Brandon Strader

Tropes vs. Women / #GamerGate Conspiracies

Recommended Posts

First of all, it is a strawman argument because I cannot think of any feminist who argues that every body should be equally represented. They do not argue for proctologists to see female patients. Some nuance is required to properly frame what their argument is, which you have completely abandoned when you assembled what you perceived the argument to be.

I just cited specific examples from this thread. Whether or not you can "think of any feminist" is immaterial, as we are not using the "Who can Xelebes think of?" standard of proof...

As for the bullshit that besieges evolutionary psychology, you will have to spend a bit more time to see where the whopping cow-patties lay. As for Steven Pinker, I have some of his books. They are books on linguistics, not on evolutionary psychology. Is he really an expert on evolutionary psychology?

You're the one talking about "bullshit" and "cow patties" - obsessed with fecal imagery much? - without actually offering ANY tangible examples of what you consider as such.

And yes, he is. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Pinker

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

Read The Blank Slate... twice.

Actually, everybody reading this thread should read The Blank Slate. I can't recommend it enough.

Edited by djpretzel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I just cited specific examples from this thread. Whether or not you can "think of any feminist" is immaterial, as we are not using the "Who can Xelebes think of?" standard of proof...

You're the one talking about "bullshit" and "cow patties" - obsessed with fecal imagery much? - without actually offering ANY tangible examples of what you consider as such.

And yes, he is. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Pinker

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

Read The Blank Slate... twice.

Actually, everybody reading this thread should read The Blank Slate. I can't recommend it enough.

Tangible examples of people using evolutionary psychology for political purposes.

A Natural History of Rape by Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer

Satoshi Kanazawa - largely now discredited but for a while was considered credible and influential.

I have yet to secure a copy of Blank Slate, but the synopses do not make it look promising.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tangible examples of people using evolutionary psychology for political purposes.

A Natural History of Rape by Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer

Satoshi Kanazawa - largely now discredited but for a while was considered credible and influential.

I have yet to secure a copy of Blank Slate, but the synopses do not make it look promising.

Those might be examples of evolutionary psychology that employ faulty logic or bad science - where do you see the "political purposes"? You seem to be dismissing things in their entirety without much analysis. You seem very comfortable labeling these arguments as politically motivated or reactionary, literally comparing them to fecal matter, without much consideration of the content. In the second case, the author in question has been discredited, but not disproven outright. His claims seem highly questionable, and the majority of evolutionary psychologists have distanced themselves from him, but most of what he's claiming just seems like unfounded hypothesis that would be difficult to prove either way. In the case of A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion, I'm glad you bring this up. I'd like to know which arguments these biologists are making appear to be politically motivated, to you. It is very difficult for science to even ATTEMPT to explore topics that are heavily politicized in the first place, and to me their key point - that rape has sexual motivations - should be blatantly obvious to all. The book is attempting to refute the common feminist argument that rape is about power, NOT sex. The mistake it might be making is arguing the exact opposite, when the reality is it isn't black-and-white, and that multiple motivations and factors are at play. Still, as a debunking of the feminist mantra that rape has zero sexual motivations whatsoever, there's merit to the book. Its reception and controversy only serve to prove my point about not trying to twist the physical universe to fit your ideology.

You mention The Blank Slate synopses don't make it look "promising," but you don't explain why.

Your statements show a pattern of blanket dismissal, outright denigration, and unfounded accusations of politicization, with no actual articulation as to why, or how. You are doing EXACTLY what I've been talking about in most of my posts on this thread, and it's interesting to see so precise a reflection of my concerns.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't stated why I think Blank Slate does not look promising because I have not read the book itself. I think it's useless to spend much energy constructing an argument that is based merely on synopses. Maybe the authors of the synopses are biased. I'll let Pinker make his argument.

But if I were to give comment as to my problem with the synopsis, it is describing his assertions are founded by simplistic treatment of what others have said and a shaky grounds on which he hopes will demonstrate the naturalistic fallacy. Again, I will have to read his book to give a proper reading. However, I'm reminded of another time when he involved himself in commentary of current events: On the Myth of Violence

My main critique of that video is that Pinker lacks key insights into eras and movements. Primarily, he does not factor in economic causes (The Great Moderation that occured from 1950-2005, there are questions as to whether or not the Great Stability has ended) as well as environmental reasons (heavy metal pollution led to a surge in First World crime from 1950-1995.) The real problem Pinker has is deciding that the world is just going peachy, gliding over the fact that violence is in fact cyclical, and is often the result of economical and environmental reasons. He does a lot of glossing over of historical events which is discomforting as he often does not spend the time to investigate what mechanisms create the effects that he talks about.

Let's not kid ourselves. He is a gifted linguist. However, matching his gift in linguistics to what he does in psychology to events that are currently happening is at best haphazard. And often throughout the whole lecture, he states or frames many specific issues as if they are inconsequential or they are the domain of inconsequential people. Example:

There's guilt about our treatment of native peoples in modern intellectual life, and an unwillingness to acknowledge there could be anything good about Western culture.

That is what comes across as a political motivation. Because there is a possibility that we are mistreating them and not allowing them to put their own spin on modern culture. It simply comes across as "Western Culture is simply the best and it is foolish for them to try to do anything different." That is a simplistic and offensive take on what he has to say, but the biggest problem is that he doesn't correct himself and acknowledge his own limitations on his own knowledge.

As for the Natural History of Rape, it is a book free on its own. If you take it simply without the critique to go alongside it, you merely get a manifesto that has the possibility to attract others who agree with you. Another classic example is Tom Flanagan's "First Nations, Second Thought" (not evolutionary psychology but bear with me), where he lays down a nakedly racist work that eventually gets a lot of people reading it and have it inform party platforms. It has a tangible effect on the political decisions those in power make. The biggest problem is that feminists do not regard (please cite which feminists do, if in fact they do regard) rape as having any sexual elements, but that rape before the law is to be considered, in all practicality, an act of violence and not an act of sex. All feminist literature I have seen elaborate on this to demonstrate the distinction. So yes, it would be considered a strawman argument.

And yes, I will call a strawman argument a strawman argument. Sometimes I have time to deliver a fully reasoned response, sometimes I don't and that is something that can be levelled against me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brandon: Stop making stupid posts please. Next time you do you are banned for a week. Final warning.

I'm not trying to stir the shit pot here necessarily, but zircon, you did work on this game, and by your definition, it's pretty damn sexist. Is there any internal conflict with you being associated with a game which has contents you find to be morally objectionable? Also, I may be totally misassessing your stance on the sexes.

I think you're mischaracterizing some arguments here. While I do think the Soulcalibur character design is somewhat sexist and pandering, I still enjoy the game and had no problem working on it. It's not hypocritical to enjoy something while still finding fault with parts of it (as Anita eloquently stated in the video). Likewise I don't really have a problem working on such things either since audio has no bearing or impact on character design. Now if I were a character artist and my job was to draw only scantily-clad characters with giant boobs, I might hesitate and question whether such a job is worthwhile. Maybe.

This would be an excellent time to point out that talking about "the feminist agenda" is just as nebulous as talking about "the patriarchy" and avoid the double standard.

I don't think these are equivalent at all. "The feminist agenda" is vague because there are many kinds of feminists with many kinds of agendas. There is no one unified agenda, period. On the other hand, when people refer to "the patriarchy", they are referring to a state of society where men generally have authority and power in various aspects of civilized life. You can debate whether or not this exists, or to what degree in a specific society, but I would say it has a pretty clear definition. "The feminist agenda" can't be defined because there isn't any one agenda.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Huh, my friend was just talking about this sort of stuff last night during table top. I wonder if she watched these? Anyway, video games have always kinda given ladies the short end of the stick and still continue to do so. :x

Edit: ...First of all, ugh freaking emoticon... second of all, oh, I thought this was a broader feminism topic. Nevermind my silliness!

2nd edit: ...I also think using the Nintendo games for reference is kinda silly with the later games, because Nintendo 'loves' to recycle stories, and changing how the Princesses work in the core games would literally be flipping the whole story end over end. Not saying that that couldn't be fun, but that's not what anyone who plays those Nintendo games is looking for. Too much change would knock consistent players out of their comfort zone.

Edited by Rosalina

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Huh, my friend was just talking about this sort of stuff last night during table top. I wonder if she watched these? Anyway, video games have always kinda given ladies the short end of the stick and still continue to do so. :x

Edit: ...First of all, ugh freaking emoticon... second of all, oh, I thought this was a broader feminism topic. Nevermind my silliness!

It. . . kinda is. Gaming and the ladies, more specifically.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It. . . kinda is. Gaming and the ladies, more specifically.

It's on the edge of it I think. I was expecting things like "Samus Aran is a badass woman all the way throughout Metroid, and then at the end suddenly you are 'rewarded' by flashing her in underwear" or some such. I think it is a legit issue though. As much as I love these games, the market they are appealing too is much larger and more easily influenced than it was when I was growing up, and there's less excuse now than ever for not seeing more female protagonists or strong examples in the industry.

Besides that, I've always wanted to see the Princesses (as an example) get more show time. Super Princess Peach was amusing to play but a huge slap to the face though. XD

Edit: This guy raises a good point, though.

I don't think this is a good thing to really 'take sides' on. There needs to be more equality, but a lot of games are just as cruel and tormenting to men, promoting a need to worry over inferiority and a distinct sense of helplessness. You spend 95% of these games getting your ass beat left and right by monsters, traps, tripping over your own feet, and more and then get to spend all of a few minutes (at most) to actually see your character happy.

Edited by Rosalina

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry for the metaposting, but I think it would be for the best if we could refrain from making posts along the lines of

Does anyone here really believe that creating some bland, inoffensive, homogenized representation of the sexes in video games or whatever would change how one gender sees the other?

Not only is it phrased extremely suggestively, but it's also something that, to my knowledge, nobody in this thread has actually said, i.e. a strawman. If you're going to make an argument against something that has been said, just quote them directly in order to avoid this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't think these are equivalent at all. "The feminist agenda" is vague because there are many kinds of feminists with many kinds of agendas. There is no one unified agenda, period. On the other hand, when people refer to "the patriarchy", they are referring to a state of society where men generally have authority and power in various aspects of civilized life. You can debate whether or not this exists, or to what degree in a specific society, but I would say it has a pretty clear definition. "The feminist agenda" can't be defined because there isn't any one agenda.

Sorry, but I don't think so. First off, I was specifically objecting to the article -"THE patriarchy" as opposed to "patriarchy" - and your own response acknowledges the existence of multiple societies and hence multiple patriarchies. Furthermore, the word does not have as clear a definition as you would again desire. There are different models of patriarchy - the feminist model is one, but there are also other social models, biological models, religious models, and models based on evolutionary psychology too. Which you are referring to when you invoke the term is unclear; you may be describing a similar state of affairs, but the causality is radically different, and the causality is of paramount importance.

I'll happily double down - referring to "the patriarchy" left and right is vague, as is referring to "the feminist agenda". In both cases the vagueness helps to support a bogus us vs. them mentality.

I again reject the continued oversimplification, and the continued need to state things as categorically one or the other. Why should feminist arguments attempt to counter irrational categorization with.... more irrational categorization? Fighting fire with fire makes larger fires.

Edited by djpretzel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There were a few questionable points in there, and I think KiteTales suggests she's more objective than she is, but overall that was mostly a fair critique. My main critique of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games was the lack of quantitative evidence too. I agree that it's better to have that kind of factual data available to preface analysis and conclusions. Structuring her argument wasn't Anita's strongest point. Though I think part of the confusion for me is that I don't understand precisely who Anita's audience was meant to be, or if she intended to create an academic argument. Not being able to figure that out was another issue I had.

Edited by Ab56 v2 aka Ash

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
because I hate all of you

by some woman named KiteTales

I'm fairly sure that videos already been linked to in this thread :P

The first time I saw it I had to turn off half way through because KitTales argument drove me into a rage. This time I heard her out the entire way through and all I can say is that i vehemently disagree with a LOT of what she says.

I disagree with a lot of what Feminist Frequency says, she overstates some things I mildly agree with and comes to conclusions I can't support, but I can never say she is outright wrong.

Kitetales does that pretty much every second sentence.

She argues effectively that 'yes' there are more to the characters Zelda and Peach than were shown in the first video. However the only supporting evidence she uses to negate the original argument are sales figures of Kart, tennis, sports, etc... collectively being more than the pure SMB franchise. That's all very good and true but it doesn't diminish the fact the origina of these characters, and a role they return to SO regularly, is the trope. The trope might only be a small part of the individual character but that doesn't mean they aren't examples of this all pervasive trope. Especially when viewed in a historical context.

Also she (and others) seem angry that FF videos aren't being objective enough, that the creator has approached subject already having made her mind up.

Do you know what, I'm fine with that. She's been a gamer for years and has had a decade of experience forming these opinions. The only way you could approach this subject completely objectively is as a non gamer approaching the subject, and I don't think it would be compelling coming from that perspective.

At least the FF video doesn't contain the godawful words 'I'm going on a journey of discovery' :roll: Pretty much EVERY documentary on the BBC currently contains those words and it drives me wild.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
However the only supporting evidence she uses to negate the original argument are sales figures of Kart, tennis, sports, etc... collectively being more than the pure SMB franchise.

are you sure you watched the whole video

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I didn't wanna necro-bump this since it was dead for awhile after my last post, but since things have started back up again...

While this is not related to video games, I find this article quite relevant:

http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/what-lean-in-misunderstands-about-gender-differences/274138/

Along with the corresponding large-scale study it cites, which corroborated results from a previous study: http://psycnet.apa.org/?fa=main.doiLanding&doi=10.1037/0022-3514.94.1.168

The relevance here is NOT "women just don't naturally like games as much" but may be tangentially related to why there are fewer women in game development. I'm citing it, however, because it criticizes "Lean In" for precisely the same reasons I take fault with Anita's videos - they are mired in an outdated, outmoded form of 1970's-era feminism that remains stuck in the dogma of that period and blind to any contradicting evidence or subsequent development. For many gamers watching Anita's videos, and on this forum, and elsewhere, this might be their first exposure to seriously dogmatic feminism. They may identify themselves as feminists because they perceive, as I do, that women have been discriminated against unfairly throughout human history. Because they revile the idea of unjust discrimination, and their hearts are in the right place, and they want to do and say whatever they can to make a difference, they assume that they must be feminists, that "mainstream feminism" must reflect their own heartfelt & earnest desire for equality, and thus that most feminist dogma is probably in line with their own thinking, and vice-versa. They also assume that Anita is espousing a modern, relevant mode of feminist critique because they probably (obviously there are exceptions!) have a limited familiarity with "what's out there" in this regard.

The problem is, she isn't. Much like Sheryl Sandberg, she's using an outdated framework. I believe that most gamers with whom Anita's videos are resonating are otherwise reasonable and believe, again as I do, that 1. sexism exists and that 2. video games are not immune from it, and can regardless be improved by deeper & wider characterizations of female characters. Nothing wild there, and rather hard to argue with in my mind. The problem is that very little of what she's talking about is related to either of those two points, and almost all of the "connective tissue" hinges on how much of 1970's-era feminism you happen to buy into. I feel this situation will only worsen as she moves into topics regarding objectification.

I hate to pick on Andy, because again I feel like his heart's in the right place, but he said to me a couple weeks ago that he was surprised that I came down on "the other side of the fence" when it comes to this topic.

Well, I wasn't aware of any fence... I wasn't aware there are only two options. This type of us-vs-them mentality ("othering" if you prefer the academic jargon!) - you're with us or you're against us - is so strange and alien to me, especially given that it's a large part of what feminism is ostensibly trying to address in the first place. I prefer to think that there are myriad positions, and I take the position that Anita's feminist dogma & framework for analysis are stale by four or five decades, and that most well-meaning, egalitarian gamers who support her work are either missing these crucial bits, or unaware that large swaths of feminism have moved on & evolved - just as Anita is arguing that video games should! This position is not incompatible with my previously stated views that #1. sexism exists and #2. video games are not immune from it, and can regardless be improved by deeper & wider characterizations of female characters. I just feel we need to be a whole lot smarter about it, and not get sucked into swallowing down outdated ideologies without a little due diligence.

Edited by djpretzel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
are you sure you watched the whole video

Yep.

And I've just watched it all again.

0.41 - Argument against approaching documentaries from an established viewpoint. I've already explained that I have no problem with this and in fact would argue that someone with no objective viewpoint at all would have to be a non-gamer, which brings an entirely different problem to the table.

0.50 - It's not Anita's job to argue against herself. Her video was an argument for, and the majority of it was simply stating historical fact with only a little commentary around. Additionally she didn't argue that it should be completely retired, just that it was overdone.

1.11 - I have a big problem with her assertion that because a character is an example of a trope it disempowers them from being considered a hero in other respects. It doesn;t, it does however mean that at that point in time they ARE disempowered.

1.20 - How does being an example of a (supposedly) negative trope make someone less important. By being the object of the players quest (assuming this is a game where the player is setting out to rescue damsel in distress) they in fact are EXTREMELY important, as they are the goal, the purpose, the destination of the narrative.

1.39 - The assertion that Anita is making an arbitary desision over what is 'important' of a character. I don't recall that in the first video. Let's see where this argument comes from...

1.47 - Strength and physical power vs other attributes... Hmm.

1.59 - Determination as an attribute I can get behind,

2.14 - However when a female character is cast as a damsel in distress, them being 'bravefaced' about the situation is an admirable quality, but it is a subsidiary of the original fact that they are in a hopeless situation that requires the aide of another presense to save them. That first statement of disempowerment still holds, they then regain some dignity with the resolution but the fact remains they are still helpless without the aide of external forces to save themselves. This is not an argument agaisnt the trope and its (supposedly) negative connotations, it's just an example of how the (supposedly negative) effects of the trope can be limited

2.57 - Assertion that Peach and Zelda ARE NOT examples of DID trope using the statement that Anita gave of what the trope is. Okay, let's see....

3.02 - Straight up admits that at times these characters ARE damsel in distress. Okay, so you've said 1 thing is NOT true and now you've said it is 'sometimes'

3.08 - Not being rescued to satisfy desires of Matio and Link? But to return order?

Pah. Link and Mario desire this order, if the princesses are the path via which this order might be ascertained then therefore Link and Mario's objective desire is the rescue of these princesses. This also dismisses any form of gallantry amongst the characters (who are depicted, many times, as being very gallant.)

Additionally the original statement was that the rescue was for the purposes of the rescuers story arc. As the protagonists story arc is often for the point of providing order this still renders both Peach and Zelda as examples of the trope.

3.30 - The rescue is not solely for the sake of rescue but also for the larger goal. I woudl still argue that in the rescue remains a rescue. Disempowerment remains disempowerment. Context does not deny the trope it simply gives it detail and variation.

3.36 - Offers selflessness as a quality of the protaganist. Selflessness would mean they would rescue female characters whether the larger point of order was the case or not.

3.50 - Kite seems to have confused Anita's argument as a precursor for romance. It is not. The purpose of the story arc can be anything, it does not HAVE to lead into a romance even though in some cases it does.

4.14 - These women are never reduces to 'property' in the game. I can kind of agree with this but then I boot up some video games (ALLTP I think does this) where you can see the girls you have rescued IN YOUR INVENTORY. yeah... As much as the narrative casts them as characters in terms of game functionality they are tickboxes; have rescued this, have rescues that.

4.23 - Again admits Peach IS a Damsel In Distress. Argues against the negative implication but does not deny trope.

5.10 - Argues that the 'spin off' Mario games where Peach is playable and/or NOT a DID both outnumber AND outsell the (so called) 'core' Mario games where she is. This, as I said before, is the 1 good argument this video brings to the table.

That said, as Peach was a character created and iterated on for the purpose of the 'core' games, I still stand by Anita's choice of viewpoint, however I accept that KiteTales has a point here. Peach has grown beyond JUST the trope.

That does not mean the trope is deniable.

6.44 - On to Zelda...

7.00 - Bigging up Zelda....

7.12 - Okay, she's cool, I get that, your NOT arguing however that she IS NOT a good example of the trope. Again context does not deny the motiff.

8.30 - Just because someone is not playable doesn;t mean they aren't 'equal to' Link in terms of importance. This is a fair enough argument but again you are implying that importance is counterbalanced to being a Damsel in Distress. I would argue that a more important character actually leads to a greater emphasis on the 'DID' when that inevitably occurs.

Harking back to the statement of viewing these 'DID's 'property', we know that attaching emotional connection to these characters will increase their 'worth', so we are more likely to act in such a way to save these characters. By making Zelda such a complex and fundamental character you increase her 'worth' to the player but you do not deny that when she is disempowered it is still the players role to rescue her.

08.45 - Male protagonists never see characters as victims... As the later Zelda games are MUCH BETTER at this than the older games, and the later Zelda games are the ones with better narrative, this is arguable but not proovable. In fact I would argue against it. The Zelda in Twilight Princess was undeniably a victim and represented as such. The Zelda (Tetra) in Phantom Hourglass also. In fact Phantom Hourglass plot entirely revolves around restoring Tetra with all other things en rotue to that. This is particularlly galling as she was presented in WW as one of the 'strongest' and 'most capable' characters and now she is fully disempowered. However with reflection to my earlier comments, this means her stock as a character we care about is high and our desire to save her strengthened.

8.51 - Isn't always female characters.

This is fair enough. Reversal of the trope is a good way of subverting audience expectations, however I also think its fair to say cases where the roles are 'normal' far outway the number of cases where they are the other way round.

10.10 - Argues that Anita is not providining evidence.

Whilst I would argue Anita's statement is very 'extreme' the entire video leading up to that conclusion has been offering examples. She hasn't offered examples of how game players are responding, but that wasn't within the brief of the video. Whilst it is an extreme conclusion, with a few assumptions, I would not say it was unwarranted from the evidence she provided.

10.37 - Argues Anita has a Limited perspective.

I agree that the examples were limited to historic examples from the infancy of gaming (mainly the 80s and 90s). She stated that in her next video she intends to visit more recent games and see if things have changed.

10,43 - Jim Sterling has vocalised EVERYTHING I need to say about the argument 'But this is a business'. In short I have no truck with that statement whatsoever.

10.46 - Developers should have gamers in mind. These days gaming is a very equal (and very nearly 50/50 ) split between boys and girls.That wasn't true historically (perhaps, I don't have data) and it's not true for every genre, but as a business shouldn;'t they be reaching out to bring people in rather than cutting them out?

10.59 - It's about the game as a product not the narrative.

That is true. It's the reason I would say the trope is 'lazy' as opposed to actually 'harmfull'. Never the less, if people are going to put a storyline in, they should pay attention to what that story is.

11.17 - Agree that we will never please anyone. That does not, however, deny that they are doing this.

11.26 to the end of the video- Seem to be concluding that the tone of the video was too negative. It was. However this video was part 1 of a series. At the moment it was just laying out historical examples, giving evidence leading up to a conclusion.

I understand and agree with Kite's sentiments here but I still see a place for Anita's videos. Collecting all the evidence together in one place means that people approaching this argument can see whats she's talking about and where she's coming from. It sparks debtate from which everyone who'se seen the video can then discourse from a level playing field.

As I have repeatedly said the storyline 'context' does not excuse the fact the trope is real. It's negative and harmful implications are in doubt however this video did show its historical context and its repeated, 'pervasive' use throughout video game culture. In that sense I side with Anita on this.

-----

I'm not fully in favour of Anita's videos, I disagree with a lot of things she says, however I do find that whenever I see other people arguing agaisnt her it brings out the pedant in me quite a lot as I often see their arguments far more flawed than hers were.

Edited by Swifthom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yep.

And I've just watched it all again.

0.41 - Argument against approaching documentaries from an established viewpoint. I've already explained that I have no problem with this and in fact would argue that someone with no objective viewpoint at all would have to be a non-gamer, which brings an entirely different problem to the table.

A professional documentarian should be able to present all evidence on the table and explain why their inevitable bias is right with their reasons. Anita just sorta shoves us into her argument with no real regard for possible arguments (on one occasion she brought up an argument and immediately threw the word patriarchy as a response, with no real back-up) or conflicting evidence (many caught her on the Dinosaur Planet accusation, which could almost/probably be counted as lying to the audience).

Now, if this video were made with the purpose of urging us to do something about the problem, this is the correct approach, but if this is informative, as the videos had been advertised in the Kickstarter, they should not work to express a personal opinion, but a public awareness, even if that includes the aforementioned inevitable bias. If the video/series was named "An Opinion Piece on Damsels In Distress," this could all be avoided. However, as an informative video meant to define Damsels In Distress in relation to Women in Video Games, Anita fell flat.

PS, No documentary is made unbiased. I'd argue that anyone with a basic understanding of the concept of either video games or women could form a bias, regardless how uneducated. Learning only strengthens bias.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DJP: I'm interested in your thoughts on this. I guess I'm not sure how to ask this question in a smart way, but could you elaborate on what a more modern feminist critique of video games would look like? Structurally and content-wise, how could Anita's presentation improve?

I don't particularly agree with how Anita structured her argument because I don't completely understand precisely what she is trying to do. But on other fora, I've been completely shot down as a sexist for suggesting there's room for improvement in her presentation and methods of persuasion (or instruction, whichever she's going for). I haven't gotten good insight about how she could improve elsewhere, so I thought I'd ask you out of curiosity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As I have repeatedly said the storyline 'context' does not excuse the fact the trope is real. It's negative and harmful implications are in doubt however this video did show its historical context and its repeated, 'pervasive' use throughout video game culture. In that sense I side with Anita on this.

That the trope is a lazy writer's overused cliche is what's real. Specific examples of the trope can be sexist if you can show malice and subversive intent with how a female character is portrayed in the form of actions, writing and so forth, but the trope itself is only a simplistic plot device. And when it comes to using examples of the trope to make her argument regarding its toxicity and sexism, Anita used a fair number of poor ones to back her up, because those games' very stories contradicted her whole "the women are objects/balls to be gotten back like property" argument. Anita can't toss out a story so something fits her view on the subject being discussed, because it undermines the research she supposedly did, and makes the viewer wonder what else is wrong/off with what she put forth.

By the way, it's been a month and a half. Where's part two? Unless she's going apeshit with After Effects, it seems like it should have been done by now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DJP: I'm interested in your thoughts on this. I guess I'm not sure how to ask this question in a smart way, but could you elaborate on what a more modern feminist critique of video games would look like? Structurally and content-wise, how could Anita's presentation improve?

I don't particularly agree with how Anita structured her argument because I don't completely understand precisely what she is trying to do. But on other fora, I've been completely shot down as a sexist for suggesting there's room for improvement in her presentation and methods of persuasion (or instruction, whichever she's going for). I haven't gotten good insight about how she could improve elsewhere, so I thought I'd ask you out of curiosity.

Well... to respond thoroughly is a rather tall order, and most people would (respectfully!) probably prefer I STFU and post more mixes. But I hate cop-outs, and if only ONE person reads this and follows some of my reasoning, and explores things for themselves, that's motivation enough.

I'll begin by saying that my previous posts, where I rewrote many of her statements to convey what I thought was both a more topical and more reasonable meaning, offer some examples of what I'm talking about. Let's just start with a baseline - Anita's entire analysis falls pretty squarely into the second-wave feminism camp.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second-wave_feminism

Why do I say this? She operates from a position that passive female characters are inherently and unilaterally negative, and furthermore draws a straight causal line to this negativity permeating through the minds of gamers & society at large. The wiki link above mentions this briefly in terms of views on popular culture, but is unfortunately mostly a timeline of 2nd wave history, without much exposition. It's a pretty crap wiki article, really, so the more helpful partner article is perhaps http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_Sex_Wars, as it explores some of the topics of dissenting opinion that helped form the resulting "third-wave" feminism. It's worth noting here that "waves" are like "generations" - trying to sum them up nicely & neatly is difficult. Also don't shit on me for using Wiki, the citations & references are there if you want to dig deeper, etc.

So let's just take this one DiD trope example for starters, although the objectification stuff is where it's going to become a LOT clearer I'm afraid. Everyone should take some time and read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third-wave_feminism

Please endure some brief quotes:

"Third-wave feminism is a term identified with several diverse strains of feminist activity and study, whose exact boundaries in the historiography of feminism are a subject of debate, but are often marked as beginning in the early 1990s and continuing to the present. The movement arose as a response to the perceived failures of and backlash against initiatives and movements created by Second-wave feminism during the 1960s to 1980s, and the realization that women are of "many colors, ethnicities, nationalities, religions and cultural backgrounds".[1] The third wave embraces diversity and change.[1] In this wave, as in previous ones, there is no all-encompassing single feminist idea."
If it sounds like an improvement, I'd argue that's because it is. It's no longer hung up on dichotomous us-vs-them active/passive patriarchy theory, it's about the real world, and it's grounded in real-world issues & concerns and, in layman's terms, a greater appreciation that women are diverse, that some enjoy objectification just as much as men, that sexuality can be empowering, that passivity is not inherently feminine but also not inherently negative, etc. It's less Boolean, less prone to invective, less oversimplifying, and (generally speaking) more pragmatic. Again, by necessity we're dealing in generalizations here, but it's more in line with my own perspectives, because I think people are complex, and it seems to acknowledge that complexity a lot more. Another quick quote:
Third-wave theory usually incorporates elements of queer theory; anti-racism and women-of-color consciousness; womanism; girl power; post-colonial theory; postmodernism; transnationalism; cyberfeminism; ecofeminism; individualist feminism; new feminist theory, transgender politics, and a rejection of the gender binary. Also considered part of the third wave is sex-positivity, a celebration of sexuality as a positive aspect of life, with broader definitions of what sex means and what oppression and empowerment may imply in the context of sex. For example, many third-wave feminists have reconsidered the opposition to pornography and sex work of the second wave, and challenge existing beliefs that participants in pornography and sex work are always being exploited.[3]
So just to be clear, I'm personally NOT groovy with ALL of the above, but a lot of it resonates. Ecofeminism strikes me as very problematic and post-colonial theory strikes me as "white guilt made thesis," but I'm on board with a lot of the rest.

Back to the task at hand, I think one of the "downsides" (I don't view it as such) of third-wave or more modern feminism is that it's simply not as polemical, not as inciting, and not as absolute, and so its rhetoric feels, well... more reasonable. In my opinion, because it is, and because it acknowledges complexity and plurality.

So how does all of that relate back to our damsel in distress? Well, there's two ways to look at this trope - one is from a more aesthetic perspective, as an aspect of craftsmanship & storytelling - is this overused? Does it resonate? Is it being employed consciously, and if not, is that lack of awareness key to the success of the work? I don't have the answers to all of those questions, but my point is that they can generally be explored without invoking feminism of ANY kind. I'd argue that in many examples, the trope is employed SPECIFICALLY to evoke the archaic - to transport the gamer not just to another time and place in general, but one that echoes fables of the past, one that seems (for better or worse) "classic" - and not much more. I'd also argue that most video game characters are one or two-dimensional at best; if Ebert (RIP) had a point about video games not being art, I think acting, characterizations, and storytelling would be central to it. I find the "art" of video games to be largely in the aggregate, personally, but I'd suggest that characters rich & deep in profound explorations of the human condition are few and far between. It is not yet a strong point of the medium. And so - purely aesthetically - I'd also contend that whether or not the trope is employed, and whether its use is conscious or afterthought, is most often NOT integral to the success of the overall work.

So that's boring. Let's get out of aesthetics and try to do what she's doing - link it up with a feminist critique/analysis, but (hopefully) using a more updated perspective.

It's misguided to demonize any & all uses of the trope as deleterious to the perception of women because SOME women may naturally be rather passive (as may some men!!) Some women may WANT to be rescued by a knight in shining armor (ditto!!) People are diverse, and they want different things. It's also not wise to go characterizing the human mind as so damn impressionable that use of such a trope will inevitably & inextricably lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. I believe it is enough to do this: 1. Point out the trope, identifying both its ubiquity and variations, so that people are simply more cognizant of it, and 2. In terms of analysis/critique, I'd actually hesitate to even go any further, but if that seems disappointing or "too minimalist," I'd shoot for something like this:

"While female characters in games can & should run a wide gamut - including the occasional helpless princess that needs rescuing - more variety and empowerment would better reflect today's values. We encourage developers and writers to question assumptions about gender roles and explore the full spectrum of possibilities, including strong female leads, passive male roles, transgender characters, and everything in between."
So it's not Shakespeare, but let me just point out what's different... we avoid demonizing the trope outright, across the board, and avoid the aesthetic trap of where it came from, how lazy it is, etc. which is secondary to our focus. We acknowledge that diversity of form should still allow the trope to be employed without instantaneous bad faith assumptions, but we also lay down some relatively specific recommendations that are additive - not subtractive - in nature. And last but certainly not least, we entirely avoid invoking the "potential cumulative subconscious impact" angle, and all its many QUITE unsavory repercussions.

It's a single example, but it can probably scale. When digested along with my previous posts picking apart specific language she uses, what I hope to have shown here is how her arguments are of a second-wave, oversimplifying, restrictive, outdated, binary feminism, and how a more contemporary perspective MIGHT attempt to make a similar point. Far from perfect, but then again what is?

Edited by djpretzel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A professional documentarian should be able to present all evidence on the table and explain why their inevitable bias is right with their reasons. Anita just sorta shoves us into her argument with no real regard for possible arguments (on one occasion she brought up an argument and immediately threw the word patriarchy as a response, with no real back-up) or conflicting evidence (many caught her on the Dinosaur Planet accusation, which could almost/probably be counted as lying to the audience).

Now, if this video were made with the purpose of urging us to do something about the problem, this is the correct approach, but if this is informative, as the videos had been advertised in the Kickstarter, they should not work to express a personal opinion, but a public awareness, even if that includes the aforementioned inevitable bias. If the video/series was named "An Opinion Piece on Damsels In Distress," this could all be avoided. However, as an informative video meant to define Damsels In Distress in relation to Women in Video Games, Anita fell flat.

PS, No documentary is made unbiased. I'd argue that anyone with a basic understanding of the concept of either video games or women could form a bias, regardless how uneducated. Learning only strengthens bias.

this guy gets it. in any 'academic piece,' whether it be a master's thesis or a high school research paper, if you say only what you want to say when others can clearly discredit or throw doubt on your argument, you're going to eat the big one. it may not be her job to 'argue against herself' but if she doesn't make an argument that even attempts to be informed of other points of view then she did it wrong. like pixelpanic said if it were an opinion piece that's one thing. but it's not. you don't just get to say whatever you want and call it academic.

also... there have been no updates since the last video came out. not even for supporters. my theory on this is that she's having a REALLY hard time finding examples of damsels in distress over the past ten years that aren't a) peach or B) zelda. like seriously. try naming some off. what can you come up with?

edit: in fact, i just did a little test with the games i own. of any games in this current generation (wii/xbox360/ps3/ds/3ds) that i own (re-releases of snes games etc. not included), the ONLY ONE that has a damsel in distress theme and isn't a mario or zelda game is tomb raider. and lara croft is rescuing another girl.. so... yeah. and if you count final fantasy XIII. which i really really don't seeing as the overall game has so little to do with Lightning's sister, and there are several other males in the same distress/the person trying to save her is her sister. and her boyfriend too but it's not a male-driven enterprise.

edit edit: the same even holds true for my GBA collection. for playstation 2, the only games that applied were Kingdom Hearts games, and even that's a hard sell. for gamecube? the ONLY one is starfox adventures.

edit edit edit: you know what fuck it let's just do the whole thing. dating all the way back to NES and Game Boy there's only two more that aren't mario and zelda. banjo-kazooie and banjo-tooie.

in conclusion? the bulk of my video game collection dating back all the way to 1996 is, with a notable exception or two, completely free of this 'overbearing stereotype' when peach and zelda are taken out of the equation. i can't wait for someone to be like 'anecdotal evidence blah blah' but for real. it's not 'pervasive' and 'troubling' when a lifelong gamer such as myself literally can't find more than six games that fit the bill in their ENTIRE collection.

Edited by The Derrit

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.