Brandon Strader

Tropes vs. Women / #GamerGate Conspiracies

2,105 posts in this topic

It's been mentioned that games to a large extent emulate Hollywood, maybe the change should happen there first, and in society in general; games are just a scapegoat.

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She comes across as saying "games are bad and you should feel bad for enjoying them". That's not helpful, because it puts people on the defensive, and the reflexive response is to lash out instead of engaging in any sort of thoughtful, meaningful dialogue.

if thats what you take from these videos, then i hate to put it this way, but that is just your problem. this video opens with the disclaimer: "please keep in mind that it's both possible, and even necessary, to simultaneously enjoy a piece of media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects" (i believe the first video had a similar opening, and its also in the description of both). not to mention that in earlier videos, she professes a love for the same video games she is critiquing. experiencing a video game, or any piece of art, is not an all-or-nothing proposition. to put her statement another way: it is possible to criticize those aspects of a game which are negative without nullifying those which are positive, and vice versa.

And yet, if someone doesn't start by doing something, then the situation will never improve. I think it's entirely reasonable to expect someone who's arguing that a problem exists to discuss possible solutions as well. Even if she says "this is an enormous issue and I'm not sure what, if any, solution to it exists" then that'd be a step up from what she's offered so far.

i would argue that these videos are "solutions" - or at the very least, one small part of a much larger, multi-faceted approach to "fixing" sexism. that is, these videos, as with the rest of the feminist frequency material, are concerned with a close-reading of popular culture as it relates to issues of gender. they are a kind of action in and of themselves, acts of critical thought and empathy, the absence of which generally enable the proliferation of these kinds of harmful narratives and representations to begin with.

sarkeesian frequently reminds us that "video games do not exist in a vacuum". this is an important point that i think people are passing over when they feel that they are owed answers or solutions, or that the thing they love is being attacked and that they should be ashamed for loving it. representations of women in video games are a fragment, a single strand in a hugely complex web of relationships between people and social structures.

what would a solution even look like? i'll take a single problem: portrayals of women in video games frequently rely on diminishing their humanity. lets say a cause of the problem is a lack of women as authors of these works. a possible solution there may be a concerted effort to hire more women as programmers and game designers. now we run into another problem: computer science is a field statistically dominated by men at a 4:1 ratio. why such a disparity, when men and women have access to the same schools? are they somehow being denied the same level of access to technology? maybe the reason is cultural, that engineering or computer science related activities are gendered male, and that children are aware of their gender roles at a very young age. who is responsible for that...?

my point is that it doesnt take long to trace the causality of an apparently simple issue before arriving at an overwhelming and vast array of factors touching on every stage of a person's development across multiple institutions in our society. these social institutions thrive on cyclical patterns, and they are all inexorably tied to one another. which brings me back to the point that these issues do not exist in a vacuum, and that any "solution" to sexism, if it existed, would necessarily address other issues of institutionalized inequality, including racism, classism, etc. from this perspective, proposing a sort of one-size-fits-all solution is quite beyond the scope of the series, which is intended as a microscopic analysis of a specific element of popular culture.

Why are damsels in distress such a popular trope in games? Because it's a quick and easy way to give your story some emotional punch before sending the player character off to shoot things.

sarkeesian acknowledges as much in the video. another interesting thought: i remember reading - either in this thread or somewhere else, i cant remember where - that the reason guns are such a common mechanic in video games is because their very nature allows for a wide range of interactions within a given environment. similarly, it is suggested in this video that the reason for plots in which the player has to kill the damsel in order to move on are likely the result of the FPS paradigm in which a player's only way of engaging the environment is to attack it. at no point in the video does sarkeesian accuse video game developers who are guilty of this trope as anything more than unimaginative.

All she says is, basically "don't use them". That's a useless answer, because it doesn't offer any alternative -- and since games still need an emotional component, damsels in distress will still be tapped to provide it. Nobody wins.

towards the end of the video sarkeesian provides three examples of games which tapped into that same emotional reservoir based on death and loss, doing so without relying on the dehumanization of anybody, let alone women.

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Too bad she listed garbage indie games.

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Yeah, it bothers me that she fails to address this. She does acknowledge that most negative depictions of women are systemic rather than deliberate, but she fails to posit any reason why they've become systemic issues, or offer anything that can be used in their place.

Actually, I do believe she says it's because it satisfies our male power fantasy a few times (Specifically at 2:58, if you want to hear it yourself in that context), which I personally think ignores the economic complications involved with taking risks. It's like I agree on most of the examples she brings up, as well as the fact that society as a whole has an affect on it, but the conclusions she draws ignores so many other factors that I can't take it seriously. I would need to see a presentation that's better documented, as well as the studies that show her statements to be true in order to take her conclusion on that seriously.

Women are depicted as damsels in distress because it's an easy way to add emotional punch to a game. So, the problem is that games need emotional punch, and their current method of providing them is bad.

Never have I agreed with you more.

Edited by Gario
Derp, I am a quote genius, here.

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All I know is that I probably won't watch any more of her videos. I want answers to these problems and for all her insight into where these problems exist, she offers zero insight into where the solutions might lie.

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Well, if you acknowledge there are problems and you're here talking about them, then she has already accomplished her goal. Sometimes awareness really is the most important thing to get the ball rolling. Political satire, in the form of cartoons, The Daily Show, the Colbert Report, etc. is basically the same story, albeit with a bit more entertainment. The point of such media is not to try and solve problems in one fell swoop, but to present them in a way that is easy to digest and to maybe make us think a bit. Perhaps ironically, viewers of the Daily Show & Colbert Report happen to be just as knowledgeable if not moreso about current events & politics.

I would consider Anita to be an analyst or a critic. Most of us don't make video games or film, but we understand that you can analyze and be critical of them without having made one yourself. A film critic doesn't need to try and suggest all the ways to fix a film, they need only present their opinion (which is ideally well-thought out and presented.) Same kinda thing with these videos. They're commentary, analysis, criticism, meant to inspire further discussion. There simply isn't anything wrong with that, but some of you seem to think that there is...

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Except that even as a discussion topic, all she's doing is offering an opinion based on an overbearing sense of cynicism, personal bias, and sexist rhetoric.

Video games surely don't exist in a vacuum, but then I as an artist don't and shouldn't have to give a fuck about maintaining some sense of social responsibility in terms of what I want to create. That's my creative license as an artist and what she's proposing isn't too far off from censorship.

In addition to her indecision on whether or not women should or shouldn't be involved in depictions of violence, which is not only confusing and batty, but the way she words it is also partly offensive, as she's indirectly saying that it's perfectly cool for men to be brutally maimed and/or incapacitated.

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Except that even as a discussion topic, all she's doing is offering an opinion based on an overbearing sense of cynicism, personal bias, and sexist rhetoric.

But it DOES get people talking!! I'm literally confused as to whether Andy agrees with every last thing she's saying or not; taking the apologist route of claiming that she's accomplished her goal because people are discussing her videos doesn't actually speak to the merit of any of her statements, only their effect.

I thought we'd covered this a LONG way back on this thread and basically agreed that she HAS been effective in getting people to at least consider the topic(s). Why keep repeating this observation as any sort of valid defense against actual criticisms of her actual statements, though?

In addition to her indecision on whether or not women should or shouldn't be involved in depictions of violence, which is not only confusing and batty, but the way she words it is also partly offensive, as she's indirectly saying that it's perfectly cool for men to be brutally maimed and/or incapacitated.

I'm obviously short on free time and can't respond in full. I feel like I made a lot of solid points in previous posts that Andy never really countered & instead is now replying to this new discussion with points that have already been covered at length.

At any rate, new video same as old. Same dial-a-mantra second wave feminism strongly at play. "Damsel in Distress" has now been widened to include characters who are 99% empowered for a game and then BRIEFLY vulnerable in the last 1%. Also widened to include characters who fight back, but unless in doing so they completely annihilate every last enemy in the game, then their efforts are meaningless and do not count. Also, regardless of how violent a game is overall, any violence done to them is distinct & separate, etc., etc., etc.

Choice quotes? A few from earlier on:

  • "crude, unsophisticated male power fantasies"
    • Dial-a-mantra condescension, redundant adjective use, unnecessarily pejorative when the point shouldn't be that "male power fantasies" shouldn't exist, just that more variety would be nice. Level of narrative sophistication is usually tied to how vital the story is to that genre of game.

    [*]"appealing, expected, or normal"

    • Mentioned in regard to "paternalistic" feelings. "Expected" vs. "Normal" = redundant, relative to what I think she's trying to say... Also, who the F is she to say what's "normal" or "appealing"? These are dangerous terms... this statement is a completely empty, aborted idea. Of course, had she actually followed through, I think even SHE would have realized how offensive the implications would be...

    [*]"nothing "mature" about most of these stories"

    • Yeah, and we GET that. BINGO!! There's nothing "mature" about most of these stories - their verisimilitude and narrative depth are NOT a focal point!!! You can (more or less) waste your energy deconstructing them up one side and down the other, using any rubric or framework or methodology you want, but most of them ARE relatively immature stories with MANY of the trappings of so-called "male power fantasies". So? Why is that always a bad thing? Oh, it must not be "appealing, expected, or normal"...

Vapid stuff, but if it gets people talking, it must be good...?

the problem with the second video is still the same as the first one; she's pointing out what the problem is but without giving any clear parameters as to what the solution is
This this this this this times a thousand.

I disagree, for the record; I think that what she's pointing out as problems, and everyone seems to be agreeing are problems, in many cases simply aren't. Or at least, aren't problems specific to "tropes vs. women in video games," but rather simply common weaknesses/contrivances in the art form.

Are there too many games with "male" power fantasies out there, and does the percentage make it hard for some folks to take vidya games seriously as an art form?

You betcha! High-five, agree completely...

Is this a "problem" because "male" power fantasies in and of themselves need to go away, and anything that vaguely resembles them has a negative effect on society?

No.

So, framing the "problem" is key. Offering solutions would be nice, but that's both out of scope AND would more directly expose the many pitfalls of applying outdated approaches to thinking about men & women.

why such a disparity, when men and women have access to the same schools? are they somehow being denied the same level of access to technology? maybe the reason is cultural, that engineering or computer science related activities are gendered male, and that children are aware of their gender roles at a very young age. who is responsible for that...?

I keep listening to that Shenmue ReMix, FYI. Brilliant stuff.

I love your use of the word "maybe" because that's exactly it: MAYBE. The problem is that "maybe" isn't in the vernacular of second-wave feminists on topics like this. Instead, it's an absolutist paradigm in which it is self-evident (a term Andy has actually employed himself, without irony) that men are intentionally keeping women away from the science & tech jobs as part of a concerted effort to protect the patriarchy. There's no room for "maybe," or even investigation. There's ABSOLUTELY no room for the alternative explanation, either - that genes play a role. That the sexes are different, and that science & tech maybe appeal less, innately, regardless of aptitude. RE: video games, that competition in & of itself maybe appeals somewhat less, innately, to women. To even suggest this POSSIBILITY will get you crucified in the Sarkeesian world of throwback second-wave feminist thought; and yet there is science to support that, at least in terms of risk-taking behavior and competitiveness, the sex differences are not only globally observable, but STRONGER in cultures that have MORE rights & freedom & equality for women.

READ: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/debate05/debate05_index.html

Note that being competitive & risk-taking are double-edged swords, i.e. not wholly positive...

Pinker never suggests a completely genetic explanation, he only suggests that genes could be a meaningful part of the equation. With regard to gender roles, you should always question your assumptions, AND question authority, AND society, but you should also QUESTION THE QUESTIONS. "Social Construction" is often an intellectually bankrupt explanation for understanding the characteristics of human society...

similarly, it is suggested in this video that the reason for plots in which the player has to kill the damsel in order to move on are likely the result of the FPS paradigm in which a player's only way of engaging the environment is to attack it. at no point in the video does sarkeesian accuse video game developers who are guilty of this trope as anything more than unimaginative.

She describes having gamers save the damsel as being "paternalistic" and that such sentiments shouldn't be considered "appealing, expected, or normal"... she also attempts to read the minds of said developers and suggests that they're including violence against women just to make the stories/games seem "more mature" and then says that there is "nothing "mature" about most of these stories" - I think she's doing a lot more in this video, and even more in the first, than simply saying these tropes are unimaginative. If that's all she was saying, I'd have far fewer objections, if any.

One should always apply the same close-reading to the analysis itself that the analysis claims to be performing on its subject; I think if you did, you'd realize that there are more allegations/implications being leveled than simply a lack of creativity.

towards the end of the video sarkeesian provides three examples of games which tapped into that same emotional reservoir based on death and loss, doing so without relying on the dehumanization of anybody, let alone women.

So dehumanization in fiction is bad?? I'm not even joking... here's the thing... war, and almost any mortal competition (MORTAL KOMBATTTT!!!) involves dehumanization. PEOPLE dehumanize. People also make FICTION, and in that fiction - which usually tells a story involving PEOPLE - dehumanization, along with so many other human faults, often occurs. It is up to us, the observant audience, to decide whether a given work is DEPICTING dehumanization among & between its characters, or actually EXHIBITING it directly. Drawing this line is crucial. Happily, most of us CAN, but we somehow manage to forget this when exposed to the vitriolic rhetoric of second-wave feminists, puritanical censors, and anyone else who would seek to equate these two automatically.

Edited by djpretzel

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Christ, you could jump a tiger through Anita's earrings.

Instead of these videos, I really think people should crowd-fund a video game and Anita gets to write its story. I know I would pitch in to that kick-starter.

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I found this video on the first topic presentation - sorry if it was presented before, but I actually think it vocalizes a lot of what I'm thinking about the series, so far.

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I found this video on the first topic presentation - sorry if it was presented before, but I actually think it vocalizes a lot of what I'm thinking about the series, so far.

Yep. This is one of the videos I meant in my previous post. She puts it so well into perspective without being rude at all.

Love it. I really want more of these to come out to counter Anita's arguments and statements. This is the benefit I see from her videos. *which i still fucking hate with a passion why do people take them as anything good arghghghghg*

I'm literally confused as to whether Andy agrees with every last thing she's saying or not; taking the apologist route of claiming that she's accomplished her goal because people are discussing her videos doesn't actually speak to the merit of any of her statements, only their effect.

I am confused as well, and honestly still am not too happy I was labeled as something negative when I voiced my opinion on her. Thank you, by the way, for voicing what I have been wanting to except far more eloquently.

Edited by Arek the Absolute

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Goddamn that is a good response video.

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Too bad that nobody is looking at it from a STORY perspective. But PLATFORMER Mario games aren't known for deep story anyhow, they're mainly just a premise, and there isn't much else needed. If you start to have a bunch of unnecessary story in a platformer based Mario game, it ceases to be a Mario game. That doesn't mean that they couldn't have had Peach as a playable character in NSMB Wii or U though. Heck, they could have put Daisy in as a playable character.

Edited by Toadofsky

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Can I state reasons why I think Blue's clues was offensive and oppressive to males because Steve *male* was a fucking idiot who had to rely solely on Blue *female* to help him with literally everything revolving around staying alive in his own house?

No? Why. Oh, because it was marketed at children and it's sole intent was to educate while providing some good humor to keep people engaged and had no intention of ever even implying that males couldn't live functionally by themselves?

hm.

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I feel like I made a lot of solid points in previous posts that Andy never really countered & instead is now replying to this new discussion with points that have already been covered at length.

I decided that I don't have time for these essay length posts, which is basically the length our discussion was at. Short stuff, sure. We can always talk about it more at Otakon or something :P My only new point in chiming in recently was to point out that since we can't agree whether there is a problem, or if there is one, how bad it is, it makes no sense to criticize her for not proposing a solution (that much you agreed with)

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A film critic doesn't need to try and suggest all the ways to fix a film, they need only present their opinion (which is ideally well-thought out and presented.) Same kinda thing with these videos. They're commentary, analysis, criticism, meant to inspire further discussion. There simply isn't anything wrong with that, but some of you seem to think that there is...

Yes, there is something wrong with that, and is that is the status quo for being a critic, then the term is pejorative.

But that's likely more a problem with your parallel. A film critic doesn't need to offer a solution to things like poor lighting or plot discrepancies: the solutions are intuitive from the problems. Just like, for instance, you wouldn't need to tell a friend how to stop being a dick; you just tell him to stop being a dick. The case of this thread, however, is more like telling a friend to stop being depressed. Stating the issue, even with an investigation into the issue, is insufficient. You need to come out with something actionable.

So, framing the "problem" is key. Offering solutions would be nice, but that's both out of scope AND would more directly expose the many pitfalls of applying outdated approaches to thinking about men & women.

The scope to a problem always includes a solution. If there isn't a solution, the problem isn't worth mentioning. And if proposing the solution would be counterproductive (as you claim), then the solution must be counterproductive, in which case the solution creates a situation worse than the problem. In which case, again, the problem isn't worth mentioning.

It's a cop-out.

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Something I'm not liking about this series, is that she's making implications that she can't be sure are there. In episode 1, she talks about how Miyamoto joked that Fox should be the main hero in Dinosaur Planet. It's probably just me, but to me she's making implications that Miyamoto is some sort of sexist.

My entire issue on this series is that she's only going after the narrative and nothing else. There's far too much that gets excised in the discussion. Going by a story in an Arcade game is honestly laughable, as is the NES games. Would anybody who were playing arcade games in the 80's stand at an arcade machine for 3 hours for plot exposition? If so, count me surprised. So far, she hasn't even talked about the PC games of the early 80's or 90's, where the games had a little more technology to put more exposition and development to the story.

I don't see anything suggested she's the least bit interested in gaming beyond using it as a launching point for her worldview, and knowing full-well that gamers are an easy audience to stigmatize because it's been stigmatized for thirty-plus years now. Does that excuse the idiots that harassed her online? The trolls that inadvertently put her on a pedestal? No.

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The scope to a problem always includes a solution. If there isn't a solution, the problem isn't worth mentioning. And if proposing the solution would be counterproductive (as you claim), then the solution must be counterproductive, in which case the solution creates a situation worse than the problem. In which case, again, the problem isn't worth mentioning.

It's a cop-out.

First off, while the scope to a problem includes a resolution, it doesn't always include a specific solution, and plenty of problems are worth mentioning that we do not yet have specific solutions for, so I don't know where ANY of that is coming from.

I didn't claim that proposing a solution would be counterproductive in general, I claimed that if SHE were the one doing it, it would more clearly demonstrate the flawed, outdated, second-wave feminism she is employing in her analysis.

In other words, I disagree with her framing of the "problem," and I think more people would, too, if she WERE offering up "solutions". And I question whether it's really a problem to begin with, as opposed to a general weakness of the art form at present, which will course-correct naturally by adapting to changing gamer demographics.

At any rate, I don't fault her for not providing clear suggestions, because I think analysis has merit in and of itself. I just fault her analysis for smacking of outmoded, partisan, binary attitudes about sex & gender.

Edited by djpretzel

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if thats what you take from these videos, then i hate to put it this way, but that is just your problem. this video opens with the disclaimer

I know, and I'm not saying she's being deliberately accusatory, just that she comes across that way. If you spend ten seconds saying "I don't hate games and I don't think that you should either" and then spends twenty minutes explaining why games are bad and wrong, then which message do you think people take away from it?

i would argue that these videos are "solutions" [...] they are a kind of action in and of themselves, acts of critical thought and empathy, the absence of which generally enable the proliferation of these kinds of harmful narratives and representations to begin with.

I disagree -- that critical thought is exactly what I want to see, but she fails to deliver. That video was essentially a contextless montage of scenes in video games featuring damsels in distress, and little else. If you take out all the clips, there's maybe five minutes of actual content from her, most of which is simply explaining what you just watched/are about to watch. All she's saying is "this is a thing and it's bad", which is neither critical thought nor particularly useful, unless you're trying to argue that things exist in video games which can be considered sexist, which is sort of a "duh". She doesn't even argue that they definitely are sexist, she just presents them and then expects it to be self-evident that they are, indeed, sexist.

I'm still not sure what her target audience is, here. If it's feminists, then congratulations, you're preaching to the choir and accomplishing nothing except adding more noise to the echo chamber. If it's gamers, then she's doing a terrible job of actually selling her point -- that sexism exists in video games, and that's a serious problem that we, as gamers, should be concerned about.

representations of women in video games are a fragment, a single strand in a hugely complex web of relationships between people and social structures.

Sure, no denying that -- but if you choose to address a specific fragment of the overall situation, then you should be prepared to address solutions to that specific problem. Just saying "it's bigger than video games" doesn't remove the necessity of addressing the problem in video games. She is the one who choose to address video games specifically; if she wanted to talk about the larger problem, then why is she making videos about games specifically?

what would a solution even look like? i'll take a single problem: portrayals of women in video games frequently rely on diminishing their humanity. lets say a cause of the problem is a lack of women as authors of these works. a possible solution there may be a concerted effort to hire more women as programmers and game designers. now we run into another problem: computer science is a field statistically dominated by men at a 4:1 ratio. why such a disparity, when men and women have access to the same schools? are they somehow being denied the same level of access to technology? maybe the reason is cultural, that engineering or computer science related activities are gendered male, and that children are aware of their gender roles at a very young age. who is responsible for that...?

You realize that with this single paragraph you've done more to address solutions that the videos have done in 45 minutes? I'm not saying that solutions have to be easy or simple, but just pointing out "the relative lack of women in the computer industry may be responsible for all these things I just pointed out -- we should try to encourage more women to enter the computer industry, and STEM fields in general, to resolve that issue". She doesn't have to go into the details of offering scholarships and who pays for it and outreach programs for women interested in the gaming industry or anything like that. Just saying "there are almost no women in gaming; we should work on that" is a great start, but she didn't even go that far.

at no point in the video does sarkeesian accuse video game developers who are guilty of this trope as anything more than unimaginative.

Well, other than implying that they're complicit in domestic violence by "normalizing" the idea that violence against women is "for their own good", anyway.

But that's not my point; I'm saying that she should recognize that need for easy emotional punch, and suggest alternative ways to achieve it that she finds acceptable. She talked a lot about "wife murdered, daughter kidnapped". Would "[male] loved one murdered, son kidnapped" instead be okay in her book? (Though that raises ugly implications about it being okay to kill men, but not women.) Would "bad guys tried to kill wife and kidnap daughter, but they fought off the attempt, now the player has to go fight bad guys to stop them trying again" be acceptable, or is that still sexist (why can't the women be the one to go on a psychotic revenge murderspree, etc)?

By doing nothing but pointing out the problem at its most basic level, she reveals nothing of what she considered an acceptable alternative. Even if one takes her message to heart and wants to do something to help, her video gives them no idea of what acceptable alternatives to the unacceptable situations presented are.

towards the end of the video sarkeesian provides three examples of games which tapped into that same emotional reservoir based on death and loss, doing so without relying on the dehumanization of anybody, let alone women.

The three games she mentions are Dear Esther, Passage, and To The Moon -- all three of which are less "video games" and more "stories presented in video game format". Saying that the solution to sexism in video games is to make nothing but artsy indie games is entirely useless when the vast majority of her examples in the video came from FPS games or hack-n-slash action games.

I think that what she's pointing out as problems, and everyone seems to be agreeing are problems, in many cases simply aren't. Or at least, aren't problems specific to "tropes vs. women in video games," but rather simply common weaknesses/contrivances in the art form.

I'd agree with that sentiment, with the caveat that "weaknesses/contrivances in the art form" are problems that should be addressed. They're not problems in the sense that they should be banned or that games using them should be shunned, but the fact is that the industry would be better off if they didn't rely on such tropes. The argument could be made that not using such tropes would also benefit society as a whole by presenting a better image of women in media (the video doesn't actually make that argument, it simply takes it for granted and assumes that you agree), but I'm honestly not sure if I find it convincing or not.

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I think we can all agree, since she has been sitting on this video for so long, it wouldn't have hurt to sit on it another month until FF6 is out.

:tomatoface:

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I keep listening to that Shenmue ReMix, FYI. Brilliant stuff.

:smile:

I love your use of the word "maybe" because that's exactly it: MAYBE. The problem is that "maybe" isn't in the vernacular of second-wave feminists on topics like this. Instead, it's an absolutist paradigm in which it is self-evident (a term Andy has actually employed himself, without irony) that men are intentionally keeping women away from the science & tech jobs as part of a concerted effort to protect the patriarchy.

if i can address my use of the term "maybe": my intent was to illustrate the ways in which any attempt to explain away or "solve" any one of the issues being raised here will quickly and invariably branch off into other areas; "maybe" was simply meant as an indication of choosing one of those branches to follow.

as to the point about some conspiracy on the part of men to intentionally suppress women...it's not how i would frame the discussion, to say the least. if nothing else, it has the unfortunate side effect of creating an artificial divide between men and women, feeding into an "us vs. them" mentality. i would argue that it does even greater damage than that, by contributing to deeply ingrained processes of dehumanization and othering...but more on that below.

There's no room for "maybe," or even investigation. There's ABSOLUTELY no room for the alternative explanation, either - that genes play a role. That the sexes are different, and that science & tech maybe appeal less, innately, regardless of aptitude. RE: video games, that competition in & of itself maybe appeals somewhat less, innately, to women. To even suggest this POSSIBILITY will get you crucified in the Sarkeesian world of throwback second-wave feminist thought; and yet there is science to support that, at least in terms of risk-taking behavior and competitiveness, the sex differences are not only globally observable, but STRONGER in cultures that have MORE rights & freedom & equality for women.

READ: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/debate05/debate05_index.html

Note that being competitive & risk-taking are double-edged swords, i.e. not wholly positive...

Pinker never suggests a completely genetic explanation, he only suggests that genes could be a meaningful part of the equation. With regard to gender roles, you should always question your assumptions, AND question authority, AND society, but you should also QUESTION THE QUESTIONS. "Social Construction" is often an intellectually bankrupt explanation for understanding the characteristics of human society...

i am certainly not qualified to speak to any theories of genetics, brian chemistry, etc., regarding a person's aptitude or behaviour, so im gonna tread lightly. i will say, however, that for all the controls used in the study pinker cites to ensure that there is no difference in quality or access to education, or for however accurate the cognitive profiles they provide may be (though as spelke suggests, what differences exist are not enough to justify the staggering disparity between men and women in the fields of mathematics and sciences), the reality is that we do not live in a world of all-things-being-equal.

maybe it's just because ive recently been rewatching The House I Live In, eugene jarecki's documentary on the drug war in america, but i think it is impossible to deny the role that "social construction" plays in the ways individuals navigate through society. i dont want to get too far off track, but for the purposes of analogy, if we were to look a study of demographics of drug dealers, we would find that the majority of the people who end up in the drug trade in america are poor and black. i don't think anybody would deny that there exist biological differences between black bodies and white bodies, but i similarly do not think that anybody would try to suggest that those biological differences are of any significant consequence, or that they somehow translate into black people being more naturally inclined towards drug trafficking than white people. im sure we are all aware of the pervasive, nasty rhetoric in america which suggests that the reason minorities find themselves in such situations is because they are somehow different, that they lack the same capacity for self-responsibility, work ethic, or intelligence as "successful" (ie., white) people. it's an unbelievably cynical view in a society where the social forces that are keeping the underprivileged down are the same as those propping the privileged up.

i wanna be clear that im not suggesting that any of the things being discussed here or in the debate you linked are the equivalent of being a member of the KKK. what im trying to say is that sexism, racism, homophobia, and any other form of discrimination based on biological or sexual difference, thrive on discourses of otherness. that is, it is the inability of group-of-people A to relate to group-of-people B as equally human which allows them to establish and perpetuate a system based on a dominant-subordinate relationship between the two. it's this process of identification, ostracism, and dehumanization which creates an environment in which women are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual or otherwise gender-based violence at the hands of men....but more on that below.

She describes having gamers save the damsel as being "paternalistic" and that such sentiments shouldn't be considered "appealing, expected, or normal"... she also attempts to read the minds of said developers and suggests that they're including violence against women in order to make the stories/games seem "more mature" and then says that there is "nothing "mature" about most of these stories" - I think she's doing a lot more in this video, and even more in the first, than simply saying these tropes are unimaginative. If that's all she was saying, I'd have far fewer objections, if any.

One should always apply the same "close-reading" to the analysis itself that the analysis claims to be performing on its subject; I think if you did, you'd realize that there are more allegations/implications being leveled than simply a lack of creativity.

hang on - i did not say that sarkeesian said that the tropes were unimaginative, but that developers were unimaginative. i was addressing nj's point that the tone of the video is accusatory, or that it is intended to call out specific individuals - gamers or developers - and shame or ridicule them. i was attempting to address a frequent response to individual points being raised in the video (to use your example of the damsel as paternalistic), namely the "well, i don't see [x] as paternalistic, therefore..." argument. it's an argument which says a lot more about the person expressing it than the topic at hand, specifically that they feel that they are being accused of taking pleasure from (or having any hand in at all) things which are harmful or cruel to others, when the expressed goal of this series (and other works like it) is to reveal those aspects of art we may have overlooked because we take them for granted, or because they are especially subtle.

So dehumanization in fiction is bad?? I'm not even joking... here's the thing... war, and almost any mortal competition (MORTAL KOMBATTTT!!!) involves dehumanization. PEOPLE dehumanize. People also make FICTION, and in that fiction - which usually tells a story involving PEOPLE - dehumanization, along with so many other human faults, often occurs.

we may be talking about different levels of dehumanization here. i agree that it is the goal of fiction - or more broadly, art - to capture the human experience, and that life is sometimes cruel. war is a good example, but one perhaps more relevant to the discussion at hand would be rape, an act which is primarily (though not exclusively) committed by men towards women, and which necessarily dehumanizes through the use of a person's body as a vehicle for sexual gratification. the act itself is reprehensible; an account of the act not necessarily so.

when a sociologist and cultural critic like sarkeesian is confronted with a statistic that says one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, or that four women are killed by current/former partners every day, they are likely to pursue answers or reasons in the objects of culture. the "damsel in distress" trope is of particular interest in this regard, because it is one in which the humanity of a female character is exchanged for her symbolic woman-ness. these characters are frequently rendered as lacking any of the agency or capacity for self-realization that we would expect of a person, and instead they are relegated to the role of plot device. i dont want to rehash the points made in the video; my point is not that women should never be depicted being captured, incapacitated, killed, or rescued by men, but that there are ways of portraying these realities that do not come at the expense of their humanity.

-----

I disagree -- that critical thought is exactly what I want to see, but she fails to deliver. That video was essentially a contextless montage of scenes in video games featuring damsels in distress, and little else. If you take out all the clips, there's maybe five minutes of actual content from her, most of which is simply explaining what you just watched/are about to watch. All she's saying is "this is a thing and it's bad", which is neither critical thought nor particularly useful, unless you're trying to argue that things exist in video games which can be considered sexist, which is sort of a "duh". She doesn't even argue that they definitely are sexist, she just presents them and then expects it to be self-evident that they are, indeed, sexist.

we may simply disagree on this point. if you're referring to what i would think of as the "evidence-gathering" segment of the video, i would simply mark that up to being thorough. there is also a rhetorical element: the effect of the sheer volume of offending clips being played in sequence (she even repeats the same phrases when describing these scenes several times), similar to the kind of video-based rhetorical devices used on shows like the daily show. once these segments are through, she does make arguments as to how they relate to her thesis and the broader cultural context (though you are right that they comprise a significantly smaller chunk of the running time).

She is the one who choose to address video games specifically; if she wanted to talk about the larger problem, then why is she making videos about games specifically?
You realize that with this single paragraph you've done more to address solutions that the videos have done in 45 minutes? I'm not saying that solutions have to be easy or simple, but just pointing out "the relative lack of women in the computer industry may be responsible for all these things I just pointed out -- we should try to encourage more women to enter the computer industry, and STEM fields in general, to resolve that issue". She doesn't have to go into the details of offering scholarships and who pays for it and outreach programs for women interested in the gaming industry or anything like that. Just saying "there are almost no women in gaming; we should work on that" is a great start, but she didn't even go that far.

what i was attempting to convey was that trying to find solutions to problems like this are like navigating a sort of hedge maze, where a tangible end goal only becomes increasingly obscured or complicated the further you travel through it. not only that, but i still maintain that suggesting her own alternative plotlines, or creating public policy, etc., fall outside the scope of this video series. these videos are microscopic analyses of an incredibly specific medium, the value of which is in part attributed to the fact that the medium is frequently overlooked for being "childish" or otherwise inconsequential.

By doing nothing but pointing out the problem at its most basic level, she reveals nothing of what she considered an acceptable alternative. Even if one takes her message to heart and wants to do something to help, her video gives them no idea of what acceptable alternatives to the unacceptable situations presented are.

well, i would argue that pointing out the problem and having it be recognized as valid is easier said than done. that said, it's still early in the series. for all we know she may have an episode towards the end dedicated to an analysis of some more optimistic trends in video games which successfully counter the status quo (if the teaser for part 3 is any indication).

Edited by Radiowar

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Something I'm not liking about this series, is that she's making implications that she can't be sure are there. In episode 1, she talks about how Miyamoto joked that Fox should be the main hero in Dinosaur Planet. It's probably just me, but to me she's making implications that Miyamoto is some sort of sexist.

Fun fact: When Miyamoto said that, he wasn't talking about Krystal. Dinosaur Planet originally had two lead characters, a male and a female. Miyamoto was referring to the male hero when he talked about how Fox should be the lead. How convenient that Anita left that bit of info out of her video, huh?

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as to the point about some conspiracy on the part of men to intentionally suppress women...it's not how i would frame the discussion, to say the least. if nothing else, it has the unfortunate side effect of creating an artificial divide between men and women, feeding into an "us vs. them" mentality. i would argue that it does even greater damage than that, by contributing to deeply ingrained processes of dehumanization and othering...but more on that below.

You don't see how her comments - in the first video perhaps moreso, but still here - play quite specifically to a sense of otherness? Using phrases like "crude, unsophisticated male power fantasies"?? She's doing EXACTLY what you're describing. Your responses are measured & calibrated & reasonable in all the ways that her rhetoric is not. She is "othering" left and right...

i am certainly not qualified to speak to any theories of genetics, brian chemistry, etc., regarding a person's aptitude or behaviour, so im gonna tread lightly. i will say, however, that for all the controls used in the study pinker cites to ensure that there is no difference in quality or access to education, or for however accurate the cognitive profiles they provide may be (though as spelke suggests, what differences exist are not enough to justify the staggering disparity between men and women in the fields of mathematics and sciences), the reality is that we do not live in a world of all-things-being-equal.

The nice thing about Pinker is that he tends to cite meta-analyses of multiple studies - larger data sets that have greater statistical merit. I believe this is in part to combat the often thinly-supported field of sociology, which is replete with examples of people drawing specious conclusions from puny data sets that usually reflect whatever bias they approached the topic with. Pinker acknowledges that things aren't equal, and even labels himself a feminist (definitely third-wave!), but he simultaneously questions the notion that ANY field that is dominated by one sex is 100% a result of social construction or cultural influence. Take sociology, for example. Or high school English teachers. Why aren't we asking "Why aren't there more male high school English teachers??"?

i wanna be clear that im not suggesting that any of the things being discussed here or in the debate you linked are the equivalent of being a member of the KKK. what im trying to say is that sexism, racism, homophobia, and any other form of discrimination based on biological or sexual difference, thrive on discourses of otherness. that is, it is the inability of group-of-people A to relate to group-of-people B as equally human which allows them to establish and perpetuate a system based on a dominant-subordinate relationship between the two. it's this process of identification, ostracism, and dehumanization which creates an environment in which women are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual or otherwise gender-based violence at the hands of men....but more on that below.

This type of attitude sets up an academic boundary of inquiry - we can't study THAT, because it's "othering"!! - that ends up hurting more than helping, especially when BOTH liberals AND conservatives are trying to twist the arm of science to support their relative agendas. Trying to turn a blind eye to any legitimate biological or sexual differences in the interest of not upsetting anyone is being a little too comfortable with ignorance, in my opinion. It also leaves things open to sociologists who can just make claims out of thin (or very scant) air. I'd rather have the harder science and try to understand the world - it's not mutually exclusive with being tolerant, with promoting equality, and with attempting to seek redress of social ills. I'm very, very frustrated with liberals (I'm a liberal) whose relationship with science stops at the boundary of their personal comfort, and who hold that any facts that don't DIRECTLY support universal human homogeneity and a blank slate (more Pinker!) should be ignored or demonized.

I believe it is preferable - MORE ethical, even - to be tolerant & promote equality under the law with the conviction that the biological diversity of the human race, including the brain itself, is not a threat to such beliefs.

namely the "well, i don't see [x] as paternalistic, therefore..." argument. it's an argument which says a lot more about the person expressing it than the topic at hand, specifically that they feel that they are being accused of taking pleasure from (or having any hand in at all) things which are harmful or cruel to others, when the expressed goal of this series (and other works like it) is to reveal those aspects of art we may have overlooked because we take them for granted, or because they are especially subtle.

What if they're just not there? I mean, clearly the trope/patterns are there, and I actually think there's a lot of merit in simply pointing them out. Where you lose me is the unilateral interpretation of the trope as "harmful" or reflecting - or even inciting - socially-constructed ills. Playing the "that argument says a lot more about the person expressing it than the topic at hand" card is pretty lame, btw. I really appreciate the rest of your post, but this sentiment was expressed previously in the thread, and it seems like the argumentative equivalent of "I know you are but what am I"... just saying.

when a sociologist and cultural critic like sarkeesian is confronted with a statistic that says one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, or that four women are killed by current/former partners every day, they are likely to pursue answers or reasons in the objects of culture

Yeah, see... I honestly think this course of inquiry, on their part, is largely misguided. I simply don't look to art for meaningful answers or reasons for domestic violence. You've got real victims, real perpetrators, real facts, actual physical biology, evolutionary psychology, criminal pathology, and MORE as options... and you're gonna deconstruct video games? Because maybe if they were less... something.... the violence could have been prevented? There's zero correlation; it amounts to mental masturbation and talking in circles about culture being "one giant feedback loop" with zero onus on the individual making the claim to support it with any actual data. I've said it before, that's not an -ology, and it's barely "cultural criticism" - it's the projection of agenda, and it will inevitably find whatever fault it thinks it perceives, as any failure to do so undermines its very existence...

To clarify, I do think that sociology as a field has a time, a place, and a lot of potential value. I just feel like it should stay the fuck away from art, basically. Always seems to get it so very, very, very wrong.

As a minor side note: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/sep/05/men-victims-domestic-violence

the "damsel in distress" trope is of particular interest in this regard, because it is one in which the humanity of a female character is exchanged for her symbolic woman-ness. these characters are frequently rendered as lacking any of the agency or capacity for self-realization that we would expect of a person, and instead they are relegated to the role of plot device. i dont want to rehash the points made in the video; my point is not that women should never be depicted being captured, incapacitated, killed, or rescued by men, but that there are ways of portraying these realities that do not come at the expense of their humanity.

There are ways of portraying all SORTS of realities that do not compromise the humanity of those involved; video games don't seem particularly adept at focusing on them. Yet. Nor do a lot of comics, or action films, or works of fantasy in general. Certain mediums of fiction/entertainment in GENERAL are not particularly interested in the humanity of their characters, regardless of context. It's not just "crude, unsophisticated male power fantasies" either. I'd like to see writing for games that focused more on humanity, but it's a scarcity that cuts across the board, and as far as I can see is in no way localized to or heightened for female characters.

Edited by djpretzel

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can we make a reverse pachelbel test that goes 'if you can replace a male main character with a female main character and have it not change the basis of the story you can't pretend like there's some pretense of sexism?'

because that cuts out so many of these 'examples.' seriously. like if you change max payne to mia pain and her husband and daughter get killed, it's the EXACT SAME GAME. they literally wouldn't have to change anything else.

dishonored. if you were female and they killed your best friend and your family, exact same game. nothing changes.

maria instead of mario. nothing changes. legend of zelda with link-ette. halo 4 with mistress chief. mass effect is self-evident. the new tomb raider is self-evident; her best friend gets captured. if lara croft were male (insert irony here) the game would have been the exact same game. obviously personalities are different but if you put ethan drake into that game i wouldn't blink an eye.

are you seeing the pattern here?

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If you change max payne to mia pain and her husband and daughter get killed, it's the EXACT SAME GAME. they literally wouldn't have to change anything else.

I think it should be noted though, that this still mostly happens to male characters and not the other way around.

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