Saturday, December 3

Why is women playing computer games still such a 'joke'?

Depending on whether you are in computer games and ‘geek culture’ or not, you might or might have not heard about the uproar at a passage of a critique on the new Elder Scrolls RPG, “The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim”. It’s not about people who play Hannibal the Cannibal in the game, which would have been understandable from the point of view of the ‘computer games are evil’ fraction out there. It’s about taking it for granted, at least to a certain degree, that adult women (read: women of 20 or older) do not play computer games – at least no computer games other than casual ones.

This post is not about the uproar, it’s not really about that article, either. It’s a post that wonders why someone would still consider it a given women don’t play computer games. For, you see, to make it a ‘joke’ to claim ‘if you haven’t heard of Skyrim, you’re a) an adult woman or b)…’, you need to believe it’s still a given women aren’t interested in games. Otherwise the poor guy would have known it wouldn’t go over well, especially not with Facebook and Twitter around.

Now, I could pull off a ‘hipster cat’ move and say ‘I did computer games before it was mainstream for women,’ but that would be beside the point. Yes, I did play computer games while most women were not interested in them. I still play them, as my main blog might show, where I did two posts about computer games today. But this is not about me, it is about people who still think women are not playing ‘real’ computer games like “Skyrim”.

No matter which way they came, women have taken up computer games as a hobby for quite a while now. Some started with consoles and made their way to the computer to play more of their favourite games (RPG games, no matter whether single player or MMO, are very popular with female players), some started with casual games and made a jump over to the other ones at one point. They all are playing computer games today (according to some statistics, female players are close to 50% online now, maybe a few percent less offline) and quite some of them are well-informed on what is in the line or out right now. And especially “Skyrim” as an RPG game has been in their line of sight for a long time – so much for women not being aware the game has been released.

Yet men – some men at least – seem to be completely oblivious (or Oblivion? little inside joke) of this fact. Only because most heroes in RPG games are male by default (even if a female alternative exists), some people still seem to think that only men play those games. But if men enjoy creating female characters for MMORPGs, why should women not enjoy a little gender change, too? A character you play in a computer game is merely an avatar, changing with every game. It’s not your only possible online or digital self. I have never had any moral or other problems, playing a male character. I’m sure most men don’t have a problem at all with playing Lara Croft…

If you haven’t heard of “The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim,” you a) haven’t read this post or b) haven’t read this post. Otherwise you will at least be aware such a game exists, no matter whether you’re a man or a woman. Oh … and long time no see, but I promise to improve…

Thursday, July 7

Dear Mr. Dawkins

Even though I know the chances of you reading this blog are non-existent to very minuscule, I think it might be enlightening to you or any other man to read this. I have read your comments on a blog post at PZ Myers and I have to say it just shows that, religious or not, men still obviously don’t really think about what half the human populace has to go through every day.

You are a very privileged person indeed, you know: you’re living in a ‘first world’ country, you are white, you are a male and you have a good income, making you a person ‘well off’ or even ‘wealthy’. Each of these privileges makes you superior to quite a number of people on this planet. As an inhabitant of a ‘first world’ country, you’re not likely to die young just because you don’t get medical attention or because you won’t get any medicine. You are not likely to suffer from severe hunger, either. As a white person (yes, I know, the political correct term would be ‘Caucasian’, but I don’t give a damn about political correctness), you are less likely to suffer a hate crime, you are less likely to be falsely accused and sentenced, you are more likely to get a good job and you are a good deal more likely to be taken seriously by people. As a person with a good income, you do not have to worry about where you next meal will come from or whether you can pay next month’s rent (if you pay rent at all and don’t own your own home). And as a male, you do not have to worry about the actions of your fellow men the way a woman does have to.

Yes, on the paper women are equal to men in every way in the ‘first world’. Yes, this is not the case for most Muslim countries around the world. But at the same time, just to point it out at the beginning, female circumcision is not part of the Islam, it is an old African tradition practised a long time before Islam came to this place. The other things you pointed out, like not being allowed to work or ever drive a car or leave the house on your own, like the threat of being stoned to death for adultery, are true for a lot of Muslim countries … definitely for all Muslim countries with a fundamentalist government. But paper is patient, as they say in my home country of Germany (another ‘first world’ country). A right on the paper is far from being a right being granted every day in the real world. Yes, a woman in a ‘first world’ country is rather unlikely to be forced to endure female circumcision (unless her family is from a country that practices it and finds a surgeon ready to do it). Yes, we can have jobs, can drive cars, can leave our homes alone and are not likely to be stoned for adultery. At the same time, our world isn’t yours or that of any man, no matter in which country.

You say words aren’t dangerous. Words can be dangerous, but that’s not even the point here. Words can lead to deeds and you, as a man of the world, should know that. While one man might take a ‘No’ after an invitation as it is, think ‘what a shame’ and move on, another might take the same ‘No’ as an insult to his ego and move in to assault the person who uttered it. And there’s no possible way for a woman to tell one from the other in this situation – before the assault happens or not, that is.

For a woman, riding an elevator with a man late at night (speak: at a time with little traffic in the elevator or any floor it might stop at), can indeed be a dangerous situation, certainly one to feel uncomfortable with. You claim an elevator is not an enclosed space, that simply to press a button will solve the problems? First of all, there’s a button that will stop the elevator immediately, even between floors, making it an enclosed space. Second, it doesn’t take a long time for a man to attack a woman and bring her down – travel time between two floors will be enough. Once a woman is down, her attacker is upon her, it doesn’t matter whether or not the elevator door is open. Late at night, chances are that a hotel floor with normal bedrooms and suites will be empty. Chances are even if that woman still is able to scream, she will not be heard. An elevator is an enclosed space long enough for the worst to happen, Mr. Dawkins. And, to be honest, enclosed space is not the only dangerous space … rapes have occurred in parks, on plazas, in the streets, all places that are anything but enclosed.

Personally, I don’t know what is worse, rape or murder. Sure, murder is a very final thing, but that can also be seen as something positive. Whatever is happening to you, it will soon be over. Rape, on the other hand, lasts for a long time after the actual deed … for the rest of a person’s life. And a man, once adult, is very unlikely to be raped at all. Once a man, like you, has outgrown childhood and early teens, has developed a mature body with the physical strength, but also the build it brings, he is unlikely to be raped by anybody. For a woman, no such time exists. From birth (as a lot of sad news prove) to the grave, a woman is always in danger of rape. Rape has nothing to do with sexual attraction. Rape has nothing to do with lust. Rape is about power and humiliation of others. Rape is the ultimate proof for the offender that they are superior to the victim. And in most cases of rape, the offender is male and the victim is female.

And women never feel safe around men, not completely. Sure, for most women, there’s no imminent thread in the close family. But whenever we step out of our home alone (which we are allowed to do), whenever we go to work or drive our car along a country road, we know we’re at risk. Some criminal cases of the past prove we’re at risk even in our homes. There was a man in Germany who climbed the facades of houses, entered second or third storey flats where women lived alone, then attacked and subdued them, tied them up and raped them repeatedly. If you can’t leave your window at least slightly open on a warm night when living on the third floor of a building, just because you’re a woman, where the hell can you feel safe then?

So let’s spell it out for all the men out there … including you, Mr. Dawkins. Certain things which a man may not take as serious at all will make a woman uncomfortable.

You first of all have to realize that being alone with a man they don’t know or don’t know well will make women uncomfortable as a rule. Woman trained in martial arts might not feel as uncomfortable, but I think we all feel a bit nervous anyway. I know it’s highly unfair of us to treat all men as potential rapists all the time, but we operate on the old proverb of being safe rather than sorry.

If you, therefore, want to initiate a conversation with a woman, it would be far more advisable to do it in a public place, preferable one frequented by people. The lounge, the lobby, the bar of a hotel are a much better place for it than the elevator. We are much more at ease in a surrounding in which we are not alone with another person, especially if said person is male.

If you want to strike a conversation with a woman, also refrain from inviting her to your room/flat/house/other dwelling of choice for coffee about a minute or less after you first addressed her. Most women take such an invite as a backhanded way of saying ‘want to have sex with me?’ Maybe we are wrong, maybe you also invite male strangers to your place for a cup of coffee, especially at a conference, just for a lively discussion about the topic. But ‘how about a cup of coffee at my place’ has, I fear, replaced the good old stamp collection as a means to lure someone into your bed.

If you want to spend time with a woman, want to talk to her, maybe get to know her a bit better, therefore approach her in a public place, invite her to a drink (coffee or otherwise) in a public place (a coffeehouse, a bar or what other place you find). Talk to her, listen to her (that is an important point) and make sure not to put pressure on her or make her feel uncomfortable.

If you find yourself in an enclosed space like an elevator with a woman and if you feel the need to talk to her (maybe because you feel uncomfortable with being there, because you’re claustrophobic yourself), make small-talk. Talk about the weather. Try not to stare at her too much, because she might think you’re evaluating your chances of overpowering her or are undressing her with your eyes. Or do what we Germans do in elevators on principles: say nothing. As a comedian here in Germany pointed out once: people rather drop dead because of lack of oxygen in elevators over here than utter a sound at all. But be assured that a woman will not begrudge you a fresh gulp of air regularly, so feel free to breathe while in the elevator.

Most women will not have sex with a stranger they have just met – and those who do normally pick that man up in special places like single bars, not in an elevator or at a conference. We have far more to lose than you men do, for once. Even a condom, the pill or both together are not a perfect protection from unwanted pregnancy … and there’s that annoying thing called sexually transmitted diseases. We prefer to meet a few times, learn more about the other person and then decide whether or not to have sex with him.

Most of all, always keep in mind that even in ‘first world’ countries women never feel completely at ease when in the company of one or more men they don’t know.

On another note, Mr. Dawkins, women do not have to live in Muslim countries to be physically threatened on a daily basis. You might not have heard about it, but rape is a common thing in South Africa, as an example. Women from lower levels of society are raped there quite often, most men think it’s normal to take a woman whenever they want – or that it is a ‘cure’ for female homosexuality to rape a woman repeatedly to make her see the positive points about having sex with a man. Rape is a physical thing, don’t you think so?

Maybe, Mr. Dawkins, it would be a good idea for you to, for once, employ that definitely brilliant mind of yours for something else. Imagine for a while that the world were upside down, that men were weaker than women, that women possessed the same delusion of superiority quite some men still have, that women could rape men as easily physically as it works the other way around in reality. Then imagine you had been in that elevator with a woman and she had acted the way the man has in the real case. Wouldn’t you, per chance, have felt uncomfortable with the whole situation yourself? Wouldn’t you, after hearing stories of sexual assault because of such ‘harmless’ conversations, have worried how the other person might take your ‘No’ in this case? Just think about it, before you use such an example the next time to make a point about other bad things happening in the world.

Thursday, June 16

How often ... seriously?

How often do we have to go through this, gentlemen? How often do we have to point out that neither social position nor clothing nor anything else ever make rape ‘normal’ or ‘legal’ or ‘right’? And how often do we have to point out that rape isn’t about sex, but about domination and humiliation?

Two reasons for this post. First of all, Mr. Strauss-Khan and Mr. Kachelmann. In addition the reaction to an article about the most dangerous countries for women to be in. The guys first, though.

How is it, gentlemen, that every second newspaper treats the alleged rape Mr. Strauss-Khan committed on a maid in a hotel as a case of extra-marital sex? Mr. Schwarzenegger had some extra-marital sex ten years ago, that much is for sure. The result is walking around today and his wife has left him because of it (though nobody can tell me she didn’t know about it). The thing about extra-marital sex, gentlemen, is this: it’s consent. Both people agree to have sex, even though they’re not married to each other (and might both be married to someone else). This might fall under the headings of ‘amoral’ for you, depending on your own take on morals. It is not illegal, however. Mr. Strauss-Khan coerced a woman into having sex with him, using not his physical power, but that of his position (as a customer of the hotel). Maybe he did use some physical power, too. The point, gentlemen, is this: is was not consenting. This makes it illegal. You see the difference? Or do you want me to spell it out again? Well, here it goes: Extra-marital sex = consent sexual encounter between two adult persons. Rape = non-consenting sex between two people (not necessarily both adult). Extra-marital sex = fun some might consider immoral. Rape = act of violence, always to be considered immoral.

Now, most of you might not have followed the case of Mr. Kachelmann, a former weather anchor here in Germany (and in Switzerland, too). Mr. Kachelmann has been accused of having raped one of his former girlfriends and has been found not guilty last week. Not because there was no doubt he didn’t do it, but because they couldn’t proof he did do it without any doubt. I don’t know if he did it or not, but after the trial, there’s one thing every woman will remember: if you get raped, better not go to the police, because the trial against your violator will be worse than the rape. What kind of message is that to send out?

The second thing that annoyed me? There was an article in one of the online newspapers I read daily about the five most dangerous countries for a woman to live. Apart from a bad medical situation, violence is a very important point for determining how dangerous a place is, obviously. Most of the five countries (all except one) are current war zones, either ‘normal’ war or civil war.

Why do I point that out? Because a lot of those armies see rape as a weapon. Yes, their soldiers do not rape women, because they, individually, ‘want to’, but because their commanders say they ‘have to’. It’s a weapon of war – an act of violence.

Yet one of the comments for the article states the whole statistics is ‘useless’, because it’s not important. I’m pretty sure the comment comes from a guy who never even though about what violence against women can mean. And about how much more dangerous it is to be a woman in these countries (as opposed to being a man, which is also dangerous).

As long as any statistics about the lives of women on this world is seen as ‘useless’ and a ‘waste of time’, you all have a lot to learn, gentlemen.

So, to get back to the question, how long will it take for you all to get it (including that police officer in Toronto going on about women dressed sexy being responsible for being raped)? How often do we have to go through this again, gentlemen?

Saturday, March 12

International Women's Day

Yes, I know I’m a bit late, as the International Women’s Day is past already … or future, depending on how you see it. It will come again, after all.

What I wonder about when I hear there’s an International Women’s Day, is why. Why is there an international day for women and not for men? Because, one might answer that question, men have their international day every day of the year. It’s still, in many ways, a man’s world out there. Women, despite being half the populace, merely are allowed to co-inhabit it.

All over the world, women held demonstrations during the day, reminding people that they still don’t have the same rights and possibilities than men do. And the reaction of some of the countries shows all too well they’re right.

Logic would dictate, actually, that all humans should have the same rights (and duties) in society. There’s only one major difference between men and women – and that one merely exists so new life can be produced. Men aren’t more intelligent (not on the average, it’s the same for men and women), these days not necessarily stronger or otherwise hugely different. The main difference, one might say, is in the head.

Men think they own the world. The certainly act like it.

Not too long ago, in an article I read, someone explained that men get higher pay-rises, merely because they asked for them in a certain way. A man, that article claimed, would go into his boss’ office and say something like ‘I deserve at least 200 Euros more a month’ and, if he wasn’t too wrong about it, he would get them. A woman, on the other hand, would ask what the boss was prepared to give and accept it (usually far less than she ‘deserves’). My question, after reading that article, was this: How would the boss react if the woman came in and demanded the 200 Euros like the man? My guess: He’d not even give her as much as he would ‘willingly’ give, had she asked. He would still see it as something of a scandalous behaviour if the woman came in and just demanded.

Or another piece of news: some companies even admit outright in a job interview that they pay women less than men working in the same job. My reaction, if it happened to me, would simply be to tell them to shove their job where the sun doesn’t shine, but in today’s work environment, with unemployment being as high as it is, most people will merely accept less pay, if they get a job. Women might be even more inclined than men, because they learn from childhood to be more moderate in their demands.

We’ve come a long way since the first International Women’s Day, that much is for sure. But at the same time, we’ve still got a long way to go as well.

Monday, February 28

Women make less money

…and it’s their own fault. But is it?

Okay, back to the beginning. A study I read about today claims that women are making less money, because they are ready to accept less money than their male colleagues. Let’s take a look at this.

In Germany, it is considered rude to ask your colleague ‘what exactly do you get for your job?’ You might ask your friends, but you won’t just ask the guy working in the cubicle next to you. So where does the basic information about ‘fair’ wages come from, for most people? Their friends or relatives who are working in the same or a very similar job. Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that women are more likely to work in jobs that don’t pay well, even if they work in jobs that pay better, their source of information about wages is most likely to be female. So a woman getting less than a man for the same job will tell them what she’s getting. They will think ‘well, that’s what you get in the job’ and use that amount as a target when asking for a pay raise. Result: they make less money. That’s part of my theory.

The study also claims that women are more likely to just accept what they’re offered while men usually have a number in mind and insist on getting it – which more often than not will work, providing he isn’t too greedy. This might be true (I haven’t been listening into the pay negotiations of thousands of men and women), but it bears a question: Why?

The most likely answer, from my point of view, is that men are taught from early childhood to see their own abilities very positively. They are absolutely sure they’re doing extremely well and deserve a lot more money. Women still are quite often taught to be more demure when it comes to their abilities. Is it a wonder, therefore, when women ‘accept what is offered’ while men ‘demand what they feel they deserve?’ Let’s go one step farther, would a boss accept it if a woman came and said ‘I know I deserve at least 200 more a month and I’m not leaving until I have them?’ In other words: if she were acting like a man might? Women quite often are afraid the answer might be ‘no’ and they might be out of a job, should they try it. As it might be a tad more difficult to find a new job as a woman (that old ‘are you planning children’ spiel again), they accept what they’re given and hope it’s a fair offer – which it usually isn’t. Again, that’s part of my theory.

Similar facts might be one of the reasons why women are less likely to get the good and interesting jobs in a company (and more likely to get the strenuous and thankless ones). This, too, was part of the study. And what could be done about this?

I fear the only way to really change all of this would be to change society a good deal. If women learn to be more self-reliant and self-assured, they will be more likely to beat male competition – there are a lot of well-educated women out there. If, in addition, the German school system and the German kindergartens are reformed and it’s no longer required for a woman to be home by twelve a.m. or one p.m. (because that’s when her children will be home from school or have to be picked up from kindergarten), women would not experience this break in their career as much as they do today. They would not have to be absent from work for a long time (and take a part-time job afterwards), could forward their career and, maybe, one day catch up with men (or even overhaul? nothing is impossible…).

Women make less money and, yes, partly it’s their fault. The question is are men strong enough to accept women who are acting like them? Currently, I’m afraid, the answer is no.