An Open Letter to the Internet, Simon Pegg, and His Followers

WARNING: This post contains language. Sorry mum.

I’d like to start with saying I like Simon Pegg. And while my feelings about him wavered, I still do.  When I first read the Storify, my thought was Aw, Simon Pegg, why do you gotta be like that? We had such fun times together, you and I. So many laughs. And then you retweeted me, and then stuff got ugly.

And we’ll get in to that shortly.

I would like to continue laying some foundations to this post by thanking Simon Pegg for this tweet:

Please do not lay into anybody on my behalf. The original tweeter is entirely entitled to her opinion. It’s an interesting debate.

— Simon Pegg (@simonpegg) July 17, 2012

Let it be known, I did not create this Storify. It is clearly by @cnstoker, who I told later I supported because we need to talk about this sort of thing.  As I wanted to share the conversation within the Storify, I retweeted it, thusly:

Turns out @simonpegg can be a bit of an unenlightened jerk > storify.com/cnstoker/cospl… (IMO similar to gizmodo.com/5915473/asus-h…)

I also tweeted these:

It’s an apology! (without an “if/but” too!) twitter.com/simonpegg/stat… Dear @simonpegg, just educate yourself & accept others’ info.

— Emma Jenkin (@indeedemma) July 17, 2012

.@simonpegg assures he did not intend to offend. Posting cosplay women with a drooling sounds was NOT intended to objectify. Lesson learnt.

— Emma Jenkin (@indeedemma) July 17, 2012

Simon Pegg retweeted the first tweet (and only the first tweet), and within seconds my feed was inundated with responses from his followers.

I was called the following things: bigoted, sensitive, pretentious, cupcake, cunt, fucking cunt, douche, dear, jerk, childish, miserable dumb bitch, self righteous guff, giving geeks a bad name, miserable, angry, unenlightened, poser geek, worst type of person, insipid bimbo, stupid, a bell end, a little bit crazy, and perhaps most interestingly, Mrs. Jenkins, which is neither my correct surname nor the appropriate title by which to call me.

And yes, I was told by so many, to get back to making sandwiches.

I watched my screen, physically shaking, and on the verge of tears. I had to get to a meeting almost right away, and told my friend there what had passed in the previous fifteen minutes.

This is how he reacted:

And you know what? I laughed too. I thanked him for making light of the situation. There is such worse going on in my city, and most definitely around the world. Having Simon Pegg’s followers hurl insults at me might be one of the primo #firstworldproblems.

But I agree with Mr. Pegg in that it’s an interesting debate, so let’s get down to it! Did you know what I was really upset about? You know why I called him an unenlightened jerk*? This.

@cnstoker BORING!

— Simon Pegg (@simonpegg) July 17, 2012

(*I apologize for using the word “jerk.” By using an insult, I cannot count myself to be much better than all those strangers who insulted me. However, as far as the complexities of gender relations and how they fit within the geek universe, it appears Simon Pegg, and countless others, could still use some enlightening.)

Calling someone’s points about the alienation women face because of comments like yours “BORING!” is not helpful. It’s not helpful. You have a huge following, and they respect what you have to say.  Go ahead and disagree, and argue the point, but dismiss it? That’s not helpful.

I didn’t make my main issue clear earlier today. Nor did I try to on twitter. Rather than trying to limit logic to 140 characters, I’ve pulled some of the most popular tweet topics I received today here. None of these questions came from Simon Pegg, just some of his millions of followers. So all you who tweeted at me, see if you can find your tweet in the list below!

But they wanted to be sexualized, otherwise why would they dress that way!

Possibly they did. They look very good in those costumes —

-I reiterate, my main issue is with Simon Pegg calling someone’s legitimate complaints about the objectification of women, and the alienation of women from the geek world BORING!  I feel that there are ways to say these women look good in their costumes without drooling, perhaps even addressing their dedication to Star Wars.

But the argument that “If you don’t want to attract negative attention, don’t dress that way” is why things like SlutWalk exist. I am not equating sexual violence with posting a picture of some very accomplished cosplayers, but I am claiming that the belief that dressing a certain way asks for sexual attention, automatically and in every instance, is flawed. Sometimes an individual will present themselves in order to attract sexual attention. But not always.

But men are sexualized too!

Ah, some real meat!

Ok, first of all, Google “False Equivalence.” Or better yet, check this awesome comic by the genius David Willis that makes the points in… comic form.

As for the surprising number of people who told me that because I watched Magic Mike I’m a hypocrite, I should let you know I have not seen Magic Mike. Nor do I plan to. And you know what? That movie, focused on naked writhing men, is still all about men’s sexual dominance.

But Aragorn! And Captain Jack Sparrow! Again, these men are powerful, and main drivers of the plot, not used as decoration. Now, I know, the title of this series is Feminist Frequency, and anything with the word “feminist” can be scary, but you should watch it. The Tropes vs. Woman series in particular is terrific. As a movie buff myself, the video on the Bechdel Test was very enjoyable too.

But Princess Leia is sexual objectification made incarnate! 

So to those who dared question my geek cred, I was raised on Dr. Who and TNG by my parents. I was up before 6am to watch the Dr Who episodes from the first four doctors (#4 is my favourite). My parents let me skip school to watch Episodes IV-VI of Star Wars when they were remastered in theatres. I’m watching Firefly as I write this. I recently rewatched all of Buffy. I can sing along to every word of Once More With Feeling and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog. I could go on. Really, I could.

In fact, I sort of will, and show how Slave Leia is more than mere sexual objectification made incarnate:

The scene opens on Jabba the Hutt’s ship. Princess Leia, stripped to a gold bikini lounges on a dais, a shackle around her neck. She is captive, she is sexualized, a galactic monarch reduced to a slave.

But, as a battle breaks out and escalates on the ship, she strangles Jabba the Hutt with the very chains that made her bonds, single-handedly, to death.

So, you know, there is something to Princess Leia, even golden bikini Princess Leia, beyond her golden-bikini-ness. She can slay villains like the rest of the Rebel Alliance – what a character to embody in cosplay!

It’s odd, isn’t it, that the way people (men and women) try to argue that we’ve reached equality, and we don’t have a need for feminism, is by hurling extremely offensive and harassing messages in an effort to scare someone in to silence.

@TheUnchosen_One @indeedemma @cnstoker Let us prove that geekdom isn’t sexist by harassing women who point out sexism! That’s smart.

— satan.gif (@criticalbrit) July 17, 2012

@indeedemma This is like Anita Sarkeesianall over again. You mean a woman has feelings about what men say about women? ATTACK THE BITCH!

— charlie kelly. (@fairyocarina) July 17, 2012

Simon Pegg, and Simon Pegg’s followers, I would love to debate the role of women in science fiction, and women fans in the geek universe. It should be noted that debates don’t include calling anyone a fucking cunt. And there were those online who acknowledged this. I want to thank those individuals, and all my friends and strangers who offered their support. You really don’t know how important a “Head up, Billy buddy” tweet is. Honestly. Thank you.

@simonpegg @indeedemmaIt’s a shame that a pretty polite disagreement between two people has been taken by others as an excuse for abuse.

— Adam S. Leslie (@adamsleslie) July 17, 2012

@indeedemma I don’t agree with your views, but I don’t agree to people insulting you either. Keep your chin up 🙂

— Baylea Hart (@bayleaisosiris) July 17, 2012

@indeedemma unfortunately some ppl don’t realise every1 allowed an opinion. I’m a fan of his BUT I’m not part of the lynch mob #riseabove x

— Laura (@laura_laxton) July 17, 2012

Ah, another day, another example of how Geek Culture empowers nerdboy entitlement (and fuels misogyny) at the expense of girls and women.

— Kath Halloran (@lifeonqueen) July 17, 2012

So if you’d like to have a mature, informed, debate about women and science fiction, I’d really enjoy it. Be warned, I’ll have my Derailment Bingo Card with me — I’ve already filled it based on arguments from today:

So close! Maybe next time, internet. Maybe next time.

UPDATE:

@indeedemma For the record, I RT’d you because on reflection I somewhat deserved it. Never to get you into bother with knee jerk supporters.

— Simon Pegg (@simonpegg) July 18, 2012

.@simonpegg I believe you! I was tickled pink to see you RTd me, less enthused by the fallout. Hope you had a chance to see my blog. Chums?

— Emma Jenkin (@indeedemma) July 18, 2012

UPDATE:

Stephanie Guthrie and I were on CKUT Montreal this morning to discuss women, the online community, and geek culture. You can listen to it here.
UPDATE:

Simon Pegg himself blogged about the exchange. Blogs are such a good medium through which to elaborate on points, and stretch those literary elbows. While we can certainly put a pin in the whole Leia-gate I’ve still been having such great conversations about geek fandom, the status quo (which is not quo) and all that jazz.  While this is probably the closest I’ll ever get to a celebrity (apart from that time I met Penn Jillette in Las Vegas, because that was awesome), and do wish it hadn’t started in such a rough way, Simon Pegg, I tip my hat to you.

Imagine I’m looking really cool while I do it too, like this:

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