February 10, 2011

Rants Of A Gamer Girl: Is Carol Lieberman The Worst “Expert” In The World?

Filed under: Gaming,Gender,Media — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Rachel @ 10:00 am

This article has been updated and revised in light of the information released a few hours after it was posted.

Most of what is covered in this column deals with the sexist crap spewed forth by the video game industry.  However, Fox News posted a story, a couple days ago, proving that the sexism surrounding video games doesn’t solely lie with developers, retailers, and gamers.

Fox News posed the question: “Is Bulletstorm The Worst Video Game In The World?”  They didn’t outright answer whether it is or not, but I get the feeling they hoped readers came away thinking “Yes!”  Now, if you think it’s the worst video game in existence, I’m already going to be questioning your knowledge of the form of media.

For a little background, Bulletstorm is rated M (Mature), which means it’s only considered suitable for players age 17 and over.  It’s not law – but, neither is the MPAA.  These are guidelines, and much like the “R” rating on any one of the thousands of incredibly violent movies that exist, it is the responsibility of the parent, not developers or artists or filmmakers, to make sure that the product doesn’t fall into the hands of children.

The author interviewed psychologist, author, and “expert” (quotes because it’s still not clear what exactly she’s an expert in), Carole Lieberman.  She stated there was a direct link between sexual content in video games and sexual violence – something that is “highlighted so well in Bulletstorm”  Unfortunately, there are no links, explanations, or statistics supplied in the article to support her assertions.

The gaming community, essentially accused of being on the brink of turning into sex offenders, based solely on their fondness for playing video games, began to fight back.   Lieberman’s books have been flooded with negative reviews on Amazon.  K-Mart has posted a blog on their gaming site refuting the accusations made by Lieberman and the other “experts” interviewed.

Kotaku, the Gawker Media gaming website, that originally brought much of the communities attention to the Fox News article, called Ms. Lieberman this afternoon, in an attempt for clarification of the statements she made in the original story.  She agreed to an interview, and told Kotaku that “The more video games a person plays that have violent sexual content, the more likely one is to become desensitized to violent sexual acts and commit them.”

When asked for a source that supported this, Ms. Lieberman referenced “thousands” of studies that prove her assertion.  However, she was unable to provide the name, author, or title of even one study.  Accusing gamers of being on the verge of becoming rapists and sexual offenders is disgusting, and damaging – to gamers, women, and feminists.  To drag the victims of sexual assault into a debate with not one fact to back it up, isn’t just stupid (as it doesn’t take into account that women now make up almost half of the gaming community), it’s irresponsible as well.  Lieberman admitted to Kotaku that she hasn’t played any video games in her lifetime; making video games the villain of society is nothing new, but Carol Lieberman has taken fear-mongering to a new low.

February 8, 2011

Rants of a Gamer Girl: Welcome To Titty City

Filed under: Gaming,Media — Tags: , , , — Rachel @ 7:01 pm


The above images are from the press event for “Duke Nukem Forever” and appear on the
official Facebook page and blog of 2k Games.

Yesterday, a press event was held in Las Vegas for the newest installment in the Duke Nukem video game series. The developers invited the press to learn more about the game, and play a demo of the upcoming release.  The game has been in development off-and-on for over ten years, finally being completed by Gearbox Software.

Now, Duke Nukem is certainly not a series that is known for it’s positive portrayals of women, or high-brow comedy.  However, they brought the 3-D objectification of women in their games into the real world, by holding the event in a temporarily renovated strip club.  (Most developers hold press events in hotel conference rooms or large offices.)  The signage outside the strip club was replaced to advertise “Duke Nukem’s Titty City.”  Arrows pointed men and women in different directions, and the demo screens were set up around stripper poles on small tables.  President of Gearbox, and former employee of 3D Realms (the original Duke Nukem company), Randy Pitchford, took to the main stripper stage to make the announcements.

Rather than focus on the first-person shooter gameplay, or the game’s lengthy development process, Gearbox instead decided to focus on the sexist environment they’ve created, and to make it their main selling point.  Women were hired to parade around in tiny outfits to bring drinks and snacks to the press.  Gearbox and 2k games updated their twitter feeds throughout the event, and posted pictures on the official blog, like outlines of topless women painted in neon colors, or “Hail To The King” posters with women depicted as submissive sex objects.

Female game journalists had to watch and listen to the exclusive announcements being made, in a building called “Titty City.”  (And women were there, they can be seen in the pictures posted from the event.)  To anyone who insists there isn’t sexism in the gaming industry, that everyone’s a big happy family, that gender doesn’t make any difference, I’d really like to hear their take on this event.  Because to hold a press event in a building where women are objectified, every. single. day. is to ignore the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of every female gamer, journalist, and  employee in the industry.  It’s these attitudes and behaviors that are so pervasive throughout the entire industry, that cause websites like Fat, Ugly, or Slutty to exist.


January 25, 2011

We Exist! LA Feminists Speak Out

From left to right: Myra Duran, Tani Ikeda, Morgane Richardson, Miranda Petersen, Melanie Klein, Brie Widaman and Jollene Levid

Thursday night, feminists drove from all over L.A. to be at the Young Feminists Speak Out event in Santa Monica.  While the panel (click here for a list of all featured panelists and their bios) focused on the new generation of feminists, people of all ages were in attendance to talk and listen.  The event was put together by Morgane Richardson, a feminist originally hailing from the east coast, Myra Duran and Miranda Petersen.  Upon moving to Los Angeles and noticing a lack of feminist gatherings in Los Angeles, Morgane was inspired to organize a diverse panel of LA-area feminists  and connected with Myra and Miranda to make the vision a reality. They are already working on more feminist events for the Los Angeles area.  Melanie Klein and Miranda Petersen moderated, and asked questions which ranged from how each panelist “found” feminism, to whether there’s a need for a current mainstream icon for the feminist movement.

One of the questions asked was whether there is an “east-coast/west-coast divide” in terms of organization, issues, and focus in the movement.  I was surprised to hear panelists disagree that a divide exists.  Ever since changing my major to Women’s Studies, I’ve wanted to do work for a feminist-focused company, and while there are some in Los Angeles, or regional offices for larger organizations, a great majority exist in Washington D.C. and New York City.

(more…)

January 18, 2011

Mattie Ross: True Brat?

Filed under: Film,Gender,Media — Tags: , , , , — Rachel @ 7:53 pm

The following post contains spoilers for the film “True Grit”


This morning Rachel Simmons tweeted a link to a story on her blog – a high school girl’s take on the adolescent female characters in the recent films, Somewhere and True Grit.   I was pleasently surprised when seeing True Grit, that the star of the film is a smart, brave, headstrong, gutsy, no-nonse 14-year old heroine named Mattie.  Unfrotunately the high school blogger who penned ““True Grit” and “Somewhere” Star Girls but Fail Girlhood” didn’t see her in the same positive light.

In fact, Fiona Lowenstein describes Mattie as: one-dimensional, “caricature”, “annoying, impossible to relate to, and not at all believable”, “dislikable”, “a joke”, ” self-satisfied” “irritating”, “rude”, “arrogant”, “braided blowhard”, “grating”, “smug”, and “pushy”.

Even if Mattie does come across this way – let’s look at a few reasons why she might be such a “grating, pushy, blowhard.”  First, when the movie opens, her father has just been murdered by a handyman he had hired to help him.  Then she’s not taken seriously by the horse salesman who tries to screw her out of money that is rightfully hers because he sees her as some silly illiterate 14-year old girl.  She tries to hire Rooster Cogburn, but he also sees her as an idiotic adolescent.  The Texas Ranger La Boeuf informs her the only reason he’s not sexually assaulting her is because she’s so ugly.  Shortly thereafter Cogburn lies and leaves without her.  The La Bouef lies and says he’s taking Tom Chaney when they find him so he can get payout on a contract. Now what could possibly compel Mattie’s character to have a defensive, head-strong attitude?  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that she’s mistreated every step of the way.  Oh, and it’s not the guys who end up taking down Chaney and saving the day.  When Mattie confronts him, she shoots Chaney twice, on two separate occasions.

Additionally, Fiona places the entire blame for her view of the above characteristics of Mattie on the Coen Brothers.  Apparently before going on a completely uninformed rant, she couldn’t be bothered to google to find out any history whatsoever about the film.  Like, that it was originally a book published in 1968 by Charles Portis, or that it was made as a film in 1969, starring John Wayne.  To say that the Coen Brothers may have written Mattie (which they didn’t – Charles Portis did) as “a joke” is to have zero familiarity of the history of their work.  In fact, the Coen Brothers stuck more closely to the source material than the original film adaptation.  (In the John Wayne version, the men do ultimately kill Chaney and save the day.)

The unfortunate thing about Fiona’s post is that it has the potential to turn young women away from the movie, and the Coen Brothers other films, when her piece was neither constructive or researched in any way.  Furthermore, is this the type of post that belongs on the website of an author who uncovered girl-on-girl crime in adolescence?  Is calling a female character a blow-hard helping anyone?  I certainly don’t think so.  An uninformed voice is a potentially harmful one.

January 6, 2011

Rants of a Gamer Girl: Playstation Is My Least Favorite Console

Filed under: Gaming,Gender,Media — Tags: , , , — Rachel @ 10:12 pm

Yesterday Sony announced their newest innovation on the Playstation 3 network: women in bikinis – in 3D!  Starting on February 15th, gamers can download the Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition to their PS3.  As if the objectification of women in games themselves wasn’t bad enough already, now sexism is available as a 12 HOUR VIDEO DOWNLOAD.

Don’t female gamers already have to put up with enough crap between pink-cutesy-targeted-advertising, hiding our genders in gamer tags, harassment, the inability to chat in an online match, insulting training videos, and horrible portrayals as playable characters?  Well at least now I know some higher-up at Sony is a sexist asshole, pretty much guaranteeing I won’t be spending money on their products anytime soon.  If Playstation is flaunting their latest innovation as being the three dimensional objectification of women in skimpy clothing, I can’t say I’m a fan of the PS3 right now.

This Image Speaks For Itself

Filed under: Gender — Tags: , — Rachel @ 10:47 am

Image via Reddit.

For more about the evolution of toys, please see my previous post: Toys Receiving Makeovers: New, Improved, Sexy?

December 15, 2010

Hey Girl, Bet You Didn’t Know I’m A Feminist

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Rachel @ 7:00 pm

The above image/title is reference to a very popular Ryan Gosling meme.  For more on that, see here or here.

Appeals for film ratings are not uncommon.  Filmmakers frequently protest when the MPAA dishes out a verdict they feel is undeserved.  So when Blue Valentine was rated NC-17, it wasn’t surprising when the producers filed for an appeal.  (An NC-17 rated film won’t be carried at most major theater chains, can not be attended by anyone 17 and under, and television networks and newspapers won’t run ads.)

As part of the appeal, the films stars, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams each composed letters defending the film, which ended up receiving a lot of press on a variety of blogs.  In his letter, Gosling stated:

“You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen. The MPAA is okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario, which is both complicit and complex. It’s misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman’s sexual presentation of self. I consider this an issue that is bigger than this film.”

He also stated in an interview with E!

“The MPAA really needs to…There is something very distorted about this reality that they’ve created, which is that it is OK to torture women on screen…Any kind of violence towards women in a sexual scenario is fine. But give a woman pleasure, no way. Not a chance. That’s pornography.”

It’s surprising to hear anyone in Hollywood discussing the patriarchy and repression of women, even more so to hear a male movie star do so. The Notebook may be bad for you, but Ryan Gosling is good for feminism.  The filmmakers won their appeal, and Blue Valentine was issued an R-rating.  The film will open in limited release in the U.S. on December 31st, 2010.

December 6, 2010

How Jessica Coen Pulled A Maura Kelly

In 2007, when Jezebel first launched, and I started reading it, I never imagined it would be deleted from my “Bookmarks” folder.  They’ve had their share of controversies over the years, but I honestly can’t remember any of them being as bad as the one that took place in the last two weeks.

November 24th, an article titled “American Guy In Paris Freed From The Idea of Consent” was cross-posted on the front page of Jezebel.  Typically when Jezebel does cross-posts or re-posts, they include a lead-in or follow-up at the bottom of the post with information on the original website, author, and possibly why it was chosen to be included.

For example, when my “10 Commandments Of Pop Culture Feminism” piece was re-posted on Jezebel in May, the following information was included:

“By Rachel O’Connor

This post originally appeared on the site Feminist Fatale. Republished with permission.

The author of this post can be contacted at tips@jezebel.com

Simple referencing – who wrote the piece and where it came from.  “American Guy In Paris…” had none of the above mentioned links or explanations.  Instead, Edward Pasteck’s essay on how French women feel empowered by being street harrassed and assaulted and how consent is overrated only included a link to an email address.

If you’ve read the post, you likely already know that it was in very bad need of a lead-in or wrap-up with some sort of explanation for why Jezebel felt this was worthy to give space to.  The title, all on it’s own, is completely disgusting.  Honestly, when I finished reading it, I wondered for a few minutes if the website had been hacked – ‘surely the editors will delete this and post some sort of explanation for what the hell is going on’ I thought.  Needless to say, I was wrong.

Commenters were obviously, and justifiably furious.  (As of my writing, the post has over 75,000 views and over 2,000 comments.)  Why the hell was an essay that disputed consent being posted?  Had the editors taken into account how triggering and upsetting this would be for assault or rape survivors to read?  Apparently they hadn’t.

Now, this is where the Marie Claire/Maura Kelly comparison comes in.  The new editor-in-chief of Jezebel, Jessica Coen, offered a non-apology-apology in the comments of the original post over the Thanksgiving weekend.  She told readers that it wasn’t posted for traffic-baiting purposes, because that has no bearing on their success or paycheck (untrue – see here.)  She told those concerned about the triggering aspects of the post, that Jezebel never claimed to be a “safe space”, and that Edward Pastek may have bullshit views, but he’s articulate, thoughtful, and earnest! Attention Jessica Coen: “His misogynistic beliefs are really well articulated” isn’t a valid reason to give that type of shit space on one of the most popular feminist-leaning sites on the web.

The following Monday, Ms. Coen posted her “official” response, explaining that “Edward Pasteck” is a pseudonym, and he’ll remain anonymous.  Like Maura Kelly, Jessica only apologized for people being upset, and explained that she was just trying to start a discussion.  Apologies if this is starting to sound a lot like the Maura Kelly piece I wrote, but there are some “debates” that aren’t really debates at all – like, “Should fat people be treated like human beings?”, or now, “Why is consent a big deal?”.  Newsflash: people who think they don’t need another persons consent to touch/grope/have sex with them are criminals.

As if all of that wasn’t offensive enough, the same day Jessica Coen posted her official apology, she also posted a “Counterpoint” to the original piece.  An anonymous French woman was given space to dispute Edward Pasteck’s piece, although there was no deconstruction of any of the horribly offensive drivel he had written.  Instead the counterpoint can be summed up thusly – French women don’t really like to be street harassed.  Way to go Jezebel – you missed the point of the outrage entirely.  Soon the French woman’s post filled up with comments saying so.  Obviously the issue wasn’t “Hey! Women don’t like to be street harassed!”  Rather, thousands of readers were outraged by the “consent is for puritans and prudes” aspect of the original essay.

Apparently Jezebel isn’t concerned with keeping their reputation.  One as a blog that is feminist, forward-thinking, and progressive.  A website that doesn’t tolerate comments wherein people try to make excuses for street harassment, sexual assault, and rape.  I’ve felt the website has been in decline ever since the new editor-in-chief came on board – posts about feminist issues are more few and far between, the pages now being filled with more snap judgments and silly celebrity articles.  And as long as Jessica Coen is in charge, and the above mentioned policies are cast by the wayside, I won’t be reading.

November 8, 2010

Bumped: 16 and Pregnant, 20 and Infertile

Filed under: Book Spotlight — Tags: , , , , , — Rachel @ 11:22 pm

I’ve been a fan of Megan McCafferty‘s writing for nearly a decade.  I found her first book, Sloppy Firsts, in the fiction section of Borders; the lime green spine stood out amongst the shelves of hundreds of titles.  I immediately identified with the story of a pessimistic, unpopular high school girl whose best friend had just moved away.  The protaganist of what is now known as the “Jessica Darling Series” was progressive, strong, funny, and smart.  However, the series ended last year with “Perfect Fifths”.

Her latest book takes her writing a brand new direction, envisioning a world where the MTV show “16 and Pregnant” is a reality for every teenage girl on the planet.  “Bumped” centers around a fictional world where the only fertile women are teens.  This leads to high school girls renting out their uterus in exchange for fame and money.

It’s the perfect time for  a book like this.  Across the web, concerned journalists and bloggers fret about whether young girls will get pregnant just to be on MTV, achieve fame, or to make money.  “Does Teen Mom Glamorize Teen Pregnancy?!” is a frequently seen sentiment lately.  It wasn’t so long ago that the scandalous story of a “teen pregnancy pact” at a high school in Massachusetts was being reported on every site, newspaper, and 24-hour news channel in the country.  Abstinence only education is a frequent hot topic in the political sphere.  Just two years ago, we had a presidential candidate running on a “Women’s Health” platform of overturning Roe v. Wade.  To say “Bumped” is timely is an understatement.

McCafferty’s synopsis for “Bumped” summarizes the cross-section of pregnancy and celebrity in our current culture:

“The celebrity “bump watch,” has made obstetrics a spectator sport. Now any young starlet who has indulged at In-N-Out Burger can find her bloated midsection driving major pageviews on the gossip blogs.”

“Bumped” won’t arrive at retailers for another six months.  However, if the summary is any indication, it will be a great jumping off point for discussions of these “taboo” subjects.  Expect a full review of the book on Feminist Fatale, when it arrives, April 26, 2011.

November 6, 2010

Maura Kelly: I Don’t Hate Fat People, They Just Disgust Me

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Rachel @ 2:49 pm

The above image is a collage of cover lines from various issues of Marie Claire.

Who the hell assigned a piece about an overweight TV couple to the same writer who admits she has struggled with an eating disorder and has a warped view of weight and body image?

Maura Kelly admits in her blog post for Marie Claire, “Should Fatties Get A Room? (Even On TV?)” that she never bothered to watch the show she was assigned to write about.  Now, I haven’t seen an episode of Mike and Molly either, but I don’t need to watch the CBS sitcom to know her post is disgusting, hateful, and ignorant.

Ms. Kelly attempts to defend her position by saying, “I have a few friends who could be called plump.”  See guys, she’s not hateful and fatphobic – her best friend is fat!  Kelly writes, “…obesity is costing our country far more in terms of all the related health problems we are paying for, by way of our insurance, than any other health problem, even cancer.”  She’s obviously just worried about the health of all those fat people.  Which apparently makes her an expert on the matter.  It’s funny, I don’t remember seeing a credit at the bottom of the post that Maura Kelly is a physician who treats every overweight person in the country, including the stars of Mike and Molly.  This faux I’M-JUST-CONCERNED-FOR-YOUR-HEALTH bullshit has got to stop.

The post wasn’t up long before everyone took notice, and the backlash began.  Maura Kelly’s article now has over 3500 responses, and Marie Claire’s Facebook Page is now almost exclusively composed of comments criticizing the magazine for the original piece and their reaction that followed (more on that below.)

Maura Kelly edited her post to include an apology, but unfortunately it’s of the “I’m sorry you were all offended” variety.  She writes, “I would like to reiterate that I think it’s great to have people of all shapes and healthy sizes represented in magazines (as, it bears mentioning here, they are in Marie Claire) and on TV shows — and that in my post, I was talking about a TV show that features people who are not simply a little overweight, but appear to be morbidly obese.” Way to nullify the rest of your so-called-apology.

What I find interesting is that in her apology Maura Kelly offered up the personal admission that she has struggled with an eating disorder, which has likely warped her viewpoints on weight and body image.  I don’t disagree, and good for her for being a little self-aware but I’m confused about two things.  First, why someone with this kind of history would want to and end up writing for a magazine that promotes the distorted thinking, behavior, and imagery that leads to this type of illness.  Secondly why she’s using that as an apology in a post that uses such hateful language that it furthers a worth-is-weight-based thinking to their female readership.

The magazine’s official response has only made things worse.  The editors are now offering posts to bloggers who disagree, under the guise of “CounterPoints” which just continues the “We’re so ignorant it’s offensive” roll they seem to be on.  Trying to “debate” or have opposing “points” about whether overweight people should be treated like human beings is beyond nonsensical.  As if they had some valid “point” to begin with.

Marie Claire has reportedly received over 28,000 responses to the piece, which makes Ms. Kelly “excited.”  I’m not sure why someone would be “excited” about that many responses.  I’m confident a majority called Kelly out on her ignorance, stupidity, and I’ve seen more than a few requests to have her fired.  Readers have cancelled subscriptions, and are notifying the magazine they will never receive a dime from them ever again.  In an economy where magazines are crumbling left and right, I’m not sure that’s something to be too thrilled about.

I’m glad to see a majority of the responses to the piece and the follow-ups have been about how awful and terrible this piece is.  However, not everyone was disgusted by Maura Kelly’s writing:

Reading through Movieline’s (the website of the now defunct magazine) blog response to the original post and the shitstorm that followed, it’s obvious they missed the point entirely. Editor S.T. Vanairsdale writes about how Maura Kelly was just trying to start a conversation about how obesity is such a taboo subject.  I’m not sure how such gems as “I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room” adds anything worthwhile to the discussion, but I fail to see it.  Someone forgot to read the actual article before bitching about the “Whining Fat Mafia”.

Like with most things in the media, there’s no room for discussion, for talking about genetics, body types, diseases, or illnesses that can cause weight gain beyond the individuals control.  People like Maura Kelly and the media have this deluded view that if they just keep bombarding us with images of skinny models, diet tips, and terrifyingly unrealistic photoshopped pictures, that everyone will just slim down to a sample-size appropriate weight.

So congratulations Marie Claire, for making me think that Glamour’s Body-Size Acceptance Policy is revolutionary.  The magazine industry is crumbling, and I feel bad for any of the smart, non-hateful writers and workers who have jobs at the magazine, but I wouldn’t be sad to see the magazine that decided to stand behind this blogger come to a close.

Many commenters have called for a boycott of Marie Claire until Maura Kelly is fired.  That’s not enough for me.  The editor-in-chief has decided to stand behind Ms. Kelly and the piece she wrote.  I just don’t see a magazine that prides itself in being so ignorant and hateful being worthy of my dollars ever again.


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