RSS Feed

‘Women in Media’ Category

  1. Hard Out Here for Critical Feminists

    November 13, 2013 by Miss Lemonade

    Am I using hotel wifi to maybe bang out a post on pop music? You betcha.

    While I was tiredly idling on my laptop last night, someone in a feminist thread that I maintain on a private forum linked the newest Lily Allen video. He was excited because it was really good, apparently, so I watched it as I’ve been a fan of Allen’s older stuff.

    What followed was all the rap video shenanigans and pop-py satire that the song seems to evoke. If I had just listened to the lyrics, I could have gotten behind the message of the song, but the video wrecks it entirely. (Upon closer listening to the lyrics, I notice there’s some really gross positioning of women who are skinny vs. fat, shake their ass vs. being smart which is just giant NO! all around. Same goes for the cissexism with the whole “Forget your balls and grow a pair of tits”)

    It doesn’t take much of a hard look to be completely disgusted by what’s going on in the video – it’s Lily Allen surrounded by twerking and objectified women of color, particularly black women. Whether it’s a send up of “rap video girls” or some sort of demented Miley Cyrus satire (hey, white ladies, you can’t satirize from a position of power), it is still just using black women’s bodies as props and riding them as “different” from pure White Feminism and Sexist Critique.

    The reason that this is so problematic is due to racial politics – white people, including white women, have been using black cool and bodies to launch their own careers and success while simultaneously denigrating it. When we talk sideways about rap videos being misogynistic, we tend to still trample over black women’s voices discussing how this misogyny actually affects them and we fail, as white women, to note how white dude music across the ages has done a very spectacular job at putting its glam boot on our necks. Our music is not different from black music except for that fact that it’s lauded, praised, held up as the standard and frequently steals from black musicians and their culture. We love to go to town on Lil’ Wayne but seem to even forget about Eminem. It falls back heavily on the idea that black people are stupid, especially when they mimic the wealth, power and dynamics of white musicians, without reflecting upon our own pop culture misdeeds.

    So in short, Lily Allen’s video is once again stepping on the shoulders of black women, their work, and people are saying she’s a feminist giant. Like the song if you’d like, but don’t you dare not look at it with the same amount of criticism that you’d toss at anyone else. If it was me, I could have done a treatment of that video that was a montage of every drippy emo rock band or champagne-spraying hair metal group. The fact that this wasn’t the first choice here shows that we are still not looking at the right people.

    Your move, guys.

     


  2. Reader Mail: Female Sexuality

    July 18, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    The other night I got a glowing e-mail from two of my readers (hi Kaeli and Candace!) who follow me on Twitter. It was really amazing to read someone’s heartfelt expressions of gratitude, but most of the letter that quite a few questions for me. My answer, in my mind, was a little too big, so I decided to answer it here instead of privately. Here is the e-mail, slightly edited to take out the effusive praise, since I’m already blushing:

    Hello!

    I’m a seventeen-year-old female from Canada, and I have a question for you, which I will get around to asking eventually. I actually stumbled across your blog and Twitter account while educating myself on feminism in March. Up until a few months ago, the word ‘feminist’ conjured up an image of an emotionally unstable, man-hating woman that would assign sexist undertones to issues that didn’t even exist in the first place. I thought it was more than obvious that women were just being irrational. I thought it was more than obvious that sexism hasn’t existed for decades and anyone who said that it was institutionalized in our society was ignorant and delusional. I thought a lot of ridiculous things, which I now realize was only indicative of how I was the one being irrational, ignorant, and delusional.

    [snip praise here]

    Now that I’ve expressed my admiration for you, I can get into the meat of this topic: the concept of raunch culture and how it affects the expression of female sexuality. This is something that has been on my mind since reading your blog post about male validation. I have held the belief that women should not be defined by or condemned for their sexuality. If a woman wants to wear make-up because it’s what she wants to do for herself, she should be able to without being demonized for it. If a woman wants to wear a short skirt because it’s what she wants to do for herself, she should be able to without being demonized for it. If a woman wants to be open about her sexuality for herself, she should be able to without being demonized for it. The issue that I am presenting to you is: are women really doing it for themselves? Has the seeking of male validation and the male gaze become so ingrained in women and internalized by them, that though they think performances of sexuality are empowering, they are actually only doing it for the approval of men?

    I was thinking that female sexuality is only portrayed by the media in a very specific (and possibly skewed) manner that is meant to appeal only to heterosexual men, yet it is still repressed in a way. As an example, I feel that when men are shown frontally nude in mainstream movies, it is for comedic effect, but the depiction of a nude female is something that is usually erotically charged to fulfill male desire. However, I feel like female genitalia is rarely shown in mainstream movies, which is maybe telling of how female sexuality is actually repressed to a certain degree. I feel like this issue can be applied to pornographic movies as well. I have been pro-pornography despite having issues with how very performative it is on the part of women as it dictates a stifling standard of what is sexy and what is not. I feel like heterosexual porn is usually focused on the woman performing and acting “sexy” in that very specific way for the satisfaction of a heterosexual male viewer; girl-on-girl porn is fetishized and equally as performative on part of the women involved, again, for the satisfaction of a heterosexual male viewer, while porn involving only men is looked down upon because it does not satisfy a heterosexual male viewer. After deciding to research this idea further, I stumbled across a book that addresses this issue called Female Chauvinist Pigs (you have likely heard of it because u r supr smrt, but I will briefly explain it just in case you haven’t). I read a synopsis of it because I am too poor to afford the paperback (lmao), but it argues that “many women engage in performances of sexuality that are not expressions of their individual sexuality, but are designed for the pleasure of the male observer(s)”. I feel like maybe it’s an issue of the oppressed trying to please their oppressors in a feeble attempt to avoid discrimination; in this case, women sexually objectifying themselves to attain an equal status to men by making themselves sexual playthings and basically the embodiment of white, heterosexual male desire. 

    This has left me questioning my own sexuality and how I express it, and whether I am doing it for personal liberation or if I am unintentionally perpetuating stereotypes of what female sexuality is. Now, I am a white, heterosexual female and I have a white, heterosexual, cisgendered boyfriend who is twenty-years-old. I know that seeking male validation is something that is so deeply entrenched in me and I want to continue to distance myself from it. I know that sexual acts with somebody should be fulfilling for yourself, as well as pleasing for the other person regardless of their gender or sex. I am worried that my boyfriend’s expectations for what constitutes “being sexy” are these terribly performance-based acts, and that I possibly am only doing things for his satisfaction. When I buy “sexy” underwear, maybe it only makes me feel confident because I receive approval from a man for following these arbitrary standards for what “sexy” is. When I do my makeup before my boyfriend comes over, maybe it only makes me feel confident because I am conforming to the conventional standards of beauty, which my boyfriend might approve of. When I have sex with my boyfriend, maybe I mostly enjoy it because I am pleasing a man by objectifying myself in a manner that satisfies the male gaze.

    These are all only ideas that I am throwing around as I am unsure of how I feel, so I am wondering what you think of the issues that I’ve presented to you, and the ideology explained in Female Chauvinist Pigs. What is your opinion on pornography, the portrayal of female sexuality, and where the line is drawn between obtaining personal fulfillment and seeking male approval? I am dying of anxiousness to hear your response, be it over e-mail or through a blog post. Please keep in mind that I turned seventeen in December and that I still don’t have anywhere near a full grasp on any of these issues. I apologize for the long (and likely convoluted) e-mail.

    YOU ARE FUQQIN’ RAD AS HELL,
    Kaeli

    There’s a lot of stuff to break down here. Female sexuality is one of those giant, looming topics that feminism always struggles to talk about from a myriad of angles. Where a feminist falls in her beliefs about those facets tends to fall around some pretty weighty questions:

    1. How is female sexuality being performed? 
    2. Who is this performance for?
    3. How is it being received?

    The answers that feminists struggle with, even within themselves as sexual beings, has given rise to quite a few schools of thought and I definitely have a lot of feelings on the matter.

    I too feel that women should not be defined or condemned for their sexuality. The reason for this is because sexual performances from a woman are just as valid as a man’s. Women’s sexuality and sexual acts have long been regarded as dirty or should be kept secret, or only for men. This is extremely erroneous and definitely comes from patriarchal culture. Removing stigma from women acting in a sexual way that is for themselves is a big part of that. Accepting that sexual performances are for the person performing them and her intended sexual audience (which very often does not include men, see: queer women) is pretty key  here.

    But herein lies the problem, and you addressed this with your question: are women doing it for themselves?

    This is a question that even I ask myself on a regular basis. It’s exceptionally hard to point at any one woman acting sexually and make that judgement, especially as other women. But if we look at the culture at large, it becomes pretty obvious to us that a lot of sexual performances seem to be done for and designed with a male audience in mind. This is what is referred to in media criticism as the “male gaze.” It assumes that the person viewing a woman behaving sexually in popular media is always a heterosexual man. How heterosexual men have defined women’s sexuality is fairly narrow and centered on themselves, and thus these performances are rigid and ties into a lot more sinister ideas about a woman’s consent, her autonomy as a person, her body being public property and sex being violent. So, seemingly, in media especially, women are not performing sexually for themselves. But it’s very hard to point at a particular woman and say that. We have to look at these issues in a larger fashion lest we get caught up in focusing on women and not what women have been oppressed by.

    A lot of this comes back to your points about choice – women make choices. Choice feminism itself revolves around that idea, that women have a variety of paths they can create for themselves. Third wave feminism largely is about that; what it means to be a “woman” is everything and how a woman defines it. My criticism of choice feminism in general though, as well as just the whole “I want to do this” is when we don’t look hard at why we are making those choices. A lot of times, they might not really be a choice at all. A choice insinuates making conscious decisions between a multitude of options. The things we do as women, as feminists, are not inherently feminist or for ourselves by the mere act itself because a lot of our motivations are so thoroughly ingrained in what male-driven culture expects of us. Our so-called “options” are limited. This is what I was trying to clarify in my last blog post. The things I do, despite identifying as feminist, may not always be feminist. This comes sharply into focus when the subject is female sexuality. We as women need to identify the structures of patriarchy that define us and try to reject them. We need to examine our own motivations and performances for things that might not be our authentic selves. The depressing part is that there might not be a way of completely unburdening yourself from these pressures; it might be just things you are not comfortable with doing (like say, keeping body hair) or it might be harmful for you to do so (there are legitimately dangerous downsides to some women not behaving “properly” around men). But what I urge you, and any other woman to do, is just look at where the choices you make come from. No one should fault you for performing in a way that plays well with male-driven sexuality but it is something to look at critically. This is why it is so hard sometimes to not feel guilty or ashamed, even if you are a feminist, because you feel like everything you do is under a microscope, especially if you predominantly interact with men in a sexual way. I’m a queer woman and I still feel the sting of this. Even women who identify as lesbian/queer can still feel the problematic glare of what women are expected to enjoy or look like in the bedroom. A lot of feminists have asserted that it’s very hard to act as a sexual being completely free from the desires of patriarchy at all. Dworkin herself even said that consent (which is whole other facet of sexual performance, especially with regards to rape culture) is meaningless in our society. It gives you a lot to think about.

    Pornography, by that line of thinking, is one of the hottest spots of debate within feminism especially when it comes to choice, pervasive male culture and sex performance. On the surface, it seems like it should exist. I believe that, ideally, women can be a part of this media or create this media themselves for their sexual appetites and entertainment. This is an extremely idealistic and surface view. The problem that so many feminists, as well as myself, have with pornography (rather than women who participate in it), is that it was created and is shaped by quite a few rigid and dangerous views of sexuality. It is a fairly exploitative industry and peddles a lot of disgusting, dangerous views about women’s bodies, sexuality and sexual autonomy. A lot of women who are involved in pornography make the choice to be there, but a lot of them are coerced or pressured due to financial concerns. Sex workers in general need our regard, rather our scorn. A lot of the practices and business involved in sex work are corrupt, involve themselves blindly or knowingly in human trafficking or “softer” means of involving women in porn, prostitution or stripping. Pornography is a huge business that makes a lot of money off exploiting the performances of women. These performances, especially in mainstream porn made for men and by men, reinforce a lot of problematic ideas. Not all pornography is bad, truly, but the idea and the presentation of so much of it is legitimately harmful as well as harmful to the women who participate. This is largely why it is such a contentious topic. My feelings on the matter is that we should abolish pornography as a media form dominated by men, upheld by coercive and inhumane practices and promoting unhealthy attitudes towards sex. Pornography in a lot of ways is an extension of our culture’s views on women’s place in sex and her performances therein. Creating porn that embodies healthy attitudes, non-coercive behaviour, and treats its participants fairly and equitably is what I’d love to see in the future but that seems like an unrealistic goal at this time. However, at this present moment, we need to save our regard and criticism for the culture and industry and not shame sex work participants.

    In that vein, I can see where the confusion comes from how you personally express yourself as a sexual being. So much of the lessons we are taught as women is that there is very strict consequences for not obliging a man’s sexual desires. That our sexuality is tied into acting one way, looking a certain way. It loops back and conflicts with itself because it is a design not of our own making. It doesn’t respect us as individuals, only as things to be consumed and molded. Women are objectified to the extreme and we are no more than dolls, it seems. How are you supposed to feel sexy when we’re constantly surrounded by stuff like this? This is a question I’ve struggled to answer all my life and I’m still not sure myself. Having feminism at your back helps, but you still feel beholden to what culture believes about us sexually. Understanding where sexual culture comes from and how you fit into it helps. Knowing where your choices comes from also helps. But holding yourself up to a ridiculously impossible standard when it comes to “pleasing men” will probably be hard. No one is perfect, especially if you interact sexually with men, and as I mentioned before, there isn’t always a safe way to express yourself completely. Making sure you are safe and content is the best you can do sometimes, and if that means a pair of panties, then you go right ahead. The problem a lot of women don’t recognize about ourselves is that we’re not the ones “making mistakes” when we fail to live outside pervasive sexual culture. We’re not the ones who created the so-called “gilded cage” we find ourselves locked up in. Women perform sexually in regards to men because it is how you make it in our society some days.  It is all part of our terrible bargain that we’ve struck, being born into a world that doesn’t treat us as equals. But it means that if we want to navigate safely through it, we have to do things we might not want to, and it doesn’t mean you’re failing as a person and especially not as a woman or feminist.

    To Kaeli and Candace: I know it’s super hard sometimes. These are questions we all wrestle with as women, especially as feminists. How do we make choices like this, especially when they never feel like choices at all? How do we deal with the things we do and how do we make ourselves happy? To me, the key to that is constantly learning and growing, fighting. I wish I had known these things at your age, as it has taken me years of shame, struggle and danger to get where I am now at 30 years old. You guys seem like very self-aware, intelligent women and the idea that you’re going to navigate your adult years armed with more information and reflection than I did at that age makes me feel gladdened. This is why I do the things I do, to make sure that people see what I learned the hard way and spared that. I’m glad you guys wrote me. There is intense, immense strength in reaching out to other women with these questions and that’s ultimately why feminism is so important. Asking the tough things of yourself and others, and being unafraid to reach out for help and discussion is what props you up on the days when shit gets you down. Read all you can, talk to as many women as you can, fill your head with knowledge, criticism and love.

    Thank you for writing, I hope I answered you guys satisfactorily.

     

     

     

     


  3. Johnny-Come-Lately: Famous Dudes and Sexism

    July 1, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    My silence screams ‘ha ha!’/And you call us wrong either way/It ‘just so happens’ to us everyday.  – Le Tigre

    Look, I’m sick of your shit. I don’t care if you’re famous and “erudite” arbitors of geek culture. I don’t care how many hits your articles or comics get, how many people know your name or laugh at your jokes. You have a big fucking problem right now and that problem is shitty behaviour. You’re all up in arms right now because someone called Felicia Day a “booth babe” but you conveniently forget that there are other, more famous Destructoid writers going around harassing women on Twitter and calling them “feminazi c*nts.”

    I see you, Wil Wheaton, who’s mad his friend got shit on and while I don’t want anyone to get harassed, much less Felicia Day, the idea that you’re just noticing and caring about gaming culture being shitty to women NOW? There’s been tons of other less-famous women who’ve been harassed before and no one gives a shit about them. Gaming and nerd culture turning on women didn’t start with Anita Sarkeesian (though that was horrible), and it definitely didn’t even start with the fucking Dickwolves debacle either. It’s always been there and the fact that nerd guys are shuffling uncomfortably and being angry about it now because it involves someone they care about finally makes me feel sick. Where were you guys when Penny Arcade was being shitty for the umpteenth time; what about what THOSE guys? They’ve been just as instrumental in being shitheads as a couple of Destructoid writers.

    If you really want nerd culture to change, you guys have to start being better people. You – the content creators, the talking heads and the guys who have thousands of followers on Twitter. Don’t sit around and huffily shake your fist at a culture you helped create by not giving a shit about this until now. Get rid of sexist language out of your peers, quash your fans going out and attacking objects of your criticism “for you” and definitely stop grandstanding and using  typically masculine arm-flailing when people say mean things about your women friends. Guess what, men have been saying mean things about any woman that dares to exist on the Internet and they aren’t all Felicia Day. There are a lot of non-successful, non-famous women that have to deal with this crap on the regular. Women you don’t have a close personal connection with need protection too.

    Protection from whom? Protection from Jim Sterling, Penny Arcade as much as a bunch of grognard nerd-types attacking via blog comments or @ replies. This is the shit palace you guys built by not smacking your bros for the awful things they say or joke about in a very real, public setting as much as not putting a muzzle on your fans. You’re mad about nerd culture attacking women? Why don’t you actually DO something about it? Women-bashing is everywhere, especially in nerd culture and none of you are doing a lick of work to help get rid of it. I’ve seen more responsible editorial staffs on blogs with a third of your budgets and twice as many women contributors. I’ve read tons of webcomics that don’t hinge on rape jokes or sexism to get their point across. I’ve seen tons of talking heads that don’t make shitty jokes with their male friends on Twitter.

    This shit doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen because men are threatened by a famous woman. It is because they’re allowed to be shitbags to women for whatever reason they choose. It is because they see us as outsiders, stealing their precious video games and rape jokes, they see us as less. That’s why the insults come out, that is why attack campaigns come out for their amusement, that’s why people are allowed to use anonymity to constantly shit on blogs like this one. It doesn’t help that a lot of them are famous, are well-known and possibly make video games.

    Sexism is coursing through your veins and now that you’ve all become “aware” of it in your precious nerd culture, take the power and privilege you have with all your fancy, angry words and put your vast empires where your mouth is. Realize how hard it is? Now you’ll realize what us nerd women have had to deal with for so long now. It’s not easy. And no one is going to pat you on the back for treating women with respect and watching what you say. This is baseline, basic human stuff here. Caring about others and how you present yourself professionally and publicly requires a much higher regard for your audience than talking amongst friends and you guys, those with so much much pull and reach need to fucking realize that for a second. You have the most responsibility to do the right thing and you need to not run around hoping people praise you for it. You should do it because it is the right thing to do.

    If you got huffy and defensive reading any of this, then you still have a long way to go. Maybe you’ll realize what you need to do now though.

     


  4. Why Females Are Oversexualized in Video Games, An Original Perspective From a Dude

    May 7, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    Okay ladies, let’s sit down and read what has to be the most facile, lazy and unexamined piece of thinking about a subject that faces us daily. I was literally jaw agape at how poorly this article was worked out and let’s face it, not surprised in the slightest. I love it when people who are not affected that much by sexism and haven’t even begun to unpack why that is try to poke at the subject of sexism in popular media. It’s like a jolly youth in summer, swinging off a rope into a lake full of contentious, murky depths and splashing around to his heart’s content without a care in the world. He has his fun then walks out and goes home to dry off.

    It must be a joy to be able to take a particularly thorny idea and not actually think about it real hard.

    It starts off with the notion that heterosexual men (you know, the only sexuality that exists, especially in the gaming world) are enchanted and besotted by women and all that fluffy stuff. They can’t help their natural urges and fixate on women in a sexual way. Just a function of instinct and genes! Men are nothing but their sexual desires! Aughh! Do you know what happens when you start off an article with such nonsense? I don’t feel compelled to read much farther. Not only does it center the world (and our popular media by default) in a hetero-normative fashion (gay men, anyone? NON-MALE SEXUALITY IN GENERAL?) but it presumes the fact that all our actions are largely the result of our inability to rise above base urges. Urges that we all have, right? Wrong. Not only are all humans different with their sexual desires but “urges” is a very soft way of saying “I want to not be held responsible or think about how I view people in a sexual manner.” This is a very easy road to go down and suddenly you’re well into the “I couldn’t help myself, she was wearing that article of clothing I like, and…” I’m pretty sure you all know where this is going. Sexuality and sexual proclivities are always, always the responsibility of the person, and men, you are not free from this. I know that society has trained you away from thinking you are responsible for yourselves, in favor of blaming women and your own shoddy caveman mechanics, but you are not. You are free to make choices and act in a responsible manner towards other people and yourself. Men are not obsessed with women. They want to believe that they are, because we’re this magical mysterious body of flesh that tempts them. It’s an unhinged notion that squarely puts the burden of keeping men sated, amused and “in check” on women, despite us never asking for it, wanting it or even being interested in you. It has been like this for centuries.

    Because of this, the author supposes, it’s the whole reason we’ve had power over you, ladies! It’s because we’re driven mad by your sexiness! Rarr!

    Excuse me?

    It’s our fault you’ve kept us chained down by power relationships, allowed years of religious doctrine and societal values keep us penned in? Because of our inherent sexiness? HA! It’s one of the greatest tricks of power, I’ve found, to blame it on the powerless, that it is needed to keep things in line. Men have dictated power over women because men have enjoyed it. This is the crux of it. Power is an intoxicating thing and it has been built so thoroughly into our culture that men do not even have to recognize that it is there. It wants to go unchallenged because that’s how it’s always been. Men have created laws and social structures because it’s good being on top. It isn’t because women are some superior gender (as the author claims) and men are protecting us from them, or keeping us safe. It’s that they cannot bear the idea of us being on equal footing. Men have put themselves in the power position because it’s what introduces the most control over their culture. Making a point that men have done this because of their desire for us misses the point entirely; power is far more seductive than any gender could be. Don’t mistake this. Accept your place in society, men, for what it is. It is that you are on top.

    But hey, you feminists have done some good stuff with this, right? Of course you have! We’re SO acutely aware of sexism in video games now. Yay! Sexism is totally unearthed! We can dust it off and put it in a museum now that we know what it is! Right? Right? 

    No. Sexism is still so embedded in our popular media that every time a new gaming title comes out, I scan the box art and relevant articles in the blog community to see what’s wrong with it, because I’m never surprised when it features women in the ass-and-titties pose. Face it, sexism and how we portray women is still largely unquestioned. I know this because every time it gets brought up, a huge fight in comments usually breaks out.

    It’s okay though, ladies, Gordon is here to explain WHY sexism occurs, too! Do go on, I’m all ears over here.

    First off, the point is reiterated that it’s not about power, it’s that men are sex-obsessed apes. Now, this is stuff I don’t understand. Why are men usually okay with society constantly painting them in a negative light? I think it is because they don’t want the responsibility of their choices. This is all well and good, but as someone who hasn’t been allowed choices or responsibility herself, this is gross. Why don’t men want to be seen as human beings?  It is because it makes it easier to not have to think about the shitty things they do. It exerts control over women and their sexuality, and it allows men an easy “out” for what they do. An alibi, if it were. Not criticizing this process is why we have a lot of problems in our culture. (But still, this is a function of power, make no mistake about that.)

    Secondly, he says that sexism occurs because it is what they think women want. Ha ha! Are you kidding me? Gamer culture is always sold as an entirely straight, white male product. It is always ever seen as a commodity for and by straight white dudes. Don’t even come around here with this “we make this because it is what we think women want.” Look, Gordon. I’m sure you meant well. But video games are not made with women in mind or as a consideration. They always made with what men want. Male characters are male power fantasies and women characters are there with an implicitly straight male audience in mind. (This is also known as “male gaze“.) Historically the only people considered to be nerds or geeks in general were men, they still are largely considered the demographic unless something is especially demarcated “for women.” That is how othered we are by media; that everything is not created for us unless it’s distinctly shoved in our faces as such, usually involving horses, or pink, or some other thing that a male-dominated gaming industry believes we want. It is not, however, a scantily clad demon hunter from Diablo III, as hard as you want to make that argument. Granted, do I enjoy seeing women in a sexual way? Yes. I’m a queer woman, but I don’t even come close to pretending that most of the sexualized images of women I see in video games are for me or things I really want. (First off, despite liking women sexually, I do however have a sense of critical awareness and taste, unlike the men you describe in your article.)

    Thirdly, apparently women are sexualized in video games or treated in a sexist way because –drumroll please– they need feminine traits to balance out all the masculine ones! That’s right, ladies, apparently fighting or wearing armor isn’t a womanly thing to do. Being sexual is! Femininity is sexiness, and shooting guns or serving in an army isn’t. Not to speak of that frequently we’ve not been allowed to because of men and their stupid rules, but because it’s just not what we do! So we need to sexify women characters in video games up because anything else isn’t THAT feminine and men need to believe we are still women (and therefore, still able to be lusted after) even with donning armor or using a weapon or doing anything other than pouting our lips or baking something.

    The article ends on the thoughtful “of course equality isn’t about just wearing …sensible cloths [sic] but also, like, freedom and respect and social status and stuff.” (I might have paraphrased that a touch.) But since Gordon considers himself a sex-obsessed ape male, he doesn’t know honestly if this means big tits and sexy video game characters fit in with this intense paradigm shift. If you couldn’t manage it by virtue of your brain, then why did you even bother tackling sexism? Oh right, I forgot, it is because men always have the need and the right to express their opinions about things they haven’t really felt the sting of or haven’t sat down and properly thought about.

    Sexism in video games is a problem, make no mistake about that. But it is due to the power that men have, or are believed to have in both the industry and the consumer market. It is a lily-white, blanketing idea that the only people buying video games are straight white men. It is who they are created for and they will cop the same problems we have with viewing women and creating women characters that are in every other creative industry. Until we rise up and recognize this across the board and do things to make the gaming world more comfortable for women to a) be employed b) participate in c) be catered to, then we will not see a death of sexism any time soon. If we don’t recognize why it happens, why it occurs and stop shitting up blog articles and comments and Reddit with this tripe about what uninformed men think about sexism, then it won’t be going away. Before you open your mouth to talk about things, men, why don’t you ask some women about sexism in video gaming?

    You might find the answers surprising.

    Hint: It definitely has something to do with not addressing us as “females.”

     


  5. Maxim’s Gamer Girl Contest: Selling the Performances of Gamer Women

    April 11, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    Gaming culture! Gaming culture!

    You hotbed of commodity fetishization, hobby validation and entrenched sexism!

    Thy name is Maxim’s Gamer Girl contest.

    Now, I might get criticized for saying that Maxim of all things, that barely-tasteful lady mag, is a part of gamer culture, but it sure seems to be trying very hard to parcel out its particular brand of glossy lady-selling to the neckbeard set right now. Enter in a contest that combines a nerd’s love of hot nerdy women, competition and opinion validation and you have a perfect storm of exactly What’s Wrong With Gamers.

    I tried really hard to keep my nose out of this whole thing because frankly, I’ve been weathering a long period of anti-feminist criticism and I didn’t need to shit in the faces of people that I actually know online who have chosen to compete in this whole circus. But when I woke up and saw someone I know on Twitter talking about how feminists were lashing out at her on her Facebook page for participating, I knew I had to step in somewhere.  Maxim wants this. This is precisely what a magazine wants: drama, page views and discussion. They want people to have “favorite” women and to have competitors get into “cat fights” and nerds to bicker with each other over who is better or worth more votes. It’s a really sick sad affair all around. But going to a lady’s Facebook and harassing her over her participation in said contest? Low blows.

    The problem here is the contest itself. The whole idea of gamer girls (not women, mind you, never women) seems to still firmly be rooted in what male nerds believe they should be. They are usually a conventionally attractive woman, able-bodied, most often white, with the charm of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and the gamer skills of your bros. But not TOO good, unless you like being beaten by a girl. (Ha-HA!) There have been groups of women who just want to game in peace and on their own terms, but there’s been quite a few women that are quite happy to buy into this and make it their lifestyle or profession. I ain’t mad at them. Getting ahead in a man’s world is what practical women do. It’s my job as the Dissenting Feminist to look at why we have to do these performances, full of lipstick and pink controllers, with allusions to Bastions of Nerd Culture  so that Nerd Men like us.

    It’s because Gamers are still thought of as men. Women gamers have to be sorted aside and indicated as such because women are not gamers by nature. Despite the rise of gaming across all ages in women, we’re still not a part of it. We’re sexy fixtures, novelties, and our status only lasts as long as we can keep fraggin’ and making pouty faces.

    Maxim knows that this is still what lurks in the hearts of gamer men and is preying on it. It’s also preying on a lot of our insecurities and internalized sexism as women too. I’ve seen more than a couple tweets decrying one competitor over another because X lady does things like give out special vote rewards, and this other Y lady doesn’t. The subtle implication here is that X is an attention whore and Y isn’t. It’s about continually policing and validating how women should be behaving in a large dog-and-pony show that’s already designed to make us feel bad about ourselves as gamers and women. Entries upon entries are full of drippy sex performances with peek-a-boo pictures and serious camera faces. It feels like a “meet a date” site with more Horde t-shirts. Vote on your favorite cut of ladymeat, gents, she might crawl out of the computer and gently caress your face while you tell her about your Call of Duty clan. Be passionate on the collectible women on this site and maybe she’ll give you a call on Skype.

    I’m angry that Maxim is dumping money into setting nerds against eachother and pushing the same agenda that it always has in its magazine – making money on the idea that women exist as caricatures for men to enjoy, whether it be the Hot Schoolgirl, or the sexy co-ed, or now the Game-Capable Sexpot. But shame on you if you feel like attacking the women involved for participating in this. If I had a face for competitions and it could possibly get me a bigger job or more money, I’d consider it too. We need to stop pretending that this is about “bad” gamer women or “good” ones. It’s about the whole notion of what gamer girls are and how we need to, as a community, stop selling it wholesale without any agency in our own images. We need to stop defining our womanhood by what men in the gaming sphere think. We need to stop letting dumb bro-mags run online contests under the guise of being our nerdly friend.

    Maxim is no one’s friend, least of all mine.

    Editor’s Note: I will not be linking said contest page because I legitimately don’t want to give them more traffic. You can search for it quite easily if you wish.


  6. Out, Damn’d Spot!

    April 1, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    Something I invariably wanted to focus here on my blog is mental illness. Specifically, my own. I think one of the easier parts of feminism is letting go of yourself and focusing on the cause, but as far ableism and mental illnesses (also referred to as MIs) intersect with that, it can often be hard to talk about or discuss.

    I’ve noticed that one of the topics a lot of us (my Twitter followers, that is) talk about in relation to our own issues, regardless of what they may be, is keeping a living space clean. I say “living space” because a lot of us do not live in a house. Some of us live in apartments, or even sublet rooms. Some of us still live at home with our parents or relatives. A living space is where, I believe, you spend a good portion of your time. This can include not just the entire domicile (that we may or may not share), or just the portion we’re responsible for.

    Let me tell you, cleaning sucks. I don’t think it has to be said that everyone on the face of the planet, MIs or not, usually do not leap at the chance at cleaning things. But add to the fact that people might have anxieties related to cleaning, or fixations, or are working through depression and it suddenly becomes a losing battle to try and do it every day. Add to that fact that a lot of people who suffer from mental illness are acutely aware of this fact? Not having a clean house is practically seared into our brains as “abnormal” and that we’re falling right into the perception that people have of the mentally ill. It sucks. It really does.

    I have conflicting problems: I have an intense anxiety about things not being clean and cluttered. But I also sometimes do not have the mental energy to clean. You can see already why this might be a touch problematic.  In my mind, a slight amount of mess means my house goes from 0 to Hoarders without much reflection that it is not. I like my living spaces fairly cleaned up, especially my computer desk. The problem arises though when the entire house has gone un-picked up for days and I am in a mushy, depressive slump. It just adds to the guilt, the anxiety and all the other things that woefully come with it. This isn’t new ground, even for the Internet. The responsibility to make things live-able, especially when I have another person inhabiting this place, is a crucial one.

    So what do I do? I cannot say that all my tips and tricks will help you. I specifically have anxiety issues and bipolar disorder, and that might not work for you.

    • Do a little bit each day – it is so easy to let stuff pile up, especially if you are busy. Doing one chore or something easy every day not only keeps something clean (which is mentally rewarding) but it also lets the entire place from falling apart. It also lessens the work done when you tackle a bigger task like cleaning the stove-top or the bathroom.
    • Organize – having things in a certain spot not only helps with me being able to find stuff, but it also means it’s easy to put everything in a place. It creates “flow”, which I think is organizational speak for “you can’t sit on the floor eating ice cream with a plastic shovel with your shoes in the sink.”
    • Break it down – take bigger tasks and make them into lots of little ones. It means you can come back and not feel overwhelmed if you have to stop.
    • Schedule (or not) – This is one of those suggestions that is fairly polarizing. Some people work amazingly well with a schedule, others don’t. I like a schedule to some degree whether it is a deadline (“Get this done by this date”) or a regular day to do things. Being flexible does help though, which is why I give myself a couple of days leeway on even weekly tasks.
    • Get help! – This is pretty crucial if you have a partner, housemate or significant other living with you. Ask for help. It’s not a big deal. I know how it feels you should be able to maintain an entire household but some days you can’t. It’s not bad. You’re not a bad person. Sometimes this might mean, if you can afford it, getting a cleaning person. I do not have a cleaning person but I know some friends of mine who do. That’s okay! Sometimes we don’t have enough time (or spoons, or whatever) to clean.
    • Admit defeat, do it gracefully – don’t cycle yourself into a guilt spiral if you don’t get to clean stuff. Cleaning is something you can do when you feel better. Shaming yourself doesn’t get it done nor does it make you feel better.

    The Problem With Cleaning and Media Perceptions of Mental Illness

    One of the biggest pressures I think those of us with MIs face with regards to our living spaces is that it the easiest way to appear “normal” – so much advertising and media, especially aimed at those of us who identify as women, is focused on a tidy home. It’s what we as women need to focus on! Whether it is the latest product for cleaning, or some way to make our lives easier to clean, a spotless home is considered central to a woman’s value and her public life if you believed ads. As a feminist, especially one with a mental illness, it’s pretty easy to see how society focuses on clean homes as a way of conforming to feminine performativity and how mental illness can cause us to spiral down when we cannot perform a basic task expected of us. It afflicts us in all stages of life: a single woman with matted hair and lots of cats, a married woman who shames her husband. I could talk a lot more about just the basic problem with regards to women and MIs, but I feel that might be a longer blog post for another time.

    Another problem is that a lot of the gross, exploitative reality TV shows out there often pick on people with MIs or other problems (like being poor, ya!) so that it reinforces the notion that you’re a terrible person if you have MIs and live in a pigsty. It conflates all MIs with “unhealthy” levels of cleanliness. The aforementioned Hoarders does this quite well. Hoarders is one of those shows I really need to not watch, but I succumb to the temptation sometimes when it’s late at night and I’m up on Netflix. It is to my anxieties that most horror films are to children – I watch it through my fingers sometimes. But what I’m ultimately left with is how much TV plays on the idea that people with mental illnesses are unable to function normally all the time. While this might be true for some people, a great deal of people manage a couple portions of their lives (if not all of it) in a typical fashion. Mental illnesses can disable our ability to function in some areas, but not all. And if they do? That’s part of dealing with an illness. I just feel that so many reality TV shows profit off the idea that crazy people are all living in gross nest of our own excrement, and don’t really empathize with how someone on that show might get that way. Hoarding is part of a complex network of psychological pitfalls and anxiety. It’s one more way that media fails at representing those of us with MIs in a responsible, realistic fashion.

    I’d really enjoy it if advertising and popular media didn’t fixate so heavily on our living spaces being the clear shame and identifier of our lives. I’d really love it if we didn’t exploit those of us with MIs for popular entertainment. I’d love it if I didn’t feel so compulsed to keep a house spotless because I’m a woman, and didn’t have such issues with it because of my anxiety.