The Diablo 3 Witch Doctor: A Disconcerting Playthrough

This post may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t beaten Diablo 3 on Normal yet, feel free to skip this post.


My first character in Diablo 3was the Witch Doctor, and I defeated Diablo on Normal with her.  The class uses a mixture of crowd control abilities, odd damage spells, pets, and escape tricks in order to confuse and astound foes before killing them off.  I’ve found it fairly slow to get through stuff (til I started using the Rain of Toads rune), but the just plain interesting nature of the class’ spells has kept me clinging to it (I’m level 50 at the time of this post).

Let me preface this by saying that I am a woman that passes as white — white people saying to me, all my life, “You look [like a First Nations person]!” doesn’t count for anything, sorry — and, as such, my observations and opinion will not count for much.  I do not experience racism.  I cannot experience racism — except, maybe, from people that think I’m Not White (because apparently some people look at me and think that?) — and so I do not fully understand and will never understand what a person of colour actually goes through.  My concerns regarding the Witch Doctor should not be taken above those of a person of colour.  If anyone has any links on the subject, please leave them here in comments and I’ll add them to the entry.

As much as I love the Witch Doctor, I can’t help but feel intensely uncomfortable with the way she’s presented.  She is this mysterious, mistrusted, primal woman that the people she initially runs into aren’t quite certain about.  Her ways are alien to them.  Her stance, even when she’s just standing around and waiting for the action to happen, is almost beast-like.  She is tribal.  Her appearance checks off a lot of the “stereotypical person of colour” boxes on that checklist, you know the one, and it’s really troubling.

Her attacks include primal yells, she is a major wise-woman, she does not snark, she takes everything in stride.  She is one of two (maybe three) very obvious (playable) women of colour in the game (I consider the wizard to be Asian, though I could be wrong), and the huge differences between her and every other character in the game are mind-blowingly obvious.

And yet, and yet, and yet…

I find myself calmed by her calm when we rush into battle against impossible odds; she is certain that we will win, even if we couldn’t possibly make it.  I find myself grinning when she counters an ally’s panic with a remark that forces them to shut up and think.  Her philosophy makes sense and is a bright spot in an otherwise dark world.  The Witch Doctor is patient, disciplined, and the perfect individual to stand up against the darkness that threatens to overtake the world of Sanctuary.

I wish that Blizzard had not othered her so much.  I wish that Blizzard had brought her into the world as someone who garnered a hell of a lot of respect (she is from a land that the people of Tristram could never survive in, even), whose magics were feared because of their potency but who was not treated with suspicion at the outset.  I wish that Blizzard had not had her idle stance looking so … the way it is now.  Everyone else can stand upright, why can’t she?

In short:  I love her, I love what the game attempts to do with her, but there are so many uncomfortable bits that I’ve struggled to get her as far as I did.  It’s unfortunate.  She’s a pretty awesome character, but she could be more awesome if she didn’t have such racist bits and bobs attached to her.

A Short Update on M-312

The blogosphere has been alight with activity surrounding Motion 312, and I’m happy to say that the petition against it has managed to break the 6k signatures mark.  The fight isn’t over yet, and it won’t be over for quite a while, so keep circulating the petition and don’t give up.

Check out other blog posts on the issue at DAMMIT JANET!, along with a list of Pro-Choice and Undecided MPs’ e-mail addresses (provided by Laura) in the comments.  Fire some e-mails off if you haven’t already and encourage those undecided MPs to vote NO to Motion 312!

I suggest watching DAMMIT JANET and the blogs on their list for further updates, as they will have a better idea of what’s going on than I will.

While you’re at it, give Irrational Humans by PZ Myers at Free Thought Blogs a read.  It’s a great article.

I will be going back to posting on stuff relating to WoW and Roleplay soon enough, though don’t be surprised if social justice issues like this show up more often.

Feminism is Important

[Trigger Warning for mentions of sexual assault, anti-feminist anything.]

Now, more than ever, Feminism is important.

In the WoW blogosphere, a lot of people have had some pretty terrible opinions about women in gaming and the Feminist movement.  I will not be linking to those terrible opinions here because I do not feel that they deserve the extra bandwidth, and I am quite happy to report that one of those dangerous (yes, dangerous) voices apparently decided to stop blogging because of the backlash that she received.

In the past one-hundred or so years, women in North America have gained the right to vote, own property, and not be treated as chattel by the men in their lives.  We are not out of the woods yet, and we may not be for some time.

I have been told before that I should stay silent, that there is nothing that I can do and that obviously means that I shouldn’t speak up or attempt to do anything at all.  The problem with this viewpoint is that if we remain silent, if we don’t say, “this is not appropriate” and “this is not true”, nothing will happen at all.  A little bit of progress is better than none, and the angrier we are about it, the more likely our voices will be heard.

Before the internet, before WoW and the WoW blogosphere and a certain livejournal community, I thought “Feminism” was a four-letter word.  I wasn’t a feminist!  I thought men and women were equal!  I knew that women were not treated equally to men, deep down, and didn’t start to understand that until high school.

You see, there were debates in one of my high school English classes and one of the subjects that was brought up was, “Are women better off now than in the past?”  I stood for the “No, not outside North America” camp where I wound up with two males defending that viewpoint – the other side was all women – and I did much of the research on the subject.  I learned about the situation women in the Middle East were in, the plight of women in Africa that are dying from AIDs because they can’t get access to condoms that would save their lives (it’s not their place), and on, and on.

I did most of the debating for my side.  I think the males were hoping for an easy mark, but I didn’t care because I had this knowledge and I wanted everyone in class to understand.

I didn’t really start to “get it” until after starting into WoW and discovering WoW communities on Livejournal, which then lead to me finding various social justice communities and bloggers that made me understand that the opinions I had were shitty and dismissive of other people.  In the past three years, I have changed a lot — for the better.  I have a lot more growing to do, a lot of myself to learn to understand and accept.  I still have a ton of baggage from growing up in a society that says that women must fit in this one box and they are not allowed in other boxes, that women are at fault for their own assault if they don’t follow a certain set of rules, and many other troubling things that eat away at you and cause you to lash out at other women because that is what society has trained you to do.

In some ways, I guess I understood that this idea of women only doing certain things was Wrong.  I wanted to be a Paleontologist (until I learned they only made $35,000 per year, and at that time I was made to believe that I had to make $100,000 per year to be able to survive — bullshit), I played with “boy toys” (I was derided constantly as a kid for wanting to play in the sandbox and play with toy cars, Transformers and Ninja Turtles “like a boy”) and constantly tried to tell other kids that there was no such thing.  I only wanted children ’til I was 14 because I didn’t understand what was involved and I thought that was what I was supposed to do.  Once I went through sex education (thank goodness) I realized it was not something I actually wanted, no way, no how, and developed a very strong “DO NOT WANT” feeling in regard to child-rearing, pregnancy and childbirth.  I also understood, vaguely, that sexual assault isn’t the victim’s fault – but it still took me over twenty years to realize that I had been assaulted, myself, regardless of the age of the person that touched me.

Perhaps the groundwork for those changes in view had been laid long ago, subconsciously, and I just didn’t realize it.

The Feminist movement isn’t perfect.  In its current form, its erasure of women of colour is extremely troubling, extremely problematic, extremely wrong; its treatment of trans* individuals as not one of us is extremely wrong.  White women talk over black women when we should be stepping back and letting them talk, because they go through shit we can’t possibly understand because we are white and our capacity for understanding the plight of women of colour is not… quite there, so we have to learn to listen, too.

Even with its imperfections, it is important.

By the way? A trans woman is a woman.  There are no exceptions.  If you identify as a woman, you are a woman, that’s it, case closed.

Apple Cider posted a very important article on the subject of Feminism in light of discussions this week (I use the term “discussion” loosely) that I implore everyone to read.  Do it.  Read it.

Decoding Dragons has a post on Sexism & WoW that’s collected interesting, pro-feminist articles in one spot for easy reading.  Check that out, too, and add Decoding Dragons to your blog roll.

Free Speech as a Tool of Oppression

Whenever I hear the “but what about my free speech?” argument in response to anything at all, I roll my eyes. Warning: incoming abuse of the italics tag. I apologize in advance to any other writers that may be reading this.

You see, “free speech” is the argument often used to defend the use of language that is used to hurt others. “Free speech” is the argument the oppressor uses against the oppressed. “I can say fag if I want to, it’s free speech!” “I can use ‘rape’ in a casual manner, it’s free speech!” “Meanings change all the time!”

The fact is, when you are communicating with other people – people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences, natch – you have to give a damn about their “precious feelings”.

Guys? Words do matter. Words have power. Yes, language evolves, but it’s so gradual that a word that’s offensive now is going to remain offensive for a very long time – and one’s usage of it in a manner that they deem to be inoffensive does not change a thing. Those words are still used to oppress. Those words still have a real, negative impact on people.

I do not understand why people feel the need to defend their use of oppressive language. I do not understand why it is so necessary, in the minds of some individuals, to continue to use “gay” as a pejorative for “stupid” under the guise of “free speech” (which they obviously do not understand) – when it takes so little effort to use a different word instead of the one that oppresses.

When an individual rails against “political correctness”, all they are doing is making a big display of what an asshole they are. Congratulations, you do not care about other people, you are not the type of person that I want to engage with. You are the type of person that is going to laugh at me when I tell you that I do not appreciate you using “fag” to describe some random person that cut you off on your way to work, a word that is used to belittle people that I know and love – a word that negatively impacts the lives of myself and other awesome folks on a day-to-day basis.

If you have the ability to ignore certain words because they do not impact you, you are a privileged individual. I cannot just walk away when someone is being “politically incorrect” in regard to mental illness, because I live with a mental illness and those remarks help to make life harder for me and people like me. I cannot just walk away when someone is being a dick about sexuality because I am bisexual and those phrases, words, statements, all have a huge impact on my daily life and the laws that govern me. I cannot just walk away when someone decides to degrade women because, as a woman, that degradation has a huge impact on me. A person of colour cannot walk away when you offend them with your words about the colour of their skin because that negative attitude toward them is everywhere and invades their daily lives no matter where they go – Jane Elliot puts it better than I do. Watch that video. Watch the first part, too. LISTEN to what she says.

The ability to say what we want comes with a level of responsibility to ourselves and to other people – we have to be aware of the impact of our words on others because we have to live with other people, and the moment we forget that, we lose a bit of our humanity. It is very important to educate ourselves. Learn what words and ideas are hurtful and contribute to oppression and actively work to cut them the fuck out because they don’t do anybody any good.

It is not the job of the oppressed person to explain exactly why what offends them is offensive. If someone tells you “whoa, that is offensive, please stop”, it is your job to stop. It is your job to listen. It is your job to educate yourself and there are a lot of resources out there to do just that. It doesn’t hurt anybody to apologize – and not with a faux-“I’m sorry you’re offended”-pology, but a genuine, “I apologize, I should not have said that”.

It is not the oppressed person’s job to be nice to the oppressor. If someone is angry at you for something that you have said, that is their right, that is what should be expected, and it is a dick move to basically tell them, “I’m not listening until you calm down”. That’s a silencing tactic. That is saying “your feelings do not matter to me, and since you’re hurting mine by being mean, I’m not listening”. People get angry at the things that offend them because that stuff doesn’t just hurt, it contributes to real danger. Trans people get angry at transphobia because transphobia contributes to the deaths of many trans people, and it represents the shit that interferes with their rights and freedoms (have you heard of the new law that bars people that don’t present as the gender that’s on their ID from being allowed to board a plane? Hint: 5.2 c). If your precious “free speech” matters more to you than attempting to eliminate the oppression of marginalized people, you suck.

Save yourself and the people around you some time and, instead of whipping out the free speech argument, tell them that you are an asshole that doesn’t care about their feelings – it will make it easier for them in the long run, and save them from wasting their time with you.

Confused? Visit Derailing for Dummies, I’m sure that’ll clear up any confusion that you could possibly have.