|One of these girls ain't wanted on AG Fans.|
Enough prologue. Let's get into this.
So Halloween--Samhain for us pagans--2006 had passed, and the message couldn't be clearer to me. Paganism was super offensive to those of AG Fans, enough to get an album thread shut the entire fuck down and deleted. I had stuck my neck out to test the rules on faith and demonstrating it to see if they fairly applied to me as well as others. The response had been the equivalent of a smack in the face--I had been shown in no uncertain terms that this was not to be tolerated, thank you young lady, you keep that non-Christian stuff in the dark where good White Christian God-fearing children can't see it.
November went on, with the hot mess continuing to happen. AG > 18 stayed in our corner for the most part, talking amongst ourselves and getting hella annoyed with racist and bigoted thought running unchecked and discussing the ongoing microdramas that kept going on and thinking the way people were being treated was some grade-A hot steaming load of bullshit. Meanwhile, AGPT was on the rise as the better place to be to talk about American Girl without feeling like a lesser person--the album had gone over fine there!2 I was actually liking it over there, since I could be who I was--black, pagan, poly, bi--without the mod staff getting panties in the ass any time I pushed back against bigots.They had fuckups, but they were less fucked up than AG Fans, which was saying something.
As for AG Fans? Bigotry abounded, and it continued on that people were banned behind closed doors for protesting mod abuse and told things in sickly sweet language complete with condescension smilies and tone. This included statements that AG Fans was willing to look at your dolls but you had better take your goth and devil issues elsewhere.3 Posts on AGFans were getting edited to remove such subversive language as "alternative lifestyle" and replied to with saccharine sweet statements when people rightfully protested. The claim outright said by one of the mods on AGFans to someone's post was that "Would I want my eight year old to see it?" should be a good baseline for how the place was run, and since some people didn't want their eight year old knowing about certain things, it was just best not to talk about it. Would you want your precious eight year old to know about homosexuals and other non-Christian faiths?
dot dot mother fucking dot.
Okay, first of all eight year olds shouldn't be on the internet unsupervised, so there's that shit to start. And second of all, yes. I don't want my theoretical eight year old to become a goddamn prejudiced asshole who thinks that it's okay to be a homophobe and that talking about alternative lifestyles is so goddamn taboo that the mods have to ninja edit posts lest a kid read the word "girlfriend" spoken by a girl and instantly stop going to church and embracing witchcraft and lesbian acts.4 I plan to also teach my kids about paganism and any other faiths out there--even that it's okay not to have one at all--what their reproductive organs are for beyond "naughty things we don't touch and talk about," how to buck against an unfair social system, and how to curse out every other kid on the playground if they need to. Don't expect me to muffle myself because you're too fucking ignorant/lazy/stupid/bitchy to parent your child. Because last I checked, no one's crawled kicking and screaming out of my uterus yet--and not from lack of wanting to carry a child. REGULATE YER OWN DAMN KIDS. If you're that damn concerned, take your eight year old off the internet--and probably put them in a tiny box somewhere until they're married or run away from home.
Back to November 2006. I had gotten the message that my pagan albums weren't wanted, and that should have been the end of it, right? The pagan had been told, she had been told very blatantly, and she knew to keep her filthy heathenish ways away from good people. And that was that.
Nope. Nope, there was still fall out to come, and oh was it coming and it was going to be nasty.
Prologue: Not Such a Sweet Baby Face
Part One: Finding AG Fans, or How Periods are Bad For Children
Part Two: There's Fundies in My Fandom
Part Three: The Wicked Witch of Customizing and the Birth of AG > 18
Part Four: Halloween is for Jesus, or How Otters Offended a Nation
|A snowstorm, it was a coming.|
Let me sideline for a bit and lay something out for people who run anything online. Don't have a moderation style that is full of poisoned honey and tripwires that let bigots slide around or special pets of the modstaff get away with offensive actions or spoiled actions, but work to catch good people who love genders or are genders or believe or do things that fundies don't like. And if you want to do that? Don't lie and claim to be welcome to everyone. It's not only lying to your community, it's lying to yourself. AG Fans claimed to be open and welcoming to all AG collectors, but people were accepted only if they meekly accepted that if they didn't fit the white, straight, cis, Christian, upper class and bigoted aesthetic they were subject to the mod's bigoted shit. AG Fans wrapped oppression in smarmy statements like "*hugs*" and "we want everyone to feel welcome" when what they really meant was "don't you dare challenge the dominant paradigm." I don't care how nice you say something when you spew poison. A cupful of sewage in a gallon of wine makes sewage.
AG Collectors is full of bitchy and badassery. And we might not be the place for several people, and in part we're okay with that because some people don't need to be allowed to be in our board family. But we're also full of swift, open moderation and we let our community know when we edit posts, why we do when we do, and what happens when the mods learn or are told something that means members gotta go. Especially when it comes down to banning. We always tell the community why. The mods talk amongst each other--Boom and I are besties--we keep in communications, and when we gotta band together to show someone the door or update rules, we do it together. We are humans--Mod-jölnir notwithstanding5--and we make mistakes, but we're open when we do what we do. AG Fans was never open, their shitty warnings aside. A stairs and steps warning system to a ban ain't worth shit if the rules and ways of warning and banning are toxic and unwelcoming to start. We at AGC warn by telling you--collectively, mods and members--that you are out of line. We don't do formal "you have been warned" documentation. Ain't no one got time for that shit, that is valuable time I could be eating Cinnabon Bites, writing, or reading Pokémon fanfiction. If people continue to be out of line at AGC and think that they can say terrible things repeatedly when they have been told that it is outright offensive by people who have actually suffered with an issue, because they just know such and such that had sicknesses and they lived in blah blah blah blah and but so and so started it elsewhere--any of that--they are not welcome. If members think they can get away with bigoted, divisive speech over and over, then they will be removed. We will do without you. And that's all I will say on that. Moving on.
In early December 2006, AG Fans decided to move off where they had been keeping their board--hostboard--to phpboards. They cited ongoing issues with the hosting company and incompatibility with functions. And at one point, the board went down for a considerable length of internet time--at least 24 hours, which upset them. So the mods felt that overall, the AG community at AG Fans would be better served in another place. They did really have more than a few issues with hostboards, and I'm not upset at that. AGC found zetaboards and it was much better for our purposes, and we jumped on it. So I honestly don't fault the mods for wanting to move boards. There's a lot to fault them on, but that's not one of them.6
When they made the move to phpboards, the mods decided to change a few things. One of the big ones was that joining up for membership meant agreeing to all the rules and assuring that as a new member, people wouldn't challenge or break any of the rules, not matter what the rules said. The rules were not up for debate or bending around. Fucked up but whatever, we already know the mods are on some shit. In these new rules, things are "clarified and updated," so that miscommunications and "mistakes" like what happened on the previous board won't happen like before. And this is where the rules get straight up bigoted. There's no pretty way to say it. It was the actions of nasty bigots.
Colette was the first to speak up about it in AG >18, and the rule was as such.
Religious discussions and/or photos will be allowed, but limited to religious holidays and/or celebrations that have been presented on the AG website, in AG publications, and/or in AG products, as they are now or previously have been portrayed by AG.
|Naomi says what the fuck.|
Surely they don't mean it, I think. Surely, this rule isn't because of me. I ask, because the old board is still up, and there's a thread trying to clarify this rule--mostly by members of AG > 18, who can see that this is targeted towards me. Then a mod speaks up, and it all goes to shit.
"The topic of religion has caused a lot of problems on our board. We got PMs from members of all different religions complaining about what other people posted. The mods felt that using what AG publishes as our guide would help us moderate the board in the least offensive way and in keeping with our mission - "To Discuss American Girl Dolls and American Girl Products." Our mission is not to discuss religion. We are taking our cues from American Girl books, websites, magazines and products. The main focus of our board is American Girl and its products. AG has the Girl of Many Land series of books that represent many different cultures and traditions We hope that everyone feels welcome moving over with us to the new board to discuss dolls. We will miss your participation but understand if our board has too narrow of a focus for you."Translation? Don't let the door hit your ass, heathen.
Firinel--a member of AG > 18--starts talking in PMs with one of the mods, Julie,9 after being told by Kenshinchan that she should ask for clarification this way. A lot of AG Fans expected that, if you had an issue with a situation or moderation, that you go into PMs rather than talk about it openly and make waves in public. After all, openness what is that? She asks about various clarifications and is often told that Julie will consult with the other mods and get back to her and the FAQ will clarify. Firinel pushes and pushes--what about Muslim people? What about Jewish? What about Hindu? Each time there's a "we'll get back to you" followed by "the mods are trying to clarify." (Hindu is a maybe, because maybe one of the Girls of Many Lands counts. Maybe.)
"What about Kaya?" Firinel asks. Because Kaya isn't Christian.10 She has a Native Tradtional religion that could loosely be constituted as pagan. Some Native Traditional practitioners don't call themselves pagan because of the fact this was used as a slur against their faiths in the conquest of North America by European powers. But it could be seen as such in the modern era.
She gets a reply back from Julie, and she posts it in AG > 18.
That's an interesting take, but I personally would not count Native American beliefs as paganism. I think most Native Americans would bristle at the idea of their religions being called pagan (Wikipedia says as much!). And from what I understand, pagans TEND to worship the gods of mythology, such as the Greek gods, Egyptian gods, etc. Not to say that paganism doesn't have some element of nature worship as well, but that doesn't mean that paganism is the same as Native American beliefs. Most pagans have rather eclectic beliefs, and there's really not any sort of accepted definition of paganism (at least, according to Neth's albums)--so if we allowed it, we'd also have no idea what we might be seeing.So not only is my faith in my gods being called a myth,11 I'm seeing that the mere idea of Native people's faiths being in the same category as my own is something so offensive to them they would "bristle" at the mere idea. Why don't I just claim that people worship rocks? But also it's outright said that since there's no accepted by the book definition of paganism--according to me, the pagan involved--there's no idea what they could be seeing. (I might start posting Otters in the Great Rite with Marisol after some hardcore blood magic.) And even if they did accept Kaya as pagan, there wouldn't be holidays like Samhain and the like.
But even if we agreed that Kaya's beliefs were pagan (and I wouldn't), we'd still need to look into how her beliefs were portrayed in her books, which are shown in a rather limited manner, really, and didn't involve a single holiday.
We are going to put a clarifying statement in the FAQ once we mods agree on it.
Fin says that this is discrimination, and that basically what's being said is that people like me are unwelcome and there is to be no paganism allowed. The response comes:
Our board is not about religion, really; we're all here to talk about dolls! Religion is such a touchy issue among everyone, that we've decided to restrict it to AG potrayals (sic). So any sort of album that includes instruction about religions (including Otters' guides, as well as a guide to Catholicism, Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion) would be prohibited. It is up to Neth and others, whether they want to join us here, or if they find the rules too restrictive.Note that this is early December by now, so people are starting to post Christmas Albums. Firinel points this out, and the last PM from Julie she posts is such:
I'm sorry if you disagree with our rule, but it's the rule we mods have all decided upon. We thought it was the fairest rule we could make. It has never been our intention to allow everyone to post each and every thing she or he wants to, and religion is not the only thing we restrict. I don't think we are bigoted, but obviously you're free to have that opinion. And I hope you don't leave the board, but yes, it's your choice whether to stay or go as well.I saw this and I decided, once I got home from work--which was stressful, given this was the first holiday season of the Wii and I was doing eight straight hours of calls on that--I was going to just drink and cry and drink and cry and that is exactly what I did. Depression, it'll fuck you up when you're rejected. And I could see that I was no longer wanted. I posted that outright on the old board before I cried my heart out and drank myself sick. They could pretty it up in "we're trying to be fair to everyone, honest!" but there is no fairness in trying to dance around until you just outright say "no paganism allowed."
Socially-privileged bigots never think they're oppressed.
|This is a lot of text. And there is to be a lot more. Have Naomi sitting in a trunk.|
On a "Missing Members" thread on the new place, Aelindil (at the time, and who knew me fairly well) asked where I was and said that if they were going to pick and choose which religions to allow, they should just ban em all. One of the mods, Judi, disagrees, claiming that GoML books have enough of an array of differing cultures, etc so it's "fine" that they have the rule they do. Plus "the board is not about religion."
Aelindil replied that their new rule still excludes at least one viewpoint, which makes it almost look intentional. And Judi replied as such:
I believe that Halloween is a Pagan holiday, and that is represented in the Molly book as well as the Just Like You line of dolls with their costumes. However, any religious debate, instruction or prosethlysing is going to be deleted no matter what type of religion it is.
Neth is welcome here. It is her choice how much she wants to read into these rules. If her main purpose is to post about her religion, than there are better boards for that. Most people coming to an American Girl doll board expect it to be about American Girl dolls. If she wants to post about dolls, sewing doll clothes or anything related to dolls, she is certainly welcome. Again, it is her choice and I am not sure she would appreciate us speaking for her.
(sic)Well, she was right on that point. I don't like being spoken for when I have my own words and I wasn't asked. Though Judi was quick to claim that my main purpose was to "post about [my] religion." Christians all over the board were allowed to post about their faith, and were almost never challenged.
The following copy and paste reply starts to go to people from Judi as the question of religion keeps being asked (quite often on my behalf):
Thanks for PMing me about this complicated issue. Like most of our rules, the new twist on the religion rule has come about because of complaints we have received from our membership. One of the biggest area of complaint that we have is about religion - all religions. With the new rule, we tried to find a way to be able to not ban all religious talk which would exclude the Halloween costumes, Christmas dresses, etc. but still keep the religious complaints down to a minimum.
As you well know, religion on our board has caused some major problems. Neth's Halloween pagan album caused a behind the scenes stir. Many people felt that it was religious indoctrination. Other people have felt the same about other members' Christian albums and Christian posts. I have personally offended at least 3 regular Christian members by editing out their religious indoctrination signatures and posts. There is also a disgruntled Jewish member right now.
No one I know really comes to this board to learn about religion or be preached to. It is interesting to learn about other cultures and traditions, and that is being allowed. We are trying to decrease the presence of all controversial religious material on the board other than in the basic way that AG presents it in new outfits, accessories and books. So, Halloween albums will be allowed but not if they turn into instruction, debate or prothsethlying. The winter pagan holidays will not be allowed because they aren't anywhere in AG.
Things like talking about the Jesus's resurrection and his dying to save our sins at Easter are also not going to be allowed. For example, we are going to allow pictures of things like Easter baskets, coloring eggs and dressing up in a special AG outfit. All detailed religious indoctrination is going to be deleted, and I mean all of it.
(sic)Judi said, when Cami asked more about me, that I could try and talk to her through PMs on the Hostboard to clarify the situation. And my exact words on AG > 18 in reply to that?
"Neth would rather be fucked by a donkey than talk to you, bitch."
|Is Otters going to have to cut a bitch?|
And I stand by it. To Judi--and Julie, and all the mods of AG Fans who jumped through hoop after hoop and did all that backpedaling and dancing around to not just say "we're banning paganism"? Fuck you. Fuck each and every single one of you for what you did to me, and I'm sure that Jesus goddamn wept. I shared my album openly as part of my faith, like every Christian on that board had been allowed to--and some had been allowed to fuck up other faiths.
And you're goddamn right it was a challenge against the Christian only ways of AG Fans. Because I have the right to be who I am. And the right to be open about it. I have the right to be open that I'm bi, pagan, poly, black, grew up poor--I have the right to be me. And to claim that my main purpose for posting was about my religion was goddamn bigotry. I had and have as much right to talk about my faith as all the Christians who posted about how Jesus is Risen on Easter. Don't piss in my chalice and tell me it's mead.
By the 6th of December or so, the board closed so that it was not visible by non-members. Where before, people could read and see posts without having to be a member or logged in, now all posts and access was put behind the membership wall. So now...there's no rules visible. Or anything visible before the account is approved. All sign ups had to agree to all the rules upfront, no matter what, before they can have an account, and promise not to argue with them, without previewing them. Signing up to AG Fans was agreement to whatever rules the mods and owner of the board said were valid, before reading them. What horseshit. I know the running joke in the world is that no one reads the iTunes EULA before agreeing that Apple can tattoo their logo on our left ass-cheek after the six thousandth play of "Drunk in Love" or rename our firstborn iBaby, but even they have the damn courtesy to show the shit to you and give you an option to read and disagree. Anyone who has sense gives you that much so you can back out before signing up or downloading or anything. AG Fans didn't give you that. Folk had to agree to the rules before they even saw them. And far as I know they continue in this fashion.
As for the "religion only as shown in books" statement? A few days later, people were posting asking for prayers for surgery and praising Jesus and thanking him for petty things, and the posts were not deleted like they claimed to be. Which, begging for prayers has never been in the AG books. Hypocrisy, thy name is fundamental Christianity. Woe unto the Pharisees.
American Girl in part, is supposed to be about the diversity of people around the world and through time, and show that despite differences in time and place, we could all be part of a whole. But not according to AG Fans. My faith was not welcome, and an entire rule had been made because of me because I dared to be publicly me. I was "welcome" as long as I never, ever posted anything about being pagan and Otters never showed her necklace. Anything pagan was ultimately outright banned. And that shit hurt so goddamn hard that I'm welling up, looking at the AG > 18 posts just to line things up and get things close to right.
AG Fans had decided that being open about my faith was so offensive that it was imperative that any possibility of it coming up again needed to be against the rules and clarified over and over that paganism was not to be tolerated. And I didn't want to be part of them anymore. I created a lurker account12 to be able to see things that AG > 18 linked to such as news and be able to snark in private, but I knew that even that was a shell of anything like I had been part of there before.
AG Fans had outright been hateful to me. But they still weren't done being dicks to other people. And it only took another week for shit to go down.
Part Six: The Great Mass Banning of Aught-Six
1 With nods and apologies to Robert Burns and the mouse whose life he fucked up.
2 It appeared that way, at least.
3 Actual text to someone: "We're very happy to have you share your AG doll interests on our board. But I hope that you can find another message board where you can fill the need to express your creativity regarding goth and devil issues with freedom." DEVIL ISSUES.
4 Like yours truly.
5 "Whosoever holds this Banhammer, if they be worthy, shall possess the power of MOD."
6 The fact they still had one big honking forum with all the posts dumped together instead of separate sections or even something like on topic and off topic? That's something they didn't change and to fault them on. AG Playthings at least started with that.
7 Catholicism is, of course, separate from Christianity. Yep, it's that kinda fundie party.
8 This was still threeish years before we got Rebecca.
9 Not after the doll, of course. She wasn't out either.
10 Despite the best attempts of Tra and other jerkasses.
11 There is a reason I say mythos, not mythology. Mythology has that connotation of "it's bullshit made up stories and no one believes those fairy stories anyways." Mythos has the more positive connotation of "this is a belief system that may or may not be followed by others actively." Christianity has a mythos, Islam has a mythos, Hindu has a mythos, Greco-Roman traditional has mythos, etc. This gives all people's beliefs equal weight.
12 Don't even remember the login.