The Game of Moo

It has been quite the summer for those of us in Milo’s Telegram chat.

First, there was the Great Sticker Fest using pictures of Milo. Then came the Advent of Awoo and the Evening of Whack-a-Mole, not to mention the daily surprise of waking up to thousands of new comments from the Night Shift Down Under. There have been new friendships formed, long conversations about the merits of furries, song nights and pet parades. We have been at times the Fag Palace complete with Court (I played the Queen Mother) and GloboHomo, Inc. (President of the Board of Directors). We have had singing competitions and reading competitions. We have enjoyed chatting with Milo.

And then came Sharia Tuesday, and we were suddenly all too aware of how complicated the game had become.

It began innocently enough. Well, as innocently as the first time Adam shared an apple with Eve. What would happen if Milo told the women in the chat that they could not post for 24 hours? What would the conversation be like if it were just men? Would the women obey the directive and spend the day elsewhere? Or would they attempt to break into the conversation even though they were requested to stay quiet? What would it be like in the chat once the women were allowed to return? Who would play along? Who would protest? 

Nobody knew—except, of course, Milo. 

Because Milo knows women better than we know ourselves. 

Some lessons are harder than others.

Been there, done that. 

Confession: I am a woman.

Some of the women protested immediately, as soon as the game was announced. It was disrespectful, they said, to women who actually live under sharia to make a game of our voluntary segregation from a social media chat. Women who posted in the main chat on Sharia Tuesday would lose 5 “equality and diversity” points on the chatroom league table; women who flout sharia in real life can lose their lives. 

Some of the women felt betrayed by those who were willing to play the game at all, insisting that the chat ought to be a place where everyone was welcome. 

Others felt challenged when, coming up to midnight when the game was supposed to start, a number of the women changed their profile pics to don hijabs (I put on a Mass veil) and spammed the main chat with Milo stickers to tease the men. (There had been murmurings for some time about the ::ahem:: sheer quantity of Milo stickers. As if you could ever have Too Much Milo! I managed about forty stickers in the last five minutes of Sharia Tuesday eve.)

And then it was Tuesday, and the men rejoiced.

Specifically, they rejoiced that the stickers were gone. They also had some things to say about the women. About how we were probably watching. (Some of us were; others purposefully stayed off Telegram entirely that day to do laundry and bake.) About how we were probably bitching about someone and wishing we could troll. (Some of us do enjoy trolling, but only a handful of women came into the main chat on Tuesday, some by accident, others more purposefully, at which point the men reiterated the rule. Some left with apologies, others protested that they were not doing anything wrong. Milo has yet to adjudicate the demerits; the Board of Directors was merely keeping count.) About how it was good to have men’s clubs where men could learn to be men. (Those of us watching from the women’s chat to a woman agreed.) About how the only things women talk about are men and how they need men to come up with good trolls.

At which point, things got a bit heated—among the women.

Of course the men were trolling us. This is Milo’s chat we are talking about. What was the headline that Cathy Newman read out? “The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ is Simple: Women Should Log Off.” Milo’s point? Women respond to banter and trolling differently than men. Men insult each other as a way of bonding. Women get out the knives. 

Even Professors who have practiced being aware of their propensity to envy and jealousy. 

Even Queen Mothers who love their men

It hurt. I didn’t expect it. Mind you, I could plead jet lag, but that is just making excuses. There I was, trying to be an obedient woman spending the day with the other women in the women’s chat, and there were the men, talking about how women were predictable and lame. 

“Don’t talk to them,” I told the other women in the chat. “When we come back, just ignore them.”

It was so unfair! Didn’t they know I was the one defending them? Didn’t they know how much I valued the experience of sharing conversations with men? Didn’t they know how hard I find talking about “women’s things,” how much I prefer the kinds of conversations more typical of men? (Meanwhile, some of the women were talking about cars.) Didn’t they know I agreed with them about the viciousness of women’s games?

And there I was, playing one. Mean girls.

Or was I? Wasn’t I just suggesting an appropriate counter troll to the men’s trolly complaints? No, several of the women in the group insisted. Suggesting that we, as a group, not talk with particular men was not funny, it was just mean. It was ganging up on the innocent. Those men didn’t mean the mean things they were saying. And even if they did, it was because they were speaking from a place of real pain. They only said those things about women because they had been badly hurt by women. Women started it—women should stop it by not playing games.

Others begged to differ. The things that the men were saying were mean, and it was disingenuous to pretend otherwise. The comments the men were making were intended to gaslight, even when it was also clear that they had to do more with women in the men’s real life than anyone in the chat. Some of the comments were clearly directed at things that had been going on in the chat (see above, stickers), which made it hard to tell how much what the men were saying was intended generically and how much was specific to those of us whom they presumed were watching. I was not the only one to be taken aback.

Did I mention that I had been given an exemption from the game as Queen Mother? 

And yet, there I was in the women’s chat, trying to figure out how not to behave like a typical woman.

The men did more than talk about how much nicer the chat was without the women (and stickers). They also talked about how much they hate abortion and how hard it is on men. They had a long conversation about circumcision which got fairly tense. They batted around baseball for a bit and considered whether pornhub could replace YouTube. And then, late Tuesday evening, they started talking about cows.

Did I mention the recommendation that Milo made before the game started? 
If the men have any sense they will talk about things the women are ITCHING to have their say about, just torment them.
We liked the cows! (Mind you, it conflicted somewhat with the car-talk in the women’s chat, but we were multi-chatting.) One of the men is a cow farmer and loves talking about helping cows calve. The men talked about milking machines and pasteurization and bull semen...and then started looking over their shoulders wondering what would happen when the women returned. One declared: “I’m going to bed so they won’t get the satisfaction of me reacting to their hate parade.”

Which gave me an idea. Actually, no, looking at the time stamps on the comments, I had already had this idea. The cow-talk had given one of the women the idea of changing our avatars from hijabs to cows, and this seemed to me a good troll for the men. Again, not everyone agreed—one of the things several of the women in the women’s chat were adamant about was how we women needed to be wary of playing the manipulative games to which women are prone. Was there any way to troll the men that wasn’t mean? Or would the very fact of responding to their comments about women be giving into the very meanness we were trying to avoid?

We had been excluded from the chat as women. The men had spent the day talking about women. What was the best way for us to return?

Some of the women wanted to storm back in at the stroke of midnight, much as some of us had left the night before in a flurry of stickers. Others wanted to come back in as if nothing had happened, simply carry on the conversation that the men had been having without comment. Others (myself included) felt stung by what we had seen, but also mindful of not taking things personally (like women). At least one (or so we later found out) felt it incumbent upon her to “warn” the men that some of us had a plan, albeit (in her words) “not much of a plan really.” 

The plan, such as it was, was this: Put on cow avatars and wait for morning. Then wander in gently, not necessarily in a big herd, and moo until the men responded to us. 

I know, lame, right?

Except some of the men, including the cow farmer, quite liked it. In his words:
The cow pictures were a great comeback and the counter troll we deserved...  I didn’t perceive the banter as deliberately anti-female, but I only jumped in and out during the day and did not read any of the backlog so I had no appreciation for the tone or context throughout the day. It was a funny dynamic but it’s nice that we’re back to the full guard.
We had achieved something they hadn’t expected. A not entirely lame troll. As one of them told me when I explained it to him: “It was a beautiful troll...a beautifully symbolic comeback.” 

Why, then, am I still feeling so icky? 

Having suggested the cow plan, I went to bed several hours before midnight. The jet lag was getting to me, but I also very much did not want my plan to feel at all coerced. I had suggested it, those who wanted to play could play. The last thing I wanted to do was make anyone feel compelled to go along with all the other women—like the feminists do. And yet, by the time I woke up and learned from the women’s chat about the dismay over the way our plan had been leaked, everyone was feeling unhappy and confused, and none of the cows had come home. As it turned out, only five of us donned cow avatars. Several more posted gifs, there was general rejoicing. And then the women spent the rest of the week wrangling over what the game had meant.

Which of us had played the game Milo wanted us to play? Which of us had managed not to behave like typical women?

Trick question, as surely Milo knew.

Yesterday, I asked those who had participated in Sharia Tuesday (or not) to let me know their responses to the game. Several of the women wrote to me at length, explaining how the game had made them uncomfortable, particularly the way things played out in the women’s chat. Others told me how thankful they were for the women’s chat and how it had given them the chance to get to know some of the other women better. Others told me how it helped them to see the men talking about how much they had been hurt by women and how they had resolved to be kinder to the men. Some told me the women behaved exactly as they expected the women would. Others told me how they were pleasantly surprised.

The one thing every woman told me, implicitly or explicitly? That she expected she was unusual, but assumed the other women all agreed. 

Kinda makes you moo, eh?


For my further adventures with Milo, see The MILO Chronicles. Follow Milo on Telegram.

Comments

  1. It is good for men to have our own spaces, our own clubs. And this has been relentlessly under assault in the west since at least the 50s. I'm glad that Milo is pointing this out, although as a gay man, he's in a kind of weird position relative to the problem.

    I look forward to our talk Friday, although I regret with the passing of Hangouts on Air, I won't be livestreaming for the moment.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Also, seeing a link to one of your older posts reminded me, you may like my most recent video: For half the cost of a bottle of maple syrup.

    ReplyDelete

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