Brandon Strader

Tropes vs. Women / #GamerGate Conspiracies

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To borrow a page from Jesse's book, either your reading comprehension skills need honing, or you're intentionally mischaracterizing what I'm saying, or I'm being wildly unclear...

the adult thing would be to assume you're being unclear, instead of repeatedly implying something insulting

To simply say that patriarchy is a pattern/system homo sapiens tends to fall into is not in any way an endorsement, so long as you remember that nature doesn't directly optimize for the things I think we all basically agree are our values - equality, freedom, justice, tolerance, reason.

but the difficulties I see with adopting this point of view is that it gives people fodder with which to take stances which are contrary to social advancement; for example, there are several people in this thread who are agreeing with what you say but from context it's sort of clear that they're agreeing in different ways

e.g

1) yeah I agree with what djp is saying [because I think that biology plays a role in sexism]

2) yeah I agree with what djp is saying [because if that's biologically how people work then sexism isn't a problem]

of all of the people who are agreeing with you here - and don't get me wrong, you've got me mostly convinced - how many are doing so because they think it's a reasonable approach to this issue, and how many are doing so because they need to rally in any way that they can against anita sarkeesian and/or the concept of inequality in video games? I mean you're clearly the longest-spoken person in this thread who's taken a stance against her videos, and I think that the stance that you've elucidated can be pretty easily abused to support and sustain some pretty shitty opinions

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of all of the people who are agreeing with you here - and don't get me wrong, you've got me mostly convinced - how many are doing so because they think it's a reasonable approach to this issue, and how many are doing so because they need to rally in any way that they can against anita sarkeesian and/or the concept of inequality in video games? I mean you're clearly the longest-spoken person in this thread who's taken a stance against her videos, and I think that the stance that you've elucidated can be pretty easily abused to support and sustain some pretty shitty opinions

This makes a bit more sense, thanks for the explanation.

If we limited ourselves to only the concepts, ideas, theories, and facts that couldn't potentially be abused, usurped, & twisted, then we'd scarcely be able to have a meaningful conversation now, would we?

When that happens.... the terrorists win.

I don't disagree that someone, somewhere might attempt to misappropriate the type of argument I'm making, but I've been extremely consistent about qualifying everything, emphasizing the motivation behind the reasoning, and explicitly identifying the types of arguments that this methodology does not inherently support. When you say my arguments could be "easily" abused, you must be observing that simply ignoring HALF of an entire argument is "easy"?? While I agree that it is, for some folks, that type of litmus test for what's "easily abused" is again far too wide, and could encompass almost any statement. This is basically a non-argument, or a permutation of slippery slope that forms an implicit argument against ANY OTHER argument, for fear it could be misunderstood and/or misused!! This is not a recipe for progress, needless to say. As a species, we need to improve our ability to learn about ourselves without tearing ourselves apart.

Furthermore, as a separate point, I would argue that those desperate enough to misappropriate a scientific argument they don't even understand are not rational, that this will become apparent as they attempt to execute the "robbery," and ALSO that they probably would have latched onto anything remotely resembling evidence for "their side" regardless - if not this, then something else that employs logic & reason but can be similarly corrupted. You do not cure illiteracy by eliminating written language.

It's funny, because you're basically so afraid of OTHER people committing appeal to nature fallacies that you're justifying a slippery slope fallacy, more or less.

This appears to be a genuine case of.... METAFALLACY!!

(holds up magnifying glass... "This is FASCINATING!!")

Edited by djpretzel

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the adult thing would be to assume you're being unclear, instead of repeatedly implying something insulting

You're right, and I apologize for my statement that you need to improve your reading skills, or that you're deliberately twisting people's words. What may be seem clear to someone may not be clear to someone else.

how many are doing so because they think it's a reasonable approach to this issue, and how many are doing so because they need to rally in any way that they can against anita sarkeesian and/or the concept of inequality in video games?

No offense, but this is also an insulting thing to imply.

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No offense, but this is also an insulting thing to imply.

It's not unreasonable though. Although we don't have a monopoly on understanding ourselves--women included--people have good reasons to be very skeptical of Sarkeesian's detractors' motivations on this issue.

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It's not unreasonable though. Although we don't have a monopoly on understanding ourselves--women included--people have good reasons to be very skeptical of Sarkeesian's detractors' motivations on this issue.

I think you mean "many of Sarkeesian's detractors'" - it's not all one big group, there are varying perspectives (to put it mildly - I personally dislike some of the "company" I'm apparently in, but not enough to abandon my perceptions and/or reasoning!) Unless the skepticism should actually apply en masse, to any & all "detractors" - which would be rather prejudicial, wouldn't it? Unless you're saying that everyone has good reasons to be skeptical of almost everyone else's motivations, all the time, in which case I applaud your nonpartisan skepticism as being quite reasonable, however depressing it may seem to some :)

Questioning peoples' motivations for not liking or disagreeing with something is silly.

Well, look... yes, one should be able to engage in a lively & substantive debate on the actual issue(s) without questioning someone's ulterior motives, you're absolutely right. But when so many objections have focused on the $$$, or the production quality of the videos, or her release schedule, or the nonsense with the comments, or other items that are ultimately incidental to the argument she's trying to make, it DOES end up looking like a smokescreen for some deeper objection/offense that "dare not be voiced" for one reason or another. At the very least it sometimes seems like sidestepping whether she's making a persuasive argument by instead mounting a style-over-substance attack... I think that's where the concern about motivations might be coming from, I don't know...

Edited by djpretzel

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I think you mean "many of Sarkeesian's detractors'" - it's not all one big group, there are varying perspectives (to put it mildly - I personally dislike a lot of the "company" I'm apparently in, but not enough to abandon my perceptions and/or reasoning!) Unless the skepticism should actually apply en masse, to any & all "detractors" - which would be rather prejudicial, wouldn't it? Unless you're saying that everyone has good reasons to be skeptical of almost everyone else's motivations, all the time, in which case I applaud your nonpartisan paranoia as being quite reasonable, however depressing it may seem to some :)

I meant what I said, but my being skeptical of all her detractors doesn't imply that I think all her detractors necessarily think the same way or are motivated by the same things. If by "prejudicial" you mean that I am more suspicious of Sarkeesian's detractors' motivations rather than that of her supporters, you may be right, but I think "prejudice" entails an unreasonable belief. I think my greater skepticism of Sarkeesian's detractors is reasonable because it seems more likely to me that her detractors rather than her supporters could be motivated by an animus for women or gender equality. That's not to say I think the arguments from people on any side of the debate are automatically qualitatively better or worse depending on which side of the fence you land though. Moreover, a good argument can convince me to put my distrust of a detractor's motivations aside. e.g. I don't think you are motivated by an animus toward women or feminism even though you are one of her detractors because your arguments have been clear enough for me to see that.

Edited by Ab56 v2 aka Ash

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I meant what I said, but my being skeptical of all her detractors doesn't imply that I think all her detractors necessarily think the same way or are motivated by the same things. If by "prejudicial" you mean that I am more suspicious of Sarkeesian's detractors' motivations rather than that of her supporters, you may be right, but I think "prejudice" entails an unreasonable belief. I think my greater skepticism of Sarkeesian's detractors is reasonable because it seems more likely to me that her detractors rather than her supporters could be motivated by an animus for women or gender equality.

I can see that; I do think some % of her supporters may be motivated by an animus for men, or might view gender equality from the (in my opinion) unreasonable perspective of 50-50 compositional parity for every single profession, or support actual censorship of sexual objectification, or believe in the most extreme, conspiratorial version of patriarchy, etc. - you can "suppose" some reasonable suspicions for her supporters as well, can you not? Although admittedly, it wasn't abundantly clear from the initial kickstarter itself just how flagrant & unreasonable some of the ideology would be... I would have expected more of her initial supporters to be disappointed by the approach she's taking than seems to be the case, but I feel like people can't (or don't want to) separate supporting her specific arguments from supporting the overall notion of getting better & varied representation for female characters in games.

That's not to say I think the arguments from people on any side of the debate are automatically qualitatively better or worse depending on which side of the fence you land though. Moreover, a good argument can convince me to put my distrust of a detractor's motivations aside. e.g. I don't think you are motivated by an animus toward women or feminism even though you are one of her detractors because your arguments have been clear enough for me to see that.

Ah, okay, you basically addressed my question above. And thanks... I've certainly been trying.

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Well if anything, Anita Sarkeesian has motivated my girlfriend to start up a blog discussing these issues and why Sarkeesian's perspective is not only damaging to video gaming, but to feminism as a whole.

That's actually kind of cool. Be sure to share it when she starts putting entries up (if she hasn't already).

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That's actually kind of cool. Be sure to share it when she starts putting entries up (if she hasn't already).

Well she says she wants to do a few more entries, but essentially this is her informal introductory piece on the issue(on a new site no less!)

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Honestly, the best way to expose weakness in Sarkeesian's argument is to thoroughly explore her argument better than she does, address counterarguments, and acknowledge limitations and faults. It involves putting in a lot of effort and giving a fair shake to the possibility that her conclusions may be correct, while also pointing out other conclusions that could also be correct. I haven't seen anything like that.

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Honestly, the best way to expose weakness in Sarkeesian's argument is to thoroughly explore her argument better than she does, address counterarguments, and acknowledge limitations and faults. It involves putting in a lot of effort and giving a fair shake to the possibility that her conclusions may be correct, while also pointing out other conclusions that could also be correct. I haven't seen anything like that.

what conclusion has she come to, exactly. all of her videos have been 'hey look at this, damsel in distress' with a 'HEY DISCLAIMER there's not anything actually really *wrong* with any of this, just thought i'd point it all out' at the end. if her point is that sexism in gaming is bad then congratulations, she's right. but in terms of any other truly specific points, i'm really striking out on actual arguments she's made. and finding different types of damsels in distress from different eras isn't a point.

also djp has already done all of those things. much better than she has.

also you do not have to come up with a better idea to disprove a bad one. that is not how science works, social or otherwise.

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Honestly, the best way to expose weakness in Sarkeesian's argument is to thoroughly explore her argument better than she does, address counterarguments, and acknowledge limitations and faults. It involves putting in a lot of effort and giving a fair shake to the possibility that her conclusions may be correct, while also pointing out other conclusions that could also be correct. I haven't seen anything like that.

This is a perplexing statement, because MOST of her videos involve identifying the tropes themselves. Plenty of folk have pointed out the instances where she's ignoring context or getting the facts wrong here and there, but in many cases I'd agree that she's correctly identifying the trope. Her "arguments" beyond that are formed of one or two sentences of outdated feminist dogma... I've done a quote-for-quote analysis earlier in the thread and pointed out how these statements are flawed. At this juncture, I'd even contend that I've put more effort & thought into my responses here than she has into the specific parts of her videos that DO form something resembling an argument... that's like 5% of each video, at most.

In other words, since her "argument" appears to consist of a few polarizing, oversimplifying quotes peppered throughout identification of the tropes, I'm confused why you think any meaningful counterargument has SO much more onus to get things right, and also why you feel you haven't seen one. I don't wanna pat my own back, but I kinda thought that's what I've been doing, and I've even taken a couple occasions to provide summaries/breakdowns of my counterarguments...

Unless, that is, you consider her argument to simply be that certain tropes are overused... I don't think that's what we've been debating, though, so I'm assuming that's not what you're talking about...

Edited by djpretzel

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My comment was directed specifically toward Malaki, whose girlfriend wants to critique Sarkeesian on a blog. So when I say "expose," I mean "expose to a broader audience in an appropriate public forum." As much as you have deconstructed Sarkeesian's points and launched counterarguments, a blog or a video is much better format for exposing her arguments' weaknesses than posts sprawled across 120+ pages of an online message board.

I don't think anyone has a problem with her identifying tropes. That's not a huge point of debate: the tropes do exist and I can accept that her examples fall into them. I'm interested in the subtler argument she makes about these examples' actual or potential harm, which she makes by omitting a holistic analysis. It's arguably not much of her videos, but it weakens her overall product and is a point worth critiquing. On the other hand, it might be a huge part of her videos because it answers the question, "so what if these tropes exist?" Again, I'm unclear if this is a big point or not because, like I said earlier in the thread, I'm not sure if she's trying to create an expository or opinion piece. For what it's worth, a ton of people seem to infer that her underlying arguments are hugely important.

My problem with all the other critiques I've seen of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games--aside from on this forum--is that they mostly commit the same sin I critique Sarkeesian for. They affirmatively argue that no harm exists without seriously considering her point that there might be some specific harm. I'm not asking to people to prove a vague negative, but choosing a few of the strongest arguments for why using or overusing these tropes might be harmful, and thoroughly deconstructing those points would be helpful. I also want to see some acknowledgment that there isn't a clear answer either way because with "harm," we are dealing with something we can only guess at rather than know for certain or with reasonable probability. That is, unless they have some academic studies to offer up as evidence. Overall though, all the public critics I've seen have failed muster any of this substance. I think it would be hypocritical of me to give them a free pass while critiquing Sarkeesian.

Edited by Ab56 v2 aka Ash

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I like how the way the article is written, it's tacitly dismissing all criticism of feminism -- or at least implying that the only reason to criticize Feminist Frequency is because you dislike feminism as a whole. It makes comments like this:

PART IV: Various others choir in with sarcasm, complaints about feminist, or disappointment that Derek is taking a feminist critique respectfully

and then gives examples like this:

You're actually a fan of FemFreq? Disappointing, I thought you were among the only sane indie developers.
I don't like this mechanic therefore it is an "Issue": Radical feminism is about censorship.

That seem like legitimate commentary to me. Maybe not as respectful as it could be, but still legitimate. The first one doesn't like Feminist Frequency and is disappointed that a developer he likes does. The second is pointing out that labelling certain things as inevitably bad and wrong is, indeed, a form of (or attempt at, at least) censorship.

Meanwhile, we get this:

Part V: Eventually, appreciation of Derek's reasonable responses starts to appear, and eventually outnumber the unreasonable. Nice work, proponents of reasonableness.

So apparently having an opposing opinion makes you unreasonable!

It's nice to see how admirably @mossmouth handles himself here in the face of blind anti-feminist Twitter rage
Sighing audibly and shaking my head at the crap @mossmouth is getting on Twitter for the heinous act of being a decent human being.
Props to @femfreq and @mossmouth, two cool folks sharing civil discourse in the face of ignorance.

And makes you ignorant, not a decent human being, and guilty of blind anti-feminist rage, too. Nice to know that we can have an amicable conversation where both sides are taken seriously.

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Interesting recap. I think he's being very reasonable and respectful. My only "two cents" would be that she herself, in her videos, is not being particularly respectful when she says things like:

"It's a sad fact that a large percentage of the world's population still clings to the deeply sexist belief that women as a group need to be sheltered, protected, and taken care of by men."
I don't view that quote as respectful, or particularly deserving of respect itself, because it fails to distinguish between conscious "clinging" as opposed to unconscious instinct (or cultural conditioning), fails to distinguish between wanting to protect women you love as opposed to feeling that ALL women need to be protected, and fails to distinguish between stereotypes about women being weaker as opposed to fears about men being more violent. It's not the type of statement that earns my respect, but it is still nevertheless important to be respectful & civil by default. Some people feel like common courtesy will give off the appearance of agreement or endorsement, and I'm glad Derek doesn't fall into that trap. Nevertheless, the Storify recap does vaguely imply that no reasonable critiques of Anita's stances even exist, as NJ pointed out.

The most interesting quote to me was:

@Penakoto @dandy_jack @femfreq I wouldn't ever sacrifice my artistic vision to not offend someone, but hurting people for no reason is dumb.
Because I'm not entirely sure what to make of it... I strongly identify with the first half; the second half kinda hinges on the concept of "no reason"... when does that even apply, in art? That would be the question... when does any one artistic decision or ingredient unilaterally lack "reason"? And the implication is that "hurting people" without reason (arbitrarily) is "dumb," but if you've actually GOT a reason, then it's... not as dumb? It seems like equivocation & a bit of pandering to both sides, perhaps, designed to make everyone happy as long as they don't pick it apart? In which case, bravo from a PR perspective - a very politically savvy way to sidestep things. Edited by djpretzel

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The most interesting quote to me was:

Because I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. I strongly identify with the first half; the second half kinda hinges on the concept of "no reason"... when does that even apply, in art? That would be the question... when does any one artistic decision or ingredient unilaterally lack "reason"? And the implication is that "hurting people" without reason (arbitrarily) is "dumb," but if you've actually GOT a reason, then it's... not as dumb?

I think what he meant is that the whole damsel mechanic (and the subsequent replacement of the damsel with a man/dog) was not a terribly important part of the game design. He admits that he made a foolish mistake and that none of it was a deliberate part of the design of the game. The very fact that the game can interchange the damsel with a man/dog (and as Anita points out, even an inanimate object) shows that the damsel trope was not integral to the game in any way and was a cheap joke to throw in.

Take a movie like Django Unchained, which has gratuitous abuse of African Americans in it. Despite that content being offensive, it is purposefully being used to make a point. If that same content was present without any connection to a larger issue (brutality of slavery in American history), it would be dumb and unnecessary.

Edited by Cerrax

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I think what he meant is that the whole damsel mechanic (and the subsequent replacement of the damsel with a man/dog) was not a terribly important part of the game design. He admits that he made a foolish mistake and that none of it was a deliberate part of the design of the game. The very fact that the game can interchange the damsel with a man/dog (and as Anita points out, even an inanimate object) shows that the damsel trope was not integral to the game in any way and was a cheap joke to throw in.

Take a movie like Django Unchained, which has gratuitous abuse of African Americans in it. Despite that content being offensive, it is purposefully being used to make a point. If that same content was present without any connection to a larger issue (brutality of slavery in American history), it would be dumb and unnecessary.

Thanks, that's a very helpful explanation with an excellent example. I wasn't aware he was completely in agreement that the damsel was hurtful and that its inclusion was definitely a mistake. In that case, he's not respectfully disagreeing with her at all, he's respectfully agreeing with her, right? Interesting that it wasn't framed that way... am I missing something?

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No, I think you've got it right. The article was essentially patting him on the back for agreeing with Feminist Frequency's critique of his game. Which is fine, except for when it goes on to call out anyone who disagrees with said critique unreasonable, ignorant, and wrong by definition.

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No, I think you've got it right. The article was essentially patting him on the back for agreeing with Feminist Frequency's critique of his game. Which is fine, except for when it goes on to call out anyone who disagrees with said critique unreasonable, ignorant, and wrong by definition.

Gotcha.

Yeah, this is actually the opposite of what I would view as meaningful progress, in some sense. Meaningful progress to me would be games that actually consider these issues at the outset, and bake them into the design. This, instead, is a piece of minor surgery emanating from what we can only hope was actually a sense of complete and utter agreement, as opposed to concern over the fallout of NOT taking action to address the complaint, i.e. made under duress... or simply taking the path of least resistance, which electricity - and human beings - have been known to do. I can't be sure, and I don't presume to know, but the model/pattern of that dynamic would probably be vulnerable to it occurring.

Maybe that's just my glass-half-empty view of things... such a pessimist...

You could also argue that Anita was simply very persuasive and that Derek made a decision informed entirely by reasonable consideration of her arguments, which he found to be sound, thus resulting in a decision to remove a callous and subconsciously-poisoning artifact of patriarchy that should be entirely forgotten about, justifying its objection and removal in all instances.

I dunno, that second one doesn't sound a little scary to anyone? Just me? Okay...

I guess my favorite version is this: He made a game he thought was cool, she took offense at the damsel, he checked out her videos, it seemed like she had a point, she had a lot of people "on her side," and he decided since it wasn't a huge deal to him to just make the change.

I guess I think this version's fine; everyone's exercising free will, more or less autonomous of external forces... I personally wouldn't have been persuaded by her arguments if it were my game, but I can't fault someone for having a different take on things. Hopefully, other game developers might feel less compelled by any one argument from any one group, and we'll still end up with a diverse variety of games with varying influences, as opposed to games crafted to universally avoid offense.

Edited by djpretzel

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Doesn't it simply makes business sense to be on Anita's 'side'?

I mean, I think most people who disagree strongly with Anita don't care as much, in the sense that they wouldn't base purchase of a game on political grounds. It would be pretty ridiculous anyways, to refuse to buy a game because it does NOT feature a damsel in distress.

As you said, what he said was good PR.

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Doesn't it simply makes business sense to be on Anita's 'side'?

I mean, I think most people who disagree strongly with Anita don't care as much, in the sense that they wouldn't base purchase of a game on political grounds. It would be pretty ridiculous anyways, to refuse to buy a game because it does NOT feature a damsel in distress.

Sex sells... not necessarily relevant to the damsel-in-distress trope (but not unrelated, either) is the notion she articulates about "male power fantasies"... She's trying to argue against art that caters to them on any level, whereas I think the responsible thing to do is calibrate them and offer plentiful counterexamples. If you think "male power fantasies" are completely cultural and can be sanitized out of the human consciousness by way of art/culture/society, well then... you agree with her. If you think that sex sells for a number of reasons, not all of them harmful, and that it's more important to foster a general consciousness than it is to set up a litmus test for whether something is sexist or not (with no allowance for matters-of-degree), well then... you agree with me. And I agree with you. Friends and pies.

As an added bonus, my way jives better with Capitalism, which happens to be the economy du jour...

Edited by djpretzel

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