Ms. Men and Missing the Mark: Anita Sarkeesian’s Second Tropes vs. Women in Video Games Series

by Kristin Bezio

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our new readers for this post written in November! 2013! If you want to comment or share this, do so knowing Kristen is a feminist AND a game critic AND a game player AND an academic, so this is a critical analysis, because The Learned Fangirl’s tagline is “a critical look at pop culture and technology”!

I’ve talked about Anita Sarkeesian before on TLF, both prior to her release of the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series, and following the release of each episode on the Damsel in Distress trope (after parts one and two, and after part three). Sarkeesian has just released a new video in the series, about a trope she calls the “Ms. Male Trope.”

Sarkeesian begins this new video with the history of Pac-Man and the introduction of the modification/sequel Ms. Pac-Man (which, she notes, quickly became one of the best-selling games in the U.S.). Ms. Pac-Man (the character) is not only, Sarkeesian continues, the first playable female character in a game, she’s also the origin of the trope Sarkeesian describes as the “Ms. Male Character” trope:

A female version of an already established or default male character. Ms. Male Characters are defined primarily by their relationship to their male counterparts via their visual properties, their narrative connection or occasionally through promotional materials.

Ms. Pac-Man is a “good” example of the trope taken to a negative extreme – particularly in her sexy-circle ads, in which she dons heels, makeup, a bow, jewelry, and sexy legs – there are other gendered indicators that are required to distinguish between genders that aren’t nearly as sexualizing or, frankly (like the lavender bow Sarkeesian mentions), silly. And this trope is wide-spread and problematic, since the elements used (as Sarkeesian points out) are by-and-large designed to minimize (usually by association, since bows do not as a rule cause one to be less powerful) as well as differentiate.

Sarkeesian also points out that the choice of “male” or “female” reflects a problematic tendency in Western society to subscribe to the gender binary (that there can be only male OR female). While I agree that this is an exclusionary issue, very few – if any – games provide enough customization options in terms of physiology and clothing to allow for any other option. Should they? Probably. But because our society as a whole is obsessed with the gender binary, it can hardly be a point of particular condemnation for games that they follow suit (although it would indeed be refreshing if they chose to provide such options).

Elsewhere in the video, Sarkeesian remarks of Wendy Kupa (Bowser’s daughter) that “her defining characteristic is her gender,” or “Personality Female Syndrome,” which gets at the heart of the problem with the Ms. Male trope. Having a stereotypical – and harmfully so – vision of “femininity” as a character’s entire personality is enormously problematic and serves to perpetuate an inaccurate and socially harmful perception of women, and contribute – across multiple forms of media – to the kind of misogyny that pervades the gaming community (and has led to the abuse which Sarkeesian herself has suffered).

Her positive example, however, is similarly problematic. Claire – from Thomas was Alone – is a square in the literal sense – a shape with no distinguishing features whatsoever, which doesn’t seem to me to be a character with which anyone, male, female, or other, can identify. Except possibly squares. She focuses on indie games in this positive sequence which deliberately invert the gender-color-trope (the boy wears pink, the girl blue). All these are good examples of fully-developed female characters, but they don’t really help us to address the problem because they’re purposefully designed to explode the trope (“Look! Girls can be heroes, too!”) rather than exist on their own terms. The most recent Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft, for instance, is a more comprehensive counter-example of a female playable character whose gender (aside from her really REALLY irritating grunting and squeaking) is largely irrelevant (noted in my TLF review). A simpler example might be the Lookout from Monaco, color coded red (while the Cleaner, the pink character, is both male and violent… and also noted elsewhere on TLF).

However, there are many female gender-choice “version” characters which are included in the trope’s definition that I would argue don’t belong there because the character was deliberately designed to be either male or female. This is not to say that there aren’t problematic gender-choice playable characters which have clearly been designed as male and have female “versions” shoe-horned unbelievably into them – there are. However, there are also quite a few whose characterization is deliberately a-gendered (or modified only minorly throughout the game’s narrative) in order to accommodate a primary character of either gender choice.

Put simply, Sarkeesian’s definition of the Ms. Male trope doesn’t allow for the kind of gender customization that a lot of players have come to expect from certain games (generally RPGs – role playing games). If the player is going to choose a gender and the character is going to be consistent across both genders, a female version of that character is going to automatically fall into Sarkeesian’s definition of the Ms. Male trope, which I find problematic. The whole point of allowing for gender choice in RPGs is to enable the player to play as either gender but have fundamentally the same gameplay experience – and they are going to be distinguished through “visual properties” because games are a visual medium.

In particular, Sarkeesian goes after BioWare’s Mass Effect series, which contains the central playable character “Commander Shepard” whose gender (and sexuality) is determined by the player at the start of the game, rather than dictated by the designers. Her primary complaint seems to be that the marketing (and boxes) feature the default male Shepard, a problem that could then also be applied to BioWare’s other major series, Dragon Age, which similarly features a default male Hawke in its marketing and packaging materials. She says, “that is how BioWare is selling the Mass Effect experience.” But here’s the thing. BioWare isn’t the one publishing the promotional materials – EA, the publisher, is. BioWare chose to make a deliberately gender-non-specified game (more than one) that allows the player to choose gender, sexuality, and appearance based on their own preferences for a playable character.

Let’s look at the statistics for Mass Effect. According to Joystiq, while only 18% of players choose a female Shepard, only 13% choose the default male character settings, with the remaining players customizing their Shepard in another way. That means that 87% of players are making up their own Shepard and not falling back on the default, meaning that the marketing choice dictates the appearance and characteristics of only 13% of players. Interestingly, the marketing material for Mass Effect 3 also deliberately increased the focus on the female version of the character (as Joystiq also notes), in part due to pushback from fans who wanted to see the female Shepard appear in places other than their own gameplay. Sarkeesian suggests that “femShep” (the term used by fans of the series for a female Shepard character) indicates a differentiation from the default, but Sarkeesian doesn’t seem aware that fans in fact use the terms “femShep” and “manShep” – they rarely use “Shepard” without a gender qualifier. (It is also worth noting that the percentages are for first play-throughs – many Mass Effect fans, myself included, play through the game more than once and with more than one “Shep,” often swapping genders).

Now to be fair, Sarkeesian has nothing negative to say about the gameplay of Mass Effect – in fact, she notes that most games with gender-choice have “a better gaming experience overall,” but that ultimately gets at one of my largest problems with her series, which is that there has to be a negative component to every game she includes, and that – in this case – the way in which a game is marketed and displayed becomes a criticism of the game itself.

I don’t have an issue with her attack on the marketing of Mass Effect – I think she’s right that it’s unfair and biased to focus (almost) exclusively on a male character when the point of the game is that the character can be either male or female. But the way she presents her criticism maligns the developer (BioWare) and explicitly associates her critique with gameplay footage (as well as trailers and box art), rather than going after the publisher (EA) or attempting to explode the misconception that publishers have that no one will buy a game with a woman on the box (an issue I’ve addressed on TLF before).

Ultimately, my issue with this video in the series is that, to me, she actually misses the largest problem with the Ms. Male trope, although probably because to her it seems glaringly obvious and not worth explicit mention. So I would suggest a revision to the definition: “A female version of an already established or default male character specifically designed to cater to a stereotypical understanding of women or to provide a sexualized image to male players, and which reduces the narrative engagement, gameplay value, or realism of that character in the process.”

msmenIt’s both ridiculously silly and ragingly misogynistic that female characters in the vast majority of games wear pink, have bows, wear makeup (in copious amounts), bare cleavage, or have very little clothing in order to differentiate them from their male counterparts. Warface, for instance, is a prime example of the ludicrousness of this, even when it involves neither bows nor pink (I did a write-up of this elsewhere). Putting aside (only for the sake of space) the problem of hyper-sexualization of female characters in videogames, there is no gameplay need for female characters to subscribe to stereotypes about femininity, sexiness, or girlishness (with all the negative resonances that generally accompany those terms).
Female characters who are reasonably dressed in appropriate contextual clothing (armor for a soldier that actually covers her body, for instance); who participate fully in the narrative; whose gameplay abilities equal those of the male characters in both statistical and visual impact (and may in fact be identical); and whose personalities are as fully developed as those of the male characters are not Ms. Males, even if they are “versions” of the male character types already contained in those games. Games that do this well include Gears of War, Halo: Reach, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Skyrim.

However, the biggest problem with the Ms. Male trope is that these characters, for the most part, are not alternatives to their male counterparts. They are dumbed-down or sexed-up models whose behavior and (lack of) personality indicate that women are secondary rather than primary characters. Every true Ms. Male character is an inferior version of her male alter ego, whether in terms of gameplay or narrative (or both). They aren’t Ms. Male characters – if they were, they’d be better – they’re inferior characters whose primary source of inferiority is their gender.

They aren’t women in a default male role, they’re lesser versions of the male role designed to cater to women from the perspective that women aren’t equal to men or interested in the same things (and most of the glaring examples of this are from the 1980s and 1990s). By making these lesser female versions of characters, the industry not only reinforces the idea that women are inferior, but actively alienates female gamers by denying them access to characters who reflect their gameplay fantasies and also reinforces for male players the idea that gaming (and possibly even full participation in the world) is a male-exclusive domain.

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Comments (10)

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Overall I agree with you, although I think where you fault her for not going far enough I’m more inclined to believe that she’s trying to remain focused to make the basic trope clear. I don’t know if she’s going to get into the more subtle issues with unequally sexualized costume design later on or not. It sounded like some of that will probably come up in her next video (the fighting f*ck toy).

As someone who’s currently enjoying a review of Skyrim… I have to disagree a little bit with putting them in the “good” category. Their idea of what’s appropriate armor for their female NPCs has left me blinking with disbelief on several occasions and they overtly baked the existence of serious sexism in the world into their dialogue for no particular reason. I’m finding it irritating.

I think that I place Skyrim in the “good” category mostly because it’s so much better than the “norm.” I’m not sure how “practical” their female armor is (after all, boob-caps aren’t actually a good idea, but everybody uses them anyway), but it’s infinitely better than, say, a dark elf in World of Warcraft. There are a couple of female warrior NPCs in Skyrim that are a decent representation of equality, but you’re right that some of the other NPCs are extremely stereotypical. But characterization and dialogue aren’t really Skyrim’s strong suit on any level.

Hi! First off, I like this blog. So far I have only read this article, but I can see some tantalizing “Justified” posts, tempting me to click on them.

Re: Elves in WoW (not in the main article, but you mentioned it in the reply above). All females and MTF-transpersons (of whateverthefuck the correct term is this particular second) I’ve ever played with invariably chose to play as Blood Elves. I play Horde only, so I can’t speak for Alliance scum, but in the Horde, that’s how it is.
Belfs were – IIRC – introduced by Blizzard to give Horde players a “pretty” race. I’m a 40+ man, and personally I find all Horde females attractive (yes, even goblins), both to play as and to look at. And yet, ALL females I’ve met have chosen to play as the stereotypically pretty Belfs. I do not know why this is, so I won’t pretend to.

I assume you by “Dark elf” mean “Night elf” (Oh god, that is a sentence that can only be read out loud in a nasal, supercilious way, followed by a derisive snort.) But I’m not sure what your objections are as to their clothes. I haven’t played a Nelf (as they are Alliance scum, as mentioned before), but AFAIK everyone wears the same clothes, with minor racial changes (the undead have bones sticking out through their knees and elbows, troll and tauren have no visible shoes due to their hooves/huge feet, etc etc).

Hmm, I just saw this very apropos thingy:
Hah, turns out us older men are the most gender-bending! I knew I was normal! My pop-psychology explanation is this: young boys want to be cool and dangerous men, so they play as human rogues, girls want to be pretty and adventurous girls, so they choose Belf Huntresses, and older men are very tired of being older men so they choose to be something other than an old man. When you reach lvl 40 (IRL), you begin to value things like dressing up as a little goblinette and driving around on a jet-powered tricycle (not IRL).

My main gripe with WoW females is that Tauren females should have four breasts. It makes complete sense if you think about it. But enough about WoW.

Sarkeesian drives me nuts because of her intellectual dishonesty. She purposely cherry picks things, takes them out of context, and ignores all evidence to the contrary. It’s as if I would open your fridge, find a jar of mayonnaise, and then go “OMG YOU ONLY EAT MAYO? WHY YOU EAT ONLY MAYO? HEY EVERYONE SHE ONLY EATS MAYO!!!1” And then I’d solicit funds for my super scientific project called “An investigation into why disgusting mayo-girl eats only mayo and nothing else”.

Oh yeah, I have one slight criticism!
“It’s both ridiculously silly and ragingly misogynistic that female characters in the vast majority of games wear pink, have bows, wear makeup […]”
The rest of that sentence I can sort of understand. But “ragingly misogynistic”? Pink and bows and makeup? I’d go with “mildly annoying”. Let’s not devalue the word “misogynistic” here. If you do, what word will you use when you play Battle Raper 2? (Don’t. If you haven’t. Just don’t.)

I’ve never understood why the colour pink makes everyone see red (no pun intended). Pink as a girly hue is – as you probably know – a very recent idea. It used to be what you dressed boys in, as it was considered a very manly and aggressive colour (see: seeing red).

What Sarkeesian and her ilk wilfully ignore is that in an 8-bit game, there are very limited possibilities to convey personality. Try to draw a character face in a 8×8 pixel grid. Make it look like a woman, without using pink, makeup or other signifiers you object to. Also, make sure it is distinct enough to be recognised on box art, and commercially attractive enough to draw consumers.

I could just as easily whine about how both Mario and Luigi have thick mustaches, and how this sets an unattainable ideal for young boys blah blah, well you get the idea.
Alternatively; why is a poor blue collar worker sent out by forces unknown to fight a huge gorilla to save a member of the ruling classes, his own oppressor in fact? In my homebrew Marxist analysis this means blah blah blah and Mario should team up with Kong to overthrow the monarchy.
Alternatively; why is the uppity plumber taking the law into his own hands and destroying private property? Does he even have a green card? He looks Mexican. And now he has a hammer. OMG CLASS WARFARE THANKS BARACK HUSSEIN OBUMMER!

1. Yes, I probably mean Night Elf. I am not a WoW player (I have played the Warcraft campaigns so I’m familiar with the races, if not the full lexicon), so in addressing most of the costuming choices, etc., I’m referring primarily to the marketing and base designs, rather than to what players may or may not do with optional clothing. I agree that Tauren females should have four breasts.

2. It may well be true that women tend to play female avatars in WoW. I don’t. I will almost always play a male avatar (and a non-human, preferably totally alien one – in Skyrim I play a male orc, in Dragon Age a male elf), for instance. Academic studies suggest that most people do in fact play as their own gender most of the time, but that gamers who play more often in general switch it up with relative frequency. The idea of gender-norming may come from the fact that people want to “play” as their own gender, but women are particularly conditioned to not experiment outside the gender norms, since they’re condemned for being “butch” if they do. There is a similar parallel in men being called “gay” (negatively) for feminine-coded acts, but because so many avatars are highly sexualized, they have the excuse of wanting to look like an attractive member of the opposite sex (probably not consciously, but maybe for some), where the lack of objectification of the male form leads women to not automatically assume the “gaze” position relative to a male avatar. But that’s mostly speculation, since I don’t explicitly study avatar-choice. I’d imagine if female avatars weren’t as sexy, more male players would play as male avatars, but, again, pure speculation.

I’d also guess that most level 40+ men are more comfortable with their own identity than most under level 40 men (not being a man, it’s hard for me to say), and most level 40+ players ARE men, as women’s entry into gaming is much more recent (at least in large numbers). Older female gamers (levels 30-39) probably trend more masculine than their level 15-29 cohorts, though, given the drive for women to be attractive, particularly until they hit 30. Again, though, that’s largely speculative. I know what I play and what my friends play, and my male friends mostly default male (except my husband, who defaults female), and my female friends mix it up (one of them prefers female most of the time, but not always, another prefers “cool-looking,” which usually means male, others swap depending on the game).

3. Pink did used to be a gender-neutral and masculine color, but today it is coded not only female, but infantilized female (except for HOT pink, which is now coded “breast cancer”), including all the corresponding implications of weakness and “girlyness” which drive feminists into a frenzied rage. It isn’t the color, per se, but the social constructions that our modern Western society has given it. Put a girl in pink, and everyone starts saying how “feminine” she looks – put a boy in it, and people mutter about how “gay” he looks. It’s a social construct, yes, but it’s the social construct that’s the problem, not the color and the bow by themselves.

The problem arises when these markers come to represent specific characteristics associated with a gender, which is what has happened to pink-and-bows. They now denote innocence, weakness, and victimization, not just “this is female.” What that means is that “this is female” has also come to mean “innocent, weak, victim,” which is why those particular cues are misogynistic. As a perfectly competent carpenter, I’m infuriated when people assume that my gender means “incapable of using power tools.” That assumption is misogynistic – if I’m holding a saw, don’t take it away from me just because I happen to also possess breasts. Pink-and-bows is now code for “female victim” or “sex object,” not “competent person who just happens to be female.” It’s the connotation, not the denotation, that’s the problem there.

More specifically, in the case of a game like Ms. Pac-Man, yes, we needed clear markers that could fit on an 8×8 grid, but those days have long since passed, and companies are still pink-and-bow-ing (or the contemporary equivalent of bikini-ing, as in MGSV or Warface) their female characters. It’s the unnecessary coding (whether no-clothes or pink-and-bows) that grates because of the sexualized and infantilizing implications of those codes.

It’s also because most of the level 30+ women in videogame, media, and feminist criticism these days were raised in the VERY pink 80s and have personal vendettas against having been forced to wear stupid pink ruffly things as little girls, which produces a pavlovian kind of rage-reaction in those of us who hiss and turn green when called “missy” or “little lady” (sometimes it’s very unfortunate that I live in the south).

Of course, there’s also the question of why a pellet-eating circle needs to have a gender at all. In Monaco, for instance, it is not immediately apparent that the red character – the Lookout – is female. There are no specific codes in her little pixelated form that suggest femininity, nor do there need to be. She does what she does, and if you read the script closely, you’ll notice the female pronouns. That, to me, indicates a complete lack of bias either for or against a gendered construction.

4. Yes, you could write about how Mario and Luigi have mustaches and are stereotypical Italian immigrants who are being relegated to the blue color, dirty-hands working class because they’re representations of the marginalized Other in an American culture that likes blond men. There is, however, also the idea that men get their hands dirty – and that this makes Mario and Luigi some sort of ideal of masculinity that diminishes the importance of intellectual work. Those would be valid things to write about. I would also love to see Mario and Kong overthrow the monarchy. Seriously, that game would be great.

1. Ah, yes, then I understand and agree. This is a problem not only with WoW, or even gaming. Marketing people will stick a form-fitted mithril brassiere on the cover of the bible if they thought it would help sales.

Incidentally, WoW is now really a dress-up game for grown men. The new “transmogrification” feature makes it possible to take good-stats-but-ugly armor and make it look like pretty-but-useless armor. I spend most of my time looking for that elusive lvl 14 tiara for my lvl 90 warlock. And, of course, the cooking and gardening end-game quests. I think those MRA people complaining about “feminization of ‘Murica” would burst a blood vessel if they knew how many hours we men spend trying to impress pandas with our cooking skills.

2. I would really like to see some hard stats on sex/race/class(in-game, not socioeconomic) choices. I remember that before the introduction of Blood Elves to the mighty Horde, all servers were around 75% alliance, and Horde girls were few and far between. I tried to get my then-girlfriend (a literally off-the-scale-intelligent top-of-the-class-Yale-educated feminist) to play WoW, but she refused to play as Horde as the female avatars weren’t pretty enough. I have this nagging suspicion that a majority of female players, regardless of their politics, really want to have pretty and girly avatars.

Apparently, loads of people prefer to play as humans, which amazes me. Like you, I prefer to play as something I’m not IRL. It might very well be that younger people play as what they aspire to be (and thus, are very gender typical), whereas older players just want to explore stuff they are not IRL.

I would like to see a game where you could customize your body type, skin colour and looks, and then see what players of different (IRL-) genders, ages and races choose. I remember seeing some behavioral hidden-camera thing where young girls were told to choose a doll to play with, and were then asked why they chose that particular doll. It was heartbreaking to see young black girls choosing the white doll “because she is the prettiest”.

3. AH, THANK YOU! This finally makes sense! I have tried to understand the aversion some women have to pink, to no avail. There seems to be a divide among my female feminist acquaintances, where those younger than 40 go bananas at the very mention of pink, whereas those older are as baffled as I am. Every time I’ve asked someone about this, I only get angry rants about the evil of the colour pink, but no explanation. If it is a traumatic childhood experience it all makes sense. (I’m not being facetious or sarcastic here, I really mean it.)

For me and many others of my age, the trauma growing up in Sweden in the seventies is quite different. We had absolutely nothing pink or shiny. Everything was made out of brown corduroy and pine cones. Everything and everyone was gender-neutral, shapeless, and humourless. The one “fun game” everyone remembers from pre-school is when every child was randomly assigned a country. Then, when snack time came, you were given raisins according to the GDP of your assigned nation. If you were Uganda, you got two raisins. The kid next to you who got to be the USA got two BOXES of raisins. Oh, what fun we had. It’s not surprising that everyone grew up to be corporate raiders, and I still collect plastic toys.

So, to many men of my generation, the mere mention of feminism or equality (or the colour brown) brings back memories of the dreaded seventies. We did not grow up to be the perfect brown-corduroyed asexual beings we were meant to be, just like you did not grow up to be a cutesy pink frilly princess. I think the moral of this is “stop trying to teach children things”.

To me, pink is just something that definitely isn’t brown, and thus, pink is something beautiful. An antidote to brownishness, if you will. I have pink Hello Kitty and Sailor Moon bedsheets, towels and kitchenware, and I’m way too old for “irony”. I just love pink ultra-consumerist things. And politically I am somewhat to the left of Stalin.

Without the emotional aversion to pink (or an understanding of it), the “pink=weakness” argument, which I have seen many times, seems nonsensical. Now I do understand (but do not necessarily agree, as per the above reasons). Imagine how you’d react if you gave a man a very nice brown thing (let’s say a brown corduroy jacket) and he flew into an apoplectic rage at the sight of it, screaming something about raisins and feminazis. Now imagine that happening over and over, for years, and never ever getting an explanation. You might feel a tad confused after a while.

4. Hmmm, yes, the more I think about it, the Mario + Kong vs the evil monarchy seems like a good idea. But what I originally meant was that Sarkeesian and the other clickbait “feminists” draw conclusions from cherry picked tidbits as if they were significant. I could just as easily make an argument that the gaming industry is royalist, pointing to the same “save the princess” games she does.

I totally agree that pink+bow is unnecessary as female signifiers (as are moustaches as a male signifier) with todays gaming technology. What I strongly disagree with is Sarkeesian using outdated games to make her point. It would be like me saying “Hollywood portrays all men as clumsy idiots incapable of speech, just look at these films with Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy”.

Come to think of it, MRAs, despicable morons as they are, actually do make that argument. I have seen it several times on IMDB comments. They do exactly what Sarkeesian does, they cherry pick characters in TV shows (like Al Bundy) to prove that white men are willfully being depicted as idiots by the librul feminazi conspiracy etc etc. And their argument is exactly as valid as Sarkeesian’s.

#3 – I’d take brown over pink ANY day. The US in the 80s was a considerably more gendered place than Sweden, apparently. I’d have killed as a kid to be allowed to be more gender-neutral, and my mom went out of her way to avoid butterflies, glitter, princesses, and flowers, and I *still* felt like most of my clothes were shockingly gendered. So that explains the US hatred of pink and the international confusion about why US feminists hate it so very, very, VERY much. Hooray for rational explanation!

#4 – I agree that one of the big issues with Sarkeesian’s work is that she gives equal weight to old and new games – I think there’s value in pointing out the problems with old games, but they should be put into an appropriate context of “But here’s where we are now,” whether that’s “better,” “worse,” or “still problematic, but improving” (the last of which is generally where I place most games on gender issues, although there are exceptions in both directions).

Interestingly, I ran across an article yesterday (which I now can’t find the url for) about what our media are teaching boys in the Western world to become and how utterly problematic that is. And I’d have to agree. Stereotypes of hyper-masculinity are also damaging, although it does seem that teaching someone (aka women) to be a victim is slightly more problematic. I’d love to see a genuine piece on the problems of masculine stereotypes in gaming, too – one that isn’t anti-feminist or masculinist-apologetic but genuinely interested in exploring how games are doing socially problematic things to men, just as they do to women (it wouldn’t have to address female stereotypes in games, but it also should’t be saying “it’s okay to objectify women because the men are bad examples, too”).

#3 I was way into my thirties before I could start to experiment with corduroy and browns. I was severely damaged. To my entire generation, “brown” is synonymous with depressing childhood memories. Oh, and every preschool in the 70s had a dedicated room called “the pillow room”, which was literally wall to wall brown corduroy pillows. You were supposed to sit there and read books like:
“When Daddy and Mommy Switched Jobs” (dad cooks and takes care of the kids, and mom installs high voltage electric cables, which apparently requires no training).
“The Nail Gang” (wayward teens are taught woodworking and inadvertently cause the end of capitalism when they nail all money, and for some reason also the cops, to the floor.
“Why Does Mommy Work?” (depressing B/W social-realist photo-book about a single mother who works in a hammer factory)
I shit you not. Those are real books from my childhood. This is why I like Hello Kitty.

#4 I vaguely remember a Pentagon-designed game in which both teams saw themselves as GIs and the opposing team as terrorists. We can’t give anyone the opportunity to play as The Bad Guy, can we? (I always play as the baddest faction, Yuri in RA2, GLA in C&C:G etc. I despise good guys.)

Several middle-eastern groups created their own half-life mods, which were depressingly realistic. If you got caught in a spotlight trying to infiltrate an israeli base it was game over, and you were unceremoniously told that you died after having been tortured, and that your family was later evicted and killed. Those games at least taught Eastern boys something about consequeces.

Whenever I see debates in US media, I am baffled by the unwillingness to discuss. Every debate is just two angry persons with diametrically opposed viewpoints shouting slogans at each other in between commercial breaks. Everyone draws a line in the sand, digs a trench and then just lobs grenades randomly over the edge. I can’t fathom how Glenn Beck had a national TV show. In any other country he would have been relegated to writing angry letters to the editor of the local newspaper.

This is also why I find the Sarkeesians of the world to be counterproductive. She takes up valuable time with her inane complaints, time that could otherwise be spent discussing more important issues. Instead of trying to start a dialogue, she dug a trench and started spamming the battlefield with incendiary grenades. (I am the king of similes!) What male gamer would be willing to question stereotypes post-sarkeesian? Very few, I think. But that was never her plan. Just like those gun-waving second-amendment youtubers. They don’t want a reasoned debate about the merits of gun ownership. They want to increase their page views by playing to the base. You don’t get ten thousand Billy-Bobs to click on a link to “a civil discourse about the bill of rights”. They will however click on “FEMA IS COMING FOR YOUR GUNS THANKS OBUMMER”.

She is the “I fucking love science” of feminism. Palatable, linkable, and utterly meaningless. She reminds me of those creepy “Kony 2012” people who turned out to be crazy fundies. They were also media-savvy, focused on high production values, and had very questionable book-keeping. I don’t know if Sarkeesian have planned a public masturbatory meltdown in San Diego, but I sure have my hopes up!

What I’m trying to say is that I would like to see a piece written by a feminist about the problems in feminism, and a piece written by some male gaming industry honcho about the problems inherent in the gaming industry. A cop writing about police brutality. A general writing an anti-war piece. Some seriously introspective self-critiquing stuff. That is the only way out of the trenches.

Anyway, your article made me happy and hopeful, as it is the opposite of pointless posturing and slick sloganeering. Keep up the good work!

[…] because it’s since been dated by the release of Sarkeesian’s videos (Post #2, Post #3, Post #4)  and I’d like to see people follow the conversation, not react to the original post. But […]

Hey, great writeup.

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