Ethnicity, Gender, and Privilege

Apparently there is a "hot topic" in the blogosphere relating to gender issues, specifically in World of Warcraft. While I have not seen the articles specifically (what can I say, I've been busy enough I haven't even looked at my feed reader in a couple of weeks), I've noticed a few comments that prompted the decision to write this post. Note that I have not read the other posts, so there is a chance that a lot of what I state here has been stated already. The purpose of this post, though, is to highlight one of the most common fallacies we commit as a society with regards to understanding other people, regardless of gender, lifestyle, cultural background, color of skin, hair color, eye color, religious practices, sexual orientation, or just clothing choice (and obviously the list is not exhaustive, but you should get the idea). That fallacy, stated somewhat simply, is this:

Once a distinction has been made during a discussion some form of bias is introduced, rendering the discussion no longer productive or objective. In essence, creating a policy or promoting action that specifically targets a group of people based on a physical distinction is, in and of itself, rooted in bias.

Note that I am not saying we live in a time of perfect equality. Far from it. Instead, I'm emphasizing that every time we discuss an issue we immediately bias the discussion by saying "x group" or "y group" or "z group." While our discussions focus on any particular group we only perpetuate the cycle. Let's take a classic example:

The Fifteenth Amendment states that the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The Nineteenth Amendment states that the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex. While both of these serve valuable purposes (granting the right to vote to all citizens), both are horrifically flawed in their implementation. Instead of singling out any group, the changes should have been approached as a statement specifically geared toward treating all people as just that, people. The change should have been along the lines of the following:

The right to vote shall not be denied or abridged to any citizen of the United States who has reached the legal age of majority.

Once a condition (in this case race or gender) is singled out instead of treating all people equally we are automatically creating an atmosphere where discrimination is easily introduced into the discussion. The focus becomes the group being discussed instead of the issue.

This concept is not new. When Affirmative Action was first introduced there were a few who understood the very nature of the program was counterintuitive, and the same concept applies to every discussion, to the very foundation of this country: we cannot achieve equality while focusing on segments of the population instead of the population as a whole (paraphrased1).

I wholeheartedly support the exploration of individual concerns and experiences, but to draw sweeping conclusions and apply those experiences to the population at large is also a fallacy. Stereotypes create discriminatory bias in people's perceptions, just as individual experiences create bias in perception. It's natural, but that doesn't mean we should blind ourselves by stating "women generally do this" or "men generally do this."

This long-winded explanation is meant to serve as a reminder that we, in general, do not think or speak in terms of equality. We almost always speak in terms of personal experience and personal perception. Until we can strip away the use of gender, skin color, or other factors that differentiate individual people from each other and focus on all of us as one diverse group, that group being human, we will always create some form of discriminatory environment (directly or indirectly). Whether you like it or not, everyone is discriminated against in some fashion until such a change in thinking occurs.


1 William Bennet and Terry Eastland, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Article Link, Original Quote is "To count by race, to use the means of numerical equality to achieve the end of moral equality, is counterproductive, for to count by race is to deny the end by virtue of the means. The means of race counting will not, cannot, issue in an end where race does not matter."

Social Reciprocity


Note: I had originally scheduled this post for later this week, but I decided to post it today while the topic is actually being discussed in some fashion on Twitter. My goal was, originally, to ask those who read my writings to decide if they would like to link to me or not and to let me know why. While I still would like that to be the overall concept of this post, as well as having those interested in having me link to their works send me a request to look over their content and let them know why/why not, I thought it might be a good idea to remind everyone of a few basic concepts that should govern how we view such actions (and yes, I despise such tools as FriendorFollow because they only serve to, subtly, reinforce our notion that reciprocity is a standard and not a choice).


Ever since the introduction of the concept of "reciprocal link sharing" with bloggers, or "following/friending" others as it would be described with regards to social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook, there has been underlying confusion as to what the process means or implies. Further confounding the issue is the inherent nature of people to want their work/profile/friendship to be reciprocated by those who submit such requests. There are some general guidelines one should keep in mind so as not to fall into the trap of feeling obliged to be on either side of such practices:


  • Do not assume that linking to a site will yield a reciprocal link.
  • Submitting a request for being linked from a site is the best approach, where the site author/admin can look over your content and choose (and hopefully explain) why they will or will not link back.

Social Networks

  • "Following" or "Friending" someone does not mean the person in question is obligated to do the same.
  • Again, if curious why someone does not then asking them why is the best approach.

Pretty simple, right? Apparently not. People seem to think reciprocity is an understood rule and forgetting that each person chooses whether or not to accept such actions based on a number of reasons, such as:

  • Content (especially an issue for blogs/bloggers).
  • Personal perception/choice (for instance, I may consider your Tweets annoying, uninteresting, or may simply have no compelling reason to follow you).
  • Privacy (one often overlooked, but I may or may not want someone I do not know personally viewing my Facebook profile for instance).

In short, it is my choice whether I follow/friend/link you or not. Generally I have very little reason not to, but I still reserve that right. If you choose to base whether you friend/follow/link someone due to their choice of reciprocating the action then, quite frankly, I take very little stock in your recommendations/friendship. It's not that I do not care, it is simply that I know I cannot look at your links and know that you actually recommend someone else's work (much less an issue with social networking, except those who simply friend anyone/everyone).

Considering Morality versus Social Regulation

Morality. Such an interesting, subjective concept. By definition, morality is basically the distinction between right and wrong (or good and bad) behavior. While the definition sounds simplistic enough, what is good or bad is primarily defined through social contexts, which means that not all concepts of right and wrong are universal (or, potentially, even shared by the majority of society).

Continuing that line of thought, sanctions against behavior, even those supposedly based on moral principles, are not universally viewed as good or bad either. The perfect, controversial legal examples are: gambling, polygamy, and prostitution. On the other hand, some interesting social sanctions are: racial or ethnic bias in specific areas, bias toward sexual orientation, and the constructed regulations regarding the "legal" age of marriage (note that this one is, technically, also a legal example, but plays into social sanctions as well).

While the concept of morality and values as socially constructed sanctions to promote certain types of behavior is certainly nothing new (after all, Nietzsche suggested such ideas in the 1800s), we still continue to hold onto the idea that morality is an inherent trait and base legal sanctions upon perceptions of morality.

Because this can be construed any number of ways, I want to make something perfectly clear: I am fascinated with behavioral studies, specifically sociology and psychology, and a topic like this is quite interesting to examine and discuss. This article is a thought experiment designed to generate discussion. Further, I am going to intentionally discuss controversial issues, and so if you are easily offended I suggest not reading after this point.

Seriously, if you're still reading at this point you cannot say I did not warn you.

We'll start with something a little less controversial in case someone did not heed my warning and scanned the next paragraph anyway: gambling.

Gambling has had an interesting history in the United States, bouncing between being prohibited behavior and legalized behavior. Sanctions on gambling typically revolve around the perception that gambling is an immoral activity serving only to corrupt those who partake and to attract criminal activity. As with any other activity, there will always be people on one extreme or the other (ii.e. compulsive gamblers who are addicted to the behavior and those who proclaim gambling as a sin and rely on the fear of religious persecution to keep others in check). The vast majority of people, however, are not going to fall into those extreme categories.

Gambling, however, is a rather tame example of socially constructed sanctions that claim to be based on moral principles. Prostitution takes the concept a leap forward, and really begins to open the door to controversial discussion.

The idea of providing sexual favors for a price is not a novel concept. According to historical texts, prostitution has existed since the beginning of written history at least, and potentially even existed prior. Much like gambling, it has seen acceptance (even being looked upon favorably as a profession at times) and prohibition. Also like gambling, prostitution is not universally banned around the world, not to mention the disparity of being legal and illegal within the boundaries of the same societal regions (i.e. countries).

These are simply two examples helping illustrate two points before we delve into the meat of the discussion:

  1. Morality is not universal (in other words, the concept of good and evil is defined within the constraints of one's environment/society and varies from one person/community/region/culture/etc. to another).
  2. Sanctions against behavior that claim to be based on moral principles cannot, by their very nature, truly be based upon morality. Instead these sanctions are based on other concepts (be it religious in nature, as the sanctions against prostitution began, or simply as a result of the majority of those in a law-making capacity choosing to place sanctions against certain behaviors).

Alright, now that we have the understanding of why these concepts are so interesting somewhat established, let's look at some very controversial questions that arise out of such realizations:

  1. Mental disorders are characterized by a number of factors, and some are only diagnosed by the failure of an individual to conform to the norms and values of the society in which they reside. Keeping the idea that morals and values are often socially constructed, are such individuals truly ill or do they simply share the same beliefs as another culture?
  2. Taking the above question a step further: the average age of consent for participating in sexual activities in the United States ranges from 16 years of age to 18 years of age. The average age where a couple can legally marry in the United States (with parental consent) ranges from 14 years of age to 16 years of age (most states recognize the age of 18 as the legal age to marry without parental consent). What are the origins of specifically choosing an age wherein such activities are legalized? In other words, we know these ages were socially constructed, but how were the specific ages chosen?
  3. Continuing along the lines of arbitrarily choosing ages upon which to base legal concepts, what makes the age of 18 symbolic of the transition into adulthood? What makes the age of 21 a suddenly acceptable age at which to consume alcohol?

Personal THoughts

Generally speaking, laws tend to be established for one of two reasons: to protect the rights given to each citizen for being a citizen of their country or to provide recourse against those individuals who bring disorder or cause disruptive behavior within society.

There is a generally accepted principle that one sacrifices a certain amount of individuality in order to be a part of society (i.e., certain rights of the individual must be forfeit in order to preserve the society as a whole). The question this raises, though, is whether or not such a restriction is fair given that an individual (normally) has no choice about living within a society (there is certainly no choice at birth, but often an individual is constrained by other factors that also do not allow relocation to a society wherein their beliefs and values are more aligned).

Ok, so I didn't get as controversial as I thought about getting after all. There are just some things that even I can't take the devil's advocate stance on for the sake of discussion. ;)

So, what do you think?

Social Responsibility and Blogging


Warning, this post is likely to ruffle a number of feathers and, most likely, place a target squarely on my back for all sorts of people. While I'm perfectly fine with being flamed, chastised, yelled at, or any other descriptor you would like to use, I will not tolerate comments that are not constructive or are excessively antagonistic. This is fair warning that such comments will be removed (something I never do aside from spambots or other such garbage, so I felt a disclaimer necessary before and after this post).

Social Responsibility and Blogging

It appears there has been a ruckus revolving around an incident, of which I will not identify, in the "Azerothian Blogger Community." The specifics are not something I am interested in exploring, but those familiar with the matter should understand that this is written as an outsider with no affiliation, vested interest, or even remote attachment to any person, party, server, item, place, thing, or any other object, real or imagined, to the aforementioned incident. However, there are things that have arisen that cause me to feel compelled to comment on some general topics as they relate to the matter.

First and foremost, regardless of agreement or disagreement with any stance, action, or thought on the matter, it is important to note that this is not the only situation that has arisen, nor will it probably be the last. This is why there are some things that I feel are necessary to place online for everyone to read and understand (and note that this is generally aimed at public venues):

  1. Every person, by interacting with others, should realize that their actions, inactions, words, thoughts, and even their simple appearance, may be perceived completely differently by any and all of those individuals they interact with.
  2. Every person should realize that in the course of those interactions things could be perceived as opposites (such as anger for happiness / happiness for anger, fun for griefing / griefing for fun, etc.).
  3. Every person should be willing to accept that their stance is just as open to interpretation as the next person's.
  4. Every person should consider whether or not their public discourse is rooted in personal opinion and belief or in the objective viewing of that which their discourse is about, and therefore ensure they maintain that distinction in ensuing conversation about said discourse via respectable and appropriate means (confusing, I know... don't worry I'll explain further).

Now, those sound like a detailed explanation of things like "treat others as you want to be treated" and "always strive for the high road," but the fact of the matter is that these are not the same ideas. This is where I want to use the aforementioned incident to illustrate a point:

  • Unintentional "griefing" of a player is still considered "griefing" by the recipient. However, "griefing" is not a definitive term. In short, what every person considers "griefing" is not a standardized, easily defined definition as most would have others believe. Further, "griefing" is not solely an issue in a virtual game environment, but also in any public interaction, whether physical or virtual. For the purpose of simplicity, "griefiing" will be defined here as "any unwanted experience that is not positive in nature to the recipient, regardless of the intentions of the instigator." In summary, causing a person stress not induced of their own accord would be "griefing."
  • Using the above definition, every single person has, at some point, been on both sides of that scenario, even if unknowingly or unintentionally.

This is where the second aspect of what I want to specifically talk about comes into play: the "Azerothian Blogging Community"

We have defined ourselves as a community. As a group of people with a common interest whose goal is to benefit both the residents of our community and our visitors. To be completely honest, I am appalled to think my name could, in any way, be associated with the "community" after seeing the interaction surrounding the incident that prompted this post.

Let me repeat that, emphasized, so I make sure this part is noticed: I am appalled to think my name could, in any way, be associated with the "community" of Azerothian Bloggers after seeing the way said community treated one of its members.

There is a reason we call ourselves a community. There is a reason places like Blog Azeroth exist. When we choose to become a part of that community, a community that prides itself on fostering interactions and nurturing its members, we have expectations for both ourselves and the others involved. These expectations cultivate our social responsibility to the community:

  • We expect to be treated decently (otherwise termed respectfully).
  • We expect to learn from others and to be corrected when we are wrong in a manner that does not generate hostility or negativity for our community. (And we do expect to make mistakes.)
  • We expect those people who are looked to as role models, pillars of the community, "heroes," etc., to be able to handle issues tactfully, positively, and respectfully, probably even unfairly compared to newer members, because of their experience and understanding.
  • We expect to grow more mature as a result of our mistakes, and to have the guidance of others in our community to ensure we know what are mistakes are in the first place.


Imagine starting a blog about World of Warcraft and not knowing anything about druids. Now imagine writing a statement about druids based on in-game chatter, or something perceived in-game. Imagine that statement turned out to cause anger or general negativity about what you wrote outside of the game by a member of the Azerothian Blogosphere. Wouldn't you prefer that your community, in this case the Azerothian Blogosphere, who has touted itself as a group of people who do genuinely want to help each other and foster friendship and cooperation, work with you to educate you first in a friendly and respectable manner, and subsequently the rest of the community and visitors?

Note, I do not care about the incident in question, I do not want a discussion of the details, I do not want an examination of all the bits and pieces... I want to know when this community decided not to educate others when there was an obvious error in judgement and, instead, to make things seem more like personal attacks.


Warning, this post is likely to ruffle a number of feathers and, most likely, place a target squarely on my back for all sorts of people. While I'm perfectly fine with being flamed, chastised, yelled at, or any other descriptor you would like to use, I will not tolerate comments that are not constructive or are excessively antagonistic. This is fair warning that such comments will be removed (something I never do aside from spambots or other such garbage, so I felt a disclaimer necessary before and after this post).

Who Are We?

Throughout the course of our lifetimes we are told we are individuals, unique snowflakes, special... the list goes on with a range of similar comparisons. Certainly we have a number of minor differentiations among ourselves that do contribute to no two people being completely identical, but to base the aforementioned ideologies on something so miniscule is no different than to say that no two coffee beans are identical due to the slightest of variations in texture, color, flavor, or even the simple fact they did not grow in the exact same location at the exact same time. In short, proclaiming that individualism is valued and embraced in a Society where nonconformity to social norms is met with civil or criminal sanctions and, further teaching that we are all unique individuals while still expecting said conformity, is hypocritical at best and potentially harmful at worst.

So, who... or what... are we?

First and foremost, we have to acknowledge that there is not a clear-cut, simple answer to such a question. After all, if there were we would have discovered it long ago. The main point that I want to address is simple: we are not the unique, special, "there is not anyone else like me" individuals that our Society makes us think we are. Try wearing something in public that the majority of people disagree with and you'll experience firsthand what I mean. Even better, try speaking up for an individuals' right to choose how to live their own life regarding a "controversial" issue such as abortion, polygamy, religious expression that does not fall in line with the majority, or even something as simple as who to call family and who to simply call a friend. Take it a step further and ask a random person what they think of sexual activity outside of marriage, or between consenting friends who have no "stronger relationship" among them.

Every act of expression that a person partakes in that does not conform to the social standard, every act that could be considered an act of individualism, is met with negativity or disdain by most. Dare to suggest that we actually look at the needs of other people, such as true health care reform or removing a tyrant from power, or something as logical as scrapping the defunct tax system currently in place and implementing a change that would not only increase income for the existence of the government but also decrease expenses (i.e., the use of a flat sales tax on all products instead of the convoluted income tax system). But I digress...

The simple fact is that we are raised in a manner that attempts to keep us in line with social norms while preaching that we should embrace individual uniqueness, and yet when that individualism goes just far enough out of sync with the majority we reel the offender back in line.

This leaves us with a burning question that few consider: who are we? We are a product of what socialization has made us. We are beings capable of rational thought and irrational feelings taught to keep both in line with established traditions for the sake of maintaining order, and that maintenance of order is bred out of fear that allowing any practice that questions tradition is the work of some supernatural being commonly referred to as the devil in Christianity.

Instead of squandering our ability to think, our ability to learn, and our ability to have unique experiences, we should embrace those things that allow us to be unique. There are only a couple of simple rules every action should take into consideration:

  • Will this harm anyone or infringe on another persons' right to live their life as they see fit?
  • Does this require some form of governance to ensure that the above rule is maintained?
Let's use an example, and one that is controversial to those who count themselves among conservatives. Should prostitution be legalized? Consider the argument, as expressed below:
  • Will this harm anyone or infringe on another persons' right to live their life as they see fit?

    One fear is, naturally, the spread of sexually transmitted disease. This is an issue easily addressed through regulation, specifically the requirement of necessary medical checkups on a weekly basis. Another fear is the thought of someone being forced into prostitution, and though it is a valid concern it is also easily addressed through education. As long as people understand their right to choose, and they understand that if someone attempts to force them into such a lifestyle they have recourse, then the problem is addressed before it actually becomes a problem. Further defining the legality of prostitution as being a choice only available to adults of legal age and providing criminal penalties for those attempting to break the law would also be appropriate.
  • Does this require some form of governance to ensure that the above rule is maintained?

    Obviously, in this case, the answer is yes, as outlined above.
Given those thoughts, what makes the act of choosing to make a profit for having sexual relations with another consenting adult a crime? Further, why is such a choice frowned upon when it is not something that forced upon any other person? The key point is, of course, the freedom of a person to choose how to live their own life, which is something we work hard at, as a Society, to put an end to on a daily basis.

So we return to our question once more, in an effort to provide a full definition: who, or what, are we?

We are a group of living, thinking, emotional beings that strive, in every conceivable manner, to claim we are individuals that have the right to live freely in a Society where doing so works diligently to provide the facade of such freedom existing. This means, in layman's terms, we are nothing more than livestock capable of rational thought. Or perhaps an even better analogy, is that we are nothing more than sheep able to think for themselves but only act in accordance with what the other sheep say we can or cannot do.

We are hypocrites.

The "Hybrid Tax"

The debate about whether a "hybrid" class should be able to perform as well as "pure" classes has been around for far longer than I can recall. reported about a post on the official forums by Ghostcrawler on the twenty-sixth of October that addresses this topic yet again.

Before looking further at why I want to call attention to this particular issue, let's make certain some things are completely clear about what this means:

  • There are three roles: healing, tanking, and damage-dealing.
  • Hunters, Rogues, Mages, and Warlocks are the "pure" classes.
  • Druids, Death Knights, Priests, Paladins, Shaman, and Warriors are "hybrid" classes.
  • This does not mean a class is incapable or impractical in use in a DPS role. This merely that the hybrids will not, if all things are equal under equal conditions, perform "as well as" the pure classes. Note that there is a lot of room for interpretation and "grey area" in this statement.
  • There is not a "pure" tank.
  • There is not a "pure" healer.

While in theory this all makes perfect sense, it breaks down when some other thoughts are brought to light. Does this "hybrid tax" get applied further when taking into account the number of roles fulfilled (such as a class that can do all three roles versus one that can only fulfill two)? Should or shouldn't their be some reward for those able to master all available roles? Obviously there are a fair number of other variables that affect whether or not the "hybrid tax" is viewed as justifiable or not based on perception, and the perception of a player is to always side with the class or classes they play. Therefore, how can any measurement truly be applied that states "the fair and/or equitable way to keep things in balance is to do x or y?"

The debate arises so often when speaking of comparisons in healing and tanking that most are able to turn a deaf ear to the noise generated by those who are so blinded by their perspectives that they are unable to think through any semblance of rational thought. These types of questions must be viewed as objectively as possible when evaluating such things as class balance. This is one of those areas where the work done by Blizzard developers is certainly under appreciated.

The Philosophy of "Perception."

Think about these statements and how they are generally perceived, from the wording itself to the underlying meaning we impose on them based on what we think the meaning actually is:

  • "You should not be able to do the same thing I do as well as I do it."
  • "You should be able to do the same thing I do, but I should be able to do it a little bit better."
  • "We should both be able to do the same thing well. I should have a slight advantage because it is the only thing I can do."
  • "If everything were equal, I would be able to do a little better than you due to the way we are designed."
  • "Given equal circumstances, you should be able to do a little better than me as a result of my versatility in doing other things as well."

Each of those statements represents the same concept, yet each is interpreted differently based on the way in which it is worded. Trying to overanalyze something is futile. The overall meaning is, quite simply, that one is going to perform better than the other for one reason (be it skill, inequality in gear, or a number of other variables that simply cannot be taken into account in the scope of this post). The concept is, quite simply, that instead of trying to place some measurable value on what, exactly, it means to be "a little better" is a waste of energy and time. Strive to do the best possible and the decision will come down to which person is desired to be present, not which class that person plays.

Remember that how words are chosen is normally not at the forefront of a person's mind when trying to explain a concept. The overwhelming interest is in trying to get the point of the concept across.

In this case, the point is simply that viability is not a focus of the "hybrid tax." The entire issue is to ensure there is some level of fairness (complete fairness is impossible) when evaluating the ability of a pure class to outperform a hybrid class on completely equal footing while maintaining the ability for both classes to fill the role in question. Let's remember that when trying to provide feedback to the people that have to hear all sorts of variations on the above thoughts, and who try to remain objective in the face of "I can't do the exact same thing as x because I'm y, why do you hate me?" rants from players too blinded by their interpretation of what things should be, or of what things mean, to step back and look objectively at the same situation.