The Shame Game

I really hope this doesn’t turn into a tl;dr for some people.  This is something that really hit me hard after the high of PAX and I felt I really needed to get out.

As a female gamer I’m constantly aware of the way women are presented in games.  One of my favorite panels at PAX East 2011 was about the portrayal of women in games, whether it’s as the helpless damsel in distress or the kickass heroine; the taut and toned adventure-seeker or the super-sexy femme fatale.  It was interesting, and brought up a whole lot of food for thought.  The year passed, and then this year’s PAX East got me thinking more, particularly with the aftermath of some photos posted by BioWare.  So many comments came up about how many “fatties” were at the convention, and how all the “fat gamers” needed to get off their asses or at least get a Wii Fit or something.  And it got me thinking more.

I openly admit that I’m overweight.  I’d be lying to myself and doing myself a disservice to say otherwise and pretend I’m someone or something I’m not.  But as an overweight individual I’m subjected to criticisms spoken and unspoken from people I know and people I don’t know.  I can’t eat anything without it looking like something it’s not: if it’s a hamburger, I’m fat so no wonder I’m eating it; if it’s a salad, I must be trying to lose weight.  I can’t ever eat something just because it’s what I feel like eating.  But it’s the way of humans to overthink things, both on their end and on mine, so I try not to let it bother me; I work with my shape, dressing in well-fitting, nicely made clean clothes that compliment how I’m built.  My clothes are neither too tight nor are they overly baggy.  I’m an educated professional, sing well, and have a good sense of humor, and I’m kind and caring.

But from what I see and have experienced in society: I am overweight, so none of those things matter.  I am fat and therefore I should be ashamed.

Here’s the thing: when you’re like me no one listens to anything you say about yourself.  Everything is assumed to be an excuse, and you’re just “not working hard enough” or you just “don’t care enough” to do anything about your situation.  It’s easy to lose weight, so if you’re overweight, you must be lazy, messy, and slovenly.  That I have health issues that screw with my metabolism is just an excuse.  And because I made an excuse, and I am fat, I should be ashamed of myself and who I am.

Maybe I’m just projecting, but sometimes that’s the vibe I get.  And moreover, because I am a fat female gamer, I need to just stop gaming and go to the gym.  Well… here’s the thing.  I admit that I hate exercise; when I did belong to a gym and worked at running, I had to pretend there were zombies after me and I was just using Rule 1: Cardio.  If I want to lose weight I have to obsessively measure and count everything; I have to work out at least five days a week for at least an hour each day, and if I deviate from any of that it undoes days of work in an instant.

I’m going to obsess about food and my body whether I’m dieting/exercising or not.  So I made the decision to live my life; obsessing over every aspect of what I did or didn’t eat did not feel like living, at least not to me.  My medical care professionals have never expressed worry, because my blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, etc. is normal.  It will surprise many people when I say I’m happy with my life.  I’m not skinny; I’m not even average.  I’m plus-sized, but I’m happy with my life and with who I am.  But by some standards I shouldn’t be, nay, I don’t deserve to be.

The point of shaming people is to point out where they are in the wrong so they may feel badly about it and correct their faults, while the shamer feels morally superior.  The issue here is that being overweight isn’t based in morality (unless you belong to some sect, or obscure religion that views eating as a moral/ethical issue).  There seems to be a trend where people believe that shaming oneself or others based on weight will inspire overweight persons to lose weight.

Newsflash: all body shaming does is make people resentful.  When someone told me at a gathering that I “used to look so good, it would be a shame not to get that back,” it didn’t make me want to jump on a treadmill in determination.  It made me angry and resentful that my other good qualities didn’t matter, and all that this person could see was my body.

I try to keep a lighthearted attitude about it most of the time, because I know people will be judgmental, and haters are going to hate (and there’s always at least one hater).  I can’t control that, but I can control my response to that, so I try to keep my responses from sounding too defensive, because that’s what shame intends to do: put you on the defensive, and beat you down until you admit you are wrong and an awful, horrible person.

I don’t subscribe to that philosophy, sorry.  My weight doesn’t determine whether I am a good or bad person.  But the concept that we should think about our weight first and foremost in all things is a hard one to avoid.

But I’m okay with myself.  I’m happy with who I am, and I’m not letting my body image determine whether I’m happy or not.  While this should be an empowering idea, it also scares me because I wonder if there’s something wrong with me.  If I deserve to love myself when I’m fat.  If I should reassess my happiness according to my weight, and the higher my weight, the lower my level of self-love and acceptance should be.

It’s a scary thing.  I should be ecstatic that I love and accept myself as I am.  I’m educated, I’m a professional with a steady job, I maintain a home, and I have family and friends and a handsome Bard who all love me for who I am, curves and all.  Instead I’m wondering if there’s something wrong with me for this, because I’m not beating myself up over everything I ingest, or every minute I don’t spend exercising.

While I work to overcome these feelings, they reared their ugly heads earlier this week and spurred this tirade.  I went to PAX East in costume.  It was my first costume ever, and I put a lot of work into it (pics forthcoming).  I made it into random pictures, and I got into the front row in the Dragon Age panel.  It was awesome!  Then BioWare posted all their pictures from the weekend, and my elation turned to deflation.  The comments some people started posting on the pictures were so rude.  People who didn’t even know the con attendees were commenting on anything from weight to suspected virginity all based on peoples’ weight and appearances, and the fact that they were gamers.

One picture was of the BioWare base, and a comment said, “Look at all the fatties!” That was depressing in and of itself, but then other people liked the comment, and still more chimed in about how the photo didn’t show the buffet, or the cake.  As if we all showed up to BioWare because they offered cake (rather than awesome swag and the chance to talk with our favorite developers).  When someone called another person out on this behavior, another person said that they couldn’t help but comment because seeing so many people [of this size] in one place was “impressive”.  Really sound philosophy there; I’ll be certain to keep that in mind and show myself suitably impressed the next time I’m in a room full of thin to average people.

But that’s the other thing: even average people didn’t escape the slaughter.  There were plenty of average-sized, healthy people who got called ‘fat’.  Two guys who cosplayed different versions of male Hawke were criticized for not having the same muscular physique as the video game character.  Pictures of the Manticore Theatre showed a couple hundred Dragon Age fans packed into one room, and all the comments could say were things about how most of them needed to stop gaming and get off their asses; or they were all musty, smelly people who were probably virgins.  Or the one guy who started off by saying that it was great to love gaming… but if you love it so much you should get a Wii fit and game that way.

One would think from all this that it means gamer must equate to heavy, but the reality is that people weren’t ragging on gamers—just overweight gamers; no one assumed thinner gamers played on the Wii fit prior to every Halo or COD session.  And the shaming moves outside of this community to heavy people anywhere.  It makes me sad, because the whole time I was at PAX I didn’t feel that I or anyone else of my stature was outwardly ridiculed.  I had people stop me and ask to take a picture of me in my costume.  I met the lead writer of my favorite game series, spoke with the creative team, and had them all sign my game.  At PAX itself I was a gamer, like everyone else there.  It was fitting that the convention is called PAX, the Latin word for peace.  But outside of it, there is no peace.  We are ridiculed and shamed and made to question who we are, and whether or not we should accept ourselves.

Since the only control I have is my response, I try to be an agent of positivity and change.  To my pleasant surprise, many others were as well.  I shifted the focus from the amount of heavy people to the fact that it was a large amount of BioWare fans all in one place.  I thanked BioWare for being decent to their fans this weekend, and welcoming us.  In short, PAX East 2012 was one of the best weekends of my life to this point, and I made the conscious decision not to let judgmental haters whom I don’t even know determine how I was going to remember it.

So shame?  It doesn’t work, at least not on me.  When I’m faced with a situation in which shame is a factor, I consciously decide to focus on another aspect, and to continue to love and accept myself and surround myself with the people who love and accept me for who I am rather than what I weigh.  I’m sure I’ll get some haters commenting here, trying to shame me for outing myself, and moreover, accepting myself as heavy person, but hey, this is the internet; I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, and besides, this is my blog and I have control over the admin panel.  You may wish to see that as a further reason to shame me, but I see it as me controlling my responses.  My choice is not to respond, and to continue to be a proud gamer who accepts who she is, regardless of weight.  As a gamer, I can pick and choose my games, and the Shame Game is one I won’t be playing.  And making that choice is one achievement I’m happy to unlock.

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51 comments on “The Shame Game

  1. sometimes, I’m ashamed to call myself a member of the human race. I’d love to meet the people who are so critical – I bet they are so critical because they can’t deal with their own “flaws,” and try to reduce their feelings of anger and resentment by belittling others.

  2. Amen! I really do not understand people who feel good about making other people feel bad. I too am technically overweight (although less so than I was 5 years ago). I DID get a WiiFit, and go to the gym, but that was solely my decision because it makes ME feel good to exercise (I found to my surprise that I do enjoy it). But you will never ever see me obsessing over what I eat. I mean, goodness – I KNOW I eat far too much sugar/soda/processed food/etc. And whether I choose to go to the gym or not go has everything to do with what I want to do and nothing to do with guilt or shame. I would so much rather be friends with an overweight person who loves who they are than a person of any weight who allows the haters to dictate their opinion of themselves! You’re right: haters gonna hate. And that’s their loss, not yours.

  3. Oh sweetie, sweetie sweetie. Someone as intelligent as you should not be letting the comments of forum trolls bother you in the least or give you any cause for introspection.

    I’ve been meaning to do a blog piece on why I won’t create a YouTube account. I have all these game commentators I like and I would love to comment on thier videos to show my respect for what they do but I can’t bring myself to create a YouTube account that would allow me to comment. You want to know why?

    Have you read the comments on YouTube? I would never, in a millions years want to be even remotely associated with the human excrement that trolls the YouTube forums. I won’t even look at the Yahoo forums for the exact same reason.

    Public forums are breeding grounds for malicous, foul cretins that hide safely behind internet anonimity.

    People work out for the wrong reasons. You work out to get healthy. To feel better. No other reason. I haven’t worked out in a couple of months and I can feel the depression tearing into my psyche. I hate working out, but I don’t have health insurance and can’t afford the doctor so I don’t have much choice. I really need to start up again consistantly. I’ll do it when my brain tells me it wants to.

    And you probably don’t want to hear this, but you don’t need to work out for an hour every day. 20-30 minutes of simply walking each day and counting your calories is all you need. You don’t have to eat salads or those crappy rice cakes. You could eat cake if you want to, just don’t eat more than 2200 calories worth. Slow and easy wins this race. I’m not saying this is what you should do, I just needed to dispell the ‘I have to workout for an hour’ myth. A few years back I was well over 200lbs and for the most part I shed the wieght 1/2 hour at a time for over a year.

    If you’re are happy with the way you are then f— everyone else. I think you look great and was hoping you’d post some pics of you and your boo in that costume you created for PAX.

    • Well, it bothered me not so much personally as it did on principle. I’d read an article a few months back about the shaming culture and how skewed it was. And when I saw these strangers shaming other complete strangers based just on their size the principle offended me and I felt the need to at least get my opinion out there.

      It’s troubling in that I say it doesn’t bother me, but if I feel the need to write a nearly 2000 word blog post about it, it clearly does. But I think I need to rely on my intelligence and my understanding of how things really work, rather than the way some twisted trolls think it does 🙂

      Thanks as always for the well thought out feedback. Means a lot 🙂 Pics of myself and Bard in costume loving PAX will be going up this weekend!

    • Yes, YouTube is indeed a place infested with cruel, horrible, weak people who hide behind their keyboards and make decent people question the honor of their entire species. There are also some wonderful people who make excellent content and I blame YouTube for not taking at least a small measure to protect people from harassment and bullying. I’ve had to block over 200 people, obviously that fail-safe doesn’t work.

      I’m average weight and a bit taller but my body and it’s proportions are the most talked about subject on my videos. It’s because I’m a woman and there’s no getting around it. Women aren’t allowed to be anything but beautiful, but if she’s too pretty, she has to be taken down a notch because “she thinks she’s too good for me”. Well, I’d rather be beautiful on the inside any day, I don’t think I could survive being that toxic and jealous of other people.

      I have never set out to hurt anyone’s feelings so I have a hard time understanding the motives behind personally attacking another person. I have to conclude that jealously could be the only motive. If a person thought I was unwatchable or didn’t care about me, they wouldn’t take the time to try to put me down. But, if a person wants what I have, they would try to bring me down to their level. That way, they don’t have to admit they want what I have or try to attain it themselves.

      • Well, I’d rather be beautiful on the inside any day, I don’t think I could survive being that toxic and jealous of other people.”

        AMEN!

        I hear you there. I don’t understand why people set out to purposely hurt people, especially people they don’t even know. What sort of gain is there from that? And how or why does it make them feel better? If I say something that hurts a person I generally feel worse inside than better. The relative anonymity thing seems to be a factor; but then you have to realize that if you personally are a human behind that alias… then so are the people you’re purposefully hurting. Makes me wonder what a lot of these people are like offline.

      • “It’s what people know about themselves inside that makes ’em afraid. ” ~ The Stranger, High Plains Drifter (Clint Eastwood)

        Misery loves company. Low self-esteem. Harboring secret doubts about one’s own adequacy. And, basically, the ingrained need instilled by society for people to feel superior to everyone else in a win at all costs and often at the expense of others culture.

        I suppose we all do it to varying degrees at some (immature) point in our lives. Sometimes it’s righteous or done in retaliation or defense, most of the time it’s self-serving, ignorant and mean spirited.

        The ones posting on YouTube are just un-parented social delinquents without a soul, the only really sad thing here is that a lot of these delinquents are well past puberty and are rapidly running out of excuses for their actus reus. Treat them like their parents have and pay them little mind. Remember;

        “Everywhere I go, there’s always an a–hole.” McCoy, Streets of Fire (1984)

        8)

  4. I admit I’m guilty of chuckling at people who dress up in costumes and attend conventions as their favorite characters :p But oh how I love stumbling across a brilliant cosplay photo of my OWN favorite characters. Guess I want to have my cake and eat it, too!

  5. “People are people, so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully.” — Depeche Mode. That song is a great rallying call for getting everyone to understand that we’re all in this together. Something makes all (or most of us) want to get out of bed every morning; and no matter if we’re overweight, too thin, extremely shy, have anger issues, fear anxiety attacks, or whatever, we have to make the world the best place we can first, for ourselves, and then by extension, everyone else we come into contact with. It is terrible that the internet makes it so very easy for people to express hate and to perpetuate it – even if people are just being trolls for the sake of being trolls – so we (the downtrodden, so to speak), have to take the high road, and you do it so well in your article. I wish more people were trully happy with themselves (I have my own issues but am getting there), because then perhaphs the road to pax wouldn’t be so difficult or seemingly unreachable.

    • Yeah, I know I have my issues; but accepting myself means accepting that those are a part of who I am, and the daily struggles to work with them and overcome them also make me who I am. Like I said to one person, accepting and loving myself doesn’t mean letting myself go and becoming slovenly; it means accepting myself INCLUDING my issues and the work I have to do about them, and doing my best not to let them get me down, and trying to keep making good choices. That may extend to what I eat, but also extends to how I choose to feel.

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  7. “But from what I see and have experienced in society: I am overweight, so none of those things matter. I am fat and therefore I should be ashamed.”

    This is the reason I’m not going to my 20-year class reunion. It won’t matter to anyone that I’m successful and happily married. They’ll just be judging me based on my weight. I’m not going through that. People suck sometimes.

    • Very much so; it’s such a shame that we have to feel this way and miss out on things that could otherwise be fun. I skipped my 10 year high school reunion, and am having some second and third thoughts about my 10 year college reunion this fall. But just maybe their suckage is our empowerment. If all people will see is my weight and not my happiness with my life, they’re not worth my time.

      That said, sometimes I definitely feel like I am trying to convince myself. I’m not deluding myself by any means, but convincing myself to stay positive when surrounded, sometimes almost drowning in negativity, is HARD.

  8. Reading your post, so much of what you say could describe me and my outlook on life/exercise/food/gaming. I am sorry you had moments of doubt because of people who have nothing better to do with their time than hide behind the internet to try to make other people feel bad for being themselves. I would love to cosplay as many different characters from games or movies or shows, but I am so shy I can never quite work myself up to do so. Kudos for having the courage to do so and enjoying yourself immensely! I wish I could have been at Pax and among so many dedicated fans who clearly enjoy something I enjoy as much or more than I do! Thank you for such a well written and thought out piece on such a crazy topic too. If the world had a few more rational people like yourself, well, yeah. You know.

    You are awesome. Keep being you.

    • Thank you so much for that 🙂 I did question my decision to cosplay, but realized I wanted to and nothing should stop me from doing what I wanted. My struggles with weight define me, but they’re only one facet of who I am; the other facets came out far more in my costume making and the fun I had at PAX being there with other people in costume (and getting to meet the DA creative team while in my costume!!). I know people are going to be people, which means a lot of them will speak rudely without thinking of how they’re hurting other peole; haters will be haters, and that sort of thing. But the responses I’m receiving show me that there are far more people out there who agree with what I think, and want to get the word out about it.

      Even if you don’t think you want to cosplay, going to a con like PAX and just being around people who share your love of the game is uplifting. And coming back and sharing that with people who have the love of the game is as well 🙂 I’m glad my sharing could be uplifiting 🙂

    • The stereotype is that people who game are large because that’s ALL they do, which isn’t always the case. For some gamers, yes; for others, no. I don’t recall the last time I sat down at my xbox to play anything; ME3’s been sitting in the wrapper since March 6th because I’ve just been too busy doing other things to play it. I’m very involved in my job, sing with the local choir, and take voice lessons. But all people will see is size or lack thereof and make their judgments based on that. That’s the point I was getting at.

  9. I always remember watching TV with male family members growing up, and hearing their scathing comments about women appearing on screen. They’d criticize everything from hair, to wardrobe, to weight – too skinny, too fat. Then I’d look over at these prime specimens of male humanity, noting their bald spots, giant pot bellies and wrinkles. I decided they were nuts. I think there may even be a DSM IV code, but I haven’t bothered looking. Here’s a link you need to take a look at too, it’s in a similar vein to yours:
    http://queenofspainblog.com/2012/04/09/ashley-judd-thank-you/

    • Yeah, I think gender roles in games are something that everyone is aware of; I didn’t mean to imply that male gamers weren’t aware of it by any means.

  10. I loved this post. Sometimes I get rather down about people in general because they can be so nasty. I like to hope that these do not comprise the majority, and if they do, I’ll pick the minority who accept people as they are, and more than that, who appreciate the qualities of individuals instead of judging their looks. Good for you and I look forward to coming back and seeing your pictures of you in your costume!

    • I’m getting a good laugh at the people who come here, read or don’t read, and completely miss the point or judge based on misconceptions or preconceptions. I’m with you on choosing the minority who decides to see the best in people.

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  12. I am going to finally take the time to post a reply. I both can and can’t believe how viral this post has been going! I can’t respond well because I feel like I’m kind of spent on the topic from my own post (http://mlhawke.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/whyitsimpossibleforcomfort/), but what I can say is that it’s unfortunate that people are missing the purpose. In our personal conversations, we’ve discussed that the purpose isn’t that we are cheerleading for the fact that we are who we are, but the fact that we just don’t want to be judged. No one wants to be judged, and unfortunately, it happens more often than not in the gaming community.

    • Right, it killed me that so many of the nasty comments completely missed the point of what I wrote. So many people accused me of being in denial of my situation, when I think the first line of my second paragraph is “I admit I’m overweight.” And I admit my struggles. It’s just another case of people seeing what they want to see in words as well as in images, and judging based on that; how do you, a random person thousands of miles away whom I’ve never met, KNOW that I DIDN’T do what you’re suggesting I do instead of writing or gaming? I never said I don’t have a problem or I don’t wish I could get up the oomph to do something about it; I did say that I’m not going to let those struggles stop me from living my life, because the struggle is part of my life.

      But we’ve talked about this over and over, and no one who needs to understand the point will; they’ll just keep seeing what they want to. It’s sad, because when you open your eyes? The world is a beautiful place full of people beautiful inside as well as out.

  13. I stumbled upon this through a second share on FB. I really want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the bravery, kindness and good nature you invoke. As a sub genre, gamers really should not be so critical. I became a gamer, because I needed the outlet away from main stream culture that provoked so much shame, doubt, and humility in my personality.

    I never realized in the last few years how much the genre I’ve come to love and commit to would be so hurtful. I realize everyone is entitled to an opinion, but hate is no emotion we need to further spread. There is enough of it in the world.

    Thank you again for this.

    • “I realize everyone is entitled to an opinion, but hate is no emotion we need to further spread. There is enough of it in the world.”

      Well said! I know the internet’s a big place with lots of people, and I got my fair share of nasty comments on this; I chose not to post them, because they’re counter productive to what I wanted to say here. I want to promote positive change, not fertilize a breeding ground for trolls.

    • I just read your blog entry; it was really well-written and said a LOT about the unfortunate nature of things. It’s sad that we’re all geeks/nerds/dorks whathaveyou, and yet we still can’t just get along. Probably because we’re all still human, heh. I looked for a place to leave a comment or subscribe, but couldn’t find one; from what I read, I want to read more! Thanks again 🙂

  14. I feel sorry for the people who don’t have anything better to do than to go online and tear other people down. Good for you for going out and living your life, doing the things you love, and loving yourself while doing them.

  15. Well said. I went to PAX Prime for the first time last year and it was fantastic. I loved how friendly and happy everyone was and the costumes were awesome. If there is one thing that makes me sad, it’s people who postpone happiness. They think they’ll finally be happy when they’re thin/rich/beautiful enough, and then their lives will finally begin. It’s a waste. We all have limited time here, it’s criminal to waste any of it not LIVING. You’ve learned to love and live your life NOW, on your terms. Bravo. The haters should be so lucky. If shaming others is the only way for them to feel good, I feel sorry for them.

    • It’s the carpe diem tradition: we have to grab our moments NOW because the could be gone later. If I decided that I wasn’t going to cosplay this year at PAX East because I was too heavy, and I’d do it next year, I very well could wind up not doing it. The world could end, I could die, I could not afford to go next year… all sorts of what-ifs and uncertainties. You’re absolutely right. If spreading malice online is your way of seizing the day, go for it; who am I to judge? But doing that myself, and feeding into it and letting it rule my life aren’t my way of doing it 🙂

  16. Bravo!
    When faced with people who try to shame me – for being overweight; are we surprised? – I try to feel pity for them instead of shame for myself. How much they must hate themselves, and how misguided their attempt to deflect it onto someone else. It’s not always easy, our first instinct is to defend ourselves, but I strive for that. I think “I’m sorry you’re so unhappy, but you have no right to take it out on me.”

    • Excellent outlook! I just replied to someone else that I usually feel worse about myself if/when I make someone feel bad, so I just don’t understand how someone can derive such pleasure out of being so malicious. I’ve received some nasty comments that I’ve chosen to trash, mostly so I can resist the temptation to defend myself, but also so I can just make this about positive reminders that it’s okay to like… heck, love ourselves regardless of what other people think. Positive reinforcement isn’t always about enabling the bad; it’s celebrating the good to give us that oomph to keep going when the going gets tough. Your outlook is a great one, and I shall try to remember it the next time I start to doubt based on what someone says 🙂

  17. I was sent here from GeekMom. This really hit home for me today. I often go 3-4 months without weighing myself because I obsess over the numbers, this weekend was one of the weekends I weighed myself. Ever since I have been struggling with what the numbers showed, I am plus-sized myself (dare I say Plus-sized Goddess?) and have long struggled with losing, gaining, tightening control of every single thing I eat, only to gain it back when I relax and live a little. I obsessed so much and felt so ashamed all weekend that I lost sight of what is really important, my family, my friends, the things I enjoy. Thank you for posting this and reminding me how to combat those feelings of worthlessness from outside and in. I am resolving to be more positive!

    • I’m so glad it hit home for you. That was why I wanted to write this, not to shame the shamers or hate the haters; but to remind people that there’s more to us than what we do or do not weigh. I’ve been trashing rude comments that miss the point because, simply, they miss the point. And a little positive reinforcement, and a reminder that it’s okay to love ourselves, can be more helpful sometimes than having the flaws continually pointed out. Positive reinforcement isn’t ignoring the flaws; it’s acknowledging the little successes 🙂 Best wishes on being more positive, which is a success in and of itself 🙂

  18. I am starting to think it’s the gaming community. Maybe even the Dragon Age community specifically? I’m just venturing into this online community, and so far I have been driven to tears numerous times simply by reading responses to my comments on the BSN. These people are pointlessly cruel and nasty and love mocking/making fun of what you say/do/apparently also what you look like.

    I’ve never met such hateful and nasty people in real life, so I almost don’t know what to do with myself there. But I have nowhere else to go to talk about Dragon Age since my real life friends are not gamers.

    I may just stick to the Fenris thread, although even there people can sometimes be touchy.

    • Not to toot my horn, but if you’re looking to talk about Dragon Age I have a forum on fanfiction.net. It’s for DA writing, but we do our fair share of general DA discussion as well. It’s got quite a few members, and in the 9 or so months I’ve had it we haven’t had an issue yet. Everyone’s nice and open-minded. Shoot me a message if you want the link, but no obligation, certainly 🙂 I just know I tried the BSN boards and went right back to my little corner of the DA world largely because of what you said.

      I think the relative anonymity of the internet plays a big role in a lot of this. People think they can hide behind a screenname or alias, and with an audience involved, they can say whatever they want with little to no retribution. And even sadder that there are people who spend a large part of their lives doing this. Yes, everyone’s entitled to live their lives, but a life spent hurting others for your own pleasure?

      • I would love the link! I have written a M!Hawke x Fenris fiction and I also entered the recent writing competition (although that story is at fictionpress.com).

    • An open community not promoting hateful messages onto other fans? I just recently joined BSN for ME3 (play DA too) and the elitist attitude is simply overflowing at the site. So often I’m noticing a lack of respect for fellow fans AND the game developers design.

      motomotogirl, I’m really sorry you’ve had to experience something so negative on the game’s actual forum site. It is poor attitudes from fellow gamers that just makes my heart sink and I feel ashamed. I apologize.

      • Yep! We do our best 🙂 It’s funny because there are four mods including myself, but… we’ve never really needed to moderate anything! I think we’ve had a couple trolls, but we don’t feed them, so they slink away. It’s growing steadily, which is nice to see 🙂

  19. I’m glad you had a pleasant experience at PAX (especially considering it was started by people who actually became infamous on the internet for shaming women, yeesh). I attend DragonCon every year since I discovered it (save one–I went to the Browncoat Ball instead that year). I am a less-than-svelte young woman who loves to cosplay. I have never had a negative reaction (in person) to any of my costumes even though my build does not exactly mimic those of the characters I portray.

    Last year, I put together a costume from an independent movie that had come out only months before. At the con I got high-fives and copious praise. The director of the movie was sent a photo of me and posted it on his Twitter which has about a billion followers. Next thing I know it’s all over IHeartChaos and I09 and other geek and pop culture websites and the comments were shockingly cruel. I quickly stopped reading.

    Comic book characters, even when not superheros, always have impossibly perfect physiques. There are almost no characters in film, in graphic novels, and other fiction who have extra body fat. If we (the fans) only dressed like those we resembled in the flesh, we would have about two options. Consider how few minorities are represented in comics and even gaming? I’ve heard the same criticism tossed at those who don’t have a skin color that matches the character they’re portraying. Young black men who are told they “should only dress like Static Shock”!!!

    Thanks for writing this. Please continue cosplaying. I for one love to see my favorite characters (or find out more about characters I don’t recognize).

    • Wow, thanks for sharing that. It must have been horrible to be so excited and get your name and image up to the director… only for the worms to come crawling out of the woodwork. It’s horrible that so many people are instantly cruel rather than realizing how cool it is that the director liked your costume. It’s heartbreaking and such a letdown.

      There was one BioWare picture of two male Hawkes: a rogue and a mage. Both in excellent self-made costumes. And the first and only comment? “They should get someone who has the physique of Hawke instead.” Nevermind that you can customize your Hawke to look however you want! You’re right, comics and games and the like have people of impossibly perfect proportions (it’s even a running joke in Dragon Age: Origins about Wynne’s impossibly perky bosom). If I were to choose a DA character with a closer physique to mine, I’d have the option of… well, if you ask the jerks, Shale the golem. Not that that wouldn’t be a cool costume, it’d be difficult (and HOT) as hell.

      I do intend to continue cosplaying, and will be upgrading my costume in the event I attend PAX Prime. It’s fun for me to do, and I feel like by continuing in spite of the, well, spite, it keeps making me stronger. Thanks so much again for sharing your experiences. Keep it up yourself!! 🙂

  20. Lovely post. Lovely you. All things that need to be said oftener and oftener; the Internets may be a cruel and uncivilised place, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to civilise it!

    Your sharing of the “you used to look so good” incident hit home for me… I’ve thought that about friends of mine, especially when I see old pictures (don’t worry, I’ve NEVER said anything – and, truly, that’s why I signed anonymous here, on the off-chance anyone I know reads this too). Every time I’ve thought it, I feel instantly ashamed for thinking that way. But I’ve been reading more and slowly trying to be wholly of the idea that what matters is good health AND that good health and weight do not necessarily have a direct connection! I’m also noticing that anti-fat prejudice more and more in daily life. O_o

    Writing posts like this can only help to wear that prejudice away.

    • It’s such a difficult area, because we are inundated with it all the time from so many directions, in so many ways both obvious and subversive and insidious. A problem can’t begin to go away until we’re aware it’s a problem; and then it won’t go away just because we’re aware of it, it’s like you’ve said: it’s about slowly becoming aware of things and shifting our ways of thinking. It takes a lot of courage to say what you’ve said and I applaud it! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  21. After reading this, the only people I think should be getting out more are the people sitting at their computers writing nasty comments about others they know nothing about. They’re not out enhancing their lives in any way. I’d definitely say you and other PAX East-goers were the healthier ones. Emotional and social well-being, which, from what you’ve said, seem to have been in abundance at the con, are things that those internet trolls are definitely lacking if they have to resort to such puerile tactics. That’s just as important a part of health as the physical domain (which you also really cannot judge from seeing a photograph and not knowing a person, as you mentioned). So, yes, people are idiots. Do know that you’re miles above them 🙂

    Also, just as a side note, if there was in fact a panel with cake, I really couldn’t judge anyone for being there. What’s life without cake?! I’d totally be there 😉

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