How Malaysian Geek Communities Fail

This post (trigger warning: descriptions of rape, sexual assault, victim-blaming, emotional abuse, sexual harassment and plain old harassment) crossed my timeline, some time ago. I’m not going to lie — reading the post upset me, mostly because it should have never happened. But it did, and gaming, especially tabletop gaming, has a major problem that it needed to confront.

So I decided to post the blog entry to a Facebook group that I frequented — that, from what I understood, represented a good slice of the local tabletop and board-gaming scene in Kuala Lumpur. I had plenty of reasons why I wanted to post in it — but mostly because I felt it was important. Malaysian gamers — already a tiny, insular minority — needed to understand the stakes, especially when the abuse extends beyond the gaming space and into creator space.

We need to understand the stakes, despite the fact that much of the Malaysian gaming community is so deeply Westernized, and exists mostly as an adjunct to the Western / American market. We do still play a role, because tabletop is — by necessity — a social activity, with real consequences, and we need to be aware of what we endorse. It’s not just about sexism and misogyny, but  also a whole other host of problems, including racism and ableism.

After all, gamers fancy themselves as educated, rational and non-conforming. Why should we be led by power like sheep, behaving irrationally to uphold an out-of-date, regressive ideology, when we so loudly advertise our intellect and our special-ness? We’re supposed to be smarter than that.

But as the conversation sparked and got progressively worse, I realised that gamers, like many people in my life who are educated and fancy themselves as more progressive and more “advanced” than the hoi polloi, were just as bigoted and ignorant as “mundanes” — people too stupid or lacking in patience to appreciate “real” gaming.

And I admit, as much as I yearned to be a part of a larger community that now dates itself over thirty years, what I saw often left me cold and, frankly, deeply unhappy. This source of unhappiness had begun with science fiction, and spread slowly through a lot of the geek avocations I had grown up with and loved, at times fiercely. It was me yearning to belong, yet seeing the same horrible abusive behaviours that I had seen among the “mundanes”.

I was falling out of love with the geekdom I grew up with, even though I didn’t want to. I then decided to post @latining’s story as a litmus test to see the heart of Malaysian tabletop gaming because I needed to make a (critical) decision: to stay within the community I once considered myself a part of, or to look somewhere else. The one thing stopping me was the dread I felt from resulting conversation, which I feared would fill me with anger, sadness and despair.

I left in the end, and that decision hurt. But I learned a lot from it, about lessons I had learned over a decade ago, about how we managed group identity, and how groups who perceive themselves as maligned reinforce dangerous, self-destructive norms, often times without knowing it.

A caveat: I’m not trained in sociology and psychology: my major was in IT, so my understanding of it all will likely be amateurish at best. What I do want to talk about is how our groups fail us, what that failure looks like, and maybe, how it could be prevented. I also want to talk about when exactly the efforts of people who identify themselves as allies are most useful at, and where they aren’t useful at all, even counterproductive. I also want to talk about how shifting these self-destructive norms involves a lot of conflict, and how hard and painful it can be, and yet how important it is that they need to be done.

I had posted the article on a Malaysian gaming group I was a member, to start that conversation. A part of me dreaded what the response would be, but I reasoned, if the conversation went south, then at least I could leave. It went as well as you’d expect it to. To some degree, with some very notable exceptions, I felt sympathy and sadness as I was wading into this conversation, because so much of what was happening was unconscious.

I need to be very clear that excerpts of the conversations I’ll be sharing may be triggering, as it contains elements of gas-lighting, emotional abuse, rape apology, and the dismissal and blaming of victims of rape and sexual assault. Names have been anonymized, because as horrible as some of the opinions that were expressed, and no matter how upset I got, I did not want to “out” them.

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What is Intersectionality? Amende “intersectionality” ni?

Recently we see the word “intersectional” being thrown around in relation to feminism: “intersectional feminism” for example. The idea is that feminism also takes into consideration other issues, and nothing is a single-issue problem. So when you talk about gender, you also talk about how race factors into the problem. When you talk about race, you also talk about how religion or class contribute.

But what is it? Where does this term come from? Why are we suddenly using it? Continue reading

Di mana doktor wanita di dewan bersalin?

Oleh Dr. Maimuna Mohamed Amin

Seorang suami meroyan doktor bukan muhrim melihat aurat isterinya yang bersalin.

Sejak kebelakangan ini saya perasan ramai kaum Adam tidak berpuas hati dengan pihak Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia (KKM) mengenai status doktor lelaki dibenarkan menceburi bidang Obstetrik dan Ginekologi (O&G) dan doktor wanita tidak cukup di hospital-hospital kerajaan dalam bahagian kepakaran wanita.

Tidakkah anda tidak pelik mengapa tidak ramai wanita di kalangan bidang perubatan memilih O&G sebagai kepakaran mereka? Adakah anda pasti pihak hospital menipu mengatakan bahawa doktor wanita tidak mencukupi di dalam dewan bersalin? Pernahkah anda berjumpa dengan mana-mana doktor wanita dalam bidang kepakaran wanita dan bertanyakan bagaimana harinya berlalu?

Ya benar, memang ramai doktor perempuan sekarang. Tetapi tahukah anda ada berapa banyak jabatan dalam setiap hospital yang memerlukan doktor?

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Agensi Wanita Bertudung dan Tidak Bertudung

Saya tertarik dengan isu tudung baru-baru ini yang sedang hangat di kalangan para wanita Malaysia, terutamanya yang mendukung fahaman feminisme. Bukan sahaja kerana tajuk ini menarik dan topikal, tetapi kerana soal tudung ini juga secara tidak langsung melibatkan saya, walaupun saya tidak bertudung.

Ramai yang tahu, bahawa di Malaysia secara amnya wujud suatu binari wanita. Binari ini bergantung kepada lensa anda, sama ada lensa konservatif di mana binarinya adalah mulia/tidak mulia, ataupun lensa progresif (moden/bukan moden).

Akan tetapi, di tengah-tengah perbualan yang hangat ini, tiada sesiapa pun yang membuat ulasan tentang kepentingan interseksionaliti, sehinggalah Saudari Aisha Adam menyebutkan tentang betapa pentingnya kita sedar akan hakikat bahawa setiap wanita berhak memilih gaya hidup dan penampilan masing-masing dan perlunya kita menghormati pilihan itu sama ada kita setuju mahupun tidak.

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Traitors: How Privileged Allies Failed Sabahans During The Kinabalu Earthquake

Before we begin, a moment of silence for the dead.

Nineteen people. Of five different nationalities. Six of the dead included children from Singapore, who no doubt treated this excursion as an exciting, if daring, adventure the way kids under the age of 12 often do. Four of them were experienced mountain staff, who had given their lives to make sure that the people who were under their care were as safe and happy as they could be. They are remembered fondly, not only by their families, but also by the many people who they have helped ascend Mt. Kinabalu.

But perhaps none of that matters to you. None of those deaths matter, nor the livelihoods of those that depend on the mountain and the facilities around it. Maybe the damage to infrastructure on Kinabalu is not a big deal. Or the schools and facilities around the region. Not a big deal. Not important enough.

Certainly not important enough for the international news, right? Because that’s what you recall hearing1: a Government Minister of Muslim-Majority2 Malaysia “blaming” the earthquake on “angry spirits”. Never mind that fellow Sabahans have pointed out that he was speaking as a man dealing with a massive tragedy, and that sometimes, you know, when people hurt, they tend to blame anything: the supernatural, in this case.

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