As many of my female peers are doing at the moment, I’m reading a book by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg called Lean In. The first chapter asks: What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
My answer? I’d write this blog.
Hello. My name is Meagan Marie, and I’m a person. I’ve decided I’m going to start standing up for myself in order to be more frequently treated like one.
Something transpired at PAX this weekend that was a true eye opener. While hosting a Tomb Raider cosplay gathering, comprised of eight or so incredibly nice and talented young women, a member of the press asked if he could grab a quick interview. I said he’d need to ask them, not me, and they agreed. He squeezed into the group and posed a question. I couldn’t hear what he said over the hubbub of the show floor, but the confused and uncomfortable looks from the ladies indicated that it wasn’t what they expected, to say the least.
I moved in closer and inquired “Excuse me, what did you ask?” with a forced smile on my face, so to give him the benefit of the doubt. He laughed and didn’t respond, moving a few steps away as I repeated the question to the group of women. Turns out he’d probed what it felt like “knowing that none of the men in this room could please them in bed.” Yes, I’m aware it’s a poor adaptation of a gag told by a certain puppet dog with an affinity for insults. Lack of originally doesn’t excuse this behavior, however.
My anger flared upon hearing this, and for a moment I almost let it get the best of me. I attempted to calm myself down before walking towards him and the cameraman, and expressing that it was rude and unprofessional to assume that these young women were comfortable discussing sexual matters on camera. I intended to leave the conversation at that, but his subsequent response escalated matters quickly and clearly illustrated that this ran much deeper than a poor attempt at humor. He proceeded to tell me that “I was one of those oversensitive feminists” and that “the girls were dressing sexy, so they were asking for it.” Yes, he pulled the “cosplay is consent” card.
At this point, as he snaked off into the crowd muttering angrily at me, I was livid. Actually shaking a bit. It was inexcusable in my mind to treat the group of women in this manner, especially when I gathered them there to participate in an official capacity. I suppose I felt protective for this reason. As if I’d exposed them to an undesirable element of the convention. They united to celebrate their fandom, only to have an uncomfortable and unprofessional moment captured on film.
As I stated publicly this weekend, we escalated the issue to PAX and they responded with overwhelming concern and worked to ensure he wouldn’t bother anyone at the this or future PAX events. They handled the situation with flying colors.
But this encounter isn’t the crux of my blog. This blog is about what I came to realize as a result of the press member’s actions. And what I realized is this: When it comes to defending others, I’m fierce. I’m assertive. And I will hold my ground. One of the cosplayers tweeted me to praise my bravery and say they wish they had the courage to stand up too. The truth is my bravery doesn’t run that deep. When it comes to defending myself I’m a rug that is walked over repeatedly. This has to stop.
Similar behavior has been directed at me for years. Back in 2007 at my very first GDC, I was starry-eyed and overwhelmed to be in the midst of so many people I idolized. So when a drunken CEO of a then-startup pointed to my midsection and said “I want to have my babies in there,” I laughed. I did the same next year when another developer told me that he “didn’t recognize me with my clothes on” after meeting me the night prior at a formal event (to which I wore a cocktail dress). The trend continued for years, and I took it silently each and every time.
It got so bad that one of my Game Informer coworkers had to sit me down and convince me to file a complaint against a massive publisher, after one of their PR leads repeatedly commented about how much he “loved my tits” at a party. Each time I laughed it off and internalized my embarrassment, cementing a fixed smile on my face while fighting back tears. Why? Because I was afraid to rock the boat. I was afraid to perpetuate rumors that I was uptight, difficult, or had no sense of humor. I was afraid of what I’d heard being said about other women being said about me. So I would stick up for others, but never for myself. Sticking up for others was the right thing to do. I had to be careful not to stick my neck out too far, though.
I’m ashamed to admit my lack of courage has continued to this day. While on a press tour in Europe late last year I sat alone with an interviewer while he set up his camera. PR was talking to another member of the press just out of earshot. I asked the journalist what his readers would like to know about me first, per the introduction he outlined earlier. He responded nonchalantly, “Well, they’d really like to see you naked.” I was so shocked I didn’t even register what he said, and I defaulted to my uncomfortable chuckle and frozen smile. I conducted the interview as if nothing had happened. I should have walked out of the room then and there. I should have immediately reported it to PR. But I didn’t, because I was afraid.
And while these industry comments hurt the most, as they often do when coming from peers, I’ve got hope for change even if it is motivated by fear. In a social economy where one unprofessional tweet can ruin a career, I feel like the few unsavory industry personalities are becoming more aware of their words. My line in the sand doesn’t end there, though. I’m going to start holding commenters accountable for their actions too, even if I can only do so on my social spaces.
So here is the deal. I’m a person. I’m not just a “girl on the internet.” I am not comfortable with you remarking on my breasts. I am not comfortable with you implying that you’d like to have sex with me. And I don’t appreciate you rating my looks against my girlfriends in candid photos.
While I can’t stop these comments and questions from arising when they pop up on random blogs across the web, I can stand up and say that that I won’t accept being talked to in this manner anymore. I’m not simply going to ignore you; I’m going to call you out and tell you that you’re being inappropriate. Just because I have a public job and an equally public hobby doesn’t give you the right to ignore my comfort zone.
The situation this weekend at PAX made me question why I’m willing to stand up for others, but not myself. By allowing myself to be treated this way I’m perpetuating that this behavior is acceptable. And it isn’t. If I continue stand by silently, I might as well sit on the sidelines and watch while other young women endure what I have.
The treatment and representation of women in gaming has come to a head this past year, and I know some of you are tired of hearing about it. I’m tired of living it. I want to feel safe and valued as a member of this industry, whether I’m conducting an interview, talking to fans on a convention floor, or cosplaying. And I have a right to that.
I’m not afraid anymore. I’m angry.
[For those of you who have been so supportive these past years, both in the industry and out, please know this blog isn’t directed at you. I can’t imagine dedicating my life to anything other than video games. And that’s why I’m going to fight my hardest to leave it a better place.]
Reblogging all this because it needs to be read. I’ve spent much of my previous career trying to say and find ways that games journalism can be better. Not doing anything like this would be the most fucking basic one.
What would I do if I weren’t afraid?
My answer? I’d go to a convention and cosplay.
I’ve been a ‘geek’ for years. Star Wars, Tolkien, Xena, X-Men: all of those are passions of mine, and have been since childhood. I so desperately wanted to go to a convention, to meet other people like me, to go to a place where I wouldn’t be looked down on for dressing as Leia or Rogue. I wanted to discuss my passions with people who were equally passionate, to meet the writers and actors that have enriched my life with their characters.
But something was always stopping me. It wasn’t money; I’d have scrimped and saved, worked extra hours and begged cash from grandparents if necessary. It wasn’t a lack of transportation; I grew up less than four hours from three major metropolitan areas, each host to more than one major convention per year, and I’ve had a valid drivers licence for over a decade now. It wasn’t embarrassment; I’ve shared my hobbies unabashedly with real life friends, who were mostly supportive, if a little confused.
It was fear. Fear that I would be seen as a piece of the scenery were I dress up as one of my favorite female characters. Fear that my body type—a bit larger than most superheroines’ *g*—would be a subject of ridicule because it wasn’t “perfect.” Fear that, as a woman, my geekiness would be considered “lesser” and my voice silenced.
But guess what? In two weeks, I’ll be attending my very first con, and cosplaying to boot. And I owe that entirely to people like Meagan Marie, who have stood up for themselves and other women, who have pointed out to sexist pigs that we are human beings, and not just a body for them to look at.
I’m still afraid. But thanks to Meagan Marie and people like her, I’m able to take a deep breath and face that fear head on, knowing that there are people out there that will support me.
Layers of leather and linen for my first con, as Kili? So not afraid.
Cosplaying at a huge con as my idol, my love, my long-term fantasy/scifi role model, Mara Jade? Or as Tauriel, a character I already love because YAY PJ having the balls to un-apologetically include a woman, and a badass one in the style of Aredhel and Eowyn?
I’ll be called fake. I’ll get Mary-Sue comments. I’ll get called unoriginal. I’ll get groped.
But FUCK. THAT. I’ll stand up for my goddamn self because of gals like Yaya Han, like Maegan, like Stoya (who fuckin’ takes guys DOWN). Because I’m awesome and I love what I love and anyone who has a problem with that can go to hell.
I’ve been turning over in my head, that for my FIRST ever Con, I’m going as two “new” characters. New, as in their movie/widely-appreciated/singular incarnations were just recently defined on screen. I’ve always loved Kili and Fili, they were my favorite of the dwarves growing up (admittedly, because they’re two of the ones that get actual characterization :P), and being Aidan/Peter’s Kili is meaningful for -me- that way. And of course Tauriel’s character being female is new.
Anyway, I still feel like I should mark my first con with another character I’ve long loved. We hope to be there for all four days of NYCC, and three costumes would be awesome. It’ll have to be something easy, though, as I’m spending a lot of time, effort and money on two hero ones.
Which brings me to a Sophie’s Choice: Mara Jade, or Faye Valentine?
Both are lifetime loves. Both are fairly easy. Mara a little moreso, as I already have a catsuit, the boots, and her lightsaber :D But I’ve also already put together a Faye costume before! I was 13, mind, and all those pieces are gone/outgrown now, but still.
I’d say both, but I REALLY want to showcase Lady Kili for more than one day.
*Deep Thinking Face*
Tauriel Hate & You: Why You’re Not Looking At The Whole Picture & Also Plz Stop Tagging Your Hate.
They say don’t feed the trolls. I agree (though neutering them with hyperbole and sarcasm can be fun). However, folks seem to be having an immediate negative response regarding this fine Lady, and I thought I’d gather all I’ve said/responded to in the past in one nice neat post.
“She’s not even canon!”
Actually not true. Peter Jackson has based her off a canon character, who was originally male, and expanded the role. As EVERY DWARF EXCEPT LIKE THORIN has had their role in things expanded. Honestly, in the books, there are basically 4 personalities to a sea of dwarves: Old, Young, Fighter, & Fat. The end.
“They only made her female to be an object of romance.”
Aidan Turner himself has said it’ll only be a one-sided bit of a crush, so, also wrong. I actually like the idea of instead of being impressed by a floaty, ethereal and feminine elf Lady (not that there’s ANYTHING wrong with that, it just plays to expected cliches), he gets a little grinny over a chick with a bow who can kick his ass. COME ON, TUMBLR, YOU LOVE MERIDA.
And yes, I just wrote a big long fic that included romance. But that’s MY escapism and happy place. In the films? I really don’t want there to be romance, and I really don’t think that there will be.
”DWARVES HATE ELVES AMGGGG That’s why Gimli and Legolas being bros is so meaningfuuuuul.”
Overall, true. However, take into consideration Galadriel and Gimli, which was far more than a wee crush for him. Take also into consideration Fili and Kili being 50 years younger, canonically, than anyone else in the Company. They canonically don’t mind the elves as much as their elders. How many of your parents’ prejudices, however “justified”, do you share in wholeheartedly? And again, this isn’t being mentioned as a major, earth-shattering plot point here. At most, I expect to see the equivalent of
Also, Gimli and Legolas live together for like, 120 years after LOTR. Given events in the Hobbit….um, yeah, still more meaningful.
“BUT THIS RUINS MY SHIPPING.”
…How? Look, I was a fan when the movies were a whisper in the dark corners of the library XD Aragorn and Arwen being actual canon, life-long, destined lovers? Has NEVER stopped the slash. Never has, never will. Aragorn/Boromir, Aragorn/Legolas will never die, and I hope it never does! So how is a crushing ickle-dwarf going to stop you, hrmm?
Remember who’s at the wheel.
Peter Jackson loves Tolkien. Evangeline Lilly loves Tolkien! She expressed her doubts WHEN SHE WAS ASKED TO PLAY THE ROLE, until she saw the script (come on, honestly now, how many of us gals would even hesitate, when asked to be in this world?). She’s a nerd. She dated/worked with a fucking Hobbit. She LOVES this world, and she wouldn’t let herself be cast as crap, and she KNOWS the backlash she’s getting before the film is released, and is assured it’ll stop once it is.
I adore her.
Check Your Own Misogyny:
I know, plenty of you probably think that’s a bit harsh of me. But seriously, even if Tauriel were romantically involved with someone….so what? Why is it always the female character who becomes reduced to a pair of tits in your mind as soon as romance is mentioned? Seriously, what we DO know for sure about this character is that she’s a fierce fighter, a big-shot in the army, straight from the horses mouth. But what are people fixated on and reducing her because of? A side-comment about a one-sided crush.
Arwen got this too, and she’s freakin’ canon. People moaned about her being more present, over her pining for her love, but in Aragorn’s case, the fact that he was fighting partly for her was swoon-worthy. It’s perfectly okay to have the man in your typical action movies fighting for/avenging a woman too, but as soon as an actual woman is IN those movies, she gets treated as nothing but the obligatory pair of tits. By men AND women in the audience. Disregarding all other aspects of her character, or even the simple, awesome fact that HEY they put a woman with a gun/sword/bow into this testosterone-fest, huzzah!
Nope, she’s just tits, while the man is fighting a noble fight for his vagina back home. And if you’re doing this same thing with a script and characters far better-written than those in Predators or Avatar, well…sorry, the issue isn’t Tauriel.
So let’s look at what we’ve got, given the evidence thus far:
A badass elf lady who’s beautiful, but isn’t defined by normal standards of ethereal Elven beauty or femininity. She’s a Captain, a big shot in the Greenwood army, and though this DOES make her attractive to a male character, she won’t be romantically involved with anyone as far as can be told, and is moreso defined by the fact that she’s a woman, and a badass.
Stop hating on your potential QUEEN.
Reblogging because it should be, also I’ve added more references ;)
Day 18, year 2 - the seal of Thorin Oakenshield.
At the bottom of the stupendously legalistic and artfully realised contract offered to burglar Baggins sits the seal of Thorin Oakenshield. Its one of those examples where the attention to detail of Weta and the art department makes the films so good. Its barely seen on film, but they still take the time to do it right.
Weta have taken the time to recreate the seal in one of their stone pendants too, precision cutting the design out of the stone….but look closely at it, because its not cut the same way as the wax seal at the foot of the contract - its the mirror opposite. So what? It means that, if you had your own sealing wax and know how to use it, you could use the pendant to create the seal of Thorin for yourself. Its not a seal, its a seal imprinter. You too could add your own majestic touch to anything you write….
For references ;)
My first Comic Con ;_;
I have learned that it is indeed true, sometimes the perfect thing is already in your closet.
I’ve loved the hell out of these boots over the years. Not a bad life expectancy either, for a pair of 25$ Forever21 thingers!
They were great for Japan, a little too light for New York Winters, however, and yet I could not part with my old friends, and their insoles so perfectly molded to my feet. I’m glad I kept them around, because with a bit of dying to the right color, and maybe a wrap-and-buckle, they will be most excellent Kili-boots! I’ve saved myself that much money and leather, and my old Yokohama-stomping pals get new life!
Oh my sweet babies, you’re about to get loved up sooooo good.