Across the Divide (Linkspam) – 2/11/2011

Expert Blames Sexual Video Games For A Rise In Sexual Violence (Kotaku): “The worst part is apparently the use of sexual innuendo-laced phrases to describe the game’s Skill Shots, creative ways of killing your opponent. Terms like “gang bang,” and “topless” supposedly tie the graphic violence together with this sexual innuendo.”

Visceral Games hears disabled gamer, adding customizable controls to Dead Space 2 (Joystiq): “Garratt is trying to play the horror sequel on PC, partly by pushing a mouse with his chin, and is unhappy that he can’t assign the “walk forward” command to a mouse button. Plenty of games allow for customizable controls, he says, so why can’t Dead Space 2?”

Avatar Reality Releases Blue Mars iOS App (Blue Mars Blog): “This first version of the application allows users to view and rate avatars and fashions from Blue Mars, which populates the results on the “Top-Rated”. They can also use the “Recents” option to track avatar updates and see the latest fashions.” (Author Note: A Hot or Not for avatars?)

The blog names I’d rather see go away (The Pink Pigtail Inn): “It’s about time that we stop presenting ourselves as “girls” and start looking at ourselves as “gamers”. No matter how good the intentions are, I think the “girl that games” blog names make more harm than they help to make female gamers into fully accepted members of the community.”

Skirts? Where This Game Is Going, It Doesn’t Need Skirts (Kotaku): “Thanks to a bug, the newest Dream Club, Dream Club Zero, goes further and simply does away with the skirts altogether. Bar girls dance on stage in their drawers, without those pesky skirts to get in the way. Remember, this is a bug and not a game feature (apparently!), but with this much on display, is it really worth players getting their underwear in a bind over?”

Girls Who Play Video Games With Mom and Dad Are Better Behaved, Study Shows (Bloomberg): “Coyne’s study involved 287 families with children from ages 11 to 16 years old, who were interviewed in their homes and completed questionnaires about the children’s behavior. Girls were more likely to play collaborative games like Rock Band, where players work together, Coyne said.”

So You’ve Made A Rape Joke: A Guide to Responding to Feminist Criticism (tacky_tramp, LJ): “Another important thing to keep in mind is that many scholars are interested in rape. They are troubled and confused by rape’s frequency, and wonder how to reduce the number of rapes that happen. A great deal of excellent research and theory exists on this subject. You don’t have to be an expert, but it helps to have a basic grounding in the subject before talking about rape.”

Gendered Battle Gear (Sociological Images): A comic about gearing up male vs. female heroes in games.

Watch this Shower Scene, and Someone Else Might Find Out (Kotaku): “The Tokyo-based game is using the game’s data logs and Square Enix Members connectivity to track how many times players have viewed the shower scene. According to an official release from Square Enix, it’s been viewed over 80,000 times.”

Representation is not enough: Coming out of the gaming closet (Bitmob): “I would answer the rhetorical question I posed earlier by saying that game designers can do much more than simply visually represent gay and lesbian characters in their games. By using “procedural rhetoric”, by building these identities into their game mechanics, game designers can make being gay an integral part of playing their game.”

About Tami Baribeau

Lead Editor and co-founder of The Border House, feminist, gamer, lover of social media, technology, and virtual worlds. Pansexual, equestrian, dog lover, social game studio director and producer. Email me here and follow me on Twitter!
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46 Responses to Across the Divide (Linkspam) – 2/11/2011

  1. Aaron says:

    Wow. It’s like, on any day in which I don’t feel I’ve had my recommended daily allowance of ignorant sexist fail in the guise of “concerned, sensitive” JAQ-off type guys, I just don’t have to worry, because I know Kotaku’s got me covered.

    • XIV says:

      Yeah, pretty much. Just another day praising sexist gaming for Kotaku -sigh- Also, why do they keep calling it ‘fanservice’ when it’s literally only aimed at one half of the population? To me it’s always seemed like the idea that it’s ‘fanservice’ is really misleading and dishonest since it seems to present things as ‘neutral’ or ‘balanced’. when it almost never is. Fanboyservice sounds like it makes more sense.

      • Ikkin says:

        As I’ve seen it used, “fanservice” essentially means “pandering to (a portion of) the audience,” and can be used regarding either gender or gender-neutral altogether depending on the type. Sephiroth showering would be just as much fanservice as Aya Brea showering is, and letting Aya dress like Lightning is fanservice, too (albeit non-sexual fanservice). The word itself isn’t sexist, Kotaku is by only focusing on one form of it.

        …speaking of Square-Enix, I can’t quite figure out what their idea is behind saying “we know how many people watched Aya shower.” I mean… what…?

        • XIV says:

          Re: Fanservice. Well, yes, that’s mostly what I meant. It’s not the word, but the way it’s so often used. Presenting it as ‘fanservice’ or ‘sex sells’ when it’s usually horribly imbalanced to only really pander to one part of the audience is the dishonest part to me. I feel like it kinda presents men as the default fans.. while women are apparently there to service them. Which is ugh.

          With the shower surveillance thing.. well I don’t know. Maybe so they can use it as some kind of half-baked justification for them not to actually have to acknowledge all the problematic (and really, creepy…) crap with the game? ‘See, lots of people watched it, so that makes the excessive objectifying okay!’ Otherwise what’s the point?

          • franzferdinand2 says:

            I agree with you fully that in the way it’s usually used, fanservice has become a very gendered term, but there are also ways that it’s gender neutral.

            For instance, the increased inclusion of Boba Fett in the Star Wars prequels is something I consider fanservice, because it’s pandering to the fans who latched onto that (very minor) character from the original series.

  2. Nezumi says:

    Is it just me, or is blaming increase in rape rates on worrying language in a game that’s not even out yet outright insane? Yes, using sexualized language to refer to to violent acts is rather worrying — we don’t need more “sex = violence” stuff out there — but it’s a long way to go from “They used a quite worrying choice of terms” to “this game is making people commit rape before it’s even out.”

    • Matt says:

      I can see a connection in that if someone is engaged in an activity that’s constantly pairing a word for horrible thing X with desirable result Y, word X starts gaining little subconscious positive connections in your head that are hard to shake off or even notice. I’ve noticed this in myself for other things.

      But then, in this context, given that the descriptions are being used to figuratively describe actions that are themselves very obviously, admittedly harmful acts of violence and subjugation, I doubt the influence is going to be all that insidious.

      • Matt says:

        “Is it just me, or is blaming increase in rape rates on worrying language in a game that’s not even out yet outright insane?”

        The Unreal Tournament games have had pretty nasty rape-culture taunts from the beginning – from what I’ve seen Bulletstorm is just a natural escalation of it, like going from the gore in Wolfenstein to the gore in Doom.

        • Nezumi says:

          Although Bulletstorm is at least somewhat parodic — the main character is so over-the-top macho and violent as to be blatantly repulsive, and the main female character is actually proportioned something like a real human being, which you rarely, if ever, see in games, especially action games.

        • Overmind says:

          Could you elaborate a bit on these alleged rape-culture taunts in Unreal Tournament games? I’ve been playing UT99 quite extensively recently and I also used to play UT2004 a year or so back and the strongest word I’ve heard in these games were “bitch” (spoken usually by female combatants). Most of the taunts were like “Try putting the safety on” or “Try a bigger gun next time”. Hardly sexist or connected to rape. The only other words used in the games that can be associated with rape is “dominating” spoken by the announcer after the player has killed 10 opponents in a row. But that would be pretty far-fetched, wouldn’t it?

          • KA101 says:

            What luck! I have both UT99 & UT2K4 on my computer. Let’s take a look.

            TW: gendered insults, violence

            UT99 (the original) uses “Die, bitch” rather more often than I appreciate, and not restricted by gender; 2K4 retained that and added “You whore!”, “You play like a girl”*, “Suck on THIS!”, and “Blow me”. Note that these are generally available to both genders**, and in large part to non-gendered creatures as well (the various robots know that girls are apparently poor players, despite their lack of biology).

            Also consider the armor differential***, as illustrated in the SocImages link, and note also that the taunt poses change depending on gender. I’ve never had a male-looking model place his hands above his head and gyrate his hips. Female-looking models, on the other hand, do so often enough that checking the 2K4 high-score screen, where a randomly selected model will rotate and perform its taunt animations as the background, can get annoyingly sexist.

            Long story short, the UT franchise conflates “poor” performance with being feminine, as well as objectifying women. It furthers rape culture.

            *The Unreal universe already has a race of peaceful non-fighters called the Nali. They could easily take the “wimp” designation and in fact do so: there’s a separate taunt for “You fight like Nali.” In fact, this doubles down since even the Designated Victim race, which never shows up unless picked as a player skin (in UT99) still “fights”, whilst “girls”, who routinely appear in the fights and can do reasonably well for themselves, “play”. Gagh.

            **The Female Juggernaut voiceset changes “Blow me” to “Lick me”. I leave to the reader whether this is a net positive.

            ***Irritatingly enough, UT99 had two teams of gender-segregated humans, one for each gender. The men wore shoulder pads, codpieces, tight pants, and UT-generic combat boots. The women were fully clothed; their tops had a shallow U-neck and individualized metallic cups but that’s as far as the objectification went. [The Aphex skins are worse, but are not an actual team; I don’t think they show up unless a player picks one.]
            Contrast 2K4, where just about every non-Juggernaut/Gen Mo’Kai [genetically non-attractive & alien, respectively] woman’s gear emphasizes her bust. Stepping backward much?

          • Matt says:

            What KA101 said, but also:

            “Squeal, boy, squeal!” in what appears to be a reference to the movie Deliverance.
            “You like that?” which I suppose could be interpreted neutrally, but I certainly didn’t hear it that way. (Nor, come to think of it, when I used similar taunts verbally while playing other multiplayer games in high school…)

            Also (not rape but) “MY house!” which I didn’t quite get until a friend pointed it out to me when I raised this issue with her.

            • Overmind says:

              KA101 & Matt

              It seems that the discussion steered away a bit from “rape culture” taunts to sexist ones, which are two different things (although they may overlap).

              Let’s look then at the examples you gave in view of their alleged relation to rape and their sexism separately.


              “Die, bitch” – well, “bitch” seem nowadays to be a word used to describe both men and women (though I am not a native English speaker and cannot say it for sure) and according to Merriam Webster it means “a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman —sometimes used as a generalized term of abuse”. I don’t see any sexism or connection to rape here.

              “You like that?” – it may be connected to sex but that in itself doesn’t meant it is sexist or that it furthers to rape culture.

              “Squeal, boy, squeal” – on that one I have to agree. It’s not sexist but it certainly is about rape.

              “MY house” – I don’t get, really. It is, I think, about domination (just like the entire game) but it has nothing to do with the subject of our discussion.

              KA101, could you explain why you find those two same-sex teams irritating?

              In short, the only rape-connected taunt in UT99 is “squeal, boy, squeal” and that is far too little to say that is game is sexist or that it promotes rape culture.

              UT 2004

              “You whore” – I agree, sexism here is quite evident. The same cannot be said about rape culture, however. “Whore ” is a derogatory term but it is not related to rape.

              “Suck on this”, “Blow/lick me” – well, it is undoubtedly connected to sex but certainly not to sexism or rape, especially since those taunts could be directed to both sexes.

              “You play like a girl” – that is sexist, but I find really interesting about this taunt is that it not seems to be directed at the player’s avatar (like the taunt “You fight like a Nali”) but to the player himself (hence the reference to “playing” not “fighting” – the player doesn’t fight, he plays and as most gamers are/were boys this taunt could be insulting to them). Also, robots don’t need to have biology to know about human biology and to be aware which taunts may be insulting to humans. But enough of my digressing.

              Taunt pose – yes, that looks like objectification of women but how does it exactly differ from men’s pose? Isn’t their pose objectifying as well by any chance?

              To sum up, UT 2004 is more sexist than UT 99 but there is still not enough evidence to say that it furthers rape culture. Sexism is not rape culture.

              To say that these two games promote rape culture is a gross exaggeration.

            • XIV says:

              “well, “bitch” seem nowadays to be a word used to describe both men and women (though I am not a native English speaker and cannot say it for sure) and according to Merriam Webster it means “a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman —sometimes used as a generalized term of abuse”. I don’t see any sexism or connection to rape here.”

              I’ve had to put my comment over here because of the way replying works here but I’m going to stop you right here Overmind. Bitch is a slur against women. It always has been. It doesn’t matter if someone uses it against men, because they’re only doing it to compare him to a woman, just the same way as calling him a pussy does the same thing. Bitch is often used against a woman to put her down for not being docile enough or kind enough or basically not being controllable enough or ‘appropriately feminine’ enough. It’s a way remind women of their place in our society and has been used, countless times, against women are perceived too ‘uppity’ to smear them.

              It doesn’t matter if you don’t see any sexism in it, a bunch of women sort of do. And a dictionary definition doesn’t change the actual reality of the word for women or the way it’s used.

            • KA101 says:

              Apologies; this is more intended toward Overmind. No idea why the reply system keeps cutting out.

              First, re Matt: I’d heard about Deliverance and the problems therewith but never seen the movie, so wasn’t familiar with the reference. Thanks for pointing it out. Agreed that all reinforce dominance through violence, if not sexual violence.

              Re Overmind: Same-sex teams were an understandable part of UT99 and I thought they were handled reasonably well; it’s nowhere near female-gaze as I understand it*, but for once men were improbably armored. (In case it wasn’t clear: Raw Steel, the men’s team, wore no shirt or other torso covering.) I thought the trend ought to continue, and found it irritating that 2K4 stepped backward. Regarding the taunts, well, no, in point of fact male-models don’t seem to have any animation that exists solely for them to display their bodies for the gratification of others. “Pelvic thrust” and “Ass smack” certainly seem like they could be objectifying, but can/do equally serve as a dominance gesture.

              As for the rest of it, well, we seem to agree that the games promote dominance and sexism, and I think it’s reasonable to hold that the two are linked. Unfortunately that meshes quite well with the FF101 (not a JRPG, but might make for an interesting one) writeup describing the rape culture.


              Incidentally, XIV was completely right about the fact that “bitch” has been a derogatory against women for rather longer than either of us has likely been alive. Next time, try the Oxford English Dictionary, where they adapt to the language. Webster’s original effort was to adapt the language to fit the dictionary.

              *I can’t female-gaze as I’m a straight cis man; my understanding (which is incomplete, for the aforementioned reason) mainly comes from

            • Ikkin says:

              Re: Overmind (“Suck on this”, “Blow/lick me” – well, it is undoubtedly connected to sex but certainly not to sexism or rape, especially since those taunts could be directed to both sexes.):

              Is it really not related to rape?

              It seems to me that language of that sort is related to rape, in that sexual terms with a highly negative connotation are being used to dominate other players. Those phrases kind of suggest to me that losing is in some way equated with unwanted sexual acts.

              Granted, this kind of language is way, way, way more popular than fratboy-style videogames — it’s built into the English language itself.

              I’m probably being controversial here because even the biggest advocates against rape culture I’ve seen don’t avoid them, but half the vulgarities out there seem to be based on exactly that.

              “F you?” “Screw you?” What can those imply beyond a wish to see the other person on the receiving end of unwanted sex? “F’d up?” “Screwed up?” What’s that but saying something’s really wrong by comparing it to being on the receiving end of sex? “That sucks?” “That blows?” Again, things are so bad that it’s like having to commit unpleasant sex acts. And that’s without even getting into the gendered insults.

              And that, to me, is the best way of showing how ubiquitous rape culture is. Because, honestly, it’s really messed up that to avoid using unwanted sex as a metaphor, I have to use childish euphemisms.

            • Lucas says:


              I think you’re right about those words’ being tied to rape culture. My partner and I have discussed before whether saying something “sucks” (or “blows”) is sexist. We agree that yeah, it is. When someone says “it sucks,” [my] [dick] is usually implied (the phrase suggests a male centrism), regardless of the speaker’s gender. And it’s a pejorative phrase; why would sex acts be used to describe something as a bad thing? They would if they’re demeaning those who do it willingly, or referring to the act’s use in humiliating someone.

          • Bakka says:

            Overmind, how are you understanding “rape culture” and things that promote rape culture? What is an example of something you do think promotes rape culture? I think others might be thinking of the term in a different way.

            • Overmind says:

              I will start with Bakka’s reply in order to clear up any potential misunderstandings.

              Rape culture consists of opinions and ideas, according to which rape in some/all situations is good, acceptable or beneficial. It also includes words and phrases whose main and most commonly used meaning reflects these ideas and opinions. I would also like to stress that rape culture doesn’t equal sexism.

              Examples: “If someone raped that lesbian and showed her how it is to be with a man, she would be a normal straight woman again”, “If she/he were raped, he/she’d stop being bossy/throwing their weight around” or these words said by a certain politician: “A prostitute was raped?! How can you rape a prostitute?”.

              The example “Squeal, boy, squeal” given by Matt can also be said to promote rape, although here it is not as evident as in the examples I mentioned above.


              I agree with most that you said. The connotations of the word “bitch” you mentioned are definitely sexist. As I said I am not a native English speaker and more often than not I fail to notice certain aspects of English words and phrases.

              I think that you went too far by saying that it doesn’t matter if I don’t see any sexism in it, however. You see, the thing is that the meaning of words is a result of opinions and thoughts of ALL people who use or encounter these words in their daily lives. And that also includes people like me or the authors of dictionaries whose opinion you also seem to deem unimportant. Naturally, if there is a large percentage of people who think that a given word is for instance sexist, then it really is sexist. Remember, however, that these groups are made up of individuals with their own opinions.


              I agree that “suck on this” and “blow/lick me” have negative connotations and seem to show sexual activities as something unpleasant. However, these words and words like “fuck you” or “screw you” may not be related to unwanted sex at all. They may simple reflect the underlying disgust and contempt for sex that has been prevalent in our culture for centuries if not thousands of years. According to this mindset all sex, not only unwanted one, is inherently repulsing and morally impure. There is also a similar explanations: only certain sexual activities like oral sex are considered to be disgusting or humiliating. According to both theories the aforementioned phrases are not a part of rape culture, although they may still be offensive to people who perform certain sexual activities.

            • XIV says:

              @ Overmind

              I don’t deem your opinion or their opinion umimportant, I deem them insufficient to judge a word from a neutral standpoint when the fact of the matter is women do not experience it that way at all. I feel like the dictionary definition you gave glosses over that it’s a slur, and doesn’t even seem to recognize it as one really. Dictionaries are not themselves wholly accurate or unbiased things to get information from either. So it’s not unimportant.. but it’s less important than the fact that most feminist spaces will tell you it’s a slur and women’s experiences with it over in the past has largely been to degrade them as a gender.

            • Ikkin says:

              @ Overmind (They may simple reflect the underlying disgust and contempt for sex that has been prevalent in our culture for centuries if not thousands of years. According to this mindset all sex, not only unwanted one, is inherently repulsing and morally impure. There is also a similar explanations: only certain sexual activities like oral sex are considered to be disgusting or humiliating. According to both theories the aforementioned phrases are not a part of rape culture, although they may still be offensive to people who perform certain sexual activities.):

              Maybe, but there aren’t really any equivalent phrases in which the “male” position is treated the same way — in every case, having something stuck in an orifice is the bad/humiliating thing.

              And that’s what I mean when I say it seems like a rape culture thing: the receptive role is equated with grievous harm (“screw you” is used in the same way as “die in a fire”), with being taken advantage of (“screwed over”), and with things going wrong (“screwed up” and “this sucks”). That attitude seems in some ways almost identical to the one that says that consent is “giving in” and the goal is to get women to say “okay” rather than to actually want to be with you.

    • Could we maybe not describe problematic behavior with terms like “insane”, which is used to stigmatize mental disability? Thanks.

      Anyway, you’re right that they’re being pretty ludicrous with their claims. Which is unfortunate, because it creates straw men to cover up the actual problems. Which, you know, it has. Like associating violence and sexuality definitely contributes to rape culture, but saying it’s specifically causing measureable changes is probably not true. It’s a drop in the bucket, with the bucket as a whole causing the problem.

      • Nezumi says:

        Sorry about that, I should have taken more care. I admit that the choice of language in the game is problematic. On the other hand, it does do some good things, like daring to have a female lead that looks like an actual person — The sheer amount of news and controversy on what should have been the non-issue of giving her a reasonable cup size shows how important that really is — and actually going out of its way to show just how downright repulsive and dysfunctional these macho stereotypes really are — I challenge anyone to come away from the demo without feeling a bit dirty about having stepped in that lead’s shoes.

        On the other hand… there is the potential for this to backfire. Some people will cling to any hyper-masculine stereotype, no matter how blatantly dysfunctional and repulsive — there are people who consider Kratos a model for manhood, after all. And if the game fails or there’s too much outcry, it will be taken as reinforcing the idea that women should always have super-huge breasts in games.

        All in all… I’m a bit conflicted on this game, but not ready to strike it from my list of purchases just yet.

        • franzferdinand2 says:

          “there are people who consider Kratos a model for manhood, after all”

          Ugh, tell me about it.

          Remember gamer boys, anger is the only emotion that it’s okay to express!

  3. Ohma says:

    The annoying thing to me is that I totally would like to play a redonkykong shooter that riffs on FPS tropes and delivers fun and stylish gameplay with a dash of No More Heroes style cartoonishly exaggerated violence. But from what I’ve seen the self aware parody ends with the treatment of the main characters who you’re apparently supposed to think are the awesomes because they do ridiculous shit instead of ridiculous? :/

    • Nezumi says:

      I haven’t followed it extensively… but from the demo, if they weren’t trying to make the Player Character a deliberately grotesque and repulsive over-the-top caricature of your super-macho action hero, they really missed the mark.

    • Matthew says:

      Good call on No More Heroes. I basically feel like there’s no point in playing something like Bulletstorm because NMH and especially NMH2 completely skewers the stereotypical idiotic mouthbreathing action gamer to the nth degree.

    • TheLaquidara says:

      I recommend Serious Sam First/Second Encounter, assuming you haven’t already played them already. They’re parodies of older Quake styled games, but they’re great over the top fun. The only major problematic aspect of the games I’ve found are the racial stereotypes in the selectable multiplayer characters.

      There’s also the free game, Duty Calls, which is actually promotional material for Bulletstorm. It’s quite hilarious.

      • Ohma says:

        Oh Serious Sam, I keep forgetting those games. I still remember that like, almost every secret cache of ammo/powerups had a trigger to spawn some extra weird unique monsters, like a flying pine tree with a missile launcher.

        And that Duty Calls trailer is one of the factors contributing to making me hope I’m wrong about Bulletstorm because it touches on nearly everything in shooters that I’m so tired of seeing, even the extra dumb and blatant jingoism which is nice to see skewered for once.

  4. Ikkin says:

    I hope it’s okay if I post extra fail-links in the comments, because this nonsense needs to be torn apart.

    From that site: “So now each week a new woman will be profiled by the one and only HipHopGamer who will show case their Journalistic skill, Personality, Gaming Skill, and also something very special and controversial in this show will be a segment called, WHAT WILL THEY BE LIKE IN BED??? now that’s a great addition to the show.”

    Seriously? He almost makes Kotaku look like gentlemen (and considering even just the links on this page, that’s really saying something).

  5. Sir Oliver Martext says:

    “Playing the rape card?” Wired shows more and more every day what a piece of crap it’s become. I especially “liked” the use of RAINN’s statistics to minimize rape.

  6. Jonathan says:

    The point raised about enforcing representation through game mechanics is an interesting one. The “Confirmed Bachelor” perk in New Vegas always struck me as particularly powerful (you can get free armour and weapon repairs from one character if you have the perk, which saves you a huge amount of money. It also makes recruiting one of the possible companions really easy and his mission leads you to the best armour in the game) and I did wonder at the time if it had been done intentionally to encourage people who wouldn’t normally dream of having a gay character to take that option.

  7. Maverynthia says:

    “Girls Who Play Video Games With Mom and Dad Are Better Behaved, Study Shows” Urgh, why does it matter that girls are better behaved. I feel they are going back to the old trope that girls should be polite and behaved. >_< I mean it's coll they want to have a bend on it that "girls should play games." but.. just.. URGH.

    • Ohma says:

      Aw, I decided that I should actually read that article and found that not only did I misread the title as “CHILDREN Who Play …” but the actual text misrepresents the findings of the study in a further effort to frame it as some sort of mystical thing you should do to control your daughter. I’m a lot angry at that since the actual findings from the study are pretty simply that spending time doing THIIIINGS with your kids is a good idea and that’s a really simple and good message and why not just go with that. D8<

  8. Doug S. says:

    According to the Kotaku link, the way Square Enix “tracks” how many people have watched the shower scene is by offering people rewards for uploading their save files…

  9. Lucas says:

    There’s a controversy that blew up last week about conventions and how they can be better environments for women. Might be of interest to those concerned with cons and inclusiveness. Of course, it centers on an example of how NOT to do it, so be warned that there will be triggers for sexism throughout.

    Here’s the blog post that reported on the megafail at the American Atheists’ Southeast Regional Atheist Meet in Huntsville, Alabama. While it gives a summary and commentary, I should point out that many comments dispute the accuracy of the post’s reporting of the events.

    The ensuing comments and posts around the scientific/skeptic/atheist ‘sphere apparently focused more on the jokes and language (including, of all things, whether “female” is offensive as a noun) and not on the larger issue of how women are treated at conventions. That prompted this post:

    This post includes a video of the event. I watched some, including the points mentioned by Hemant, and my blood was really boiling after that.

    I think the second link should ring true to those following the PA debacle. I and others upset with PA have been mistaken for being merely upset with the original comic. Claudia’s words were refreshing for me in that regard. That’s not to say those issues aren’t worthy of discussion though. But as Jen McCreight pointed out, when you want to talk about the greater issues (such as sexism in the culture at large), those discussions are “derailed” (her word) by the more specific issues. I’ve seen that happen in the PA discussions too.

    And a word about “female”: This is trickier for scientists and particularly evolutionary psychologists, who need to differentiate between humans-as-animals and humans-as-people for their studies. The problems I think this creates are:

    (a) they carry that mindset into public forums like convention panels where these things can get real and offensive;

    (b) there’s a very thin line between where humans have developed beyond the animal behavior and where we are subject to it. It’s dangerous to generalize and a lot of people seem to pick and choose for their own ends.

    (c) it’s often defended with “‘male’ is used too.” This makes me rage a little. It’s Equal Opportunity Oppression and dismisses those offended. It also pops up in regard to armor in games: if you put the men in skimpy clothing, that does nothing for the fact that the women’s clothing might still be mired in sexism.

    • Yeah, when men are given skimpy outfits too in games they tend to be… less blatantly objectifying. And so the issue remains unaddressed.

      • Jonathan says:

        The fine line between “sexy” and “objectifying” in clothing and armour design fascinates me. Trying to balance realism and a desire for characters to look cool, heroic and sexy (which is an absolutely acceptable component of the fantasy genre, especially with regards to escapism and wish-fulfillment) must be incredibly difficult. Women’s outfits tend to either be ridiculously skimpy or exactly the same as the men’s (real plate mail can make anyone of any body shape look great, it’s much like a well-tailored suit in that regard. There is no reason why a woman wearing realistic, completely covering mail harness should look like a man.)

        Having a historical armour expert, a clothing/armour designer and a couple of this blog’s contributors sit down and hash out some designs for armour would make for a fantastic article.

        • XIV says:

          It would depend on what you mean by ‘look like a man’. If you mean the armor would be proportioned right to women’s bodies without being sexualized then I’m for that. And really, I do wonder why sexy is a necessary component there. Women are really the only ones who are constantly put through having to walk that fine line in fantasy. Men almost never have to (and, as emily said, when they do it’s not as extreme as the things women are put through), it’s always about men’s escapism and wish-fulfillment and the women are sort of just objects there to dress up in the silly and degrading armor.

          But that’s more of why I’m so wary of even accepting the ‘sexy’ component myself, because it’s something people in games and such seem to always default to women right now. I think that sort of perspective (the male-centric one) needs to change a lot before things can really get better.

          • Jonathan says:

            “If you mean the armor would be proportioned right to women’s bodies without being sexualized then I’m for that.”

            Yep, that’s exactly what I mean. As for whether or not sexy is a necessary component, I’m only going by conversations I’ve had with the various women gamers in my life. Obviously this is only anecdotal evidence, but every woman I’ve spoken to on the subject has said the same thing; that they want armour to be practical, but they also want to look good. (It reminds me of something I read about feminist campaigners who went home to be housewives and stay-at-home mothers. Their argument was that it was what they wanted to do, they just didn’t feel that it should be forced on them by society. It really opened my eyes to the dangers of assuming what stereotyped or oppressed groups actually want.)

            Wanting to be attractive to the opposite sex (or homosexual members of your own, for that matter) is a common desire. Telling women that the shouldn’t feel that way is, in my opinion, wrong. What matters is the choice of the individual and ensuring that things are empowering rather than objectifying. I don’t like feeling forced into a macho, dominant role because I’m a man, but I wouldn’t want anyone telling me I couldn’t play a Conan-esque character in a RPG.

            I absolutely agree about the change in perspective. It’s why I mentioned that I’d love to see a discussion-type article on the subject of armour and clothing in fantasy games. I’m curious as to what women would like to see male characters in fantasy games wearing, for example.

      • Lucas says:

        It goes back to the fact that women are objectified by such eye-candy sexiness and men are only idolized by it, as was discussed in a previous post/thread.

        And once a company starts using the objectifying images to sell their game, they’ve really crossed a line for me.

    • Ohma says:

      Reminds me of the people on a forum I used to be on. Lots of trumpeting progressive and liberal ideals, mocking of conservatives and religious people for sillyness, and annoyingly heated debate about sci-fi minutia. One of those blatant “be careful fighting monsters blah blah” situations where all the self-righteousness and hostility meant their attitudes eventually wrapped all the way around to being bigoted right wing authoritarian assholes. (also anti-fun, stuck in the 90s die hard PC gamers who only play Hearts of Iron and Total War because so realistic hrrrng D8, oh wait actually ad Crysis to that because…I’m not really sure about that one actually, fighting not white communists as a Big Man I guess?)

      oh and chock full of nonsense evo-psych justifications for sexism too, can’t forget that ugh I’m glad my only interaction with that forum is to make fun of it now XP

  10. Laurentius says:

    hmm.. playing Hearts of Iron is anti-fun…? ok i guess i’m anti-fun type then…I play Europa Universalis and HoI a lot…

    • Ohma says:

      It’s only anti-fun if you:
      1. Think that HoI and similar games are the only good games ever and anyone who plays anything else is a pitiable Smallbrain.

      2. Like HoI etc. almost entirely because you have all of one gauge for judging quality in media, and that gauge is “has pointless military trivia”.

      and 3. If you constantly, CONSTANTLY, go on about how awesome PC gaming is and how stupid every console and console gamer is because holy crap you just stepped out of a time machine from 1998.

      (seriously, the people I’m talking about are such insufferably humorless sadnerds that they think Avatar is an awful movie because the blue space natives weren’t nuked from orbit @_@)

  11. Restructure! says:

    Cassidy: Gaming industry finally recognizes the work of a pioneer

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