Karen Would Like Your Attention Please

How ‘Karen’ Became a Coronavirus Villain

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, “Karen” has been adopted as a shorthand to call out a vocal minority of middle-aged white women who are opposed to social distancing, out of either ignorance or ruthless self-interest. It’s the latest evolution of a long-standing meme. In The New York Times last year, the writer Sarah Miller described Karens as “the policewomen of all human behavior,” using the example of a suburban white woman who calls the cops on kids’ pool parties. Karens have been mocked for being anti-vaccine and pro–”Can I speak to your manager?” They’re obsessed with banal consumer trends and their personal appearance, and typically criminally misguided, usually loudly and with extreme confidence.

Their defining essence is “entitlement, selfishness, a desire to complain,” according to Heather Suzanne Woods, a meme researcher and professor at Kansas State University. A Karen “demands the world exist according to her standards with little regard for others, and she is willing to risk or demean others to achieve her ends.”

This is a relatively short article, and it’s worth reading to the end. I would say that it goes to a surprising place, but at this point I’m not actually all that surprised to learn that some of the more high-profile Karens on Twitter were manufactured by right-wing content farms.

2020 Writing Log, Part Sixteen

– I posted Chapter 35 of Malice on AO3. I’m glad I gave myself an extra week to edit this chapter and add an additional section. There’s some good character interaction, and I think I was able to clarify and strengthen the central conflict.

– I edited Chapter 33 of Malice and posted it on FFN. Since writing this chapter took forever, I’ve been dragging my feet on putting it through another round of edits, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

– I commissioned Ositia to draw a character sketch of Zelda and Riju from Malice. This artist also created a gorgeous illustration of the canonical characters for a short Breath of the Wild postgame story I wrote called “The Seven Heroines,” which is continued in a two-page comic I worked on with Mjoyart. I’ve written a few short stories about Zelda and Riju being friends, and it’s been a lot of fun to explore their dynamic in greater detail in Malice. What can I say, I am very emotionally invested in gals being pals.

– I commissioned Thousandwrecks to create illustrations of Balthazar and Ceres from The Demon King, and they did an absolutely incredible job. I met this artist at one convention or another in 2015, and I’ve been following them since then. I keep running into them at cons, and I think I must have chatted with them briefly at least once or twice a year. This artist is one of those people who has such good taste that I end up getting into any fandom they create work for, and at any given time I’m probably using about half a dozen of the bookmarks they’ve made. This might be cheating a little, but I put aside some time this week to make one-off bookmark-style prints featuring their gorgeous illustrations of my ridiculous OCs.

– I wrote the first two thirds (probably) of “Don’t Eat the Fish,” the story I’m going to submit to the body horror anthology that I mentioned last week. I’m really enjoying myself! It’s funny, though. Although I would never in a million years use first-person POV in fanfic, I’ve found that a vague Murakami-style first-person “boku” is the easiest voice for me to use in original fiction. It allows me to bypass a lot of issues relating to gender and appearance, to begin with, and the boundaries of the narrator’s subjectivity allow me to impose concrete limits on the range of the content (and the wordcount).

– I finished the first two stories in my next horror fiction zine, which I’ve decided to call “Haunted Houses.” I’m going to save the title “Philadelphia Doesn’t Exist” for a potential fourth zine that I might? write after I actually move to Philadelphia next month.

It Never Happened has done surprisingly well on Etsy, so I reprinted my first horror fiction zine, Ghost Stories. If it doesn’t sell, I can take the leftover copies to Philly Zine Fest, which might?? still be happening in November.

Although who even knows what “November” means at this point. Even though March lasted for roughly five years, I have no idea what happened to the month of April. If I didn’t have a digital log of “active days” on Animal Crossing, I wouldn’t believe that April happened at all. For all I know, November could be three weeks from now. Does time still exist?

Talking to Strangers

Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book, is about why we can’t catch people who are lying and don’t believe people who are telling the truth. Gladwell is very careful to divorce the act of not believing any given person from identity politics. What I believe he’s trying to suggest is that our cognitive failures have more to do with human psychology than the particularities of any given society in any given place at any given time. Moreover, suffering from a critical misunderstanding is something that could happen to any of us, regardless of race or gender.

Malcolm Gladwell makes a strong and convincing argument, because Malcolm Gladwell always makes a strong and convincing argument. Malcolm Gladwell is an excellent writer and very good at the sort of journalism he specializes in.

That being said.

Oh boy.

That being said, it’s a bit disingenuous for Malcolm Gladwell to remove gender from the equation when almost every single example he references involves people either not believing what a woman is telling them or not believing that a woman could be who and what she clearly is.

A clever reader will pick up on this, of course, but it would have been nice for Malcolm Gladwell to include, like, I don’t know. A single footnote? Acknowledging the existence of the incredible amount of research that strongly suggests that gender is a major contributing factor regarding whether or not we believe what someone is saying, especially when all available evidence supports their testimony.

For example, why does no one believe the female victims of sexual assault and abuse, even when the incidents are well-documented and reported by multiple unconnected parties? Is it because of complex psychological reasons, or is it because, I don’t know, women are lying liars who just want attention and will only cause trouble if you take them seriously? I mean, it’s always good to hear the full story and judge these incidents on a case-by-case basis, but it’s also taken for granted as a truism in the LGBTQ+ community (especially transgender and nonbinary communities) that people either start believing you or ignoring you almost immediately after you change your name and gender presentation.

Also, I keep saying this, but it’s not necessarily the case that people don’t believe women, but rather that they don’t care and hope the problem will go away on its own. Based on my own experience, I would say that this is doubly true when it comes to women refusing to act on the testimony of other women, as the credibility of the woman who takes concrete action based on the report will be disbelieved or disregarded by association.

Personally speaking, as someone who is not female but presents as female for the sake of job security in a precarious environment, I have deliberately made myself unavailable to meet with female students whom I’m reasonably certain intend to speak with me about being harassed by a male student or by one of my male colleagues. I know this sounds evil, but listen.

If I can only justifiably report one incident of sexual misconduct or gender-based discrimination in any given academic year, I need to make sure that the case I report is worth it, meaning that the report will add evidence against a serious repeat offender instead of “merely” giving the student a sense of support and closure. Title IX “compliance” offices at American universities need only to “address” an incident on paper, so it’s unlikely that anything will be solved – or even change – for the student who has experienced abuse, harassment, or discrimination. As a result, the only way I can help anyone is by not “wasting” the impact of any given report.

(How did I arrive at this conclusion? Believe me, friend, you do not want to know. Not to mention that no one believed me or cared when I tried to tell the relevant story in any number of informal and professional forums.)

If you’re disgusted by this, you absolutely should be. If you happen to be a cisgender man (of any race, ethnicity, nationality, or sexual identity), you should also take away from this that your privilege gives you an incredible power to do good in the world through allyship and advocacy.

Speaking as someone who is often on the receiving end of not being believed, even with impeccable credentials and a strong and assertive affect, I think all of the reasonable, intelligent, and sane reasons Malcolm Gladwell provides for why we can’t catch people who are lying and why we don’t believe people who are telling the truth apply if and only if gender is not a factor – but let’s be real, gender is absolutely fucking always a factor.

2020 Writing Log, Part Fifteen

– I wrote the first half of Chapter 35 of Malice. It would probably be okay to post where it stands at 2,500 words, but I think it might be worth expanding by another 1,500 words or so. I’ll post it next weekend.

– I wrote a basic outline for the fourth and fifth story arcs. There will be eight chapters in the fourth arc, six chapters in the fifth arc, and a silly glossary with a cute illustration at the end. This will bring the story to an even fifty chapters. I should be done at some point in September if I can keep to schedule.

– I started writing the stories in my third collection of original flash fiction, which is tentatively titled “Haunted Houses.” What I’ve got right now are the stems of fifteen stories that I can work on bit by bit over the next month.

– Although I’d like to believe that the stories in these collections work well on their own as flash fiction, the way I’ve been thinking about them is that they’re seeds that can be planted elsewhere. I want to start contributing to anthologies, but different projects have very different (and very specific) themes and wordcount limits, so it’s easier to pick a story seed and shape it according to the demands of the venue than it is to write a full story and then try to figure out where to place it. This week I started developing a story from the last collection, “Don’t Order the Fish,” for submission to an anthology on body horror.

– (This) is the manuscript format I’m using, if anyone’s interested.

– I took the first baby steps toward putting together my second zine of Legend of Zelda comics!

– I finished writing all the assignments for my online classes. Now all I have to do is grade them. I should be finished with the semester by the end of next week.

I’ve had a rough month – HAVEN’T WE ALL – and I’ve been canceling or declining professional projects instead of trying to negotiate or extend deadlines. Are there immediate and long-term consequences? Sure, but the most important thing is for me to keep my head above water until the tide eventually drags me back to shore.

Desktop Pets

About desktop pets & virtual companions: discussing the inhabitants that fill the void of our digital spaces

I see a strange irony in how people used to say “Don’t download Bonzi Buddy! It’s adware!” when (today) our web and desktop environments are so much worst of a privacy nightmare. Some of our current, completely normalized, practices of user tracking would legitimately qualify as extreme “spyware” back then.

Between the push and pull from platform holders slowly turning the desktop into an environment that only they own, that only things licensed from them can run on, that only things that adhere to their quality guidelines can exist on, that only allows licensed software from certified developers rich enough to pay for that… contrasted against shareware creators making the space interesting with things like desktop pets, experimental software, digital pranks, or parody software… I kind of view creating a desktop pet to inhabit this polarized space as an act of rebellion against that ever impending content monopoly.

The idea of making something that is meant to just simulate an inhabitant in a polarized virtual void is special for how it keeps the dream alive.

I think I might be too young to have any actual memories of desktop pets, but this sounds like a neat subculture from the 1990s. This isn’t what the article is about, but the author mentions how Neopets launched the careers of a lot of young artists and programmers. I thought the culture surrounding Neopets was kind of creepy and ended up on LiveJournal instead (which was totally not creepy, definitely not), and I wonder how much generational overlap there was between the two platforms.

Tokyo’s Underground Cathedral

The Underground Cathedral Protecting Tokyo from Floods

Cecilia Tortajada recalls making her way down a long staircase and into of one of Japan’s engineering marvels, an enormous water tank that crowns Tokyo’s defences against flooding. When she finally reached the tank’s ground, she stood among the dozens of 500-tonne pillars supporting the ceiling. In the cavernous, shrine-like cistern, she felt humbled.

If Japan is a pilgrimage destination for disaster and risk-management experts like her, this is one of its main temples. The floodwater cathedral hidden 22 meters underground is part of the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel (MAOUDC), a 6.3 km long system of tunnels and towering cylindrical chambers that protect North Tokyo from flooding.

I have to admit that, even though I’ve known about this for years, I always assumed it was an urban legend. The way I’ve always heard people refer to this structure is Tōkyō no hashira (the Pillars of Tokyo), which sounds a little like a Legend of Zelda dungeon. It’s wild that this is real, and the photographs in the article are stunning.