Sunday, September 7, 2014

How to make a misogynistic video game

It is possible to write about feminism for quite some time and completely avoid all the circus surrounding the depiction of women in videogames.

It is important to remember that, as any avid Internet user may easily be led by YouTube, Tumblr and Twitter into thinking that videogames are the final frontier of women's progress. Events over the summer have shown that the intersection of feminism and gaming is unfortunately a subject with staying power.

The debate arguably began in earnest April 20, 1999, when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris murdered several people at Columbine High School. The search for the homicidal motivations of the murderers would forever add videogames to the list of possible factors corrupting young men - casual sex, satanic cults, atheism, drugs, explicit music, guns and... videogames.

It wasn't an entirely new discussion. At this time people like Jack Thompson were already hard at work trying to get all sorts of media banned. Critics of the alarmism over in-game realism did a decent job of showing how preposterous the concerns about videogames were. The choice was basically between a government censor and personal responsibility - the choice that already plagued the music industry for decades.

Ultimately Columbine was not an event that signaled a epidemic of violent young men corrupted by crumbling social mores. In fact, the opposite was true. Crime rates had fallen throughout the 1990s, and lots of evidence points to the expansion of digital media (including pornography) being a pacifying force rather than an agitator. Instead of viewing their sons as at risk of becoming serial killers, many parents saw them as at risk of being unambitious and chronically underemployed.

Over time, perspectives have changed. But as all things are cyclical, young men are once again suspect. Gaming, for most rational people, is not poisoning the minds of young adult men. Yet something toxic persists.

The demons today are men, but not as they are manipulated by games - they are demons as they manipulate games. Young men are such a large part of the videogaming industry that games are often mirror images of the outlandish fantasies of young men. Fantasy pays the bills. Young men are not only the consumers of the product, but its makers - development studios are filled with dudes.

An industry that appears to be by men, for men automatically qualifies itself for analysis by feminists or really any other group interested in considering what is fair.

Some may still run into an antiquated mode of thinking and say that videogames are still making men into monsters. However, many concerned about the state of gaming will state that it is simply a reflection of a biased (perhaps "patriarchal") society. This is the preferred mode of argument as it avoids any debate about the specifics of gaming as it casts an even wider net over the massively complicated subject that is society at large.

One popular critic of gaming is Anita Sarkeesian - the author of "Feminist Frequency" blog, Sarkeesian successfully earned nearly $160,000 in crowdfunding pledges for a video series about tropes in videogames that focus on women.

The project ruffled a lot of feathers - despite not saying anything about legislation, Sarkeesian was viewed by many as a descendant in spirit of those that desired to censor games decades earlier. Where concerned conservative politicians failed, Sarkeesian would succeed by publicly shaming developers into building games for different markets. Sarkeesian was also accused of effectively running off with the money by delivering "terrible" (subjective) videos. The conspiracy theories gained wide circulation as it took many months before Sarkeesian delivered the first video of the promised series. Many weaker critiques, such as Sarkeesian being a "fake" gamer, were leveled.

Sarkeesian was further subjected to threats and online attacks. Such response is sadly an undeniable part of being a controversial figure on the Internet.

Given all this, it's still possible to be apathetic about the drama.

Why feel strongly one way or another? Tropes are present in videogames. They exist as they have always been with us. It is not (or shouldn't be) scandalous to point that out, as Sarkeesian does. And it is not (or shouldn't be) scandalous to not be worried about their existence.

The latest chapter of videogame drama, with very little to do with Sarkeesian, is elements of what is known to some as "#GamerGate". All one really needs to understand is that the latest events are just a small bit of evidence added to the pile supporting the idea that small industries - in this case "independent gaming" - are subjective, incestuous and nepotistic. Add the perverse incentives and nonexistent ethics of clickbait journalism and the result is not kind to anyone. Turns out "Indie" gamers should consider staffing legal and HR departments. Now, back to tropes.

The real dilemma in play for game developers is how does one navigate the waters of acceptability today.

First thing to avoid is bad press due to some real-life workplace scandal. Thankfully, a lot of game development shops already avoid this by hiring as few women as possible. Small game development companies do not need to take on the liability that is the co-ed water cooler in order to function.

The next problem is the content itself. Shipping a title that is the equivalent of a Robin Thicke song in game form may lead to a lot of press, but eventually it starts to hurt the brand.

What does one do if one wishes to avoid criticism of tropes and other perceptions of gender bias?

Here are some ideas:

1. Make a game based on an old book.

Find a story out of copyright, guaranteed to have lots of funny ideas about gender roles. Build a game around it.

2. Make a game based on a true story or historical facts

How many wives did Muhammad, Joseph Smith or Brigham Young have again? Could be a real-time strategy game. Run with it.

3. Make a game based on a fairytale or Disney movie

If the game absolutely needs a princess, borrow one instead of creating one.

4. Make a game based on a book or film popular with women

Edward Cullen would not need a lot of texture work. And 50 Shades of Grey remains an option. Even Game of Thrones exists as some sort of bizarre portrayal of societal ills already defended by "feminist" voices. Believe it or not.

5. Make a game that completely avoids storytelling or gives players a sandbox

Simply give players guns, allow them to connect to a network game and shoot each other. It's a proven recipe. Alternatively, hide elements that would bring criticism being a few intentional actions - open world games do a great job of blame shift.

What does following this formula accomplish?

It simply kicks the discussion back down the field. Critics of games that are absolutely derivative run the risk of appearing to be illiterate, or worse - insufferable buzzkills. Nobody seriously considers the "feminist" critique of Disney and Pixar movies that is often delivered to the world in the form of angsty Tumblr posts. Connecting gender bias to films has become boring, just as connecting gaming to serial murders is now completely tired.

Forgotten is that while gaming is a different way of storytelling, the stories are essentially the same. There is nothing special about the stories in games - in fact, the stories in videogames may be more healthy than the stories in television.

While television is infested with sexed-up morbid crime fantasies, adultery, fetid dreck like Honey Boo Boo and MTV's entire enterprise, videogaming seems innocent and idyllic.

Critics of games may try to argue that the debate is one of audience - young men that play games are apparently antisocial. While it may be true that gaming forums are antisocial, anyone with any sense of sensible self preservation on the Internet would discuss the specifics of Call of Duty long before touching the subjects of Big Brother, Survivor, or the Video Music Awards.

The drama will continue as gaming is destined to inherit products already well-tested by HBO and Showtime. It will hit us right in the face.

One of these days... Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A!

Right in the kisser.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ophelia the Racist

Occasionally the Atheism+ forum generates some good points.

Most of the thought provoking posts come from little eureka moments, when the Atheism+ forum proles discover that their forefathers at FreeThoughtBlogs and their cousins at Skepchick are departing from the ten commandments of cyber social justice.

For example, it's inevitable that one of the Atheism+ crew discovers that PZ Myers' humor is often reprehensible. Likewise Skepchick often condones absurd abusive tactics in some support of no clear goals in particular.

More recently, Atheism+ has discovered latent racist biases in its own ranks.

The story's beginnings:

  1. A friend of Ophelia Benson's posts a picture of a "virginity test" conducted in Nigeria to Facebook
  2. Facebook axes her account because the image was very graphic
  3. Benson recounts the story on her blog and includes the photograph

Benson states:
[...] The problem is not Acharya posting the graphic image, the problem is what is being done to those little girls.
Acharya (the Facebook profile owner) is quoted: (emphasis added)
I posted the uncensored, shocking photo on Facebook because it is important to see the utter indignity these poor girls must suffer – this horrible abuse is now being done in the West. How can we battle it, if we can’t see what it is? As we can see from this Google Images search, the photograph is still there – is Facebook going to ban Google Images as well?
Benson adds:
Time to rattle Facebook’s cage again.

To describe the image so one not Google it and ruin their day - the photograph depicts a number of girls, barely clothed and lying beside each other on the ground in a setting that is not recognizable as anything at all resembling a modern medical institution, let alone a sterile environment.

In the photo several older women can be seen "examining" the girls with their hands. No instruments can be seen in the photo - not as much as a latex glove is present.

There can be little doubt that the scene depicts a crude test for virginity, as it's difficult to imagine something so strange and adhoc being a part of any necessary medical procedure. The girls are being abused - the practice must stop.

Meanwhile, back in our land of first world dramas... what happens next?

Atheism+ shows up.

The Atheism+ thread: [TW:rape] "Exploitation Porn" and Exposing Atrocity

AndyTheNerd writes:
I just had to see a graphic photo of little kids getting raped. Which of course is nothing compared to the horror of that actually happening, I am fully aware. I got no trigger warning, it was not hidden behind a cut, it was right there in my RSS feed. See, my feed reader (Feedly) takes the first image on the page and turns it into an icon along side a preview snippet of the text. Which in this case was said graphic photo. Thanks, Ophelia Benson. 
And what, pray tell, was the content of this post? How outrageous it was that someone else's Facebook account was permanently deactivated for sharing the uncensored photo for all to see. In my mind, sharing an uncensored video of child rape doesn't add anything to the educational value of the message being shared (exposing "virginity tests" for what they really are), nor does it add much shock value over what a censored photo would carry.
This isn't actually a rant, it's a question: am I completely off base here to think that Facebook is in the right and the sharer was in the wrong? Am I overreacting to think that people shouldn't have to look at rape? Am I off-base to think that these photos are actually exploiting those children? Or am I just worried about my little pristine sanitized bubble not being popped?

Kassiane adds:
For once facebook is right. Wow.
Onamission5 writes:
If it was the rape of my kids on public display for anyone to shockhorror or ogle over, I'd be beyond viciously traumatized, as would my kids. The rape of any child, anyone at all, is not shock fodder. I felt the same way about display of the Steubenville victim. How was reposting still shots of her rape on outraged blogs any different *for her* from passing them around her school?
ApostateltsopA writes:
Child rape porn on FTB. Disappointed and furious.
[...] At least I agree it is an atrocity. Jesus fucking christ on a wafer that is some sick, sick shit. Apparently if you get raped in Africa he images are anthropology. I called it dark anti-inspiration porn I can not believe what I am seeing.
armoredscrumobject writes:
That is indeed an outrageous state of affairs, but in this situation it's obscene to treat this like a standard let's-all-invoke-the-Streisand-effect situation and give Facebook top billing as the villain.
I can't wait until someone finds the photos my abuser has and posts them around to protest child sexual abuse. Anthropology!
Yeah I'm getting so much ageism and racism from this. They're brown AND young, so these aren't pictures of people being raped being posted without consent, it's a nature documentary featuring animals.

I just literally can't get my head into a place that agrees with the identity and other protections offered to western victims, admittedly highly imperfectly, and the brazen unedited image posted on FTB. How does someone hold onto that level of cognitive dissonance? "Anthropology" my ass.
oh this isn't the first time Ophelia's had major issues with stuff that isn't feminism -- which, we should all be reminded, usually means "liberation for well-off able white cis women and fuck everyone else" in practice.

That comment thread is an absolute train wreck. I can't believe that people are actually saying those things, particularly Acharya S. People who disagree with her support child abuse? Reprehensible. 
The "thread" is the comments back at Benson's blog, where the Facebook-poster of the photo is defending her choices:

it is not difficult to understand how an ANTHROPOLOGICAL IMAGE of a RELIGIOUS and COMING OF AGE RITUAL is different from the trash people keep fixating on. The photo in question was in a magazine story about a initiation ritual performed in Africa. These virginity tests are described graphically on Wikipedia and elsewhere. They are done PUBLICLY and with great pride by an entire CULTURE, not filmed in a back room by a bunch of pedophiles. Honestly, where IS your mind at?
Moreover, this invasive procedure is now being done increasingly in the West, and entire governments such as the Canadian are now having to deal with this issue. I can guarantee that the doctors dealing with this issue are seeing much worse than what is in this photo – they are undoubtedly also reading medical and anthropological literature with many such images in them, possibly dating back decades, as this CULTURAL PRACTICE is very ancient.
As I’ve stated repeatedly, I was raised on National Geographic magazine. I have read many anthropological stories, while it appears the barely literate critics are ignorant of the world at large.
The people making vile comments are displaying their own psyches, and I do not appreciate these disgusting remarks and insinuations – again, they reflect your own minds. And such abuses of persons trying to expose these practices and prevent them from occurring in our lands will only help this tradition to flourish.
If we allow such ugliness chase activists from the stage, there will be no voices for the millions of women and children who are at risk for this invasive and abusive practice. SHAME ON YOU for trying to bully us into silence with your nasty interpretations and myopic vision.
In the meantime, Ophelia and I are actually trying to HELP these poor females, while you with your perverse mentalities are standing in the way. Again, for shame! I would also bet that the people making such foul comments are misogynists and sexists in significant part. I reject this mentality and will continue to fight for females globally not to be oppressed by this intrusive practice. An entire state in Indonesia wants to make this abuse MANDATORY for ALL schoolgirls, and you’re going to sit here giving us flack? Disgraceful and disgusting.
It’s ugliness like this practice that needs to be banned, not those who expose it. Whose side are you on? That of the abusers?
Indeed, she actually did bold the word misogynists to describe the Atheism+ critics.

As no discussion would be complete without the Nazis, Benson brings us back to war:

Hey, you know who else didn’t give consent to being photographed naked and abused? The piles of corpses being bulldozed into mass graves after the Allies liberated the death camps.
You know another? Kim Phuc, the nine-year-old Vietnamese girl running naked down a road screaming in pain from the napalm burns on her back. She appeared on the front page of the New York Times.

Who is correct?

Perhaps neither.

Benson's mention of Kim Phuc brings up a good point. Sometimes photographs of truly evil events help many understand the gravity of the situation.

It's easy to read of a bomb ripping apart a building and killing some number of the 7 billion individuals on the planet. It's not quite as easy to dismiss witnessing the events rendered as something other than sterile English sentences on broadsheet.

Enter Diane

Thanksgiving of 2013, an interesting story appeared on Twitter. It was the story of Diane, a lady who allegedly became absolutely irate about a late flight and harassing airline staff. Diane apparently made a huge fuss about not seeing her family, not quite understanding that the audience did not care as they were experiencing the same distress.

Elan, the Twitter author of the story, traded notes with Diane. The notes sent to Diane were generally designed to provoke, insult and shame Diane. The notes were received were in character, painting Diane as angry, assertive and humorless.

Ophelia Benson wrote several lengthy posts about Elan's story, first picking up a story that Diane may have had cancer. When it was not apparent the cancer story was true, Benson (fairly) argued that Elan's behavior was out of line.

The wrap up of the story was Elan admitting that Diane did not exist and the entire story was fabricated.

In response, Benson writes:

So it was comedy, staged for the world’s entertainment.
What genre of comedy? Humiliation comedy; public shaming comedy; hipster guy taunting an unhip woman in unhip jeans comedy, with the pretext that she was self-absorbed and slightly rude to a flight attendant. That kind of comedy. “Edgy” – which is hipster-speak for mean.
I see it as more of a Milgram experiment than a witty short story. Much more. The fact that so many people admired his reported self-righteous bullying tells us a lot, whether that’s what Elan Gale intended or not. Way too many people pushed the dial all the way up, merely because the guy in the white coat hipster hair told them to.

This sharp criticism of the game of public humiliation is a rare sight on "social justice" blogs. Usually public shaming is the unquestioned norm. That it took a fake story about a woman to potentially change this says a great deal.

But it's interesting also in the context of the "exploitation porn" in the earlier discussion.

If a "social justice" blogger shares a humiliating photo under the banner of potentially preventing further victimization, then that is easily explained as necessary. Presumably it's also fine if the only apparent result from the share is the "activist" feeling good about themselves and raking in a bit more ad revenue.

At the same time, creating a fictional comedy based on an angry old white lady getting a piece of someone's mind is apparently taking things too far.

Angry women on US Airways flights need space.

Girls in developing nations need to be followed around by photographers.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Don't Talk About Suicide

Apparently PZ Myers believes suicide gets too much media coverage.

In a post titled, "Robin Williams brings joy to the hearts of journalists and politicians once again", PZ writes:

I’m sorry to report that comedian Robin Williams has committed suicide, an event of great import and grief to his family. But his sacrifice has been a great boon to the the news cycle and the electoral machinery — thank God that we have a tragedy involving a wealthy white man to drag us away from the depressing news about brown people. I mean, really: young 18 year old black man gunned down for walking in the street vs. 63 year old white comedian killing himself? Which of those two stories gives you an excuse to play heart-warming and funny video clips non-stop on your 24 hour news channel? Besides, the real story in Missouri is that businesses have been damaged by angry black people — no one is going to trash the Family Dollar in rage over the death of a popular comedian. Mike Brown’s death is confusing — the police say he was a shoplifter struggling to get a gun, while no stores reported a shoplifting event, and Brown was unarmed and shot while raising his hands in surrender. Where’s the moral clarity? We’re supposed to want to believe the police, you know, yet all the evidence points to their status as a gang of militarized thugs. That’s very uncomfortable.
Boy, I hate to say it, but it sure was nice of Robin Williams to create such a spectacular distraction. [The rest of the post is redacted as PZ doxxes a woman making racist comments on Facebook and subjects her to his vigilante hate machine]

There are many things that are reprehensible and tone-deaf about Myers' statements.

But the most offensive thing is PZ Myers failed spectacularly at his half-assed attempt at making points already made by a black comic.

Enter Patrice O'Neal:

It's clear why Robin Williams is dominating the headlines. He's Robin Williams. Pretending he's just another wealthy white dude is to insult his contributions and erase his status as an icon. Any ultra rich white male Fortune 500 CEO could kill himself tomorrow and nobody would bother taking notice.

The point O'Neal brings to the table is this - many white women are household names simply because they have been victimized. If Myers is really interested in the logical path he's on, he should really find himself the courage to ask why we know the names Natalee Holloway, Elizabeth Smart, Amanda Knox.

Consider the position that many "feminist" social justice bloggers find themselves in when criticizing coverage of Robin Williams. Many of them only have exposure because their own trumped-up victimization took precedence over what someone could say were more pressing events of the day. Every little thing said to them can turn into a drama that keeps their online community busy for days, if not years. "Microaggression" is a word often used in a serious manner. The same "social justice" community of white folk in the orbit of Minnesota also finds themselves rationalizing their fears of black men in enclosed spaces. Does this sound odd?

Williams' death should give some focus to the fact that ninety people commit suicide everyday. Hopefully we can have this discussion as well as question why so many black men are being shot and killed. Ultimately black men have to face both issues - speaking as if one is obscuring the other is pointlessly argumentative and derailing.

Among all this, Robin Williams' daughter is receiving abusive messages. How many of them are from FTB readers?

PZ Myers is just another nasty troll.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fifty Shades of Blurred Lines

Occasionally it's difficult to know what people are thinking.

Or perhaps, most of the time it is quite difficult to know what people are thinking.

"Fifty Shades of Grey" is going to be a movie.

This beginning is to not dwell on or point out specific problems in this particular piece of Twilight fan fiction. Hopefully one can be forgiven for not caring.

The "Fifty Shades" movie is just a backgrounder in a confusing feminist discourse.

The item in pop culture that more frequently finds itself under the lens of feminist culture police is Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines : 

Trigger warning: This is the uncensored version, so there is a lot of #FreeTheNipple within. You're welcome.

Despite many good reasons to believe that the song is not actually a rape anthem, many "feminists" remain convinced the song's lyrics promote a rape culture. Perhaps the concept can be summarized in that they believe that consent is cast as a "blurred line" and the protagonist of the song believes he knows better than the "good girl" he desires. No matter what wave you are in the feminist sea, this would not be a good look.

The most recent "progressive" "feminist" drama related to the song is that it was apparently played at a "Netroots Nation" afterparty. This is amusing as "Netroots Nation" is a yearly conference where a bunch of "progressive" bloggers playing identity politics discuss how ineffective they have been in the last year while organized labor groups waste their time begging for their attention. To certain people in that crowd, feminism begins and ends with the critique of MTV - so it should not be a surprise that playing the song was an explosive act.

It may be assumed that some people danced anyways, as alcohol is truly a divine gift.

Getting back to the world of literature, a funny thing happens while debating the details of gender relations. It turns out that Twilight is a recurring theme.

In fact, some would-be supporters of "social justice" "feminism" spend their time authoring vampire romance novels. Others that blast a "rape culture" find themselves aroused by werewolves.

And the Queen Bee of everything wrong with feminism today - Jezebel - is on the case of the "so hot it's illegal" criminals:

(Slate would have picked up on the story of the felon if it wasn't preoccupied by the World Cup)

"Feminism" is typically fast to point out primitive behaviors - a man's glance found too much a gaze, a song found too catchy, a rape joke found too funny.

Yet the conversation does not explore women's sexuality. Who supports objectification, rape culture, submission? Men. Slut shamers. Conservatives. The boring, predictable list goes on.

The man that would sing Blurred Lines is undoubtedly ignorant, obsessed, persuasive, pushy, arrogant and dismissive.

It's just a shame he's not a rich vampire werewolf that was just released from prison.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Blowing Smoke

"Progressive" or otherwise touted to be clever media outlets pushing concern is not a new phenomenon. As we know, NPR is great at this sort of thing.

It is just disappointing every time it happens.

One occurrences of late of this was a few items in Charles M Blow's piece for the New York Times, titled "Yes, All Men".

Let's just roll out the numbers and facts directly from his article: (Assume US if not specified)

  • Intimate partner violence - 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced intimate-partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. However, some national violence studies show that up to 70 percent of women have at some point experienced violence from an intimate partner.
  • Percentage of murders due to intimate partner violence - Violence by intimate partners accounts for between 40 percent and 70 percent of all murders of women.
  • Child Brides - 64 million girls worldwide are child brides; 46 percent of women ages 20 to 24 in South Asia and 41 percent in West and Central Africa report that they married before the age of 18. 
  • FGM - 140 million girls and women in the world have suffered female genital mutilation/cutting. 
  • Sexual harassment in schools - 83 percent of girls 12 to 16 have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools.
  • Higher HIV transmission risk - Women are already two to four times more likely than men to become infected with H.I.V. during intercourse.
  • Nonconsensual sex is injurious - Rape increases the risks because of limited condom use and physical injuries.
  • Percentage of HIV infections due to intimate partner violence - Percentage of 11.8 percent of new H.I.V. infections in the previous year among women 20 or older were attributed to intimate-partner violence.

Let's look at these items again, but let's bucket them first:

Serious issues:

  • Intimate partner violence
  • Sexual harassment in schools
Serious issues relying on Islam or similarly backwards cultures for life:
  • Child Brides 
  • FGM 
Grisly reminders of awful realities that greatly impact women:
  • Higher HIV transmission risk
  • Nonconsensual sex is injurious
Statistical bullshit:
  • Percentage of murders due to intimate partner violence
  • Percentage of HIV infections due to intimate partner violence
Let's focus on the last two just to see where we go wrong when talking up feminism "by the numbers".

Nonsense Percentages

The two datapoints touted are thus - the percentage of deaths and  the percentage of infections of women that are due to intimate partner violence.

The problem is, what should these percentages be?

The perpetrators of 35% to 70% of all murders of women are current or former partners. Is this number alone supposed to be alarming? 

Given that in a given year some number of women will be murdered, what percentage of murders should be the blame of a perfect stranger

Switching to HIV infections, let's assume that a woman will contract HIV this year. According to the data, 12% of infections are due to intimate partner violence. But let's look at the big picture.

The potential causes of new infection for an adult woman:
  • A blood transfusion
  • An ignorant partner
  • Sharing needles
  • A malicious partner (rape or other intentional infection - intimate partner violence)
  • A malicious stranger (rape or other intentional infection)
  • Other causes
Having no control over the absolute number of infected, what cause or causes would should make up the majority of infections? Are we hoping that ignorance and neglect always eclipses the purposefully evil?

It may sound strange, but it may be the world we should hope to live in would be one where from the perspective of percentages, intimate partner violence would make up the vast majority of all violent assault and murder.

Imagine two worlds - one where most violent assault is caused by jealous partners enacting a sadistic revenge, and the other that is more prone for motives to be more frequently aligned with paltry sums of money, boredom or randomly directed madness. Which is actually preferable?

Rounded out reasoning

Near the conclusion of the article, Blow writes:
“The U.S. has a larger gender gap than 22 other countries including Germany, Ireland, Nicaragua and Cuba, according to a World Economic Forum report ... [that] rates 136 countries on gender equality, and factors in four categories: economic opportunity, educational attainment, health and political empowerment.”
The CNN piece covers the article:
Why wasn't the U.S. even close to the top? While the country scores high on economic opportunity and education for women, it scores poorly on political empowerment.
Yes, Cuba apparently scored higher than the United States in a rating that included political empowerment.

How is political empowerment scored?

Seemingly only by checking the genitals of politicians. The United States actually wouldn't have scored as high as it did if people like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Susana Martínez did not exist. Which is rather humorous as there is surely a New York Times columnist that would say that these three politicians do not represent women. Where is Maureen Dowd when you need her?

Back to the subject at hand - the report.

What Blow leaves out is that the only G8 countries that managed to score higher than the United States are Canada and Germany. This matters a great deal more than scoring worse than South Africa, Lesotho and Nicaragua. Those that tuned in for a look at "everyday" statistics already know that the "gender equality" of these countries loses some of its meaning after considering the frequency of the murder of women.

Blow also ignores that countries with "progressive" policies like longer maternity leave often have a larger gender wage gap.

Blow again quotes his son:
"It’s very important for everyone to be a feminist."

Now, what else is important?

Sunday, June 1, 2014


There is another statistic floating around.

How many women are killed by a specific group of people over a specific time period.

Let's add some context to these numbers.

First, a direct comparison of gender violence - in South Africa, 3 women every day are killed.

Which may not seem high, until one understands that South Africa is only about a fifth of the total population of the United States.

Another statistic - 18 black males are killed every day  ("Black males accounted for about 52% (or 6,800) of the nearly 13,000 male homicide victims in 2005")

There are 90 suicides a day (70 of them men)

And about 22 veterans commit suicide every day. (Men and women)

What's this all mean?

Does it mean we should not be concerned about the three women that will be killed tomorrow by their current or former partners?

No, it simply means we need to understand why people feel the "three a day" statistic is particularly alarming. The number itself is a pointless measure. It could be one per day, it could be ten a day. Most people would at all notice large changes in this statistic.

What men and women do see when they mention this statistic is not really any substantive claim of what these numbers ought to be, but how their own interactions with others have the potential to escalate to injury or death.

The statistics are not false, just a reflection of one's focus and state of mind. What is lost in this "per day" statistic is what is actually "everyday".

What is everyday is abuse of all forms - verbal, physical and emotional abuse.

What is everyday is distress of all forms - fear, hatred, regret, paranoia.

This perspective - violence born out of misogynistic hatred is ignored everyday. Male entitlement and sexual dominance is excused or condoned everyday through daily cat calls, butt slaps and suggestive humor.

To add insult to injury, misogyny is again ignored when it goes as far as to kill three women a day in a serious betrayal of trust - violence from a partner.

Misogyny kills. Debate over, right?

Of course, much of this does not resonate as much as some people would like it to among an ever-present band of critics, skeptics, "trolls", "men's rights activists" and other argumentative types. Why?

Each group has their own reasons for being disagreeable, but perhaps some numbers can illustrate some facts.

Start at the beginning - adults tend to hit boys more than girls (1 2). Further, around 1 in 6 boys may be victims of sexual abuse. Later, as adolescents, boys abuse one another at alarming frequency.

Then comes the transition to adulthood. Marked not only by age, but also by having rounded the bases with a woman. But not just any woman - this aspect is important. The woman in this phase is thought by many feminists as an object of sexual desire, however the woman is perhaps more an object of social status.

The importance of this status perhaps is most obvious when a "hot" female teacher beds a boy in her class. Instead of being a statutory rape like any other, it is often viewed as the teacher blessing the boy with respect for a lifetime. The signal is that the boy may be a prodigy - in this case, the law exists just to insult the maturity and charisma of the young go-getter. The view is that the boy has hit a home run so far that the beta males had to be killjoys and made it illegal.

In adulthood, the messed up priorities and violence still rule the day. This time, as careers. 12% of males between 25 and 34 are veterans. Additionally, we pay men to wear badges and point guns at the bad men closer to home. While these men are paid to maintain law and order, it often does not work out that way.

Men with less exciting roles have the privilege of playing the trendy macho game of "Safety Harnesses are for Cowards" at work.

Thankfully enough males behave well enough so most of the population can enjoy watching men die on television in relative peace.

Within all this, occasionally men manage to surprise us in their capacity for evil. At this point, we have a moment of clarity and realize that male problem solving is fundamentally broken.

The internet at large, being always the enraptured audience of anything particularly gruesome, is eager to dissect. (This post is no exception)

Enter the Saviors

Many line up with answers. If not answering directly the problem of male violence, answering to how one is allowed to react to the discussion.

One such post of late is from Phil Plait, calling out the defensiveness of males participating in the #YesAllWomen hashtag, which spawned shortly after the UCSB tragedy.

A short book could be written that would address all the falsehoods. For example, it is ridiculous to call a 4chan-like "incel" forum a "men's rights" forum. Conflating the two is a silly and insulting distraction. If you want to see what a collection of "men's rights activists" looks like, watch this video of one meetup at the University of Ottawa.

Instead, let's look at one statement Plait says of the "everyday misogyny" that is a good stand-in for his perspective on the matter.

Plait writes:

"We need to change the way we talk to boys in our culture as well as change the way we treat women."

Now, a very polite reading of this could result it in meaning we need to address all the issues with male problem solving in a realistic manner.

However one cannot be faulted in rolling their eyes and thinking that this is just another lecturing all-American platitude. Who we lecturing? Boys. Who are we treating differently? Women.

Let's add it to the scrap heap of other phrases:
  • "Just say no to drugs"
  • "It's cool to stay in school"
  • "Never hit a woman"
All statements contain a hint of truth and the spice necessary to change culture. But ultimately when things get a bit too real this moralistic nonsense is abusive in its own way.

One of the most disappointing aspects of this conga line of preaching is that it comes often from male "scientists" that are usually obligated to bring the data when discussing their field of expertise.

Once the topic is feminism or the social sciences, everyone leaves their numbers and thinking cap at home and wishes us all to listen to anecdotes on Twitter until the tears arrive. We're to think that frequently and collectively paying this penance is somehow going to help us discover solutions.

The happy coincidence is Phil Plait maintains a blog under the header "Bad Astronomy". Perhaps this is a good segue into a blog titled "Absolutely Terrible Feminism".

The mystery is really how we are going to change the way we talk to boys.

For when did we start talking to boys?

Maybe the conversation with boys starts with birth. 

"Do you want to be circumcised, Johnny? Remember, silence is consent."

We listen so well to men's needs.

Fear is everyday.

Violence is everyday.

Click-bait concern is everyday.

Understanding is not.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Embedding Tweets

Some people do not quite understand the "Embed Tweet" feature on Twitter. Nor do they understand the public nature of the content they post on Twitter.

Here is an example of tweets existing outside of both Twitter and Storify. It's a wonder how this works. Technology is great.

Consider this a public service announcement.