Skepchick Quickies 6.15


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. I’m not usually into graffiti but there is a certain word I’d love to write a few hundred times across the Michigan state house.

  2. If there were only one topic in the whole flippin’ world that women should be allowed to speak about without censorship, it is the place government has in telling them how to use their bodies.
    I don’t know what makes me sadder – that the House leader did this, or that I wasn’t woken up this morning by the collective population screaming “Oh no he didn’t!” when they turned on the morning news.
    The bill these representatives are decrying is awful even by conservative GOP standards but to demean the female representatives by stifling the dissent they were elected to voice (as pro-choice Democrats) is Godwin’s Law material.

  3. On the women athletes thing, this has been going on for a long time. It happened to Maria Patiño back in the mid-1980s. It’s unfortunate that it continues to be an issue.

    Katrina Karkazis is an awesome medical anthropologist (and bioethicist). Her book Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority, and Lived Experience is fantastic. I highly recommend it, along with Anne Fausto-Sterling’s Sexing the Body for anyone interested in this topic.

    This story in particular is an excellent example of the argument put forth by both of those women (and others) that sex is not purely biological but also highly influenced by notions of gender. This athletic committee is essentially attempting to fit people’s bodies into rigid gender categories (i.e., women are inherently weaker, therefore they must alter their bodies to fit this gender stereotype if they want to compete).

    1. I’ll have to check out Karkazis’ book since I’m already a huge fan of Fausto-Sterling.

  4. Ugh, my boyfriend mention the thing about Lara Croft to me yesterday. He had taken it as the game developer trying to show the male gamers what sexual harassment looked like through a woman’s eyes, which, honestly, would be a fantastic thing for a game to attempt to show (if they could manage to do so respectfully and realistically, that is). Sadly, that interpretation was due to an article that left out a lot of what the game dev had said, and after I looked around for more articles on the subject it became clear that nope, the game dev just fucked up.

    It was hella disappointing really; Lara finally gets the helium implants taken out of her breasts and a sensible pair of pants, and then they do this to her. One step forward, two steps back.

    1. ..I hate to reply to myself, but I just realized something. This game is a prequel, and in the latter ones chronologically she has her giant boobs and short shorts.

      So at first she’s dressing in a way that’s actually sensible for someone raiding tombs, and then she’s assaulted, and… then her clothing/boob size changes to how it is in the first games?

      I am picking up some terrible implications in this. Oh, and more in the line of her new/old appearance- “Art director Brian Horton revealed last year that the new Lara, by design, has “a little bit of that baby fat””
      Baby fat? Baby fat?! Where?!

      She’s thicker around the waist, yes, but in the way someone with well-developed core muscles is thicker than someone with a permanent corset on.

      Christ, these people.

      Anyways, that bobkitten/deer picture is fucking adorable. I couldn’t even tell where the kitten was for a moment, it’s like they blend into eachother.

      It’s a shame that when they’re older the deer will be a killing machine.

      1. I loved the first Tomb Raider and my flatmate got almost obsessed with it. She’d sneak into my room while I was sleeping to play it on my computer and I’d be woken up by the sounds of Lara’s guns. And it would be impossible to convince her to please go back to her own room and let me sleep.
        We’d both still enjoy the second, third and fourth installments in the series but it became increasingly clear that the debs had absolutely no clue what had made the first game fun as they kept putting fewer tombs and more firefights in.
        After IV, I thought it was clear they’d completely lost it, as it appeared as if they were trying to turn it into Oni (which was an awesome game but it wasn’t Tomb Raider). I can’t even imagine what they’re trying to turn it into now.

  5. Yay, thanks for putting up my wife’s picture of Romeo up. If we get the most likes on Facebook, we win!

    Also, I’m freaking pissed about the L. Croft thing. I mean really? Things like this make me more and more ashamed to be a video game player :(


  6. THe Lara Croft thing — and I admit I haven’t kept up with gaming in any real way for a long time — seemed little better than it usually is. I mean, the Lara Croft design was originally so ridiculous, a 14-year-old boy’s masturbation fantasy.

    This character design is a bit better. But I am not sure what they were shooting for with including an attempted sexual assault except in the stupid audience-pleasing way that you get to say “yeah” when the guy gets his head blown off.

    Either way, I realize that the gamer audience has moved beyond teenage boys. But you would never, ever guess that from the games and trailers on offer. The stuff looks just like it did a decade ago, except more technically adept.

    I really think that there are serious problems in, for lack of a better word, nerd-culture. That is, while the stereotype of socially awkward Big Bang theory geeks is not quite so relevant anymore, there are nasty undercurrents that stem I think directly from social awkwardness and serious problems dealing with women.

    Given that things like Asperger’s and such seem to be skewed to the male side of the population, I wonder if that has something to do with it. Developers are still male-dominated and let’s face it, there is a self-selecting aspect to people in technology.

    I say this as a geeky guy growing up who had all kinds of problems like that and at times allowed that squicky underbelly to emerge, though I was pretty unconscious of it at the time. (Teenagers are rarely conscious of anything). But too much of gamer culture seems never to have outgrown this. There was a whole backlash on Kotaku when they tried to address sexism at all.

    Is it just that there is an endless supply of 14-year-old boys? I mean, science fiction (and the culture surrounding it) has grown a lot in the last 50 years. Just look at the difference between Heinlein’s treatment of women and even relatively mainstream authors like Stephenson. But I feel that the gamer world hasn’t moved much from when I was a teen 30 years ago. If anything the better graphical sophistication available has made it worse.

    Sorry for the rant.

    1. Lots of great points, but look at any other media and entertainment. It’s not much different, really. Sports culture, for instance, isn’t known to treat women well — even now that more woman then ever are really into sports. This is mostly in regards to watching sports, but it’s true of playing sports as well.

      What about commercials in general? Like that new Dr. Pepper 10 or whatever.

      And not all games are like Lara Croft any more. There ARE a LOT of really great games now that no longer subscribe to the typical tropes of gaming. They are there, and some of them are quite popular.

      I feel like Lara Croft is a bit dated, and way past its prime. I don’t play games often, so maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like there are other game developers who are far more “with the times” as it were. Bioware, for instance (who is far from perfect, of course).

    2. “Given that things like Asperger’s and such seem to be skewed to the male side of the population, I wonder if that has something to do with it.”

      Here’s the thing: My son’s Asperger’s (and a young teen) and I’m also on the spectrum. We both give a damn about how we treat people, and when we realize we’ve inadvertantly hurt someone or made them uncomfortable, we feel awful. We want to understand what happened, so we don’t do it again. Please don’t use our disability to let these guys off the hook. They’re choosing to ignore the issue, even if they are on the spectrum, just like any NT person contributing to the problem.

      And there’s an ongoing backlash everywhere whenever these issues come up.

      1. Thank you! I didn’t want to bring this up because I don’t much about the disorder, but man, I’m getting tired of assholes being explained away by Asperger’s. NO. JUST STOP!

        1. The vast majority of people with Asperger’s are not assholes, just as almost no people with mental illnesses are homicidal maniacs.

          1. And, I’d like to add, the vast majority of assholes don’t have Asperger’s.

            Although a lot of assholes like to diagnose themselves with it, presumably because they think it frees them of any obligation to not act like the assholes they are.

      2. I’m not trying to blame people for a disorder or let them off the hook.

        But I myself had a hell of a time with social cues, even though I was raised by an avowedly feminist mother and had certain things drummed into my head, it didn’t alter the fact that I found dealing with women as an adolescent and in college very, very frustrating. (My parents told me that odds are I would have been diagnosed with some kind of social interaction disorder akin to Asperger’s had I seen seen by a modern therapist).

        Here I was, trying to be nice, and utterly unable to figure out why nobody seemed to like me much. I’ll bet things that seemed logical to me at the time were just plain creepy to people I dealt with. I cared about how I treated people, but I was likely Doing It Wrong on a massive scale. At that time there was nobody to help.

        I noticed something similar among other nerdy friends. There was a high self-selection for people who found women / girls (we were teenagers after all) pretty mysterious, and it was largely because the social cues — well, for me it was like learning Mandarin.

        Christ, talking about it its amazing I’m not sitting in my apartment alone like the fat gamer kid in South Park or become Comic Book Guy.

        It took a lot of maturing, a lot of therapy and a *lot* of memorization for me to deal with people in a way that was more normal and for me, less lonely. The friends I had later would tell me there were a lot of very odd social behaviors that I had, and a lot of OCD-lite things going on.

        This is why I think there is some correlation between nerd-culture stuff, social disorders and treating women in a weird way. It isn’t any kind of Aspergers-like disorder in an of itself that causes it, or absolves anyone of responsibility. But you combine it with the fact that it is largely male, a sexist culture, and a group of teenage boys who are all hormonal anyway, and the mix can be pretty toxic.

        I went to therapy. I made an effort to get help. I chose a profession that meant I had to get along with people and learn how to get them to talk to me. But all this stuff wasn’t easy. I took steps because I recognized at least part of my problem and wanted very much to fix it. Some of my success was sheer bloody-mindedness on my part, some of it was just plain old desperation and some of it was luck and meeting the right people at the right time.

        How many other people like me got the right combination, tho? Got it just right? I mean, I wouldn’t say I got over everything in my own past, in my own head by any means. But how many of these kids had mothers who were politically active for women’s health, for instance?

        Hang with a bunch of gamer-nerds who see women as objects (since they have assiduously voided dealing with them in any other way, probably retreating back in their late teens, even if they didn’t realize it). Do so for 10 years.

        Then walk out blinking, into the light… the usual reaction when someone points out your sexism will be hostility and defensiveness. This is especially true if your self-image is one that is logical and intelligent.

        I hope I am making some sense here. I liken it to drug addiction and being a drunken-ass abuser. Not everyone becomes an addict and abuses people. Not everyone who tries drugs becomes an addict. But the subculture of addicts tends to attract certain kinds of people with certain specific personality disorders and there is a lot of self-selection. That doesn’t explain away the behavior — you’re responsible after all — but it means the odds of that behavior are higher in that subgroup.

        The problem is I don’t know that there is a way to do cold turkey on sexism, as it permeates the culture so much in a way that heroin use, say, does not. Though I suppose the backlash cold be likened to withdrawal…

        1. Jesee, you seem to want special consideration given to men who have trouble talking to half of all human beings – not all human beings, just the female half. No consideration is ever asked (or given) to women who are awkward around men. So, your plea for sympathy and understanding is misguided. I don’t know how to convince men not to treat women like shit. But I’m not inclined to give them sympathy for their difficulties while they kick me in the head.

          1. Let me try this then: in discussions of addiction, or serial killers, or any kind of antisocial behavior, would anyone here just say “they are evil and should stop?” No, of course not. You’d point out the myriad social factors that go into it. Really — just imagine if you replaced “sexist male” with “drg addict.” Or even when talking bout racism — I mean, it’s easy to say “Southerners are a ll a bunch of racist dicks” but if I were discussing people’s attitudes and ignoring the things that surround them, then figuring out why poor white folks voted for Klansmen would be impossible to do — and any political strategy designed to bring them on as allies would fail.

            I’m not saying that people should get special consideration in the sense you mean — just that certain kinds of people are more likely to be in nerd-gaming-culture spaces. That makes fighting and talking about sexism doubly hard. Not impossible, just harder. There’s a difference between saying “It’s ok to be a dick if you have a social disorder” and “having one is more likely to make yo fall into patterns of behavior, especially in a certain context.” Just like not every alcoholic abuses people– but being one certainly ups the odds you’ll beat your wife. especially if you are in a culture that condones that. That doesn’t mean I think wife-beaters shouldn’t go to jail, anymore than saying that certain conditions made things like Ted Bundy happen means you condone it.

    3. Sigh. How many times have I been asked to give a jerk the benefit of the doubt because he’s “socially awkward” or “doesn’t know he’s being sexist”? I’m socially awkward, too – and funnily enough, that makes me LESS likely to toss out my prejudices for everyone to see. (I’m also beginning to think that social awkwardness is a mark of privilege; most people can’t opt out of learning how to interact with others.)

      And honestly, what are the odds that an adult American man has never once encountered the idea of sexism and you’re literally the first person ever to point out that he’s doing something sexist? That beggars belief.

      I have no doubt that geek culture is responsible for geek sexism; it’s not a thing that happens *to us* via social isolation, or mental disorder, or “contamination” from pop culture. It’s something we perpetuate, which means we have the power to change it.

      1. +1

        Ironically, one thing that has helped a lot is getting involved in my local skeptics group. At least, people seem more happy than annoyed to see me, even if I occasionally monopolize people’s evenings with long boring stories about my nieces and nephews. (Sorry, Amanda, you were way too patient…)

        1. Awww one day I want to meet you so we can have long discussions about our boring families. :) I’m an aunt. I CAN GO ON FOR HOURS. And I’m not socially awkward hahaha.

      2. Agreed. No letting them off the hook. They need to learn so they don’t hoist themselves onto that hook anymore if they are truly clueless.

  7. I was wondering when people would finally notice this. These video games are smarmy, sexist, annoying. Granted, I’m not excluding myself from the gamers. I used to love playing but it was mostly abstract monsters and goblins, not military / crime based.

    Now since Grand Theft Auto it’s all oh, do these games make kids violent? NO, the question is how can people not be offended by this shit? Prostitutes, winning by being a dickhead, cripes, I have to drive in Massachusetts. Why would I need Grand Theft Auto to fufil that sick desire?

    I loved the first line of the article –

    “You start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character.”

    Yeah, I agree. Pity is the best reason to want success for a female and god knows men aren’t nearly as pathetic as women. Sheesh.

  8. There is a clarification from Crystal Dynamics regarding the comments about Lara Croft at E3.

    “In this particular section, while there is a threatening undertone in the sequence and surrounding drama, it never goes any further than the scenes that we have already shown publicly. Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game.

    “We take great care and pride in our work and are focused on creating a release that will deliver meaningful storytelling, drama, and exciting gameplay. We’re sorry this has not been better explained, we’ll certainly be more careful with what is said in future.”

    The problem, Crystal Dynamics, isn’t about the content necessarily…it’s about your characterization of your protagonist. The problem is that male characters like Nathan Drake, or a John McClane, would never be described as “vulnerable” or needing “protection” (thus taking away the sense of agency that players might want to see in these fictional characters) because as guys, beating them up and practically torturing them makes them “badasses” or “manly’ I guess. It makes me think that the idea is that Lara Croft would die horribly in this fictional universe if the player doesn’t show up to aid and succor her. So, she needs us…Bruce Willis would never need us.

    It’s like when Team Ninja made “young Samus” a weepy, emotional mess in “Metroid Other M”…funny, I don’t think a prequel about Kratos, or Master Chief, or Marcus Fenix would ever take that path.

  9. -“This is yet another example of this Republican majority’s misogynistic and cowardly tactics.”

    I wonder how Romney might try to spin this situation.

    That is an odd case with the female atheletes.
    Indeed, that testing should be stopped, pronto.
    The case with that one woman born with testes is the first I’ve ever heard of it.

    And for the cute kittens…I wonder how that sleeping kitten managed to not wake up! I would just touch my cat’s paw and she opens her eyes instantly!
    I wonder how the sleeping kitten incorporated the “attack” into his(her?) dream…

  10. Jesse:

    ” Really — just imagine if you replaced “sexist male” with “drg addict.” Or even when talking bout racism — I mean, it’s easy to say “Southerners are a ll a bunch of racist dicks” but if I were discussing people’s attitudes and ignoring the things that surround them, then figuring out why poor white folks voted for Klansmen would be impossible to do — and any political strategy designed to bring them on as allies would fail. ”

    Sexism and racism and drug addiction are not comparable. Are you saying that bigots are ill? Only in the colloquial sense of the word.

    Why would black people want Klansmen as allies? Nobody wants to make nice with their oppressors.

    ““It’s ok to be a dick if you have a social disorder” and “having one is more likely to make yo fall into patterns of behavior, especially in a certain context.” Just like not every alcoholic abuses people– but being one certainly ups the odds you’ll beat your wife. especially if you are in a culture that condones that. That doesn’t mean I think wife-beaters shouldn’t go to jail, anymore than saying that certain conditions made things like Ted Bundy happen means you condone it.”

    Okay, since I’m a disabled (recovering) drug addict, you’ve now managed to compare me to wife beaters and serial killers along with bigots. I’m being very polite right now. Very sympathetic. Trying to be helpful. Stop insulting me.

    1. Yeah, I don’t by that most people with Asperger’s are “seriously mentally ill” which is how this Jesse guy is trying to paint them. WTF? There is a spectrum and most people don’t fall on the extreme. And in fact, most people *don’t* have Asperger’s — yes, even in “nerd culture”. Even in early nerd culture. It may have existed, but I highly doubt that every dude has it.

      And what about women? Are they unable to have Asperger’s? I know it’s rarer, but sometimes I feel like this discussion is WAY WAY WAY skewed. “WELL THEY ARE DUDES! And nerds! They must all have asperger’s!”

      1. It’s kinda funny, in a slapstick way, how he keeps faceplanting. First the autism, then the KKK thing (I’m biracial), then the drug addict comparison.

        Women on the spectrum (including Aspberger’s) definitely exist in significant numbers, although it skews heavily male. We’re around, but everyone’s too worried about poor men not realizing they’re pigs to think about women on the spectrum. Nevermind the fact that when a woman misses social cues, that can prevent her from seeing actual danger.

        Somehow, I’ve managed not to be a bile-spewing bigot. Maybe I’m just a super-special exception? (no. no, I’m not.)

        1. Yup. Sometimes the socially awkward penguin is just socially awkward. Complex medical diagnosis not always required.

  11. Jesse, maybe you really did have some real problems, though you clearly made an effort to confront them, and make changes. That’s cool. Very good job, dude, and I say that sincerely.

    But dude, this kind of stuff IS NOT THE NORM, even in “nerd culture”. There might be a coupla guys who truly have a bad case of Asperger’s, but that’s just not the norm.

    Most people are not so mentally ill that they can’t function, or that they don’t know how to treat people with respect.

    You’re just making excuses for shitty behavior.

    1. Indeed. Brown and Byrum were brilliant, pity there are’nt more Democrats like them, willing to speak out and take a stand rather than just cave in.

  12. I’m going to wait for the game is released before I get too pissed off at anyone except for the obviously clueless guy talking about it.

    Now, admittedly there is a very significant chance I will end up being pissed off about the game. I’m kind of torn about the “vulnerability” issue though.

    People rightfully make the point that Nathan Drake would never be that vulnerable, or torn about violence. The issue I’m facing is that I think he should be.
    Uncharted has always been a series that wants me to take it at least a little bit seriously. I just find it hard to take Nathan seriously as a character when he kills other human beings with so little thought and then jokes about it afterwards.

    So I agree that it is problematic that male heroes in gaming are portrayed and hardened killing machines and women are shown as more vulnerable.
    I just think that the answer, if games want to be taken a little more seriously, is that more male characters should show the same vulnerability. If you want me to empathize with a character who I inhabit, and kill other characters with, I want to know why that character is so comfortable with it, or I want them to be less comfortable with it.

    In the best case scenario, killing in Tomb Raider will have more impact, because you know that Lara does not want to be killing anyone. She is not a killer at heart, only in the situation she has been put in.
    Contrary to what the Crystal Dynamics representative says, this makes me more likely to project myself into Lara, not less.

    I hope that Crystal Dyanamics handles it better than I suspect they have. For example, there are many options outside of attempted rape to explain how someone is pushed to kill another human. That is certainly a lazy trope.
    I’m also not saying that there is anything wrong with making a dumb action game with a female character who kills without reservation. It works for the human tanks in Halo, COD, and Gears of War and there is no reason a female character could not fill that role as well.

    All I’m trying to say is that the idea of a character in a video game having reservations about killing is something that, in principle, I welcome.

  13. Is it just me or does it bother anyone else that most of the articles on the squid spermatophores were headlined and flatly stated that the woman’s mouth became pregnant with baby squid?

    No wonder there’s a war on women’s reproductive rights… these crotchwads don’t understand basic biology!

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