Tropes vs Women episode 1 is up!

HOLY CRAP IT'S HERE FEMINIST FREQUENCY'S TROPES VS WOMEN IN VIDEO GAMES IS HERE OH MY GOD I CAN'T EVEN In May of 2012, pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian launched a kickstarter for a video series, "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games," asking for six thousand dollars to fund a web series exploring systematic sexism in video games. The kickstarter raised over 25 times its goal, and misogynists all over the internet freaked the hell out.

Since then, she launched the Tropes vs Women Tumblr, which over the last few months has been posting examples of hundreds of games that feature Damsels in Distress, the subject of the first upcoming video.

Today, the first episode of Tropes vs Women in Video Games went up:  Damsel in Distress Part 1.

I can't find any information about what kind of schedule the videos will go up on, but as soon as I know, I will report back.

I'm so excited!  This is the coolest thing that has gone up on YouTube today.

People I'm pissed I didn't learn about in school: Nellie Bly

Tumblr user Jawdust posted a list, titled  

Why you should be in passionate horny love with Elizabeth ‘Nellie Bly’ Cochrane,

 

and she makes a really good case. Here's an excerpt:

  • This is where we get to the good shit. Age 18, she wrote a letter-to-the-editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch bitchslapping the everloving fuck out of a sexist ballsack of an article entitled ‘What Girls Are Good For’.
  • The editor was so goddamn wooed by her razor-sharp tongue that he RAN AN AD asking her to identify herself. Elizabeth owned up, and was hired instantaneously, her badassery radiating from her pores and intoxicating all within a twenty mile radius.
  • Working under the pen-name Nellie Bly, Elizabeth kicked the butts of morons everywhere, writing articles aimed at social justice, particularly labour laws to protect working ‘girls’ and reform of Pennsylvania’s divorce law, which greatly favoured men.
  • Not content with changing the world from behind her desk, Elizabeth became a founding mother of investigative journalism. She was expelled from Mexico for exposing political corruption, and henceforth wrapped in cotton wool by her editors. Infuriated by their mollycoddling, Lizzie left them a note essentially telling them to fuck themselves and hot footed it to NYC. She was still only 23.

Within the post I originally saw this reblogged from, Tumblr user Absenzio writes:

I’m so pissed right now because I NEVER, EVER found her in a single of the history and literature books I studied on. Fuck that shit, this woman needs a whole entire chapter in every single book in print

I agree, Absenzio.  Also, there's a website called Nellie Bly Online that has all of her articles.  So, I will be reading some of them soon.

Hanna Rosin AMA

I saw that Hanna Rosin, the author of "The End Of Men," was doing an AMA on Reddit.  I was a little curious, but didn't want to wade through the crap to check it out.  Fortunately, Slate has posted a selection of some of the questions, all neat and stuff.  I liked this bit:

BaduRainsDestruction: I just want to let you know that I love the amount of man-rage you inspire.

Hanna Rosin: I'm getting the feeling that it is definitely NOT the end of men at Reddit—that this is like the 21 Club (or maybe the Hooters) of online communities, one of those places where men still feel free to let loose.

Totallynotbb: I'm kind of surprised that nobody clued you into this ugly aspect of Reddit before proposing you do this AMA. In case you're curious, Reddit's resident angry dudebros have been planning to ambush you since last night.

Eliaspowers: Meta question: Did you expect this degree of hostility coming into the AMA? I assumed (correctly) that MRA would ambush the thread, but is that something you were prepared for?

I'd be interested in your thoughts on how things are going so far.

Also, I don't know how familiar you are with Reddit, but please keep in mind that you are being besieged by a small subset of highly ideological Redditors rather than the Reddit population in general, where there is more ideological diversity.

Hanna Rosin: I knew in advance they'd be interested but, uh, not that interested.

The link at "not that interested," by the way, leads to a post on the Men's Rights subreddit, where a bunch of MRAs were planning an ambush.  They linked to her TED talk, which I hadn't seen before -- they call it "Hanna Rosin Abusing her Children: ON VIDEO."  The clip is about 7 seconds of her daughter explaining why she sees girls as being more successful in elementary school.  The point of that bit was that men and boys deserve the kind of help and attention that women have gotten in the last few decades.

The video itself is pretty great, though.  Embedded below; Here's the link.

Eff yeah France: free birth control for teenagers

Slate reports:

NPR reports that France is adopting a new regulation making contraception and contraception counseling free to girls 15 to 18, with an added provision that doctors must offer this care without notifying parents. Unlike here in the U.S., the free contraception is covered by the state and not a girl's insurance, giving her a further layer of privacy protections. The government hopes that by protecting young girls' privacy, it can increase contraception use and reduce the teen pregnancy rate.

So: Straightforward, almost boring health care policy story about a government taking sensible, cost-effective measures to curb a public health problem. But the story isn't really about health care policy—the underlying narrative here is that the French are yet again making American politicians look like a bunch of out of touch prudes. (Americans don't need the French to point this out: Just wander into an American abstinence-only classroom to hear sexually active kids being told that anything short of waiting the 15-plus years between puberty and the average age of first marriage to have sex is a ruinous choice that will end with the fornicator unable to feel love or dead from AIDS.)

Everybody sensible knows that American politics can't hold up its current bad decisions and wrong positions.  Eventually all the people who care about them will die, or America will slip below first-world status and we'll have a schism, or the NRA will shoot everyone.  Or we'll elect some sane people soon.  Don't want to rule that out.

It's nice to know that, while we flounder, the rest of the world continues to move forward.

Gender neutral Easy-Bake Oven petition

(via Boing Boing)

The above video implores viewers to sign a petition for Hasbro to push back against the ubiquitous assumption that women are the only people who want to learn to cook, or play with cooking toys.  Mckenna Pope recorded her brother explaining that he wants an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas, but thinks "Only girls play with it."

From the Change.org petition:

Imagine my surprise when I walked into his room to find him "cooking" tortillas by placing them on top of his lamp's light bulb! Obviously, this is not a very safe way for him to be a chef, so when he asked Santa for his very own Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven, produced by the Hasbro company, for me to help him be the cook he's always wanted to be, my parents and I were immediately convinced it was the truly perfect present.

However, we soon found it quite appalling that boys are not featured in  packaging or promotional materials for Easy Bake Ovens -- this toy my brother's always dreamed about. And the oven comes in gender-specific hues: purple and pink.

I feel that this sends a clear message: women cook, men work.

I have always been adamantly against anything that promotes specific roles in society for men and women, and having grown up with toys produced by the Hasbro corporation, it truly saddens me that such a successful business would resort to conforming to society's views on what boys do and what girls do.

I want my brother to know that it's not "wrong" for him to want to be a chef, that it's okay to go against what society believes to be appropriate.

Here: go sign.  I did.  They're only about 6,000 signatures away from the 35,000 signature goal.

Gender-swapped Legend of Zelda

Ars Technica writes about an awesome father's total rewrite of the text of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker to refer to Link as a woman rather than a man in every instance, to give his daughter a good female hero to look up to.

The modifications proved a bit tricky, since the new female-oriented wording had to be a byte-for-byte alteration of the original; even throwing in "she" in place of "he" would mess things up. So Hoye got creative, using words like “milady” in place of “my lad” and “master."

“Sentences need to be changed or reworded just because 'young lady' is one character longer than 'young man,' line breaks need to be in about the right places, that sort of thing,” Hoye told Ars via e-mail.

This is demand: here's hoping the game industry sees it as a reason to supply.  A good first step would be taking games like Legend of Zelda, where it wouldn't be that had to pass off the main character as female, and adding a settings feature for a gender-swapped version of the script.

I like the idea of gender neutral games too, but it's harder to make them work as genuinely gender neutral -- people attribute maleness to them.  It'd be nice to see gender neutral games with pronoun choice sets for dialogue.  He, she, them, it, xe, etc.

Still looking forward to Anita Sarkeezian's series, by the way.  Haven't heard much about it, but she generally goes a while between updates and I'm sure it's going to take a very long time to play through all the games she committed to.  Those videos are going to be awesome when they come out.

Manpain

Through a series of variously depressing links about sexism I explored today, I came across this music video, for a song called "The Price," and its associated vid notes.  You have to download it. The video focuses on the tragic moments of pain in the story arcs of male heroic characters, generally featuring the death or injury of female characters they have a relationship with.  I found myself thinking back frequently to one of my favorite articles, How to be a fan of problematic things.

Liking problematic things doesn’t make you an asshole. In fact, you can like really problematic things and still be not only a good person, but a good social justice activist (TM)! After all, most texts have some problematic elements in them, because they’re produced by humans, who are well-known to be imperfect. But it can be surprisingly difficult to own up to the problematic things in the media you like, particularly when you feel strongly about it, as many fans do. We need to find a way to enjoy the media we like without hurting other people and marginalised groups.

Seriously, that article is awesome.  Check it out.

The vidder's notes about the Price video go into massive detail about the way in which male characters are portrayed as uniquely capable of experiencing deep emotion, and as the primary (often only) touchstone for audience empathy -- specifically, about certain kinds of pain: people close to them die or go through something traumatic, which is painful for them, far more than the original victim; they have ridiculous amounts of power, and that makes them feel awful all the time; women they love are killed (often off-camera) and the man is totally sad about it and stuff.

This article is full of lightbulbs about really problematic things in popular media, so if you tend to feel defensive about stuff you like, I really recommend reading How to be a fan of problematic things first.  Then, come back for such features which I was embarrassed to have not previously noticed as:

Uneasy rests the head that wears the crown! &c. This manpain flavour is also known as "white man's burden" – the sadness that comes because having power and privilege is hard work. This category is actually owned by the Doctor, because no character has ever had so much white man's burden as he has – and he's just so LONELY there at the top. "The Lonely God," seriously.

That one was hard to swallow.  I really like Doctor Who.  Or,

[O]n Leverage, Nate lost a son to cancer. Which has never happened to ANYONE ELSE. But his pain is so great and overwhelming, so huge, that even his wife, who lost exactly the same son in exactly the same way, cannot understand, cannot feel as deeply as he does, cannot be as destroyed by it.

I did notice that one, but it seems even worse when put in the context of the rest of these examples.

There are loads of other examples in there, and the writer wraps it up with a bunch of links to TV Tropes, which are also worth checking out.

Shannon Hale on genderequd reading habits

(via To Write Is To Live Forever on Tumblr) I had never heard of Shannon Hale before today, but now I'm absolutely interested in seeking out and reading her work.  She writes young adult fantasy and adult fiction, and she posted this on her Tumblr late last month:

When I do book signings, most of my line is made up of young girls with their mothers, teen girls alone, and mother friend groups. But there’s usually at least one boy with a stack of my books. This boy is anywhere from 8-19, he’s carrying a worn stack of the Books of Bayern, and he’s excited and unashamed to be a fan of those books. As I talk to him, 95% of the time I learn this fact: he is home schooled.

There’s something that happens to our boys in school. Maybe it’s because they’re around so many other boys, and the pressure to be a boy is high. They’re looking around at each other, trying to figure out what it means to be a boy—and often their conclusion is to be “not a girl.” Whatever a girl is, they must be the opposite. So a book written by a girl? With a girl on the cover? Not something a boy should be caught reading.

Continue reading...

This is the kind of thing that the gender binary does to people -- this is a great example of the ways that sexism hurts boys.[1. In case any Men's Rights Activists stumble onto this post, no, I'm not arguing that men are more/equally/similarly oppressed than women.  The problems men face in a sexist culture are best addressed by fighting for the social equality of women and breaking down the rigid gender norms of "manliness" and "femininity".]

The idea that boys aren't supposed to like 'girly' books, shows, or other narratives means boys are de facto not exposed to strong female characters, good female role models, and whole values-sets that don't mesh with the ideas of 'boys writing.'

I strongly recommend reading the whole post, because it's kind of tragic and very, very important.

Male gaze and game design

(via Felicia Day on Tumblr) Brandon Sheffield at Gamasutra has written an excellent post about male gaze, and its relationship to video game design.  This is "gaze" in the philosophical sense -- not the sense of looking, but the effect of being looked at.  One does not perform the gaze, one experiences it.

Sheffield explores the way that this concept, and especially male gaze, the concept specifically focused on the way hetoronormative, conventional, male expectations about the world get imposed with priority over all others.  In doing so, he neatly outlines and connects a lot of the major problems in gaming culture re: feminism at the moment.

In doing so, he also comes out with a lot of vivid examples, and great metaphors, like this one:

Where does this knee-jerk anger come from? There is no anger quite like that of the privileged. Here we see it in the raw. In this instance; "We heterosexual males like boobs in our games, and we'll be damned if you're going to take them away." Because they feel threatened, they lash out without thinking about it, like a dog that thinks you want to take its bone away. The behavior seems nonsensical, but it's predictable. (Emphasis mine)

I suggest it either way, but especially if you haven't already caught up on the state of feminism and gaming culture lately, Sheffield's post is a great read.

ThinkProgress open letter re: Tomb Raider

(via Newsweek on Tumblr) I never really checked out ThinkProgress much before, but that's definitely changing.  I was very impressed with Alyssa Rosenberg's article today, An Open Letter to the Guys Who Told Me They Want to See Lara Croft Get Raped.

[Trigger warning: rape]

I had heard allusions to this effect, but before now I didn't know that an upcoming Tomb Raider title includes plans to explore Lara Croft's backstory, which features an attempted rape.  Apparently, some commenters on the topic thought it would be a good idea to play poorly for that part of the game, to see if they could let the rape happen:

 “As long as you get to watch Lara Croft get raped uncensored, I’ll pre-order the special edition right now,” wrote Jordan Cunningham. “I been wanting to see that foe nearly a decade.” And Eric Ericsson chimed in “Rape in my tomb raider? Oh boy, I cannot wait to raid her tomb.”

She starts from a very charitable position on the question of the inherent sexism of Lara Croft.  She concedes that there are totally legitimate ways in which one can fantasize about Croft that wouldn't qualify as exploitative or objectifying.  And the direction she takes the article is one of genuine concern for the commenters, assuming that these comments are the worst kind of thing they ever do.  (That's certainly possible in their specific case, and even if not, there are people out there for whom pretending they're okay with rape is the farthest they go.)

I clicked around a bit more on her columns:  She's got a great post, which I'm very glad exists, called The Guy's Guide to Being a Feminist Ally in Video Gaming.  It's exactly the sort of content I, as a nongendered person who was born male, like to see, and can get a lot out of.

ThinkProgress is now going into my regular checks for news to read daily.

FeministFrequency Kickstarter: Way past goal, still going

Anita Sarkeesian, the vlogger responsible for FeministFrequency, is running a Kickstarter to create an in-depth video series on sexism in video games.

Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

The videos she makes on her own budget are amazing, so I can't wait to see what she does with financial support.  Her initial proposal was to make a set of five videos on gamer tropes that repeatedly depict women in a marginalized or objectified light:

  • Damsel in Distress
  • The Fighting F#@k Toy
  • The Sexy Sidekick
  • The Sexy Villainess
  • Background Decoration

But her donors shot way past the initial $6,000 goal in the first 24 hours, and now the project is into stretch goals territory. The first one was achieved within the first week, the next one the following week, and the project is only about $1000 short of goal #3, creating a classroom curriculum using the materials of the series.

Thanks to the additional donations, we're also getting these videos:

  • Voodoo Priestess/Tribal Sorceress
  • Woman as Reward
  • Mrs. Male Character
  • Unattractive Equals Evil
  • Man with Boobs
  • Bonus Video - Positive Female Characters!
All the videos are going to be online for free, and will be between 10 and 20 minutes long.  They'll be like a pop-culture feminist CrashCourse!

Content like this is important for a lot of reasons.  Anita Sarkeesian's FeministFrequency videos offer a way into a dialogue about sexism in pop culture without requiring a prep course in postmodernism.  The video game industry and nerd culture have some huge problems with sexism, and high-quality, easy to digest content addressing it, like the stuff Anita produces, make it a lot easier (a.) for fence-sitters to see what's wrong with the stuff that might have only made them a little uncomfortable, and (b.) for people in the industry who do want to make less sexist content to make the case for their artistic decisions.  (It's hard to make genuinely progressive games if you're the only one on staff who cares about it and your boss insists that it'll be more marketable if the women are good wank material.)

I won't be able to contribute (I don't have any money) but I hope anyone reading this with some cash to spare pitches in.  This is exactly the sort of media we need.