Tag Archives: feminism

Sluts, Gamer Girls, and Booth Babes — Oh MY!

Just when I thought I was being lazy about making new blogs posts, someone was horribly wrong on the internet and has induced both feminist AND nerd rage. That’s a pretty impressive level of heinous douchebaggery right there.

The person wrong on the internet is this dude right here. While he attempts to offer criticism on the phenomenon of booth babes–something I also find troubling–Joe Peacock manages to write a  piece positively dripping with the underlying sexism that is ubiquitous in nerd culture. The lists of sins Peacock commits in this article is long and tragically overshadows any valid points he has. However, I will attempt to address the main points best I can.

Instead of tackling the real underlying problem in my opinion–that corporations think it’s a great idea to use half-naked women to sell their products–he instead attacks the women themselves. Sorry, perhaps “women” is the wrong term. He’s  talking about “wannabes who couldn’t make it as car show eye candy slapping on a Batman shirt and strutting around comic book conventions instead.”

That's right, she's a REAL gamer girl. Not one of those FAKE gamer girls. (Seriously you guys, WTF does this s^#$ even MEAN?) This graphic has the added bonus of reminding us that MOST "gamer girls" aren't of the "real" variety.

So, what’s the problem with these women exactly? Other than simply not being genuinely interested in nerd culture, they just aren’t all that attractive. Peacock claims that in the non-nerd world, these girls would only measure up to a 6. However, simply by dressing up in nerdy costumes they ascend to a 9. So these women dress up in revealing clothing, think they’re way hotter than they really are,  and bask in the attention of dudes who they totally wouldn’t actually sleep with? Those bitches.

Holy objectification, Batman! Not only did this guy just demonize feminine displays of sexuality, but he goes as far to describe women using a number as if her lack of attractiveness somehow degrades her worth as a human being. Even more confounding is that Peacock goes on to link to the fantastic Fat, Ugly, or Slutty without realizing that he is, in a form much more subtle than that website shows, helping to promote and perpetuate some of the very misogynist attitudes that give rise to the harassment he himself is obviously opposed to.

He does, however, make a good point about an issue nerd boys face in the culture at large. He states:

“As a guy, I find it repugnant that, due to my interests in comic books, sci-fi, fantasy and role playing games, video games and toys, I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence. It’s insulting.”

In another context, my response would have been “Preach it, brother!” But alas, Peacock is talking about the girls themselves –not the people who decide this sort of misogyny draws more money from consumers.

Here is your obligatory booth babe picture. At least, I think they're booth babes. They could be cosplayers. It's impossible to tell because no one has ever bothered actually talking to hot girls in costumes at cons. They just post their pictures on the internet.

But Autumn! He isn’t talking about the ACTUAL booth babes! He’s talking about sluts who go to conventions in order to get attention from nerds when they don’t actually care about nerd culture!

True! That is the target he seems to be aiming his vitriol toward, but guess what: he is doing little more than slut shaming under the guise of defending nerd culture. Defending nerd culture from what exactly? Why, from poser women who conspire to use nerd boys’ boners against them! This is particularly baffling since he admits that this sort of attitude–that boys are helpless thralls of any pretty girl that looks their way–is ludicrous and insulting. What Peacock totally misses is that he is promoting the equally repugnant and insulting flip-side of that stereotype: Girls are petty, blood-sucking succubi who prey on helpless boy victims.

Perhaps the only statement that might prevent me from vomiting every time I read this article is the following:

“There’s no doubt about it – girls in geek culture have it hard, and it’s probably going to be that way for a long time. … Women elevate the culture, and thus, the content.”

You know what is hard for girls in geek culture? Having to downplay their attractiveness and interest in “girly” things like fashion in order to be taken seriously in the community. Being treated as some sort of awful predator looking for an easy kill should they partake in nerdy hobbies. Having to prove to everyone that they are a REAL nerd girl and not just some “slut with a controller.” Feeling shame for dressing nicely or, heaven forbid, sleeping with a dude she met at PAX lest she be forever branded a con whore.

This comic cropped up a few months ago and showcases the troubling dichotomy of a "real" gamer girl versus the fake "slut" girl. This is a destructive and divisive concept that needs to stop.

Peacock meant well with this article, certainly, but guess what? Girls shouldn’t be required to meet a certain threshold of appreciation of your hobbies in order to gain your permission to express their sexuality in a way they see fit. We need to stop trying to shove women into a tiny subset of acceptable behaviors and roles in order to accept them in our community. Need proof of this weird, frakked up dichotomy? Here you go:

“Flaunt it if you got it – and if you’re a geek, male or female, and you’re strikingly handsome or stunningly beautiful, and you cosplay as a handsome or beautiful character, more power to us all. Hot geeks are hot.”

So it’s totally okay if you want to strip down to your skivvies, drape yourself in Super Nintendo controllers, and post pictures of this to the internet… but only if you can complete a speed run of Super Metroid in under 45 minutes. If not, you’re a poser and a “pox on our culture.”

What this whole fiasco exemplifies is the following: it is incredibly hard to not be sexist. Even people who mean well and actively try to not be sexist fall into this trap all the damn time. In her wonderful article describing “hipster racism” Lindy West states that the best we can do is to commit to working our asses off to not be racist. The exact same thing is applies to sexism–it is so incredibly ingrained in us that we don’t even realize it when we’re being terrible little crotch goblins. This is my attempt to point out to a well-meaning dude that he is being exactly that: a crotch goblin.

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My Thoughts on Lady Watson, Let Me Show You Them

It was reported this morning about how CBS will be producing a pilot of new version of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a modern, updated take. (Exactly like, say, BBC’s Sherlock. Where Watson writes a blog.) Titled Elementary, it will star Johnny Lee Miller as Holmes and…. Lucy Liu as Watson? What? She’s the first ever female Watson, ever, guys. Isn’t that ponies and rainbows?

image from Wikipedia

I was at work, so I only know my online social circle reacted–perhaps there are lot of people cheering and going “WOO! Yes! This is the best!”–but the general consensus I heard was “No thanks.” Possibly because we’ve all just watched Sherlock twenty times and it’s hard to reconcile our mental images of Stephen Moffat’s brilliant show with Liu playing Watson in a mini skirt ($10 says she wears one in the first episode*). I don’t think all of us are anti-lady Watson, although I’d argue it ruins some of the dynamic. Maybe it’s possible to get that same Bromance with a girl. I mean, Robin from How I Met Your Mother managed to bro it up with Barney for a while. Then sex happened.

That’s my biggest beef with it. I feel like it’s inevitable that the writers will fall into the ROMANCE trap. With Boy Watson, who at least in the BBC version is pretty emphatically straight, they can explore the dynamic of close, platonic friendship, which is something I adore and relate to. People of all genders can love each other and put up with crap and get into spats and make up all without the romance or sex. But it’s hardly shown that way in fiction, and almost never on television, where the only time men and women are friends is before, after, or during some kind of romance. Unless it’s unrequited love. That women and men can be actual, platonic friends is something I want to see more of. So if manages to do that, well…

I still probably won’t watch it but at least I’ll respect the show on some level. I can’t watch it, because I’ll mentally compare to, again, BBC’s, which is a shining example of how creative, well-acted, and overall well-produced television can be. (Assuming the pilot is picked up at all. That remains to be seen.)

While we talked about it today, my friends and I came up with really awesome twists on detective shows that can star and feature female detectives, sidekicks, and the like, without doing a gender-swap remake. I’d personally love to see a Sherlock-esque female lead on a TV show. Bones came close in the beginning, but eventually that dissolved. My friend Angeline said, “When a man is obnoxious and sneering and arrogant, that’s sexy. When a woman is all those things, it’s threatening.” Why can’t we have an anti-social super smart woman who really isn’t interested in romance or having kids?

Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To combine that thread of thought with my friend Angel’s idea (their names are totally coincidental, btw) why not make a Steampunk Victorian detective show? It could feature a female lead, a Holmes-style figure, and a female sidekick or straightman, like Watson. Plus steampunk is really de rigeuer right now. Yes, I know, the costume budget would be big, but I know lots of people who would watch the hell out of that.

Or as my pal Michelle suggested, what about a show where two friends (either or both can be women) who are huge fans of Sherlock Holmes open a detective agency. They can solve murders and mysteries, while referencing famous detectives. Hell, they can even have a friend who keeps trying to be their Moriarty and they have to explain that Moriarty is really more chaotic evil than one can achieve by throwing water balloons at their cars.

It’s not that I don’t want to see more women in smart, well-written roles on television. I do. I think a lot of us do. But I don’t even want to see more Sherlock remakes (there are probably a hundred thousand), especially on the heels of the BBC version that basically blows the others out of the water. And maybe Elementary will be a brilliant in its own right, and maybe Liu will turn out to be the best Watson on this side of the pond, but there are so many creative, new ideas that get swept aside, both in television and film, for the sake of more remakes and reboots. The “with a chick!” only makes me groan and feel like it’s a cheap gimmick to sell an another version of an over-saturated series.

*Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Also I think I’m picturing Liu as her character from Ally McBeal. 

GeekGirlCon: No, I am not a Booth Babe

The ladies of Crabcat Industries: Elizabeth, Hilary, and Jessica.

All right, kids! After a fall quarter from hell and surviving an over-booked-but-fun holiday adventure I am finally writing up my thoughts on the GeekGirlCon panel titled, “No, I am not a Booth Babe: Sexism in the Video Game Industry” featuring the ladies of CrabCat Industries–Elizabeth Heckmaier, Jessica Merizan, and Hilary Shapiro. The original plan for this post was to rave about how awesome Jessica Merizan is, but frankly, with over three months between now and the con, I can’t remember exactly why I wrote “I love this woman” in my notes from the panel. So, instead of a straight up review, I will liberally interpret what my notes say to weave my own narrative on the topics discussed during the panel.

Representations of Females in Games
It is apparent to anyone who has been exposed to gaming culture that ladies in games are often only eye candy or objects to be rescued and, even if they are plot-relevant characters, they tend to be overly-sexualized and scantily clad. As Merizan pointed out during the panel, the door does swing both ways in some respects.

“How often to the guys look like the characters they are playing?” she asked. While I agree with her on that point, I would add that just because both sexes are subjected to this sort of idealized representation in games it does not follow that it is therefore acceptable. Indeed, I would argue that females have it worse in many respects (the second result on google for “female video game characters” lists 25 of the hottest ones). The most obvious example is how females are clothed or, perhaps more accurately, how often they simply aren’t clothed.

I’m sure we are all familiar with the tendency for female characters to wear “armor” which often fails to cover fairly large portions of vital bits–particularly around the abdomen. In fact, in games such as World of Warcraft it is often joked that the less skin the armor covers the more protective it is–this is due to the plate and mail armor sets in the game often more closely resembling a chainmail bikini whereas the cloth armor tends take the form of more conservative robes (with some famous exceptions, of course). This isn’t to say that there is an objection to ladies wearing revealing outfits in general, but rather that women routinely going into battle wearing a chainmail bikini is insulting. Why is it that females simply aren’t dressed for the job?

The original is forgivable for sake of the "big reveal" with awful graphics, but come on.

Samus Aran pictures from the end of the Metroid games.

As Shapiro pointed out during the panel, we are thankfully seeing a trend of more appropriately dressed ladies in video games. Of note are Aveline from Dragon Age II and, my personal favorite, Shepard (or “FemShep”) from the Mass Effect series. I am hoping this trend continues and that other appropriately dressed characters such as Samus Aran from Metroid (who originally was considered a breakthrough with respect to women in games) will no longer be reduced to posing in pin-up style pictures of increasing states of undress offered as a reward to the player for higher percentage of game completion.

That being said, I have no problem with ladies posing as pin ups or with ladies wearing chainmail bikinis–it just shouldn’t be women’s only accepted role in the community.

Authenticity: There ARE Girls on the Internet, Assholes
“Authenticity shouldn’t be an issue anymore,” said Heckmaier. I believe she was referring to how women are often seen as somehow being posers or not “real” gamers unless proven otherwise. I believe this goes hand-in-hand with other stereotypes of girl gamers–they’re not good at games, if you admit to being a girl it is because you want free stuff from guys, you’re probably 800 pounds and ugly (attractive girls don’t play video games, of course), and the list goes on and on. I remember being very cautious and even ashamed about admitting my gender on MMORPGs because of encountering these exact stereotypes myself. While in a group, if I simply corrected someone for using the wrong pronoun I would either be accused of being an attention whore or I would be hit on. I once had a PVP group of mostly males and people made statements that the only reason I was allowed in the group was because I must have been sleeping with the person running it.

I’ve even been on receiving end of well-meaning sexist comments too–two friends of mine once commented on how girls were not any good at PVP. One of the friends countered with the fact that they knew ONE girl who was good at it–me. How flattering.

Rule 30: There are no girls on the internet. Recently, a friend joked that I put his manliness to shame while playing Guitar Hero because I can play guitar on expert and he can only play on medium. While more subtle, these comments are still troubling because they reflect the pervasive underlying assumption that girls are bad at games.

Hey, guess what? Girls are good at video games. In fact, there are girls who are better at video games than guys are. I used to be flattered every time someone reacted with, “Wow! You’re beating me at this game and you’re a GIRL!” Not anymore. I just find it insulting. I am not some sort of god damn anomaly just because I have a vagina.

This trend goes both ways, though. For every sexist comment from a male I’ve gotten (“I didn’t want to talk to you at first because you are pretty and therefore I assumed you were stupid”) I’ve gotten something just as awful from a female perpetuating the same nonsense. For example, I once went shopping for a hair dryer. I was then berated by a friend of mine because she “know[s] the types of girls who own hair dryers” and I clearly was wrong to venture into the “pretty girl” camp from her “smart girl” camp. As Merizan also pointed out, girls commonly get disapproving comments for wearing make-up as well–it seems to me that no matter what you do to your appearance, there is always something wrong with it.

This pretty girl vs. smart girl dichotomy has got to stop. We are human beings. We can be and often are both of these (and many more) things. We fall within a bell curve like most of the rest of the population. We shouldn’t be shunned by our nerd peers for wanting to wear make up, dresses, or do our hair. Women do not do these things for the attention of men. We do them because we want to do them. Also, just because a girl doesn’t somehow meet your standards of attractiveness doesn’t mean you can dismiss her, either.

It seems to me that the current state of gender issues in the video game industry, much like the current state of feminism in general, is a matter of personhood and a battle against pervasive, destructive stereotypes–for both genders. For goodness sake, do an image search for “girl gamers” and look at what comes up. I dare you to tell me this isn’t a huge problem.