Tag Archives: sexism

Gamergate Campaign: The Fight For Change In Video Games

The gaming community has long had a reputation as a violent arena fueled by a reluctance to adapt to the rapidly-evolving gaming industry.  The ever-growing population of women working in the gaming industry is a positive leap in the direction of gender equality – particularly in such a male-dominated industry — but many gamers do not welcome the new female presence in the gaming world.

Anita Sarkeesian, Feminist cultural critic and creator of the Gamergate campaign, was forced to cancel her speech at Utah State University after receiving an email warning that a shooting massacre would take place at the event. Yet, this was by no means the first time; the Gamergate campaign has long been a target, and receives a constant stream of threats.

So, what exactly is Gamergate?

According to Recode, Gamergate is a “sizeable online community of videogame fans who are upset about growing criticisms of their favorite hobby, especially claims that today’s games often depict women in demeaning ways.”

This backlash against female gamers isn’t anything out of ordinary. Working as editor for Girl Gamer Vogue (GGVogue) — a website that aims to build a new gaming community free from gender bias — I have experienced first-hand what these women go through. Journalist and founder of GGVogue, Jennifer “Narz” Vargas is passionate about targeting this issue that plagues today’s gaming industry.

Centered on this policy to promote equality amongst all gamers, it was mind-boggling to learn that Jennifer would be against covering Gamergate. This was her chance to display a crisis affecting all female gamers and a tangible manifestation of what she fights against each day. It was difficult to understand her reservations with it all. She wasn’t receiving any threats yet and I strongly believe that the moment you piss people off, is the time for you to act and make way for change. Vargas was reluctant to agree, and felt apprehensive of getting the wrong kind of attention adding that,

Anita [Sarkeesian], is strong for moving forward with this but I only want to create a holistic community where we all support each other no matter our gender, background or affiliations. The self-proclaimed politics of the gaming community don’t interest me. I will continue to create, promote, and sponsor workshops for both men and women in gaming for those that need it. I don’t need to justify my point of view of the matter because my actions do. – Vargas

This is what it comes down to. How hard are we willing to push for change?

I understood her reservations completely and people (myself included) don’t realize how difficult it is to take a stand for change in any particular matter. Is Vargas a coward for wanting to steer clear of this whole mess? Sarkeesian decided to cancel her workshop at Utah State University because of fears that the aforementioned threats were all too real:

This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history, and I’m giving you a chance to stop it. – NYTimes.

Some believe she made the right decision, while extremists have expressed concerns that she knuckled under the demands of the ‘gamer interrupted.’ This sequence of events, however, has had a ripple effect leading avid girl gamers, like Vargas, to pull back and focus on why they became involved in the video game world in the first place.  The fact that a movement that’s making waves across the country is placing people’s lives in danger is, quite frankly, eye-opening and deeply troubling.

This wouldn’t be the first time the gaming community has gone all Call of Duty on us, however. Veteran and game developer, Ralph Koster received a number of hate messages after making changes to a specific online game. He discusses his experiences faced with the level of hate stating that there’s almost an expectation for gamers, adding that “gamers have had that for quite a while”. This happened in the early 1990s, rendering his creation part of the first wave of multiplayer web-based games, and was consequently a significant development in the gaming world at the time. This begs the question if this culture of hate is only an issue with women in games.

Are gamers being dangerously sexist or are they just pulling anything from their sockets to oppose to any changes within the gaming industry and community?

Koster endured his threats with grace even after his house was set on fire and someone wrote a note on his personal website saying he “wished the game designer had died in the blaze.” So, naturally gamers are prone to going ballistic about matters that make them… uncomfortable? Or something like that.

In any case, we cannot deny the impact the Gamergate Campaign has on gaming, and Sarkeesian is doing something right if so many are speaking (and that’s putting it lightly) against this. While I do believe that she, her campaigners and the gamers in support of this movement should continue the fight in spite of these threats, I can’t help but concede on Jennifer Vargas’ point. Working on the grander scheme of things to encourage gamers to play video games in harmony rather than fighting violently is the goal here. However, focusing on the latter can only go so far and where does one draw the line? I suppose gamers can define that for themselves much like Vargas did when this all broke out. Gamers however, may never be satisfied and like life, games and the industry will continue to change.

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No, a convicted rapist should not be allowed to resume his former job

On Friday, Ched Evans – a convicted rapist — will be released from prison after serving half his prison sentence. In 2011, he raped a 19-year-old woman at a hotel in Rhyl, Denbighshire. The victim did not consent to sexual intercourse, and Evans’ friends are said to have watched him rape her. If Evans were a lawyer, doctor or teacher, the prospect of resuming his former job would be out of the question. Yet, Ched Evans is a famous footballer, and his former club, Sheffield United, are rumoured to be considering reinstating Evans in his former position. The chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Gordon Taylor, has stated that Evans should be allowed to play professional football again, and told the BBC: “I didn’t know there was a law that said once you come out of prison you still can’t do anything.” However, over 140,000 people disagree with Taylor, and have added their signature to a petition urging the Chairman of Sheffield United, Kevin McCabe, to refuse to reinstate Ched Evans as a player.

High profile footballers are influential people; their actions receive a great deal of media attention; they are revered by fans; and they are role models. It goes without saying that they have the power to influence impressionable young people. If a convicted rapist is allowed to walk back into his former job after serving half his prison sentence, what kind of precedent are we setting? Furthermore, Evans’ case will convey a clear and unambiguous message: rape is not a serious crime.

During my secondary education, I recall being counselled, along with my fellow students, by teachers and careers advisers that we must avoid at all cost getting a criminal record should we wish to go to university, and get a good job. If Evans walks back into his former job scot-free, the credence of teachers’ advice will be called into question.

Judy Finnigan’s comments earlier this week that “the rape was not violent, he didn’t cause any bodily harm to the person” was, to say the very least, ill advised. Freedom of speech is a basic human right, and Finnigan has every right to express her opinion as part of a healthy, balanced discussion. However, in discussions about rape there is a danger of worsening the existing problem of victim blaming, and Finnigan’s statement “she [the victim] had far too much to drink” certainly bolstered this victim blaming thread, regardless of her intentions. If someone is drunk when they are murdered, does it mean it’s their fault? Rape is still rape regardless of how “drunk” the victim is. Furthermore, this victim blaming culture confuses and undermines the important moral lessons instilled by parents and teachers regarding consent and rape. And how will parents taking their children to Sheffield United matches explain the chants from the opposing crowd?

The backlash that ensued, and the deplorable trolling of Finnigan’s daughter obscured the important issue here: we must not talk about rape in degrees. Rape is an absolute: one is not slightly raped, or very raped. Rape is an act of violence, and its primary driving force is violence. The dictionary defines rape as “forcing another person to have sexual intercourse with the offender against their will”. The very act of forcing someone is a violation; a violent confiscation of someone’s free will.

Asked if Evans should be allowed to return to professional football, Finnigan said: “Well I think everything depends basically on, of course, whether the club wants him back but more importantly perhaps whether the fans want him back.” Finnigan’s assertion that Evans has “served his time” was echoed by broadcaster Jonathan Maitland on Sky’s Press Preview on Tuesday night. But, in reality, he has not “served his time”; he’s served half of it. If Evans had stopped playing at half time, would he have still played a full match?

It has also been argued that Evans has been amply punished for his crime, and it is unfair to prevent him from returning to his former life. To those of you in favour of Evans’ reinstatement, I ask you this: if a teacher were released after serving half their sentence for statutory rape, would we simply shrug and allow them to resume their position? When a doctor is convicted and struck off after years of study and training, does the nation scream “injustice” when his life is ruined? I see no outpourings of support, no outcries of sympathy when it comes to anyone else. So, why protest the fairness of this isolated case? This is a question of parity. Is it right that we make an exception for a famous footballer?

If Evans were guilty of murder, I sincerely doubt that his fans would be welcoming him back with open arms. Rape is a serious crime and it ruins lives. The take-home message should Evans be reinstated is that rape is not taken seriously as a crime. Approximately 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year, with less than one rape victim in 30 seeing their attacker brought to justice. What hope does this case give to rape victims seeking justice?

It has also been argued that once a criminal has “served their time”, they should not be further punished. But, what about the victim? Once Evans is released, will his victim forget and move on? The rape will most likely affect her for the rest of her life. Do not underestimate the damage caused to victims’ lives.

No one feels good about ruining a young man’s career, but unfortunately, he did it to himself.

The Downing Street Catwalk: The Daily Mail’s heinously sexist coverage of Cameron’s ministerial reshuffle

This week got off to a great start, when the General Synod voted in favour female bishops; a landmark turning point that ends 20 years of division over the issue. Yesterday’s drastic ministerial reshuffle added momentum to this series of progressive steps towards gender equality, when the Prime Minister promoted 10 women to ministerial positions. Cameron described his new team as one which “reflects modern Britain”, and while there is still much work to be done to redress the lack of women at the top of the government, this is certainly a step in the right direction.

Nonetheless, the Daily Mail’s coverage of the reshuffle took a turn for the retrogressive today, offering a fashion critique of the “new girls” on the Downing Street “catwalk”.

photo (8) o-DAILY-MAIL-570

 

The Mail was widely criticised today for its “heinously sexist” coverage, which made a mockery of the promotions, undermined the achievements of these women in favour of objectifying them, and judging them solely on sartorial merit.

Yet the sexism goes far deeper than objectification, its subtext reads “hey ladies, you may be in the Cabinet now, but we’ll never take you seriously. You’ll always be silly females to us. Go back to painting your nails, and looking pretty!”

Many slammed the newspaper’s coverage for its patent misogyny, choosing to report on image instead of policy.

More reassuring, however, was the mass ridicule and parody of the Mail’s spread. Highlighting the injustice at the lack of male MP fashion coverage, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg even went so far as to tweet his own catwalk outfit.

Faced with a barrage of criticism and ridicule, I sincerely hope that the Daily Mail will take heed of the backlash it has faced today. Yesterday’s reshuffle should have acted as an encouragement to young women considering a career in government. Instead, the Mail’s coverage conveyed a clear message contradicting this, and warning women that attitudes have not changed towards women. This is by no means the truth, but it is important to bear in mind the powerful influence held by the media. The public reaction to the Mail’s misogyny is comforting, and proves that men, and women, however high profile are calling out sexism and ridiculing those who engage in it. This is 2014, and we will not tolerate sexism.

Google celebrates Audrey Hepburn’s 85th birthday

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Today would have been the 85th birthday of Audrey Hepburn, star of Breakfast At Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady whose name has become synonymous with grace and elegance. She was the muse of Hubert de Givenchy and started a fashion revolution by favouring trousers and flat shoes over skirts and stilettos. In the words of Roland Barthes, her face was ‘an Event.’ It has been said Audrey was responsible for causing Hollywood’s subsequent love affair with skinnyness. Yet, her tiny frame wasn’t the result of incessant dieting, but instead the product of her starvation as a child in the Netherlands during the Second World War, which caused a lifetime of frail health. Her legacy goes beyond her style and beauty, for she was an unlikely feminist icon who struggled against old-world patriarchy. In embracing her delicate form — the result of physical pain during a Wartime childhood — she turned this pain into iconography and transgressive beauty. Perhaps this beauty and her contribution to fashion overshadow the feminist undertones in the characters she chose to play — women who struggled against the everyday presence of patriarchy. Be that as it may, we are certain of one thing: she made a contribution, and for that, she shall be remembered.

Here are some of her many words of wisdom:

On living

‘Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering – because you can’t take it in all at once.’

On sex appeal

‘There is more to sex appeal than just measurements. I don’t need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much sex appeal picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain.’

On style

Why change? Everyone has his own style. When you have found it, you should stick to it.

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