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Essay

What We Aren’t Talking About When We Talk About Inclusion and Representation, And What We Are


Last week on Kotaku, there was an excerpt from an interview with game creator Gavin Moore, who spoke strongly against the idea of an optional female protagonist in his upcoming game Puppeteer. I’m not going to directly pick apart what was said, because there’s already been plenty of digital ink spilled on that front, and besides, that’s not quite my style. But the full interview did kick me into thinking about the all-encompassing conversation concerning inclusion and representation. It’s not just happening in games. It’s happening in comics. It’s happening in movies. It’s happening in SF/F (and how). This conversation has engulfed all of popular culture — particularly geek culture — and it’s gotten messy. The thing that stuck with me about that interview was not that I disagreed — in a number of cases, I didn’t — but that it missed the point of what the conversation is about.

And so, I offer the most navel-gazing question ever: what is it actually about?

I can’t answer that for everyone, but I know what it’s about to me. You may agree, or you may not, which (as I’ll get to later) is exactly as it should be. And though I’ll be using gender inclusion as my primary example (because that’s my jam), when I say inclusion, I mean for everybody. Apply it as you please.

Let me briefly touch on the interview, so you know where I’m jumping off from. Early on, Moore mentions an argument he had over mock reviews of his game. For those not familiar with the practice, mock reviews are exactly what they sound like — reviews commissioned by developers well ahead of release, with the intent of getting an idea of how their game will be received. In this quote, Moore describes the response he got for Puppeteer, which has a fixed-gender male protagonist.

I: There has been a lot of talk lately about options, about gender, about the video games, so…
M: Well, you know, I did have a massive argument actually. We do mock reviews where we send it out to a service, right? Where they review the game for us. It’s not a real review.
I: Yeah, I know mock reviews.
M: And they tell us all the things, all the positives and negatives what they think, right? And they were telling me “Oh yeah, well it’s just a boy. Well it should be a girl”

Moore goes on to say “I’m not going to change my creative vision over something because somebody tells me that that’s what’s important now.” He also disparages the idea of, to paraphrase, wanting girls to play as girls and boys to play as boys.

First things first. It’s just a boy? It should be a girl? Holy cats, does that make me Hulk out. So much so that I’m going to start by breaking down what the conversation about gender inclusion is not.

It’s not about telling creators what they can and cannot make.

I believe that the inclusion of women and minorities in popular culture is vital to both enriching our stories and strengthening our society. I believe every bit as strongly in freedom of expression. As someone who spends most of her time making stuff up, the idea of being told “your character isn’t good enough because s/he’s not [insert demographic here]” galls me. Creators have the right to tell whatever stories they want. Period.

There is a huge, huge difference between discussing underrepresentation or exploring how stories would change with differently gendered characters, and pointing at an existing male character and implying that they’re not important or creative or interesting because they’re not a woman, or a girl. I am not down with that, at all. Identifying overarching trends in storytelling — such as the imbalance of female and male protagonists — does not mean individual stories are necessarily bad or wrong for following those trends. The mere existence of a trope does not condemn the work in which it exists.

It’s not about women “needing” to play as (or read about, or watch movies about) women.

I’m going to focus for a moment here on variable character gender in games, another concept mentioned in the interview. Do I appreciate having the option? Yes, every time. Do I think there are a lot of games in which the story and the gameplay would not change at all if they included a choice of gender? Absolutely. But it doesn’t work in every game. Sometimes, you need a set-in-stone main character, and yeah, sometimes, that character is a dude. It all depends on the story you want to tell. I can’t get behind chastising an isolated game solely for not having gender selection or a female protagonist. I may, however, question why it didn’t. Sometimes there may be a very good reason for it, and I may totally agree with it. Sometimes there may not be a reason at all (and I do think there is value in pointing that out). Either way, the question is not meant to imply that the choice has to be there, or that the game is inferior for not having it.

And yes, there are some gamers — both male and female — who only want to play as their own gender, and won’t consider doing otherwise. That’s fine. There are plenty more who are happy either way. Creators are never going to make everyone happy, but they should consider their options all the same.

It’s not about being trendy, or about tokenism.

Inclusion does not equate to an obligation to add a female character. Put her there because you want to, because she feels right for your story, because you believe in her with all your heart. If you don’t want to, don’t! But if you do, don’t do it for the hashtag, and don’t do it in a half-assed attempt to cross something off your checklist. The audience can smell that from a mile away.

That said, while gender representation is a relatively new discussion in gaming (purely because gaming is the newest medium on the block), the larger conversation has been present for a long, long time. True, the conversation nowadays is bigger and louder than ever before, but it did not appear Athena-like on the day social media was invented, cleaving its way out of a comment thread. Just because a lot of people are talking about it now — probably because it’s easier to talk about it now — does not mean that it has only just recently become important. Women are not a trend.

Which brings me to what the conversation is about — to my mind, at least.

It’s about making the audience feel included.

Knowing your audience isn’t pandering. It’s…it’s knowing your audience. It’s the most basic, necessary thing about telling stories in a making-a-living sort of way. You have to be true to yourself, but you also have to consider who you want to talk to. If you’re unintentionally excluding or alienating someone you want present to, you need to know about it, and you need to consider how best to address it. If you don’t want to address it, that’s fine, but you should recognize this narrowing of who you want your audience to be.

It’s about inspiring creators to consider perspectives other than their own.

Let me switch over to my creator hat for a moment. There are few things more valuable to me, as a writer, than discovering a perspective relating to my work that I have never before considered. Without seeking new information, my work will stagnate. Everything I make is influenced by my identity — my gender, my race, my sexuality, my physical ability, my economic class, the culture in which I was raised, the philosophies I adhere to. In some ways, that’s great, because that’s me! That’s my voice! But it also means that I, like everyone, run the risk of getting lazy. Without considering outside perspectives, all my characters will feel and sound like me — or, they’ll feel and sound like my desires and my biases. To some extent, that’s unavoidable, but I can still always strive for my work to be better than that.

So when readers and other creators offer their perspectives on the world, or on how stories work, or on how stories make them feel, I find it valuable to listen. It makes me go, “Oh, you’re right, I hadn’t thought of that.” That realization is priceless.

Back to my commentator hat. The hands-down best, most humbling thing about writing for The Mary Sue is that every so often, I’ll get an email from a developer or writer or artist who says “Oh, you’re right, I hadn’t thought of that.” Or even, “Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that, but I’m not sure I agree,” which can be equally rewarding. We bounce ideas around, we ask each other questions, and I usually learn more about my own work in the process. It’s high-grade fuel for making new stuff.

Now, some folks aren’t interested in expanding their perspectives, and are perfectly happy with having an audience that only wants said same. I have no argument with that, even though that’s not how I roll. But you can stay in your comfort zone and still encourage and welcome stories from all perspectives. Because…

It’s about encouraging and welcoming stories from all perspectives.

One of the most common responses to discussions of inclusion, especially when they come from critics or fans instead of creators, is “Stop complaining about someone else’s work. If you want stories to change, you write them.” And yeah, we should! The wonky representation we’re talking about is a direct result of our media being overwhelmingly created by just one slice of humanity. “Straight white male” often comes off as a dismissive phrase, but it shouldn’t be. We need that perspective, too, because it’s just as present as the rest of us. The problem is that right now, we’ve got an imbalance, a storytelling culture that favors that perspective above others. The stories and characters we commonly see do not present a complete picture of the world we live in. The rest of us are part of the narrative, too.

The trick with fixing that imbalance is that there’s no one root cause. Let’s focus on women in games again, for the sake of example. Games have a long history of poorly representing women, both in negative stereotyping and outright absence (as with all things, there are exceptions). Within the gamer community, harassing and bullying women is common, both in game and at conventions. As for women in the gaming industry — I’ll just leave it at “#1reasonwhy.” All of these things feed off of each other. All of these things impact current and future creators. It’s a barrier of entry that doesn’t exist for others, and it can stop creators dead in their tracks before they ever get started. So yes, we need to be telling our stories, but we also need an environment that welcomes us. Chicken and egg.

We’re not asking for anyone to do the work for us. We’re identifying our difficulty level, and we’re hoping to pick up some allies along the way. Inclusion isn’t possible unless we all work together.

This isn’t about making sure we have a perfect 1:1 ratio of male-to-female characters. It’s not about statistics, or homogenization. It’s about telling better, more varied stories. It’s about putting games and books and comics in the hands of everyone who wants them. It’s about building bigger, stronger industries. It’s about trying our damnedest to shift our society into one where all stories, all people, are given the chance to shine. Even the ones we may not be interested in. Even the ones we don’t like.

So what’s the inclusion conversation about? It’s about a big table, which has room enough for everyone, but is only used by a few. Those who are already there — be they creators or consumers — can stay. Should stay. What we want is to bring in a few more chairs.

Becky Chambers is a freelance writer and a full-time geek. Like most internet people, she has a website. She can also always be found on Twitter as @beckysaysrawr.

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  • Anonymous

    “It’s not about telling creators what they can and cannot make.” This can’t be said enough. Nobody is banning anyone from ever making another movie, game, or comic starring a white male. Lord knows those will continue probably until the end of time.

    The point of having discussions about inclusiveness in pop culture is to maybe point out there is a disparity and that the current crop of creative types could stand to diversify their current protagonist template a bit. Nobody is FORCING anyone to do anything.

  • Emily

    I really appreciate this article. I think you are right in the fact that the point of the inclusion conversation is often lost. It is a discussion to examine possibilities, not to force a perspective on creators. It’s about asking questions, adding ideas and trying to give a wider range of possibilities. In discussion the point can get so easily lost or misinterpreted that it causes greater frustration.

    Thank you for the interesting article.

  • http://anna.balasi.com/ AnnaB

    I guess I can understand that in some cases, a game absolutely has to have just that ONE DUDE, but I guess that’s for really old, tradition-locked characters? I guess if the game were based on a true story of a soldier, who happened to be male and straight, trapped behind enemy lines, it could be argued that in order for the game to stay true to the story, he had to be the absolute only player of the game. But with everything else, creativity can come into play, right? Sure, forcing characters other than a heterosexual guy into a game can be sniffed out, but then that’s the point, isn’t it? You make that standard–that the games would be better off inclusive of all genders and sexual orientation, and work from that standard of creativity, that starting point, that way, they wouldn’t have to wedge a woman character or LGBT character in there. It wouldn’t looked forced because that standard of inclusion was there in its conception. In this day and age, there are very little instances in which something absolutely involves just that one heterosexual guy. There are plenty of stories to tell.

  • Anonymous

    I think Gavin Moore had a strong argument when he said he shouldn’t have to listen to other people when he was making his game but I didn’t like the way he did it. His reaction was overly defensive and I would’ve liked to see acknowledge that there are very good reasons why people should ask for more female video game character but that this was just not the right game to give a choice.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s more the case of heavily scripted games. It makes sense that a RPG would always have a choice but a game like The Last of Us is designed to have a specific main character.

  • Christopher LaHaise

    You raise excellent points. I took a quick hop over to the link to see what the story was about, and I think it hits the nail on the head. The story doesn’t ‘have’ to have a female role in it – and the absence doesn’t detract from the game. (For example, the game Limbo has only a male character, and it’s fine.) This doesn’t make the game bad – or exclusive. For the purpose of the story, sex selection is a non-issue, and that’s okay. It isn’t about forcing every game designer to have both a male and female option.

    What a game should have, I feel, is the opportunity to have the player feel included. If the game is well designed, and the characters are fleshed out, this isn’t going to be that hard. It isn’t about pandering to any specific group (or all groups), but instead dealing with your audience in an intelligent and thoughtful manner. As a game designer, you shouldn’t be going ‘well, let’s have people select their sex, and their colour, and their sexual identity, and their religion, so we include everyone!’, but more, ‘would this help tell a good story’, or ‘would this help the player connect with the game more’? If you’re doing an action hero game – does the character have to be ‘white’ and ‘male’? Would it detract from the game if the character was, say, black and female? If it makes sense in context, then sure, go for it. But I think it should be done with an eye towards good storytelling, and not just to ‘pander’. The idea is to be inclusive, without being condescending.

    The thing is, it’s going to be a balancing act. People want to feel included, and I think they have the right to be. I think there’s an onus on game companies to be inclusive. But I think we have to be careful that this inclusion is more of a natural thing, rather than companies and designers trying to pander to the public, and show ‘see, we’re inclusive!’. We want games to be something we can identify with and enjoy, without feeling we’re being talked down to, and without companies forcing their designers to make ‘inclusive’ games to score points with a certain demographic. It… stinks a little too much of ‘I’m not racist! I know a black person!’, which is a statement which makes me want to grab an aspirin from the sudden rage-induced headache I get.

  • Anonymous

    Very well said. I was not aware of the Gavin Moore controversy because I’m not much of a gamer myself. The points that you brought up are are very poignant though, and (as you stated) can be applied to all sorts of media and underrepresented groups. Many people don’t understand that inclusion doesn’t mean that [insert group] has to be present in every instance no matter how forced, but just that, at the very least, the consideration is there and that it’s welcomed and encouraged when it does happen.

  • Seth Brodbeck

    True, but as Becky points out, it is worth questioning whether the specific character in question actually needs to be a specific gender/race/sexuality/etc. To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, criticism is an opportunity for the creator to examine their artistic conscience; once the question is asked, the creator can examine whether they needed that specific character, or if it was written out of habit (and hopefully this will inspire/challenge them to try to write from a different perspective in the future).

  • Anonymous

    My point wasn’t that the character in LoU needed to be a white male, my point was that the game creators needed to make a choice. The original post was wondering why a certain character needed to be the only player of the game.

  • Ashe

    Great points raised. Ah, how you’ll never hear the words ‘pandering’ and ‘straight cis able-bodied white male’ put in the same sentence together. The moment you deviate from that absurdly specific template?

    PANDERING!

    When people only want to portray a very specific and narrow slice of humanity, that’s shitty art.

    Humans come in so many different shapes and sizes. So many different backgrounds, experiences, skills, flaws, you name it. With six billion people on the planet and counting, the world is your oyster to choose all your inspirations from at will. And when you decide to go with a type of human that’s become a glorified checklist in media over and over and over and over?

    It’s like doing a life study of a rainbow on a sunny day and you only put down blue. You’re not conveying life. You’re conveying a tiny, watered down shred of life. At worst, it’s excluding women, POC, sexualities and gender identities, which can bleed into unconscious prejudices and support biases. At best? It’s boring!

    Straight white men are fine with boring as long as they can stay in the spotlight, which is why we need to keep pushing for inclusion. It opens the door for new ways to tell stories, new perspectives to tell them from, and more resonance with people that are already given the shaft in our society.

    Inclusion isn’t an option: it’s necessary for better art.

  • Ashe

    Hell, even back then, there were people who weren’t straight and weren’t male doing incredible things.

    Exclusion only makes sense in very specific incidences, yet it’s done all the time.

  • Jenevieve DeFer

    The problem is that everyone uses the “The story doesn’t support having a Woman” as an excuse. It may just be time to make a point of being inclusive no matter what. To make creators come up with Creative solutions to include Women in their creations. I think making them stretch beyond what is “comfortable” will make for better stories in the long run. Making a creator ask themselves “Does this story work if I have a woman as a protagonist” will help eradicate some of the more noxious belittling tropes (ie the Maiden in Distress). It has to start somewhere, it has to start sometime soon.

  • Anonymous

    Once I heard someone explain that a certain game wouldn’t support a female character because the story called for the character to have a girlfriend.

    I didn’t have the heart to explain that that isn’t how it works…

  • Christopher LaHaise

    There are times when the creator is being disingenuous and times when they’re right. The thing is, not every story ‘has’ to have a woman, just like not every story ‘has’ to have a man. Mirror’s Edge? Could have had a guy, and didn’t – and I think it worked very well. The Portal series? Same thing. But look at Bioshock – if you had a woman in the lead role, the dynamics for the game would have been significantly different. It wouldn’t be bad, but it would have been *significantly* different. The thing is, like it or not, there is baggage associated with having a male character or a female character, and while the overall story might be similar, there will be some differences in the finer details – and that might be enough to veer the story away from what the creator wants. I do think we should have games with strong female roles, I do think we need to get rid of ‘maiden in distress’ syndrome, and I do think we need games where the player can choose between a male or a female (or black, or white, or Asian, or whatever) roles. I just don’t think we need to push for *every* game to provide these options.

    It’s one thing when the game’s got a ‘generic identity character’ – Mario, Pokemon, etc. Those, obviously, should have variation for the player. When you get into deep RPGs however, you have to look at the story itself, and see where sex or race or religion would play a factor in how characters would act or react. At times, the impact might be minimal – in which case, sure, go for it. At other times, the impact may be more significant. If you’re making a Steampunk Victorian setting, the position of male and female could be QUITE significant – especially if you’re keeping Victorian values in place – and it would make for a significantly different story. If you’re wanting to explore these options as a game designer, excellent. If you’re aiming for a specific type of story, it might be better to avoid going too far into this.

    Actually, come to think of it, Assassin’s Creed is a good example, when you’re looking at #1 and #2. Changing the sex of the main character (and the assassins themselves)? Would have a HUGE impact on the game – and veer significantly away from the story being told.

  • Christopher LaHaise

    >.< Oy. Yeah.

  • Ashe

    what’s a lesbin

  • James Desborough

    “Within the gamer community, harassing and bullying women is common, both in game and at conventions.”

    Is there anything to back up this assertion? Any actual studies or records that show it to be above normal rates in any other social gatherings?

  • malkavian

    “When you get into deep RPGs however, you have to look at the story
    itself, and see where sex or race or religion would play a factor in how
    characters would act or react.”

    Mass Effect and Dragon Age were both huge RPGs where your character could be either sex, among other things. If Dragon Age can have 6 different orgins (7 if you count human and elf mages separately) AND the option to make your character male or female, and can still make the story experience reflect both your character’s sex and origin, there are really no excuses to be had.

  • Laszlo

    Yes, there’s definitely proof that it happens often. As for being more common than anywhere else, I don’t know, but nobody said that anyway.

  • Christopher LaHaise

    Dragon Age is a sandbox game with a story arc. I can’t talk about Mass Effect, having not played or study it. Yes, it can be done – I’m not denying it. I’m saying it is a consideration.

  • Anonymous

    Great article. The only point I take issue with is this:

    “And yes, there are some gamers — both male and female — who only want to
    play as their own gender, and won’t consider doing otherwise. That’s
    fine.”

    I’m uncomfortable with the idea that there are people who are that opposed to playing a game with a protagonist that doesn’t share their gender. As a male, I’ve enjoyed many games with female leads: Tomb Raider, Metroid, and Heavenly Sword being just a few examples of games I love with female protagonists and no option for a male protagonist. If gender (or race) is the line gamers refuse to cross – despite still playing characters that in no other way resemble themselves – then I have to question what it is that prevents them from being open to taking the role of someone of another gender, ethnicity, or nationality. If I can assume the role of an Italian plumber who can throw fireballs then I can surely play a game where I assume the role of a female adventurer/archaeologist.

    I have no issue with people being drawn to choose/create characters that more closely resemble themselves – when there’s an option to do so; as a black male I like to create/choose characters who have darker skin tones just because there are so few in games otherwise. But to not play a game because I don’t have the option to create a male character, or a black character, or a heterosexual character, or an American…that would reveal some questionable social beliefs that I don’t think it’s ok to legitimize.

  • malkavian

    Dragon Age isn’t a sandbox game, despite all the choice afforded the player. There’s no open world/roaming, ‘levels’/environments are fairly set, enemies do not respawn, and there are very few side quests. Nearly all of the game is devoted to the main storyline and to character development between your party members. Mass Effect is much the same way, except the level structure is even more strict, and for the most part you can’t leave a mission you’ve begun.

  • James Desborough

    ‘It happens’ is different to the idea that it is ‘common’.
    I would have thought that there would be some good data on this. :-/

  • malkavian

    http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/WaiYenTang/20130208/186335/Reactions_to_a_womans_voice_in_an_FPS_game.php

    “Numbers wise, the female player had received three times as many directed negatives than the male player or voiceless one.”

  • James Desborough

    At cons?

  • Fluka

    I want games with customizable main characters *and* ones with well-defined main characters. I want characters where the gender doesn’t matter in the slightest (Chell) *and* ones where the gender is part of their character. The problem right now, and the reason I almost always play a female character in a game like Skyrim or Mass Effect, is that nine times out of ten, the strongly written preset character is going to be a straight, white, 30-something brown-haired man. And hell, there are some fantastic characters that are straight, white, 30-something brown-haired men, where one or all of those qualities is central to the plot (e.g., the newest BioShock game).

    Now and then, though, it’s good to see a game make the conscious choice to tell a story which stars someone who doesn’t fit the above rubric. And actually makes use of those qualities. Like you say, Faith and Chell are proof that good female characters can lead mainstream games, but their gender is largely incidental, and neither is well-developed. It’d be really nice to have more female characters who couldn’t just be swapped out for male characters, though. (In a way other than relying on tired gender stereotypes like Other M, though.) We’ve had tons of games about fatherhood even in the past year, but not really any about motherhood, for instance. It’d be nice to see the experiences of my half of the human race explored for a change. Cuz as it is, this year’s major “serious” game release lineup is pretty much another in-depth exploration of those who are white, male, straight, and brown-haired (see: BioShock, The Last of Us, Watchdogs, 2/3 of Grand Theft Auto, etc.).

  • malkavian

    Your quote said ‘in games and at cons.’

    There haven’t been any scientific studies done at cons that I know of, and you asked for good data, which is why I posted said link. Because it contains good data and good data collection methods. But there have been a crap ton of anecdotes, including ones from industry shows were people are supposed to be acting like damned professionals.

    http://kotaku.com/the-creepy-side-of-e3-513484271

  • James Desborough

    So no then.

    I think this needs to be done.

    It’s impossible to make informed decisions without good data and the impact of scaremongering is incredibly damaging to gender parity in attendance. (Ref: The Amazing Meeting).

  • James Desborough

    Oh and I think the study is a good start, but I wonder if there would be comparable harassment for people with young sounding voices, old sounding voices, tags/comments that identified them as gay and so on.

    It is my suspicion that being of the female gender is just one of the easiest identifiers for trolls and smack-talkers to know how to target someone and upset them.

    OT though.

  • Fluka

    Yeah. It reminds me of the Assassin’s Creed 4 director’s response, when someone asked why they had chosen another guy for the new game. “We actually never thought, ‘could this be a woman?’” The thought didn’t even occur to them. Furthermore, he talks about having a female pirate being a “detail people got stuck on.” As always, white male = default.

  • Christopher LaHaise

    No arguments from me. :)

  • Lapin

    Excellent article. It seems like every time we speak up and say ‘maybe gaming culture would more interesting if we had more female characters’, we’re treated as if what we’re asking for would destroy gaming culture entirely, or something similar. Like creating more varied stories and characters would be a bad thing. That blows my mind.

    It’s like they think we’re asking companies to take time/ resources away from AAA titles to make “Hair-braiding and Nail-painting: The Game” (because isn’t that what women like?!?!), when what we really want is more games like Halo and Call of Duty, but with female protagonists. I guess they think there’s no way game companies could possibly write stories about women that are just as compelling as stories about men.

    And it makes me sad that the opposition keeps insisting that we’re only arguing ‘just for the sake of arguing’. I ask for more female protagonists because I like playing games, because I am a viable customer, and it would be nice to see more characters like me (and like all of the other people of the world).

  • Fluka

    I’m not sure how the equitable harassment of old people, gay people, etc. would somehow make the 3x harassment rate of women in games any better.

    Data is wonderful. I should know – I analyze it for a living. However, actual personal experience actually matters more than a little bit here. There’s been a massive outpouring in the past year or so of women saying that they feel uncomfortable or unwelcome in this community. The huge number of people responding to #1reasonwhy, the people who defended the Cross Assault sexism, the horrendous hateful backlash against Anita Sarkeesian – surely these are bits of significant signal over the usual noise? Yes, this is not a rigorous statistical analysis. But denying the experience of the many women who’ve spoken up about harassment online or at conventions, saying that they don’t feel safe or welcome, is more than a little disingenuous.

  • Anonymous

    “If I can assume the role of an Italian plumber who can throw fireballs”

    If I think this is the character you are referring to, I would just add “stereotypically Italian”.

  • Anonymous

    In other words, at the very least, regardless of your true intentions here, this article is bringing up a subject that you find uncomfortable. I would guess that you feel insecure about it at best, and at worst you don’t want your privilege taken away. Cuz gosh, realizing that there’s a problem would mean that’d you’d have to change too, and you’re Such a Nice Guy!

  • Canisa

    Except the games industry, which is FORCING women to play male characters by not providing us with other options, of course.

  • James Desborough

    It would help establish that this is simply trolling – attacking perceived weakness in order to dominate and control a space and gain advantage – rather than actual misogyny etc. Like using a club to hit someone rather than a fist, simply because it’s more effective rather than that you particularly love clubs.

    The plural of anecdote – as you know – is not data.

    I think your choice of examples is also disingenuous, particularly Sarkeesian.

    Searching for good data is not denying experience. IF these experiences are accurate we should be able to get good data, and preferably from an independent and rigorous source.

    There is a big and growing problem with what appears to be a vocal minority trying to impose a rather rigorous and unwelcome set of censorship standards on many aspects of nerd culture using a trojan horse of ‘harassment policies’. One need only look at Donglegate or Violet Blue’s problems with the Ada Initiative, or the content of the Geekfeminism suggested harassment policies to see that this goes way beyond an overreaction to unsubstantiated harassment and into a free expression issue.

    Not that I expect this viewpoint to be popular here but I still think it needs airing, so I’ll take the flak.

  • Canisa

    The reason I refuse to play any games with male-only protagonists in them is because there are too damn many of them and I’m done with my money contributing to the “Only male protagonists sell” bullshit.

  • James Desborough

    I say what I mean and I mean what I bloody well say, but thanks for reading into it presumptively and using red-flag words like ‘privilege’ and ‘nice guy’.

  • Canisa

    If you’ve written your story such that it only makes sense for a white man to lead it, you’ve written a shitty story and you need to start again.

  • Fluka

    And what, pray tell, is disingenuous about mentioning Anita Sarkeesian? Are you suggesting her experience is somehow normal for a male critic online? That a huge number of trolls systematically trying to deny her right to speak was somehow not an indication of an unhealthy environment?

    We’re not talking about whether certain approaches to convention harassment are valid or not. That’s your argument, not the one brought up by the author or myself. And yes, I agree that stuff like that needs data to make stuff work, and I’m often not fond of the methods or conclusions of Geek Feminism.

    The point the statement made was a simple one: the gaming community – whether through online gaming or conventions – has made many women feel unwelcome. And I think the sheer *rate* at which this issue has been coming up in the past few years backs this up.

  • Canisa

    Bioshock already had a female character. Elizabeth. There’s no good reason whatsoever she couldn’t have been the player character instead of Booker. Elizabeth is present for most of the story and is vital to its payoff. If you let her hold guns and use plasmids, Booker becomes entirely irrelevant and Elizabeth entirely capable of getting herself to Paris on her own terms.

    As for your mention of Steampunk, Clockwork Empires is doing a fantastic job of proving you entirely incorrect. If you’re going to have giant tesla-steam-coil powered airships and mechanical robots and zombies and whatever, then you’ve already deviated so far from reality that claims of verisimilitude become even less able to justify misogyny and white supremacy.

  • Canisa

    [Spoilers for, like, the first thirty seconds of The Last of Us]

    They needed to make a choice and they chose a white man. Again. Like absolutely everyone else does. They did not make a choice, they did not create an interesting story. They just magicked up yet another tiresome post-apocalyptic scenario in which a white man gets to be heroic and wallow in all the manpain brought on by the death of his daughter.

    In the prologue you play as Mr. W. Man’s daughter. Then she dies in a cutscene and the main game starts after a twenty year flash-forward after the prologue. You play as a slightly older version of Mr. W. Man. The choice they should’ve made is to kill him and have you play through the rest of the story as an older version of his daughter.

  • Fluka

    Actually, I’d say there is room for stories about being white or male. I think BioShock Infinite is trying to play with that idea a little bit, though as you say above it could have all been done from Elizabeth’s perspective.

    I’d say, rather that if every story you write only makes sense for a white man to lead it, you’re shitty storyteller.

    We’ve got a lot of shitty storytellers in gaming right now.

  • Laszlo

    Now that’s just bullshit. There’s stuff like biographical works and similar shit, where having such restrictions makes sense. Maybe these don’t exist among video games, but the possibility can’t be dismissed.

  • Canisa

    She’s entirely right to use them. You blow in here saying: “YOU’RE ALL LYING! SHOW ME THE EVIDENCE.”

    You are then shown the evidence. You respond by saying: “NO, THIS EVIDENCE IS WRONG, I WANT DIFFERENT EVIDENCE.”

    You are rightly called out on this. You go on to say: “WHAT ABOUT THESE OTHER PEOPLE WHO ARE ALSO MAYBE AFFECTED? THIS IS NOT ENOUGH EVIDENCE.”

    You are given specific examples of misogyny. Shortly afterwards you say: “IT’S NOT MISOGYNY, IT’S JUST TROLLING! I DON’T LIKE YOUR EXAMPLES (though of course I’m not actually going to say what I think is wrong with them)! WE NEED INDEPENDENT AND RIGOROUS SOURCES (that is to say men, because I’ve just made it abundantly clear that I don’t think women are rigorous in their assertions – and of course I’m not going to mention how exactly men can be considered independent in this situation)”

    Then you pull off the ultimate doozy: “PREVENTING MEN FROM HARASSING WOMEN IS CENSORSHIP, MY OPINION AS A MAN IS THAT YOU WOMEN ARE ALL OVERREACTING.”

    Also: “Not that I expect this viewpoint to be popular here but I still think it needs airing.” You know that what you’re saying is shitty and that we aren’t going to go for it but you still decide that you, as a man, know better than us, as women, what is true and what needs to be said.

    So piss of with the “YOU’RE READING INTO IT PRESUMPTIVELY” routine. Thae86 is entirely correct in calling you privileged. Because you are. The only way in which I’d disagree with her is calling you a ‘nice guy’, because from my perspective you are not. You are a Grade AAA douchebag.

  • Anonymous

    Whether you liked that choice or not does not make it any less of a choice. My point is that if you make a heavily scripted game, like the Last of Us or Tomb Raider, you need to create a main character. You can’t always have 2 or more characters to chose from.

  • Canisa

    Yes, because what we really need is *yet more* biographical works about how awesome and heroic white men have been throughout history.

  • Christopher LaHaise

    This, I can agree with. If everything you write is for ‘white guys’, then you’re really bad at this. Diversification is a good thing, I think.

  • Christopher LaHaise

    “British Colonial in India, drawn into the Indian culture as an outsider.” — it would sort of presume ‘white, male’, right there. Or, does context not mean anything?

    There are some stories where sex and race matter. That doesn’t make them bad stories. That makes them stories in context. You can make stories where sex or race make no difference, and open up the character creation to allow for diversification – but some stories will require a specific person for the job.

  • Laszlo

    And where’s your data proving it’s just “trolling”, huh?
    But frankly, these ideas about trolling are bullshit. The fact that they’re trolling not only doesn’t mean that it’s not actually sexist/etc, but the fucking opposite. They don’t attack complete strangers based on their gender or whatever because they love ‘em. And “it’s not sexist, they hate everyone equally” doesn’t work either, because they hate everyone in different ways. Women because they’re women, blacks because they’re blacks, whatever. And they usually say the same shit that “actual” sexists and shit say. At this point, there’s barely any difference between pretend and real. And I doubt that they attack white men based on that, more likely they make up shit about how they’re gay, fat or losers, but won’t call them “cracka” or whatever.
    Also, how is trying to stop harassment “censorship”? Like what did they do? I can’t put my mind around that one.

  • Janelle S

    I am uncomfortable with people judging romance novels or science fiction or comic books, but I’m not going to say that it’s not a legitimate prejudice. There are genres I don’t read, regardless of what anyone else feels about it. I don’t consider my preferences illegitimate. I also don’t like mango-flavored anything. Wrong? Perhaps. Legitimate? Absolutely.

    So, while I might share a discomfort that there are others who do not want to play a protagonist who represents some sort of Other, I’m not going to say that their preferences are wrong. They are what they are.

  • Christopher LaHaise

    Actually, I was talking about Bioshock 1, having not played Bioshock Infinite. That being said? Yes, it would have been quite interesting to see Bioshock Infinite from Elizabeth’s angle. No argument there.

    Clockwork Empires – I hadn’t heard of it until you mentioned it, and decided to take a look. I couldn’t find much about the setting, other than ‘Steampunk Lovecraft’. Notice, however, I mentioned Victorian Steampunk, specifically. You know, the whole ‘Victorian Values’ thing. Yes, you can veer off from that and do something else, but then it isn’t Victoriana, now is it? Again – context is important. Yes, you can make stories with diversification – and that’s a good thing – but not every game and every story can (or should) be open to every character concept.

    Actually, case in point. Guild Wars 1 had expansions set in Cantha (a sort of Chinese setting) and Elona (an African setting). The character builder for these expansions allowed for quite a wide arrangement of skin tones and ethnicities. Making characters there, I stuck with the race of the setting itself (African for Elona, and Chinese for Cantha). Walking in, 95% of the characters running around were.. white. Sometimes you really need to cut down on the diversification to keep the flavour of the setting.

  • Christopher LaHaise

    No, we need more diversification – this doesn’t mean ‘white male heroes’ are automatically ‘bad’. More of one doesn’t mean less of the other – this is, as they say, not a zero-sum game.

  • Anonymous

    I would argue that there is a distinct difference between not being a fan of a particular genre of literature (or video game, for that matter), and not wanting to suspend your disbelief in order to assume the role of a video game character that doesn’t look just like you (although people do it all the time – it’s strange that many claim to draw the line at gender or color). If you are turned off, as a gamer, by the gender, ethnicity, or sexuality of a gaming character, then your problems run deeper than “preference.” They are running into the realm of discrimination and prejudice. I think these are two different issues.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think there are too many male-protagonist games – I think there aren’t enough female-protagonist games (or protagonists of color, or non-heterosexual protogonists, etc). I think a better solution to getting more female protagonists is not boycotting male protagonists altogether (as many have said, there is nothing wrong with a male or white or straight protagonist – the problem is that there isn’t enough of anything else), but by supporting female protagonists – which can be done while still playing games with male leads. If I boycotted any game with a non-black lead I’d be in a pretty crappy place as a gamer.

    Boycotting male protagonists won’t tell game producers that female protagonists sell, buying games with female protagonists will.

  • Anonymous

    I was thinking about including that as I wrote my post, but I didn’t want to get into that because my post would have been three times as long and I didn’t want to stray too far off the topic of male vs female protagonists. But, yeah, there’s a whole series of articles to be written about this issue.

  • Janelle S

    I think they are two different issues, but I’m not prepared to police the thoughts and preferences of others, regardless of how distasteful I might find them personally. You don’t tell me how I should think and what I should be comfortable with, and I will afford you (the general “you”, not the specific “you”) the same courtesy.

  • Anonymous

    Canisa, I think Arrowe is just pointing out that some games are suitable for a single pre-determined character, some games have space for the player to select from a roster.

    Zhe’s not talking about the choices made about in the casting of any particular game.

    Incidentally, from the article it sounded like ‘Puppeteer’ belonged to the former camp, with a single pre-determined character rather than a roster to choose from. It’s always disappointing to see yet another white/male video game hero, but it;s not quite as bad as if there were a line up of different character options and they were ALL male.

  • Anonymous

    I’d agree: not liking, for instance, romance fiction is legitimate because you know what’s in that genre and it’s not your cup of tea. You’re basing your taste on valid reasons. Having a blanket dislike of all game characters of a particular gender can have so such basis in logic.

    I think not liking something simply because it represents some sort of Other is always going to be problematic at heart. If someone I knew mentioned the didn’t like playing female game characters, I might not make a big deal out if, but it would totally predispose me to examine their behaviour for misogyny, because I don’t think it;s an opinion that can come from anywhere other than a misogynistic impulse.

  • Anonymous

    And equally ridiculous, of course, would be the idea of making the hero the woman and giving the girlfriend role to a male love interest. I’m going to take a wild stab and assume the girlfriend’s role in the story was being damselled and/or fridged, and those are things that happen to girls, dammit.

  • Anonymous

    Female gamers (i.e. Mary Sue writers and commentators) are pretty well placed to tell you that this is the case. The know from experience. If you’re interested in a case study of gamer men being shitty to gamer women, look up the charming story of the (utterly fantastic) Anita Sarkeesian.

  • malkavian

    http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment/Policy

    Right, not wanting to be stalked, groped,and leered at is totally censorship.

  • Anonymous

    I find that attitude problematic, to say the least. We all judge each others beliefs all the time – it’s part of being a member of society. It’s what allows me to identify and then distance myself from people who are objectionable to me (racists, misogynists, homophobes, etc), and to associate myself with people I admire. It allows me to determine what businesses to support and which ones to steer clear of. It helps me to determine who to vote for and who to protest against.

    Society judges beliefs all the time. We deem it wrong to believe that any gender or race is superior – that judgment is written into our founding document (though we rarely live up to it). We deem it wrong to believe that one life is worth less than another. Freedom to believe what you want doesn’t absolve you from criticism for what you believe – Orson Scott Card is learning that lesson right now.

    For instance, if I said that I believed people from Wisconsin were the dumbest people in the nation it would be completely justified for others to tell me that my belief was wrong-headed, discriminatory, divisive, and the result of some problematic misconceptions about people from Wisconsin. So, if someone tells me that they won’t play game characters of a different gender (or other defining characteristic), then it is perfectly fine for me, or anyone else, to question and criticize that person; “what is so off-putting about a male character?”; “why can’t you relate to a character of a different ethnicity?” It’s not policing their thoughts, it’s evaluating the reasoning behind their thinking that leads them to reject things that are different from themselves. It’s why we no longer have slaves or deny women the right to vote and are finally beginning to recognize the rights of LGBT Americans to express their love in the same way everyone else is allowed to.

    Judging people’s beliefs is not fascism. No one is advocating the actual “policing” of thoughts. Anyone has the right to believe what they want, but they don’t have the right to always act on their beliefs and not face consequences.

  • Janelle S

    I’m not saying I don’t judge, nor am I saying it’s wrong to judge. I even include the phrase “regardless of how distasteful I might find them personally”, which should imply that I do a fair amount of judging.

    But, again, what I am not interested in is policing the thoughts of others. If you think sci fi/comic books/interracial dating is not for you, I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong. I’m going to keep on watching sci fi, reading comic books, and being married to my white husband.

  • Anonymous

    The plural of anecdote – as you know – is not data.

    Oh, where to begin. When you’re studying the experiences of individuals, anecdotal evidence is completely legitimate. Because that’s what an anecdote is. How is “many women reporting harassment” not evidence of many women experiencing harassment? What other evidence could there possibly be?

  • Laura Truxillo

    “To make creators come up with Creative solutions to include Women in their creations.”

    This is pretty much the biggest reason I’m for diversity in media, especially in nerd-pursuits like comics and games. Not just for, y’know, the obvious social implications but because… Well, straight-white-male is just something that tends to come standard. Here is a straight-white-male and these are his straight-white-male-friends and these are his straight-white-male teammates and here is the token female. It’s EASY to write. It’s even easy for WOMEN to write, because it’s what we’ve grown up with.

    Deciding to make the effort to have a character (or even more than one!) NOT be a straight-white-male usually makes you think and come up with newer, more creative ways to tell the story than you would have. Here’s-the-woman-she’s-his-love-interest is replaced by creating a dynamic CHARACTER who is also a woman and slotting her into a less generic role.

  • Ashe

    But women characters would make men feel alienated! We don’t want them to feel left out, do we?

    Reverse sexism is just as bad, y’know!

  • Ashe

    (and then he becomes not disabled anymore in the end and millions of people’s identity is thrown back in their faces as a cheap plot device yaaay)

  • Ashe

    I loved that in Mass Effect I could have a WOC Femshep surrounded by female squadmates taking down female enemies and it wouldn’t be no thang. I didn’t need a REASON to exist this way, or have to explain myself to the plot, or be pigeonholed in a role, or have everyone comment on how different I am.

    I could just play the game.

  • Ashe

    I love it when those storytellers will come up with the most elaborate plot twists or fascinating aliens or cool gameplay concepts but the moment they have to make a woman or someone gay and suddenly it’s nuts in the air WHAT HOW DO I DO THIS

  • Ashe

    Try talking to a woman.

  • Ashe

    Uh, everyone’s got some privilege, dude. It’s not a cause for shame, but for awareness.

  • malkavian

    You can even be a femshep that loves the ladies, and the only thing that matters is how much of a fracking badass you are.

  • Ashe

    Damn. I’m sorry you dealt with that.

    It’s anecdotes like these (my good friend has also given me some doozys) that has kept me keeping online contact to a cautious minimum.

  • Ashe

    Hell to the YES.

  • Tracy Jay

    “Straight white men are fine with boring as long as they can stay in the spotlight….”

    Just a comment: Just as we can’t expect all people in our communities to have their experience and identity represented by the cis-gender, able body, hereosexual, middle class white man ‘ideal’, we cant assume that all ‘straigh white men’ are ‘fine with boring as long as they can stay in the spotlight’
    There are straight white men who are our allies. They are interested in social justice and creating more inclusive art so they themselves can hear and experience stories from different points of view.
    Perhaps we can use ‘the patriarchy’ as a substitue rather than calling out, and misrepresenting, all ‘straight white men’.

  • Anonymous

    Actually that part made me think of two games – Tomb Rider and The Witcher. Both have a “locked” main character and IMHO for very good reasons. The two main characters already have a lot of backstory and lore attached to them and turning them into Larry Croft and Geraltine would feel extremely forced to me. Especially in Geralt’s case, because I grew up reading the Witcher books and I have a very clear idea of who he is and why he is that way. These games tell Lara’s and Geralt’s stories from their own perspectives, so the main characters have to be Lara and Geralt.

    That said, I’d love to see a game set in the Witcher universe, but with more open options, including the female protagonist. I think it would be extremely interesting, since the game world has some rather modern ideas about society (mainly about racism, economy and politics), while being closer to Game of Thrones than The Elder Scrolls when it comes to gender equality.

    And I’d like to make it clear that I certainly don’t see The Witcher as a fantastic example of great female representation, because it has A LOT of problems in that department. Which is a shame, really, since in the books (which are still far from perfect) most important characters are female, many of them kick ass (quite often Geralt’s ass), and it was actually the first fantasy book including a female/female relationship I’ve ever read. Though yes, as usual it doesn’t end well (which actually isn’t that big of a deal, because in those books almost everything doesn’t end well, GoT style).

  • Ashe

    I don’t read statements like that as pointing the finger at every single person who ever exists ever. That reminds me a lot of when, say, a gay individual says, “Man, I hate straight people.” and a straight individual responds, “Oh, so you hate ALL of us? Does that mean you hate me too?”

    It’s a criticism at the culture, the privilege, not literally saying, “I hate every single person who is in this group, without fail.”

    But, I will agree that ‘patriarchy’ is a good term, as it’s a broader term for social justice, and probably will cause less knee-jerk reactions.

    I may be caustic, but I do want to educate. :P

  • Ashe

    Painting a prejudice as a preference is precisely what teaches people they are justified in their bigotry.

    If a white person didn’t want to play as a person of color, or a man a woman, or a cis a trans, I would think less ‘preference’ and more ‘biased jerk’.

    Also, how do you compare sociology to fruit flavors? Like, I don’t think you meant that analogy to go bad, but it really did

  • Ashe

    Ah, yes, that Dragon Age article. That was pretty good.

    I agree 100%. We want people from privileged backgrounds to be open-minded and aware, yes, but we also want people from marginalized backgrounds offering their unique perspectives and experiences, too.

  • Ashe

    Men telling him that women experience harassment

  • BriaRose

    Ashe, that’s exactly the same argument my brother uses after he’s said
    “I hate women”, and I’ve taken exception to it and asked if he hates me too,
    since I’m a woman. He’s always like “No I just meant I’m frustrated with
    some of the tendencies of women in general, wasn’t talking about you,
    it should be obvious there are exceptions, blah blah blah.”

    I’m not terribly fond of
    that argument, as you might expect. Why is it so hard to just say “a lot
    of straight white men” or “many straight white men” or even “most
    straight white men”? Making blanket statements about an entire group is
    just not a cool thing to do, IMO. And it isn’t THAT hard to avoid. People’s
    fingers can really stand to type a couple of extra words.

  • Ashe

    I hear you. You make sense, and, yeah, I’ve been on the receiving end/nearby end of ‘women suck and here’s why’ diatribes.

    I feel there’s a very different dynamic when a man says ‘I hate women’ and when a woman says ‘I hate men’, though. Society overwhelmingly supports and reinforces the former. Not so much the latter.

    It’s a bit of a false equivalency. To use my former example again, if a straight person said, “I hate gay people.”, then, yes, I would be more likely to think negatively than if a gay person said, “I hate straight people.” The dynamics are totally different. They’re not equal because society isn’t. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to interchange them as an inherently bad statement. Context and history matters.

    Though? I concede with the term ‘patriarchy’. I’m more like to use that in the future. Even ‘heteronormative white patriarchy’ would be more clinical, while still being specific.

  • A Kaleberg

    Just saw Pacific Rim. It not only had just about every combat cliche well executed, but also a pretty inclusive cast with at least two women robot fighters, at least one fighter from each major race, a kid from Brooklyn, and the three circus acrobat brothers from The War That Time Forgot.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. “He doesn’t even speak. He has no personality. It’s just you.” is NOT a good reason to make the “default” character, in fact I think it’s a great reason to give the choice to the player. Hell, even “we tossed a coin and it came up BOY” would be a better reason, if it actually has no impact on the gameplay at all, because it would imply someone actually recognized the need to make a choice about this.

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    I’m totally on board with your first paragraph, but to call any art with a narrow focus shitty is just… baffling. Is Michelangelo’s David shitty because it’s just a white cis-male? Plenty of art can have a narrow focus, and be great. The problem is when MOST art has the SAME narrow focus, which is what we’re dealing with here.

  • A Kaleberg

    Exactly! Exactly!

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    Does SOL stand for “Shit Outta Luck”? Because if so, I’m going to use that all the time from now on.

  • Ashe

    I did mention ‘over and over and over’ in my comment. Though, according to these responses, I wasn’t specific enough with my viewpoints. That’s my fault.

    You’re 100% right here: I have no qualms with what you’re saying.

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    Miriam, is it worse than not having the character at all?

  • BriaRose

    I’ll concede that it’s a bit of a false equivalency, but blanket statements about huge classes of people still bother me. (Specifically, blanket statements about classes of people who cannot change what they are. If you were to make a blanket statement about misogynists, I wouldn’t mind that.) YMMV though. :)

    I like ‘heteronormative white patriarchy’.

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    Gotcha. I misunderstood the “over and over” to be referring to the history of the glorified checklist itself, rather than the actions of the hypothetical artist in the sentence.

  • James Desborough

    [Exhibitors in the expo hall, sponsor or vendor booths, or similar activities are also subject to the anti-harassment policy. In particular, exhibitors should not use sexualized images, activities, or other material. Booth staff (including volunteers) should not use sexualized clothing/uniforms/costumes, or otherwise create a sexualized environment.]

    Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks. Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference [without a refund] at the discretion of the conference organizers.

    Exhibitors in the expo hall, sponsor or vendor booths, or similar activities are also subject to the anti-harassment policy. In particular, exhibitors should not use sexualized images, activities, or other material. Booth staff (including volunteers) should not use sexualized clothing/uniforms/costumes, or otherwise create a sexualized environment.

    For example, simply say “I’m sorry, this presentation cannot be continued at the present time” with no further explanation.

    For an actual example of this being used for censorship reference Violet Blue and the Ada Initiative.

    It’s not about harassment, that’s about “U-rated community standards”

  • James Desborough

    There’s none either way which makes either contention as valid as the other. That’s why we need data. It seems, however, that even questioning the preferred narrative is taken as an attack and that’s why we can’t have nice things (useful discussion).

    I don’t think trolls hate anyone per se. It’s the reaction that is useful and/or the payoff. It doesn’t matter who or what someone is, just what will get the reaction out of them.

    If you don’t understand the censorship payload of the unnecessary ‘anti-harassment policies’ I suggest you take a look at them in greater detail and case studies like Violet Blue/Ada.

  • James Desborough

    Do you understand that this is how robust science works? By constantly trying to show things are wrong and to criticise them? I realise you’re invested in a particular ‘answer’ but oof, this is like talking to creationists.

  • James Desborough

    Suppose someone called Alex Sark raised a bunch of money and then made a couple of very poorly researched and argued videos criticising feminism.

    Would our hypothetical Alex not get an incredibly harsh, sarcastic and abusive reaction from women and the feminist community? Would this be evidence of misandry or just that he’d shoved his face into a hornet’s nest and gotten a nasty reaction?

    Consider the reaction of many here to my simply asking if there’s evidence and criticism of methodology.

    Also consider the level of fear that the elderly have of crime due to tabloid and other media overreporting. Crime has actually significantly gone down in most western nations, yet fear of crime has stayed the same or gone up. Increased reporting etc doesn’t mean increased incidence.

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    Funny, as someone who is writing/working on a novel, I constantly find myself running into reasons I can’t diversify my characters.

    “Uh oh, if he’s black he’ll come off as a Magic Negro.”

    “Nope, if she’s East Asian, her whole mindless drone thing could have unfortunate connotations.”

    “Can’t make him gay, or the fact that he’s promiscuous and dies first will make it seem like I’m punishing him for his sexuality.”

    It’s gotten to the point where I have to decide on someone’s identity before their role in the story, just to make sure I don’t end up evoking stereotypes. Which is not to say it isn’t worth the effort, or that all creators should be let off the hook, just that I’m surprised how frequently I encounter this issue, and I imagine it contributes somewhat to the homogeneity of pop culture characters.

  • Miriam

    Yes, it does.

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    Just two examples? I’m not convinced. Where’s an independent, peer-reviewed, double-blind, reproducible scientific study proving that Violet Blue and the Ada Initiative are part of a widespread problem? Until you provide such evidence, I will be forced to assume that overzealous restrictions at cons are a minor issue that just a few men have gripes about, while it’s been grossly exaggerated by the media in a concerted effort to subjugate geek culture.

  • Laszlo

    There’s a difference between a simple “nasty reaction”, and what she got. Maybe there was room for criticism, even of the assholish type for her work, but no room for rape threats and similar bullshit. Or is it just trolling? I thought trolls do shit for laughs, so your points about how justified it was doesn’t apply to them. Maybe there was a simple “nasty reaction” and criticism there, too, but that doesn’t mean you should be making up excuses for the assholes.

  • James Desborough

    TAM female attendance dropping from 40% to 18% despite zero reported cases of harassment would be another example.

    Jessica Nigri’s treatment at Pax is another good case study. I already referenced Donglegate which was a horrible invasion of privacy.

  • James Desborough

    TAM female attendance dropping from 40% to 18% despite zero reported cases of harassment would be another example.

    Jessica Nigri’s treatment at Pax is another good case study. I already referenced Donglegate which was a horrible invasion of privacy.

  • James Desborough

    How can we have a meaningful discussion when any reaction is an attitude like yours? One that isn’t too far removed from that of the trolls.

    You can attempt to understand a phenomenon without excusing it. What I object to is the misidentification of the problem to support a particular agenda I feel is – at the very least – not as terrible or widespread as advertised.

    Identify a weakness and the trolls pour in, whether it’s sensitivity to gender issues or something else. It’s really not that different to bullying at schools. It’s the fat kid, the kid with glasses, the nerd, the acne-laden kid, the ones with sensitivities that get picked on.

  • Laszlo

    I think we have quite enough data to know there’s something wrong. We know there’s all kinds of assholes, with this kind of stuff it doesn’t make no difference if they’re trolls or for real, if there’s a lot or just a vocal minority, they’re more than enough to make people feel uncomfortable. This is one of them cases where even one is too much, and 10% or so is a problem.

  • Laszlo

    “Identify a weakness and the trolls pour in, whether it’s sensitivity to gender issues or something else.”
    And my point is that’s just another form of “actual” sexism. The fact is, they attacked her using her gender, but I don’t see cases where the same group attacks a man over his, or because he talks about “misandry”. They attack men, but don’t use his gender as a weapon. That means there definitely is a bias based on gender, and you can’t say that has nothing to do with sexism.

  • Miss Cephalopod

    That’s why it’s awesome to have not just one, but multiple characters that are gay/black/Asian. Have a black dude that works magic? Might be kinda iffy on its own, but if he’s just one of several black folks running around in your story, no matter how prominent, it lessens the pressure considerably.
    That’s why I really like GoT for its women: there are so many female characters, so many different ones, that even if one falls into negative stereotypes, it’s not “how GoT treats women”, it’s “how GoT treats this one character”. It’s a matter of the individual, who was foolish or weak or promiscuous or made a mistake or …, not a matter of the character having been a foolish, weak, promiscuous, rash woman.
    I’m still trying to work on that in my own books, sometimes I’m intimidated too by writing characters that are very different from my own experience, but hey, that’s why I’m a writer :-D To leave my own skin once in a while and experience something else.

  • James Desborough

    If men don’t respond to being attacked on gender, then why would a troll bother doing it? Men are more likely to react to attacks on their sexuality so you’re more likely to see that there.

    The difference is what’s reacted to, and the extent of that reaction. Say, whole websites like this one.

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    Unless you can demonstrate cause, decreasing attendance proves nothing. Besides which there were reported cases of harassment. Several women were accosted by a guy at TAM9 who was then kicked out. And don’t forget Elevatorgate, which resulted in the complainant being told off by no less than Richard Dawkins, and being hounded online with insults and accusations, not to mention rape and death threats.

    Nigri was asked to change or leave because of the bulk of attendee complaints about her costume. Where exactly is this Trojan horse of censorship you’ve attested to? Were those attendees plants?

    And Donglegate! Thanks for reminding me! An attendee tweeted a complaint about a dirty joke, and in response got DOS attacks, rape and death threats, and the full brunt of 4Chan’s ire until she was fired. Which thesis were you trying to support with this evidence, again?

    Also, still not seeing that expansive scientific study.

  • James Desborough

    When will I learn to stop arguing with fanatics?

    Parting shot then, other things to do rest of today.

    Donglegate – a private set of really non-worrying jokes amongst friends who then had their privacy invaded. The ‘reporter’ self-identified as an overreactor and – shock horror – got trolled and attacks once they identified themselves as a target.

    Elevatorgate? Asking someone for coffee, being rebuffed and not following it up or being persistent is harassment now?

    Just HOW low are you setting the bar?

  • Canisa

    Of course I also buy games with female protagonists as well as not buying games with male protagonists – I wouldn’t have any games at all if I didn’t. But if I have £50 and I spend £25 on a game with a male protagonist and £25 on a game with a female protagonist I am telling the games industry to continue making those games in their current proportions.

    If I spend all £50 on games with female protagonists I am telling the games industry to increase the number of female protagonists and decrease the number of male protagonists, which will bring the proportions closer to equality.

  • Laszlo

    “If men don’t respond to being attacked on gender”
    Oh, they definitely do, even when they aren’t attacked. Just look at the response that the likes of Kotaku or Jim Sterling get from male gamers by talking about gender. And you can always see that type that cries “misandry” over a woman getting some position, someone saying that women are discrimated against, and stuff like that.
    No, they don’t do it because they’re the butthurt ones when it happens.

  • Canisa

    The example you give is one of colonialism, imperialism and cultural appropriation by a mighty whitey. We can do without those stories, really. If you’re going to write a story about the British Raj, you really need to write it from the point of view of an actual Indian person, lest the viewer end up sympathising with the Brit.

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    Excellent point. GRRM does have the advantage of a truly gargantuan cast of characters, though. I’ve got ten. After the not-gay guy dies, nine. Hmm, maybe I could make him the Asian? I’ll figure it out.

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    Do you understand that this is how robust science works? By constantly trying to show things are wrong and to criticise them? I realise you’re invested in a particular ‘answer’ but oof, this is like talking to creationists.

  • Miss Cephalopod

    Those ten are your main and major supporting cast, right? What about other characters? If they are, say, alone in a rocket flying through space, I see how you’re limited to only these, but what about people they meet, family members, waiters at restaurants, distant acquaintances, people chilling at the mall…?
    Dr Who’s RTD era, for example, tends to be good at this. There are lots of other issues with it, of course, but there are black and other non-white and also gay people everywhere, you see them in the background, you see them as supportive or as nasty, they appear as one-off characters just like white one-off characters.

  • Janelle S

    I would say it’s both preference and biased jerk, and I’m perfectly happy to agree to disagree.

  • Christopher LaHaise

    And this is where you get into censorship. “If you’re going to talk about the British Raj, you _need_ to do it from the point of view of the Indians”. And what’s wrong with sympathizing with the Brit?

    It’s effectively dictating what the writer _must_ do (or _needs_ to do) to tell the story they want to tell. If the designer wants to tell the story from the insider’s perspective, then that’s fine – I have no problem with this. But saying that they’re not allowed to tell it from the other perspective is wrong? No, I don’t buy it.

    There has to be room on the table for all perspectives, and if the perspective happens to be the dominant one for the purpose of telling the story, so be it. The problem would if that was the *only* perspective on the market – that’s when you say, ‘hey, what about everyone else?’

  • Jenevieve DeFer

    If the the VAST majority of games weren’t dominated by Male characters you MIGHT have a point. At this point the industry really should be looking at ways to include women in every game. Yeah, it will push costs up but it will get designers who are in a rut of making games based on Males and male oriented stories something different to design.

    You see games that “Cant” have a woman as lead. I see opportunities to stretch storytelling. Why couldn’t the main character be a Woman? Why couldn’t she be Native American or African American? Does the story REALLY have to change if you have a woman and/or a person of color as the lead? Or would the story only need minor changes to accommodate the changes. I ask this because I keep thinking about the movies and TV shows that gender switched a lead character from Male to Female. The story didn’t change, but you did end up with a Kick ass female that anyone could look up to (ie Ripley from Aliens and Starbuck from New BSG).

    I think that perhaps you are assuming that Historical games much be as Biased as people think those times were. You mention Victoriana as a game where women characters wouldn’t fit it. How about I point out another Victorian era game that has strong women and works just fine. That would be R.Talsorian’s Castle Falkenstein. Also, games tend to be about extraordinary people and those kind of people stand out no matter what era they are born in (ie Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace) are both excellent examples of women who stand out in eras of heavy male domination.

    I say that it’s sheer lazyness that keeps designers from including women in their games.

  • Christopher LaHaise

    I didn’t say that women couldn’t fit in – I said in context, there would be a significant difference based on the sex of the character (or race, for that matter). It isn’t even that such games shouldn’t be made – I’m saying that if you’ve got a story in mind, go with the story.

    And yes, they *should* make games with strong female leads, and with minorities – I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t. I’m saying that you shouldn’t try to force people to alter an inspiration they have to meet some invisible ‘quota’. If I have a story in mind, and I think a female lead would be good for it, I’ll go with the female lead, gladly. If I look at the story and go ‘no, a female lead won’t work here’, then I won’t try to shoehorn one in. As a writer, I actually have a bias for strong female characters – I think they add to the stories I write. That being said, I have worked on stories and gone ‘no, a woman doesn’t fit in the lead here’.

    And the answer is not ‘well change it until she does’.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Not a false equivalence. Incredibly insulting.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    They have posters of the Declaration of Independence. This article should be on a poster.

  • Ashe

    Haha, well, I can’t say I don’t know about that. I’m half-black and half-white. My grandparents (and uncle…and aunt…and) were racists pricks toward my mother for dating black men, then having me.

    My boyfriend’s also white. Makin’ so many people mad doing what I do! :D

    I don’t associate with them anymore, nor anyone else who refuses to change, but I can’t tell you how to live. Not when it’s such a similar situation. You seem to respect yourself, so. Agree to disagree.

  • Ashe

    I understand. There’s nothing wrong with ANY form of identity. Just the culture(s) that favor and prize one over the other to the point of harm.

  • Ashe

    How so?

  • Anonymous

    This is, frankly, the most concise and useful piece on the subject I’ve read.

    I’m an aspiring comic author (one comic published, two more in the works) and I’ve always been concerned about representing people who aren’t normally represented in comics. It isn’t because I’m chasing demographics: my country is 98% white, so it isn’t exactly like I’m going after a significant market. Yet I was raised in a fairly multicultural extended family, with a Kenyan aunt, and Palestinians, Rwandans, and Pakistanis among our friends. However, since one of my great loves is Scottish history and folklore, that makes things a bit difficult, since black and Asian people weren’t exactly commonplace in Medieval Scotland.

    BUT, instead of admitting defeat, I started thinking: how could I include people and ideas from outside Scotland in a way that makes sense? Well, I started thinking outside the box. The legend of Robert the Bruce and the Spider – what if the spider was Anansi? The Scottish foundation myth has a character named Scota, who was an Egyptian princess – the exact ethnoi of the ancient Egyptians is unclear, but likely North African. Part of the beauty of Scottish history is that we have always been a nation of many peoples: Britons, Picts, Gaels, Norse, and more, so it seemed natural. I didn’t even need to invent Scottish females, since there were plenty in history and mythology to choose from.

    It’s tremendously rewarding thinking outside the box like this, and I think more people would be encouraged at the idea including and representing more diverse individuals and cultures might, just might, be creatively invigorating rather than stifling. I would’ve thought “no, duh” myself, but there you go.

  • Canisa

    Oh, I see how this works. When a man argues against a massive body of consistent evidence he’s doing robust science. When a woman argues in favour of the conclusion all of the available evidence supports, she’s invested in a particular answer.

    Actually, you will find that making baseless assertions that contradict the observed facts then demanding that everyone immediately agree with you is *not* scientific in the slightest.

    If you can provide contradictory *evidence*, then by all means do, I’d like to see it. But if you cannot, then please refrain from ad hominem attacks. Those DEFINITELY are not part of the scientific method.

  • Anonymous

    “There are straight white men who are our allies. They are interested in
    social justice and creating more inclusive art so they themselves can
    hear and experience stories from different points of view.”

    I think it’s more a matter of remembering our common humanity. If I see other human beings suffering, I want to stop that from happening. If I see other human beings dissatisfied by the level of their representation and inclusion, I understand the human need for such a thing. It isn’t a case of allies to me: it’s a case of common humanity. I love stories from all over the world and people from all over the world, because if those people have interesting stories to tell, then I want to read/see/hear them. If I restricted myself to such an arbitrary notion as only reading about stories starring and written by people who look like me, then what an impoverished and starved imagination would I have in comparison to the one I enjoy now?

  • Jenevieve DeFer

    I AM talking about Games here. IMHO in a Game there are very few instances where the Game’s story couldn’t be made to work with a woman as lead. It just takes a bit more creativity. Game Companies SHOULD be working hard to Include Women in every game they publish. Again I am really very sure that in most cases a woman could be a game’s protagonist. Esp if the game’s design explicitly was set to be inclusive. Perhaps it is time for Game Companies to be thinking of something like a quota system. Make it part of the Design challenge to be inclusive. If the Male designers can’t deal with designing games with diverse characters, then start to hire more women and people of color.

    If we were talking about books and short stories. Then write what you want. There’s plenty of good books with strong female leads. There could be more, but it’s easy enough to speak with my money in that market place. With Games there’s little choice.

  • Canisa

    Ah, I appear to have been unclear. I was not even slightly advocating censorship. I did not say that you need to write such a story from the point of view of an actual Indian person in order to not get your door kicked in by the police and dragged off to a detention center.

    What I intended to say is that you need to write such a story from the point of view of an actual Indian person in order to not get a negative opinion of it from me. There’s something of a difference in severity of these consequences, I’m sure you’ll agree.

    Essentially what’s wrong with sympathising with the Brit is that the Brit is an unmitigatedly evil colonialist who deserves only hatred and derision for his actions.

    Also, um, the whole point of the article and subsequent discussion is that the white male perspective *is* the only perspective on the market.

  • Christopher LaHaise

    Re: the Brit. It really depends on the character of the Brit in question. I don’t tend to judge individuals by nationality / culture if I can help it.

    The white male perspective is the vast majority – I agree. However, I don’t agree that the only solution is ‘stop making games with white males’. If the option exists to go with an alternative, cool. If the story you’re wanting to tell can adapt to such, cool. If the story you want to tell can’t, well, then fine. If, for example, the colonial story can be told from a woman’s perspective, while keeping the story intact? Cool. If it can be told from the native’s perspective? Cool. If, however, you’re trying to show, for example, a colonial coming in with all the wrong impressions, and having his views challenged? Much better to do it from the colonial’s perspective, I think. Having a woman in the role would be… strange however. Possible, I think, but… strange. It would be a very, very different slant on the story though.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Exactly as Bria states: Ashe, that’s exactly the same argument my brother uses after he’s said “I hate women”, and I’ve taken exception to it and asked if he hates me too, since I’m a woman. He’s always like “No I just meant I’m frustrated with some of the tendencies of women in general, wasn’t talking about you, it should be obvious there are exceptions, blah blah blah.” Context and history do NOT matter. Sweeping everyone into a group is prejudice, plain and simple.

  • malkavian

    Sometimes, sex just isn’t relevant to your conference, especially if it’s technical or professional conference. Talking about sex isn’t going to improve anyone’s coding skills-it’s off-topic.

  • Alissa Knyazeva

    This is how I see it – as a creator, as a writer, and as an artist working on my own stories right this very moment. (Trotting this out now before someone decides to break out a tiny artistic violin carved out of ice pressed from the most special of snowflakes)

    No, nobody should force you to “alter your vision”.

    YOU are the one who needs to take fucking responsibility for your fucking vision and figure out what the fuck is wrong with you that you seem to be unable to have visions about anyone else but straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied men.

    Yes, I do sincerely mean that “what the fuck if wrong with you” because if you claim to tell HUMAN stories, and yet you only tell stories from the perspective of one tiny minority fraction of the human population… there is just something terribly fucking wrong.

    And yes, I also do mean “take responsibility”. Stories can have huge – HUGE ramifications once they are released in the world. I’m talking multiple studies showing that exposure to protagonists belonging to a group about whom a reader is prejudiced will alter that reader’s entire outlook and allow them to empathize and understand someone whom they previously disparaged. I’m talking millions of little girls and minority children walking away from watching modern-day entertainment feeling dejected and lacking self-confidence because that fucking shit just showed them that they need to be white and male to be worth anything. I’m talking fans walking up to writers at conventions and saying “I was about to end my life, but I decided to glance over the book you wrote one last time because I remembered that it used to bring me joy. In it, I found my answer. I am alive today thanks to the story you told.” We, as artists and as story-tellers, are able to alter the very fabric of culture and society – which is what makes the artistic disciplines as important as the scientific ones.

    Or, y’know, you can continue hiding behind the excuse that they’re “just stories” and “you’re just following ~inspiration~”, but then I don’t want to hear a peep from you when someone implies that your area of expertise is less valuable than the technological and scientific pursuits. Because, hey – if you think that what you do is irrelevant and trivial because it excuses you from taking responsibility, then YOU and your life’s work are actually irrelevant and trivial. And if you want to live that way – well, okay, I guess. Kinda sad, but it’s really up to you in the end. You are free, Willy.

    For the record, I used to be one of those obnoxious shits whining about other people “trying to guilt me” over visions of straight white males. But there was actually something wrong with me. I was a blind, sexist, racist, ableist little shit (I wasn’t a homophobe, so I didn’t get bingo). And you know what? Once I admitted that, and accepted that I needed to improve for the sake of my contribution to humanity… Oh My Fucking God, I actually started having visions of women. And non-white and/or disabled heroes. It turned out that all you needed to do was teach yourself to see anyone who wasn’t white, straight, cis-gendered, able-bodied and male as a human being – and then they will quietly and naturally begin filling your visions too.

    I still tell stories about straight/white/cis-gendered/able-bodied men. But I also tell stories of female and transgender warriors, middle-eastern gay men exploring the galaxy, brilliant wheel-chair bound East Asian scientists discovering new worlds and falling in love, young genius girls saving whole worlds and reuniting their families, and mentally-ill individuals struggling to learn to live and cope with their illness while still performing incredible feats of bravery and self-sacrifice. Now I can actually claim that I’ve begun to tell human stories. Now I can actually respect my craft, which I chose for myself after many years of dedicated study in the STEM fields.

  • Sally Strange

    While there have been few studies specifically of gamer culture or conventions, culture-wide surveys show that somewhere between 60 – 90% of women experience sexual harassment, depending on how you define it.

    Therefore, the claim that women experience harassment by male gamers is not an extraordinary one. If you have evidence to suggest that gamers are less prone to harassing women than other types of men, present it. Otherwise, there’s really no reason for your hyper-skepticism regarding harassment.

  • malkavian

    Have you ever worked in science? Do you understand that conducting ‘robust science’ involves a shit ton of money, and which doesn’t exist right now because funding is down due to budget cuts? Because if the government is cutting funding to things like cancer research and environmental programs, they’re sure as hell going to fund a study on harassment in nerd culture. Not.

  • malkavian

    If it is ‘simply trolling’ I would expect no significant difference in the number of negative comments to female players online, ie the null hypothesis of the study above. Said study says otherwise.

    And in social sciences, the plural of anecdote, taken from a large enough sample size, is indeed data.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. You’re fine with a lot of things. I’m not so fine with a game industry dominated by men who refuse to consider other perspectives than their own… But sure.

  • Guest

    This is ironic, right?

  • Anonymous

    “When people only want to portray a very specific and narrow slice of humanity, that’s shitty art” Yes! Agree on all of this. I don’t see why we should accept this, just beause ya know, freedom of artistic expression and vision and uh… all that freedom for teh mens who create things. I refuse to be “fine” with most of the world being excluded in the stories that are told.

  • Anonymous

    There’s definitely a difference. And you didn’t even say “I hate men”…

  • Anonymous

    Well, of course he has the right to make the game however the f he wants to, but that doesn’t mean he should be exempt from criticism in those choices. If he makes non-inclusive games, then people will probably criticize him for it – and rightly so.

  • Anonymous

    And perhaps straight white cis men might even try playing as something else? :O Imagine that!

  • Anonymous

    Exactly! How narrow does your perspective have to be if you think female, non-hetero, trans, POCs etc have to be forced into stories?

  • Anonymous

    YES!

  • https://www.facebook.com/OperationHotblood?ref=hl HeroOfGames16

    Splendid! This is a well written article, and I have to commend thee for making my perspective regarding this issue clearer, or more concrete (it was always a bit vague to me because people all around were complaining for this and that or arguing at this or that).
    As an aspiring writer myself, I just tend to write stuff I like and would love myself to be a part of. However, some while ago, I had this uncomfortable feeling that I needed to have a certain ratio or pick representatives of all possible groups and varieties and whatnot.

    I don’t mind that, but there are times that I can imagine a story for certain types of heroes and characters, and sometimes there’s a story which is more fit for other characters, to me at least.

    “Inclusion does not equate to an obligation to add a female character. Put her there because you want
    to, because she feels right for your story, because you believe in her
    with all your heart. If you don’t want to, don’t! But if you do, don’t
    do it for the hashtag, and don’t do it in a half-assed attempt to cross
    something off your checklist. The audience can smell that from a mile
    away.”

    I wholeheartedly agree with this. That’s why I loved Pacific Rim even more because it felt like characters such as Mako Mori and Stacker Pentecost were put there for a reason, and not just some half-assed attempt for the sake of (superficial) progressiveness. If you’re gonna use tropes, you gotta do them right :D

  • https://www.facebook.com/OperationHotblood?ref=hl HeroOfGames16

    ” he doesn’t even speak. He has no personality. It’s just you. You just
    impose your personality on him and play as you. I mean you’re
    controlling him on the theatre on the stage, that’s what you’re doing.”
    That’s kind of always the reason why I supported the idea of customizing your Pokemon Trainer (but that has only happened in Battle Revolution and the upcoming X&Y).
    If it’s just a blank slate, I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t get some form of (optional) character customization.

  • https://www.facebook.com/OperationHotblood?ref=hl HeroOfGames16

    1) Though-Provoking comment there, good madam.
    2) Where can I find these interesting stories you’ve written?

  • Alissa Knyazeva

    I’m currently in the process of revising the draft of the first novel in what is hopefully going to become a series, which would feature pretty much all of the characters I mentioned above (save the genius girl – she’s a star of her own novel, which I just began preliminary research for). Hopefully by next April I will have an agent (I’m shopping around for one right now) and a publisher lined up, and from there it would be a couple of years before they’ll hit the shelves. :)

  • Anonymous

    I know I’m late to the discussion but:
    “It’s like doing a life study of a rainbow on a sunny day and you only put down blue. You’re not conveying life. You’re conveying a tiny, watered down shred of life.”

    YEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, but it is not helpful to any extent to say things like “I hate privileged group X.” I wish we could all stop pretending that those sentiments, while understandable, are useful or worth expressing or passing on. I’m active in feminist circles, and every time I see a “I hate men” comment on a feminist blog I just wince. Saying things like that, while cathartic (I’ve occasionally expressed them in private myself) really hurt the cause of human equality.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I get tired of people using their status as an “oppressed” group to claim the right to say shitty things. It doesn’t matter if “I hate women” has a lot more power than “I hate men,” (and it does) it’s still a shitty thing to say. Stop defending people being crappy to each other, who ever they are.

  • Anonymous

    What a great point of view. It’s sad that many people are threatened by difference. It’s like if at every meal, you were sat down in front of a smorgasbord of every different food, and for your whole life, you just said, “nah, I’m going to stick with pizza, because I know I like it and there’s a slight risk that I may not enjoy the taste of a different food.”

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know. If you identify as a cannibal, I’m still gonna think there’s something wrong with that (with apologies to Hannibal.)

  • https://www.facebook.com/OperationHotblood?ref=hl HeroOfGames16

    Not even some site regarding your current or future work? I prefer keeping a close eye on novel writers and game development studios that have caught interest in me.

  • Ashe

    Uh, being gay and being Asian and being disabled is not the same as eating people. And I was told I was being insulting.

  • Ashe

    Sarcastic as hell.

  • Ashe

    Hopefully this will make sense.

    I’m hearing and grew up with a deaf mother.

    My entire life I learned that deaf people are generally angry at hearing people. “Fucking hearing people.” “I am so frustrated with hearing people.” “Why don’t hearing people understand?”

    I never heard an attack on me, who I am, what I do: I heard anger, fear and frustration. I heard people constantly treated like garbage doing literally the only thing they can do: lashing out in diatribes that have no overarching social consequence.

    Why would I ever be upset? Deaf and hard of hearing people can’t prevent me from being employed. They can’t take away my benefits. They can’t make my life a constant struggle. They can’t erase my existence from media, education, history. The other way around, though?

    When it comes to the privileges I have, being angry and indignant at what some groups of people are saying is literally the worst I will have to deal with. And THAT is the point I am trying to push forth.

    Are they shitty things to say? On the surface, sure. But when that is, more or less, as shitty as it gets, maybe people will figure out how good they have it.

  • Anonymous

    Look, it’s not like I don’t understand. I do. I understand the frustration that drives the words. But if you’re trying get a point across, there are more useful ways, less self-defeating ways to express your point. In general, I think aggression always does more harm than good. And people, ALL people see mostly their own point of view, so they can always justify why their particular form of aggression is o.k. But aggression begets aggression. I think everyone needs to stop justifying aggression, in every form, whether it’s the subtle forms that racism can take, or just angry speech.

  • Anonymous

    Look, it’s not like I don’t understand. I do. I understand the frustration that drives the words. But if you’re trying get a point across, there are more useful ways, less self-defeating ways to express your point. In general, I think aggression always does more harm than good. And people, ALL people see mostly their own point of view, so they can always justify why their particular form of aggression is o.k. But aggression begets aggression. I think everyone needs to stop justifying aggression, in every form, whether it’s the subtle forms that racism can take, or just angry speech.

  • Anonymous

    I was joking.

  • Anonymous

    I was joking.

  • Ashe

    Ah. I’m sorry, then. I’ve heard stuff like that in all seriousness, so my hackles raise instinctively…

  • Ashe

    Ah. I’m sorry, then. I’ve heard stuff like that in all seriousness, so my hackles raise instinctively…

  • Ashe

    Yeah. It’s a fair point, one I’ve been told as such by another person here (BriaRose above).

    Switching up the labels to things more educational or with a more sociological bent can avoid knee-jerk reactions and possible anger, which always leads to shutting down and defensiveness and blah blah blah. More useful, yes.

    Then there’s the other side, in which anger is sometimes necessary. It’s not aggression, per se: nobody is being attacked, or targeted, or pushed around. It’s just showing pain. Sometimes people need to see pain.

    So. I hear what you’re saying. I agree on some points, not on others.

  • Anonymous

    I also understand what you’re saying – sometimes strong words can jolt a reaction into people who aren’t responding to reasonable, calm words. I just think sometimes people go for the jugular too fast, before using calm and reason. I’ve responded more, in my experience becoming aware of my own privileges, to reasoned, if passionate arguments.

  • Anonymous

    God, that’s terrible. The internet is a dark place . . . .

  • Anonymous

    The essential problem is that you simply cannot to see things from anyone’s point of view other than your own. Given that that’s the case, I don’t see how of us can help you.

  • zizzy86

    http://moniquill.tumblr.com/post/55662155630/let-me-tell-you-a-story-about-media-representation-and So I didn’t write this but I think it is very relevant, especially this bit at the end: “I am tired of hearing writers say ‘well I just didn’t imagine the character that way! You can’t fault me for that, it’s my story and my
    inspiration!’ Your inspiration does not come from a perfect, unbiased void. Every story you tell is informed by every story you’ve ever been told, and you cannot divorce yourself from that. So if you want to be a thoutful (sic), aware writer who is writing the best, richest story you can write, if you want your creative process to be as free and uninhibited as it can be, you need to stop and think about what informs your creativity and whether or not it is, in fact, problematic as fuck.” Basically, your inspiration is not a sacred, unquestionable thing.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    “All generalizations are false, including this one.” Although I truly appreciate being called out when I have been egregiously insulting, the onslaught of assumption that I or anyone else faces is, of course, THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD. And we’re lucky, really, that we don’t suffer more than we do considering how awful some of the world is, but it’s difficult to step outside of one’s self and see that. For example, I saw that fairly heartbreaking music video about geek girls that was posted the other day, but it’s as sad or uplifting to me as any romantic comedy would be. I have no connection with those people, other than sharing species identifiers with them. I’ve never been surprised by the presence of women, I’ve always found it baffling that some men are, and I’ve always had a fairly well-rounded and inclusive peer group. My first babysitter left me her Nintendo when she moved away, so that’s how I began to game (after she taught me the ins and outs of Super Mario) and I wouldn’t have any meaningful concept of what Anime is without my best friend in high school: she lent me her Bebop and Trigun bootleg sets. So, this discrimination is beyond my experience, though, of course, not unimaginable.

    That’s my long-winded way of saying that I understand, Ashe, though I don’t think I’m a particularly large part of the problem and I resent being included as such (though, honestly, I’m not seeking an apology here or does my annoyance warrant one…I’m just throwing in two cents). I think this is happening more often, though, that we are all apparently choosing sides in an invisible war that we were drafted to fight. Last weekend, my wife and I took a trip into NYC and I meant to hold the door for her out of courtesy when we walked into The Strand. Small nice things are the least I can do, considering how often I blunder, but someone was already holding the door. There were two women, one held the door for the other, and then made a point (at least, it seemed to me) of looking me dead in the eyes, looking at my wife, then holding the door for her and I. I took hold of it so that she (this stranger-woman, not my wife) could pass through first and rejoin her friend before we entered between them, splitting them up, but she was rigid and tight-lipped. I half-expected her to say something about injustice or equality, but took the courtesy as offered and entered the store. I returned the favor, holding the inside door for the woman-stranger, and she went through it as awkwardly as I had passed through hers. It might have just been that we were both squirrely due to the sudden eye contact with a stranger or the odd parlance of door holding that is spoken differently the world over, but I truly think that I had become a symbol of something greater and worse than I am and it was very disquieting.

    I also might have been imagining the whole thing, because seconds later an ocean-liner crashed through the south wall and a slew of unbridled horses leapt from the deck and began eating the books in the science fiction and fantasy sections.

  • Ashe

    This is actually what I try to avoid: separating one’s self from an area of privilege. Saying things like ‘I’m not like that’ or ‘Don’t include me with them’. In my experience, it’s a surefire way to be exactly part of the problem.

    Why change and open yourself up to new ways of acting/thinking when you already remove yourself from the equation?

    I mean, I get that it sucks. Nobody likes having things ‘assumed’ about them, or being stuck in what seems like a sweeping generalization. But we’re all apart of the problem, some more and some less. When we benefit from the problem? The last thing we should do is start defending ourselves.

    Also, that woman was rude.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    In defense of the total stranger I described, I had no idea what was behind that look and could have been projecting, or maybe she had just left some other building and had the door thrown at her face. I had also been walking around the city for five or six hours and, humid as it was, I probably wasn’t the prettiest picture. Maybe she was rude. Maybe she’s awful. Beats me. I appreciate the support, though.

    As for the vast summations of my privilege…honestly, and truly understanding the concepts and details you’re describing, if I’m given any privileges whatsoever, I’m going to make full use of them for as long as I can. The way that sort of conversation usually ends, white males being the most loathsome animals in an enlightened society, I’m going to continue to think of myself as a worthwhile human being deserving of regard and kindness. Every other human person, too, of course (though I think it goes without saying). …you know, I had more to say, but my bunny is biting the bars on his cage and it’s kind of hard to think. It also doesn’t matter, I guess. What you’re saying is basic feminist principles 101, what I’m saying is a very basic simple rejection of one (not all, mind) of those principles. This circle goes round and round like Ouroboros.

  • Ashe

    Tell that to the people who keep using it unironically.