"I'm cute, not smart", an explanation [Intent versus Message, Part 2]

If you haven’t yet, go read the first part of this series.

So now for some context. I was contacted by a representative from Spielerz.com not so long ago about me writing a promotion post for their site in order to try to generate interest with a female audience. So I, not willing to promote something without first knowing if what I was promoting would be a good community for my readers, asked some questions.

As part of the response, the representative linked me to the T-shirt design from the previous post. She did this in the interest of full disclosure, and I’m glad she did. From there ensued a small discussion on the shirt and I found that I was interested in critiquing it, and moreover that I was presented with the rare opportunity to get an explanation from the designer, a friend of said representative.

So, I asked if the designer would write up her reasoning behind the design and here’s what she wrote:

So, the idea behind this shirt was inspired by my friend who is very cute and very smart. She says “I’m cute, not smart” whenever she has missed something obvious or made a mistake of some sort. This always gets a laugh because, well, it’s funny and anyone who knows her is well aware of her intelligence (she recently earned a full scholarship to law school and is working toward her goal of becoming a judge).
She is also a gamer – she plays RPGs – and in one notable Call of Cthulhu game, her character went insane and killed the entire party. So, using that idea I made the very cute character (who resembles my friend) quoting her saying after having presumably wiped out her fellow adventurers.

The intentions behind this shirt aren’t to degrade women in any way, or to perpetuate any negative stereotypes. For example, I chose not to give the character blonde hair, because the “dumb blonde” stereotype annoys me to no end and I did not want the shirt to be another blonde joke. It is more subtle than that. The fact is, some women (and men) are cute, but not smart, and some are both or neither – people shouldn’t be judged on gender or looks and I would love to live in a world where they weren’t. But reality is that humans classify, compare and judge others, and so there is a stereotype in our society that “pretty” girls lack intelligence. Some women play to this idea to get what they want, others fight it, others ignore it and some are it. I’ve found that smart women tend to like this shirt because it pokes fun at the stereotype – it says that the “cute” girl could be playing dumb so you won’t know that she’s a force to be reckoned with till it’s too late, or that the girl who’s “not smart” shouldn’t be written off.

So, now, fully armed with context, what do you think of the shirt? I’ll put it behind the cut for those who want to refresh their memories. Continue reading

"I'm cute, not smart", first impressions [Intent versus Message, Part 1]

Cute Not Smart

I would like all of your help on doing an experiment. This will be part of a short series that, among other things, will look at how intent and message interact. But in order to make my arguments, I need input from my readers. Even if you normally don’t comment, even if you don’t consider yourself to be a feminist, please take a couple minutes to participate in this series. It would mean a lot to me.

So, what I want you to do is first to look at the image. Without any context, what does it say to you? Is your impression a positive or negative one?

Now, have some context: this is a shirt design for a gaming site. Does that change your perception at all? If so, is it a positive, negative, or neutral influence? What has changed?

If you want, include whatever about your personality, politics, or anything else that you find to be relevant to your reading of the image.

Within the next few days, I will be posting the “intent” part of this series and I hope that all of you who participate here will add your voice to that post as well, because seeing what changes (and what doesn’t) is an important part of what I’m trying to understand/illustrate.

Edit (2007.07.18): I would appreciate if people could be more sensitive in the way that they phrase their analysis. A real person designed this shirt and there is nothing gained by being insensitive to her feelings while criticizing the image. On that note, I will also not be publishing any more comments that are about the quality of the artwork, unless they are constructive criticism.

X-posted: Iris Forums.

Cerise: June 2007 and Call for Submissions

Cerise June 2007

The June 2007 issue is out! The theme is “The Making of a Gamer”, and we have some great stories in our new feature “gamer stories” relating to that.

We’re currently looking for submissions for our July issue. Here’s the call for submissions:

Submission deadline: June 20, 2007
Theme: Inclusive Game Design

We often talk about what developers can do to attract women and other groups outside of the target audience to games, or discuss how bad game design can foster an environment hostile to that goal, but the nuances behind inclusive game design (beyond “give me women heroes who aren’t defined primarily by their sexuality”) don’t get as much airtime as perhaps they should.

What are the fundamentals of inclusive game design? How far have we come, or not come, since the old days of gaming? Should we give companies allowances in terms of these fundamentals, based on potential increased costs and other factors that come with inclusive design? Where do lesser talked-about issues, such as accessibility for people with disabilities, fit in? What about the more complex issues associated with inclusive design, such as using an idealized society versus a flawed one, or giving everyone equal choices versus using a certain amount of difference to create a dialogue about equality? If you have something to say about how, when, and why to strive for inclusive game design, then please consider submitting your piece for this issue.

On women-oriented gaming communities

Zach over at Molten Boron became my hero for the day by posting, Kotaku Commenters Prove the Necessity of a Women’s Gaming Magazine, which debunks much of the misinformation Kotaku continues to spread about Iris and, most recently, our online magazine/journal, Cerise. More important than my squeeing over someone outside of my gaming community who actually gets it, though, the post is worth reading for its excellently made points about the culture of hostility in online gaming communities.

He ends on a note that I have thought about (and one day intend to write on), which is the separatism vs. integration argument:

I do somewhat see the argument for the anti-segregationist build-a-better-culture-from-within perspective. The problem is that I think it’s a false choice; it isn’t either be a part of the larger gaming community or be a part of the female/feminist gaming community, it’s both be a part of the larger gaming community and be a part of the female/feminist gaming community. Moreover, I don’t think the problem of women gamers being isolated from the gaming community writ large is as big a problem as the one of women gamers being alienated from the gaming community in general as a result of overt and subrosa hostility to women in gaming.

Obviously since I’m one of the founders of a feminist and female-oriented community, I ultimately agree with the points he’s making. What it comes down to, I think, is that it’s necessary for change to come both from within and without, and communities such as Iris (and new-to-me, Ludica) there won’t be anyone for women (and men) working from within to use as evidence for their arguments for change. And without that evidence, no matter how loud they try to shout they will continue to be silenced by the privileged majority.

Cerise: May 2007 and Call for Submissions

Cerise May 2007

The May 2007 issue is out! The theme is getting women “out there” in gaming journalism, and we have some great articles about that.

We’re currently looking for submissions for our June issue. Here’s the call for submissions:

Submsision deadline: May 15, 2007
Theme: The Making of a Gamer

Chances are if you’re a gamer, you have a story (or three) to tell about how you got there. Whether it be playing video games with our parents, reflecting on how it felt with our first gaming group, or even looking at how we were, and sometimes still are, treated by the workers and customers in our local gaming establishments, every woman has had unique experiences that have shaped our identities as gamers.

Do you have a story to tell about an experience or two that shaped your identity as gamer? Do you want reflect on the good and bad of being a young gamer, or talk about what games helped get you into gaming, or think about the first character in a game that you really got attached to and why? If so, then this is the issue for you!

Cerise Magazine Submissions Reminder

Cerise, the new magazine by and for gaming women, is still accepting submissions for our first issue. The deadline is April 15, 2007. What we’re looking for:

  • Reviews of games, systems and gaming supplements
  • In-depth critiques, essays and opinion pieces about gaming
  • Interviews with industry professionals
  • Modules and mini-adventures for tabletop games
  • Interior illustrations – women playing games, female RPG characters, etc. No fanart, please.
  • Short, one-page-or-smaller comics dealing in some (preferably humorous) way with gender and gaming

    A bit about Cerise’s philosophy:

    Although gender is the foremost focus of Cerise, we are dedicated to creating an inclusive space for individuals of all identities traditionally underrepresented in the mainstream, and for our allies who support our movement to increase our presence and representation in the game industry. We are a feminist publication and oppose all forms of oppression and the ways in which that oppression manifests itself in game communities in ways that hurt women, transgender individuals, queer-identified people, people of color, people with disabilities, and other marginalized individuals. We hope that our inclusive philosophy will propagate to help the game industry and culture at large become an environment welcoming to people of all identities.

    Visit our submissions guidelines and mission statement for more details. The theme for our first issue is Getting Women ‘Out There’ In Game Journalism.

  • Submissions by no means have to conform to the theme of each issue. Please consider submitting–this is a wonderful opportunity to get your name out there and be part of an exciting new project.

    (Cross-posted from New Game Plus.)

    Yes, Kotaku, you WERE the reason why we started TIN! And also, Santa is real.

    Brian Crecente of Kotaku has tried to take credit for the inception of The IRIS Network. I’m not even joking:

    In my caveman like attempts at prodding talented, strong-voiced women into writing more vocally about gaming I have stirred the ire of several feminist gaming writers who recently banded together to launch the IRIS Network a group, which will strive to bring women’s perspectives into the mainstream.

    And if you don’t think that’s an obvious enough attempt to steal credit, then please review this exchange in which Crecente uses second-hand information in order to rebut Brinstar for saying that TIN wasn’t a direct response to Crecente’s post.

    First, Brinstar says this:

    However, Kotaku’s reporting isn’t completely accurate. The creation of the IRIS Network wasn’t in direct response to Crecente’s blogging. From what I understand, it has been in the works for a while now. This just seemed to be the opportune moment for the creator to launch.

    To which Crecente responds:

    @brinstar: To quote the Guilded Lillies post:
    Their resolve to make this happen was fueled in part by a recent post on Kotaku which asked the question – Why aren’t there more female gaming bloggers? – written by editor Brian Crecente.

    To which Guilded Lily responds that he was misconstruing what she said. Which, really, isn’t surprising given the amount of lazy journalism on Kotaku. Crecente not only puts GL’s banner up to promote TIN (ignoring the button that is being used elsewhere for that purpose), but then he also quotes someone who wasn’t even one of the founders of the group in order to “prove” that he deserves the credit for the inspiration of the organization. Even after his mistakes were pointed out to him several times he has not taken the time to correct his post.

    Mia from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has something to say about that (thanks, Revena!). As do the awesome bloggers at Feminist Gamers.

    If you want to know the real story behind how TIN was launched and conceived, go here.

    New Gaming Site: The IRIS Network

    The IRIS Network

    If you’ve been wondering about my silence for the past couple of weeks, I have a deep, dark secret to confess: Along with Revena I’ve been building and launching The IRIS Network, a new gaming site focused on helping to give women in the community a bigger voice. Two weeks from zero to launch is a pain in the butt, I tell you, and the layouts for everything but the forum are slapped together from default templates. But it’s done, it’s launched, and the next person who bleats about there not being enough women in gaming who are “out” there will get hit over the head with this site repeatedly.

    From the site news:

    After yet another bout of the “where are all the women gamers?” on the internet gaming communities, The IRIS Network (TIN) was finally born. Though there are many individual women gamers who write about their experiences, and many sites for women who game to connect and play with each other, none of these sites are there for the express purpose of highlighting gamers (both in the industry and outside of it) and bringing women’s perspectives into the mainstream. Though it may be a lofty goal, that’s exactly what we here at The IRIS Network aim to do.

    So, if you are a gamer, or just like games, and want to be part of it, go sign up for the forums. If you are a woman gamer who wants more exposure for her blog, go to the directory and check if your site is listed (if so, please flesh it out, if not please list it). If you’re a writer (female or male) and are interested in submitting works for our gaming magazine, please visit Cerise and check out our submission guidelines.

    A community is only as good as its members, and so I look forward to forging a strong voice for gender-inclusive game design with you all.

    Fabricating rationality by making the other side look irrational

    In the past week, I have been alerted to two very different posts in two very different spheres of the online world. The similarity? They both deal with a privileged group taking an argument made by a non-privileged group and making it look irrational in order to make their own indefensible argument look rational. While this tactic is by no means limited only to privileged groups, it is one that I do see often employed by privileged groups in order to stop discussion on a bigoted remark that they have made.

    Although I prefer to keep these posts short and punchy, this one got a little long, so I’m putting it behind a cut. Below I deconstruct the two examples I spoke of and then explain in my conclusion why I believe that this tactic is, in fact, privilege in action. Continue reading

    Covers that make me say, "I want to play that!"

    Covers Women Want to See

    Over at Yudhishthira’s Dice, Brand poses the question:

    Ladies, what RPG covers (or interiors) have you seen that involve a woman in the art that make you say, “I want to play that” or, just as good “I want to play her.” Or that make you feel like it is a game you could like, or be included in by a group of guys you’d never met and whose maturity you didn’t neccisarily know?

    I decided that, rather than clutter up the comment thread, that I’d take the question over here. So, after the jump you’ll find some covers that sucked me in and explanations of why I liked them. To help Brand get as wide a sample size as possible (and, really, because I think it’s a great idea), I’ve decided to turn it into a meme. Go see this post for more information.

    Meme Rules:

    1. Copy the text of the original challenge from Yudhishthira’s Dice and give a proper link attribution.
    2. Copy these rules exactly (including any links).
    3. Find images of game covers (interiors are okay, too) that make you want to play the game. Any kind of game — video game, card game, tabletop RPG, etc — is fine. Post them and include a short (or long) explanation on why the image makes/made you want to play the game.
    4. The original challenge is about finding out what women think about how game art is marketed and therefore it is targeted at women. I’d like to keep it that way, please.
    5. You can tag as many or as few people as you want. You do not need to be tagged to participate in the meme.
    6. When you make your post, please post the link on this thread so we can all see what others have said.

    I tag Lake Desire, One Hundred Little Dolls, and merrua. Continue reading