wanting to take your family to Disney and spend $6000 to support a company that promoted an agenda you disagreed with. This agenda is, at its most basic, the normalization of homosexuality.

So let's sit down and talk, okay?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Answered and Asked

As most of you know I went to DragonCon this past weekend.  It's what's caused another delay in Bastion, has kept me from writing any more of Mind the Thorns and has been eating up what little spare time I can squeeze out of life now that school has resumed.

But I did have an amazing time there, much of it good, some of it bad, and a little of it frustrating.  I'm going to start with one of the more frustrating moments.

The name of the panel was "Vampires and the Women who Write Them".  It featured an array of women authors of Urban Fantasy ranging from those who had just started writing to those who had been writing about vampires since the 1960's.  It was quite the collection and what I saw as an opportunity to get to the ins and outs of writing good, solid urban fantasy.

It was also a chance to be talked down to by none other than the wonderful Laurell K Hamilton.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Facts, Figures, Fat-shaming and Cosplay

So the TV Show Heroes of Cosplay is taking the Cosplay/ Costuming Community by storm and often not in a good way.  Among it's many missteps have been copyright violations committed by using photographs without permission.  Then two of the stars opted to do a full head cast when they only needed the forehead, taking on massive risk and danger, apparently, just to do it.

But what really seemed to steal the spot light was an exchange in Episode 2 regarding who could and could not cosplay.  This seemed to take the show into a dark direction of what was "Permitted" and what was not.

Now this was further complicated by Becky's obsession with her figure in Episode 1.  A great deal was made about her quick return to the gym to try to slip down to play the part of Merida from Brave as well as snippets of her trying to squeeze into a corset to get the fit right and really look the part.  Since we watched the episodes back to back we saw a solid two hours of weight issues and "looking the part" being front and center.

Really, much of this is quite likely the result of the show's editing staff trying to create an engaging and provocative narrative.  This is not hard to do when you use some creative cuts, slip a few comments around out of context and then remove the chance for someone to respond to something to try to better establish context.

Since Episode 2 has aired, many efforts have been made to defend Yaya Han, the "Ambassador of Cosplay" as being very open to "cosplay for all" despite the fact that her words on the show implied quite the opposite.

So this brings us to now, today, and my own collected thoughts and observations.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Weekly Omens - 8-24-13

This week I discovered Heroes of Cosplay and the train wreck of drama and cattiness that it is.  I'm not going to pull punches.  The editors of that show make the Cosplayers look like mean spirited wicked elitists.  The repeated commentary on, for example, Yaya Han's history in the hobby only seems further drive home that idea that Cosplay is for the select few.

It hit a fever pitch in Episode 2 when it was explained to newcomer Chloe (@skydart) that there are certain things you don't do, such as be 300 pounds and try to cosplay Superman.  I believe, possibly, that the other veteran Cosplayers were trying to say that the internet is a mean spirited place where people who are not within "the ideal" are mercilessly mocked and that being of a fuller figure means also being prepared for the fat-shaming and abuse that will follow.  I want to give them a break but I can't.

I won't.

And I'm going to leave it there for now because really my fuller thoughts on this should be in their own blog post and that's going to come next week, possibly after I see Episode 3.  Maybe.

So here's the rest of your weekly wrap up:

In Bastion:  The Last Stand

Hiatus week.  Time for me to prepare for Dragon Con.  Also it may not be until after Labor Day that my life find the normalcy necessary to return to a regular schedule of updates.  I'm hoping to be able to keep to a piece of prose every 3 weeks but I might be too optimistic with that.

On Fictional Omens

A woman posed for a picture with the sign, "This is what a Feminist Looks like".  Internet Trolls were as trolls are.  Facebook failed to do the right thing.  I'm still not sure about how they managed to blow this.

At Home

I'm prepping for Dragon Con!

For those going here's a short list of what I have planned:

  • Friday night:
    • Walking Dead Costume Group
  • Saturday
    • Dragon Con Parade as Dum Dum Dugan
    • Panel at 1pm on "Do We Need Teachers?" as part of the Science Track
    • Panel at 5pm on "Hollywoodpocalypse" as part of the Apocalypse Rising Track
  • Sunday
    • BSG Duty Blues costume for fun
    • Star Trek Costume Group
    • Panel at 7pm on Defiance: A Town without Mercy as part of the Apocalypse Rising Track
  • Monday
    • A long... long... drive home.
If you need any help finding me at the con, shoot a tweet to me @FictionalOmen, drop me an email or leave a comment here and I'll do my best to find you.

Your Weekly Video

I'm seriously considering making a lipsync video of "What Makes you Beautiful" by, yes I know, 1 Direction because of all the shaming and hate around Cosplay.  I'm not sure if I will or not but here's one of the best I've seen to some awesome Bon Jovi:

Rob Osterman is the author of the popular web novel Bastion: The Last Hope.  Its story follows those few who struggle to survive through the end of days and perserve what remains of humanity.  He also writes Mind the Thorns, a reader directed web novel chronicling the death and life of Regan Fairchild:  Accountant, Bachelorette and Vampire.

His first novel, Fantasti*Con follows Allison Cavanaugh on a weekend of geekery gone awry as she is stalked, followed, harassed and worse.  It is available on Amazon in print and eBook editions.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Feminism and I: It's Complicated

Recently I was advised to submit a short story to a group working on a collection of stories by female authors.  As I'm not a female this would seem out of place but the suggestion was made that I might be added as a "bonus story" because I have pretty good track record of writing strong female characters, and that a story in that vein might go well in the collection.

I wasn't called a Feminist but I like to think that I let my process of character creation run along similar lines as Jos Whedon and he has been given, if not taken, that title himself.  I've also been known to horribly misquote him but I like to think that my error is more along the lines of "correct in spirit if off in fact."

Oddly, though, I have to confess to a rather on-again-off-again relationship with the term Feminist.  Most "-ists" tend to be used as a form of pejorative.  Racist.  Sexist.  Misogynist.  Elitist.  These aren't nice words.  I even have a weird reaction when someone uses the term "Deist" even though I don't think it's intended harshly in most conversation.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Weekly Omens 8/18/13

Why is this so late?  Well here's a bit about my weekend.  I'm trying to get the wife to try out Rift, we're just now catching up on Newsroom and True Blood, this was my last week of "Summer Vacation", and today Disney Infinity was released and already it's a hit with the house (but not the pocketbook).

So let's do this round up so I can get back to building a race track in my son's Infinity Toybox.

This week was a multimedia update week and we got some insight into how it was that Felice now goes by the name Jo.  I feel, personally, like it was a little more tell than show (I know it's supposed to be the other way around, but this is a picture based storyline) but I think it worked.

Fans should note that the schedule for BLH is changing over to the following:  Prose / Media / Break.  This past week was a media week, so the coming week will be a break.  Expect the next prose, a week from Monday and expect it to be prose.  This should give me a little more time to work on things and hopefully get Mind the Thorns back into my writing rotation.

I waxed a little angry about the fact that our language is "evolving" to allow the wrong definition of a word to, literally, be considered "a definition" of that word.  I'm, figuratively, steaming at the collar about it and, literally, ready to scream.

At Home

I continue to prepare for Dragon Con.  It's exciting and fun and I'm probably going to be taking at least 5 different costumes to change into and out for over the weekend, coupled with appropriate clothes for my panels (assuming I'm still on said panels as the schedule isn't released yet and my name does not appear in the DC app yet as a presenter).

And, for your weekly video:

If you're a fan of Lindsey Stirling you've seen this already but it's news to me and thus I am sharing it here.  Also I think someone at Dragon Con should totally Cosplay her.

Rob Osterman is the author of the popular web novel Bastion: The Last Hope.  Its story follows those few who struggle to survive through the end of days and perserve what remains of humanity.  He also writes Mind the Thorns, a reader directed web novel chronicling the death and life of Regan Fairchild:  Accountant, Bachelorette and Vampire.

His first novel, Fantasti*Con follows Allison Cavanaugh on a weekend of geekery gone awry as she is stalked, followed, harassed and worse.  It is available on Amazon in print and eBook editions.