If you’re here, it’s probably because of this post I wrote about the Kickstarter “Above The Game.” “Above The Game” was successfully funded this morning, raising 800% of its target goal. Unfortunately, the product it’s funding, I think, was pretty repugnant.
Basically styled as a book on “how to meet women,” what the content really did was tell men how to exploit some the awful systemic pressures we put on women, to take an overly aggressive role, and never take no for an answer in order to get sex. Some of the excerpts were pretty disgusting, even in their proper context - context the original author removed when I had linked to it - and it forwards a rape culture, no matter what its proponents might tell you. Even the section which the author, Ken Hoinsky, stresses the importance of obtaining consent ends with the phrase, "wait a few minutes and try again."
I was upset because this is a really grotesque, upsetting thing being funded on a platform I am bonkers for. So I posted that thing calling for people on the internet to speak to Kickstarter and ask asked for it to be taken down, and holy crap when I woke up and my post was everywhere. Currently at around 7K notes, my second most popular post has 8 Notes, and is a man in a Food Court wearing a Batman t-shirt, seen below:
So all day people have been reaching out to me for comments and questions and telling me to link this thing or that thing and do I have screenshots and telling me I’m overreacting and giving me some degree of either praise or harassment.
One of the groups of that reached out to me was, in fact, Kickstarter.
I e-mailed them earlier in the day, expecting fully for that e-mail to hit some poor community manager who had no idea this was what they were waking up to, and for a simple thanks for your input we’ll look into it or to not hear anything back at all. Instead they got back to me. And after a long day of “one second, we’re still discussing this,” they sent me a statement, the relevant bits I’ve pasted here -
This morning, material that a project creator posted on Reddit earlier this year was brought to our and the public’s attention just hours before the project’s deadline. Some of this material is abhorrent and inconsistent with our values as people and as an organization. Based on our current guidelines, however, the material on Reddit did not warrant the irreversible action of canceling the project.
As stewards of Kickstarter we sometimes have to make difficult decisions. We followed the discussion around the web today very closely. It led to a lot of internal discussion and will lead to a further review of our policies.
This is a huge bummer, it’s a bummer that they allowed this project to be funded, and it’s especially a bummer in light of this statement. Because the statement, “Based on our current guidelines, however, the material on Reddit did not warrant the irreversible action of canceling the project." is intensely problematic when you look at the guideline I’ve posted above. Because given what the author said, and given that this material was advertised as part of the final product - the author’s Kickstarter was to provide a published and expanded version of the material on Reddit - and they find it "abhorrent and inconsistent with your values as people and as an organization," how is this not offensive? And then, how does it not violate that guideline?
I suspect that, had the material on Reddit been part of the initial Kickstarter pitch and video, it never would have even been approved. While the material on Reddit ostensibly was what was being Kickstarted, it is admittedly unreasonable to expect for whoever vets these projects to read what amounts to a manuscript for every book that wants a Kickstarter. It’s not feasible for them to approve all content that could POTENTIALLY flow through this channel - to say nothing of books that are unwritten. So we can’t expect Kickstarter to be proactive about policing every piece of writing that might appear in something funded through their site.
But we all pointed it out to them, at which point, they chose to allow it to be funded.
Hoinsky - knowingly or unknowingly - found a loophole in Kickstarter’s guidelines. By hosting the truly offensive material outside of his pitch, people were unaware that it existed until it was too late, and it was too complicated an issue for a multi-million dollar business to do anything about. And I am completely disappointed, because while Kickstarter is a huge company concerned about maintaining policies and setting precedent, I am just a dude concerned about someone getting $16k for creating a manual on how to sexually assault women and concerned about, jeeze, I don’t know, the nobility of crowd funding?
So I understand that this was probably not an easy decision for Kickstarter to come to in a short periord of time (I discovered the content 10 hours before the Kickstarter ended, 6 hours of which were sleeping time for reasonable people). And to me, the result we ended up with was not the moral one.
Here are kind of my final thoughts on this -
1. Don’t let anyone fool you, This Book Is A Rape Manual
I heard a lot of people telling me that I was taking some of those quotes out of context or that “JEEZE when he said take your dick out she was already making out with you!” Well, fuck you. Because acquaintence rape is a real thing. Because a girl kissing you or letting you do SOMETHING does not mean you get to do ANYTHING. And by creating a book whose leitmotif (YEAH FUCK YOU PRETENSION I WENT TO FILM SCHOOL FOR A FEW MONTHS) is “be aggressive, and do what you want because women like that,” you are telling people to rape. Not everyone who’s going to read the book is going to be a rapist, but I promise you - someone who read this book will rape someone. And they might not even know they did it, because you told them the woman wanted it that way, you human nightmare. The whole thing is a boiling cauldron of rape culture, and you are not going to convince me otherwise any more than you could convince me the sun has been replaced by a bran muffin.
2. People are way more amazing than awful.
I got tons and tons of e-mails and tweets and Tumblr messages of support and all the reblogs and all of this shit basically saying that women should not be treated this way and people who say otherwise are assholes. And saying good on me for speaking out. And that felt great, to know that the internet - which I find is most often represented by shit like Penny-Arcade and Reddit - is not as bad as I thought. Also, please consider that the VAST MAJORITY of “Thank you for saying this” messages I got were from women the next time you think that maybe this shit isn’t real.
3. This is probably in HUGE PART because I am a man.
All of my photos are pictures of me, and I have a awful (just awful) beard and am clearly not a woman. I think this curbed the abuse I got from the internet EXPONENTIALLY. A few of the awesome women in my life IMMEDIATELY messaged me about blowback this morning, because they had ALREADY RECEIVED HARASSMENT JUST FROM RETWEETING ME, where at that point in the day I had received NONE. They asked me first thing if I was being harassed because that is what the world does to them if they talk about this stuff, and this awful book furthers that attitude. The worst harassment I got - and one nice message, to be fair - was clearly because I have a gender neutral name and they thought I was a woman.
4. I still love Kickstarter, and will keep using it.
They made a really bad call. Straight up, this was a bad call to allow this to be funded. But it’s undeniable that they had not a lot of time to make that call in, and a weird confluences of loopholes in their policies. Big companies move very slowly, and they had to act fast, so you know. They made a bad call. That does not mean it’s a bad platform, or they’re bad people - in fact, they seem pretty upset about the whole thing, and I hope that they re-examine some of the policies that led to that call now that they have more than a few hours to breathe.
I still think crowdfunding in general is the internet’s way of fighting back against the monopolies on entertainment, and Kickstarter specifically is a pretty special tool. My friends have followed dreams because of this, they’ve made games and prank apps and children’s books and burnt giant guitars. It’s awesome. And I find it inevitable that I’ll launch one of my own one day. I hope that more projects like this being funded doesn’t cause that inevitability to fall away.
This project is funded, but make your voice heard by signing this petition someone started over at Do Something - http://www.dosomething.org/petition/kickstarter - Hopefully they’ll know that if projects like this that forward a culture of violence against women or any oppressed group continue to be funded, we’ll stop just stop using it. And as I’ve made clear, I would like to continue using it!
5. Fuck Not Saying Something
I am super burnt out on everything in my life being about rape. I’m a video game designer - so I have to deal with people like Penny-Arcade, or the people that harass the outstanding Anita Sarkeesian. I’m a stand-up comic - so I have to deal with the endless hordes of angry white dudes telling me it’s okay for them to talk about how funny it is for them to be raping a girl on stage, and how if I say otherwise then I am censoring them. And I love the internet - and here we are. I am sick. and tired. of rape.
But I probably have no capacity to even understand how sick and tired women are of it.
I have an amazing friend who I go to whenever I’m totally lost of this stuff and once I said, “I just am so frustrated with talking about this shit, I am going to just NOT THINK ABOUT IT FOR A WHILE.” and he replied, “Okay, but just so you know, being able to not think about it for a while is the definition of privilege.” Oops.
I don’t want to have to live in a world with this shit. I have a ton of amazing women in my life - the funniest comedians I know are women, the strongest writers I know are women - and I don’t want them to have to live in a world with this shit. But simply blowing past it because I don’t want to deal with it isn’t going to solve anything, because they are not allowed to blow past it - they have it thrust upon them unwillingly every fucking day, a metaphor I chose pretty carefully.
I guess the only way for me and the people I care about get to not live with the specter of rape around them all the time is by shouting that people like Ken Hoinsky need to knock this shit off as loudly as I can and hoping you guys signal boost some more. So that hopefully Ken Hoinsky and his nightmare kingdom of sub-Reddits will shut the fuck up, and stop thinking what they’re doing and what they’re encouraging is okay.
And then, finally, when no one has to deal with these morons being the dominant voice in the culture, and people stop thinking it is okay to sexually assault and rape people, we can all stop having our lives be about rape.
[Update: I tweaked the language in the last section, as apparently some people thought my point was ‘I’m sick of hearing about this so everyone shut up,” which it was not. I would hope the context showed that I didn’t want to silence anyone, but I guess it needed clarity.]