Friday, August 24, 2007

Happy Friday!

This is just a quick note to let everyone know that I'm going to be gone till at least Thursday. I'm going camping with some friends. It's going to be lovely. I'll be back to posting when I get back.

Hope everyone has a great weekend, and if you've got any advice for delicious camping meals, feel free to toss them up here- I'm leaving tomorrow morning, so I've still got time. =D

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Beauty Standards and Shaming...

Ren, of Renegade Evolution (not so much safe for work. Unless you work in a place that's totally cool with blogs about sex and sex work. In which case, I guess that it is safe for work.) is guest blogging over at feministe, and has a post up called Something I Never Really Understood..., wherein she discusses body acceptance. In particular, she's wondering what it really means, and if many feminists are only willing to accept women's bodies if they meet some kind of particular feminist ideal- not shaving, not wearing makeup, not dressing in certain ways.

Often times being thin, via nature or diet or time in a gym is thought of something horrible. The intelligence of women who wear make up or get any sort of cosmetic surgery is guestioned, and often they are made fun of. Women who enage in any sort of “Patriarchy Approved” grooming or body ritual, well, when they admit it, they appologize for it. They are appologetic or ashamed of being thin, or wearing eyeliner, or having blonde hair...

... It seems like an odd sort of backlash to what was supposed to be a mode of thought that would make women more comfortable in their own skins, no matter their shape, size, mode of dress, or alterations. One can read feminist lit of all types, from books to blogs, and see this odd backlash, feminist people calling women bimbos, porno barbies, sticks; women disdaining their own natural attributes that fall within the realms of conventional beauty, things such as being tall, or thin, or curvy or blonde…

I don't know how common this is, in general, but I know that I've noticed it on occasion. I've seen threads about lipstick, makeup, high-heels, etc. end up becoming quite heated, as some people take hard-line stances about them. I've seen people essentially say "You're not really a feminist if you wear heels/lipstick" or whatever the topic of choice is. And, let's be honest, there are big taboos against breast enlargement in a some feminist circles. I'd have guessed that this was a minority position- the way that I generally think people being criticized for working out or being thin tends to be a minority situation- but I also realize that, as a guy, I'm not in the best position to notice these sorts of criticisms.

Still, Ren's question is an interesting one to me, because I don't think that there's a good response, necessarily. The problem is between dealing with individual choices, and the social implications that those choices can have.

Here's what I mean: I'm a huge supporter of people exercising their personal autonomy. I think that you should have the right to do just about whatever you want to your own body. If you want to be thin, be thin. If you want to be fat, be fat. If you want to dye your hair purple and wear nothing but yellow polka dots, I say go for it.

Some people want to be as "natural" as they can be- they don't want to shave or get cosmetic surgery. They want to leave their body as it developed. I think that's great, and I don't think that they should be judged poorly for it. On the other hand, some people take great pleasure in having total control over their bodies. They like to be able to sculpt themselves and know that their physical presentation is exactly as they want it to be. I think that's great, too. And, of course, a lot of people fall somewhere in the middle.

So, when it comes to any particular individual, I think that body modification is totally fine. I get the impression that this is a minority view. In abstract, I don't see anything wrong with breast enlargement over any other form of elective, cosmetic surgery. Sure, not necessary, but, then, neither are lots of the other forms of body modification people get. In abstract, what's the difference between a boob job and, say, getting lots of piercings, or tattoos, or teeth bleaching, or hair dying, or braces, or, or, or...

All of those things are surgeries or alterations people get to change their physical appearance in ways that they control. Don't like that bump on your nose from when you broke it when you were twelve? Get a nose job and fix it. Don't like that you have to wear glasses? Get lasered. Get a navel piercing. It's a way of exhibiting control over your body, which, I think, can be a perfectly healthy and understandable desire to have. We don't think twice when someone wants to get her teeth straightened.

Ultimately, I think that all of those things should be left up to the individual to decide. It's not my place to tell another person that she should or shouldn't alter her body in some way that doesn't effect me.

Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal or abstract world. We live in a very real world where we don't make our choices in a vacuum, and that's where I think the disagreement/trouble comes in, and where I think Ren is finding people's comments troubling and/or confusing. In a world where women are constantly bombarded with images and messages telling them that they're not good enough, and that they'd be more attractive if they shed a few pounds and had bigger, perkier breasts, and if they wore the right foundation, and had longer lashes... well... I can see why some people start to have concerns.

And I understand that and think it's totally fair, too. If you've got a system that really pushes women to feel like shit about how they look naturally, then you're going to have a system that pushes women get bodily alterations done. Socialization is powerful, and it's hard to know how much it effects women's choices when it comes to these things. How many women would cover their faces in makeup if it weren't for the social pressure to do so?

So, of course, it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. If you don't shave or wear makeup, you get criticized for it. You're breaking a social taboo, and people will look and question and prod and poke. If you do, you're capitulating to harmful social pressures that demand women look a certain way.

So, how do we come to a place where women who want to modify their bodies or wear makeup or wear certain clothing get the respect that they deserve, but where other women can feel free to criticize the system that reinforces the notion that real women dress or act or look a certain way? How do we avoid criticizing any particular woman for getting a breast enlargement while still fighting the system that tries to tell women that their breasts aren't good enough?

I think that's precisely how, though. I think it's entirely possible to say that the system is screwed, without attacking any particular woman. If a woman says that she did X, Y, or Z because she wanted to, I think that's fair. If a woman says she's considered the implications of an action, and has decided to go ahead with it, that's good enough for me. I don't think it's my place to question any particular person's feminist credentials based on whether she's wearing red lipstick or high-heels.

So: to answer Ren's post: I think that it comes from being troubled and concerned with the systemic problems, and attacking the women that are seen as perpetuating them. I think that it's very easy, when you're trying to fight a systemic problem, to end up hitting individuals sometimes. I'm not suggesting that it's nice or right to do so, but I think that it's understandable that it happens. If you're trying to fight a big problem, and you see someone that is reinforcing that very problem, frustration or imprecise language can create a situation where you end up lashing out at an individual.

Still, like I said, I don't know how pervasive this problem is, though. For my money, I'd have guessed that it was more likely that feminists feel guilty or troubled by their own wearing of makeup or concern with beauty than for them to be criticized by other feminists for it. I'd love to hear other people's experiences wit this though.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

In Which I'm Called Out on Germaine Greer...

Because, gods know, I'm not one to turn down a challange: Natalia Antonova tags me to talk about Germaine Greer's comments about Princess Diana. And how can I resist being called out by someone kind enough to label me a real feminist blogger?

Obviously, I can't.

The story comes from this Salon blurb posted a few days ago. I looked around to try to find the full quote, and this is what I came up with:

I have come to the conclusion that she was a devious moron. One of the things I have been puzzled by is why her whole life was such a mess. She made a mess of being Princess of Wales, but that is fine because the job is not do-able. It is an insane job and, in history, all but one of the Princesses of Wales have come to a sticky end -- stickier than hers.

I am also interested in why she couldn't manage life after being Her Royal Highness. It still puzzles me that she does that no-no thing: she sleeps with married men. If you do that in Hello! magazine, you are beyond contempt. But she does it with Will Carling, we forgive her somehow – even though his marriage is in a very delicate state and it doesn't seem to have helped at all.

Then she does it with Oliver Hoare, the antiques dealer, who eventually realises he is in deep shit and goes back to his wife. She makes 300 nuisance calls to his home phone number. And this is the angel that people want to crown.

I'm not really sure what to say. I agree with Natalia, I'm not sure why it should be surprising that Diana's life was a mess. Hell, my life is a mess, and I'm not under constant scrutiny from reporters and the public. I don't have the weight of an entire country on my back. Diana's life doesn't seem to have been that much messier than a lot of people's, she just happened to have a lot of photographers and reporters eager to talk about hers.

The whole tirade stinks of publicity grabbing. There are some things that are sure-fire ways to get media attention and to incite reaction. Slagging on the dead- particularly when it's someone with as much public adoration as Princess Di- is high on the list.

And, for the record: Why is it a no-no thing for her to sleep with a married man? Were these men unable to say no to her? I think it's shitty to cheat on your spouse, but it's not her fault that this assholes didn't stay faithful to their wives. She didn't break a vow when/if she slept with them- they broke a vow to their wives.

Personally, I find Greer's comments tremendously offensive, not because she's insulting Diana, but because, quite frankly, they stink of misogyny. Look, I don't give two shits about Diana. I don't know that much about her except for her work on landmines and AIDS awareness, and I don't think she's a saint by any stretch. My problem isn't with being critical of Diana because she's dead, either- the fact that she's dead doesn't put her beyond criticism. My problem is with going off about what a "devious moron" she was when your only real complaints seem to be that you don't like how much or with whom she was having sex.

There's a term for that kind of criticism. I call that slut shaming.

And this, from the woman who once said "Women have very little idea of how much men hate them"?

This shouldn't really be surprising, though. I've found a lot of Greer's comments and actions pretty troubling, personally. Really, for someone with such an influential set of writings, some of her more recent writings leave a lot to be desired. Take a look at this lovely piece, for example:

There's no question that the women are stroppier. They're not embarrassed to say they agreed to sex with one man they'd only just met, or even with two, but they insist that they hadn't agreed to being brutalised, insulted or humiliated, and they want redress.

They might well be insisting on the right to free expression of their own desires, which include shagging the odd hyper-fit footballer, provided he doesn't abuse the privilege. But they also seem quite interested in another factor in sex with footballers - namely, indecent amounts of money.

That's right, her claim is that women- she actually calls them "rape fodder" at one point- who flirt with and might want to sleep with footballers, but get sexually assualted and raped... they're really not raped, they're in it for the money. Of course, the men involved can't help it. Oh, no! You see, Greer informs us that "Good family men have been known to succumb to the groupies' onslaught," because, you know, in the face of their overwhelming sluttiness, how can any man resist? And her last line of that piece? Fucking pricless: "Now that the women are beefing and the papers are printing and wives are walking out, the players are more vulnerable than ever."

That's right, those poor players. It's not, you know, the women they rape that are vulnerable. Oh no! It's those poor men.

And let's not forget her comments on female genital mutilation, right? In her book The Whole Woman, she argued that attempts to ban FGM were "an attack on cultural identity" and that "one man's beautification is another man's mutilation." She compared the practice of female circumcision to labia piercings: "If an Ohio punk has the right to have her genitalia operated on, why has not the Somali woman the same right?"

So, yeah. That's my take on Greer, for whatever it's worth. Probably the paper it's printed on, right? I'm not in the habit of telling other people whether they can or can't call themselves feminists, and I know that some of Greer's writings were damn influential... but I hope to damn that someone will stop me before I start going off on antifeminist tirades. Whatever type of feminist she is, I don't want any part of. I don't think it's particularly enlightened to cry "poor men!" and slut shame women because the man they're hooked up with is cheating on his wife.

I'm Not Surprised...

I just can't decide whether I should be glad that there was only one bid, or sad that it was almost a hundred bucks.
And that, you know, the auction was up at all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Also: A note to google searchers...

Please, please stop searching for "Sex with sleeping girls". I can only assume that you're looking for porn, but you're finding my site. And I strongly suspect that you're not really going to find what you're looking for here.

I think I've got a much more accurate search for you, if that's the case.

Wow. Just... wow...

I've been the sometimes reader of Natalia Antonova's for a few months now. In her own words:
I’m Ukrainian, but I’m also American, but my first language is Russian, but I live in the Middle East, but I want to settle in Britain eventually (and hopefully not live off noodles and mayonnaise, but, once again, you never know).

How can you not want to read a blog like that?

Anyway, that's neither here nor there. The important thing is a post she made about a Salon interview with the pick-up artist Mystery. Or, more specifically, the comments. There's a comment by a reader named Alex that is, to put it lightly, troubling.

Alex, despite his protests, is absolutely a Nice Guy(tm). His comments go on at great length about how tragic the dating scene is, and he laments that women who date abusive asshole jerks represent "the majority of womanhood" and discusses how he should just give up and become an asshole too, because, you know, then he could get some play.

Read through his comments a bit, and you'll be, I suspect, shocked to find that he considers himself nice. Let me clue you in to something, Alex: you're not very nice. Your comments are abusive, insulting, and offensive. If you're having trouble meeting women, the problem may not be with the women or the people they're choosing to date instead, the problem may just be with you.

Maybe you're radically different offline, but on? You sound like a grade-A asshole. Nice people don't make racist comments like:
Speaking of callous cruelty, why is it so fashionable now for so many non-black women to date or hook up with black guys? Is it really about the real or fictitious 10″ wangs; the fact that they provide the only male recording ‘artists’ now who sound like they have two balls which knock together when they walk; or that women get off on the idea that they’re more likely to curse or hit them? That they’re not safe, unlike Daddy?

See that? That marks you as a racist bigot and an asshole.
Not nice.

Maybe the problem is with your attitude towards people in general? If you really believe that people are "just a bunch of two-legged hyenas trying to get as much cash, sex, status and power, everyone else be damned" I'd imagine that you're not exactly a big bag o' laughs to be around. That kind of attitude shows, and it's not very attractive. In fact, I'd wager that it's a bit of a turn-off.

And your last missive, wherein you take your toys and go home, vowing never to return? Priceless.

Your posts are dripping with anger, resentment, and contempt... why in the world should anyone find that attractive? And, of course, you blame it on the feminists who are embracing "a cult of unfeeling or contemptuous emotional Hardness." Comparing us to the Bolsheviks is a nice touch. Women don't dismiss you so they can date assholes, Alex.

They dismiss you because you're an asshole.

The Price of Justice: Branding Your Wife With an Iron, and Slashing Her With a Knife = $3,958.80

Via Feminist Philosophers:

Well, this is just awesome. Really.

Colin Read, a management consultant over in the UK, branded his wife, Elizabeth, with a hot iron and slashed her foot with a knife while she slept. Why did he do these violent things? Because she didn't press his shirt, and didn't make him a sandwich. When she complained about the knife attack, he beat her with his fists. When she tried to talk to him about it a few days later, he hit her again. The branding attack happened a week later.

At the trial, his (soon to be former) wife was so terrified of him, that she had to be compelled by a summons to testify. I can't say I blame her. I mean, he branded her and slashed her with a knife, because she didn't make him a sandwich. How do you think he's going to react if you testify against him in court, right?

And even after being found guilty of all three of the assault charges levied against him, and the judge noting that the attacks were "appalling" and Colin's denials about the attacks concerned him, what happens? The violent asshole walks free with less than a $4,000 fine. No community service. No jail time. Nothing.

Why? Because, according to the judge, it was the marriage that led to the abuse, and since they're getting a divorce, it won't matter now. Oh, and Colin is so very busy working at his 180k a year job that he wouldn't have time to do community service. The judge noted that jail time would "help no one."

What. The. Fuck?

First of all, it wasn't the marriage that led to Colin abusing Elizabeth. His working 17 hour days might have soured his mood. Elizabeth not pressing a shirt he wanted might have annoyed him. He decided on his course of action, though. He was the one who decided to cut her with a fucking knife while she slept. He was the one who decided to brand her with an iron.

Second of all, punishing him does help people. It sends a message that this kind of abuse isn't acceptable. It teaches him a lesson, and sends a message to other people. It could also be an opportunity to get him some bloody counciling, since he clearly has some fucked up ideas about what is an acceptable way to let anger out. Last, but not least, it would send a message to the victims of abuse, that the courts take these kinds of cases seriously, and respect how difficult it is to report domestic violence. When the courts essentially do nothing to assholes like this guy, they send a very loud message to the victims of violent crimes like this that their suffering doesn't count.

If I walked up to a man on the street and slashed him with a knife, beat him with my fists, and branded him twice with an iron, does anyone doubt I'd face jail time?

Elizabeth is quoted in the article: "I didn't really want to go to court. Now with the sentence the way it was, it doesn't really seem there was much point."

That's the message that victims of domestic violence are going to carry away from this. And can you blame them?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Let's clear a few things up...

Not that I think it'll make much difference to those involved, but:

1. I'm not a radical feminist. If I walked up to most self-identified radical feminists and tried to tell them that I'm a rad-fem as well, I strongly suspect one of two reactions: a. they'd laugh in my face at such a patently ridiculous claim, or b. they'd punch me in the face for making such a ridiculous claim. I know it's a difficult concept, but bear with me. Radical feminists are feminists, but not all feminists are radical feminists. I am a feminist, not a radical feminist.

2. Anyone who can read my blog and think that I want to ban video games is flat-out a moron. I mean, I can see how you might get the idea that I, like that uber-dipshit Jack Thompson, think that video games are evil, what with my post Games are Good For You. You know, the post where I talk about some of the ways that games are, uh, good? Or, maybe it's the post where I specifically say that I'm opposed to banning games? Actually, I suspect it's more about posts like the one I made about RE5. Of course, if you read the whole post, and the follow-up, you'd notice that I specifically mention how much I love gaming. That I'm critical of games sometimes is not to say that I don't love them or that I think they should be banned- in fact, it's rather the opposite. It's my love of games that inspires me to be critical and push for improvements. There's a pretty significant difference between constructive criticism and an attempt to ban games. Saying "I think things can be better" does not translate into "We should ban games" unless you've got all the mental facilities of a rock.

But, clearly, I haven't made it clear enough. If you're a gamer, and you're thinking that people like Tipper Gore or Jack Thompson are better allies than me? You've got all the intellectual power of raw hamburger. I don't want to ban any games. I want games to improve, and I'm doing my damndest to discuss them in an intelligent fashion so that we can, with any luck, get to the day when games are taken as seriously and seen as being as valid an art-form/entertainment medium as film. Super conservative groups and people like Gore and Thompson don't want to see games succeed- they want to destroy the industry. They think that games are responsible for all of societies ills.

But, hey, you're free to pick whatever allies you want.

3. I've seen some complaints about "Free Speech" popping up a bit. There seems to be some confusion about what constitutes free speech. I'm not imposing on your right to free speech by not letting insulting or hostile comments through moderation. I'd be imposing on your right to free speech if I tried to shut down your blog, or if I took actions to silence you on your own turf. You have every right to be as closed minded or obnoxious or offensive as you want on your own space, and if someone tries to shut your site down, and I know about it, I'll stand up for your right to say what you want. I won't stand up for your "right" to shut other people's sites down, though. When you try to silence other people, you are the one destroying freedom of speech.

And, for the record: I'm more than happy to entertain disagreements on my site. If you show respect for me and my site, you can disagree with me all you want. If you come on here and tell me to go fuck myself or post threatening comments, I'm not letting them through. If you don't like the things I say, I encourage debate. Just keep it at least moderately respectful. I think that's fair.

Anyway, I just thought I'd clarify those few things, on the off chance that it matters to anyone.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Judge Destroys My Faith in Justice... (And Tarnishes My Name)

Found via Angry Asian Man. I really appreciate that he doesn't mince words. I dont' know why, but it's really refreshing to see an analysis end with "That's racist!" Because, you know? It is.

Moving on, though- I have a question. Why is it that so many people named Roy turn out to be jerks? I hadn't met anyone else with my name until I started working in auto-body shops in high school. The two guys I met there were both kind of jerks. And most of the people I've met since then who've shared my name? Asshats. Hell, even the fictional characters named Roy tend to be sort of obnoxious. Seriously, why is it that almost everyone that I share my name with, turns out to be a total asshole?

And now this dipshit is appealing the case. What an ass. I can only hope that the commission that is looking at his request for a 10-year term on the bench denies his request.

Oh, but I love some of the coverage of this. Legal cases involving clothes are funny- he's filing a suit? Heh. Oh, and check out this pun-tastic headline: "Dry Cleaners Cut Plaintiff Some Slack". Heh. That headline still makes me giggle. Get it? Because the whole case is over a pair of pants that needed alterations? Cutting slacks? Brilliant. Oh, and the first line is equally puntastic: "The dry cleaners aren't pressing their case against the Pants Judge." HA! Pressing! Gods, that's comedy gold right there.

Edited 3:52:

I should have made it clearer. Angry Asian Man didn't suggest that this particularly case was racist (and I don't think that it was either). If you read through some of his other posts, you'll see instances of him talking about something and finishing with "That's racist!"

His take on the Roy Pearson story is here.

Good News... Games Are Good For You!

A few weeks ago, I read Everything Bad is Good For You, and I was pretty impressed with the argument that Johnson laid out. The book is essentially an argument against the people who claim that technology is dumbing us down, or that television is getting stupider with time, etc. There are several points to be made there, but his main point is that, if you do any kind of objective measure, programming today is more complicated and requires greater mental participation from audiences than programming ever did in the past. Shows have larger casts of characters, more complicated plots, more sub-plots, and stories are measured in seasons, not episodes.

Amanda started a nice discussion over at Pandagon, and Mighty Ponygirl talked about it as well.

The thread at Pandagon is growing nicely, and, not surprisingly, there are a number of people who are really dismissive about gaming and video games. A lot of the arguments levied against gaming and television are the same kinds of arguments that were levied against radio, or comic books, or whatever media type you want to bring up. There's always this reaction against it, and this doom-and-gloom forecasting about how X new media type is going to bring about the destruction of our children's minds.

Johnson never argues that gaming is the best new tool for education, and that we should abandon reading altogether, which seems to be lost on several of the posters. There's the usual criticism that games are all fast-twitch and that they must, therefore, contribute to a decline in attention span, and that the only thing they teach is how to process lots of simultaneously occuring pieces of information- such an air traffic controller might have to do.

These kinds of arguments treat every game as though it's Asteroids on speed. They imagine that the gamer is forced to make tons of split-second choices amid an ever increasing wave of hostile forces, while trying to rescue the princess, etc. And, sure, there are games that involve that kind of rapid-fire, fast-twitch gaming.

There are also lots of games that reward slow, methodical planning. Hell, there are entire genres devoted to rewarding careful gameplay. Turn-based strategy/tactics games and RPGs, for example, greatly encourage players to think about longterm goals, not just the immediate circumstances. Also, you know... being turn-based sort of negates the need for fast-twitch responses. Weird, that.

Ultimately, I find conversations like the one on Pandagon infinitely frustrating and annoying, though. The focus on "but games make kids stupid! They make them lazy! They give them ADHD!" ignores the very real concerns that we should be having about games.

Here's reality: Games aren't going anywhere.

That's the fact of the matter. Games aren't going away, and whining that you don't like them because you think that they're all fast-twitch and flashing lights isn't going to change that. It's mostly just going to make you look like you don't know what the fuck you're talking about, and like you haven't picked up a video game since Space Invaders was king (and even then there were games like Utopia that were, you know, rewarding for people who wanted slow, methodical gameplay!). Games survived that big crash, and there's not likely to be another one. Gaming is a huge industry. Video games bring in more money than the film industry's box office draws.

That's big.

There are real problems with video games, and harping on about how you think that books are soooo much better than Bloodrayne is nothing but a distraction. As recent events have shown, there's a lot of work to be done in the gaming community. Homophobia, sexism, and racism are all still serious problems in the gaming community.

Ultimately, what these conversations seem to reveil to me is that there's a huge cultural divide between gamers and non-gamers. Gamers don't really take the comments from non-gamers seriously, precisely because there are so many non-gamers who clearly know very little about what gaming is actually like. If you think that gaming is nothing but flashing lights and sounds and that playing a game is just about processing tons of information all at once- ignoring chaos- why should a gamer listen? That's not, I suspect, what most gamers think of their experiences as being like. The other thing it does is reinforce the idea that non-gamers are trying to get rid of games or trying to take games away from gamers. This is, in fact, kind of true. There are a lot of people, like Gore, who think that games are a total waste of time. So, it's not surprising that gamers might not react kindly.

More on this, I'm sure, to come...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Nurse Rapes Patients...

While I was reading about the Gulf News report about the sleep rapist, I stumbled upon this lovely story. One of the head nurses at the Peter Dally Clinic for Eating Disorders has spent the last gods know how many years raping and molesting patients at the center. Police aren't sure how many women this scumbag raped, and they've sent out letters to all of the patients that he came into contact with since 1999. They don't have contact information for the patients he would have been in contact with in the 80s.

So far, 8 women have have won compensation from the trust, but I don't see anything about criminal proceedings in the article.

I'm not really clear on why the article put scare-quotes around "molested" in the article headline, either.

Sex and Sleeping... At the Same Time?

h/t feministing

A 26 year old RAF mechanic was cleared of rape charges because he suffers from a disorder called sexsomnia. Basically, this guy falls asleep and then goes into a state where he'll try to initiate sex during sleep. In this case, he claims to have fallen asleep, and while sleeping, raped a 15 year-old girl. When she awoke to find him on top of her, she screamed, and he got off of her, and wandered out into the yard. He doesn't deny that penetration took place. And yet... he's walking free.

This particular case seems to have been poorly handled, I think. This was a guy who knew he had this problem. He was aware of it, because he'd done similar things before to his girlfriend. He'd groped her and tried to initiate sex with her while he was asleep before. In one instance, he punched her while he was asleep. So, he knows that this is a possibility. That means that it's his responsibility to make sure that he doesn't hurt other people. Knowing that he has this problem, he shouldn't allow himself in a position where he's going to hurt other people. He knew he was sleep deprived, and that he'd been drinking too much, so he shouldn't have slept in a place where there were people that he could harm.

This also raises bigger questions, though. What if this were the first time that it happened? What if he were really truly in a deep sleep trance and did something to hurt someone else without realizing it? What's the appropriate way to handle a case like that? On the one hand, the victim of a crime deserves justice. On the other, we try not to punish people for things that they don't have control over. I'm not sure how a case like that should be handled. And, to throw a wrench further into this: What if the person who suffers from sexsomnia initiates sex with someone who wants to have sex? In the case of this guy, it was a 15 year-old girl, and she didn't want to have sex... but what if it had been a 25 year-old woman who did? What if he woke up and realized what was happening, and he didn't want to have sex? Or if it was a woman initiating sex and a man had sex with her and she woke up?

There's an interesting conversation happening in that feministing thread, now, between Kimmy and activistgradgal, about this very thing. Ultimately, what role and responsibility do sleeping people have if they do things while they're asleep?

If a man tries to have sex with a sleeping woman, that's rape. A sleeping person is not in a condition to give active informed consent to anything, let alone sex. That some sleeping people give the impression of intiating or wanting sex shouldn't really change that, because it's not about the body consenting, but the mind. In this particular case, I think his responsibility comes not from his being asleep, but from his knowing that he has this condition, and not having taken precautions. Had he not known, or had he taken reasonable precautions but something still happened... I'm not really sure what should be done.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

No News is Good News...

(This is so lame, but until just now, I never noticed how that can be read in two ways... the lack of news is, itself, good news, or, as in this case, there is no news that is good news. How did I never notice that?)

Anyway, a news round-up: A homeless man in Cincinnati is shot to death when he asks a passerby for money. The woman who shot him is being charged with a hate crime. I'm not really sure where to fall on this one- I absoultely think that it's wrong to shoot someone because they ask you for money.

On the other hand, according to the article, the victim was known to use an aggressive style when asking for money "pushing on people" etc. A 62 year-old woman, alone at night being pushed by someone, I think, might reasonably fear for her safety. It may not justify her shooting the guy, but it makes it a hell of a lot more complicated than "he asked for a quarter."

Which makes the the article interesting, too, for the way that it tries to revoke sympathy for either party- they can't decide who they want to blame: a black woman with a gun, or a homeless dead guy. You're told about how the victim was homeless and used violent/aggressive means to ask for money, but then they describe the situation as a man being "shot to death... over a quarter" and the headline is "Woman Killed Man Over Spare Change" as though she was so outraged by his request for a quarter that she had to blow him away. I can't watch the video yet, but it certainly sounds, so far, like it was probably more about feeling threatened than about the quarter. What do I know, though? Regardless, it's a sad situation, all the same.

This story needs a trigger warning of some kind... I'm just not sure what. It's weird and disturbing... so... you know, be warned, I guess?

Our story starts roughly a year ago, when three men hatched a "scheme" to... dig up a woman's body to have sex with it. One of the men saw the woman's picture in the obits, and... I don't even want to know what he was thinking at that point, honestly. It's all just so fucked up and wrong. Anyway, the long-story-short version: They're caught digging up the grave and promptly arrested and charged with attempted sexual assault and robbery.

As if that wasn't bad enough, at the end of July an appeals court dismissed the attempted sexual assault charges, saying that Wisconsin doesn't have laws against necrophilia. The point of contention was a provision that states that penalties apply: "whether a victim is dead or alive at the time of the sexual contact or sexual intercourse." The court ruling argues that the provision is intended only to cover cases where the victim is raped and murdered in close succession, such that it can't be determined whether the victim was alive or dead at the time of the sexual assault.

It remains to be seen whether they're going to pursue any other charges against the men involved. Seriously? They dug up her fucking grave to rape her corpse, and they're not necessarily being charged with it?! And their smarmy defense lawyer has the unmitigated gall to say that a criminal ban on necrophilia isn't needed because "the instances of it are so rare that I'm not sure that it's worth the time, money, resources and efforts of the Legislature to create that".

Monday, August 13, 2007

What a Weekend...

First: This is post 50. Hooray? Sadly, it's sort of a lame post. Oh well.

Second: I just wanted to greet the 218 of you that visited on Sunday. I'd roll out the welcome mat, but, well, it's buried under 50 or so copies of a Stalin biography. Ah, what can you do, right? Hope you found something interesting to read while you were here.

Third: Because I hate freedom of speech, I turned on comment moderation. I also hate cute puppies, vanilla ice cream, and your mom. Those are also reasons why I turned on comment moderation. Did I mention that I hate freedom? Oh, yes. I do. So, if you've got a post about freedom of speech, cute puppies, vanilla ice cream, or your mom... don't bother. I hate them all, and they'll not appear on my blog.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Online Harassment and DOS Attacks... This Sounds Familiar...

Last night, Jill over at feministe posted a troubling post. It looks like a number of feminist blogs, including feministe, had been targeted by denial of service(DOS) attacks, and their comments spammed with really disturbing and vile threats. Bloggers were threatened with sexually assault and murder just for blogging about feminism.

In a way, this is a sign that feminism has legs. The vitriol here shows that these assholes are, on some level, afraid. They feminism as a threat to the system that gives them power and privilege. They see bloggers like Jill and piny and the rest that they set out to silence as being the heads of a movement that scares them. They invested time and energy into a campaign to silence the voices of the people that they're worried want to change a corrupt system... they think that feminists want to take their toys away...

And they're right.

Feminism is a threat to assholes like them. As feminists get heard and they push for change, the sort of jerk who would use threats of rape and murder as a means to silence his political enemies is going to find that he has less and less political capital. His views will become more and more unpopular and he will be made to look like the offensive prick that he is. He will lose power.

These sorts of actions- trying to shut down sites that you don't agree with, using threats about rape, threats about cutting someone... murdering them...- it's exactly the sort of thing that happened to Kathy Sierra.

I don't know what else to say, but I wanted to take a moment to draw attention to this, and to say: Thanks to everyone at feministe. You're doing important work, and I appreciate the time and effort you put into running and maintaining an excellent site. These assholes see you as a threat because you are. And I think that the rest of us are better for it.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Wherein I Pontificate on My Whiteness (and provide lots of links)

Apparently it's International Blog Against Racism Week. I didn't know that until today.

People rarely ask me my ethnicity. They never ask about race.

This isn't really very surprising because... well... I'm a pasty white guy with a very Scottish last name. Some people mistake it for Irish, but it doesn't matter because... well... I'm white. And for most people, that's enough. Sometimes people assume, though, that I've got some kind of cultural connection to my Scottish or Irish heritage, but, honestly, I don't. I can tell you about my name... but that's my name, not my family. As far as I can tell, nobody in my family has a clue how our name got here. Nobody knows which ancestor brought it over here, or why, or how... it's a blank spot in my family history. I don't think anyone even knows how far back we'd have to go to find any actually Scottish or Irish family... I'm a fraction of a fraction. In fact, if you did a percentage breakdown "what I am", I've got a lot more Italian, Polish, and Native American in me than Scottish and Irish combined.

If I'm really pressed, I tell people that I'm a quarter Italian (my Grandfather on my mother's side came over from Italy when he was a teenager), and they're usually surprised. "You don't look Italian." I guess not. I certainly don't look like your stereotypical Italian, it's true. Of course, I don't really think of myself as being Italian. I know about as much about Italian culture as Chef Boyardee. The same thing goes for my Polish and Native American roots. I don't know anything about those cultures or identities. All of these things are just numbers to me- they're a pie chart of my bloodlines, they're not significant pieces of my childhood or my cultural identity.

The point of all of that is this: nobody cares. There isn't a sense of shock or surprise when I don't know much about my cultural past. When I can't tell stories about Scottish life, or when I say that I don't know anything about Italy, people don't stare at me with their mouths hanging open. It doesn't bother people that I don't have stories about my cultural heritage. Nobody bats an eye. Not everyone can say this.

Ultimately, what it means for me is that I live in a state where my race and ethnicity are non-issues to me in my day to day life. I have the privilege of living in a world that treats me as the norm. I don't have to think about my skin or my ancestors national origins. Despite the occasional question about my last name, most people never question these things. When someone asks me "Where are you from?" they really are just asking me what city or state I live in. Nobody gets offended when I say "Michigan" and asks "No, where are you really from."

I think that this not being aware of ethnicity or cultural heritage is something that, to a large degree, only white people (at least, in America) get to do. We're treated like the default. When someone talks about the "Average American" there's this sense that what they really mean is "Straight White Middle-Class Male American." It means that we (whites, generally, or white men more specifically) get to go through our daily lives completely oblivious to things about race and ethnicity (among many things).

I can walk around completely oblivious to my whiteness because of white privilege, in a way that I suspect that, say, someone of Japanese descent probably can't. People who are non-white are frequently made very aware of their non-whiteness, and I've often read stories about the really rude and intrusive questions that people will ask, or the assumptions that they'll make, regarding non-whites. The most intrusive question I generally get is the one about my last name. And it's clear that they're really asking about the name, not me.

Yet, some people feel completely comfortable asking someone that they perceive as "Asian" questions like "Where are you really from?" Even the fact that we use "Asian" and "African" as though they were national origins is symptomatic of this problem. We use "Asian" and "African" in ways we'd never use "European" - as though there's no significant cultural difference between Japan and China, or between Ethiopia and Botswana, for example. They're all one giant land-mass of Not White. Of Other.

The point being, I think, that people that we- individuals or society- determine are non-white, and thus "Other", are constantly reminded of this fact. There's a way that their non-whiteness is reinforced that makes it impossible to forget their ethnicity. There isn't the option to walk around forgetting what a lot of white people never really notice in themselves.

None of which (outside of the links, maybe) is particularly groundbreaking. Or, at least, it probably shouldn't be. For a lot of white people, it probably is. I doubt that most white people I know have ever really taken the time to consider what privileges they have by virtue of being white. Most of them would agree that racism is wrong, and that there are ways that non-whites are prejudiced against, but I'm not sure how many of them really consider the implications of being white, and what that means.

I'm also not sure, unfortunately, how to get other white people to see this. It's not like there's a specific point that you can get to where you "get it" either, is there? I've considered this before- white privilege- but still, I'm a work in progress, and I know that. I still have to remind myself about white privilege, or I slip back into forgetting my own color. The recent conversations about race in video games- particularly the RE5 explosion- just shows me how far we have to go.

People are so invested in the illusion of color blindness that they'll ignore and become aggressive against people who don't ignore troubling racial dynamics. Look at the way that people turned almost immediately to racist insults when they didn't like what was being said. Look at some of the defenses that were levied- that it "didn't matter" when it was a white guy killing white zombies, or that people wouldn't care if it was a black guy killing white zombies, so why should it matter when it's a white guy killing black zombies.

I think that dialogue is important, but I really appreciate richlee's approach, too. The refusal to pretend that ignorant questions and offensive stereotyping are dialogue, and to confront the speaker by pointing it out in no uncertain terms.

---edited 5:19 pm---

I think that a comment I read on another site earlier is important to all of this. Author Michael Omi has pointed out, and I think it's absolutely true, that most of the conversation and discourse about race in our country promotes this idea that racism is a comprised of individual, distinct racist acts that are deviations from the norm. These sorts of conversations- and the RE5 conversations were full of that attitude- ignore the larger systemic nature of racism, and the ways that, in fact, racism is the norm. Individuals and their actions can absolutely be racist, but racism is not a problem of individuals, it's a system, and things like the conversations about RE5 are symptoms of that. When people focus on any particular act and how it, by itself, isn't racist because of X, Y, and Z, they're frequently ignoring the bigger picture: that any particular thing- a game, a movie, a book- exists within a larger system. It frustrates people, but you can't talk about things in isolation. You have to consider them within the larger framework of the culture.

I Didn't Even Realize There Were *Lies* About It...

Notice: I can tell you a lot of things, but, despite what Google would have you believe, I can't tell you the truth about chocolate milk.

Well... I can say this: it goes really well with cookies.

Is there some kind of chocolate milk conspiracy that I should know about?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Last Thing About RE5. (for today, at least)

Air, over on a thread about RE5 at Shrub, made an excellent point, and I just wanted to share:

But I wonder if I can add one more possible reason for the lack of discussion, perhaps related to the valid "games aren't taken seriously yet" point. The demographics of the average gamer. I confess I don't have the statistics, but considering just how much these new systems cost (I certainly can't afford them), I'm willing to hazard an educated guess that it's largely middle-class children and adults who have, in addition to disposable income, disposable time. That demographic, I think, is not the one most inclined to think about issues such as racism, sexism, and heterosexism in their daily entertainment.

This is one of those times when someone says something that makes total sense to me, and makes me go "Duh! How did I not realize that sooner?" Video gaming has been, since the start, a largely middle-class hobby. With systems that cost hundreds of dollars, and games that generally come in over $40 when they're released, it makes sense that there's going to be cultural lag. I've seen age breakdowns and sex breakdowns on who is playing games. I wonder if someone has done racial and economic breakdowns, too?

Anyway, I think air is on to something with this.

A Post About Video Games: Shocking, I Know...

Happy hump-day everyone. I'm back from Boston and enjoying the wonderful hot and humid weather that is such a trademark of Michigan in August. It was already over 80 by 8:00 this morning, and it's huuuumid. Lovely.

So, last week, in my post about Resident Evil 5, there were some pretty interesting comments. I started to respond to them when I realized that what I was typing really deserved a new post, so here it is.

Tom said:
If you accept that video games are valid expression and you accept that they can be, but often are not, art then you should treat them with at least the same respect you treat feature films. If a zombie film from a creative team with a decades-long pedigree was going to be released would you similarly be calling on them to explain themselves without stretching your intellect in an attempt to understand the why? Would you similarly demand that their justifications be given to you on a silver platter?

My view is that there are very valid reasons to set a piece of expressive zombie fiction in Africa and I don't feel that the scenario presented is ipso facto wrong. I am very aware that, mishandled, the scenario presented could be incredibly offensive however there isn't enough evidence yet available to validly make that claim.

There are a few things there, and I wanted to take a moment to address them. Tom's second point first. I'm not going to deny that there might be a reason why Capcom chose the setting they did, but I don't see why I should assume that there is. I want to know what the very valid reasons might be, because I haven't seen anyone say why it might be so important to set a game with a white guy killing lots of people in a nation full of black people, and in a nation with a long history of racialized violence and genocide. What are those very valid reasons? None of us have played the game yet, but apparently there are very valid stories that involve a white military figure killing lots of black people in an African nation so much so that we shouldn't even be expressing concerns? If we accept that it could be very offensive, why shouldn't we be asking "Why did you choose this setting? Did you realize what you were doing here?"

Let's step back for a second and clarify: The game might have a really great story and it might somehow take the troubling racial dynamic into account in some way. I'm not sure what story it could tell that's going to make the image of a white guy in military get-up killing lots of black people... um... not bad... but, I understand that I haven't played it yet, and that there's still that possibility. But the suggestion here is obviously that we shouldn't complain. Nobody seems willing to say what the very valid reasons are, but they're there, and we shouldn't complain.

I don't see why that should be the case, though. First of all, games are expensive, and if Capcom expects people like me to drop $50+ on a game, I think that I have every right to ask the sorts of questions that are going to determine if I want a part of that game or not. Second of all, I feel like I should reiterate the difference between "this trailer has some really troubling racial things happening" and "Capcom are a bunch of racists!" Most people I've seen are saying the former, and that's very different than the later.

A lot of this is, I think, an objection to Tom's first point: Video games are a valid form of expression, and may even reach the level of art. Because of that, we should treat them with the same respect that we do film. Tom suggests that we shouldn't be demanding explanation of the trailer, and that we wouldn't from a film-maker.

While I agree with Tom that video games can absolutely be artistic expression, I disagree with his conclusion. (I also disagree with his comparison, but more on that in a moment.) Being a form of artistic expression does not remove any obligation for explanation. One problem here is that Tom ignores that troubling history of race in video games. Capcom has a long history of making great games, sure. Nobody that I've seen has been particularly critical of how great the gameplay might be. It's generally accepted that Capcom have handled the play mechanics of the RE series with a capable hand, and that this game will probably be high quality in that regards. That says nothing about how well they handle issues of race, though.

So, ultimately, yeah, if I saw a movie trailer like this, I would have serious reservations about it. Even if it came form someone like George Romero, I'd be concerned. Would I be curious? Sure. But I'd absolutely expect a director to say something about race when talking about the movie. Does anyone think for a minute that he wouldn't mention race and the history of oppression and violence inflicted by whites on the black community if that were his movie trailer? He'd be insane not to mention it. And if he didn't, I'd be really concerned, and I'd be asking a lot of the same questions I'm asking now- why was that location chosen? What messages are being presented? Were you even aware of racial depictions, or was this an oversight? When you make a game or a film that involves certain types of images, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask "Why did you make it that way?"

I think that there's a big difference between a film and a game, though. Resident Evil 5 isn't a film. It's a game, and any comparison between it and a film misses a very important element- interactivity. Video games are the most interactive form of entertainment media I can think of. You don't just watch a game, you play it, and that's a powerful and important distinction. I don't hold games to the same standards as film, because they're not the same. Video games have different strengths and weaknesses than movies do. And, ultimately, I think that something that makes a powerful film might not necessarily work as a game.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Friday Friday Friday! Open Thread, and Reader Participation!

I keep starting to write posts and deleting them, so I thought, why not make this another open thread?

I was originally going to write about Princess Mononoke, because I really love it, and I think that it's got some really interesting women in it. It's nice to see a movie where a man and woman end up having to rescue each other, and neither one of them is made into an oaf or a fool. It's also nice to see a movie where the woman who is set up as the antagonist isn't an evil witch, but is, in fact, a reasonable person who does a lot of good but just happens to have goals that conflict with the protagonist. That kind of moral complexity is refreshing and enjoyable. Plus, the animation is absolutely beautiful.

Unfortunately, I'm feeling too fuzzy to write more than a paragraph about the movie before it starts to look... erm... wrong? So, those are my thoughts on Princess Mononoke for the day. Maybe more some other day?

Has anyone else seen it? I assume some of you probably have... it's not exactly an unknown piece of animation. Heh. I'd love to hear what other people thought of it.

In other news: I'm going to be out of town until Monday evening, so I won't be around for the next few days. Not that I'm usually here on weekends, but I likely won't have a post up on Monday either. I'm going to be doing a little hiking and swimming. I haven't been swimming yet this year, which is weird, since we're already into August, but there you have it. What's everyone else doing this weekend? Fun stuff, I hope.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

SCotUS and Bush: "Don't bother complaining if you don't notice that missing quarter for more than six months."

Lauren, over at Unsprung, has a great bit about Ledbetter v. Goodyear. For those who aren't familiar with the case, it was basically a case of serious wage discrimination. Lilly Ledbetter worked for Goodyear Tire for over two decades. Near the end of her employment there, information came to her attention that led her to believe she was being unfairly discriminated against- it turned out that she was being paid significantly less than men who were doing less work than she was in the same positions. When the case reached the SCotUS, the court found against Ledbetter. According to Title VII, discriminatory intent has to occur within 180 days of the charge. That is, Ledbetter would have to have been denied a raise within 180 days prior to her claim of discrimination. Being issued a paycheck that reflects the discrimination is not, the court says, an act of discrimination itself.

Ginsberg dissented, rightly noting that pay discrimination is an ongoing and often subtle form of discrimination, and that it's often the case that pay is kept secret from other employees and that employers are keen to keep employees from discussing and knowing how much each other make.

The House (or, more accurately, the House Dems), have been critical of the ruling, and are looking to pass legislation that would reset the statute of limitations every time a discriminatory paycheck was issued, as each paycheck that reflects discriminatory raises constitutes a new act of discrimination. Unfortunately, the president has made it very clear that any such legislation would be vetoed on his watch.

Which is, to put it lightly, bullshit.

If I start to embezzle money from my employer, when do you think that the statute of limitations starts to run out? The first time I do it? When I come up with the scheme?

Hell no! Every time I take money from them, the clock is reset. It's worth noting, as well, that the statute of limitations for embezzlement is measured in years, not months.

This is completely about protecting corporate interests, and it's disgusting. By refusing to hear cases of discrimination that are more than six months old, the court ensures that workers who've discovered that they've been cheated don't have legal recourse, which, given the very nature of pay discrimination, protects coroporations from costly lawsuits. If they can keep pay discrimination quiet for six months- not a difficult task in a day and age when many employers have official policies prohibiting employees from discussing wages- they free themselves from having to pay out discrimination awards or back wages or costly settlements. Meanwhile, embezzlement, a crime that costs corporations, can be charged, from what I can see, up to seven years after the last instance of embezzlement.

Proving discrimination is pretty hard, and the deck is stacked against you from the get-go. It's bad enough that you only have six months to file discrimination charges given how difficult it is to gather evidence and prove in the first place, but to be told that the six months start from the first moment of discrimination, even in a case like this, where the discrimination is ongoing and has lasting effect? Downright offensive. And when the president of the United States makes it clear that he's going to shoot down efforts to help workers see that they're treated in a fair and equitable manner?

I'm almost speechless.

Race in Resident Evil: A Missed Opportunity For Understanding...

Might Ponygirl mentioned the rising controversy surrounding Resident Evil 5. Apparently, the game trailer is... raising some issues on race. I don't think it should be surprising, when you have a trailer that features a white guy (and, at least in earlier games, a cop) shooting and killing large groups of blacks, that some people are going to stand up and say Hey, this is pretty problematic from a racial standpoint.

Now, I readily believe that Capcom probably didn't intend for this to be controversial. I'd guess that they never even considered the racial implications (at least, I hope). But, ignorance isn't an excuse. I think it's perfectly fair to criticize the content of a game, and all of the social implications of that content. In this case, I think that it's completely fair to point to the game and say "Look, there's nothing wrong with having blacks be zombies in a game, but when you have a game where all of the zombies are black, and the hero is a white guy with a gun killing them, it starts to look a little ugly."

One of the really disappointing, though not surprising, things about all of this controversy, is the way that people have reacted. Rather than taking the words to heart and considering the racial implications and how the game might make people feel, a lot of gamers have gotten really angry about the criticisms and are on the attack. Read through some of the comments in Black Looks post, or at Villiage article. Immediately, people start making accusations of "playing the race card" or how there were "no problems when the 'inhumane savages' are white."

The reaction is just like I desribed before: There's a sense that these people are afraid we're trying to take away their toys, and they're reacting with anger and resentment, instead of engaging the conversation.

A lot of us are gamers. While I prefered Silent Hill to Resident Evil, I love blowing zombies away as much as anyone. I think that Resident Evil did a great job of capturing a sort of action-movie/zombie kind of feel, and I don't really have that many complaints about the games. I don't think that makes them immune from criticism, though.

These criticisms were an excellent opportunity for gamers to engage in some serious dialogue about how race is portrayed in gaming. Video games have a pretty shitty record when it comes to portrayals of race and ethnicity. The only way to improve that is through dialogue, and this was a perfect opportunity. I don't think that there's anything wrong with questioning why most of the heroes in video games are white men, and what that says about gaming culture. I think that it's important to try to move beyond what games have always done. One commenter asked (I'm paraphrasing) "Why should the hero be black?" That's a flawed question: The hero is almost always white. Given that, the real question ought to be, "Why shouldn't the hero ever be black?"

And, ultimately, this is directly related to conversations about privilege. I'd wager that most of the people getting outraged about this as being a non-issue or leveling accusations of this being more politically correct race baiting are white. It's easy to get offended and say things like "Well, why should he be black? Why should this bother you? Why can't zombies be black?" when you don't have to worry about seeing a hero like you, and when the history of violence and oppression that exists wasn't directed against your race.

I love video games, and I really, really want to see them thrive. Video games are a unique form of entertainment media in that they're interactive in ways that no other mass-market media is. As the player, you're directly controlling the way the story unfolds, and that creates potential for really powerful experiences. Unfortunately, video games are facing serious social stigma, precisely because of the ways that people like the commenters in those threads act. It's easy to dismiss games as violent bullshit when people respond to criticism with the kind of disgusting bile that they're spewing there.

It's only when gamers are willing to have serious discussions about the philosophical and social implications of games and gaming that video games are really going to be able to be taken as a serious art form. When the popular voices of gaming and gamers respond to criticism by throwing out racist and sexist insults and refusing to engage in a conversation about the very real, very serious social issues that games bring up, it only serves to further marginalize gaming as a hobby.

Nobody (Well, almost nobody- Jack Thompson be damned) is trying to take away people's right to play video games- what's happening is that people are trying to raise some social awareness about the reality that games reflect. Games don't exist in a void, and there's nothing wrong with raising questions about the situations that they present, or saying "You know, that game has some problematic things happening." These sorts of criticisms are an opportunity to raise your own level of awareness about the lives of other people, and to understand the different realities that people live in. Instead, a lot of people are becoming reactionary and offensive. Someone has said "Wow, there's a troubling racial dynamic happening here, and I don't like it" and people are reacting as though that person said "All video games are evil and should be banned." That comment could have been taken as a chance to engage Kym with why the trailer bothered her, and how the game- indeed, all games- could have been made better. Instead, people got hung up on their personal feelings, and they've ultimately missed the point.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Why Authors Should Sometimes Just Shut the Eff Up...

As if Bradbury didn't make it manifestly clear, let me: Authors would be well advised not to talk about The Meaning of their books.

Now, Sara quotes an interview with Rowling that illustrates exactly why many authors would be well advised to just shut the hell up about what they meant by various things.

In this case:
Su: How did neville get the gryfindor sword, is there a link to the hat

J.K. Rowling: Yes, there is very definitely a link to the hat!

J.K. Rowling: Neville, most worthy Gryffindor, asked for help just as Harry did in the Chamber of secrets, and Gryffindor’s sword was transported into Gryffindor’s old hat

J.K. Rowling: – the Sorting Hat was Gryffindor’s initially, as you know.

J.K. Rowling: Griphook was wrong – Gryffindor did not ‘steal’ the sword, not unless you are a goblin fanatic and believe that all goblin-made objects really belong to the maker.

Thanks for clearing that little mystery up, J.K. Can I call you that? I'm going to. You have to be a goblin fanatic to think that all goblin-made objects really belong to the maker? Really? Now, I don't have the book in front of me, but didn't Bill make it sound like... well... most if not all goblins hold that belief. So... all goblins are fanatics?

It was bad enough when I thought she just dropped the ball on the whole species as race aspect of the books, but it turns out that I was wrong. She didn't just drop the ball, she threw the damn thing away.

Your Daughters are Hot... Can I Have One?

Amanda posted about the whole purity movement, and linked to a Marie Claire article called "Father Knows Best".

I started reading the article before I read Amanda's post, and, as it turns out, both of us were gobsmacked by the same part:

For the next seven years, Lauren avoided boys altogether. Then, in February of 2006, the Wilsons paid a visit to the Air Force Academy, which Lauren's brother Colten was considering attending. Accompanying the family on the tour was 23-year-old Brett Black, a blondehaired cadet. Lauren had met him before through church, but "from that moment on," Lauren sighs, "I was just, like, head over heels."

She returned home that evening and asked God if Brett was the one for her. "I set aside 40 days to really pray hard and ask for direction," she remembers. Meanwhile Brett also decided that Lauren and her two teenage sisters were "gorgeous." The idea of a permanent commitment entered his mind.

"I thought, Am I crazy? I'm graduating in three months and possibly moving away," he says. "But I could see myself marrying one of those girls!"


I had to let that sink in for a minute or two, because I was just so completely floored. I thought "I can't possibly have read that correctly." But, no... She's completely gaga over this guy, and he's thinking "Man, those girls are hot! I could marry a girl like that!" Now, I'm sorry, but if you're looking at a girl and her two sisters and you're thinking that they're gorgeous and you'd love to marry one of them... any of them... well, I have serious doubts about how much you're really invested in them as people. They might very well be beautiful, but that's not really the best basis for a lasting relationship.

I love that, when he asks her father if he can court his daughters, he's not even sure he mentioned which one. "'I'd like to start a relationship with one of your daughters.' He thinks he specified Lauren." He thinks. Lovely.

So, they start to court. Seven weeks later, Brett asks Lauren's father if they can get married. Seven weeks. That's less than two months, for those of you keeping track. Lauren's father, who gave his permission, says "Brett doesn't know anything about Lauren. So I can help them be a success."

Call me old fashioned or crazy or whatever, but, my general feeling is this: If you don't know anything about someone... you damn well shouldn't get married. And when your idea of "emotionally hot" and "intense" questions are things like "What's the saddest thing that's ever happened to you" or "what's the hardest thing you've been through" I think you've got a seriously stunted conception of what constitutes "intense." Hell, I've seen more emotionally involved questions on a job interview, and these are the questions she's asking to decide if she wants to marry the guy?

The whole thing is just horrifying. From the way that Randy clearly sees his daughter as a posession to be given to a man, to the way that Lauren sees her major worth as being a piece of someone else... Oh, and the part where, on their wedding night, she washes his feet because her "spiritual gift is serving" and she "wanted to show Brett, 'I'm here to love you, follow you, and serve you.'" Yeah, it's horrifying... and sad.

It's definitely worth reading the original article (it'll probably have your jaw dropping in utter disbelief), and some of the author's reactions are pretty awesome.

Woman Charged in Death of Stillborn...

Lindsay Beyerstein, over at Majikthise, reported on a really disturbing case yesterday. A woman in Ocean City, MD is being charged with murder after investigators discovered the remains of stillborn fetuses in her home. The information so far indicates that she had four stillbirths, and police think that she might have attempted to give herself abortions. MD law has a fetal protection law so that people who cause the death of a viable fetus can be charged, but the law has an exception for women who perform abortions on themselves.

All of which is to say that charging this woman with the murder of a stillborn fetus is insane.

Here's my area of concern: This woman has four fetuses stashed around her home- one under a sink, one hidden in her car, and two in a trunk in the living room. When she was taken in to court, she apparently looked confused by the charges and the evidence, and told the judge "This is all new to me."

I'm going to play armchair psych here for a moment, so bear with me. Without going too far out on a limb, I'd have to guess that this woman probably needs some help. She's keeping the remains of her stillbirths hidden around her home, and she seems to be confused about what is happening to her. Maybe I'm wrong, but it sure as hell sounds to me like she's got some problems and probably needs to get some professional help.

It's really disgusting that, rather than looking into getting this woman some help and finding out why she's kept these stillbirths, they've decided that the appropriate course of action is to throw her in jail on first degree murder charges. She's being held without bond for having stillborn fetuses.

And it's really important to note, here, that nobody knows what caused them to be stillborn yet. In other words, she's being charged with first degree murder before they even know for sure that she killed them

So, to recap: We have a woman who probably needs professional help being charged with first degree murder for the death of a fetus that nobody knows how died because of a law that specifically would exempt this woman from being charged with murder if she did, in fact, kill the fetus.