Wil Wheaton Has a Listening Problem
Wil Wheaton has left Mastodon after facing pressure and hostility from both the community and the staff. Yesterday, Wheaton got bofa’d. A bofa is an adolescent prank named after its most popular iteration, bofa. The prank works like this; you drop bofa into seemingly innocuous conversation, and when they ask what is bofa, you say bofa deez nuts. Vulgarity aside, bofa is a common prank on celebrities and commoners alike.
Wheaton did not take the prank well, and immediately reported the user, a trans woman, for the prank. A brief muting by one of mastodon’s instances led to a greater discussion about pranking celebrities, especially celebrities who are being pranked for a troubling history with problematic comments and behaviors.
The reason the prankster being a trans woman is important is because she is one of a growing number of trans folks and cis women who just don’t feel safe around Wheaton. Rather than addressing these concerns, Wil Wheaton has adopted a policy of sticking his fingers in his ears, which on social media amounts to blocking people.
The main concern that was addressed in the ensuing pandemonium was Wil Wheaton’s endorsement of Randy Harper’s personal blocklist. While Wil Wheaton did finally address people’s concern in his parting words on Mastodon, it is muddled with a sense of too little, too late; and the growing frustration with how little he appreciates the harm that was done.
Randi Harper was the creator of the ggautoblocker, a block list that you could subscribe to that blocked the worst of gamergate’s trolls. While once a handy tool, maintained by a staff of good folks and equipped with a quick appeals process, after several months it became defunct as staff quit and was no longer maintained. When this happened, Randi started pushing her personal blocklist.
While ggautoblocker had a staff, an appeals process, and most importantly; a set of guidelines for who is to be added, Randi Harper’s personal blocklist did not. It is merely a list of people she blocks that you can apply to your own Twitter account. The biggest problem with this is this list includes her own personal feuds, including her beef with the trans community, of whom she’s blocked several hundred on Twitter. Randi Harper is a TERF, a trans exclusionary reactionary feminist, and her support for conversation therapy; that is, methods used to make someone who is trans stop being trans; has caused a lot of friction between her and trans folks, friction that has resulted in a lot of blocks.
When Randi Harper pushed her personal blocklist as a replacement to the ggautoblocker, a lot of people in the games industry quickly subscribed to it, remembering the good work that went into the ggautoblocker. This resulted in hundreds of trans folks getting blocked by the games media, publishers, and other gaming folk. Some trans folks in the indie gaming circuit reported massive losses almost right away, with several still claiming that sales never recovered after being purged, as Twitter was their primary source of promotion.
Wil Wheaton was Randi’s leak to the movie industry. When Wil Wheaton promoted Randi’s blocklist, dozens of studios and actors, many of whom much more famous than Wheaton himself, subscribed to it. To his credit, Wil admits to trying to remove some of these names from his own blocks, but a bell once rung cannot be unrung.
There is no reliable way to accurately discern people who Randi added to her blocklist in one of her transphobic blocking sprees. The easiest fix is to use a tool that clears your blocklist entirely or a tool that unblocks everyone who is in Randi’s blocklist. The latter is something I’m not sure ever existed. There was a tool designed to unblock people Randi unjustly blocked, but that tool was never as widely known as Randi’s blocklist, and since people have to volunteer to be added to the list, they can’t be added if they don’t know about it. While Wheaton himself claims to have tried to fix his own blocks, he’s never tried to mitigate the damage by promoting these tools as he had Randi’s blocklist; and hundreds of trans people remain blocked by Hollywood because Wil Wheaton, self-proclaimed trans ally, couldn’t bother to check with anyone about the blocklist before promoting it.
This is hardly his only blunder involving trans issues. More recently, he was a celebrity endorsement for Brianna Wu, a candidate who among other things notoriously donated to the North Carolina GOP after they passed a bill meant to purge trans people from public spaces.
However, the most recent dust-up with Wheaton wasn’t about trans specific issues at all but over his friendship with Chris Hardwick. As Ben Affleck so kindly illustrated when he admitted to not really doing anything despite knowing Weinstein was abusing women; Hollywood has a problem with celebrity’s friends basically remaining silent as they abuse and molest women.
While we cannot be sure if Wheaton knew of Hardwick’s actions as they were happening; he’s certainly made no statements to it since, save for a statement saying he would not comment on his friendship with Chris Hardwick.
Great Wil, dozens of women are leaving their jobs from the various productions Chris Hardwick is involved with. These are women who, either out of a sense of solidarity with Chloe Dykstra or out of a fear of Chris Hardwick, have left their jobs. What exactly are you doing Wil? You’re supposed to be the woke ally celebrity. Your silence here is deafening.
Predators protect one another. Maybe Wil Wheaton isn’t a predator, but he is certainly no ally by staying silent. Women are fleeing The Nerdist and The Talking Dead and you can’t even be bothered to tell your friend it might be best to take a step back from his projects? Your silence protects the oppressor. That is why a growing number of people are feeling increasingly uncomfortable with you Wil.
You’re no Kelly Marie Tran. You’re no Leslie Jones. You weren’t chased off social media by misogynists who hate that women are in their franchises. You were chased off of social media by feminists who feel unsafe having a guy who defends predators and routinely harms trans people just shooting the breeze about World of Warcraft like you’re just some guy. You’re not just some guy, Wil, you’re the guy that hurts us. Until you take your fingers out of your ears and start listening to the concerns of the marginalized groups you talk over while claiming to be allied with, you will continue to be a threat. A threat that has now been neutralized, at least on Mastodon.