Brandon Strader

Tropes vs. Women / #GamerGate Conspiracies

2,105 posts in this topic

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

That's because the world where women are the main attendees in the Mafia, gangs, and other violent cliques, does not exist.

The man gets home from mafia business, to find his family at home.

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Pretzel, you sound like the kind of person who'd enjoy something like the g-factor in human intelligence (by Spearman) - go look it up, it's very fascinating (if completely irrelevant to this discussion here), and it would be nice to be able to have a civil discourse on it sometime.

BACK ON TOPIC, THOUGH:

To my understanding (and to Anika's credit), the videos seem less to be about the evils of these things in video games, per se, and more about asking the question of why these things are prevalent in gaming, in general. To people getting upset that she's either attacking gaming in general, or that she's not giving suggestions on how to fix the problem in gaming I believe are missing the point of her videos, which is to show concrete examples of how sexism in a broad sense has influenced gaming.

In that context I still think she refuses to consider any fact that could provide an alternative to her feminist position (of which there are a few, including how the market stagnation prevents people from branching out), but quite a few arguments on here seem to be attacking a position that she isn't presenting, in the first place.

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

because as she also made cringingly clear, nobody would care if a man died in a video game. because, you know, that happens all the time so it's okay.

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because as she also made cringingly clear, nobody would care if a man died in a video game. because, you know, that happens all the time so it's okay.

I'd like you to expound on how this exactly correlates to the above point.

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I'd like you to expound on how this exactly correlates to the above point.

oh i see what you were saying i just assumed you would be 'noting' the thing that was actually relevant to the conversation, which would be women taking the brunt of the abuse. my bad

yeah that's cool. it's also completely moot because there are just plain less female protagonists. as we've clearly visited however, it doesn't matter if there are women in roles doing the things feminists want them to be doing (and there are, in several cases) unless it's everyone all the time

no it doesn't have to be 'noted.' that notation has no bearing on action games in which a damsel in distress may exist. that's about as poignant as saying 'in the action movie genre, it should be noted there are more male action stars than female. (troubling...)'

and if it's not 'troubling' then there's no point in noting it. i take exception to the idea that you think there's needling to be done, like 'yeah you're not wrong. but inequality!' if you think i'm wrong somewhere, say so. if you don't, don't find something inconsequential to pick at while not-disagreeing.

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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...

if you are suggesting that she is "othering" men with those kinds of statements, i'd have to disagree. the process by which a group of people are made other is by definition a one-way street: the "other" can only be interpreted as such when held in comparison to the group or ideology whose perspective is naturalized as dominant. in these kinds of discussions we have to recognize that we are not dealing with a level playing field (which is why the "reverse pachelbel test" (im assuming this is referring to the bechdel test) that the derrit proposed is nonsensical: it conveniently ignores centuries of historical and social context. you might as well ask why it isnt offensive for black entertainers - or any minority - to perform in "whiteface").

when sarkeesian uses the phrase "crude, unsophisticated male power fantasies", she is setting up her argument towards the end of the video that the "damseled" women are, in fact, so insignificant and removed from their humanity that they do not truly represent even a partial expression of woman-hood: the women are merely stand-ins for patriarchal responsibilities, totems to be reclaimed by men in a quest to reassert threatened masculinity. more concisely, as sarkeesian quoted in the first video: "in the game of patriarchy, women are not the opposing team; they are the ball."

when i said that the idea of a "conspiracy" created an artificial divide between men and women, i meant that it only served to reinforce the dominant-subordinate relationship inherent to the gender binary, as well as the sense that individual, specific men were being implicated in the oppression of individual, specific women, as opposed to the larger, more abstract sense of man-ness (and woman-ness) which is being critiqued.

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 would argue that you've answered your own question: the reason we aren't asking that question is because "things aren't equal." to acknowledge inequality, then in the same breath leapfrog it in an attempt to negate the role of social construct, or to suggest that inequality operates like a see-saw, as some equally distributed quantity, fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the inequality we are dealing with.

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.

im not sure that i said we cannot or should not study these things, and if i did it certainly would not be because i was afraid of upsetting someone, or that it tested my personal comfort (i would hope that my willingness to engage these videos on their own merit are at least an indication of that much :P). what i meant was, let's say hypothetically that the studies are correct, and that while women are no less likely to possess "average" intelligence than men, based on their genetic predisposition, men are more likely to occupy the "fringe" areas (idiots & geniuses) while women are more likely to occupy somewhere in the middle. that does not change the fact that the results do not wholly explain the kinds of disparities between men and women that exist outside of areas of exceptional achievement (the 4:1 ratio in computer science programs, for example), nor does it excuse the fact that the studies by their very nature exclude the kind of historical and social context necessary to provide anything approaching a complete picture.

furthermore, where i would stress caution - and this might be where you get the sense that im suggesting we abandon the field of study entirely - is that science as rhetorical device is not wholly impartial, or devoid of social and historical context (or to put it another way, science does not exist in a vacuum). the idea that the "hard sciences" of mathematics trump the "soft sciences" of history and sociology is one which has been perversely adapted to reinforcing gender-based hierarchy, and moreover it is not exclusive to issues of sexism. (maybe its just because i recently saw django unchained, but im reminded of the old theories of phrenology, a pseudo-science which through contemporary eyes is almost immediately recognized as an attempt to couch racism in pure, neutral logic and rationality - the cornerstone of civilized society and the domain of rich white men).

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.

why so? can we agree that blackface (for example) is unilaterally harmful? if so, certainly it is within the realm of possibility that these tropes might be as well, or at the very least that they feed into larger, harmful phenomena in a negative (if unintentional) way.

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.

im sorry but i just cant get on board with that. as somebody for whom creativity and art are inseparable from my lived experience (and i have to say, im surprised to hear another artist say that they dont see art as a vehicle for real-world meaning in any area, let alone domestic violence), it seems self-evident to me that the existence of physical biology, evolutionary psychology, and the like do not constitute a whole picture as to make art trivial or meaningless. i believe the kinds of art we profess to enjoy say a great deal about who we are, and that video games are not exempt no matter how trivial some might believe its subject matter might be to the overall gameplay experience (similar to the ways in which bad films are often excused by audiences as "escapism", a way to deflect any suggestion that the films may have some broader socio-political meaning or consequence, unaware that the only reason they are able to experience those films as "escape" is because they affirm the values of a society in which they are able to reside comfortably, unquestioning). the correlation may not be one-to-one, but it certainly is not zero. if the data seems lacking when compared to those -ologies you mentioned, perhaps we ought to apply a different metric.

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.

i think we are mostly in agreement here. a lot of art works do a poor job of representing a true portrait of the human experience when they resort to the "quick and easy" mentioned in the thread earlier. i believe that a work is only successful to the extent that it resonates as authentic to the experiences of its audience. if video games have a poor track record of appealing to women in this way thus far (and as you say it is likely that women are not the only underprivileged group to have this experience), i would say that it has more to do with the relative immaturity of the medium than some inherent limitation. and if video games have such an excellent track record of appealing to men (ie. dominant/privileged groups) thus far (especially when it is at the expense of those underprivileged groups), i would say that is justification alone for this kind of criticism.

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if you are suggesting that she is "othering" men with those kinds of statements, i'd have to disagree. the process by which a group of people are made other is by definition a one-way street: the "other" can only be interpreted as such when held in comparison to the group or ideology whose perspective is naturalized as dominant.

That is, quite frankly, crap. You seem to be taking the stance that men (or white people, or Christians, or any other majority social group) can't be harmed by an "us vs them" mentality on the part of those outside that group, because they're "dominant" so any harm that comes to them is simply levelling the playing field.

That seems incredibly short-sighted and dismissive. It basically allows you to say "oh, you're male[/white/Christian/whatever], therefore you can be ignored (unless you agree with me)".

in these kinds of discussions we have to recognize that we are not dealing with a level playing field (which is why the "reverse pachelbel test" (im assuming this is referring to the bechdel test) that the derrit proposed is nonsensical: it conveniently ignores centuries of historical and social context. you might as well ask why it isnt offensive for black entertainers - or any minority - to perform in "whiteface").

I'm honestly not even sure what you're getting at here. Are you saying that it wouldn't offensive for a minority to use whiteface? How is it a "level playing field" when a non-white performing as a white is acceptable, but the reverse isn't? Wouldn't a LEVEL playing field be that either both are acceptable, or neither are?

when sarkeesian uses the phrase "crude, unsophisticated male power fantasies", she is setting up her argument towards the end of the video that the "damseled" women are, in fact, so insignificant and removed from their humanity that they do not truly represent even a partial expression of woman-hood: the women are merely stand-ins for patriarchal responsibilities, totems to be reclaimed by men in a quest to reassert threatened masculinity.

She never actually argues this, though; she simply assumes it. I don't find her non-argument for this to be convincing, and I can't even argue against her points, since she doesn't make any.

can we agree that blackface (for example) is unilaterally harmful?

I don't think we can, actually. We can agree that it has been harmful in the past, and that using it in the present is likely to offend people because of that past (even if the present use is entirely unoffensive), but I don't think that a white actor portraying a black character is inherently harmful, offensive, or wrong.

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if you are suggesting that she is "othering" men with those kinds of statements, i'd have to disagree. the process by which a group of people are made other is by definition a one-way street: the "other" can only be interpreted as such when held in comparison to the group or ideology whose perspective is naturalized as dominant.

You DO realize that's ONE definition of the word, that there are multiple interpretations, and that you're categorically suggesting there's only one valid interpretation, and that it conveniently makes it completely acceptable for one group to draw all sorts of bogus boundaries because they are, ostensibly, not dominant? Do you not see the many flaws with this definition? For one, dominant how? Where? Secondly, aren't "male" and "female" very broad labels? To call something a "male power fantasy" is woefully unspecific... can it NEVER be shared/experienced by females? Is it always heterosexual? Is it even fundamentally problematic?

Another aside: http://www.explosion.com/32223/why-the-male-power-fantasy-has-an-important-role-in-gaming/

when sarkeesian uses the phrase "crude, unsophisticated male power fantasies", she is setting up her argument towards the end of the video that the "damseled" women are, in fact, so insignificant and removed from their humanity that they do not truly represent even a partial expression of woman-hood: the women are merely stand-ins for patriarchal responsibilities, totems to be reclaimed by men in a quest to reassert threatened masculinity. more concisely, as sarkeesian quoted in the first video: "in the game of patriarchy, women are not the opposing team; they are the ball."

Yes, and what a lovely, quotable, reductionist soundbite it makes for!!

Last I checked, human history was made up of people - men and women - and it involved the blood, sweat, & tears of both sexes. To call it a game is to employ far too much agency & control to the "players" AND to diminish myriad tragedies, but from a biological perspective & w/ regards to game theory and warfare, the "ball" metaphor - when corrected to simply represent a resource - could be construed as meaningful. The only problem being that in this "game" MEN are resources ("balls"!), too. More expendable ones, in fact. Both the metaphor and the outdated theory that it attempts to distill are just kind of silly, and we should know better by now. The existence of patriarchy itself is both valid and readily apparent, but the feminist theory of patriarchy propagated in the 1970's that takes it to illogical extremes continues to persist because of rhetoric like this.

I don't know how many ways I can say the same thing - if the women don't represent "even a partial" expression of womanhood, then the men don't represent "even a partial" expression of manhood, These are all slippery terms - how are you quantifying "partial"? Where is the comparative analysis? What does "womanhood" even MEAN in this context? This type of "analysis" just gives you carte blanche to make all sorts of claims that collapse inwards on the flexibility of their own language...

i would argue that you've answered your own question: the reason we aren't asking that question is because "things aren't equal." to acknowledge inequality, then in the same breath leapfrog it in an attempt to negate the role of social construct, or to suggest that inequality operates like a see-saw, as some equally distributed quantity, fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the inequality we are dealing with.

"Things aren't equal" shouldn't be one-stop-shopping for explaining every last instance of every last difference between the sexes. I didn't answer my own question because "things aren't equal," I answered my own question because people (unfortunately, liberals) ASSUME all lopsided gender ratios stem from socially-constructed inequality. You can talk about "fundamentally" misunderstanding things until the cows come home, but you're not talking about anything concrete, so I'm not sure how fundamental you can ever get. The nature of the inequality we are dealing with, in this specific instance, is sex ratios within vocations. I quoted the Pinker debate for a reason, and I do hope you read it in its entirety.

im not sure that i said we cannot or should not study these things, and if i did it certainly would not be because i was afraid of upsetting someone, or that it tested my personal comfort (i would hope that my willingness to engage these videos on their own merit are at least an indication of that much :P). what i meant was, let's say hypothetically that the studies are correct, and that while women are no less likely to possess "average" intelligence than men, based on their genetic predisposition, men are more likely to occupy the "fringe" areas (idiots & geniuses) while women are more likely to occupy somewhere in the middle. that does not change the fact that the results do not wholly explain the kinds of disparities between men and women that exist outside of areas of exceptional achievement (the 4:1 ratio in computer science programs, for example), nor does it excuse the fact that the studies by their very nature exclude the kind of historical and social context necessary to provide anything approaching a complete picture.

Did you read the entire debate? There were points that spoke not to aptitude but to interest... the concept of variability that you're referring to was just one of several points, including global studies that show women consistently stating different priorities in life than men. I'll save you some time; if you can grok the full meaning of the bold quote below, provided in context, that's a step in the right direction.

Regarding bias: as I mentioned at the outset, I don't doubt that bias exists. But the idea that the bias started out from some arbitrary coin flip at the dawn of time and that gender differences have been perpetuated ever since by the existence of that bias is extremely unlikely. In so many cases, as Eagly and the Stereotype-Accuracy people point out, the biases are accurate. Also, there's an irony in these discussion of bias. When we test people in the cognitive psychology lab, and we don't call these base rates "gender," we applaud people when they apply them. If people apply the statistics of a group to an individual case, we call it rational Bayesian reasoning, and congratulate ourselves for getting them to overcome the cognitive illusion of base rate neglect. But when people do the same thing in the case of gender, we treat Bayesian reasoning as a cognitive flaw and base-rate neglect as rational! Now I agree that applying base rates for gender in evaluating individual men and women is a moral flaw; I don't think that base rates ought to be applied in judging individuals in most cases of public decision-making. But the fact that the statistics of a gender are applied does not mean that their origin was arbitrary; it could be statistically sound in some cases.
the idea that the "hard sciences" of mathematics trump the "soft sciences" of history and sociology is one which has been perversely adapted to reinforcing gender-based hierarchy, and moreover it is not exclusive to issues of sexism. (maybe its just because i recently saw django unchained, but im reminded of the old theories of phrenology, a pseudo-science which through contemporary eyes is almost immediately recognized as an attempt to couch racism in pure, neutral logic and rationality - the cornerstone of civilized society and the domain of rich white men).

The soft sciences will BECOME harder sciences due to the work of people like Pinker. You're right that this line of inquiry can be perverted, and has been, but that's all the more reason to reclaim it.

can we agree that blackface (for example) is unilaterally harmful? if so, certainly it is within the realm of possibility that these tropes might be as well, or at the very least that they feed into larger, harmful phenomena in a negative (if unintentional) way.

Unilaterally harmful? No, we can't agree on that. It's (almost) unilaterally offensive. I find it offensive. I think word choice is paramount, here. You previously used the word "offensive," and in our culture, at this moment in time, it's commonly accepted as thus. "Harmful" takes it one step further and starts postulating implications from said offense; at this point your causal reasoning is tenuous. The harmfulness of something can either be quantified & correlated, or it cannot. The offense of something is subjective, and is essentially governed by popular sentiment. The popular sentiment at this point in time does not appear to take offense at many of the things Anita is attempting to interpret, because the interpretations do not appear to ring true, for most. You can of course argue that people SHOULD be offended, they just don't KNOW it because they're not THINKING RIGHT... but now who's condescending? Also, I personally view blackface as a temporal thing... in an ideal future, hundreds of years from now, I would hope that blackface, whiteface, blueface, and any other color-face should not have a knee-jerk reaction, and that races & faces should be able to poke fun at each other without the baggage of history weighing us down.

I don't think we want to be ADDING to the list of things we find offensive (or worse, construe as objectively harmful) in art, I think we want to be building a cognizance & awareness about their potential implications and letting artists & audiences explore their tastes & interests with relative autonomy.

"they feed into larger, harmful phenomena in a negative (if unintentional) way" - this is just the same tired "IT'S ALL ONE GIANT FEEDBACK LOOP!!" argument, rephrased. It's baseless conjecture, and should be treated as such.

im sorry but i just cant get on board with that. as somebody for whom creativity and art are inseparable from my lived experience (and i have to say, im surprised to hear another artist say that they dont see art as a vehicle for real-world meaning in any area, let alone domestic violence), it seems self-evident to me that the existence of physical biology, evolutionary psychology, and the like do not constitute a whole picture as to make art trivial or meaningless.

Wow, you failed to grasp my meaning entirely...

Did I say that art wasn't a "vehicle for real-world meaning"? You actually thought that's what I meant, from what I said? I said that looking for reasons and answers about domestic violence in art was misguided. How on earth did you get from point A to point B?

I'll stand by the statement that I actually made; let me explain:

  • Reasons are causal
  • Answers are conclusive

If you're serious about improving the world and want to curtail domestic violence, I don't think you look for causation in art. I don't think you look for resolution in art. I *DO* think that art can be a vehicle for expressing individual thoughts, feelings, & beliefs on the topic. Again, I think word choice is paramount. Never would I suggest that art is impotent to express real-world concern, or even achieve real-world results; what I'm questioning is the accuracy and productivity of sociologists & cultural critics in INTERPRETING that art, usually attempting to read the minds of the artists, the audience, or both, and drawing causal lines to human behavior OR going one step further and proposing remediation through modification TO THE ART. These are misguided forms of redress; the intent is (usually) good, but the method is wrong. If you want to understand the reasons for something, and find answers regarding it, it makes more sense to cut out the middleman and study it directly. I do think the appreciation, interpretation, & criticism of art can be a part of the overall equation, in better understanding the human condition. You specifically said "reasons & answers," though, and that does seem to be what she thinks she is obtaining, and so that's what I responded to.

i think we are mostly in agreement here. a lot of art works do a poor job of representing a true portrait of the human experience when they resort to the "quick and easy" mentioned in the thread earlier. i believe that a work is only successful to the extent that it resonates as authentic to the experiences of its audience. if video games have a poor track record of appealing to women in this way thus far (and as you say it is likely that women are not the only underprivileged group to have this experience), i would say that it has more to do with the relative immaturity of the medium than some inherent limitation. and if video games have such an excellent track record of appealing to men (ie. dominant/privileged groups) thus far (especially when it is at the expense of those underprivileged groups), i would say that is justification alone for this kind of criticism.

More women than ever are buying & playing games, so your oversimplified, zero-sum view of gender appeal isn't even accurate. We might agree that a lot of works do a poor job of exploring the depth of the human condition, but here's the catch: I don't think that's a bad thing. This boils down to art vs. escapism, more or less, but I think part of the human condition ENJOYS escapism, and that within escapist fantasies you can still have art of a more aesthetic nature. Video games may be an immature art form, but they are compromised of ancient ones - visual art, music, and storytelling. The combination of these components, with the key added element of interactivity, is basically what sets the medium apart. Long after the medium has matured, there will still be and SHOULD still be games that do not focus on exploring the human condition, but allow for escapism, release, outlet, transgression, violence, sex, profanity, absurdity, and all the many components that still play a vital role in all other forms of art.

Edited by djpretzel

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That is, quite frankly, crap. You seem to be taking the stance that men (or white people, or Christians, or any other majority social group) can't be harmed by an "us vs them" mentality on the part of those outside that group, because they're "dominant" so any harm that comes to them is simply levelling the playing field.

im not saying that the people themselves are incapable of being harmed (as djp rightly pointed out with the article about men who are the victims of domestic violence, and that it goes unreported or is not taken seriously because of patriarchal notions of masculinity). im also certainly not trying to say that men have it coming, that it is necessary to hurt men in order to achieve some twisted kind of equality. what im saying is that the imbalance that currently exists in our society is made possible by a social structure in which the dominant gender is man, and the subordinate woman; in which the dominant race is white, and the subordinate coloured; in which the dominant sexuality is heterosexuality, and the subordinate homosexual; and so on, and so on.

somewhat related: richard dawkins recently got into a very similar debate on twitter about the usefulness of "racism" as a term if it does not equally apply to white people. as you can imagine, it attracted quite a bit of attention from those who would argue that there is a danger in promoting the validity of racism against white people, or "reverse racism", because that notion is and has frequently been used to undermine actual, honest-to-god racism against minorities, and even the ways in which racism does harm white people (which i think we can agree are decidedly less). furthermore, its a conversation which misunderstands that racism as a social structure is defined by a hierarchical distribution of power, and not something which is acted or spoken into existence on a case-to-case basis.

also i should point out that i have not said, nor do i believe, that christians (or any religious organization) represent a dominant or privileged group in the same way as those which ive mentioned (nor that the relationship between religious and anti-religious groups constitutes the same dominant-subordinate hierarchy). what is unique about religion is that while it may be used as a sort of propagandistic tool to uphold the status quo, it is also simultaneously, and quite frequently a means of support or unification for underprivileged groups. for example, for all the ways organized religion might have been used to justify racial segregation and anti-miscegenation, we must also acknowledge the ways in which it empowered the civil rights movement.

I'm honestly not even sure what you're getting at here. Are you saying that it wouldn't offensive for a minority to use whiteface? How is it a "level playing field" when a non-white performing as a white is acceptable, but the reverse isn't? Wouldn't a LEVEL playing field be that either both are acceptable, or neither are?
I don't think we can, actually. We can agree that it has been harmful in the past, and that using it in the present is likely to offend people because of that past (even if the present use is entirely unoffensive), but I don't think that a white actor portraying a black character is inherently harmful, offensive, or wrong.

yes, i am saying that it would not and is not "offensive" for a minority to use whiteface, and that this is evidence of the fact that the playing field is not level. it simply does not carry the same social or historical connotations, nor could its use ever be regarded as an act of reinforcing racial superiority on the same level as blackface. i dont want to get too deep into a discussion about what the motivations behind ramifications of blackface performances were; the point is that whether or not there is anything inherently racist about black shoe polish on a man's face is absolutely not the discussion we are having. these are actions that are heavy with the weight of centuries of oppression against a particular group, and they played a distinct, necessary role in the persistence of that oppression.

She never actually argues this, though; she simply assumes it. I don't find her non-argument for this to be convincing, and I can't even argue against her points, since she doesn't make any.

she doesnt "simply assume it" at all, she makes that same argument quite explicitly in the section from 21:30-23:10 (roughly). if you cant agree that supplying evidence and then drawing a conclusion based on that evidence constitutes and Argument, then...what would you call what we're doing right now?

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(i apologize for the double post, but i was unable to fit both responses into a single post. ive also had to reduce the quotes somewhat, but that does not mean that this is only a partial response.)

You DO realize that's ONE definition of the word, that there are multiple interpretations, and that you're categorically suggesting there's only one valid interpretation, and that it conveniently makes it completely acceptable for one group to draw all sorts of bogus boundaries because they are, ostensibly, not dominant? Do you not see the many flaws with this definition? For one, dominant how? Where? Secondly, aren't "male" and "female" very broad labels? To call something a "male power fantasy" is woefully unspecific... can it NEVER be shared/experienced by females? Is it always heterosexual? Is it even fundamentally problematic?

i personally try to avoid using those kinds of buzzwords/phrases if i can, simply because in an effort to express a complicated idea quickly, they often draw these kinds of criticisms. by definition, the kind of thing that might be described as "male power fantasy" cannot be experienced by women, because it necessarily relies on the subordination of women (ie. powerlessness). to address your other points, hopefully this quote from cecilia ridgeway will suffice:

Structural theories of power explain gender differences in power use as a function of structural advantages associated with gender in society. The theories argue that males and females do not have equal opportunities to exercise power because of social stratification at the macro level that differentially allocates power resources and status privileges to males and females. Macro-level stratification also produces gender differences in structural power at more micro levels--in the family, among work associates, and so on. Differences in both strategies of power and outcomes of power between men and women can therefore be explained by males' greater structural advantages, rather than socialized characteristics of individuals.
Yes, and what a lovely, quotable, reductionist soundbite it makes for!!

Last I checked, human history was made up of people - men and women - and it involved the blood, sweat, & tears of both sexes. To call it a game is to employ far too much agency & control to the "players" AND to diminish myriad tragedies, but from a biological perspective & w/ regards to game theory and warfare, the "ball" metaphor - when corrected to simply represent a resource - could be construed as meaningful. The only problem being that in this "game" MEN are resources ("balls"!), too. More expendable ones, in fact. Both the metaphor and the outdated theory that it attempts to distill are just kind of silly, and we should know better by now. The existence of patriarchy itself is both valid and readily apparent, but the feminist theory of patriarchy propagated in the 1970's that takes it to illogical extremes continues to persist because of rhetoric like this.

i was not - and i dont believe that the metaphor does, either - attempting to ignore the history of humanity as interaction between both real men and women. what the metaphor attempts to convey is that in the broad sense of man-ness and woman-ness, patriarchy is a system in which woman-ness is subservient to the will and desire of man-ness. it seems that our miscommunication stems from attempts to apply macro-level analyses to micro-level phenomena, and vice versa.

"Things aren't equal" shouldn't be one-stop-shopping for explaining every last instance of every last difference between the sexes. I didn't answer my own question because "things aren't equal," I answered my own question because people (unfortunately, liberals) ASSUME all lopsided gender ratios stem from socially-constructed inequality. You can talk about "fundamentally" misunderstanding things until the cows come home, but you're not talking about anything concrete, so I'm not sure how fundamental you can ever get. The nature of the inequality we are dealing with, in this specific instance, is sex ratios within vocations. I quoted the Pinker debate for a reason, and I do hope you read it in its entirety.

again it seems that we are actually talking about different things. the nature of the inequality i am talking about is the unequal distribution of power within the social structure of gender - a structure which, at the macro level, has less to do with describing biological fact than it does establishing hierarchies based on sexual difference - of which unequal ratios of men to women in particular vocations is a consequence. im not trying to say that ALL of these individual unequal ratios necessarily stem from this inequality, but that gender is a system with the unique ability to propagate these inequalities, among many others.

Did you read the entire debate? There were points that spoke not to aptitude but to interest... the concept of variability that you're referring to was just one of several points, including global studies that show women consistently stating different priorities in life than men. I'll save you some time; if you can grok the full meaning of the bold quote below, provided in context, that's a step in the right direction.
Regarding bias: as I mentioned at the outset, I don't doubt that bias exists. But the idea that the bias started out from some arbitrary coin flip at the dawn of time and that gender differences have been perpetuated ever since by the existence of that bias is extremely unlikely.

fair enough. i dont think, however, that there are many social theorists who would accept the notion that gender biases are arbitrary either, especially not feminists (there are those who would argue that gender-based hierarchy developed quite naturally and systematically from the basis of the sex-act itself, the purest expression of sexual difference).

Unilaterally harmful? No, we can't agree on that. It's (almost) unilaterally offensive. I find it offensive. I think word choice is paramount, here. You previously used the word "offensive," and in our culture, at this moment in time, it's commonly accepted as thus. "Harmful" takes it one step further and starts postulating implications from said offense; at this point your causal reasoning is tenuous. The harmfulness of something can either be quantified & correlated, or it cannot. The offense of something is subjective, and is essentially governed by popular sentiment. The popular sentiment at this point in time does not appear to take offense at many of the things Anita is attempting to interpret, because the interpretations do not appear to ring true, for most. You can of course argue that people SHOULD be offended, they just don't KNOW it because they're not THINKING RIGHT... but now who's condescending? Also, I personally view blackface as a temporal thing... in an ideal future, hundreds of years from now, I would hope that blackface, whiteface, blueface, and any other color-face should not have a knee-jerk reaction, and that races & faces should be able to poke fun at each other without the baggage of history weighing us down.

i may have gotten a little careless with my phrasing and used the word "offensive" where i should have been saying "harmful", either because i overlooked it, or was addressing somebody who had used the word. i think the subjectivity and individual-experience-ness of "offensive" is precisely what limits its usefulness when discussing socially prescribed racial hierarchy. "harmful" is the word i would use because it does not rely on people noticing it or "feeling offended by it", and more importantly it does not ascribe full responsibility for broad, social phenomena, but acknowledges that it is a necessary participant. in this case, we are talking about the ways in which slavery was upheld by a cultural narrative which said on one hand that black people were wild, impossible to civilize, and dangerous, and on the other that it was by mediation of whiteness that they could be made docile and servile (hence, blackface).

whether or not blackface (or any racist practice) might become "acceptable" in the future, we do not know. what we do know is that we do not occupy that world now, and attempts to diminish the significance of blackface by putting it on equal footing with "whiteface" are, at this point, putting the cart before the horse, a kind of willing-into-existence an equality which our society has yet to truly achieve.

Wow, you failed to grasp my meaning entirely...

Did I say that art wasn't a "vehicle for real-world meaning"? You actually thought that's what I meant, from what I said? I said that looking for reasons and answers about domestic violence in art was misguided. How on earth did you get from point A to point B?

If you're serious about improving the world and want to curtail domestic violence, I don't think you look for causation in art. I don't think you look for resolution in art. I *DO* think that art can be a vehicle for expressing individual thoughts, feelings, & beliefs on the topic. Again, I think word choice is paramount. Never would I suggest that art is impotent to express real-world concern; what I'm questioning is the accuracy and productivity of sociologists & cultural critics in INTERPRETING that art, usually attempting to read the minds of the artists, the audience, or both, and drawing causal lines to human behavior OR going one step further and proposing remediation through modification TO THE ART. These are misguided forms of redress; the intent is (usually) good, but the method is wrong. If you want to understand the reasons for something, and find answers regarding it, it makes more sense to cut out the middleman and study it directly. I do think the appreciation, interpretation, & criticism of art can be a part of the overall equation, in better understanding the human condition. You specifically said "reasons & answers," though, and that does seem to be what she thinks she is obtaining, and so that's what I responded to.

i do apologize for misunderstanding you, and thanks for clarifying. i dont agree, though, that sociologists and cultural critics, in their interpretation of art, are attempting to "read minds", any more than audiences who experience a work are trying to "read minds" when they experience enjoyment or affirmation. interpretation is, as you say, necessary to understanding the human condition, yet it seems as though you are also trying to say that the interpretation of a work is less valid or flexible than its expression (which is what i meant by "art as a vehicle for real-world meaning", where "meaning" refers both to expression and interpretation equally). what is the domain of the cultural critic if not the interpretation of the objects of culture as they relate to real-world social phenomena? and where better to derive the values of a society than its expression through art? even if "direct study" "makes more sense", why would we be content with half-resolutions to such deeply complex phenomena?

i am not trying to say that there is a one-to-one relationship between explicit endorsement of domestic violence in art (if such a thing exists) and direct subsequent action by those who experience the work. what we are talking about here are not one-to-one relationships of that kind. what is possible, however, is that a work of popular music, for example, might unintentionally reinforce or affirm a negative value - let's say women as the sexual property of men - through poor expression of a positive or otherwise innocuous value - let's say romantic love. as sarkeesian states at the beginning of her videos, it is possible to appreciate the positive value (love) while recognizing and disavowing the negative (possessiveness).

More women than ever are buying & playing games, so your oversimplified, zero-sum view of gender appeal isn't even accurate.

i assume you are referring to the ESA study which determined that women comprise nearly half of the game purchasing and playing audience. one thing ive always wondered from that study, and have been unable to find an answer for, is whether that statistic is not lumping smartphone and web-based gaming (ie. "casual") with console or PC gaming (ie. "hardcore"). the reason i would say that is important to consider is not only because the "hardcore gamer" has a much more significant presence in what we might consider "gamer culture", but also that the ubiquity of smart phones among all demographics, as well as readily available and affordable mobile games, might result in a definition of "gamer" which is simply too broad for the purposes of this sort of discussion. regardless, it still has no bearing on the fact that the gender disparity within the gaming industry is still very much a reality.

We might agree that a lot of works do a poor job of exploring the depth of the human condition, but here's the catch: I don't think that's a bad thing. This boils down to art vs. escapism, more or less, but I think part of the human condition ENJOYS escapism, and that within escapist fantasies you can still have art of a more aesthetic nature. Video games may be an immature art form, but they are compromised of ancient ones - visual art, music, and storytelling. The combination of these components, with the key added element of interactivity, is basically what sets the medium apart. Long after the medium has matured, there will still be and SHOULD still be games that do not focus on exploring the human condition, but allow for escapism, release, outlet, transgression, violence, sex, profanity, absurdity, and all the many components that still play a vital role in all other forms of art.

i dont want to be seen to dismiss escapism as invalid outright, but, as i said earlier, we have to be aware of when escapist works exploit a status quo in which a dominant group is only able to experience a work as escapism because it either affirms the comfort of their lived reality, or because it diminishes or dismisses the underprivileged group's lack of the same.

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what is the domain of the cultural critic if not the interpretation of the objects of culture as they relate to real-world social phenomena? and where better to derive the values of a society than its expression through art? even if "direct study" "makes more sense", why would we be content with half-resolutions to such deeply complex phenomena?

Direct study provides much more than HALF the resolution, and deals in harder facts, direct evidence, and firsthand accounts. The domain of the cultural critic is absolutely to attempt such interpretation; hopefully most aren't so optimistic as to think they'll find either reasons or answers, however, and most importantly it ALL needs to be calibrated & heavily qualified. Second-wave feminists attempt to employ cultural criticism with a certitude that is MIND-BOGGLINGLY OVERCONFIDENT in its (very elaborate & specific!) claims - hence "mind-reading". You've got the ROLE right, it's the execution I'm concerned with.

As for "where better to derive the values of a society than its expression through art" - that's quite easy: through its people. Not as much of an option when you're talking about ancient history, perhaps. But we're not.

i am not trying to say that there is a one-to-one relationship between explicit endorsement of domestic violence in art (if such a thing exists) and direct subsequent action by those who experience the work. what we are talking about here are not one-to-one relationships of that kind.

That's fantastic that YOU'RE not trying to say that, but Andy & Anita more or less are.

what is possible, however, is that a work of popular music, for example, might unintentionally reinforce or affirm a negative value - let's say women as the sexual property of men - through poor expression of a positive or otherwise innocuous value - let's say romantic love. as sarkeesian states at the beginning of her videos, it is possible to appreciate the positive value (love) while recognizing and disavowing the negative (possessiveness).

Recognizing... I'm ALMOST there with you on. Some of the time, at least. Disavowing... I'm not sure that's even necessary, on a per-work basis. Furthermore, "women as the sexual property of men" is too literal & overarching a "negative value" to instantaneously connect to simple possessiveness, or over-possessiveness. You're too eager to connect large-scale social phenomena to individual artistic expressions.

Edited by djpretzel

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As for "where better to derive the values of a society than its expression through art" - that's quite easy: through its people. Not as much of an option when you're talking about ancient history, perhaps. But we're not.

i believe that analysis of society through art and analysis of society "through its people" are one and the same. art is the expression of the people, the document of the human experience. it is also uniquely capable of a kind of expression and interpretation that is not possible exclusively through scientific thought, which is why i say that the two practices are, at the very least, two halves of a complete picture.

Recognizing... I'm ALMOST there with you on. Some of the time, at least. Disavowing... I'm not sure that's even necessary, on a per-work basis.

why not? if we can recognize something as harmful, do we not have some responsibility to disavow it? more on this below...

Furthermore, "women as the sexual property of men" is too literal & overarching a "negative value" to instantaneously connect to simple possessiveness, or over-possessiveness. You're too eager to connect large-scale social phenomena to individual artistic expressions.

allow me to expand on the connection, then. if we examine the traditions of marriage, for example, across any number of human civilizations, we'll find that up until very recently these ceremonies were largely concerned with the acquisition of property and capital, of which the men were the owners and managers, and which the women were intended to signify. to use a specific example, i'll quote niyi awofeso's analysis of the symbolism of the ring in marriage ritual:

Prior to the 20th century, wedding rings were used in a variety of contexts: as adornments, to signify the capture of a bride, to denote a promise of fidelity, to signify classification of women as men's property, as signposts for discouraging potential mating partners of a married woman, and as cultural icons. As a form of decorative art, the significance of wedding rings may be traced from the center of the earliest known civilization, Mesopotamia (Iraq), to its universality in modern times.

the idea of marriage as an expression of romantic love is a fairly recent development in this context. yet are we not troubled by the ways in which our contemporary language of romantic love relies so heavily on practices which explicitly render women as property to be exchanged by men? wedding rings are but one example; the criticism extends to the kinds of language and symbolism employed in popular song (the language of love as possession, to use my previous example), along with all other mediums of art. it is our responsibility, therefore, to question these practices, and if we find that they are harmful, or inadvertently communicating something that we do not intend, it is our responsibility to disavow them. and again, this recognition and disavowal does not dismiss wholesale the validity of romantic love, or union between two people.

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i believe that analysis of society through art and analysis of society "through its people" are one and the same. art is the expression of the people, the document of the human experience.

Oh goodness gracious no. I love me some art, don't get me wrong, but there is often a dissonance between real life and art. You can know a society's values through its economy, through its government, through its rituals, through its NON-fiction, through its craft (as distinguished from art), and through any number of things that do not fall under the umbrella of art.

You proceeded to qualify it as half of a whole... that sounds about right, but that's just a blatant contradiction with your opening sentence. "one and the same" is not equivalent to "half of a whole" or "a subset of the other"...

the idea of marriage as an expression of romantic love is a fairly recent development in this context. yet are we not troubled by the ways in which our contemporary language of romantic love relies so heavily on practices which explicitly render women as property to be exchanged by men? wedding rings are but one example; the criticism extends to the kinds of language and symbolism employed in popular song (the language of love as possession, to use my previous example), along with all other mediums of art. it is our responsibility, therefore, to question these practices, and if we find that they are harmful, or inadvertently communicating something that we do not intend, it is our responsibility to disavow them. and again, this recognition and disavowal does not dismiss wholesale the validity of romantic love, or union between two people.

You're so very interested in disavowal. I find it far more critical to comprehend & contextualize. I feel like you're skipping some key steps & oversimplifying things left and right just to justify making bold, unfounded claims about what art means and how it affects people. You've jumped scope from art to ritual now... Western culture has largely re-contextualized marriage. We should be proud of this. I have zero idea who you think the "we" is in all of your statements about what we should & shouldn't do; it troubles me.

At the end of the day, you'll see what you want to see. The more you learn about homo sapiens the animal, the less I think you'll give such extreme agency & import to a lot of this, but perhaps you'll continue thinking that art & society creates man, and not the other way around...

Edited by djpretzel

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Oh goodness gracious no. I love me some art, don't get me wrong, but there is often a dissonance between real life and art. You can know a society's values through its economy, through its government, through its rituals, through its NON-fiction, through its craft (as distinguished from art), and through any number of things that do not fall under the umbrella of art.

You proceeded to qualify it as half of a whole... that sounds about right, but that's just a blatant contradiction with your opening sentence. "one and the same" is not equivalent to "half of a whole"...

i do not see the contradiction. by saying "one and the same" i meant that the analysis of art is equivalent to analysis of people. that does not limit analysis of a people to the sole analysis of art, and i would argue that an appreciation of the validity of art criticism only enhances our ability to interpret those other aspects of society you've listed.

as for the "dissonance" between real life and art, we may often find that it is that dissonance which art criticism is uniquely suited to address, and that dissonance does not have any less significance to our understanding of the human condition than those works which we may find to be "consonant".

You're so very interested in disavowal. I find it far more critical to comprehend & contextualize. I feel like you're skipping some key steps & oversimplifying things left and right just to justify making bold, unfounded claims about what art means and how it affects people. You've jumped scope from art to ritual now... we have culturally re-contextualized marriage. We should be proud of this. I have zero idea who you think the "we" is in all of your statements about what we should & shouldn't do; it troubles me.

At the end of the day, you'll see what you want to see. The more you learn about homo sapiens the animal, the less I think you'll give such extreme agency & import to a lot of this, but perhaps you'll continue thinking that art creates man, and not the other way around...

you asked me how individual utterances relate to broader phenomena. any conceivable explanation necessitates that i "jump scope", and addressing marriage ritual was simply the avenue i chose to relate real-world, quantifiable expressions of a gender hierarchy, in which women are subordinate to the will and desire of men, to those the ways in which that system is perpetuated through smaller, seemingly insignificant gestures in art.

you say we have culturally re-contextualized marriage; i would rather say we are in the process of doing so. again, as with our discussion of blackface, you are assuming the existence of a level playing field we have yet to achieve, underestimating the power and pervasiveness of historical context in informing our contemporary values. your unwillingness to take the next step from comprehension and contextualization to discernible action ignores the ways in which individual utterances form into narratives, and how those narratives are among the principle ways in which historical context persists.

its an easy trap to fall into, as it is only natural to assume the world of our experience is neutral, has-always-been, and divorced from its history - which, by the way, we are capable of experiencing or relating to through works of art in ways that we cannot from purely forensic research. i dont believe i have said that art creates man, or that it creates the sort of "feedback loop" you mentioned. instead, i would say that videos like this are essential to our understanding of art as not strictly output to the world, but also as input to ourselves.

Edited by Radiowar

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i do not see the contradiction. by saying "one and the same" i meant that the analysis of art is equivalent to analysis of people. that does not limit analysis of a people to the sole analysis of art, and i would argue that an appreciation of the validity of art criticism only enhances our ability to interpret those other aspects of society you've listed.

That's exactly what "equivalent" means, actually - it's bidirectional. It DOES limit the scope of whatever item "A" is to whatever the equivalent item "B" is. What you're trying to say is that the analysis of art is an important part of the analysis of people, or perhaps also that you can't analyze art without ALSO analyzing people. Doesn't matter much as we certainly agree on that version of the statement, but since you are articulately wielding a nice vocabulary, it seemed worth pointing out.

An appreciation of the "validity of art criticism" involves being CRITICAL about art criticism. You don't seem to acknowledge even the possibility that over-interpretation, over-extrapolation, overconfidence, projection, and bias can affect art criticism. It's clear to me that you appreciate the ability of art criticism to perceive bias in art, but you seem almost immune to the notion that it exhibits it.

as for the "dissonance" between real life and art, we may often find that it is that dissonance which art criticism is uniquely suited to address, and that dissonance does not have any less significance to our understanding of the human condition than those works which we may find to be "consonant".

Let's reel it in a bit - you're eloquent, but I feel like you're spiraling out of scope. With regard to finding REASONS & ANSWERS about domestic violence, an overreaching, second-wave feminist critique of video games is of unclear & unestablished value compared to investigating the act itself. Trying to understand domestic violence through art criticism puts up several layers of indirection & uncertainty. While it probably isn't useless, it's misguided in the sense that it will almost inevitably find whatever it sets out to discover, because its hypothesis is broad and its standard of evidence unclear.

you asked me how individual utterances relate to broader phenomena. any conceivable explanation necessitates that i "jump scope", and addressing marriage ritual was simply the avenue i chose to relate real-world, quantifiable expressions of a gender hierarchy, in which women are subordinate to the will and desire of men, to those the ways in which that system is perpetuated through smaller, seemingly insignificant gestures in art.

I really don't think you accomplished that, persuasively. You jumped from an innocuous hypothetical song lyric about being possessive in a relationship, which could just as easily be a POSITIVE type of possessiveness, or at least one that is not suited with the baggage you assign it, and from there linked right on over, quite comfortably and matter-of-factly, to the institution of marriage, and its roots as a contract of property. If you think you did a bang-up-job of connecting the dots, I'd tend to disagree.

your unwillingness to take the next step from comprehension and contextualization to discernible action ignores the ways in which individual utterances form into narratives, and how those narratives are among the principle ways in which historical context persists.

I act upon that which I am persuaded is valid; Anita is failing to do so. You're skipping RIGHT OVER the "burden of proof" part... you know that, right? I'm not saying "NO ART CRITICISM CAN EVER PERSUADE ME THAT ANY ART IS OBJECTIONABLE OR COULD BE HARMFUL IN ANY WAY!!" You're trying to paint my skepticism & demand for persuasive, cogent arguments that don't employ outdated & unreasonable feminist doctrine from 40 years ago as somehow resembling a blanket resistance to ALL critique of art.

Nice try.

its an easy trap to fall into, as it is only natural to assume the world of our experience is neutral, has-always-been, and divorced from its history - which, by the way, we are capable of experiencing or relating to through works of art in ways that we cannot from purely forensic research.

Condescension++

Consider that you're falling into a trap, yourself. While I am absolutely cognizant that society & culture have changed over the years, mostly for the better, certain things have remained remarkably similar. Cultural universals do exist, and serve as a reminder that social construction cannot explain away all aspects of human existence. We are social primates first, mammals second, and animals third, to generalize. You're falling into the trap that the human species is exempt from the processes that govern the evolution of life on Earth. More pointedly, however, you are falling into the trap that the perception of bias is free from bias.

dont believe i have said that art creates man, or that it creates the sort of "feedback loop" you mentioned. instead, i would say that videos like this are essential to our understanding of art as not strictly output to the world, but also as input to ourselves.

You haven't said that, you've just exhibited a philosophy that seems to both exempt art criticism from being fallible or permeated by bias AND also accepted forms of art criticism that attempt to extrapolate cultural side-effects from art without providing ample evidence. Your comment that videos like Anita's are essential to our understanding of art as input to ourselves doesn't speak to the persuasiveness of her comments, or even really touch on the POSSIBILITY that she could be plain old wrong. You're operating from a position of assuming accuracy & validity, and responding to skepticism with statements about art criticism being a positive thing. I didn't say it wasn't. I didn't say Anita's videos shouldn't exist in the first place. I specifically feel that they are shoddy examples of outdated second-wave feminism being applied willy-nilly.

Edited by djpretzel

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Could somebody a bit more internet-savvy than I please archive this thread? I feel like it would be a crime not to keep the better discussions saved somewhere.

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djp: I completely misread you what you were saying yesterday. Sorry about that. Your response was both appreciated and more than my mischaracterizing post deserved.

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maybe we've just been drifting too far into our respective corners. if you are not trying to say that criticisms of art - or more broadly, culture - are without merit when addressing socio-political issues, and i am certainly not intending to say that i believe art criticism is immune to fault or bias in its own right (though i will say that i am largely in agreement with what sarkeesian has presented in her videos, and nothing in her analyses has struck me as egregiously wrong-headed or invalid thus far), then maybe we are not so far from each other as it seems. when it comes to over-interpretation or extrapolation, i would caution that we might be inclined to believe that is the case when we are examining video games, a medium which is not typically subject to any kind of interpretative analysis at all (hell, people still have difficulty coming to an agreement as to whether or not video games are art, something which i believe to be self-evidently the case).

if my phrasing was inappropriate earlier, or if you take issue with my use of the terms "reason" and "answer", all i can say is that i meant to use those terms to the extent that it is possible when dealing with subject matter that is inherently intangible and abstract. i dont believe we can - nor should we expect to - hold those ideas to the same rigorous standard or precise metrics as we do discussions of scientific theories or studies, which we might simply have to attribute to the fact that science is science, and art is art.

I really don't think you accomplished that, persuasively. You jumped from an innocuous hypothetical song lyric about being possessive in a relationship, which could just as easily be a POSITIVE type of possessiveness, or at least one that is not suited with the baggage you assign it, and from there linked right on over, quite comfortably and matter-of-factly, to the institution of marriage, and its roots as a contract of property. If you think you did a bang-up-job of connecting the dots, I'd tend to disagree.

you are right to say my analysis there is incomplete. while i do believe strongly in the connection between the expression of possessiveness in art to the perpetuation of institutions in which the role of women is to be possessed by men, i meant it more by way of example. volumes have been written on the ways in which human ritual and artistic output are connected to the development and perpetuation of their societies, and its quite beyond the scope of this thread and my own limited abilities to provide a fully satisfying and convincing argument in that regard. even a video series like this would, upon completion, represent only a portion of such an argument.

Edited by Radiowar

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im not saying that the people themselves are incapable of being harmed (as djp rightly pointed out with the article about men who are the victims of domestic violence, and that it goes unreported or is not taken seriously because of patriarchal notions of masculinity). im also certainly not trying to say that men have it coming, that it is necessary to hurt men in order to achieve some twisted kind of equality. what im saying is that the imbalance that currently exists in our society is made possible by a social structure in which the dominant gender is man, and the subordinate woman; in which the dominant race is white, and the subordinate coloured; in which the dominant sexuality is heterosexuality, and the subordinate homosexual; and so on, and so on.

Okay.

But what does any of that have to do with what I said? You were saying, in effect, that women can't create artificial divides between themselves and men, or demhumanize men (in other words, women can't "other" men) because the male gender is dominant over the female gender. I don't follow the logic, there. Just because men have tried to shove women into a box labelled "subordinate" doesn't mean that women can't shove men into a box labelled, say, "oppressor". Both are a form of dehumanization, both are a form of "othering", and I don't see how the two are any different. I certainly don't see how the latter is either a) impossible or B) not "othering", as you appear to be arguing.

racism as a social structure is defined by a hierarchical distribution of power, and not something which is acted or spoken into existence on a case-to-case basis.

A hierarchical distribution of power is built out of case-by-case events. You can't simply cry "big picture!" and ignore the little things when the big picture is MADE of little things.

she doesnt "simply assume it" at all, she makes that same argument quite explicitly in the section from 21:30-23:10 (roughly). if you cant agree that supplying evidence and then drawing a conclusion based on that evidence constitutes and Argument, then...what would you call what we're doing right now?

She doesn't make any arguments, she makes statements. She says "this is so", and offers no support or evidence for her particular interpretation of the facts that she's presented. She gives no reason for a skeptic to agree with her.

Anyway, Radiowar, I do want to say thanks for continuing the discussion. I feel like we're sort of ganging up on you, and it's not deliberate because we hate you or anything, it's just because you're the only one really defending the videos at the moment.

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Anyway, Radiowar, I do want to say thanks for continuing the discussion. I feel like we're sort of ganging up on you, and it's not deliberate because we hate you or anything, it's just because you're the only one really defending the videos at the moment.

oh, likewise. i dont feel like anyone's attacking me at all, if anything things seem to have settled down at this point.

But what does any of that have to do with what I said? You were saying, in effect, that women can't create artificial divides between themselves and men, or demhumanize men (in other words, women can't "other" men) because the male gender is dominant over the female gender. I don't follow the logic, there. Just because men have tried to shove women into a box labelled "subordinate" doesn't mean that women can't shove men into a box labelled, say, "oppressor". Both are a form of dehumanization, both are a form of "othering", and I don't see how the two are any different. I certainly don't see how the latter is either a) impossible or B) not "othering", as you appear to be arguing.

to clarify: the artificial divide i was talking about was the unintentional byproduct of certain rhetoric in these debates, in which the "problem" is framed as the kinds of men-vs-women conspiracies that djpretzel mentioned earlier. which is to say, feminism is not the implication of individual men, or even specific groups of men, in the oppression of women; rather it is the implication of a system in which men overwhelmingly benefit, and women disproportionately suffer as a result of a dominant-subordinate distribution of power. the institutions that arise from this paradigm subsist primarily on the ways in which they are able to pattern human lives (ie. the determination of gender roles), resulting in the kind of generational cycles in which individual action - while certainly informed or governed by these patterns - plays a role in perpetuating. if individual men, while not disagreeing with the premise that we live in an unequal society, feel unfairly maligned or beset-upon, it may be worth considering why the social movement which addresses gender-based equality is named feminism in the first place (it is not, as is so often suggested, though not quite to such a degree in this thread, an attempt to reverse the hierarchy of gender by empowering women over men, nor is it an attempt to diminish the very real, if less dire, suffering experienced by individual men). what those men are feeling may be attributable in part to the fact that any attempt to address the systematic inequalities experienced by women must deeply question those aspects of mens' lives which they take for granted, in which they are afforded the privilege of being comfortable, or unaware.

the "divide" i was referring to was separate from the phenomenon of Othering, which is related to dominant-subordination. you seem to be suggesting that any labeling at all is "dehumanizing", and thus invalid. dehumanization is the process by which men are able to be distinguished as oppressor-class in the first place, and that dehumanization is necessarily directed towards a subordinate-class, in this case women, as a result of a social and historical context which paints them to be Other - which is to say, outside of the dominant group. the crux of the issue is that the inequalities of our society are enabled by those practices which limit our ability to relate to one another as equally human (understand that i am not promoting "homogeneity" here), and that works of art - especially those involving fiction - are subject to perhaps a heightened level of awareness and criticism in this regard (which is where we get our notion of the inherent value of "three-dimensional characters").

A hierarchical distribution of power is built out of case-by-case events. You can't simply cry "big picture!" and ignore the little things when the big picture is MADE of little things.

yes! i agree with you 100%, with the addition that we likewise cannot cry "insignificant!" and ignore the big picture. what i meant by the notion of "racism being spoken or acted into existence" was precisely addressing what i believe to be a short-sighted view. when somebody like dawkins argues that it ought to at least be within the capacity of a word like "racism" to address things which harm white people on the basis of race, it ignores the "big picture" fact that racism as it exists on the macro-level is a hierarchy in which "white" represents the dominant class. in that sense, "racism" is only useful as a term if it describes acts, speech, or institutions which reinforce that inequality, which are directed towards that underprivileged Other.

She doesn't make any arguments, she makes statements. She says "this is so", and offers no support or evidence for her particular interpretation of the facts that she's presented. She gives no reason for a skeptic to agree with her.

arguments are comprised of statements. are we really discussing this? have you ever written or read an essay which did not include "this is so" statements? if the video clips, statistics, or cultural research she cites are not satisfying support and evidence for these statements, it may just be that you disagree with the premises.

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Alex, I'm reluctant to say this, but have you even briefly considered that you've drunk the Sociology Kool-Aid a bit too much?

I think "waking up" to the concept of social construction & many of its implications is a wonderful, exciting experience that usually happens for most in college, if at all. Once you're cognizant of it, you tend to assume that others are not unless they employ the same terminology and reach the same conclusions. And it is entirely true that some people are oblivious to the way that society shapes & forms their preconceptions, foments bias, and often makes the arbitrary seem completely natural and "correct". The way you're reciting a lot of these concepts makes me think you took it all to heart, which is fantastic... in some ways. It also makes me think you're under the impression you're imparting new information & perspectives to me, personally. You are not.

I'm disappointed to hear that you agree with most of what Anita is saying, because it not only represents an outmoded form of feminism from which most serious academics have moved on, but it also fails to meet even the least rigorous standards of being - to coin a phrase from Fox News (who are notably not) - "fair and balanced". It's filled with what I've been referring to as "dial-a-mantra" - dogmatic recitation of perceived truths about the world which should not be "self-evident". Both you and Andy have now used "self-evident," and this bothers me as well.

http://ocremix.org/forums/showpost.php?p=911230&postcount=658

I pointed out some examples & quotes in the above post. It's clear to me from your recent posts that you probably won't see anything problematic with them, but I'm crossing my fingers regardless.

Just as it is possible, as Anita points out, to enjoy the positive elements of a game while being cognizant of the negative, it is possible to agree with the overall "spirit" of a sentiment - equal rights and treatment for women - while being cognizant of extreme viewpoints that are expressed unilaterally, fail to entertain alternatives, and quite frankly reek of dogmatic recitation, without actual craft & consideration in their application.

I think she's done a pretty good job of putting together examples of the tropes she is exploring. There are numerous exceptions that many have pointed out, where a different game may have been preferable, but overall she's identifying the trend and context. Her actual analysis of WHY these tropes are negative, however, is both relatively minimal & thinly-supported; she spends a majority of her time explaining their permutations, which again she does a relatively decent job of. There's room for improvement, but I'm not sure I could do better. When she DOES briefly talk about why these tropes are harmful, though, she does so in reductionist, dogmatic, and flippant one-liners that are expressed in absolute terms and do not leave ANY room for alternative explanations. If you find that sort of "analysis" intellectually stimulating or in any way satisfactory, well, I'm just surprised, because your comments on this thread suggest to me that you'd have a higher standard.

rather it is the implication of a system in which men overwhelmingly benefit, and women disproportionately suffer as a result of a dominant-subordinate distribution of power. the institutions that arise from this paradigm subsist primarily on the ways in which they are able to pattern human lives (ie. the determination of gender roles), resulting in the kind of generational cycles in which individual action - while certainly informed or governed by these patterns - plays a role in perpetuating.

You do realize that to some of us... perhaps just me, I don't know for sure... this type of comment is pretty transparently just regurgitation? I mean, you're regurgitating it both eloquently AND accurately, which is still legitimately impressive on its own level, but to me it sounds like you're literally reconstructing something you were told, or read. I apologize if this observation offends, but there's no other way to say it - I don't see the skepticism, consideration, and curiosity that I would hope to see from a mind as clearly capable as your own. A system in which men overwhelmingly benefit? That's one way to slice things... what about a Marxist analysis; a system in which one class overwhelmingly benefits? Sociology itself is richer & more comprehensive than allows for a single paradigm to ring as true as you're reciting. For all of its "dominant" distribution of power, the male sex has proven far more expendable in human history. You can't "benefit" if you're dead. This is, incidentally, completely consistent with global, cross-cultural studies suggesting men are more aggressive, competitive, & risk-taking. When you talk about a "system" in which men benefit, it's so clear to me that you've ruled out any possibility that it is anything other than arbitrary & constructed. For if it is largely a commonly occurring result of our biology, it's not really a "system" any more, is it? And that undermines (current) sociology just a little, and we can't have ANY of that... From my perspective, sexual inequality is still something we clearly can, should, have (to some extent), and will continue to overcome, but to characterize it in these reductionist terms paints such an incomplete & misleading picture. I am surprised that it satisfies you.

You're a smart dude, and you can do a lot better than Anita & a lot better than second-wave feminism and a lot better than unchecked, uncalibrated sociology. I don't mean to shit on the field, I really don't, but it's been hijacked a bit. It is ironically unable to see the bias permeating its own ideas ABOUT bias, at least as I see it recited & interpreted by people I know, and on forums I visit. At any rate, you'll make me happy if you read The Blank Slate & just let its implications marinate a bit; I guarantee it will prove more intellectually stimulating than video game tropes coupled with second-wave feminist one-liners. I'm NOT telling you to abandon the frameworks you seem to have a very clear grasp on & are able to re-articulate quite clearly, I'm suggesting that you augment them, because to me - just my two cents - at the moment you are too transparently & unequivocally applying a single methodology.

Edited by djpretzel

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for what it's worth, i am aware that i am probably the picture of a kid who went to college and realized that the world is big. sociology isnt even my field (and it certainly isn't science). that said, i dont know that it has any bearing on the validity of the ideas i'm expressing, my own experiences, or what i know of the experiences of others.

you say that i am reciting "dogma" or "mantra" as if i'm constantly referring back to some scripture while periodically looking up at one of those "HANG IN THERE" motivational posters with a graphic that says "MEN = OPPRESSOR, WOMEN = OPPRESSED". i would like to be clear that this is not the case. when i have cited text, ive done so directly and with attribution. i can assure you that the section of my post which you are suggesting is "regurgitation" is entirely by my own hand (obviously informed by the textual and anecdotal material i've come across related to the subject), and comes with the caveat that i am neither a woman nor an expert in the field (and i've already mentioned that i do my best to avoid buzzwords and catchphrases when possible to avoid the perception of regurgitation). if it seems like regurgitation at this point, it may just be because i've written several incarnations of that argument at various points throughout this thread and others.

a couple times now you've commented that my posts are "eloquent" - if false or misinformed - and i would hope that my posts do not come across as attempts to appear smarter than i am, or to cloud poor reasoning in complicated syntax. rather, i am attempting to phrase my arguments as clearly as possible, to reduce the amount of confusion or perceived "flippancy" that arises from overuse of the kinds of buzzwords you (rightfully) take issue with. if it seems as though i'm condescending to you, or under the belief that i am "imparting new information" to you, that is absolutely not my intention. i am simply trying to address each point as it is given, and on its own merit.

you take issue with my use of the term "self-evident", though i have to say i can't understand why. i believe that to say that video games are art is self-evident is the same as saying that music is art is self-evident. if you disagree with that point, then that is a different discussion. without knowing specifically which quote of zircon's you're referring to, though, i'm at a loss.

with regard to the specific quotes you enumerated in the post you linked - this may come as a surprise, but those are actually some of the exact statements that i took issue with and recognized the weaknesses of when i watched the videos. while we would likely disagree on what some of those issues and weaknesses are, we probably both agree that they try to say too much with too little. with that said, i've found other segments of the video to be incredibly dense with detail and well-supported, and while they may not entirely compensate for some of the other shortcomings, the overall analysis and the argument being made are not compromised. and as for the literature you've suggested, i will certainly look into it.

…but enough about me.

A system in which men overwhelmingly benefit? That's one way to slice things... what about a Marxist analysis; a system in which one class overwhelmingly benefits? Sociology itself is richer & more comprehensive than allows for a single paradigm to ring as true as you're reciting.

oh! believe me, im not at all suggesting that gender-based inequality is the only form of inequality, or that feminism is the only valid interpretation of social structures - it is simply the focus of the topic at hand. as ive suggested earlier, social constructs do not exist independently of one another, just as people do not inhabit these classes independently of each other (it is, for example, possible for a black man to experience the privilege afforded his man-ness, while simultaneously the disadvantages afforded his black-ness; the same goes for white women, poor hetereosexuals, and on and on). which is way occasionally i've resorted to examples of racism or homophobia in order to explain or contextualize related issues of sexism.

For all of its "dominant" distribution of power, the male sex has proven far more expendable in human history. You can't "benefit" if you're dead.

i assume here you are referring to wars in which men are the primary casualties through combat. whether or not this "adds up" to "more" or "less" total benefit (and not ignoring that wars harm all people - even outside of combat zones - and in ways that do not necessarily involve their deaths) does nothing to undermine the power structure i'm describing. what you are describing is not precluded by feminist theories of patriarchy, and can be partially attributed to that system which in this particular case disproportionately harms men on a person-to-person level. that said, it is also important to keep in mind the ways in which wartime propaganda utilize notions of "honour", "duty", and "personal sacrifice" ("protecting the motherland" being a particularly notable theme, and the gendering at play here i believe speaks for itself) in order to achieve the goals of nation states - at which point we've arrived at a different topic.

When you talk about a "system" in which men benefit, it's so clear to me that you've ruled out any possibility that it is anything other than arbitrary & constructed. For if it is largely a commonly occurring result of our biology, it's not really a "system" any more, is it? And that undermines sociology just a little, and we can't have ANY of that…

as ive suggested previously, there are feminist theories as to the ways in which biology and its processes have led to the totality of phenomena which we might group together as "systems". i don't believe that the two are wholly exclusive, or that they necessarily undermine each other. i also might clarify the term arbitrary: i don't believe that the means by which a social construct is formed and manifested is arbitrary, but that the construct itself is arbitrary. which is to say, it is possible to acknowledge the ways in which humans exhibit biological difference without applying them as the basis of inherently unequal social structures and institutions.

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if individual men, while not disagreeing with the premise that we live in an unequal society, feel unfairly maligned or beset-upon, it may be worth considering why the social movement which addresses gender-based equality is named feminism in the first place [..] what those men are feeling may be attributable in part to the fact that any attempt to address the systematic inequalities experienced by women must deeply question those aspects of mens' lives which they take for granted, in which they are afforded the privilege of being comfortable, or unaware.

Well, I dislike the idea of the gender-equality movement being named feminism but that's neither here nor there. People who are not sexist or misogynistic do not like to be labeled sexist or misogynistic. Statements like this imply that men, simply because they are men, are participating in a sexist system, and are therefore sexist themselves. I don't even know if there's an escape clause, here -- what could one do to remove the spectre of sexism from themselves, other than not being male? I honestly have no idea. I hope I don't have to point out the irony of having traits assigned to me by feminism because of who I am, rather than what I do.

you seem to be suggesting that any labeling at all is "dehumanizing", and thus invalid.

I was suggesting that applying a negative level to a group whose members cannot help being part of that group (eg "men" or "Americans" rather than, say, "Nazis") is dehumanizing because it attempts to define them as less, or at least worse, than a "normal" person. If women are labelled "subordinate to men", then that's dehumanizing, because it denies them status as equal to other humans (ie, men). If men are labelled "oppressors of women", then that's dehumanizing, because it assigns them a moral failing based on their gender (which they're not morally culpable for) rather than their actions (which they are).

dehumanization is the process by which men are able to be distinguished as oppressor-class in the first place, and that dehumanization is necessarily directed towards a subordinate-class, in this case women, as a result of a social and historical context which paints them to be Other - which is to say, outside of the dominant group.

See, this is what I take issue with. You're building "only the dominant group can do it to the subordinate group" into the definition of othering, which is begging the question. "Othering" just means defining someone as "different from us" -- usually in a negative way, as in "not as good as us". How is women defining men as "oppressors of women (and thus morally inferior to us)" any less othering than men defining women as "subordinate to men (and thus socially inferior to us)"?

i agree with you 100%, with the addition that we likewise cannot cry "insignificant!" and ignore the big picture. what i meant by the notion of "racism being spoken or acted into existence" was precisely addressing what i believe to be a short-sighted view. when somebody like dawkins argues that it ought to at least be within the capacity of a word like "racism" to address things which harm white people on the basis of race, it ignores the "big picture" fact that racism as it exists on the macro-level is a hierarchy in which "white" represents the dominant class. in that sense, "racism" is only useful as a term if it describes acts, speech, or institutions which reinforce that inequality, which are directed towards that underprivileged Other.

You're arbitrarily defining terms in ways that exclude my point again. The only reasonable definition of racism is "discrimination based on ethnicity". It doesn't matter what ethnicity is being discriminated, because the term isn't that specific. If you want to talk about racism by or against a specific group (like whites against non-whites, or non-blacks against blacks, or whatever) then you can do that... by specifying that that's what you mean. Defining racism as, essentially "by white people against non-white people", you obscure the fact that white people can be hurt by racism against them for being white. Is it as big a problem as discrimination against non-whites? Absolutely not, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a problem or we should ignore it.

Similarly, defining sexism as "men oppressing women" is something I disagree with for the same reasons.

arguments are comprised of statements. are we really discussing this? have you ever written or read an essay which did not include "this is so" statements? if the video clips, statistics, or cultural research she cites are not satisfying support and evidence for these statements, it may just be that you disagree with the premises.

Please stop implying that I'm criticizing her argument because I disagree with her conclusions. I don't disagree with her conclusions, I just think she does a shitty job of arguing them.

You're missing the forest for the trees, here. I'm not saying that because she makes "this is so" statements that it's a bad argument. What I'm saying is that she makes only "this is so" statements, and does nothing to support them.

In the clip you mention (20:30 - 23:10) she states that while we don't have a simple one-to-one "I saw this in a video game, so I'm going to go do that" relationship between real life and media consumption, "media narratives do have a powerful cultivation effect, helping to shape cultural attitudes and opinions. So when developers exploit sensationalized images or brutalized, mutilated, and victimized women over and over and over again, it tends to reinforce the dominant gender paradigm which casts men as aggressive and commanding, and frames women as subordinate and dependant." So that's her argument. In short, sexist media doesn't instantly turn you into a raging misogynistic asshole, but it does influence you into believing the sexist narrative in more subtle ways.

And she doesn't support it. She offers no reason for why anyone should accept her conclusion, she just states her conclusion and moves on. The next bit of the video is about how female characters in games are generally there only to advance the male protagonist's plot, typically as something that's "unjustly taken from the male hero, the implication being that she belonged to him; that she was his possession."

That's another pretty goddamn major claim, which certainly necessitates some support. She doesn't give any. She just says it, expects you to take her word for it, and then continues on. The next part is about how it's not even about the woman at all, it's that the loss of the woman is a blow against the man's manliness so now he has to prove his masculinity by shooting a bunch of people. There's also no support offered for that claim, either.

Or, in other words,

When she DOES briefly talk about why these tropes are harmful, though, she does so in reductionist, dogmatic, and flippant one-liners that are expressed in absolute terms and do not leave ANY room for alternative explanations.

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