March 2011

Thumbs Up: She Should Write

Professional writer, editor, and former Feministing blogger Ann came up with the "She Should Write" project when she asked one of her editors for advice. Ann was never sure what to say to Feministing fans who approached her in public.

"[Miriam] replied that she always asks them to write. To post on Feministing's community site, to start their own blogs, just to put their words out there in the world. She tells them, you can do what we do. Be your own feminist-blog hero."

She goes on to urge her readers to "Ask a woman you know to write something today." And so I shall. I want to take this opportunity to ask all my female readers to write something today.

(To those male allies who are my readers, no offense, but this one's just for the ladies.)

Thumbs Up: David Gaider of Bioware

A Bioware forums user wrote up a big long post about how, in Dragon Age II, "Bioware Neglected Their Main Demographic: The Straight Male Gamer." This post went as you might expect, being the complaints of someone for whom the gaming industry only caters to a tiny 99 percent of the time. It's the usual self-involved complaints of a privileged dude who fails to see how hilarious he has accidentally become. (It's all too easy to imagine Stephen Colbert having written this.)

The rest of the world, the part that isn't straight and male, responded with variations on the theme of, "Welcome to my life!" Because the worst aspect of ignoring your privilege is that you come off like a total ass. It's like complaining about your sneakers being ugly in front of an audience of land mine victims. ALL THE TIME.

But this screed of entitlement did have a silver lining. Because it encouraged David Gaider, Bioware creator, creator and lead writer for both Dragon Age and Dragon Age II, to issue a singularly stinging slap-down. Made all the more awesome for existing under his official capacity, if not being the official corporate message per se.

Troll Or Not?

The Scott Adams and Abercrombie & Fitch Edition

As a self-identified feminist, I get trolled a lot. Both in person and online. People have this image of feminists as being outrage machines, and sometimes they just can't resist trying to push the button that makes the machine grind into action. It's funny! Like bear baiting or dog fighting! Which are also funny, right? HILARIOUS.

A lot of people seem also to have learned the lesson that trolling brings pageviews and media attention. So you have this element of trolling where it's being done deliberately as a marketing move. (As opposed to the usual kind of trolling, which is performed by a certain variety of person who feels otherwise powerless in life, and who is still angry at their parents.)

Case #1: Scott Adams
Last week cartoonist and self-styled philosopher Scott Adams wrote a blog post, got criticized for it, and deleted it. In this post he talked about the ever-popular subject of "men's rights," said that women's reasoning abilities were similar to those of children and the mentally handicapped, and more.

My Little Pony: Good or Evil?

My Little Pony is tricky territory from a feminist perspective. As a social phenomenon, it falls squarely in the disputed land between Second Wave and Third Wave feminism.

Second Wave feminists feel that My Little Pony is damaging because it perpetuates feminine stereotypes. Third Wave feminists (like myself) feel that something isn't automatically wrong because girls like it. And if girls like My Little Pony, they are free to do so.

This more nuanced understanding of the world depends heavily, however, in what the creators do with the product. For example, Disney Princesses. The princesses spend most of their time sighing sadly over some dude. They don't spend a lot of time, you know, DOING STUFF. You can find a lot of Disney Princess home decorations, but precious few active, useful items.

Invisible Women

An interesting and nicely-researched article on Border House this morning got my blood boiling. It seems that in the videogame world of the mega-popular "Plants Vs. Zombies" there are only men. The zombies are all male, and the game's language signifies the game's protagonist (i.e. you) as male, too.

There is no sense to be made of this. Either it was done deliberately (because women can't be zombies?) or it was done accidentally (because we all reflexively create reflections of ourselves). And you know what? Stinks either way.

Let's set aside issues of "fairness" and "equality." Those are big and important things, don't get me wrong. But let's set them aside for now.

A gender imbalance - like a game composed entirely of male characters - makes me feel invisible. Where do I fit into such a world? Clearly, I don't. Someone along the way has made the decision that I (a woman) am, for some reason, unsuitable for inclusion in a video game. Maybe women are boring. Maybe women are useless. Women don't do anything interesting, so why should they be in a video game?

SlutWalk Holds Toronto PD Accountable

On January 11th 2011, a Toronto police officer, in addressing a community group at Toronto's York University, said that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized." I find this particularly shocking because when I hear the words "Toronto police officer" I - obviously - think of Nick Knight. And Nick would never have said anything so obviously idiotic and wrong-headed.

What up, Canada? Between that and the Winnipeg judge who gave a convicted rapist a light sentence because "sex was in the air," we have to wonder about your claims of being more enlightened than the United States.

The Psychology of Victim-Blaming

The ever-awesome Sociological Images blog has a great post collecting Tweets from Americans who are blaming Japan for the earthquake, and resulting tsunami and nuclear plant disaster. I was struck by how similar these comments were to those thrown at rape victims.

Obviously the same factor is at play here. It's a form of whistling past the graveyard. If something terrible happens to someone, and you can identify a reason why, then you're safe. Because YOU would never do those things.

In other words, it's all about fear, even if most people seem reluctant to admit that to themselves.


What if I told you that, in reporting the gang rape of an 11 year-old girl, a crazy, right wing Republican talk show host had seen fit to mention that un-named "residents" described the girl as "dressing older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s"? You would no doubt feel both outrage and resignation. How awful, and yet how utterly predictable.

What if I told you it was the New York Times?

It's true: the Old Gray Lady is I guess older and grayer than we thought, because this article reads like it was written in the 1950s. Is the author, James C. McKinley Jr, trying to troll us? Is he a time traveler? Is he secretly a member of Westboro Baptist Church? (Guess again: he's the Bureau Chief of the New York Times' Houston office.)

Thumbs Up: Pink

My experience is that feminists as a rule don't listen to pop music. More of the folksy singer/songwriter types, my fellow female warriors. But hey, I like pop music, so sue me!

Every day I fight a war against the mirror
("Don't Let Me Get Me")

There's a lot not to like in the pop music sphere. But as confusing and "you kids get off my lawn" as I'm sure it can seem from the outside, there's some good stuff in there, too.  Case in point: Pink. (Recently her name has been stylized with an exclamation point, "P!ink," but I flat out refuse. You gotta draw the line somewhere.)

Happy International Daniel Craig In Drag Day!

Happy International Women's Day! I'm not ashamed to admit that I had completely forgotten about this until the Google Doodle of the Day reminded me this morning.

Obviously, we have a lot of work left to do. As this wonderful two-minute short film, starring Daniel Craig and narrated by Judi Dench, amply demonstrates.

There are a lot of shocking figures revealed in this video, which was produced by Equals?. Like the fact that worldwide, women do 2/3rds of the work, but earn only 10% of the income, and own only 1% of the property. My take-away from the video, judging by Craig's expression as he takes off his wig and earrings, is that even James Bond isn't tough enough to be a woman in the year 2011.

"Just Ignore It"

Over the weekend I attended an exceptionally huge science fiction convention. During a panel discussion, someone asked a rather awkward question of one of the female speakers. The gist of the question was, "What advice do you have for female gamers encountering the rampant misogyny among gamers?"

I'm not going to name the speaker, because I believe that just because you're female and famous, that doesn't necessarily mean you have some kind of obligation to discuss feminist issues. I mean, it would be nice? But it's not required.

This particular speaker was visibly uncomfortable with the question, with the discussion, with anything to do with the topic. She stammered and fidgeted and blurted out an answer which amounted to "Just ignore it and it will go away."

Charlie Sheen and the Sliding Scale of Domestic Violence

Everyone agrees that Charlie Sheen abuses women. But strangely enough, a lot of people don't seem to care about it very much. Or lump it in under the category of "bad boy behavior."

Why? Because Charlie Sheen beats the wrong kind of woman. (Or, if you're the abuser, I guess it would be the right kind.)

Remember when those pictures of Rihanna's bruised face were splashed across the news? Chris Brown was instantly and permanently blackballed. Wrigley stopped airing his gum commercial. His professional life was essentially over in an instant.

But Charlie Sheen? Meh.

Close the Wage Gap!

Satisfaction the granny remake for EqualPayday (Video)

Ladies! The less you earn, the longer you work! Why do we put up with it? We need to demand equal pay for equal work!

I love this video and I love how awesome these old ladies are. Their sassiness reminds me of my late granny who led one of the most interesting lives I've ever heard of. She worked well into her late 80s though, because of the lack of opportunities she had growing up alone, on the streets, in a Third World country. But she never let anything stop her from doing the things she believed in, whether it was becoming an important mother figure to the rebels leading a revolution in her country- she was known as Assault Rifle Grandma(in her native language) or smuggling her three grand-daughters accross the Mexican border so they could be with their parents, that lady was trully a badass! I miss her very much and I wish she didn't have to work so hard for so long.

Stand up for your rights! Do it for your granny.

The Daily Show: Still Kinda Sexist?

Back in June of last year, there was a big kerfluffle over The Daily Show's hiring of Olivia Munn. A lot of people felt that it was a step in the wrong direction, for a show which has skewed heavily male over the years. Among other things, someone posted some statistics about Daily Show guests which I found surprising.

The Daily Show pushed back against these allegations of sexism, even posting a defensive video by the 40% of Daily Show staffers which are female. At the same time, they seemed to suddenly start making an effort to book female guests.

I think a lot of people - myself included - assumed that, now that their attention had been called to the gender imbalance of guests, it was "problem solved." And hey, we all make mistakes. We all tend to skew things to represent ourselves. It's natural! But once someone mentions it, particularly in such a public way, surely that would bring an end to this gender imbalance.