Change, Reaction and Pain – Coping With Cultural Backlash

Posted: April 29, 2015 in reflections
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'Hello, God? I know I don't believe in you, but could you please send everyone fluffy kittens - things are getting way too tense down here.'

‘Hello, God? I know I don’t believe in you, but could you please send everyone fluffy kittens – things are getting way too tense down here.’

I love that the world is changing. I love the variety that brings and the novelty it creates within our culture, even as the dark fingers of uncertainty send tremors of fear through my body.

Unfortunately, fear of change is currently rearing its big, ugly head all over geek culture.

The most prominent and hideous example of this is the treatment of feminists in computer gaming. There are some great designers and critics out there critiquing the domination of gaming by white, straight, male gamers and characters, and the way this excludes others. This has triggered a huge backlash, in which people have been called the vilest names and even had their lives threatened for expressing their opinions on a medium they love.

Then there’s the fuss, for the second year in a row, around science fiction and fantasy’s Hugo awards. I think there are a lot of problems with the Hugos, but they’re certainly high profile within the core of sf+f. This year, a reactionary group have managed to dominate the nominations with a slate of conservative, white, male authors. It’s a shame, but it is at least getting people engaged with the awards, and may favour the pro-diversity arguments in the long run.

Outside the world of geek, anti-immigrant party UKIP have risen to prominence in this year’s British general election. It’s no great revelation to say that an anti-immigrant party is reactionary and playing on people’s fears.

I find all of this distressing, especially given the way that it has impinged upon what I normally consider a safe space, the welcoming a varied world of geek culture. And I find it hard to balance my own emotional reactions.

On the one hand, I understand that change is frightening, that many of the reactionaries respond this way because they feel threatened. I feel sorry for their hurt and for the way that they aren’t able to embrace all this wonderful variety. But in understanding them and trying not to become reactionary against the reactions, I risk undervaluing my own feelings on the subject. They’re attacking things I value, they create an unpleasant atmosphere, and it’s not unreasonable for me and others like me to feel hurt by that, even a little frightened at where this is going.

I remain hopeful. I’ve always been something of an opportunistic humanist, and the history of humanity, as well as that of the culture I love, to me shows an upward trend toward great diversity and understanding. But there are downward moments as well as upward ones, both becoming ever shorter and more frequent as humanity grows and change accelerates. For the sake of my sanity, I’ll lean into the hurt as well as the hope, use it to power my own work, and remember that this too will pass.

Whatever the outcome of the Hugos, the general election, and a series of nasty Twitter spats, the diverse and joyful things I love aren’t going away. The ranting of sad and angry reactionaries will never stop that.

  1. […] “Change, Reaction and Pain – Coping With Cultural Backlash” – April 29 […]

  2. offendedman says:

    “Unfortunately, fear of change is currently rearing its big, ugly head all over geek culture.”

    Some people feared the changes Hitler was bringing, too. Unfortunately, not enough people feared them, and one day there were tanks rolling into Poland. Oopsie. Probably should have “feared” those changes a little more, eh?

    Not all change is good, just as not all progress is forward. My understanding of the Sad Puppies thing (and Gamergate before it) was that it was people resisting oppression, not change. Granted, sometimes the two can be hard to distinguish (“I’m doing this for your own good!”) but I think you protest a little too much. Just a thought.

    • Thanks for stopping by and for your thoughts on this. I know I live inside a liberal social bubble just as much as the Sad Puppies live inside a conservative one, and it’s good to hear alternate views.

      I agree that not all change is good, you’re quite right. But fear of change just because it’s a change prevents us distinguishing between the Hitlers of this world and positive changes.

      As for the idea that Gamergate or the Sad Puppies are resisting oppression, I’ve heard the arguments for that and I find them unconvincing. The groups they represent – generally white, male and straight – are still extremely well represented in sf+f and gaming. The fiction they like is still out there, no-one’s taking it away. The fact that the tiny minority of sf+f that are the Hugo voters haven’t been picking them doesn’t mean they’re oppressed, just out of fashion with that particular set.

  3. […] Change, Reaction and Pain – Coping With Cultural Backlash. […]

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