Brandon Strader

Tropes vs. Women / #GamerGate Conspiracies

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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.

On the internet, it's easier to hate and pretend you've done something useful for your cause, than knuckle under and actually work.

Internet activism turns everyone involved into rage junkies. It's horrifically embarrassing and I firmly believe it will damage your cause in the long run.

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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.

see the thing is that portrayal of virtual women in media is a problem we can aattempt to solve right here right now whereas the oppression of women on the other side of the planet is arguably none of our concern

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see the thing is that portrayal of virtual women in media is a problem we can aattempt to solve right here right now whereas the oppression of women on the other side of the planet is arguably none of our concern

by that logic, the 'other' is none of our concern

so i guess i should just label women as the other. so it's arguably none of my concern.

that doesn't work

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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.

The problem is that this doesn't actually seem to be the case. The same old arguably-sexist (depending on what examples you're looking at and what you consider sexist) formula continues to sell. If it didn't, then the market would correct for it fairly quickly -- if people didn't buy sexist media, then no one would make it. (No one trying to make money, anyway.)

The problem, then, is to discourage people from buying sexist media. Unfortunately, this is difficult, because most people buy games to enjoy playing them, not for their value in combating gender stereotypes. So what we need to do is to make good games that also avoid falling into sexist tropes -- if such games overwhelm other good games on the market, then "playing it safe" by utilizing the sexist tropes that have become the norm is no longer attractive for risk-averse companies, because sexist tropes are no longer the norm.

So in that sense, I can certainly see the value of calling attention sexism where it's present and calling it out as a definite negative. The problem with Sarkeesian's approach is that she has impossibly broad definitions of what constitutes sexism -- ie, everything that isn't explicitly and aggressively combating sexist attitudes. I appreciate the "if you're not part of the solution then you're part of the problem" mindset when it comes to cultural change (you need to have people actively opposing societal norms if you're ever going to affect any real change), but applying that attitude to major made-for-profit media is short-sighted; you're not going to change anyone's mind by attacking games they love, like Mario and Zelda or Mass Effect. You're especially not going to change anyone's mind by attacking games that get it 99% right, like Mass Effect or Beyond Good & Evil, by focusing entirely on the 1% where they stumbled. If even legitimately good examples of "how not to be sexist" are held up as failures for not being perfect, without regard to how close they get to it (and the fact that they're a damn sight better than most games on the market), then you're sort of shooting yourself in the foot. The perfect is the enemy of the good, and all that.

Basically, what I think would be more helpful is a more balanced approach. Instead of pointing out every tiny flaw you can think of and demonizing the game for it, make a little effort to show both the good and the bad, praising what deserves praise and condemning what deserves condemnation. That way she avoids coming off as a hypermilitant radical feminist who will jump down your throat for anything and everything she disapproves of in any way, shape, or form, and instead appears like a reasonable, rational person who simply wants to call attention to an important social issue.

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by that logic, the 'other' is none of our concern

so i guess i should just label women as the other. so it's arguably none of my concern.

that doesn't work

it's not really about who's who but more about what we can be reasonably expected to change given cultural differences and physical distance

like if you really think that making significant steps to change our own cultural perception of a thing that happens to us every day is somehow less important than signing a fuckin' petition or whatever about saudi arabia than you're just plain flat out wrong

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So in that sense, I can certainly see the value of calling attention sexism where it's present and calling it out as a definite negative. The problem with Sarkeesian's approach is that she has impossibly broad definitions of what constitutes sexism -- ie, everything that isn't explicitly and aggressively combating sexist attitudes. I appreciate the "if you're not part of the solution then you're part of the problem" mindset when it comes to cultural change (you need to have people actively opposing societal norms if you're ever going to affect any real change), but applying that attitude to major made-for-profit media is short-sighted; you're not going to change anyone's mind by attacking games they love, like Mario and Zelda or Mass Effect. You're especially not going to change anyone's mind by attacking games that get it 99% right, like Mass Effect or Beyond Good & Evil, by focusing entirely on the 1% where they stumbled. If even legitimately good examples of "how not to be sexist" are held up as failures for not being perfect, without regard to how close they get to it (and the fact that they're a damn sight better than most games on the market), then you're sort of shooting yourself in the foot. The perfect is the enemy of the good, and all that.

I feel like in order to make her points resonate, she DOES have to talk about more popular games... but the whole thing would seem like less of an attack and more of an analysis if, instead of peppering her rhetorical landscape with overgeneralizing, hyper-ideological one-offs, she just calmly explained potential risks and offered a couple quick & concrete examples of how deviating from the trope could result in better games... or at least games that are in no other ways diminished from such modifications. Also, since the series of videos isn't particularly rocking a "scholarly academic," vibe to begin with, I think it would be sooooo much more persuasive to her target audience if she talked a bit about which games she liked, had enjoyed playing, etc. and even shared some anecdotes once in awhile, when a given game was personal to her in some way. It wouldn't help prove her point directly, but indirectly it would again make it seem like less of an attack from the outside and more of a poignant analysis from the inside. As-is, she comes off at times like the type of person who would staunchly refuse to sit through any game that didn't appease her ideology in full; even with her standard disclaimer that you can still "enjoy" games/media that have these alleged issues, at no point am I genuinely persuaded that she has, or would...

Regarding opposing societal norms... some norms need to be outright opposed, others simply need to be deobligated; it's not that girly girls and manly men and bows and pink princesses and "traditional" gender roles need to rot in a pit of hellfire, it's just that people shouldn't be compelled to follow them, or shamed when they don't. It's not a question of discouraging conformity, but rather of encouraging tolerance for non-conformity. You don't need to attack the status quo, in this case, to justify any number of valid alternatives, and in doing so you only alienate the demographic that most desperately needs persuading. And yet that's the very tired & self-defeating trap that's being repeatedly fallen into...

Did anyone catch her brief labeling of certain feminized men as being homophobic? Did that sit wrong with anyone else? She used footage from a beat 'em up with a drag queen, and drag queens (and mustached YMCA policemen of various ilk) show up all the time in Japanese beat 'em ups. And then there's Cho Aniki... but is "homophobic" the right word? To untrained Western eyes, I suppose I could see where it might come off that way, and I'm no expert on Japanese culture, but the inclusion of transvestites & transgender characters in Japanese games always struck me as more embracing (with giggles, but no real malice) than demeaning or condemning. A lot of this content got censored/localized for NA release; I never got the impression that it was being altered out of respect & deference to drag queens, but more of an attempt to sanitize/remove those elements from games entirely, which to me is FAR more homophobic. Any thoughts on this?

Edited by djpretzel

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I feel like in order to make her points resonate, she DOES have to talk about more popular games... but the whole thing would seem like less of an attack and more of an analysis if, instead of peppering her rhetorical landscape with overgeneralizing, hyper-ideological one-offs, she just calmly explained potential risks and offered a couple quick & concrete examples of how deviating from the trope could result in better games... or at least games that are in no other ways diminished from such modifications.

Yeah, pretty much. I think she'd do much better with a more balanced approach -- "they did well with this, but this needs work" instead of "this, therefore sexism". She'd get much less of a defensive knee-jerk reaction if her demeanor was less aggressive and more thoughtful.

Regarding opposing societal norms... some norms need to be outright opposed, others simply need to be deobligated; it's not that girly girls and manly men and bows and pink princesses and "traditional" gender roles need to rot in a pit of hellfire, it's just that people shouldn't be compelled to follow them, or shamed when they don't.

This is a good way to phrase a concept that I've been struggling to put into words over the course of the thread. Having a manly-man character or a girly-girl character isn't in and of itself bad, it's the idea that all male characters need to be manly men and all female characters need to be girly-girls that's harmful. I'm not sure that Sarkeesian would agree, though -- and I mean that literally; I'm unclear what her stance would be on the issue. She seems to take issue with any depiction that reinforces traditional gender roles, but that may just be an effect of her accentuate-the-negative style.

Did anyone catch her brief labeling of certain feminized men as being homophobic? Did that sit wrong with anyone else?

I'm actually going to defend Sarkeesian, here. What she says (starting at around 12:10) is that the result is typically a homophobic or transphobic joke, not that the character design is in and of itself homophobic, which seems to mesh with your "with a giggle, but without malice" take on things.

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(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!)

Probably because she's wrong about it

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I'm actually going to defend Sarkeesian, here. What she says (starting at around 12:10) is that the result is typically a homophobic or transphobic joke, not that the character design is in and of itself homophobic, which seems to mesh with your "with a giggle, but without malice" take on things.

I agree that the treatment is comical... but phobic? To me phobic implies malice, on some level... this is exactly what I'm trying to get at; forget the discrepancy between character designs and usage for a second - considering both, in the examples provided and numerous other examples you can think of, does "comical = phobic"? Not in my mind... Cross-dressing and homosexuality are often played for laughs in what I'm sure Anita would consider "heteronormative, conformist shlock that reinforces socially-constructed gender roles" - when it's something like the effeminate prince being tossed out the window in Braveheart, I agree that it's pretty blatantly & legitimately homophobic. When it's Gene Hackman dressing up in drag at the end of The Birdcage, well, isn't that more of an embrace of the culture? Or take something in between - when Joey & Chandler pretend to be gay in a Friends episode, or something mainstream like that. I mean, that show was actually pretty progressive in having Ross's lesbian ex-wife figure prominently & respectably. Do we really think kissy jokes between the straight male principles in the same show is homophobic, then?? You can play something for laughs because you're afraid (phobic) of it OR you can play something for laughs because you're completely embracing it and almost, in a sense, making FUN of people who DO find it uncomfortable or immoral... I've never really felt like the ubiquitous trans- and homo- characters in more esoteric Japanese games were particularly "phobic" in design OR utilization... you're saying she's right, and that you do?

To me, the words "homophobic" and "transphobic" need to have more teeth & carry a bit more weight than this, because this usage dilutes the labels and distracts attention from the very real demographics that exhibit these behaviors & hold these views...

Edited by djpretzel

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I agree that the treatment is comical... but phobic?

I think you could make a decent argument that when the sole point of including a gay or trans character design in a game is to laugh at them -- in a "haha, look at that weirdo" sort of way -- it's not a good thing. Maybe using "phobic" language is a bit too strong, but it's certainly not a positive portrayal.

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I think you could make a decent argument that when the sole point of including a gay or trans character design in a game is to laugh at them -- in a "haha, look at that weirdo" sort of way -- it's not a good thing. Maybe using "phobic" language is a bit too strong, but it's certainly not a positive portrayal.

are you sure that's in the language of the presentation of the game or in the language of heteronormatized, homophobic/transphobic audiences

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Everything I think and feel has been discussed here already, but I have to say what I found the most egregious with the new Ms. Male video was how dismissive she was of Dixie Kong. By far, Dixie Kong was the most useful Kong in DKC2. While I love Diddy, he can not compete with her hair twirling flying prowess and how OP this made her. Title character or not Dixie was that game

Edited by Foxdyfx

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Everything I think and feel has been discussed here already, but I have to say what I found the most egregious with the new Ms. Male video was how dismissive she was of Dixie Kong. By far, Dixie Kong was the most useful Kong in DKC2. While I love Diddy, he can not compete with her hair twirling flying prowess and how OP this made her. Title character or not Dixie was that game

and in DKC3, it is her game, and she shines even brighter in comparison to kiddie kong.

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frankly i'm glad this didn't get a lot of discussion this time around. now that we're over her trying to be abrasive everyone's starting to realize she's not bringing much of anything to the table that isn't either questionable or fairly common knowledge.

not trying to troll it, but it seems like people get she's really not doing much with this now.

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that's been pretty much all of them, though. people are just wisening up to it now.

the only good part of this entire series has been when she supplied what was a very legitimate storyboard idea. i'd play that game. the rest has been 'pernicous' and 'male power fantasies' all the way

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NECROBUMP OF DOOM - no thoughts at all on latest episodes and/or Quinnspiracy and related?

I just saw an article this morning, and it reminded me of this thread:

http://time.com/3222543/5-feminist-myths-that-will-not-die/

IIRC, several of those stats were quoted as absolute truths during the course of conversations here, and I thought it was at least worthwhile to link...

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Have not had the chance to watch the latest episodes. The "Quinnspiracy" thing is quite sickening, however. For those who are not familiar, it goes something like this:

1. A female game developer creates a game.

2. Her vengeful ex-boyfriend publicly alleges that she cheated on him with a number of game journalists.

3. The internet being what it is, a witch hunt begins where lizard-brain trolls start posting her private information, harassing her & her family, sharing nude pictures of her, etc.

4. The justification for the above is that she 'slept her way to the top' in order to get coverage for her game.

5. On websites like Reddit, in the first few days after it became public, moderators censor discussion of the controversy as threads routinely degenerate into people posting nude pictures of her, sharing her private info, etc.

6. The controversy creates two 'sides'. Most game journalists and developers are on the developer's side, showing support in light of her severe harassment. Various randos on message boards on the other hand take this as a crusade against the perils of corruption in game journalism.

7. People who have publicly posted their support for the developer have had their Twitter, Skype etc hacked by vengeful gamers believing they're doing the right thing.

---

My thoughts, succinctly, are as follows:

* The controversy is pretty much entirely based on private messages and information shared by a vengeful ex-boyfriend. Sharing private conversations with sites like 4chan to try and effect change is despicable on so many levels.

* Though it WAS confirmed by a Kotaku (IIRC) journalist that he had a relationship with the developer, her game did not receive any particular attention of note from that journalist - certainly nothing meriting this level of controversy.

* Censorship may have been heavy-handed in the deletion of non-offensive posts on certain sites like Reddit, however in general I support censorship on private sites if there is a very real and present trend or threat of private information being shared (addresses, phone numbers, nude pictures, etc).

* I think that the level of harassment and controversy is sadly much greater because (a) the developer is female, and (B) it's alleged that she slept with multiple people. Needless to say, people have attacked her for being a 'slut' etc. Meanwhile, game journalism has suffered from severe corruption for years - on a far greater scale than a mention in a blog post or two - without attracting this level of hatred and animosity.

* I think there are legitimate conversations to be had about ethics in game journalism, but they should be separated from a specific individual's private sexual history, especially when that history is being presented by an ex-boyfriend on 4chan. We're not talking about actual crimes or civil offenses here, we're talking about video games. Nobody deserves to be harassed and exposed over video games.

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People are getting harassed and exposed from both sides.

Meanwhile, one side is trying to find proof for their claims while the other side is screaming "misogyny!". Guess which side is which.

That's all I'm gonna say in this thread because I don't wanna feel more stupid than I already feel for wasting my time on this whole controversy :mrgreen:

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The whole "bububut game journalism is corrupt and unethical!" angle just seems disingenuous as hell to me. When I was trying to figure out what was even going on, never once did I actually find any links or sources to these journalists involved and the articles they had supposedly written. The actual truth and facts surrounding that seemed completely uninteresting to the vast majority partaking in this cesspool debate. Not to mention just how petty this all seems compared to everything else that's been happening if you genuinely care about ethics in games press.

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People are getting harassed and exposed from both sides.

Meanwhile' date=' one side is trying to find proof for their claims while the other side is screaming "misogyny!". Guess which side is which.

That's all I'm gonna say in this thread because I don't wanna feel more stupid than I already feel for wasting my time on this whole controversy :mrgreen:[/quote']

People are free to post negative opinions of other people. Accusing someone of being a misogynist on Twitter is not a big deal. On the other side of the fence, you have people 'hacking' Skype accounts, posting nude pictures, death threats, rape threats, posting addresses online, etc. Calling someone a misogynist or anti-feminist or whatever might hurt feelings, but all that other stuff is heinous.

The whole "bububut game journalism is corrupt and unethical!" angle just seems disingenuous as hell to me. When I was trying to figure out what was even going on, never once did I actually find any links or sources to these journalists involved and the articles they had supposedly written. The actual truth and facts surrounding that seemed completely uninteresting to the vast majority partaking in this cesspool debate. Not to mention just how petty this all seems compared to everything else that's been happening if you genuinely care about ethics in games press.

Right, that is the absurd part. There have been far more flagrant cases of corruption in game journalism but the reaction has been far more muted (if there is even a reaction at all). Here, it's all allegations and heresay at best - no 'smoking gun' 10/10 reviews or major press pieces written in supposed exchange for sex, or whatever.

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3. The internet being what it is, a witch hunt begins where lizard-brain trolls start posting her private information, harassing her & her family, sharing nude pictures of her, etc.

How did they find that? Did the ex post them or something?

(Understand that I'm not really willing to dive into a whole new, disgusting story just to satisfy a loose end curiosity there)

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