On slut-shaming, deleting comments, and respectful discourse

ETA 2011/03/06: It turns out that my comments were marked as spam, not deleted; they have now been published. For some reason Blogspot, unlike WordPress (which most of my experience is with), displays your comment as properly posted after you hit the “post comment” button, even when it’s been marked as spam. I’m leaving the post up, but most of what I was talking about no longer applies to this specific situation.

ETA 2011/04/24: I am closing comments because at this point I don’t think there is any more productive discussion to be had on the subject. The last 2 or 3 comments, which have not made it past moderation because they have been in blatant violation of several of this blog’s discussion rules, have been nothing but abuse of me that ignores the fact that 1) I’ve made the above retraction, and 2) that Wundergeek and I have resolved the situation amicably and with no hard feelings. This post will remain because I take responsibility for my words, even when I have said things that later turn out to be wrong, but as of now the subject is closed for discussion.

Go Make Me a Sandwich is a blog by an artist and gamer called Wundergeek that’s starting to gain some readership and respect within the online feminist gamer community. I write this post because I feel that if I do not make a public record then many people in that community — a community I care very much about — may never be aware of the kinds of lines Wundergeek draws when it comes to what she does, and does not, allow in her space.

This all began as me grumping on twitter about feminists who slut-shame (inspired in part because of how often I noticed while reading Go Make Me a Sandwich, which had made it to my “Read Sometimes” list, Wundergeek calling scantily clad female characters sluts/slutty/etc) and progressed into an internet discussion/argument on slut-shaming language. I had been debating writing a comment calling Wundergeek out on her slut-shaming. I have very little time to waste on futile efforts and while a feminist should understand how to gracefully take being called out, in my experience a lot of feminists just shut down and stick their fingers in their ears. After reading one of the posts I linked, Maverynthia decided to call Wundergeek out. The argument spilled over to a different post and because I had respect for Wundergeek’s deconstructions of the depictions of female characters, figured (wrongly) that it was worth my time to try explaining the problem. Continue reading

Nothing to buy. Not yet.

[As one speaker said today, “Pretty much all the games today are the same five games in different packaging.”]

I have an Xbox 360. I want to buy more games. I mainly play sports (basketball and baseball) games and I have little interest in shooters with more guns, more blood and guts. I was perusing Amazon and I came to this conclusion: Jesus H there is nothing to buy. I thought Left 4 Dead would be fun but viewing the actual gameplay made it look like CounterStrike with a zombie skin (and since when do zombies leap like the Hulk?). And I didn’t think it’d be possible, but it might be worse than Dead Rising.

But luckily, there is reason to not be so pessimistic after I went to IndieCade’s exhibit/forum/workshop at Open Satellite in Bellevue, Washington yesterday. I went with my Little Broham which meant we weren’t there for very long (he forgot to have breakfast so he had little attention span or energy left after 90 minutes or so) but it was nice to check out some of the more artistic/innovative games that aren’t rehashes of stuff we’ve seen for years and years (because seriously, how many shooters and RPG games (new story!) can people make?) and aren’t meant to be The Game that you play for 80 hours. Merci Grace from GameLayers was there and she spoke about getting into the industry, securing funding and about her team’s upcoming game PMOG. It was interesting to hear about the creative process and how you don’t necessarily have to know all the code in the world (though it does help) to be a part of a creative team. I kinda wished I was still in college so I could maybe try and join in on the video game design fun.

This event/forum/exhibition was hosted by a volunteer that I work with and since it was a cool and kid/teen friendly environment, we mass emailed it out to all of our volunteer mentors. I didn’t stay for the entire thing and some might’ve gone to the later dates, but I was a little disappointed that we were the only match there. Specifically, I was hoping that a few Big Sister/Little Sister matches would’ve shown up because it would’ve been particularly great for them to see and talk to Grace because as we all know, kids (and society in general) still see video games and those behind them as a Boy’s Club.

Who's the butt of the joke?

On the over-the-top offensiveness of God Hand (the game the above clip comes from), pat of Token Minorities says:

I don’t think this is accidental. I think this says something about us, as the kinds of people who enjoyed and got used to playing games like Final Fight, where we fed the machine quarters and yelled “Oh yeah?! I’m going to beat your ass!” during every boss fight and punched punk stripper transsexuals all day and didn’t give a fuck. God Hand is laughing at you because you love it, because it has translated all the gendered and racialized images of our games of yesteryear into actual goddamn dialogue and you still don’t really notice it. It’s bringing us back to the Old School, complete with everything that was kind of messed up about the Old School, and so I propose that perhaps God Hand’s inclusion of blatantly Bad Things is actually so pronounced and over-the-top that it actually has a point, a thought-provoking point, and not merely gratuitous, sensational stupidity. Maybe it’s gotten a few people to idly ponder the games they played when they were young, and what they learned from it. It’s messed up, but it’s closer to the Chappelle’s Show end of the spectrum (thought-provoking and possibly educational) than Indigo Prophecy (which is basically ignorant) or Border Patrol (which is actively messed up).

I’m not sure that I agree with him (and would have to play the game to fully form an opinion), but it’s something to think about.

For male gamers and readers, something embarrassing

The backstory: Assassin’s Creed is one of the most anticipated games of the year. When Yahoo! is talking about your game on the front-page, you know the buzz is pretty significant. The producer for this game is Jade Raymond who, like the lead-producer of every other game created in the modern age, gives a good portion of the interviews with the press. That is, if you’re a producer of a game and you’re noticeably articulate, you’re the one talking about it, you don’t tell the advertising executive or the intern to do that. As the game is being released, a comic/drawing surfaces, most infamously on the Something Awful forums depicting Jade performing fellatio on male fanboys (not to be confused with the photoshopped nude photos of Jade that are floating around). This comic is seen and shared by members of the SA forums at which point Richard “Lowtax” Kyanka of SA receives a cease and desist/threat of lawsuit letter from the legal representation of Ubisoft telling them to shut it all down and to let them know everything about where they get the image, who drew it, etc. At this point, the story becomes popular outside of SA and other blogs start picking it up, forming their own opinions (yes, just like me and just like this one). The story appears on digg and with it a rash of the most sexist comments (and some countering the sexist comments) appear.

The fact that someone felt the need to draw a pornographic comic of Jade Raymond is in itself is pretty disturbing. But what’s also mind-numbing is the consequent backlash you read from the blogosphere because Ubisoft dropped the hammer on SA. Reading some of the comments on SA, on digg and you start to see a trend. Most notably, the criticisms of Jade and Ubisoft go something like this:

1. It’s just a drawing. You made it a bigger deal than it was. By you making the lawsuit you just drew more attention to it so now more people know about it.
-Actually, no, I think it was SA who posted it on Digg saying that they were being contacted the attorney from Ubisoft so in fact they brought it to the public. It seems like Ubisoft wanted to keep this matter under wraps but Kyanka wanted to appeal to the public and get sympathy from the digg community (which, sadly enough, he actually seems to be getting). But getting back to the larger point, if someone draws something unbelievably offensive about you, you’re supposed to just ignore it? Brush it under the rug? Isn’t this what we tell women who get sexually harassed at work? “You don’t want to cause a fuss, it’s just going to take forever to fix it anyways to better to just ignore it.” If you ignore it then it implies that they don’t think it’s offensive. Ubisoft is doing what any employer should do when one of their own gets attacked like this: you stick up for your staff. Ubisoft is doing the right thing.

2. She’s just a pretty face who Ubisoft is using to “pimp” the product. She deserves what she’s getting because she’s just a show model for the game.
-Now, I didn’t think anyone would really be this stupid to actually say this publicly but alas, I am proven wrong again.

Quick history lesson. In prehistoric times, pretty cavegirls with cleavage hanging out sold rocks and sticks to horny cavemen. Sex sells. It’s always been that way and will never change. Everyone knows that. So when Ubisoft started pimping Assassin’s Creed, released this week for Xbox360 and PS3, they made pretty girl/producer Jade Raymond the poster child for the game. Whether or not she’s qualified to represent the game, or really had any involvement with its development is besides the point. To the jaded videogame nerd, she’s a set of breasts saying “Buy my game!”

It’s “besides the point”? Really? How is that besides the point? I think it very much is the point. If Ubisoft hired Jade Raymond and sold her as the “producer” and she has no experience or education whatsoever, then of course she’s there as a spokesperson, but Jesus H. Christ, look up her biography, she actually studied this shit as some people have figured out already. How are you going to dismiss the fact that this is what she does for a living? Have you seen one single interview of her talking about the game? There’s an obvious difference between a producer talking about a game and a spokesperson talking about a game and she very obviously is the former.

3. “That a surprise..Jade will act slutty to sell her game but can’t deal with the consequences of that.”
-Now, I haven’t been following this game obsessively since conception to release but since the story of this comic broke out i’ve been watching clips, interviews, reading stories, etc and i’m really struggling to see where this person gets where Jade acts “slutty.” She doesn’t pose for Playboy or Maxim, she doesn’t take “sexy” photographs (I mention these things becase they’re usually seen as indicators of one being “slutty”). I honestly think that his perception of “slutty” is Jade merely being in a stereotypically male-dominated space and simply being a woman, being attractive and having pictures of herself online where she’s smiling and looking happy and actually being confident, intelligent and articulate.

I can’t begin to imagine how something like this has to make a person feel after all the hard work they’ve put into something like this. After all the crap that she’s probably already gotten on the daily as a woman in the video game industry, to have this incredible achievement in her career marked by a select few idiots who decided to try and reduce her to a sex-object. Let’s make no mistake here, the men who do this are uncomfortable at the idea of women in power and women being in spaces where they see it being male-dominated. The men who do shit like this draw comics of women professionals performing oral sex on their “male fanbase” because it’s their literal attempt at inverting the actual reality: a woman producer is at the helm of an innovative game that is getting a lot of buzz and people are buying up in hordes. I don’t think these men can accept the fact that Jade is a success, I really don’t. I don’t think they can accept the fact that she did this without posing in Playboy or pandering to their ideas of what those Game Expos say women should look like and do to sell a product: wear practically nothing, smile, pose for pictures and just look pretty.

3 steps on how to attempt on fixing this mess:
1. If the comic is still around somewhere, delete the image of the comic, delete links to it, delete posts to it.
2. Apologize. To Jade. Whether you created the comic or spread the image or posted it on a forum.
3. Shut up about the game being some advertising ploy with Jade as the sex-tool. You’re going to make judgements about someone’s credibility as a professional when you don’t even know them? You’re going to base everything on her being a woman and you believing that she doesn’t belong in what you see as a “man’s space”? Really?

Continuing the cultural appropriation discussion

So, a bunch of thoughts have been percolating in my mind since the last discussion on cultural appropriation. Specifically pertaining to two discussions about costumes.

The first comes from one brown woman of woman of (an)other color blog: Halloween: Day of Dead, Day of Red.

The second costume I want to talk about is one that I seem to have seen a lot on websites and over the weekend: the Pocahontas/ stereotypical Native American costume. With regards to the argument “Pochontas is from Disney and I was dressing up as a Disney character” my response is that Disney has racially problematic representations of individuals and helps to perpetuate many stereotypes about particular groups of people. So hiding behind Disney isn’t really going to help justify your costume.

And then from Sara of Sara Speaking: costume appropriation

Since she’s covered in blue paint I can’t say with certainty that this is an example of white privilege, but I definitely think it falls under a more generalised Western privilege, that is, the privilege that says we can pick and choose from the cultures and religions of these other peoples of the world without regard for how the practitioners of those religions and inhabitants of those cultures feel about that appropriation.

All of which furthered my thinking on cosplay, art, and the fine line between homage and appropriation.

And it is with that in mind that I want to talk about cake.

“Cake?!” you say, unable to fathom what my sweet tooth has to do with discussions of cultural appropriation. Yes, dear readers, I want to talk about cake, and I promise to you that it is very relevant to this discussion. Pictures and discussion after the cut. Continue reading

A must read for fans of the movie Labyrinth

bellatrys has written up an analysis of Labyrinth on her LJ: “I ask for so little–“.

It is a rather long piece that weaves in many different elements — everything from an examination of the tropes and themes of the movie to tying the lack of success of the manga-esque spin-off with the lack of success in Jodi Picoult’s run on Wonder Woman — but it is very much worth a read. Labyrinth has been a major influence in my writing since I was a little girl. bellatrys’ piece has definitely given me a lot to think about — not only about the movie but about my own writing as well.

Here’s an excerpt:

Labyrinth, thus, was for me a dim memory of a frustrating disappointment, more frustrating still because of the greater potential I saw in it (being a fan of Henson’s Storyteller series as well as The Dark Crystal as well as owner of a great many quality illustrated fairy and folk tales, with ambitions of someday being the next Kinuko Craft or Trina Schart Hyman (alas) in those days) that was not met by the reality of the film. –Though not, to be sure, as great a disappointment as the grotesque animated version of MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin of a few years back. (DON’T Netflix it, there is not enough Bleeprin in the world.) –Also, an occasional random snatch of “You Remind Me Of The Babe” interjecting itself into my mental tape track shuffle.)

And thus it remained until a couple of years and jobs ago, when it suddenly was revealed to me that despite the widespread media impression of it as a basically unknown and unloved film, one that had been disappointing for the studio as well, after the unexpected critical praise and cult status of Dark Crystal, it had a strong and dedicated and above all, young cult following – and they were all twenty-something girls, who had become rabid David Bowie fans, who could (and did) quote lines from the film and “do the voices” too, when appropriate, the way that most of my fellow Gen-Xers and the Gen-Yers of my acquaintance would break into either Star Wars, Holy Grail, or (belatedly) Princess Bride repertoire at the drop of a hat (or an unladen swallow.)

This piqued my curiosity – clearly there was something there, after all – but not enough for me to go buy a copy of Labyrinth or to try to figure it out. Of the three younger women in the office who were all votaries, one was a Sandman-collecting fellow geek whose SO was also hardcore fannish geek, one was a sort of demi-geek, a little bit into skiffy but mostly into horror, and the third was not fen at all that I ever discovered. They were just all old enough to have not only seen it but to have imprinted on it when it was released on video, and to have worn out their video tapes of it – that seemed to me to be the common factor.

Amber Hawk Swanson: "Feminism?" and Realdolls

A feminist artist named Amber Hawk Swanson has been profiled in a Chicago Reader article called When Amber Met Amber. Given the recent discussions here about author intent versus conveyed message, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the work that was profiled.

What follows is less a critique, because I can’t properly critique a work without seeing it, and more a gathering of impressions. I’m interested to know what impressions you get from all this, as well, and would highly recommend reading the article in full. Continue reading

That's some bizarre trolling

So over at Wonderland Alice has this post up about the (racist, sexist, sizeist, etc) limitations of a new website called Barbiegirls.com, which is apparently an online chat program aimed at girls:

Most of the body type options are caucasian-stereotype, and certainly the skin colour: the darkest you can go is .. hmm, sort of caffe latte colour. This is the curliest hair available (afro styles? Forget it). You have no nose options (mine is much more potato-like). Height and weight? No way. Everyone has to be skinny and knock-kneed.

Maybe more options will come post-beta, but I think it’s shameful that there aren’t more by launch.

And, well, only a few comments in they start getting the most bizarre trolling I’ve seen to date. Is it just some assholes trying to make a stink? Is it a weird kind of viral advertising? Were they attracted by the criticism of the site?

Comments were shut off, so I assume that they achieved their goal of shutting down any productive conversation. I would be interested in hosting a conversation over here, though, as one of the beauties of moderation is that bullying tactics like that won’t work.