Brandon Strader

Tropes vs. Women / #GamerGate Conspiracies

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I think you'd have to go really far down the fringe/extremist spectrum to find individuals that explicitly advocate a privileged position for women in society (a matriarchy?) and would disagree with the wikipedia definition of feminism.

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I think you'd have to go really far down the fringe/extremist spectrum to find individuals that explicitly advocate a privileged position for women in society (a matriarchy?) and would disagree with the wikipedia definition of feminism.

and you don't have to go far at all to find people who implicitly advocate a privileged position for women in society, or at the very least a society where men shouldn't have power because they're dumb

because that's pretty much every single one

any feminist that invokes 'male privilege' as a legitimate argument (i.e. 'check your privilege') is implicitly saying that a man's opinion on a certain topic is less valid or valuable specifically because they are a man. which is also implicitly saying that men's opinions and positions on things should be less valuable

it's not a matriarchy but women who use lines like that want their way of thinking/whatever to be superior, whether they realize it or not. and that's not even going into the massive double standards that are rampant among the 'equal rights' advocates you call feminists

Edited by The Derrit

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I think you'd have to go really far down the fringe/extremist spectrum to find individuals that explicitly advocate a privileged position for women in society (a matriarchy?) and would disagree with the wikipedia definition of feminism.

You're confusing "a privileged position" with equality - actual parity - on a per-issue basis. Ironic then, to invoke straw-man...You need go no further than this thread's focus, and many of your own posts, to find sentiments exceeding the very reasonable Wiki definition of feminism that you yourself quoted. No part of "social rights" should encompass never being offended by art. We all get to be offended by art. We all get to objectify, and be objectified. That's equality. No aspect of social, political, or economic rights should require sanitized/uniform fictional depictions, or hinge on sterilization & de-sexualization. Those aren't rights, those are personal preferences, and they undermine & distract from some very real concerns. This is feminism's ultimate self-constructed straw-man, and while it diminished somewhat in the wake of second-wave feminism and advent of third-wave feminism, it keeps... being... resurrected... by those - possessing what I'm sure are good intentions - who are nonetheless unable to disentangle rights from taste.

Informed by even a modicum of context, this isn't progress - it's regression.

Edited by djpretzel

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No aspect of social, political, or economic rights should require sanitized/uniform fictional depictions, or hinge on sterilization & de-sexualization. Those aren't rights, those are personal preferences, and they undermine & distract from some very real concerns. This is feminism's ultimate self-constructed straw-man, and while it diminished somewhat in the wake of second-wave feminism and advent of third-wave feminism, it keeps... being... resurrected... by those - possessing what I'm sure are good intentions - who are nonetheless unable to disentangle rights from taste.

That's an awfully broad stroke you're painting all of feminism with.

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That's an awfully broad stroke you're painting all of feminism with.

funny because if you yknow read his post you find that he's actually talking about a specific mode of thought within feminism that has recurred throughout feminism's history

he actually has yet to make a claim about all of feminism carrying any one specific view

but hey whatever

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funny because if you yknow read his post you find that he's actually talking about a specific mode of thought within feminism that has recurred throughout feminism's history

he actually has yet to make a claim about all of feminism carrying any one specific view

but hey whatever

I did read his post and I understand his point. But if djp wants people to be precise with their words, I see no problem holding him to the same standard. Specifically, "feminism" as a whole did not construct the straw man he critiques. Some feminists did.

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I did read his post and I understand his point. But if djp wants people to be precise with their words, I see no problem holding him to the same standard. Specifically, "feminism" as a whole did not construct the straw man he critiques. Some feminists did.

I didn't say that "feminism as a whole" created it, but I did assign ownership of it to feminism. There's a difference; I think the precision was there, really... It is largely feminism's problem to address, and it came from (and continues to come from) those identifying as operating under its banner...

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I didn't say that "feminism as a whole" created it, but I did assign ownership of it to feminism. There's a difference; I think the precision was there, really...

You said it's feminism's "self-constructed" strawman, which is more sensibly read as assigning creation (or "construction") rather than ownership to feminism. Would've been more appropriate to say "some feminists" constructed the straw man. Not that this derail is meaningful, mind you, so I'll stop here.

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New video - "Ms. Male Character".

Just to vary it up, rather than talk about the things I DO agree with, I'll talk about a couple things I disagreed with...

Anita talks about how the "gender binary" is an entirely artificial and socially constructed division. I think that is very far from the truth. I understand that "sex" is used to describe biological differences and "gender" is often used to describe cultural or social differences. But can we really say that ALL gender differences are ENTIRELY cultural or social? Doesn't that ignore everything we know about evolutionary psychology?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_and_gender_distinction#Criticism_of_the_sex_vs._gender_differences_distinction

"...it would be more accurate to view behaviors of an individual as phenotypes—a complex interweaving of both nature and nurture. Given this, a more appropriate and useful distinction to make would be whether a behavioral difference between the sexes is due to a underlying trait that is either a sexually dimorphic (different) or sexually monomorphic (the same in both sexes) psychological adaptation."

This view makes much more sense to me.

I also have to wonder what the alternative to the trope is, when you're talking about simplistic games with minimal graphics and story. For example, say we're back at a time when Ms. Pac-Man doesn't exist. Is it better to not create a female character at all? I guess not? Given the limited number of pixels you have, how else would you differentiate them other than things that are universally viewed as largely feminine...?

She mentions games like Towerfall or Thomas Was Alone, but these either have far more plot/narrative, OR higher fidelity graphics.

Another questionable point was regarding marketing for Mass Effect. What's the alternative here? Let's say BioWare chose to advertise the characters equally in trailers and promotional material. Surely this would confuse a great many people - it might look like two separate games, or at least two separate versions, rather than ONE game with character customization. To some extent you do have to just.. pick a default and run with it.

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I think Metroid did it mostly well. If you want to show the player how the character looks more thoroughly you can do it through cutscenes, stills or even artwork outside of the game. That way the image of it will be projected to the restricted version in game. Personally I think you can leave the character to the imagination if it's centered around gameplay.

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New video - "Ms. Male Character".

Just to vary it up, rather than talk about the things I DO agree with, I'll talk about a couple things I disagreed with...

:) I'll try and reciprocate towards the end...

Anita talks about how the "gender binary" is an entirely artificial and socially constructed division. I think that is very far from the truth. I understand that "sex" is used to describe biological differences and "gender" is often used to describe cultural or social differences. But can we really say that ALL gender differences are ENTIRELY cultural or social? Doesn't that ignore everything we know about evolutionary psychology?

I'm curious, do you think you would have honed in on that specific line & the dissonance with evolutionary psychology (and in my personal opinion, common sense) before having participated in this thread? Because you picked the EXACT quote that I would have isolated & dissected and did my work for me - now I've got nothing to say :nicework: You certainly may have, I'm not saying this thread has been an epiphany or singular revelation to you or anyone else, I'm just glad that not only can we agree on something, but that you've picked out the specific bit of overgeneralizing, unmitigated ideology from a haystack of relatively unobjectionable material - she does a good job of mixing these statements in & camouflaging them, which is pretty much the only way of getting reasonable people to listen to them at all... there's an admirable marketing prowess to that, to be sure, but there's also a certain intellectual... dishonesty? Or I suppose you could call it "calculated restraint" if you wanted to be less negative...

I also have to wonder what the alternative to the trope is, when you're talking about simplistic games with minimal graphics and story. For example, say we're back at a time when Ms. Pac-Man doesn't exist. Is it better to not create a female character at all? I guess not? Given the limited number of pixels you have, how else would you differentiate them other than things that are universally viewed as largely feminine...?

It's a minefield of Catch-22's, trying to be politically correct when creating fiction of most any kind... I think it's more productive to approach this challenge from the perspective of trying to improve the actual art form - functionally & aesthetically - than trying to make people happy and avoid offending them. I've been consistently saying that the simple pattern analysis & identification of repetition that she's doing *IS* beneficial, but would be even more effective if, instead of inserting regressive (to use a word she throws at the poor old Pac-Man creator) feminist ideology, she simply pointed out the ways that variation & contemplation can improve the medium. Whenever she gets to the "This is WHY this is bad..." part of her monologues, I just cringe.

There's a counterargument to be made, as well, that characters being "baseline" male actually DILUTES any meaningful notions of "masculinity" - in other words, it's not that these barely feminized characters are "Ms. Male," it's that their counterparts are barely "male" to begin with. To use her Koopaling example - what does it mean to be female? It's apparently meaningful ENOUGH to justify it being the salient characteristic for an entire character! What does it mean to be male? Nothing! The other Koopalings are defined not by their masculinity, but by their different characterizations, as she quite correctly points out. But while she sees this assumptive masculinity as liberating and powerful, I think you could make a half-decent counterargument that it basically means that masculinity is, in and of itself, not good enough, not worthwhile, not interesting... and so the point remains that Wendy is problematic, but not necessarily because the "men" are being favored, per se. To be fair, focusing on the "false dichotomy" of "binary gender" is actually playing both sides, and Anita does explicitly phrase it this way, to her credit... but she just can't help herself from only seeing (or perhaps only caring about) half the picture, even though dichotomies are, by definition, DUAL.

As for the sentiment that all gender is socially constructed and that notions of male and female are completely arbitrary, etc., as you mention, it's nature AND nurture, and perpetuating the egotistical myth that human beings are somehow the only species on Earth that has created cultures of behavior completely independent of biology is poppycock, and perhaps also balderdash. Anyone arguing that humans exist in a magical vacuum outside of nature is just as misguided as those claiming that X or Y behavior or identity "isn't natural"; neither worldview is complete, and both smack of extremism. To say that any dichotomy between male and female is inherently "false" is to sidestep the question of whether meaningful differences - not polarizing, not extreme, not inflexible or absolute differences, just meaningful ones - exist.

It's intellectually lazy, however well-intended.

Happily, many of her arguments in this video don't even hinge on it, though... "Put a bow on it" has served its purpose and may still be just fine for certain contexts, but I think more variety in terms of gender differentiation in games is an idea whose time has come. There are plenty of good reasons it should be explored and encouraged that exist outside Anita's make-believe world where all human behavior is socially-constructed.

(That was the "me agreeing with her part," in case you missed it :smile:)

Edited by djpretzel

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So, the first five minutes are spent on defining the term. A Ms. Male Character is a female version of an already established male character, usually created by adding stereotypical feminine attributes like hair accessories, makeup, etc.

The next four minutes focus on these features, and talks about accessories (especially hair bows), color scheme being pink, purple, or pastel, makeup (especially lipstick), and heart motifs as common feminine signifiers. She also briefly mentions breasts/cleavage as a feminine signifier, which seems sort of "duh" to me. Unless your female character is preadolescent, then "having breasts" seems less like a stereotype and more like a physical reality.

At around the nine minute mark she basically says "not that there's anything wrong with that" but then goes on to say that using these feminizing signifiers to distinguish male vs female character design has the consequence of reinforcing "a strict binary form of gender expression". She defines the gender binary as "an entirely artificial and socially constructed division of male and female into two distinctly separate and opposing classes of human being" that also "erases the continuum of gender presences and identities that fall outside the rigid masculine/feminine false dichotomy", and points out that in such a system, women are "marked" while men remain largely "unmarked". Hoo boy. Zircon pointed out the issues with gender-as-entirely-socially-constructed already, but the idea of men being the "default" isn't necessarily true either. If women are associated with pink and purple, men are associated with blue and red; if women are associated with breasts and wide hips, then men are associated with large biceps and square jawlines; if women are associated with hair bows, then men are associated with neckties. If you take the most basic character designs with no features of any kind (eg, a stick figure) then the default assumption may be that it's male, but that doesn't make it the case that no male "markers" exist.

Then she segues into what she calls "personality female syndrome", where a female character's personality is based entirely on shallow female stereotypes -- being bratty, spoiled, vain, and quick to anger. She uses Wendy Koopa as an example. I would say, though, that these aren't so much female stereotypes as they are petty villain stereotypes -- the first thing that came to mind for me was that Montana Max, from Tiny Toons back in the day, is a virtually identical character (bratty, spoiled, vain, and quick to anger) despite being male.

Then she goes back to revisit the "marker" discussion to say that some things she's identified as female markers, like pink and purple color schemes, can also be applied to male characters (like Kirby or Bomberman) but essentially dismisses them because "they are the exception to the rule and are typically only found in colorful, childlike, and extremely male dominated worlds", which strikes me as saying "I'm acknowledging them so people can't accuse me of dismissing them, but then dismissing them because they don't support my point". She also briefly acknowledges male markers like neckties and baseball caps, but again only to dismiss them as not being as widely used in general, and not being used to differentiate individual, specific men in otherwise entirely-female worlds.

This leads into the "smurfette principle", where a cast of various males will have one (and only one) female member, the implication being that "the girl" is sufficient characterization for a cast of individuals (ie, you can have a cast that sums up to "the smart one, the brave one, the strong one, and the girl" or somesuch). I actually agree that this is a negative and largely due to lazy writing, though "fixing" it is a nebulous concept -- I still dislike the idea of some sort of arbitrary cutoff point for "this is now sexist". One of the examples she uses is Wonder Pink, the only girl of seven Wonder characters in The Wonderful 101. One girl of seven seems bad, but would two of seven be acceptable? How about two of five? One of four? Do girls always and forever have to be half or more of any given group for it to not be sexist? She never addresses any of this.

The conversation then goes back to the Ms. Male Character concept in general, and she asserts that being a Ms. Male Character is inherently limiting to those characters, being defined by their relationship to a male. She uses Dixie Kong, as contrasted by Diddy Kong, as an example, talking about her character concept ("Diddy Kong's girlfriend") and her character design (ponytail, earrings, pink color scheme) -- which I personally find amusing, given that Diddy is essentially "Donkey Kong's little buddy" (does that make him inherently limited and subordinate as a character, given that he's defined by his relationship to another character?) and has a character design full of male markers (baseball cap, red color scheme). The phenomenon she's describing (let's call it "derivativeness") is certainly real, but I'm not convinced that it's unique to, or especially bad for, female characters. Luigi is "Mario's brother" and Wario is "evil Mario" just as Peach is "Mario's love interest", but I don't think you could say Peach suffers worse for it than Luigi or Wario. Then she talks about Adam and Eve, which I thought this series was supposed to be about video games but whatever.

At 17:20 she finally gets to the meat of her argument for this video: males are the default, so women are viewed as secondary, an adjunct to males, rather than something worthy and worthwhile in and of themselves. I agree that males may be seen as a default, but I'm not sure that I buy the rest of it, especially as she doesn't offer any argument for, or evidence of, it being the case -- she simply asserts it and moves on.

Finally, she moves on to pointing out that games with the option of playing male or female characters, such as Mass Effect, typically use the male version in marketing, thus making them the "default". I would argue that this isn't necessarily the case (a quick Google image search for Harvest Moon box art, for example, shows the female version of the player character displayed prominently alongside the male version in virtually every game where such a choice is offered), but other than Zircon's point about "they just sort of need to pick a version and go with it" regarding marketing, I'd also mention that this goes back to "what's wrong with having a male protagonist?" discussion we've had earlier in the thread -- by saying that a male Shepard is the default is somehow a failing of the Mass Effect franchise, she's implying that having a male main character is a negative, or at least inferior to having a female main character, which is still something that bothers me. Honestly, her criticism of things like Mass Effect -- which freely allows the player to choose Shepard's gender and plays out identically in either case (with the exception of some romance options, which is reasonable) and offers no mechanical advantages to either gender (eg, male Shepard doesn't make a better soldier, female Shepard doesn't make a better biotic, etc) -- make me wonder if anything short of actively seeking out and subverting gender stereotypes would satisfy her. While I certainly don't have a problem with games (or any media) that choose to do that, I certainly don't think it should be a requirement -- and she seems willing to call out anything that doesn't go to that length as "part of the problem", at the very least.

And the last three minutes are the by-now standard "nothing I just said necessarily applies in the individual case, but it's all totally true in aggregate" which annoys me as much as ever.

Sorry for the long, rambling stream-of-consciousness style post, but I was actually writing it as I watched the video (and then going back and editing as she raised points or used examples that answered or exacerbated objections I'd already raised). In the spirit of ending with what we agreed with from her video, I'll reiterate that I do think that maleness can be considered a "default" if given a character with no gender markers whatsoever (though tempered by the fact that that may simply be because I'm male myself and tend to assume things are like myself unless otherwise noted -- I wonder if any studies have been done on that sort of thing), and that the use of "is female" as a personality trait is incredibly lazy writing, especially when combined with the smurfette principle to end up with exactly one female in the cast, whose only defining trait is the fact that she's female, and that it should be called out as such when it occurs.

(Incidentally, I also clicked on her "

" video because it showed up in the related videos list and it's only two minutes long. It's two minutes of her declaring what is and is not female empowerment without either explaining or justifying her arguments in any way other than stating them and then insulting everyone who disagrees. Apparently having making the women "sword-wielding and ass-kicking" doesn't count if the women in question are also sexy, because then that makes it "pornographic, adolescent-boy fantasies" instead. She actually describes it as "sexy chicks doing dude stuff", which, ironically, sounds like a ridiculously sexist way to look at things!) Edited by Native Jovian

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The next four minutes focus on these features, and talks about accessories (especially hair bows), color scheme being pink, purple, or pastel, makeup (especially lipstick), and heart motifs as common feminine signifiers. She also briefly mentions breasts/cleavage as a feminine signifier, which seems sort of "duh" to me. Unless your female character is preadolescent, then "having breasts" seems less like a stereotype and more like a physical reality.

I'm actively curious, to her mind, where the line is where something stops being a marker and starts being (as you said) a physical reality. For instance, do we count Anya from Gears of War being smaller and more slender than her male counterparts a marker, or a physical reality? What about Pokemon - with the addition of genders of Pokemon in the second gen, do we consider the use of the symbol for male and female as markers by her definition, or does it get a pass because it was originally used to save space on the cartridge? Do we count the female characters in Final Fantasy Tactics having different, more "feminine" clothing than their male counterparts in each job as a marker, or a social reality? There's a lot that sociologists would consider a "marker" of gender that, I would argue, does not imply an inherent sexism on the part of the game designer who uses them.

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I'm curious, do you think you would have honed in on that specific line & the dissonance with evolutionary psychology (and in my personal opinion, common sense) before having participated in this thread? Because you picked the EXACT quote that I would have isolated & dissected and did my work for me - now I've got nothing to say :nicework: You certainly may have, I'm not saying this thread has been an epiphany or singular revelation to you or anyone else, I'm just glad that not only can we agree on something, but that you've picked out the specific bit of overgeneralizing, unmitigated ideology from a haystack of relatively unobjectionable material - she does a good job of mixing these statements in & camouflaging them, which is pretty much the only way of getting reasonable people to listen to them at all... there's an admirable marketing prowess to that, to be sure, but there's also a certain intellectual... dishonesty? Or I suppose you could call it "calculated restraint" if you wanted to be less negative...

Yes, reading the thread and your arguments have given me some food for thought. I've also been influenced by the behavior of certain people (via facebook, tumblr, reddit) that seem to be hyper-defensive when it comes to matters of sex vs. gender. Some folks seem very, very quick to label people as "transphobic" (etc) because of benign comments or innocent mistakes, like assuming someone is male because they look male, for example. Obviously I don't support any sort of intolerance or discrimination, but in turn, it seems backwards to judge someone because they're making assumptions based in our natural understanding of biology.

As an example, Gabe of Penny Arcade saying he thinks women have vaginas, and getting death threats for it, seems very over-the-top to me.

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I'm actively curious, to her mind, where the line is where something stops being a marker and starts being (as you said) a physical reality.

Yeah, part of the problem is that she's done a poor job of explaining what constitutes problematic depictions of women vs acceptable depictions of women, in her mind. By focusing on the bad examples, rather than the good (and to her credit, she does list a fair number of games as good examples toward the end of her most recent, but she spends virtually no time on them beyond naming them), she says "DON'T DO THIS" without offering a "DO THIS INSTEAD!" as a counterpoint. If I knew why she considered her good examples acceptable, then that would be extremely helpful as an expansion on why she considers her bad examples unacceptable. As it is, I'm left with the sneaking suspicion that her good examples are ones that actively address and subvert gender stereotypes (such as when she mentioned the game that dressed the girl and blue and the boy in pink) -- which is fine, but as I mentioned above, I don't think every game needs to be exploring gender roles and stereotypes in order to avoid being labelled sexist.

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So she's still preaching to the choir just to say "HEY LOOK THIS HAPPENS" instead of offering solutions or reasonable explanations to people who don't understand inequality? Lovely.

I haven't watched this series after the first one, and hey I'm a feminist. I like my equality. The first one and the discussions it sparked were such a fantastic failure, I have little faith in the rest of the series. She's making people talk, but she's making them talk about the wrong fucking things. I mean, if she had just stepped up to start with and said "representation matters" when it comes to having equal amounts of male and female protagonists of varying ethnicities, people would have gotten it right away. Or even "these same tropes we've been using for books, movies, TV and video games for 15 years suck and we deserve better writing because we're tired of hip rugged white guys doing shit". Instead we get "this is a problem because I say it is", which subjective ideas never get viewed correctly.

Like I said, I stopped watching after the first video. I mean...she could have some good points, I don't know. I just know the method in which they are presented are more of an editorial piece than documentary. It's stupid that people are complaining about how her earrings look or the fact she's wearing the same clothes or whatever, but I don't see what good she is doing with this unless she prompts somebody who is better at presenting material and facts to make videos.

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She's making people talk, but she's making them talk about the wrong fucking things.

I'm curious, what are the "right" things to talk about?

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I'm curious, what are the "right" things to talk about?

Well I personally would like to talk about why it seems very strongly like modern feminism focuses more on how virtual women are portrayed on a screen than how women who really are oppressed (Middle East, for example) are still living in oppression, but if I've learned anything from the last 10 times I tried to bring it up anywhere, it's that no one's really interested in talking about it.

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I'm curious, what are the "right" things to talk about?

That equality and representation in media is important. That video games, movies, books, what have you should not be labled and marketed specifically towards males or females. That both genders can enjoy the same things, and these games do not need hooks like sexy outfits or sixpacks or whatever to draw people in. That the old corporate systems of deciding what is appropriate in video games by a bunch of old white men in suits should end, and they should take a look at how indie publishers are doing things.

That even if you do not feel that the misrepresentation of both males and females in video games affects you, you can understand that some people do not like these cookie-cutter roles and are getting tired of it.

Those kinds of things.

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That equality and representation in media is important...

Those kinds of things.

Sure, I agree. Unless I'm mistaken, I remember people talking about what you brought up, on OCR anyway. Also, I hesitate to label these points the "right" things. The "right" things depends on who you ask.

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