“Intimates”, sexualization and actual intimacy

Sociological Images has done good writing before on how when companies make gendered versions of a product, that is, one for men and one for women, they tend to assume the male version is functional but the women’s version is sexual. A friend of mine pointed out today that the women’s underwear at Target is listed as “intimates”; they were looking for underwear and felt uncomfortable with the idea that underwear has to be “intimate”: maybe they didn’t want to do anything sexual in their underwear, or maybe they just wanted functional underclothes.

target

“Intimates”, of course, also includes teddies and a handful of bustiers and corsets, a sort of sexy middle ground between sleepwear and underwear, clothes that are really only meant to be sexual. (In fact, the “unsexy” underwear, such as sports bras, gets relegated to the “athletic wear” section.) This doesn’t exist for men except in a few specific concepts, many of which are coded as gay, and none of which are sold at Target.

The idea that all of womens’ underwear is “intimate” leads to some practical problems– the fact that one can’t find a multipack of breathable cotton underpants in black that won’t visibly stain if your tampon or pad leaks is one of them. Another is the prevalence of “sexy” unbreathable underwear that can lead to yeast infections.

The big thing I’m thinking about here, though, is socialization, and the word “intimates” being a descriptor for all of women’s underwear sexualizes the female body; it implies that our underwear is primarily there to be titillating (presumably for men), not to, you know, cover our butts/pelvis and/or stabilize our breasts. But the word “intimate” being used for a sexualized consumer product is also a part the way we socially construct relationships; “intimate” can mean a lot of different kinds of closeness but this connects it specifically to romantic or sexual relationships.

This societal prioritization of sexual and romantic relationships, and the presumption of heterosexuality in them, can really skew our priorities It ends up looking “weird” when people choose to have their most important relationships be with friends or family members and not romantic and sexual partners. It marginalizes asexuals and aromantics. It exacerbates societal problems that already exist around friendships, especially among men.

I’m obviously not saying that Target has some hidden agenda in calling women’s underwear “intimate”, but the social narrative that defaults the word “intimacy” to “sex” is one that dismisses other kinds of intimacy, and the coding of all womens’ underwear as titillating or sexual not only makes it harder to find more functional underwear but also contributes to the sexualization and objectification of all womens’ bodies; it would never explicitly put a sign on a woman that says “this, too, is for consumption”, but it helps people come to that conclusion on their own.

I loved this bit of linguistic worldbuilding on pronouns from Rachel Hartman’s Shadow Scale:

Abdo gave me the expected fish-eye, but for an unexpected reason: Wrong gender. You use cosmic neuter for a stranger.

I glanced at Rodya; he leaned to one side and spat on the ground. He’s not a stranger anymore. If ever anyone embodied naive masculine, surely Rodya—

You use cosmic neuter for a stranger, Abdo insisted. And he’s a stranger until you’ve asked “How may I pronoun you?”

But you told me cosmic neuter was the gender of gods and eggplant, I protested, unsure why I was arguing with a native speaker about his own language.

People may choose it, said Abdo. But it’s polite for strangers. You may be almost sure he’s not an eggplant, but he might still be some agent of the gods.

Shadow Scale is the sequel to the wonderful Seraphina.

orcwanker is live

I finally got my random creative swear generator website up and running. My favorite thing it’s come up with so far has been “jizzzebra”.

Feel free to add word suggestions in the comments; I’m trying to avoid slurs or any word-ingredients that might add up to slurs, so please also let me know if I missed something and one of the results was offensive and I’ll rework it.

the Owen/Aurini split and the inability of the manosphere to deal with criticism

I want to make sure that we aren’t so busy laughing at the Jordan Owen/Davis Aurini split that we miss a particularly interesting bit of that narrative.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this, let me give you a quick overview: Davis Aurini is a misogynist, racist jackass and Jordan Owen is a misogynist who really loves porn; both have YouTube channels where they talk about their obsessions. They decided to make a “documentary” about how terrible feminist games critic Anita Sarkeesian is and a bunch of virulently misogynistic nerds lined up to throw money at them. Last week, Owen fired Aurini, who came out, guns blazing, to yell about how terrible Owen is, and managed to be such a creepy dick about the whole thing that he actually made Owen look halfway decent, which is saying a lot, because Owen’s a weirdo turd.

Anyway, this team breakup was over Roosh V, a star of the extremely creepy pick up artist community and admitted rapist; Owen criticized him in a way Aurini didn’t like and refused to delete the videos and apologize.

There’s a narrative I’ve seen a lot from people who are mad about Anita Sarkeesian, whether those people are GamerGaters, Men’s Rights Activists or members of some other hate group, and that is that they fundamentally don’t understand criticism. I’ve talked about a bit this before, and I noticed that some of the comments that post got on Tumblr was from GamerGaters who were convinced that Sarkeesian was a hypocrite because she criticized games created by women; she even criticized works by people she talks to and works with.

It’s this fundamental thing that says that any criticism of anything means, basically, “THIS IS TRASH, THROW IT OUT”, no matter what it’s accompanied by. Sarkeesian explains this in her very first video, but I’m guessing actually listening to her is out of the question for these people. This has been happening since long before gaming; when Carolyn Petit gave Grand Theft Auto V a 9/10 but commented on the sexism in it, she was inundated with abuse and calls for her to be fired.

It’s interesting to see that this inability for this group of people to actually disagree with each other sans pitchforks and torches ends up applying in group as well as outside of it, and that they are just as unable to be politic about their fellows happening to be less OK with rapists than they expected as they are about people saying that maybe there are some problems with video games.

It gives me a bit of hope to think that maybe this will lead to all of these hate groups turn on each other and self-destruct, but after sort of vaguely following the manosphere for a few years, it seems like these splits just make them create their own spinoff websites and declare themselves Different From Those Other Misogynists. Still, maybe the time it’ll take for each little faction to set up their own website will take away a bit of their attention from woman-hating, and if they keep splitting up regularly maybe they’ll all hate each other too much to be able to organize any harassment campaigns. I won’t hold my breath, but surely it’s worth crossing my fingers. After all, with how few GamerGaters there actually are, it only has to happen a few hundred more times for none of them to be able to stomach talking to each other!

Goat Simulator: the best destructive sandbox of all time

Let’s not lie about this, okay? The most fun part of building sandcastles and playing with blocks is knocking everything down. The button that blows everything up is the best part about KidPix. Driving around in places you shouldn’t drive in and seeing what stuff you can break is the best part of Grand Theft Auto and Saint’s Row. Burning everything down is the best part of the Sims. I could go on.

Goat Simulator is better than all of these games, and is likely to be the best sandbox-where-you-can-fuck-shit-up game of all time, for one simple reason: it is about goats.

My goat ruins dinner.

My goat ruins dinner.

The most fun way to play games where you can destroy things is to play chaotic neutral, that is, according to whim without regard for any kind of morality. It’s really hard to do this, in my experience, when playing any kind of human character, because no matter how cool the structure looks blowing up, it’s hard to conscious exploding up an orphanage, even a virtual one. It’s hard to not play human characters like they’re at least somewhat human, so we still tend to make relatively human decisions when we play games like Grand Theft Auto or Saint’s Row.

Goat Simulator is better at this thing all these games are trying to do than any of them are, because you literally are doing nothing else. You are running around wrecking shit and becoming Goat God and flying on jetpacks because why the fuck not. Yeah, sure, Saint’s Row lets you become an old-school, laughable Batman villain, wrecking everything for the sake of it while dressing ridiculously and somehow maintaining a plotline. But they all fall down on one fundamental front, and that is that the unrealistically “evil for the sake of it” villains you can play in games like Saint’s Row, the rugged morally grey jackass protags of GTA and even the many varied types of protagonists one can create and even roleplay in games like the Elder Scrolls titles are not ultimate agents of uncaring (but not evil) destruction.

They are not, and never will be, goats.

My goat stands in the remains of a wrecked gas station.

My goat stands in the remains of a wrecked gas station.

Goats are not restricted by human morality. Crashing into a party onto a jetpack and setting oneself and half the guests on fire is not done with malice when it is done by the protagonist-goat of Goat Simulator; it is simply what one does as a goat who has been granted the powers of flight. And that is basically what Goat Simulator does: it sets up a bunch of amusing situations to run around in and destroy and then it allows you to choose between a bunch of goat superpowers, which you get in addition to general indestructibility and an incredibly long tongue that sticks to everything.

Goat Simulator manages to combine the best part of open-world sandbox games with the absurdity and destruction that previously we were only able to get in Katamari Damacy, and it does so in a way that even Katamari didn’t manage: it does it without forcing you towards any particular goal. There’s no ruling the city, no making the biggest katamari possible, no end goal other than “be a goat; fuck shit up”. The achievement system, the level design full of what would be called easter eggs if they didn’t make up a significant portion of the game’s content, the workshop creations of the community: that’s all gravy on top of what is a pure, morality-free tribute to the human urge towards destruction. And that’s beautiful.

(This post is adapted from a metafilter comment)

The View From Thedas: the Relative Unimportance of the Warden

“The View from Thedas” is a series of shorter posts about Bioware’s series of Dragon Age video games; the rest of my Dragon Age posts can be found here. This post contains spoilers for Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II and some small ones about Inquisition.

My favorite detail about the Dragon Age universe right now is that by the time Inquisition rolls around, the hero of the first game (the Warden/Hero of Ferelden) is pretty unimportant.

Almost every mainstream RPG makes it feel like the protagonist’s actions will save the world and without them everyone is doomed. It certainly feels, in Dragon Age: Origins, like your actions matter. But I really enjoy how small-time the Warden seems by the time you get to the end of the series. Being the Hero of Ferelden is a big deal in Ferelden itself, but once you’re seeing the world through the eyes of Inquisition’s Herald, it feels a bit like the protagonist of Origins is the hero of some backwater. It’s like being the Hero of Southeast Iowa or something, except it has a global reputation for being dirty and smelling like wet dog.

I love this. I love that the character you spent hours in the shoes of is, several games later, a historical side note; they’re likely just well-connected footnotes in the stories of Leliana and Flemeth.

It’s an interesting comparison to Hawke, who ends up being a lot more notable because they end up basically failing to stop all of the disasters that happen throughout Dragon Age II; they’re important because they’re Varric’s companion and he’s the one writing everything down, because they were there when Anders managed to set off the mage rebellion that sets the events of Inquisition in motion, and because they end up being improbably well-connected, which is sort of a side effect of the narrative style in which you have to do a lot of worldbuilding and narrative setup through the eyes of a single first-person protagonist. Hawke is, arguably, more historically important to Thedas because they failed to stop all of these problems, so their story gets to continue.

The Warden managed to stop the Blight before it managed to get out of the borders of the dog-smelling country people don’t really care a lot about internationally. That’s a lot less historically relevant than the combination of failing to stop a rebellion, letting the chaos-causing red lyrium out of the Deep Roads to fuck everything up on the surface, befriending Prince Sebastian before he got all weird about conquering Kirkwall*, and everything else that Hawke accidentally set in motion or was present for. It’s also been really fun putting together everything that was happening during Origins, since you see some of that in DA2 but they really have to flesh out what was happening in the rest of the world during that time.

*apparently this is different depending on what you did to Anders in DAII, but I can’t bring myself to kill him

5 tips for taking care of introverts

Many non-introverts have a hard time imagining what it’s like to be an introvert, but it’s actually quite easy to keep us happy by keeping a few things in mind. Introverts can make wonderful social companions if you just know how to treat them with consideration, kindness, and black magic.

  1. Give them space to recover social energy. Gifts of real estate, scrolls of Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion or other ways to conjure comfortable transdimensional spaces, island nations and planets all are great ways to give introverts space.
  2. Never surprise them with sudden attention from strangers, such as the thing at restaurants where the staff sings “Happy Birthday”. If someone you are inviting to a social gathering with an introvert might do something like this, take them aside first and tell them that you have the means to kill them quietly and that no one will ever find the body. They will not be your first kill.
  3. Figure out how they recover energy. Sure, many introverts do need alone time and space in order to recover from social situations, but many of us have other ways we can stretch our energy out or even recoup what social situations have made us lose. A few minutes with a favorite book or a pet can do wonders for some introverts; many of us also also can recover energy from a refreshing bath with lemongrass and the blood of those who have wronged us.
  4. Don’t make them do small talk. Many introverts are very bad at small talk, so try jumping straight into the interesting topics, like what happened at the last coven meeting and the best ways to kill, cook and eat extroverts.
  5. Allow them to communicate on their own terms. Many introverts dislike phone conversations in particular and prefer to converse through e-mail, text message, semaphore, ghost messengers, carrier pigeons, animal entrails or instant messenger programs. Many of us feel better communicating through mediums that allow us time to compose our thoughts and don’t put us on the spot to answer immediately.

“That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always angry.”

I’ve been invoking the iconic “I’m always angry” Hulk line from Avengers a lot lately.

Part of it is me being ironic, because of how bad Avengers was, feminism-wise, and how Joss Whedon is a shitty feminist; I have a lot of really complicated feelings about Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe that currently are taking the form of several unreadable word garbage messes in my Drafts folder, but damn, that line.

I spend a lot of time angry because I live in a demonstratively shitty society that is set up to fuck over a lot of people. I’m relatively privileged; I only check a handful of the marginalization boxes, but it’s enough to have me pissed as hell, and I still want to bring attention to the stuff that isn’t in my marginalization bailiwick because I think that’s the decent thing to do.

I don’t have anyone guiding me on how to use it, so I’m figuring it out myself. A lot of people take issue with a woman speaking loudly and swearing a lot and being willing to call bullshit; tone policing is a classic misogynistic tactic, and attacking people who are angry is a pretty easy way to attempt to preserve the status quo, since it tends to be the people who are being fucked over who are interested in changing it. (I’m one of the fairly privileged ones on this issue: there are some really vicious, awful racial stereotypes regarding the anger of people of color, especially women, additionally, many women of many racial/ethnic backgrounds who are less gender conforming than me also face both invalidation of their anger and their identity is used as an attack against women who express anger, as in the case of the “feminists are all angry lesbians” trope.)

A lot of what living under patriarchy is, for me, is dealing with “I’m always angry”; it’s learning how and when to express that anger and how to deal with it being compounded by misogynists who can’t deal with how I express it. It’s dealing with being told I’m overly angry, harsh, or uncivil; it’s learning how to write productively when I’m seeing red.

It’s always a bit of a relief, for me, to see other women unapologetically displaying anger, especially feminist anger, because the constant invalidation of it that I get from society is really damaging. (Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk is actually way better about this than Bruce Banner is, though going into the details of why is another blog post.) It takes a lot of strength and energy to plow through the society-wide gaslighting that displays itself in ways that vary from the “crazy ex-girlfriend” to the “man-hating angry feminist”. I’m trying to do some of that work, display some of that, and use the energy that I’m getting from it to do something positive, or at least something that might make another pissed off woman somewhere feel less alone; a lot of my interaction online so far has been pointing at things and saying “this is bullshit, and you aren’t the only person who recognizes that it’s bullshit”.

So that’s one of the things I’m hoping to do on barrl, and on the other places you see me online: point out bullshit, laugh at it, rage at it, and avoid the abusive clichés about menstruation, hysteria and mental health. I get the reasons other women have tried to claim “bitch” as a positive thing, but that’s not something that feels right to me, personally. But “I’m always angry” comes a bit closer to expressing a part of my feminism that’s not always easy to explain and that I seem to take a lot of heat for.

 

Mages, social justice, and morality in the Dragon Age series

It’s obligatory, I think, for any fantasy fan who plays video games to do a post about the mages in the Dragon Age series. This post has major spoilers for the story of the first two games, Dragon Age: Origins (DA:O) and Dragon Age 2 (DA2), and some minor ones for the world building revealed in Dragon Age: Inquisition.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dragon Age, it’s a series of roleplaying games (RPGs) in a high fantasy setting. It’s put out by Bioware, a game studio also known for its shooter/RPG space opera series Mass Effect. Bioware games are famous for good writing (most of its dialog and plot would make a totally fun and watchable TV show)  their good characterization, and their embracing of social justice related themes, particularly in their attempts to include people of color and gay/bisexual characters. This hasn’t always been popular, and they don’t always manage to do a good job, but they seem to get a little better in every game.

Though the series’ stories deal with marginalization in a lot of ways (including institutionalized oppression of elves, the plight of refugees fleeing something between a war and a natural disaster, and the split between aristocracy and commoners), the biggest issue that we see is the issue of what to do with mages. In the world of Dragon Age, mages are born with magical power; mages tend to have mage children but they can appear in any bloodline, and they can be extremely dangerous if they aren’t trained. “Mage” is the game’s stand-in for what would be called witches or wizards in stories like Harry Potter; they possess the unique ability to cast magical spells, which are generally used for healing and combat.

A big spiky monster.

A mage that has been possessed by a demon and turned into an abomination; this one is being possessed by a demon of Pride.

Mages have a marginalized status because there are significant institutions in place to impose control on their magic and because they can be a danger to the public if they lose control of their magic. From the way the characters talk about it, mages have to practice serious self-discipline in order to keep themselves from becoming possessed by demons or turning into “abominations”, where a demon takes them over and turns them into rampaging monsters.

The institutions that keep mages “under control” are called Circles of Magi and they seem to vary in the levels of freedom given to the mages in their care. Some act as a sort of magic school that it’s illegal to leave, others are more like prisons. The fact that they’re under the purview of the church, with a sort of order of religious knights (called templars) who act as guards and hunt down all mages outside the Circles, just complicates matters and makes them more problematic. Over the course of the game series you find similar atrocities committed by the templars on their mage charges/prisoners to the ones you see in real world prisons, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

There aren’t really any game mechanics that show that mage player characters have many issues with self control; almost all of the “bad guy” options where you can perform various acts of cruelty and human sacrifice in order to get more powers in the in-game combat system are available to all character classes. This might be an issue of game/story segregation, but it does call into question how easy it is to be possessed; it is entirely possible, given the information you get in the games and the experience of playing them as a mage character, that demon summoning and possession are less a common danger faced by mages and more a last-resort lashing out of an oppressed group without other options, and that the in-game characterization of it is similar to the real-world characterization of rioting by the media and pop culture.

Obviously, mages have unique magical talents available to use when they’re pushed to their limits, but we often see other groups getting access to other, related magical resources. However, the way the game treats mages acts as if they are the only people who have magic available to them. They are the only people with an inborn ability to cast spells, but again and again we see characters who are not mages but who tamper with magic anyway and end up summoning demons, going mad, getting possessed and/or gaining abnormal and uncontrollable magical powers:

  • A warrior protagonist of DA:O is able to desecrate a sacred religious artifact in a way that allows them to draw upon their own life force to damage their enemies, similarly to how mages using forbidden “blood magic” are able to draw from the life of themselves and others
  • Sandal, a savant enchanter of magical items, is a dwarf; dwarves are supposedly resistant to magic and cannot be mages, but exposure to the magical rocks known as lyrium seems to have taken some of his mind and given him the ability to make both items that help the main character and the magical equivalent of small bombs
  • The templars themselves eat lyrium and in using it get special magical powers that allow them to more efficiently hunt rogue mages; this actually induces a lifelong addiction that guarantees that they are unable to leave the order unless they can find a supply of the stuff on the black market, making it a sort of combination of magical amphetamines and the Spice in Frank Herbert’s Dune 
  • Anyone who messes with red lyrium (a corrupt form regular lyrium) gains magical powers and usually goes mad; the main villain of DA2 loses her mind, becomes enraged and starts bringing statues to life for the final battle of the game
  • The heroic warrior order that the protagonist of DA:O belongs to, the Grey Wardens, gain their special powers by drinking the blood of the darkspawn, the monsters whom they are sworn to fight. This is not commonly known by characters in the game because it would likely cause controversy and because it kills a large quantity of the recruits upon ingestion; characters who survive this ritual are generally rendered sterile and have their lifespans significantly reduced. In fact, Wardens generally only live about thirty years after this, and they usually commit suicide by entering darkspawn-infested caverns, choosing to die in combat instead of succumbing to a slow and painful death
  • Protagonist characters of all classes (that is, both combat and magic based characters) playing an optional quest in DA:O are able to “enhance” the powers they received from the blood-drinking ritual; it is clearly stated that the magical research that came up with this ritual was incredibly unethical
  • Probably a lot more I can’t think of right now.

So we have people born with the ability to use and control magic as a subjugated class, but it’s entirely possible for non-mages to seek out and use magical power, and when they do, they seem to lose control of it more often than not.

Additionally, we have the issue of other mages: the nomadic Dalish elves teach their mages through an apprenticeship model, which seems to work most of the time (though the major exception to this did unnaturally extend his lifespan and create werewolves, so the consequences are fairly dire when it fails).

The methods for controlling mages can be particularly horrible: when a Circle mage is deemed unable to control their magic, they can be made Tranquil, which basically makes them soulless automatons with little free will or feeling. The Tranquil make excellent researchers and servants and are used as such; there also has been at least one Templar who uses the fact that they cannot fight back to sexually abuse them. They are basically made into the perfect slaves, and generally end up working for the Circles, so there’s a heavy incentive to create more of them, since they not only reduce the mage-watching workload of the templars but also are free, uncomplaining labor.

There’s an interesting contrast between the Circles and the way the Qunari, a group of giant horned humanoids who mostly follow a highly strict religious code, treat their mages. The Qunari actually sew their mages’ lips together and force them to walk around in a sort of armored cage; they are kept from rebelling or acting against any religious tenants with the use of what looks to be a magic torture wand.

a humanoid grey creature in chains casting a spell

A qunari mage. Note the chains and sewn shut mouth.

Additionally, we hear a lot in the story about Tevinter, where mages rule, strange and horrific experiments give non-mages awful powers, and slavery is commonplace. I don’t doubt that it’s an oppressive, horrible place, and the fact that there’s one major country where slavery is legal creates a huge human (and elf) trafficking problem worldwide. But we don’t know that this is because it’s a magocracy, and both of the main alternatives given– physically restraining and torturing mages or putting them in Circles and turning the dangerous ones (including, often, ones who are merely politically dangerous) into Tranquil slaves– are ugly enough that it seems risking another Tevinter might actually be worth it in order to break that kind of power structure. (The Dalish method is never seriously offered as a mainstream solution; one assumes that no one believes it would scale.)

There’s a couple of ways this seems to relate to the real world, and it asks a lot of questions based on actual social justice issues. First of all, the comparison of the two main ways of “controlling” mages is an interesting one, because it’s clear that no one outside the Qunari would accept the way that they treat their mages. However, they mostly seem fine with the Circles and with Tranquility; Tranquil mages often run public-facing shops, so they aren’t unknown to the general population, and the tight connection between the Circles and religion means that accepting it is a part of their faith. Tranquility– a sort of spiritual lobotomy– unlike the Qunari cage-and-torture method– is sanitary, and the Circles are respectable; the propaganda issued that says that they are necessary is powerful.

I made the connection to riots earlier, but I want to make it clear what exactly I was invoking: in the real world, what is and isn’t called a riot is political and definitively racist; the reactions to Ferguson were characterized as a riot and many people in the media used that as an attempt to add to the racist characterization of Black people as aggressive and out of control. When a mostly white group does the same thing– generally for much more trivial reasons, including sports and pumpkins— it’s not characterized the same way, and it’s not used to make the same assumptions about that group of people.

This is, of course, a part of the narrative in which the actions of individuals who are part of a minority group are taken as representative of the group as a whole, often in a way that misses significant context; it also manages the marginalizing double-whammy of characterizing a group with perfectly justified anger as threateningly angry or aggressive and adds to negative stereotypes about that group as a whole.

I’m not equating these two situations, obviously. Mages aren’t real, Dragon Age is a fantasy video game, and the actual struggles that the definitional issues of what constitutes rioting are not something that those effected by it can make go away by turning their game off. Also, I’m only speaking to the power of these narratives from an outside perspective– I’m white and can’t speak to the experiences of Black people with racism. But these are common narratives in marginalization, and video games are a part of a pop culture narrative that effects how we see them.

There are some pretty clear ways that Bioware is invoking political issues in the Dragon Age series, particularly with its use of terrorism in DA2 and the obvious questions about religion it poses in regards to pretty much every fictional religion in the game. But it’s also bringing up some serious moral issues, and the fact that over the course of the series we find that many of the set-in-stone ideas about history are wrong or misleading makes readings that question the accuracy of the in-game lore potentially quite valid. I’m also hoping that looking critically at the way these stories are shown in the media that we consume might tell us something useful about the culture that produced and consumes these games.

SIDE NOTE: I want to provide some context for what I’m talking about regarding rioting and social narratives, but I’m not qualified to do so (both because it’s not something I feel like I’ve studied enough and because I’m white and so don’t have the specific experience to speak usefully on it anyway). If you want pieces on the subject by people who are way smarter than me, I recommend Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jay Smooth, Austin C. McCoy and Juan Thompson.