As strange as it may sound, my proudest moment as a pop culture commentator came not here in Garwulf's Corner, but in Fooling Garwulf.
For those who didn't read it, Fooling Garwulf was a review and commentary column based on Penn & Teller: Fool Us. After each review section, I shifted to tour guide, talking about some aspect of magic that few outside of the performance art would have heard about. And, one of the things I wanted to do from the very beginning was talk about women in magic.
As I began my research, I found the usual articles - writers talking about how female magicians aren't taken seriously, or have trouble being anything other than an assistant. But, I also discovered that there weren't many articles on the subject at all. So, getting ready to write a blistering expose about sexism in magic, I reached out to Christen Gerhart, a female magician and judge on Wizard Wars, for an interview.
To my utter shock, Christen told me that in the decade she had been involved in magic, she hadn't actually encountered any sexism or misogyny from her fellow magicians. She passed me on to Misty Lee, who confirmed that in her years of performance she also hadn't experienced any institutional sexism. In fact, Misty had faced more frustrating sexism from journalists treating her like a fad or curiosity than she had ever seen from a male magician.
By the time I was done, all of my preconceptions about sexism in magic had been proven wrong. I had to start again from scratch, and it was glorious. I wrote the "women in magic" commentary with care, making certain to be clear that I was just relaying what female professional magicians had told me. I was giddy: with all the terrible things I have to sift through in tracking pop culture, I got to deliver good news - I got to point at one place in performance art and declare: "no institutional sexism here - magic has its act together!"
The commentary went up as Fooling Garwulf #3, and I did what I could to publicize it. I sent a tip to The Mary Sue, and left a comment in We Hunted the Mammoth. I watched the GamerGhazi sub-reddit like a hawk, wanting to see the news break that there was a performance art that left institutional sexism behind decades ago, and bask in the knowledge that I was the first to spread the news.
There was nothing. Not a word, not so much as a comment reply outside of The Escapist.
The sins of the far right and the far left are the same.
To say the least, I was disappointed - but I was not surprised.
One of the things you gain by stepping away from being an active commentator for close to a decade and a half is perspective on just how much has changed. Some things have changed for the better - there are discussions we can have today that weren't possible in the early 2000s. It's hard to talk about video games as art when you're still trying to prove that they are capable of communicating ideas. But, in other ways, things are worse.
I suppose I see it the way I do because I don't hold an allegiance to any part of the political spectrum. When it comes to politics, I'm a skeptic, going wherever the nuances of any given issue takes me. And, since I have no loyalty to the right or the left, I see the excesses of both side's extremes, and I cannot turn a blind eye to any of it.
The sins of the far right and the far left are the same. They both engage in witch hunts, shifting goal posts, and even sometimes slander. I watched a movement loosely aligned with the far right conduct a ruthless witch hunt for "SJW" video game commentators (a field of commentary I helped pioneer), and then I watched people loosely aligned with the far left engage in their own vicious behaviour in the name of defending the Hugo Awards.