Archive for the 'Editorials' Category

Seven Seasons Of Questions About Odo

Posted in Editorials on February 2nd, 2015
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Adam and I have recently finished watching Star Trek: Deep Space 9. It’s a really good show. Perhaps the best one. As Zack Handlen of the AV Club explains so well, it’s strength is in how it deconstructs the premise and tropes of the two previous series:

Cracks in the facade have been showing for a while now, though. DS9 hasn’t given up the dream of the unity, but it has addressed the way the base metals of the individual often react in ways no one can predict. It used to be that just wanting to be friends was enough; now, though, there are conflicting allegiances, religions, philosophies. Communication helps, but it’s not a cure all, and situations arise in which there is no real right answer—in which the most two sides can hope to achieve is an uneasy compromise until the next great crisis. There’s no definitive protagonist on DS9, no single hero like Picard of TNG or the Kirk/Spock/McCoy trifecta of TOS. Sisko may get top billing, but he’s first among equals. All viewpoints are welcome, all are treated with equal respect.

Still, what I want to talk about is how mind shatteringly awesome Odo is. Deep Space Nine’s chief of security is a shape shifter in a Bajoran militia uniform. He’s far better at security than Worf ever was, and he makes the most convincing case for an all seeing all knowing police state I’ve ever heard (no, really.) He has Data’s longing for connection, Spock’s vulnerability and Worf’s torn allegiances. But still, there’s so many unanswered questions about what he can do. You could ask similar questions about Q, but he’s used sparingly. Odo is a regular cast member.

Sometimes it seems like Odo had no idea what the answers are to these questions himself!

For your discussion and consideration: the grand list of questions about Odo that Adam and I have been compiling for months:

How does he get energy? Odo doesn’t eat or drink. (Except that one time in “Facets” where he was hosting Curzon’s memories and drank Tranya.) He needs to regenerate, but where does he get the fuel for that process?

How can he change his mass? We see Odo transform into a few small things, and people pick him up with ease. How can this be?

Is there a limit on how big or small he can become? We see Laas become a giant creature that can fly through space. But can changelings get even bigger than that? Could he make himself small enough to fix problems on a molecular or atomic level? The possibilities here are endless.

Why don’t O’Brien and Dax and Bashir follow him around asking him questions all day? If generating this list of questions was a fun game as we watched the show, wouldn’t the curiosity be just torture for inquisitive scientists? Perhaps they understand that he doesn’t like being treated as a science experiment but we don’t see them even asking the occasional, respectful question.

Can he see in 360 degrees? There’s no indication that he can do this, but shouldn’t he be able to?

Are all parts of his body equally sensitive to light and/or touch? And if they are…

Does he/can he echolocate? It seems like he should be able do do this too. If not, what does he hear with?

What’s a “morphogenic matrix”? Is it like a neural net?
What does he think with?

How does he understand gender – his own and that of humanoids? Odo takes the form of a Bajoran male because the doctor who studied him was a Bajoran man. If Doctor Mora had been a woman, would Odo had taken a female form? Is there anything about him that’s inherently “male?” Does changeling reproduction require two (or more or fewer) biological sexes?

How does he understand/experience friendship/love/sex etc? Does he have a limbic system? Odo seems to easily assimilate to humanoid concepts of friendship and camaraderie. He appears to approximate heterosexual cisgendered male sexuality. But he also says that changeling relationships within The Great Link are not understandable to humanoids. How is it that he can so easily adapt to our social structures?

Odo seems to equivocate The Link with other changelings with having sex with humanoids. How similar are they really though? Is The Link an erotic experience or just pleasurable and intimate? Does it have anything to do with changeling reproduction? The way he links with himself in Children of Time and with a changeling he barely knows in Chimera is very different from the way he establishes sexual relationships with humanoids.

Can he turn himself into a machine with working parts? If so how complicated? Like maybe he could be a pair of scissors or a pulley but not a power drill or a transporter?

Does Odo have Bajoran citizenship? This is implied but it never really comes up. I think it would be interesting to know how the Bajoran government classifies him.

Can he make himself rain down Sulfur? Or can he turn into any caustic or explosive substance? Could he turn himself into a bomb that explodes and still survive? Alternately, if he was on a ship that was about to explode could he turn himself into some kind of inflammable or shock absorbing material to survive?

Does he have any way of proving his own unique identity? If another shapeshifter was pretending to be him would there be any way to tell the difference? Does he have any kind of tissue with any kind of DNA like substance that he sheds? (Like dead skin cells?)

How does the universal translator work with Odo? Does he have an implant? It makes sense that he can speak Bajoran and Cardassian, but what about other languages?

Does Odo use his bucket on The Defiant? Not as important, but I’m still curious!

In case you are going to tell us to repeat to ourselves “it’s just a show” and that we should really just relax, or to get a life, we know this is a little silly. In fact, we kind of recognize ourselves in this episode of After Hours

Michael:You guys ever think that maybe we think about movies more than the people who made the movies?
Soren: Yeah, like maybe we’re projecting? Yeah I think about that…
Michael: Right, like maybe the guys who wrote Aladdin maybe wouldn’t have if they knew a bunch of assholes were going to sit around tearing all their choices apart?
Katie: Well no matter what you make, some dickhead is going to comment on it.
Dan: I’m going to stop making things forever now, because of comments.

But we also find ourselves agreeing with SimonF:

Watch enough Deep Space 9 and you will begin to generate a list of pretty fucked up questions about Odo…

And if you still doubt that I have a sense of humor about Trek, check out my Deep Space Nine memes:
It Had To Be Done
The Answer To An Age Old Question
That’s a Good Question

My Favorites of 2014

Posted in Editorials on December 31st, 2014
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All the best in 2015. Here’s some of my favorite things from 2014.

Link Roundup – Some of these are long reads, and some are shorter. Here’s some posts from the year I hope you didn’t miss.
Dear America, I Saw You Naked
Popular Delusions: Sovereign Citizens
Survey: Overwhelming Majority Of U.S. Doctors Seeing Patients With Drug-Resistant Illnesses
Invisible Politics
Notes from a Pornographer on Sexist Sexual Imagery and Behavior
Why Did Anti-Choice Activists Harass Unitarians in New Orleans?

Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner speaking at the UN Climate Leaders Summit in 2014

Books
My favorite book of 2014 is a novella published as an ebook by Atavist Books. Sleep Donation by Karen Russell

A crisis has swept America. Hundreds of thousands have lost the ability to sleep. Enter the Slumber Corps, an organization that urges healthy dreamers to donate sleep to an insomniac. Under the wealthy and enigmatic Storch brothers the Corps’ reach has grown, with outposts in every major US city. Trish Edgewater, whose sister Dori was one of the first victims of the lethal insomnia, has spent the past seven years recruiting for the Corps. But Trish’s faith in the organization and in her own motives begins to falter when she is confronted by “Baby A,” the first universal sleep donor…

Sleep Donation is so engaging I couldn’t put it down. The universe is rich and easy to get lost in. A quick and very satisfying read.

Honorable Misandry Mention:
Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation by Laura Kipnis
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Television
My favorite new show of 2014 is Broad City on Comedy Central. I first heard Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer on the Ronna & Beverly podcast. I immediately became a fan of their hilarious web series. It was originally supposed to be on FX, but they cancelled the show and then Comedy Central Picked it up. I swear I remember articles at the time that FX didn’t know how to market a show about women to advertisers, but those links seem to have disappeared. But I’m so glad the show came to be. It’s the funniest thing on television.

Honorable Mention:
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver Adam and I subscribed to HBO to watch this show. John Oliver is brilliant.

I watched every episode of Married at First Sight on the new FYI network. I liked it, but I feel kind of guilty about that. Ultimately I think the show was somewhat exploitative of the couples. But I suppose that’s the point of reality television. Here’s some thoughts from Sarah Moglia Is “Married at First Sight” a Legitimate Science Experiment?

Music
The PinkPrint by Nicki Minaj. (More about all of my feels for Nicki Minaj here.)

Honorable Mention
Barefoot and Pregnant by the Dollyrots.

Movies

As everyone has probably already seen Guardians of the Galaxy and Birdman, and Horns disappointed me because it took out almost everything that made the book was so amazing, I’m going to recommend everyone go see Particle Fever right now.

This movie is accessible to people with all levels of scientific understanding. I’ve never taken a day of Physics in my life and I didn’t feel that lost at all. “Why do humans do science? Why do they do art? The things that are least important for our survival are the very things that make us human.”


Unitarian Universalism

I have to share these videos by some of my fellow UUs.

Here’s “Love Reaches Out” a song written about the theme of this year’s General Assembly

The Reeb Project is a movement to restore the Voting Rights Act in the United States by All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington DC. It’s named after Rev James Reeb a Unitarian minister who was beaten to death while protesting against segregation in Selma Alabama in 1965. This summer, The Reeb Project held a protest, and it’s the first (and possibly only) flash mob video I will share on this blog.

Other people’s Year End Posts You Should Read
It’s Been a Terrible Year for Reproductive Rights
The Frozen River: A Humanist Sermon

Political Flavors
Most popular posts on this blog this year:
Contradictions made by people insulting my husband (AKA, Misogynist Troll Insult Fails Part 2)
“That’s some training to give to girls.” The criminalization of female self defense

My favorite posts from the year:
Out, Damned Sperm! Why Everyone Is Freaked Out About Fruit Flies.
Our mockery of Fox Sports Sexism
Who Will Be The Next Republican To Endorse Andrew Cuomo?
The Untenable Incel
Red Pillers – Very Concerned about Ladies’ Fashion

Previously: My favorites of 2013

A question about Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback apologists…

Posted in Editorials on December 9th, 2014
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There’s a line of rationalization I’ve been hearing from (white) people in the wake of police killing of 12 year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland Ohio this past November 22. Tamir was playing with a toy gun in a public park. Police, responding to complaints of a juvenile with a gun that was “probably fake” arrived and shot him dead in seconds.

What did he expect? He was playing with a gun in a park! He was waving around a gun! The orange tip was off!

I wonder how many of these same people will sit down on the 25th an watch “A Christmas Story” and root for Ralphie, a nine year old white boy to get a gun for Christmas and then go outside and play with it, even fire it Christmas morning. How many of them will spend money on or already own merchandise from the film? How many will go to see the touring production of “A Christmas Story: The Musical”?

And how many of them will see no contradiction?

Leave Craig Spencer Alone!

Posted in Editorials on October 24th, 2014
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There’s a menace lurking in the streets of New York today. No not Ebola, but people who will not shut the fuck up with their victim blaming of Dr. Craig Spencer.

From Reddit:

I can’t believe that a doctor would let that happen. What a fucking irresponsible asshole. His credentials should be revoked.

I just can’t comprehend how fucking stupid and egotistical it is for anyone treating patients with highly infectious diseases to not keep themselves quarantined after finishing the job. I don’t care if it’s ebola or tuberculosis. It’s retarded that medical professionals aren’t required to abide by standards.

What a selfish fucking jackass

On Jezebel:

I am not afraid of getting ebola, I am not afraid that this is going to become pandemic, but I am very in support of punishing people that should fucking know better. He should be financially liable if anyone else gets this, and he should be responsible for the overall costs of dealing with the situation he has put others in. We should absolutely be quarantining all doctors that have been in West Africa treating ebola. And we should be ostracizing medical professionals who feel anything other than healthy, after treating ebola patients, who do not immediately rush to the doctor. Fuck this guy.

From all available news reports, Dr. Spencer was self monitoring his temperature and called the authorities as soon as he had a fever. I understand why people are angry he went out with his friends when he was feeling “sluggish,” but there’s a huge lack of compassion in all the bullshit getting thrown his way. He’s a human being, not a saint or a robot. A human being that did wonderful volunteer work and will now suffer a terrible and potentially deadly disease for his kindness and generosity.

These people are blaming him for wanting a night out after spending time doing a very difficult thing. I know doctors are trained to be tough, but what he did could not have been easy.

I’m sure that all of the commenters bashing Dr. Spencer always wash their hands, and get their flu shots. They’ve never exceeded the speed limit or drove while impaired by substances or lack of sleep. They’ve never skipped a condom or a seat belt, texted while driving or done anything dangerous at all. They are all perfect examples of public health we should venerate so that they bestow more wisdom upon the masses.

Last Straw on Cuomo: Public Funds for Faith-Based Initiatives

Posted in Editorials on October 10th, 2014
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This will be brief as evidence that Andrew Cuomo is a Republican who wants a Republican-controlled Senate is a mile high.

Remember back during President George W. Bush’s first term when he teamed up with Senators Rick Santorum and Joe Lieberman to promote faith-based initiatives? We do too.

Remember when Rick Santorum promoted government incentives to promote marriage, because in his view, marriage is the only answer to all of the world’s ills?

We do too. But we were also unsurprised. George W. Bush, Joe Lieberman and Rick Santorum have never been shy about injecting their religious beliefs into public policy.

Most Americans who believe in the importance of the separation of church and state understand the inherent danger in faith-based initiatives. Driving taxpayer funds to religious organizations is fraught with all sorts of concerns, especially when religious groups can be openly hostile and discriminatory toward those with whom they disagree.

So then, why, we must ask, is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo not only endorsing faith-based initiatives, but actually proposing a “State Office of Faith-Based Services”? Well the answer is simple to everyone. Well, maybe everyone except the Working Families Party.

Andrew Cuomo is not a Democrat. Andrew Cuomo is a Republican. And each day, we learn how much of a Republican he is.

He has now proved that by joining the ideological positions of Rick Santorum: One of the most Christian-right members of the Republican Party and a man who is unabashed about wanting to impose his Catholic Doctrine on the people of this country.

New York is a state which provides more social services than most others. Our state has the means to provide for any citizen who seeks out its services. Diverting tax dollars to religious organizations is not necessary, nor prudent. But the proposal to create an office specifically for such initiatives offers true insights into the Governor’s view of the role of government.

Election Day is November 4th. Send a message. Vote third party in the governor’s race.

Out, Damned Sperm! Why Everyone Is Freaked Out About Fruit Flies.

Posted in Editorials on October 10th, 2014
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This week the internet was aflame with the sheer idiocy that happens when you combine an ignorant misunderstanding of science with our culture of vicious misogyny.

Generally respectable websites like Alternet and The Telegraph were off and running with a study that claimed previous mates sperm could influence the future offspring of fruit flies. People got paid real money to write about this study as if it applied to human beings.

Caroline Weinberg at Jezebel did a good job of debunking this nonsense:

The immature eggs of newly hatched fruit flies ultimately develop a hard shell. The thought is that the development of the immature eggs can be influenced by non-genetic factors in semen but, once they have matured, the eggs are no longer susceptible to these changes.

Interesting indeed. But what I’m more interested in is why this study took off the way it did and why so many news outlets jumped to cover it as if it means something for people. Yes, it’s clickbait. But why is it clickbait? Why was this story so sensational?

Weinberg speculates:

Start with a scientific study that can be generalized to something people identify with or fear. Then lead with an eminently clickable headline about motherhood and promiscuity, striking fear in the hearts of the sexually active, raising concerns that the skeevy dude they picked up in a bar last year is actually going to haunt them forever through the face of their future offspring.

But I think it’s more than just fear that our exes can follow us, or somehow influence our future. The media found a way to push people’s buttons with the way they twisted this story, yes they pushed the “disgust” button, and the “eww my ex is gross” button, and even the “fear of cuckolding” button. But part of the reason these buttons exist in the first place is a deeper cultural stigma. There is a deep taboo about the way sex tarnishes women or makes them dirty. It’s tangled up with fear and denial of women’s sexual desires but its a slightly separate idea.

I’ve written before about how the disgust mechanism is a very old instinct. But this is is more than a general aversion to the “ickiness” of sex. The idea that the media was tapping into here was that sex in general and semen in particular makes women dirty in a way it does not make men dirty. In a way that a woman’s natural wetness doesn’t make women or men dirty. It’s odd to think of a substance produced by pleasure that creates human life as a contaminant (STIs aside). But we do.

We use the idea of semen in slurs like “cum dumpster.”

Abstinence only sex education is notorious for invoking the idea of semen defiled women in their rhetoric. A sucked on lollipop, chewed gum, or a cup everyone has spit into have all be used to represent a woman who has had sex. The students actual saliva makes an approximate substitute – but the message is clear, a woman is defiled by semen.

And so it should come as no surprise that at the mere hint that semen has more than a symbolically tarnishing effect on a woman’s body people will spiral into an absolute panic.

Weinberg wrote:

I even received an email from a pregnant friend that read, “Shit. Does this mean my kid is going to look like my ex?”

I wrote back to her, “Not unless you’re a fruit fly.”

We aren’t fruit flies. We’re people living in a culture that has a lot of fear about sex. Try not to let it ruin your day.

For Further Reading: The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability by Laura Kipnis

Governor Cuomo Thinks That Corruption Is The Same As Adultery

Posted in Editorials on October 9th, 2014
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Although I praised Governor Cuomo for enacting an affirmative consent standard on SUNY campuses, it’s not as if that one great policy can heal all ills. In an interview with the New York Times about his new book, the governor was asked:

You write that the Albany press loves to foment scandal. Do you think recent scrutiny over your handling of the Moreland anticorruption commission is an example of that?

He answered:

There’s no doubt. But that’s what sells newspapers — negative sells, sex sells, scandal sells, it always did.

Andrew Cuomo thinks that preventing his own administration from being investigated for corruption is the same thing as if the press had taken a prurient interest in his sex life. The possibility that he or someone in his administration might be indicted for obstruction of justice or witness tampering is just negativity, man. Chill out! They’d be mad if I fucked an intern so I might as well screw the whole state, lulz.


Voting day is Tuesday, November 4. Polls open 6am -9pm. Find your polling place here.

Affirmative Consent Comes to New York

Posted in Editorials on October 9th, 2014
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I’ve got to give credit where credit is due, and therefore I am very happy and proud to learn that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has instructed the State University of New York (SUNY) to make affirmative consent the standard on all 63 of its campuses.

“Consent is clear, knowing and voluntary,” the SUNY rules will say. “Consent is active, not passive.

“Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent.”

Consent need not be verbal, but it must be unambiguous and mutual. “Consent to any one form of sexual activity cannot automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual activity,” the rules will say.

An alumna of a SUNY school, I’ve written before about my perceptions of sexual assault on campus and how among my group of friends it was considered something to be expected that was our responsibility to avoid. When I was seventeen years old, I had no concept that rape culture was something that could be changed or fought against. But with time I realized that point of view was flawed – individuals have a choice to commit sexual violence or not and there’s nothing inevitable about it at all. So I’m very glad to see this change being made.

Not everyone is happy about the new rules, however. Cathy Young at Newsday writes:

No court would treat incapacitation, or submission to an explicit or implied threat, as consent.

She couldn’t be more wrong. In the most high profile example of this in recent memory, a woman who was both incapacitated by alcohol and under the implied threat of force from two armed police officers was raped in her own apartment and the men who raped her were acquitted.

Affirmative consent standards target far more ambiguous incidents in which one person initiates or escalates sexual activity in a consensual situation and the other person goes along — possibly because she or he feels pressured and doesn’t have the nerve to say no. But surely equating such experiences with rape is insulting to victims who are actually forced to have sex against their will — and generally to women, who are presumed under the new standard of being incapable of saying no to unwanted sex.

Young contradicts herself here. A person who feels pressured and cannot say no is being coerced, is being threatened implicitly.

And she falls into the trap that so many do. It’s not that people who support affirmative consent standards don’t think women are incapable of saying no. It’s that we don’t think they should have to. Here’s Twisty Faster who explained it all brilliantly:

Although this condition does not obtain with regard to any other crime you can think of, when it comes to rape, women are currently considered to exist in a state of perpetual “yes!”. This is because “yes!” is consistent with global accords governing fair use of women. Victims of robbery or attempted murder don’t have to prove that they said no to being robbed or murdered; the presumption is that not even women would consent to being killed. But because penetration by males is what women are for, if we are raped we have to prove not just that we didn’t say yes, which is impossible to prove, but that we specifically and emphatically said no, which is also impossible to prove.

Thus the need for an affirmative consent standard:

My wacky consent scheme flips it around. According to my scheme, women would abide in a persistent legal condition of not having given consent to sex.

Women can still have all the hetero-sex they want; if they adjudge that their dude hasn’t raped them, all they have to do is not call the cops.

It’s not that I don’t think women can say no. It’s that our partners should want us to say yes.

For further reading: Affirmative Consent As A Legal Standard,
On Deciding What Counts: Elizabeth Ellen and What Makes A Victim
, Our horrible consent culture is a tax on women

Komen isn’t the only hypocrite about breast cancer.

Posted in Editorials on October 8th, 2014
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So right now the internet is awash with the irony that is the pink drill bit that the Susan G Komen foundation is hyping to promote breast cancer awareness. They painted a fracking tool pink to raise awareness about a disease that is caused by fracking. Because this is the world that we live in today.

Just as the pro life movement doesn’t seem to care about the impact of pollution on fetuses, it seems like many aspects of the Breast Cancer Awareness movement make hypocritical mistakes. Until this year, Avon, which sponsors a walk for breast cancer, also sold cosmetics laden with carcinogens. They agreed to make their products safer in April 2014. Right now, the campaign for safe cosmetics is pressuring Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Cover Girl, Max Factor, Olay, and Pantene to do the same for their products.

I’m glad that corporations want to give to charitable causes. But it’s hard to take them seriously when they are claiming to try and solve a problem they had a direct impact in creating without first doing as much as they can to stop filling our bodies and our environment with carcinogens.

Related Post: I Speak For The Lorax

Stop Talking About #GamerGate Like It’s Real.

Posted in Editorials on October 8th, 2014
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Background reading in case you haven’t been paying attention:

Attacks on women in gaming are so obviously not about ethics, but about misogyny
by Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon

We must dissent: Intel bows to GamerGate campaign to silence feminist video game critics
by Katherine Cross at Feministing

All caught up? Good.

I’ve been thinking about Intel’s decision to pull ads from gaming site Gamasutra. Intel is not a cable news anchor who thinks 4chan is a person. According to Wikipedia, Intel is one of the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip makers, based on revenue. People who work there understand what’s happening here. They can see the AstroTurf and false flags.

So that leaves us with a few options:

1. Intel didn’t know that it was a manufactured controversy or didn’t care and was swayed by the arguments.

2. Intel didn’t care about the arguments and was worried about bad publicity. In other words, they’re afraid of 4chan.

3. Intel knows that it’s not a real grassroots campaign, but agrees with the arguments anyway.

From the apology they issued soon after pulling their ads, all signs point to #2.

“We recognize that our action inadvertently created a perception that we are somehow taking sides in an increasingly bitter debate in the gaming community,” Intel wrote. “That was not our intent, and that is not the case. When it comes to our support of equality and women, we want to be very clear: Intel believes men and women should be treated the same.

“And, diversity is an integral part of our corporate strategy and vision with commitments to improve the diversity of our workforce,” Intel continued. “And while we respect the right of individuals to have their personal beliefs and values, Intel does not support any organization or movement that discriminates against women. We apologize and we are deeply sorry if we offended anyone.”

Oh ok, so a bunch of bullies convinced a giant corporation to drop some ads. I suppose that’s newsworthy.

But that’s not how the narrative is being told. Gaming journalists are still talking about #GamerGate like it’s a real thing and not a bullying campaign from the bowels of the internet. This is disingenuous at best, and misogynistic bullshit at worst.

The idea that corporations or journalists should need to expend any special effort to avoid “taking sides in an increasingly bitter debate” is ludicrous when you realize that there aren’t two sides here. There’s a bunch of trolls who are mad at a woman they don’t know for things that allegedly happened her private sex life as told by a vindictive ex-boyfriend so they’re throwing a temper tantrum on the internet. And there’s women who work in gaming and play video games who don’t want to be harassed. If you see these sides as at all equal, you are deficient in your logic or your morals. Or you’re just lying.