I apologize for the lack of a July gender reader. I always end up gathering links right as a topic explodes in the media, and my own fandoms have gone a bit mad lately, which resulted in a Sherlock marathon in between the Olympics, traveling, and trying to sort out my thoughts about Elisabeth. Lately I’ve been collecting links on two subjects: geek culture and bodies. Some of these are old news, but I hope that by gathering them in one place, I can show trends in subsections of this subject.
Warning: articles contain spoilers for some series; discussions of sexism, rape.
Navigating the Internet
Aja Romano. “Destructoid Writer Takes Aim at Felicia Day, Shoots Himself in the Foot.” The Mary Sue. 2 July 2012.
In the June Gender Reader, I posted about the horrifyingly sexist reaction to Anita Sarkeesian’s project Tropes vs Women in Video Games. This time, we have Ryan Perez, formerly of Destructoid, who twote about Felicia Day’s irrelevance to geek culture, calling her a glorified booth babe, then issued a series of weak apologies. While you may shrug and say “how unremarkable, a sexist on the Internet,” there are two key points here. 1. What Perez’s comments’ seeming normality means about our culture, and 2. that Day, her friends, and her fans fought back, ending his career at Destructoid.
Perez’s words made it abundantly clear that pervasive, ongoing sexism begins with a basic lack of respect and recognition for women, from the basic harassment catalogued every day at Fat, Ugly, or Slutty, to veteran female game developers who will only speak anonymously about how they’re afraid to speak at all, and female games reporters disgusted with convention staff assuming they know nothing about video games despite their credentials. If a woman who has contributed as much to the culture, genre, and perception of gaming as Felicia Day can be dismissed as “a glorified booth babe” by someone who hasn’t even bothered to read her “portfolio,” then it’s safe to say that the problem is even worse on the ground for less well-known women who make their living in the industry, much less for female gamers themselves.
Kate Beaton. “Straw Feminists in the Closet.” Hark! A Vagrant. Aug. 2012.
And if you think, “Poor Perez, his mistake meant misandrists won! A loss in the battle against men on the Internet! Curse those women standing up for their right to be treated as human!”, let me refer you to this comic.
Jon Bois. “Meet ‘Guy On The Internet,’ Champion Of The Dullards.” Progressive Boink. 25 June 2012.
It’s really beyond me how and why people like Perez and the hoards of faceless anons think that they need to speak out against women and minorities on the Internet, and yet we treat their vocalized discrimination as if it were totally normal. Or as we say, “Don’t read the comments.” Who are these men who must “defend” their patriarchal privilege as if they were the ones under attack?
Humans have fallen for this gag for thousands of years: they’re tricked into thinking they’re fighting for a revolution, only to do and say the same old shit, the shit that’s shackled humanity ever since we decided to start living next to one another. They see a wave of people saying, “make me a sandwich, bitch,” and holy shit do they want to belong to this party. Holy shit do they want to buttress the status quo that has stood firm for eons before they ever came along, and totally does not need their help at all.
Rape Culture and the Geek
Aja Romano. “TV Tropes Deletes Every Rape Trope; Geek Feminism Wiki steps in.” The Mary Sue. 26 June 2012.
—-. “TV Tropes Restores Rape Tropes.” The Mary Sue. 27 June 2012.
TV Tropes has been an invaluable resource to me as a reference for discussing love and violence and sexism, so I was quite shocked to see that it had been (temporarily) taken down because of Google AdSense. The pages are back up, but the articles contain an interesting discussion of the need to discuss rape culture in the media. Which leads me to our next articles:
Contains spoilers for Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire. This is an older piece, but as my friends are into fantasy author George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, I decided to try to watch the TV adaptation, Game of Thrones. Yes, I was sucked in by the epic theme sequence, but I just couldn’t get into it because of the positioning of masculine women = good; feminine anyone = bad (see article for details). Then Kathryn sent me this article, spoiled the first four books for myself on purpose, consulted said friends about if this article were accurate, and decided my time would be better spent on other fantasy.
I could get into the reasons why, here. I could try to construct some kind of nuanced argument for you. I could talk about how the impulse to revisit an airbrushed, dragon-infested Medieval Europe strikes me as fundamentally conservative — a yearning for a time when (white) men brandished swords for their King, (white) women stayed in the castle and made babies, marriage was a beautiful sacrament between a consenting adult and whichever fourteen-year-old girl he could manage to buy off her Dad, and poor people and people of color were mostly invisible — or how racism and sexism have been built into the genre ever since Tolkien.
Wundergeek. “Geek Media: What’s With All the Rape?” Gaming As Women. 31 May 2012.
Another article Kathryn sent was “What’s With All the Rape?”, a dissection of how rape is badly used as a narrative function in media. This includes in shows I actually like, by the way, in case you think my dislike of GoT is unfairly picking on that series/genre.
It is seriously, seriously depressing how common it is to take a female character who is strong, competent, and badass and then “explain” that strength as being a reaction to rape, or to show her “being strong” by having her react to being raped. As such, it’s its own particular subset of awful, awful vagina tragedies.
Interacting with Geek Women
Katie Williams. “I Can Be Just As Capable. Let Me.” Kotaku Australia. 18 June 2012.
Let’s move on from rape culture to geeks of different sexes/genders attempting to interact with each other. The same misogyny, blatant or latent (read: White Knights and Nice Guys), applies in real life, too. Williams, who writes about video games professionally, discusses sexism in the gaming industry:
And so there I was, hands twisted awkwardly and uselessly in my lap as a guy walked me through his game. In laboured detail, he explained to me simple mechanics that any shooter player would be well-acquainted with. He avoided the gameplay due to some apparent strange belief that I was not there to learn about shooting things in a shooter game, that perhaps my delicate girl senses might be offended by killing with guns and missiles. He pointed out rabbits in the grass with all the condescension of an adult trying to distract a noisy toddler, as if my interest in this simulation-grade shooter lay in some wildly misguided assumption that it would be full of adorable, fluffy animals.
Leah Jane. “Geek Culture Wants a Cookie & A Pat on the Head for Not Creating Kim Kardashian.” The Quixotic Autistic. 16 June 2012.
—. “I’m Not the Only One….” The Quixotic Autistic. 17 June 2012.
A two-parter dissecting the Pop Culture vs. Geek Culture image that many of us found through George Takei’s facebook page. (I do love Takei, but that doesn’t mean he’s infallible). Leah Jane examines the original image in the first article and, in the second, the image with an addendum: “No Free Passes.”
What also bothers me about who was chosen to exemplify the traits of a “good role model” is that the characters are involved in combat in some way or another, hence the conclusion that one should buy their daughter “a ray-gun” instead of a Barbie. It’s a good time to be a tomboy, with Katniss Everdeen, Merida, Black Widow, and other tough ladies on the big screen, and women like the ones above on the small screen. That’s great! But why is that the most laudable, or, as the image tells us, the only acceptable way to be a woman and express yourself? There are multiple ways of being a woman, or being a man. Images like this seem to set up a dichotomy, where you are either a tough warrior woman, or a passive, overly sexual tart, with no in between or chance to go by your own rules.
I’ve been told once or twice that geek culture is about egalitarianism and giving people who are interested in science or fantasy a safe-space where we will can be ourselves without getting shoved into lockers. The thing is, though, that even though geek culture has helped make contributions for a more equal society, like the first scripted interracial kiss on TV, there are still more than enough problems for us to tackle, from privileging the performance of masculinity for women to whitewashing in live-action versions Akira, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Cowboy Bebop! to a general lack of diversity.
Monthly Bit of Good News
“10 Badass LGBTQ Characters From Television.” The Mary Sue. 27 June 2012.
We’d like this list to serve not only as a celebration of LGBTQ characters on television, but also as a reminder that this is not the end all be all of queer representation: there is so much work to be done, and maybe one day we’ll be able to publish a power grid of queer characters without a disclaimer accounting for all the identities overlooked or misrepresented.
Have reading suggestions for me? Send them my way in the comments!