Quickies: GamerGate and Disco Demolition, Women Coders, and Cosmetic Pseudoscience

  • Of Gamers, Gates, and Disco Demolition: The Roots of Reactionary Rage – “How are YouTube videos criticizing sexist video games important enough to threaten a school shooting? Read the #GamerGate tag and realize that underneath the anger is fear.” From Amy.
  • Planet Money: When Women Stopped Coding – “Mark Zuckerberg. Bill Gates. Steve Jobs. Most of the big names in technology are men. But a lot of computing pioneers, the ones who programmed the first digital computers, were women. And for decades, the number of women in computer science was growing. But in 1984, something changed. The number of women in computer science flattened, and then plunged.” From Arturo.
  • The “Southern Belle” Is a Racist Fiction – “But praising the loyalty and generosity of the Southern Belle is about as cheery as celebrating the camaraderie of the Hitler Youth, the fresh air of the Trail of Tears, or the cardiovascular benefits of the Bataan Death March. You can find something fun in any horror of history! And the Belles of today do exactly that—if you bring up sl*very, they’ll point to all the nice parts about the Old South. The architecture, the parties, the sipping of cool drinks on warm porches. Oh, the fields? Those fields are just for growing delicious strawberries and tomatoes for folks to enjoy. Nothing more.”
  • The Sad Parents of #Gamergate – “Imagine! You hear your child talking animatedly about something. He steps closer and you hear him say ‘bias’ and ‘Sarkeesian.’ The words drip with spite. Later, you hear him through the bedroom door, talking to his webcam: ‘No, it’s about corruption in games journalism!’ What do you do?”
  • How Cosmetic Companies Get Away With Pseudoscience – “In the absence of meaningful regulation, anti-aging skincare products are now overrun with unproven or controversial ‘active’ ingredients, at times even eschewing the FDA’s language restrictions with impunity. Most major manufacturers are careful to use tempered phrasing when advertising their products, guaranteeing only to ‘reduce the appearance’ of wrinkles and sun damage, or, vaguely, to ‘promote’ and ‘boost’ the production of skin-firming collagen.”
  • How (Some) Economists Are Like Doomsday Cult Members – “Four years ago, twenty-three economists (mostly conservative) signed a letter to Ben Bernanke warning that the Fed’s quantitative easing policy – adding billions of dollars to the economy – would be disastrous. It would ‘debase the currency,’ create high inflation, distort financial markets, and do nothing to reduce unemployment. Four years later, it’s clear that they were wrong (as Paul Krugman never tires of reminding us). Have they changed their beliefs?”

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Mary Brock works as an Immunology scientist by day and takes care of a pink-loving princess child by night. She likes cloudy days, crafting, cooking, and Fall weather in New England.

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  1. That Arthur Chu piece is one of the best articles about this entire spectrum of fandom based hatred. I had never considered the Disco Demolition event through any other lens than the 70’s were weird and you could sell anything to Bill Veeck if it would put butts in the seats. And his links will send you down a rabbit hole of despair. I’m particularly ashamed of the tabletop rpg community for their response to shitty bloggers in their ranks. I sympathize with some of the Old School gamers ideas about the games we play, but I had no idea that people like RPGPundit or Zak S existed.

    1. Some parts of the article are possibly accurate, but the failforward link (and associated “analysis” definitely isn’t.

      There has been quite a bit of digital ink spilled over that piece. It’s a put-up job, plain and simple. Zak is a relentless and abrasive arguer, but there is exactly no evidence of him being sexist, homophobic or trans-phobic. He’s possibly the most inclusive member of the online rpg community, really.

      Pundit can also be abrasive, but like Zak, there is no evidence of the accusations put forward in that failforward piece. It’s pretty ironic that Arthur linked a falsified piece of sleazy smear while condemning… a falsified piece of sleazy smear.

      And in case you were wondering, Arthur Chu has been informed of his mistake several times – he’s apparently standing by it, though, which is too bad, since it poisons the entire article.

  2. In 2000, I called in to an economist on Wisconsin Public Radio who was saying higher unemployment was not necessarily a bad thing because low unemployment causes inflation. I pointed out inflation was not high in the late 1990’s despite being a record long period of record low unemployment. He said there were other factors and it was too complex to explain. If it is too complex to explain, why are you on WPR talking about it?

  3. This gamergate thing is so obfuscated. Pro GG people claim to represent “all gamers”, when in reality, they represent an extremely small subset of “gamers and too many of the press outlets are talking about “gamers” and “game culture”, which is basically validating the gamergate assertion that they are the face of gaming.

    The truth is though, that in the anglosphere (where #gamergate is mostly taking place) saying “gamer” is basically saying “1/2 the population of English speaking countries”, most of which haven’t heard of gamergate and don’t even participate in game communities. I really think the point needs to be made loudly that gamergate isn’t the “voice of people” for all people who play games.

    They’re a vocal minority, a minority that has many members who want to silence any challenges to misogynistic game tropes and harassment.

    I’m very very tempted to do an article that looks at the population of everyone in North America and the UK who plays games and make the point that 1. #GG is not the voice they claim to be and 2. do an analysis of the misogynist and harassing speech in the movement.

    Perhaps that would go towards pointing out how disingenuous GamerGate really is.

  4.  I’m just afraid that games will be censored, that the art that they represent will have to obey some rules imposed not by the market or by what the gamers want, but pressure from activists. I look at some games in my childhood that would have never existed if their makers listened to anita or zoe quinn. No Duke Nukem, cause it portraits women in a sexist way. It is art. Or Doom, cause it’s too violent, so it must cause violent behaviour. You don’t like it, don’t buy the game, but don’t try to censor what i may want to buy. That’s one thing i’m afraid of.

    When all of this started i was definitely on Anita’s and Zoe’s side, i’m a long time reader of this blog, and i had comments from time to time, but as the whole thing evolved, now i’m only against the people harassing and threatening them, i’m not sure that those two are in the right anymore.

    I don’t buy the accusation of corruption against them. I also have a deep distrust of journalists in general, so i don’t expect game journalists to be fully honest in the first place. What i don’t like is the fact that this will lead to people judging me based on the games i play or played. Oh, you like X or Y, you must be sexist, violent etc. I’ve seen where this is going. The virtual playground is big enough for everyone. There can be sexist violent games, there can be interesting, intelligent games, and/or games that portray women in a fair and realistic way. All of these can exist together.

    This whole shift in how i see the gamergate issue started with something else: people going crazy against HP Lovecraft. His art is somehow less valuable, and he as a writer should be forgotten, because he was racist. At the beginning of the 20th century. I had no idea about his views, had no idea about his life, i just read his stories, and i liked some of them a lot. I didn’t see the racism in them until it was pointed out to me because, well, American culture is a bit lost on me, as a foreigner. I still love his stories, but now i’m supposed to hate them because of his author’s views. I find it hard to do that. Just like i, even though i support feminism, will find it hard to say oh, those games that filled my lonely younger years with joy, when games were my only refuge, nah, those are crap, they promoted sexist behaviour. I should even feel bad for liking them. I don’t know how to do that.

    1. Anita only offers criticism, she is not “demanding” anything. Period.

      Zoe only developed her own games, she hasn’t even offered criticism of games, only of gamers who are attacking her. Period.

      I don’t agree that we should judge the works of artists because of their personal failings, as has happened with Lovecraft. But the difference is that the works in this case are what are at fault and what needs to be challenged. Just because something that was once considered art wouldn’t be made today does not suggest that criticism is at fault, perhaps it is the art that was at fault. Or should we reboot Birth of a Nation?

      Please don’t believe the hype, these women did nothing to deserve the treatment they have received, not that anyone would deserve it, and standing anywhere but firmly behind their freedom to not be threatened you are giving their attackers tacit approval whether you mean to or not.

      1. Sure, i firmly believe in their freedom to say whatever they want, and not be harassed in any way. I may not agree with all they say, they have some valid points, but also faults.

    2. Blakut, I’d encourage you to read this short piece, How To Be a Fan of Problematic Things, which has become something of an internet classic. Criticizing a work of art, literature, or pop culture does not necessarily mean hating it or wanting to censor it. Indeed, criticism can be an act of reverence, because (when done properly anyway) it means intellectually engaging with the work at a deeper level. Conversely, being intellectually honest means not ignoring or making excuses for problematic elements in things you like. You can still like things that have problematic elements, and it doesn’t mean you should feel bad. Duke Nukem was a fun game, but was its sexism really necessary for it to be fun? Or was sexism just a lazy way for the game creators to establish tone? Asking these questions, and noticing larger patterns in gaming and other pop culture, doesn’t mean rejecting the work — it just means engaging your rational, critical faculties to better understand your world. Merely what skeptics should always want to do.

      By the way, Anita Sarkeesian is very clear about this in one of her early Tropes Vs. Women videos. She likes many of the games she’s criticizing in the videos. The fear that someone is calling for these games to be censored is unfounded, aside from the usual “conservative family values” types who like to use video games and movies as easy scape goats for real social problems. One thing that seems very clear to me when watching Tropes Vs. Women is just how narrow and boring most video games’ stories and characters really are, because game developers lazily rely on only a small handful of (often sexist) tropes; feminist criticism like what Anita Sarkeesian offers has the opportunity to create more, not less, variety in video games.

      It is true though that critical analysis can sometimes lead one to change one’s opinion about a work. When I read Ender’s Game as a pre-teen, I loved it, and was a huge fan of Orson Scott Card throughout my teens and into college. It wasn’t until I started rereading his books with a more critical mind that I realized how loathesome the themes were — not just incidental problematic elements, but real core thematic elements that drove the entire plot and character arcs. My original appreciation for the books was more related to the relatively innocent lens through which I read them (as well as perhaps some less-than-admirable parts of my own personality at the time), and having seen the intended themes more clearly, I can no longer really enjoy his books. So yes, sometime criticism “ruins” things. But even so I can still feel a fondness for what Ender’s Game meant to me when I was a lonely 12-year-old who didn’t fit in well at school, and I’m not ashamed for having loved it then. At the same time, I’m also glad that I’m now more vigilant against the problematic messages that it and similar books encouraged in me, and I hope that my ability to recognize these messages and reconsider my beliefs around them gives me tools to be a better, more empathetic person.

      1. Hmm… haven’t re-read Orson Scott Card in many years. Maybe i sbould give it a go, seeing as i disagree with many of the things he says nowadays.

        If what Anita is doing, and i intend to think this is it, is just criticism, then it’s ok with me. Her free speech should be protected in any case and i think it’s crazy that someone would make school shooting terror threat to stop her from speaking. I don’t really understand how police wouldn’t provide security in the sense of screening for weapons inside an universit.

      2. Nice article. I mostly agree with it. But i also think that if someone writes good fiction, that has problematic parts, those works should still be appreciated for the good parts that they offer. Art is also a subjective expression of the individual making it.

    3. Oh no! Poor you. You may have to deal with the realization that the games you play may have problems!

      “I’ve seen where this is going.

      You seem to have a LOT of assumptions but nothing solid whatsoever. Someone *might* say something maybe negative about you becuase you play games, although it doesn’t appear anyone *has* … and you’ve “seen where this is going.”


      Do you know where *I* see it going? A change in culture both in the development and the greater gaming culture, if Anita and others like her keep speaking out.

      You’ve made this all bout YOU and your hurt feelings because you feel like someone MIGHT judge you for playing games when *real women are receiving death and terrorist threats *because they have already been judged and actually oppressed**.

    4. How will they be sensored? What rules? Who is going to outline those rules?

      Do you beieve movies and cartoons are now being censored because we as a society have said “that shit is not okay” to black face?

      I don’t think you understand what “censorship” is. It’s NOT society realizing and speaking out against discrmination and opression and then changing the way they represent those they discriminated and oppressed in entertainment.

    5. And I can’t believe I missed this the first time but no one said you must hate Lovecraft or his work.

      It’s like one strawman after another with you. You just keep making shit up.

  5. In my country girls were discouraged from going to technical universities as well, because engineering used to be a man’s job. But then, the economy was so that you couldn’t make a living out of soft subjects, so women started coming to engineering school more and more. When i started engineering school there were more men than women, by the end, it was 50/50, more of the boys dropped out. No one would tell them to do literature, art, etc. because those were seen as doomed careers for anyone to have.

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