Wednesday, November 5

That's why we can't have nice things...

I admit that in many ways I’m probably what you would call an armchair feminist. I don’t go to demonstrations, I’m not a member of any feminist groups, I’m just a woman who thinks she should be equal to a man and who gets annoyed seeing the many ways women are still treated differently (and normally worse). However, I’ve started regularly checking a blogging site called “Mädchenmannschaft” (Girl’s Team, they mostly write in German, though) that is definitely feminist. And I have understood why we’re actually doing more of a roll-back than of an advance.

Every time I see a post that deals with ‘mainstream’ feminists - or women who speak out for feminism, but are not considered feminists per se, like Emma Watson when she spoke in front of the UN - I see the writers spewing their anger, definitely deciding that a white, heterosexual woman from a first world country and with a certain fame can’t speak for ‘us’ women. But, by that definition, who is ‘us’ women? I am from a first world country, I’m white, I’m heterosexual (I’d say I’m casual-sexual, because sex doesn’t take up a lot of time in my life, but I’m not completely without a sex drive, like an asexual person), the only thing I’m not is famous. Not that I miss it…
I do agree Alice Schwarzer definitely doesn’t speak for all women, either. It seems to me that by now she has ‘lost contact’ with problems a lot of women have these days. And then there’s the bank account in Switzerland she has to take care of. I do agree that in many discussions, women from other areas of the world, from Africa, India, Asia, South America, are underrepresented. I do agree that I, like most white people from a first world country, have a certain prerogative.

It seems, women more than men have an instinct to immediately be at each other’s throats. There is no other explanation. I can understand, to a certain degree, that a woman of colour would not feel represented by a white woman (or a Caucasian one or whatever the current politically correct word is, not that I care, I see political correctness as a disease). The same goes the other way around, naturally. What I can’t understand is the anger and outright hate the writers of Mädchenmannschaft often display. Emma Watson may not be a true and tired feminist (yet and, the way she was treated, probably never), but that doesn’t make what she said any less true. And just because something comes from a white woman who happens to live in Europe or North America and also happens to like guys more than girls, it doesn’t have to be untrue for everyone else.
We all have our battlefields, our topics within the large realm of feminism that are most important to us. Some of us have to fight more because of their skin colour, some of us have to fight more because of the people they choose to love. But what use is it, really, to fight each other over those differences? As long as another feminist is not belittling you for your skin colour or choice in lovers, there is no reason to attack them. And just because a white woman’s point of view is different from yours, that doesn’t make her less or you more of a feminist. The same goes the other way around as well. Each human has a different point of view - because we all have different experiences in life.

And as long as every young woman speaking about feminism without being considered a feminist has to fear the claws and fangs of the feminists, they will not join us. In the 1980s, the women wanted to be feminists, they wanted to be equal, they were looking for strong role models. And they got them.
Since the 1990s, the role models have vanished again. Barbie got even thinner. The ‘good-looking’ woman got a lot thinner. Admittedly, shoulder pads have gone out of style with good reason, but in the 1980s, woman wanted to look broad-shouldered and strong, like men.
Today we’ve gone back to sexist advertisements by the score, to weak female characters in movies, TV series, and computer games. And we’re surprised young women won’t join our ‘club’ any longer? Would you join a club where people are shouting at you for daring to say something? Where they’re shouting at you, because you weren’t born in Africa, Asia, South America, or India (or at least to ancestors from those places), but ‘dared’ to be born in Europe or North America? The answer, I think, is pretty obvious.
Sheathe those claws, cover those fangs again. Use them against those who are really against equality of the sexes (and for me, that includes all kinds of sexual orientation).

We have a lot of problems still to solve, but ‘black versus white,’ ‘poor versus rich,’ ‘one sexual orientation versus all other’ among ourselves should not be among them, yet. We can work those out once we’re equal to men.

Tuesday, October 28

Why all the differences?

Female/male gamers … women’s/men’s haircuts … women’s/men’s wages … women’s/men’s looks. Why do we make a difference where it’s not necessary, instead of only making one where it makes sense?

Let’s step away from #gamergate, and instead look at gaming as a such. Why is every woman who plays computer/video games considered a ‘fake?’ I know most companies which make the big AAA titles have young men as their target audience, but so what? The target audience for “My Little Pony” are young girls, but there’s loads of Bronies (adult men who love the show, in case you haven’t heard about it) around. A game can have other fans than the target audience it was originally developed for. Why should a woman not enjoy playing an FTP game or an RPG?
The percentage of female customers for the computer/video game industry has been rising for years. The more women use a computer regularly, the more women potentially also play games. Yet, it seems the industry still has to realize this. And apart from the industry, men also have to realize that women just play games, too. Not to hook up with a gamer (for, seriously guys, why should a woman fake interest in computer games just to meet you online?), but because they like playing. Every human likes to play, men and women alike.
There is the whole topic about games either showing women as objects (the ‘damsel in distress’ trophe; basically, a lot of female characters could easily be replaced by inanimate objects without changing the story much) or drawing them as overly sexy (look at those MMORPGs and explain to me how female amour would in reality protect any body part of the woman wearing it).
A little rave from my side here about “Tomb Raider.” I liked the series, I really did (apart from “Angel of Darkness,” naturally). Okay, so Lara has a pair of boobs that would make standing straight a serious problem for her in real life and anyone dressed like her would come back from her adventures basically without skin on her legs or arms, but at least she was one tough woman. I liked the reboot she got in “Legend,” too. I liked the remake of the first game, the “Anniversary” one. I don’t like the new game, not just because of the changed game mechanics. I’m aware it’s supposed to show how Lara became an adventuress. But why make her a soggy, little girl who spends a horrific amount of time crying like a baby? Why throw out all the back story she got in the past, with her surviving that airplane crash as a girl and making it through the snow and the mountains to safety? It shows Lara grew up prematurely, she chose her destination in life early. That’s okay. You don’t see Indiana Jones crying like a baby, because the cross was ripped from his hands in the ‘origin story’ in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” do you? Why? Because he’s a boy, not a girl? That’s where it becomes annoying. Lara was a tough character for years and people liked her like that (ok, most guys probably liked her boobs, but there was a female in a computer game that was not annoying or just standing in for a trophy). Then she was basically reduced to a crying, little girl, just like the annoying sidekick/love interest/person to save you see in too many computer games. And what was even worse: you played her. I like playing the ‘original’ Lara, the one with the two guns who jumps, runs, and climbs through ruins, who fights animals, bad guys, and the occasional demon. I like having a badass character who, for a change, is not a muscled guy (although I have spent my share of hours with Wolverine as well). I always thought she was a logical choice for all that running and climbing and jumping, because I would guess a slender woman to be more agile than a guy with muscles on his muscles. Rant over…

I’m not sure whether the next one is true in every country, but over here, you pay more for a haircut, if you happen to be a woman. Yes, I know what you’re probably thinking now … more hair, more work, so more money. Let me counter that. I have a short cut, have had one for years now. My hair isn’t really longer than that of a guy. I like it that way. But I pay more for a cut than a guy does. Why?

It’s well-known by now that there’s a pay gap between the wages for men and for women doing the same job. Again, there’s no real reason for that. If two people do the same job, they should get the same money for it. (If the person getting less weren’t female, but instead a person of colour or from a religious minority, there would be a lot of trouble coming from that.)
And there’s people who even suggest women shouldn’t ask for a pay raise and instead be happy with what they’re given. Seriously, people, WTF?
Social freezing has also been through the media recently, the offer by some of the big companies to pay for their female employees freezing their eggs and getting children later in life. (In case you’re wondering why they should freeze eggs, if they want to get children before menopause: the younger the person, the better the eggs/sperm, normally, so it makes sense.) Why do they offer that instead of making sure a woman can be both a mother and a successful employee? Many companies basically expect male employees over a certain age and above a certain position in the company to have a nice family with a wife and one or two children. It’s good for the company image, if the managers can pull out their happy, little family for photo sessions. Why doesn’t the same go for women? Because they’re supposed to stay home and raise the kids, even if (and that’s rare enough) the husband makes less? Because it’s too difficult to build and maintain an on-grounds childcare where they can drop off the kids in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon?
There’s a couple of small companies in Germany who do exactly that. They maintain a childcare centre on the premises where mothers can leave their children during work, where older children can come in after school (school in Germany often ends around 1 p.m. already). Their experiences with it are good on the whole. Parents work more concentrated and effectively, knowing their kids are cared for and they don’t have to juggled their workload to fit with the opening hours of the kindergarten.

And then there’s the ‘looks’ thing. What is the most important thing bosses look for, if a potential employee is male? His qualifications in all likelihood. What does always come in, if a potential employee is female? Potential pregnancy and looks. I can understand it, if a company wants someone with a lot of customer contact to adhere to a certain look. I can also understand it, if a model or an actor is judged by appearance to a certain degree. That’s part of the job for them.
Women are often reduced to looks, even while being trolled on the internet. It’s been confirmed by a recent study. Trolls to inflict a lot of insults on both men and women, yes, but in case of men, most insults take the direction of the person’s knowledge. Of their actual right to comment on something. With women, it takes a different direction. Either women are insulted on their looks, called too ugly to even comment, or they are sexually insulted, something like ‘she needs to be fucked, so she sees things right.’ Apart from the fact that sex usually doesn’t change opinion too much (unless it’s the opinion on the sexual partner’s actual sexual abilities), you can see where this is going. It’s not about ‘not knowing,’ it’s merely about being a woman. A woman, the trolls suggest, has to look good, be good in bed, and keep her mouth shut (unless she uses it for sex). Which is probably a reason why some trolls will never get close to any woman in real life…

There are physical and metal differences between men and women (even though it can be argued to which extent the mental differences are a question of upbringing).
Strangely enough, a study found that women have a higher potential for aggressiveness, if (and that’s the important part) they are not judged for it, because it’s anonymous, like in a computer game. If you don’t believe that is possible, check out several of the Rejected Princesses.
It might be good for society as a whole that women usually are too well-adjusted to let their aggressiveness flow freely. Most of the actual differences between men and women, however, are based on their different jobs during propagation. That should not be a reason to completely treat them differently.

There are few things which are truly different for women and for men. Society needs to stop treating us like two different species.

Thursday, September 18

The whole threatening discussion

I have to admit, first and foremost, that I don’t know much about the whole Anita Sarkeesian issue. I’m not following up on AAA titles and all the discussions these days. What annoys me, however, is the way people wage war about how it’s not different whether or not a man or a woman is threatened with rape online. Let me tell you why there is an actual difference.

I don’t doubt, after several blog posts and other articles I read online while the debate was still raging hottest, that men who are outspoken online face death threats and rape threats as well. It’s a definite prove the internet still has some growing up to do - the users have, at any rate. So why should it be more terrible when it happens to a woman?
If you are a man, looking at this comic might help to give you a bit of insight into a woman’s world. Or, rather, into the dark side of a woman’s world. But here’s the true reason why it is different: men don’t really have to fear the rape threats, women do.

Don’t believe me? Well, outside jail, a man past his teens doesn’t have to fear being raped. The number of rapes happening to adult males (as I said, outside jail) is extremely small. It’s more likely for a man to be hit by lightning than to be raped, once he’s adult and not in jail. So Mr. Dawkins and other people who get threatened online regularly can sleep safely and leave their homes whenever they wish.
So, what is different for a woman? A woman is always in danger of being raped, from the cradle to the grave (and I do not kid you about one of those, really). Statistically, one out of five women (that’s 20%) in a developed first-world country will be sexually violated at least once in her life. In some so-called third-world countries, the rate is far higher - remember all those mass-rape cases in India recently? Rape is not a joke to us. Rape is not something we can just brush off. Rape is real and always raising its ugly head.

Of course, we know most people who make any kind of threat online would never follow through with it in real life. It’s much easier to write ‘I’m going to kill you’ than to actually do it. So, no, not every guy who ever threatened a woman on Twitter or Facebook with rape will really pull through with that, should he ever personally meet that woman in question.
Our problem, then? Well, not every guy will, but some might. And we can’t see which of the guys who threatened us will actually pull through, given the chance. It’s not as if a potential rapist has ‘rapist’ tattooed on his forehead or something. They might look nice, they might look friendly, they might look harmless.

And afterwards? The woman, having been raped, will have to face the flack. It’s true, rape is the only crime for which the victim usually gets blamed. People either say ‘she’s lying’ or ‘it’s her fault, because she dressed slutty.’
Yes, there are women who report a false rape, for whatever reason. But then, there’s thousands of people filing in false damage or burglary reports with their insurance companies each year. Does that mean you immediately scream ‘insurance cheater’ when someone tells you their home has been broken into? Or they’ve been in a car accident?
Victim blaming is possible in the case of rape, because most victims are women. That might sound like a typical unfair feminist claim. It’s not. Women still aren’t equal to men in every aspect. They usually still are lower on the hierarchy and have less power and influence. Sexual harassment and rape are not about sex, you see, they’re about power. Exercising power over someone. Hence the jail thing above, in jail, rape isn’t about sex, either, but about exercising power over someone else.
Let’s be honest, a man who just needs sexual relief doesn’t go out and rape a woman. He’ll visit a prostitute, pick up a woman for a one-night stand (and in this case, the woman wants it, too, so there’s nothing wrong about it), or just, you know, take care of it by hand.
And in most cases, the offender in a rape case is no stranger with a raincoat and a wide-brimmed hat. It’s a family member, a friend, a colleague, or a superior. It’s not about what the woman does or doesn’t wear, either. There’ve been rapes during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, while women were forced to wear those one-man tents. Tell me how a woman in a shapeless, black (or blue) bag with a little meshing for seeing through can dress ‘too sexy,’ will you?

For a man, that might all sound crazy, untrue, or just scaring. For a woman, all of the above is a truth she has to live with, every day of her life, from being born to dying. So, the next time you see a rape threat online, tell the guy who has made it off for it. The next time you hear someone crack a rape joke, tell them it’s not funny. If a woman does, she’s just being sensitive or a feminist. Perhaps it has more impact, if it comes from a fellow guy.

Sunday, September 14

Gaming as a such

If you have read my personal blog or this one, you will have realized already I like playing computer games (and reading, and reading comics, and watching movies, and many other things). I’m not much into online games for various reasons. FPS is very much in my past, I like story-driven RPGs for one person much more than the MMO variety, I don’t like casino games (and I’ve already written about the pest of FTP games in my personal blog). I do like both AAA titles and casual games, even though they are different to me.

AAA titles usually mean a lot of commitment. They’re long (and for the price they ought to be, honestly) and you need to train with them, so you can manage to stay on top of the learning curve. I do enjoy the great RPG titles (and there’s many wonderful indie RPGs out there, too), I enjoy the occasional action game or action adventure, too. Sometimes, I even go for strategy (real-time or turn-based), even though I’m not a tactical genius.
Casual games are more of a ‘one level at a time’ thing. They do have a learning curve, too (and some, like “Diner Dash - Flo Through Time,” have a damn steep one), but on the whole they’re more forgiving when it comes to mistakes. They don’t demand the same level of commitment - although I’m sure I could make all gold on some TMs, if I committed more time to them.
Apart from the price and time they take to finish, though, there’s another huge difference between casual and AAA games: character design. I don’t mean the graphics, which usually are different (but graphic styles are very different between games and developers, anyway), but the way the characters, main and otherwise, are shown. Only very few AAA titles have a female main character (more about it in my last post here) or the option to play one. A lot of casual games do.

Why? Because women are the main target audience for casual games, but not for AAA titles. Casual games usually demand brains. I don’t claim AAA titles don’t as a rule, but many of those rely more on quick reflexes, unlike the casual ones. They demand tactics (TM games, builders), a sharp eye (HOGs, M3 games), the will to solve puzzles (HOGs, casual adventures). They don’t demand characters capable of using brute force. What would be the point in searching ten hidden object scenes for a key, if you could just rip the offending door off the hinges? Why can’t you just use the crowbar instead? (Wait, that’s not a good example, but one of my pet peeves about gaming logic…) Of course, you also need lighting reflexes to get gold on levels of the “Diner Dash” series. A good online friend of mine claims that’s not true and the secret of gold levels is chaining. She can easily get gold on all of them, so she’s probably right, but for me, it’s usually click-click-clicking really fast.
Adventures, one of the oldest genres of PC gaming, have always had a strong female following. They rely on the player solving puzzles and communicating with other characters, most of the time. Some puzzles are ‘use the right item in the right place’ while others are more about asking the right question at the right time or really solving mini-games these days (I don’t mind that, especially if the games have a skip button for the hopeless cases - like me with the classic Eight-Queens chess puzzle … yes, I know there’s probably hundreds of places with solutions for that one). Ever since I first tried to take the bus to the airport with Zak McKracken, I’ve been a huge fan of adventures.
RPG games combine the story-driven mechanics of an adventure with tactics and sometimes wild clicking (depending on whether you play turn-based or real-time combat). There’s also a lot of gathering loot involved and I love gathering loot.
Then there’s Maxis with its simulations. I’ve been hooked on them since the first SimCity. I’m also a huge fan of The Sims, despite the fact that you only play a simulated normal life. I like playing them and I’ve probably waste too much time with them over the many years the series has been running.
Then there’s the Anno series, especially “Anno 1404” which I’m still playing (I like it more than the currently last one in the series, which is “Anno 2070”). They’re builders and look very beautiful. I know a couple of women who like them and I’m not surprised. Battle may happen, but it has always been a little ‘bonus’ to the actual building. Most of the time, at least outside the campaigns, you can avoid battle by simply not going out and annoying other parties. Working together and having a trade agreement or a peace treaty usually pays of more in those games, for both sides.

I’ve played my share of FPS games in the past (starting with “Star Wars: Dark Forces”), I like action adventures, even though I have troubles with some parts, usually, since my reflexes do not hold up to games designed for 20-something guys. I’ve tried my hands at flight simulators in the past (and learned I’m a terrible pilot that way). But that’s me, not the ‘woman’ but the ‘not so average woman.’ That’s just an almost 40-year-old with the reflexes of an almost 40-year-old who had to learn the hard way she can’t do “Crystal Caves” or “Secret Agent” as well any longer as she did many, many years ago, when she played them for the first time and was not even 20… The good thing about being almost 40 is that you have learned patience and are more ready to do a level over and over again, in order to get through it (and finally pull down that Star Destroyer in level 8 of the first “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” game).

What do I prefer? AAA titles that are targeted and marketed to young men? Casual games that are targeted and marketed to women? For me, the answer still is ‘both.’ I can’t imagine not playing any more AAA titles, although I own many more casual games - but then, they’re a lot cheaper. I don’t want to get back to the times of only AAA titles, either.