Using Beauty to Establish Gamer Cred [The Gaming Beauty Myth, Part 3]

Wearing our sexuality on our sleevesLast time I talked about two prevalent female gamer archetypes that represent the gaming beauty myth and this time I want to expand upon how that interacts with the real gaming world.

One facet of being seen first for your sexuality and second for everything else is that it can influence your position in something unrelated. In the case of gaming, that means that it’s possible that how much you conform to beauty standards plays a part in how the community receives you. Continue reading

Female Gamer Archetypes [The Gaming Beauty Myth, Part 2]

Since this blog is primarily aimed at people at least somewhat familiar with feminism, I often take it for granted that people know what I’m talking about when I say things like women are “the sex class” or that female geeks are made into “Second Class Geeks” by the way we’re treated as potential dates first and geeks second.

But what does that mean for female gamer culture?

I believe that the gaming beauty myth informs the typical archetypes attributed to female gamers. Whether it be conforming to the traditional stereotype of “geek” — the unwashed, unattractive, glasses-wearing, basement-living untouchable — or being the “hawt gamer girl” — the sex kitten supposedly out of every geeky guy’s fantasy — the two archetypes I will examine below share a common thread: percieved attractiveness.

Though I should hope this is obvious, I want to emphasize that I am not attacking any people who conform in whole, or part, to these archetypes. This post is intended to explore how the beauty myth interacts with the way that female gamers are seen by others as well as each other. Continue reading

Female Villains Can't Win

NWN 2 Villains
NWN2 Villains

The lineup for the villains in the next Never Winter Nights game has gotten some press over at Joystiq. Despite neither of the female villains being the “evil hot babe[s] we’ve grown accustomed to in the role playing genre”, the contrast between their stances and that of the male villain are striking.

He’s hunched slightly, in a way that looks like he’s going to charge you; a very active stance, and not one that draws attention to either his sexual organs or his musculature (the former being the trope for “powerful” women and the latter being the trope for “powerful” men). Described by Joystiq’s Alan Rose as “a frenzied berserker”, this “bald dude” seems to typify the Brute; he’s not exactly a high class villain, but even so he’s only one of many types of villain archetypes that one can choose from.

Which brings me to the next villain in the lineup; the “blue chick”. In terms of body type, if you took away the blue skin, changed her head, and upped her breast size a cup, she could almost be the twin of the other female villain. Of course, the one-size-fits-all female body type isn’t an issue confined to NWN (or even video games), and I gotta give the company points for the differences that are there.

In some ways, the blue villain isn’t the ideal of beauty: most notably, she has an odd-shaped head. But, looking at her posturing and her outfit there is definitely an element of sexuality that isn’t there with the Brute. While, with her sword raised high there’s no doubt that there’s an element to power in the blue villain’s posture, she’s shown in a 3/4 pose that causes the lines of her arms form a V that emphasises her chest. Costume wise, though I’m not sure what’s skin and what’s fabric, she appears to be wearing a chainmail loincloth and a halter top that is open to cleavage.

Finally, we have the last villain. Though her face is the recipient of Rose’s criticism (“Seriously, if you take away the flotation devices, we’ve got some serious androgyny going on here.”), I rather like that her face is less feminine than the blue villain’s. No, it’s not because I hate attractiveness, but rather because it seems to be one step in the direction of portraying many different types of women.

That said, she, too, is sexualized for all of her supposed androgyny. Her hands-on-hips position is, again, one of power (in this case its’ the power of defiance), but it also emphasizes her hips in a way that makes it clear that she’s supposed to be read as feminine. Her costume, with the focal point being her cleavage, does the same.

Honestly, I feel bad for the female villains out there — not only do they have to contend with the sexist digs if they don’t fit the “hot villain babe” category, but they still can’t seem to get away from sexualization even when it seems that their characters aren’t there to be sexualized! Come on, video game companies, won’t somebody think of the villains?

That's not Mii!

Update Dec 30, 2006: I’m admitting it straight up: I jumped the gun on this one and looked foolish because of that. I should have taken the time to frame it properly (examining why the preview program was this way, rather than addressing the Mii system, which wasn’t out yet) and then waited for the Wii to come out to do a comparison with the actual Mii system (which has its flaws as well as its good points).

However, my mistake is not an invitation to break the discussion rules. Commenters seem to be incapable of pointing out my flawed logic without calling me “stupid” or using terms like “whining” or “crying”. Since those kinds of comments are the only one this post continues to receive, I’m shutting off all comments. I’m not sure there’s anything else to be said on this issue, anyway, unless I make a new post that discusses the actual Mii system.


For those of you not in the gamer-know, one of the features that’s going to be available on Nintendo’s upcoming console, the Wii, is that you’ll be able to make an avatar of yourself, which will appear Mii channels and even represent you in some of the games. Sounds cool, right?

Well, not if you’re a glasses-wearing, green-haired loving, spiky haired woman who wants an avatar that even slightly resembles her. That’s right, folks, your resident blogger has checked out the Mii preview that was recently leaked.

Male-normative mindset, meet gaming avatar.

Since there is only one body type to choose from, the only ways I could signifiy my gender are long hair, eyelashes, and red lips. Every other combination I’ve tried resulted in it looking like a man. I’m not a man, I’m just not a wide-eyed, lip-puckering, long-haired girl. But that doesn’t make me any less female, or any less interested in having a Mii who, I dunno, looks even somewhat like me.

Since this is pre-launch, there’s still hope that they’ll introduce more body shapes. Maybe even some non-human ones (’cause sometimes I don’t want a freaky chibi-styled human to represent me, even if it did look like the correct gender). I’m hoping, because otherwise it’ll put a serious dent in my willingness to buy a Wii — especially if the avatar-using games are popular.

Men Stereotyping Women [Red-blooded American Sexist, Part 2]

For those just tuning in, this is Part 2 of my series on a small blurb that Joseph Lisner wrote for Wizard’s “How to Draw” series (found here [JPG]).

In Part 1 I discussed how Lisner relies on stereotypes of masculinity to create a “boy’s club” environment meant to set his presumably male readership at ease. In Part 2 I will be focusing on the ways that he constructs femininity and in the process Others and objectifies women.

I. Women: The Othering

This “femaleness” is a mysterious thing, and everyone defines it in their own terms. Anyone attracted to the female must ask themselves, “What turns me on? What about the opposite sex hits me like lightning and instantly shatters my self control?”

This is, basically, how the blurb begins. We have an immediate setting up as men as “default” (“everyone”, “anyone attracted to women” meaning any men attacted to women because of the use of “opposite sex”) and the women as “Other” (“the femaleness”, setting up women/femininity as “a mysterious thing”, “the female”).

Late to the party, Lisner says that, “I am–of course–writing this from the point of view of a heterosexual male.” No shit! I thought you were a lesbian woman by the way that you used inclusive language to refer only to men, and how you used language to turn women into nothing but objects. Wow, glad you cleared the air on that one.

He then goes on to address us “female artists” (an acknowledgement of our existence, how gracious of him) only to tell us that he can’t explain himself (“Please don’t ask me about the masculine/feminine mystery.”). He then goes back to addressing his target audience (male artists) and talking about what American men must find attractive. The only other time in the article that he acknowledges women is when he says, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am a guy, a red-blooded American guy.

II. American Femininity

If Lisner wanted to win the award for most masculine stereotypes in a short blurb, he also wanted to firmly establish some of the more pervasive female stereotypes as well. Most notably he addresses (or, rather, fails to address) the Beauty Myth, adds a “catfight’ story for some titilation, and finishes with the “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” line.

Ignoring The Beauty Myth

There are certain cliches of beauty–basic elements that no one really argues about.

Oh really? It doesn’t even make sense as an argument, seeing as directly preceding the quote, Lisner says this: “Don’t ask me why ‘tall and skinny’ is sexy to some folks and grotesque to others.” Maybe if Lisner spent less time thinking about these issues, he wouldn’t write such obviously contradictory crap.

It may be a shock, but beauty is not an absolute. It’s a mixture of personal preference and societal standards. Standards, I should point out, that are reinforced as innate by the blurb that Lisner has written.


Many is the time I have been out with a girlfriend and some female would walk by and totally blow my mind. My girlfriend would notice my reaction and say, “God, what a face–she’s so ugly!”

No discussion of femininity would be complete without showing women blaming other women for men’s bad behaviour. In this hypothetical situation, Lisner’s girlfriend was feeling insecure because of his behaviour and so, of course, the only appropriate reaction is to insult the other woman who has comitted no crime except to have crossed the path of a misogynist creep.

Does Lisner react with, “Gee, I’m sorry honey, we’re out on a date and it was rude of me to leer at other women”? Hah, yeah, right. He pulls the “boys will be boys” excuse and says that his typical reaction is to say, “Yeah, but did you see her [tits/ass/legs]!” So, not only does he agree with his hypothetical girlfriend that the girl he checked out was ugly, but he further dehumanizes the poor woman by reducing her to a nice pair of T or A.

The truly horrible part of this scenario, however, is that many women would react that way. We’re trained — partly through growing up with stories such as Lisner gives — to see that as the appropriate reaction. After all, we’re told, all men are pigs anyway, so why should we be surprised when they show it? The other woman is the easy target — the whore, the hussy, she’s not as pretty as us anyway! But what’s the result? The man who created the problem gets off scott free, our self esteem hasn’t been pulled up, and the woman has not only been objectified by Mr. Misogynist, but also verbally torn down by us because it’s easier to attack her than to question our own relationship.

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus

All I can say is that men and women see the world differently.

Yeah, it’s a thing called privilege, something that you seem to have in spades, Mr. Lisner. Although, to be fair, it’s not really men and women who see the world differently, but rather those with unchecked privilege and those without it.

III. Conclusion

Men stereotyping men, men stereotyping women… the only thing left is to see how his language serves to reinforce this “Men as people”/”Women as Other” dichotomy that he has set up. That’s the subject of my next post, and, believe me, it ain’t pretty.

Girls don't want pink games… they just want pink games

According to a BBC News article, Games industry is ‘failing women’, girls don’t want girly games about makeup, they want girly games about relationships and chatting. Or something.

The chief operating officer for EA’s worldwide studios, David Gardner, had this to say on the matter:

They don’t want ‘pink games’. Thy are not trying to play girly games where Paris Hilton and Britney Spears go shopping and put make-up on.


The Sims is really a game about relationships – and that’s what girls want – they want relationships, they want to be able to chat.

Really, I’m thrilled that the video game industry is finally realizing that it has a vast, untapped market. But, picking and choosing stereotypes instead of realizing that women and girls, like men and boys, are people with varied tastes and preferences really isn’t the way to do it.

I mean, am I the only one who sees the logical disconnect between saying that girls don’t like “girly” games, and then pulling out the relationships and chatting stereotypes as the reason why many women play The Sims?

Could it, perhaps, be that the afforementioned “girly” games are stupid and badly made, while The Sims has a solid background and has had lots of thought put into it? Or perhaps that The Sims affords you a chance to play God, not only by controlling your sims, but also by downloading and even creating new content. There’s even the possibility that it attracts women because it’s not specifically marketed against us — if any objectification goes on, it’s completely player generated, rather than company generated.

I can see people playing it because they like forming (and breaking) relationships. That has been one of the fun aspects for me, too (as is amassing wealth, turning my characters into vampires, having my sims have more sex than I do, downloading cool stuff, etc). That Gardner would bring up “chatting” as a reason more women play The Sims, though, tells me that not only does he not know his company’s product very well, but he’s relying on stereotypes rather than actual evidence. The Sims is a single player game, the “chatting” that goes on in it is that you can click on a sim, select “chat” and they’ll speak in Simolean. Which is not, by the way, a real language. I hardly see that as qualifying.

Marketing towards women based on stereotypes isn’t working, the “girly” games that are cited as failing are proof of that. So, please, video game companies, stop cribbing off of my Top “Geek Girl”-Friendly Rules! list and start viewing your potential female consumers as a vaired and diverse group of people — you know, how you view your male audeince (save the teenage group, who you seem to think are sex-crazed, misogynistic, annoying and stupid children; while we’re at it, stop that, too).

Gunning Down Romance

[Quick intro in lieu of the full introduction I haven’t bothered to write yet: tekanji invited me to guest-blog here a few days ago. I don’t currently maintain a blog, but I moderate the Gender Roles and Patriarchy Hurts Men Too communities on LiveJournal, the latter of which I’ve crossposted this article to. Like the other bloggers here, I’m especially interested in the intersection of feminism and popular culture.]

There have been quite a few discussions lately – on Hugo Schwyzer’s blog, at Punk Ass Blog, and at Pandagon (also this post), Saucebox and Neurath’s Boat – about young men who think that feminism and heterosexual male sexuality are incompatible. Which is even more interesting given the discussions here and Putting the “Fist” in “Pacifist” about how most men aren’t feminist *enough* to be worth getting involved with.

I originally started this post as a “how-to guide” for these (presumably) sincere but frustrated nice guy types (I’m probably giving their professed sincerity more credence than it deserves, but the ones who are just the larval form of MRAs don’t really deserve much mention – I’m talking more about the ones Protagoras calls “Shy Feminist Men”), but was quickly overwhelmed by how much “how to” would be needed, and it was increasingly obvious what was fueling these misconceptions.

I. Patriarchy and the Single “Nice Guy”

I think the main problem this sort of “nice guy” has is that, while he tries to meet a few feminist standards (no means no, don’t harass, etc.), he still buys into a lot of patriarchal bullshit, namely:

  • Sex and desire are inherently dirty, shameful, and degrading;
  • Being attracted to someone entitles you to their time, attention, affection, body, whatever;
  • Women are less interested in sex than men (and consequently use it as a means to achieve other ends);
  • Women are less attracted to “visual” characteristics than men – so if she’s not attracted to you, it’s because (a) you did or said the wrong thing; (b) there’s something wrong with her standards (she only likes “jerks, “she’s a “gold-digger,” etc.); or (c) she’s a lesbian.
  • To not have your attraction reciprocated is a serious insult, or a statement about your worth as a person;
  • Heterosexual “courtship” consists of an active man approaching a passive woman, and her acceptance or rejection of his “offer”;
  • Any interaction that doesn’t ultimately lead to sex is a failure;
  • A conventionally attractive partner is a symbol of status and a panacea for depression;

And so on. But because the feminist imperatives are explicitly expressed while the patriarchal ones are harder to dig out, feminism gets all the blame for the conflict, and the “nice guys” conclude that feminism is something for when they’re older, but not now when it would involve work or sacrifice.

II. And Everything You Thought Was Just So Important Doesn’t Matter

About this point, I realized that there were going to be far too many of these patriarchal assumptions to go into detail about all of them, other people had already begun to do this, and besides, they could be summed up in a single sentence:

“Everything you’ve heard about relationships is wrong.”

III. Shoehorning Life Into Glass Slippers

The reason why our model is so erroneous, I think, is because of the essentially private nature of most relationships, which means none of us have much in the way of direct observation to rely on – and observations of any relationships other than our own are likely to be incomplete (i.e., we see them as they are in public, but not as they are by themselves). What fills the gaps in our knowledge are “cultural narratives” – ideas about how the world works that we’re generally familiar with and sound plausible enough. When it comes to (heterosexual) relationships, the cultural narrative is one of “storybook romance,” and it’s one that’s fundamentally flawed.

The problem with “storybook romance” is that life isn’t a storybook, and attempts to force experience into a narrative structure are not only prone to getting it wrong, they’re prone to getting it wrong in systematic ways, and those ways promote harmful misunderstandings.

IV. And There’s Gonna Be A Happy Ending, But That’s Only the Beginning

The first way that the cultural romance narrative gets human relationships wrong is by assigning a beginning, middle and end to them – and by encouraging us to look at relationships this way while they’re in progress. This gives us expectations that our relationships will take these forms – most notably:

  • That a nonreciprocated attraction is merely a relationship in the “beginning” stage;
  • There’s a “middle stage” with easily identifiable and understandable conflicts; and
  • If those conflicts are successfully resolved, there’s a “happily ever after” stage in which the relationship has no more major problems.

Though I’ve been using the phrase “storybook romance” to describe this cultural narrative, even something as conventionally “unromantic” as a one-night casual fling can get mapped onto this structure (meet, flirt, go off together; beginning, middle, end), with the same harmful assumptions (if she’s not into you, flirt more; once you’ve left together it’s smooth sailing, etc.)

V. What’s Montage? It Is Nor Hand, Nor Foot, Nor Arm, Nor Face…

The second way that “storybook romance” as a cultural narrative lies in the necessity to compress the relationship (and the character introduction) into 90 minutes of film, or 400 pages, or a three-minute song, or whatever the medium dictates. So we usually get, instead of a real incipient relationship, a quick montage of “fun dates” (usually culminating in a scene on a playground) without problems, “downtime,” or any concerns whatsoever, either within or without the relationship.

VI. Attack Of the B-Plots

“Storybook romance” is also problematic because of our insistence in including it at every opportunity. I can’t remember the last CRPG I played that didn’t have a romantic subplot (probably one of the NES Final Fantasies); hell, I’ve even seen sports games that had a rudimentary dating sim tacked on. And pretty much any random movie is going to pair off the leading man and leading woman by the end of the film. In a patriarchal movie culture where “lead actor” and “leading man” are virtual synonyms (with the exception of movies where the romance is the main plot), this has the effect of making leading women into love interests first and characters second.

VII. But I Like Those Stories!

I’m not advocating that we do away with romantic plots and subplots, any more than I’d advocate that we chuck high fantasy because the magic described therein isn’t real. I’ve enjoyed plenty of stories in each genre – and that’s pretty much what this romance narrative is, even when it’s not published by Harlequin: a genre with its own conventions and expectations, that’s there to make it easier for the audience. It’s just that when it comes to fantasy, we don’t expect the conventions of the genre to accurately reflect our own experience, and we don’t demand that every story include elements of the genre.

Conclusion: What Now?

“Everything you’ve heard about relationships is wrong.”

So what do we do? At this point, where all we know is our own ignorance, we’re all pretty much without a net, which can be both liberating (I don’t have to play this role that isn’t me!) and terrifying (so what do I do instead?).

What’s needed, I think, is a way to get these patriarchal assumptions, and real-life counterexamples, out into the open, so that we can develop a more authentic understanding of what a truly feminist form of initiating heterosexual relationships would belike. (You’d think with all the time abstinence-only sex ed frees up, there’d be plenty of time to talk about relationship stereotypes…) Heterosexual feminist/pro-feminist men, in particular, need to combat the assumption that this patriarchal model of “romance” is the only reliable one for relationships.

How To Transform Yourself Into a Misogynistic Asshole

Girls, we need to have a talk. Is this a familiar scenario for you? You come home from a long day of work or school and are looking forward to relaxing on the couch to play a few hours of your favorite game. Within seconds, your husband/boyfriend/father/brother swoops in and starts harping in your ear, “Games are for boys, BITCH!” Tired of hearing the same crap in your ear every day? Want to play your games in peace? Better yet, do you dream of sharing your love without getting sexually harassed, talked down, or called male? Well, you came to the right place.

Straight from the mouth of a gamer who happens to be female, I will… well, I certainly won’t be making a stupid, sexist list that derides women as naggers and then tells you how to get them to play games. But I sure as hell will be critiquing one from a writer whose creds is that she’s a “female gamer” — but apparently that doesn’t exempt her from spouting a load of sexist crap.

  1. Never Forget That All Women Nag!
  2. Within seconds, your wife/girlfriend swoops in and starts harping in your ear, “I’m not going to spend another night watching you play that stupid game for hours…blah, blah, bitch, bitch, BITCH!” Tired of hearing the same crap in your ear every day?

    The author (sorry, her handle is too l33t for my poor female brain to type) opens up by playing unironically on the stereotype that women will nag and “bitch”. I find it telling that the one word in the entire paragraph that draws your attention is the only one she put in all caps: bitch.

    Women, please take note: While you may feel like “one of the boys,” and indeed they may tell you that you are, emulating them by putting down other women will not make you any less of an interloper. All it does is make you an asshole who alienates herself from both groups.

  3. Women Love Shopping, Tee Hee!
  4. Play your games after she goes to bed or when she is out shopping, or offer her a deal (i.e.-if she lets you play for an hour, promise to watch her favorite chick TV show for an hour.) You can suck it up for the sake of gaming. Once she sees that SHE is your priority, she should be willing to compromise a little.

    Just in case the hypothetical girlfriend was starting to look too much like an individual human being with all that talk about not playing games when you’re supposed to be spending time with her, our author had to throw in this line about shopping. Because shopping to women is like gaming to men! And, furthermore, that any TV shows that one gender likes the other will automatically hate. Because men and women are different!

    I also like how she’s like, “your girlfriend should be your priority” and then emphasises that it’s all a show to get her to compromise. Because loving relationships between women and men, especially gamer men — or any geeky men or any men with a hobby, really — can’t exist. Women are out to nag — excuse me, bitch, because that’s what we are, bitches and not people — and men are only interested in keeping their women for… the sex, I assume. Because the men she’s painting in this picture sure don’t seem to have girlfriends because they like them.

  5. Women Feel Important When They’re Stereotyped!
  6. You know girls, they are ALL about feelings… Point out your favorite character (unless of course, your favorite player is a D-Cup bimbo!) If you’re stuck on a board and can’t figure out where to go next, ask her to help you figure it out. Let her know that she is important enough to you that you want to share your gaming passion with her.

    But not, apparently, enough to see her as an individual rather than some sorry caricature of that “bimbo” (the woman-hating words come out again!) player this hypotheical guy may love. So far these non-gaming SOs have been painted as nagging bitches, shopaholics who watch “chick shows” whatever those are, “all about feelings” (because logic is for men!), and really not worth any time except that their nagging between sexual exploits gets in the way of what’s really important: game time.
  7. Electronics are Scary!
  8. For non-gaming chicks, the modern console and controller can be damn intimidating. Don’t hand her a controller and expect her to know what to do with it. If she handed you a makeup bag and a set of hot rollers, would you have any idea what to do with them? Make sure you teach her. Walk her through the controls. Explain things clearly, but don’t talk down to her.

    Intimidating? Comparing it to makeup? This author clearly has never had the benefit of reading any of the how not to write these types of articles guides. Personally, I’d say don’t write them at all. If men are ignoring their SOs because of the sake of games, it’s not because of makeup or intimidating controllers and everything about the sense of entitlement these guys have.

    Wake up call, people! It’s not the women who are the problem in this scenario, it’s the men! No person wants to be treated as an object for their partner’s amusement in a relationship. The men being described here — and I know they exist, because I have had the unfortunate occassions to hang out with some such losers — don’t respect women, don’t treat their girlfriends right, and then wonder why they get dumped. Telling them that their problems will be fixed by getting their nagging bitches of girlfriends into gaming solves nothing. It just lets them believe the fantasy that they don’t have to actually treat the women in their lives like they care about them, and in that scenario everyone loses.

  9. Chick Means Stupid!
  10. The key to turning a regular chick into a gamer chick is taking it slow and playing games that she is interested in and that are at her skill level. If your girl has never played before, or is slow to pick it up, throwing her head first into a first person shooter or 40 hour RPG is not the way to go. The trick is easing her into it with “chick friendly” games. Once she masters the “chick” games, then let her determine when she is ready to move on to more challenging games. She will progress at her own pace. Don’t push her too fast or she will only get frustrated with her skill (or lack thereof.) I know this may be boring as hell for you at times, but believe me, it will all be worth it. Here is a list of games that are great intros for her:

    Number of times the word “chick” was used in that paragraph: 4 And at least two of those was synonymous with stupid or non-complex. The games she suggests? Mario, music games, and puzzle games. Because, obviously, they’re “chick” games because they’re easy. Unlike first person shooters. Which are completely complex and require a lot of brain power.

    And I challenge her to a DDR match if she believes that it requires “less actual gaming skills.” What are gaming skills? Reflexes, ability to adapt to the new challenges of the game, and the ability to become skilled in the gaming environment. All of which DDR has, plus the added element of physical power. You need stamina to keep that shit up. I have played a wide variety of games in my 15+ years of gaming, and DDR remains one of the most challenging games.

The snobbery of the “boy’s club” is so apparent here, and what’s more sad is that it’s coming from a woman herself. Instead of challenging ideas of “hardcore game” = good versus “casual game” = bad, or challenging men to treat these women as individual people, the author has chosen to throw her lot in with deriding women with negative stereotypes, multiple uses of slurs, and insults to our intelligence. Yes, I may be a hardcore gamer, but that doesn’t mean I’m one of the boys. Frankly, when “the boys” behave like women are only around for their entertainment, I’d much rather be unpopular by calling them to task by it, than agreeing with them only to gain a bunch of friends who will never accept me because of my gender.

I am so glad I stopped eating BK

No, Burger King (BK) does not have the monopoly on awful advertising. Not by a long shot. But this new commercial combines sexism, racism, and probably a whole lot of other -isms that my mind wants to blank out into one nasty little package. I just… yeah. Didn’t Carl’s Jr. try this one before? And Jack in the Box? And, like, didn’t it fail? Miserably?

Shame on me for trying to apply Earth Logic to Marketing! I should know better, really. But, in all seriousness, this commercial is just plain bad. I don’t mean to pick on Burger King (well, I sort of do), but it’s making the rounds on ther internet (elsewise I never would have seen it, me being in Japan and all), and I can’t help but put my two cents in. Two cents that should be studying my kanji, but, hey, I got all but the hardest combinations right when my study partner quizzed me. I deserve a break.

So, without further ado, let’s begin with the analysis.

I. Pandering to the Caveman Mentality

Punching is Manly!Rarely have I seen such contempt shown for men as when they are portrayed as what I can only describe as “cavemen.” Uncivilized at heart, barely above animals (and, to be sure, in the minds of the person making the connections, animals are base creatures without intelligence), who have no real control over their actions. They’re men, after all!

The tagline, “I am Man, hear me roar!” (a dig at the feminist saying, as one feminist LJ commenter speculated?) sets the stage for the “caveman mentality”. Roaring, as we all know, is associated with lions (which also asserts men as “king of the jungle” — which, naturally, is to show that they are still supreme despite being closer to the animal kingdom than women). To further the lion analogy, the lines “‘Cause my stomach’s startin’ to growl, and I’m goin’ on the prowl,” show up.

Amidst all this prowling is two “manly men” punching each other in the stomach — male bonding, how quaint! And some guy ripping off his tighty whities and burning them. Given the “I am Man, hear me roar!” thing, I have to wonder if this is not another jab at feminism. The whole commercial is, after all, a backlash against the strains of feminist thought that say it’s okay (and — dare I say it? — good) not to succumb to the caveman mentality if you don’t want to.

And, really, we can’t forget the necessary “property destruction” part where they throw a guy’s van into a dump truck. For added bonus, the truck is being pulled by a man trying to get his “prize” — a whopper, of course! How manly! How virile! How… stereotyped. But, alas, you men just aren’t manly enough if you don’t buy into the caveman mentality.

II. Meat or Death!

Tofu... blechLater on I will discuss more in depth the role of “chick food” in the commercial, but here I would like to point out here that the entire premise of the commercial is based on conflating burgers with “MAN FOOD”. And, true to the Caveman Mentality, MAN FOOD (yes, it must always be in all caps) is meat. Red. Juicy. Meat. Mmm, manly. Of course, if one actually thinks about it, the BK whopper is a far cry from a steak which, in itself, is a far cry from what animals, or even our esteemed ancestors, ate. But, well, I’ve already established that logic has no place in commercials; it’s all about creating an emotional connection between your viewer and the product you want to sell.

So, back to the whole MAN FOOD thing. In order to set this up, the BK marketing team has chosen to go with an effective tactic: the dichotomy. People love simplicity, and what’s more simple than an “Us vs. Them” mentality? In this case, several dichotomies are set up. I’ll talk about the “chick food”/”dick food” dichotomy in the section on women in the commercial, but here I’d like to talk about the unseen dichotomy: carnivores versus vegetarians.

I am no expert on any form of vegetarianism (but perhaps Ariel will weigh in with her opinions on the matter?). I love meat. I love it so much that I’ve jokingly said on several occassions that I was a carnivore. However, this isn’t just pushing meat as a healthy part of a non-veg*n (catch all phrase for the multiple kinds of vegetarianism) lifestyle. It’s pushing it to the exclusion of foods associated with health, namely salads and tofu (they mention quiche, too, but I don’t know how healthy/not healthy it is supposed to be).

Seeing as men already have a tenuous relationship with their own health, I see this as a problem. A big problem. While I may find networks “for men” like Spike questionable in many areas (as I find their female counterparts, like Lifetime), one thing I noticed while getting my Star Trek fix is that the station will often emphasise the fact that men should take care of their health. They challenge the stereotype that it’s “unmanly” to take care of one’s health, often by advocating the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. I have always thought that this was a good thing — men deserve to not be shamed into leading harmful lifestyles.

What BK does with this commercial, however, is chip away at the progress that stations such as Spike have made. They quite obviously draw the line between “healthy” food (tofu, especially, is the poster child for “healthy food”) and MAN FOOD, namely BK’s burgers. And, you know what, I don’t think that’s cool. As someone who loves burgers, I don’t like one of my favourite foods being used to shame men into thinking that if they aren’t “carnivores” then they are less manly. I, frankly, see it as BK emasculating men who don’t want to buy their product. And, really, if anyone is going to be emasculating men around here it should be us feminists. I’m kidding! Jeez, y’all can’t take a joke. What are you, a bunch of humourless feminists? Ha, ha. But I’m serious about the BK thing. And that’s not cool.

III. The Sexualization of Meat

Eat This Meat!Meat already is tied to sexuality in our culture. Phrases like, “beating the/your/my meat,” are euphemisms for male masturbation. “Man meat” referrs to a phallus. Do I even need to go into all the sausage and hot dog references? Bottom line: meat is, in most Westerner’s minds, linked to sexuality, especially male sexuality.

Earlier I referenced a line in the jingle about “going on the prowl.” In the animal kingdom, this means hunting for food. For humans, however, it often means hunting for sex — most often used to describe men seeking out women. Already, here, burgers are linked with sex and conquest. Which puts burgers on the same level of women. Or, I suppose I should say, women on the same level as burgers. It’s not an overt objectification (that comes a bit later), but it is, I would argue, an objectification of women.

At another point, the lyrics go, “I will eat this meat,” and a large banner unfurls that says, “Eat this meat,” which has another one next to it saying, “I am man.” Now, dirty minded that I am, the first thing i thought of was some homoerotic action. Which, given the context of the commercial, I doubt BK would imply. Only heterosexual men deserve to eat whoppers, after all (must… resist… writing… on caveman mentality and heterosexism……). But, the first three times through, every time I saw that sign, it looked sexual to me. Now that I have to stop and analyse it, I’m sort of at a loss. Do any of y’all have thoughts on the matter?

IV. Happy Asian American Heritage Month!

All Asians know kung fu!Oh, yes, they went there. I find it subtly ironic that this little section appears in the commercial during Asian American Heritage Month (which, if I’m a good person, I’ll blog about before the end of the month). For those of you who missed it, I highly recommend watching A Chink in the Armour, which addresses (among other things) the false notion that “every Asian knows kung fu.”

But, I mean, come on, the only visible Asian American in the entire crowd and BK has to do that? And I noticed that he’s the only prominent suit wearer. There were only two others I could find — one (white looking) guy in the lineup who bare their manly arm muscles while bringing the burger to their mouthes (maybe I should have mentioned that in the caveman section?), and the other was a black man in what looks to me like a white leisure suit. Forgive me if the terminology is wrong.

I guess, if one was a fan of using stereotypes to fight stereotypes, you could see it as the AAM (Asian American Man) asserting his virility. He can be part of the caveman mob mentality, too! But maybe just him, as there didn’t seem to be any other Asians around. Of course, if one was more cynical like me, you could see it as reinforcing the asexual kung fu master stereotype without gainfully challenging any other stereotype associated with Asians. And since I am cynical like myself, I’m going with the latter interpretation.

V. What about the women?

Claim your PrizeThe commercial is, unsurprisingly, devoid of women. It’s about men, after all. However, it does make the few women present stand out. The first of whom is the assumed girlfriend of our protagonist. The implication is that she forced her carnivore boyfriend into eating at a fancy restaurant — excuse me, a women’s restaurant, which serves chick food. Although why they would serve chickens the kind of food displayed in the commercial is beyond me. I joke, I joke.

Seriously, though, Luke of Real Men Are Not (RMAN) comments on the potential harms of using the “chick food”/”dick food” dichotomy:

I really get tired of the old “men are carnivores” thing because on the flip-side it tells women to eat….guess what, SALADS. We know now, of course, that for reasons of anemia and what not, women and young girls should actually be eating more red meat but no, that’s not what the King with that chesire cat grin on his face would have you believe.

On the livejournal forums, other discussions on the implications of the “chick food” (salads, quiche, tofu… “rabbit food” as one commenter describes it) can be found here, here, and here (snark at the fact that BK used to offer vegetarian hamburgers).

The other woman, like the first, is only seen for a split second. She is the keeper of the prize — the hamburger. Much like the women at racing shows, E3’s booth babes, and other “acceptable” female jobs in male-dominated fields, I believe that this woman’s main appeal is to show off the hamburger. I must say, however, I am a bit stumped as to why they chose the woman (who does not fit the standards of beauty that I have seen levied on others of her profession type), or the outfit (which, to me, makes her seem more asexual than sexual). Is it to not detract from the focus — that of the burger? Is it that she is the kind of real woman seen in the kinds of events that the man is mimicing? Am I missing something important?

While not unexpected at all, the use of the two women in this commercial bothers me. I would much rather not have any women at all — and, seeing as the commercial specifically targets men, I don’t see why they strictly need to be there — rather than used to first set men apart (and above) and then being nothing more than decoration for the product that BK is selling. But, I suppose it is a relatively minor point when compared to the gross abuses of masculinities that BK has used throughout the commercial (thank you gender caste and gender cultism!).

VI. Conclusion

“I am a man”? All I have to say, BK, is if this is what you think men are, then you and your crack marketing team hate men a lot more than I ever could. I mean, at least I’m not out to kill them, which is more than I can say for this ad campaign.

Seriously, for all the men who read this blog, are you not insulted by this? Like, honestly? And if not, then why the hell not? Y’all are better than all this bullshit, and I know that for a fact.


Introduction [Gaming Communities, Part 1]

This is a subject that is very personal for me. So personal, in fact, that my original introduction was too bitter, too angry, and not productive enough to be considered suitable for this blog. I posted it in feminist_gamers instead. The incident that lead to all this, in which some feminist gamers blogged about their disappointment with Oblivion and male gamers got nasty about it, made me think, yet again, about my own experiences in the gaming community. About the arguments about “female gaming” sites. About how “gaming site” is synonymous with “male gaming site”, even if it has female subscribers. And it made me sad. No, worse, it made me sick. This is my life. This is what I put up with day after day.

All I want is to have communities available to me that aren’t exclusively for women. I want to be able to be seen as an equal — not a “gamer-lite”, not a potential date, not a Second Class Geek — in gamer groups that include men in them. I want to be able to talk about the issues I see in a game without male gamers dismissing the concerns as “ridiculous” or making “jokes” about panty fights (what the hell is a panty fight, anyway?) and making dinner and whatever. I want to be taken seriously, as a serious gamer, and a serious human being. And I want to finally have a gaming community that accepts me, not despite of who I am, but because of it.

I have written in the past about gaming communities from the perspective of examining what, exactly, defines a community. In revisiting this subject, I would like to focus on gender issues in the communities. The first post will be on my personal experiences being a woman trying to find gaming communities throughout my life. The second will be on how general gaming communities are “boy’s clubs,” with a look a recent kerfluffle more-or-less started by a popular gaming site, Kotaku. I’m going to leave the series open ended for now, since I may want to write more on it in the future.