I was a Teenage Sexist

Editor’s Note: This post originally contained a screen-grab of the repellent game Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian. We have since removed the disturbing image, and we apologize for not alerting our readers to graphic content in advance.

———

I raised my hand. Professor Wiman nodded at me.

“I can’t stand female poets,” I said loudly, “because they constantly write about women’s issues instead of normal things.”

My words hung heavy in the air. Wiman blinked and moved on, and I slowly realized I’d said something strange.

Worse, though, was the way a classmate in front of me whirled in her seat. She fixed me with a glare, startled and shocked and fire and ice all at the same time.

Until that instant we had been friendly acquaintances. I think she’d assumed we were kindred. I wore my hair short, just as she did. We were both flat-chested, bony, utterly androgynous. And also I’d always been kind of a brat. So I think she had me mistaken for a fellow feminist. I was not.

Now she stared at me in abject horror. Finally she turned to face forward again, her spine perfectly straight. She never spoke to me again.

A year later, in a bar on New Year’s Eve, I presented my theory as to why comediennes aren’t funny: “They do these minority jokes where you’re supposed to go ‘it’s so true,’ and it’s like, look, you aren’t in the minority; you’re half the world’s population.”

Upon my announcing this, the dude whooped and slapped me a high-five. “Nailed it!” he cackled.

Yep, I was one of the guys.

———

RambotaurI was always one of the guys. Most of my friends, always, have been guys.

I’d usually regarded girls with suspicion. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy, too: every day in junior high a group of girls stole my gym shorts and drenched them in the sink.

It was absolutely my fault. From the get-go I wasn’t very well socialized. My birth-dad never let me watch television commercials, and so I spent my earliest childhood with videogames and G.I. Joes and Barbies, none the wiser as to gender norms, wholly inept at differentiating boys from girls. My childhood aspiration was to become Rambo. Not a man, not a woman, not a mother or an astronaut: only that mythical creature called Rambo.

Then I’d moved to smalltown Texas, a far cry from our old poverty-stricken apartment complex in Seattle; meanwhile, my elderly, Midwestern, adoptive parents enforced bizarre, gendered, midcentury rules of behavior. I wasn’t just socially tone-deaf – I was culturally mangled, off-kilter in some nondescript, Caucasian way.

My best college friend used to make this joke: “I’m as good as white, good as white.”

He was South Asian but from the ‘burbs; I knew his joke made me uncomfortable, but I could never pinpoint why. For my own part, I’d internally subscribed to a similar mantra: “I’m just as good as a man, as good as a man.”

Feminists? Ugh. Please. What insufferable people. How about battered husbands? What of fathers’ rights? Or feeding and sheltering the poor? Come on. Invent a real social cause, already.

———

I was always about business. I never paused to wonder whether I was being taken seriously, even, because right up through college, I was. Professors applauded my refusal to use “humankind” as a substitute for “mankind,” or to say “he or she” or “they” in lieu of “he.”

I remember the first time a man told me he was coming to my home to rape me to death. I was 20 years old. I could not understand why he hated my Internet diary so much.

“He misunderstands me,” I remember thinking to myself. “I’m not the type of girl he thinks I am.”

———

My friend and colleague Cara recently directed Twitter to a fascinating study. It claims that self-identified feminists are less hostile toward men than other women are.

Now, the math is squirrelly, the testing pond much too small, but the idea rings legit. Here’s the theory behind the study’s assessment: women who subscribe to traditional gender politics are often none too happy about it, and they might resent other people as a result.

———

Immediately after graduation I moved in with a young man. While he was away at work I was in charge of cleaning, laundry, planning dinner. There was a tacit contract between us. We were both Protestant, after all – church-goers, nearly! – and we did that thing where you conflate “tradition” with “morality.” I was dutiful and cheery.

Without spending too many more words on the tension of that relationship dynamic: oh, I was resentful. Was I ever.

———

PrissyMy inch-long hair and combat boots had never hurt my romantic life any; we had all been teens in the 1990s.

What I mean is, in the ’90s androgyny was a style rather than a marker of sexual preference. Watch any episode of 90210! Cuffed T-shirt sleeves are everywhere! Everyone wore bleached denim and CK1!

Guys understood me. I liked Kevin Smith movies! I was a great wingwoman! If I wore a dress, I did it reluctantly. I only ever felt genderless and murky – the soul of a “man,” I always thought, where “man” maybe just means “normal.” Like, you identify with the male heroes in books and movies and songs, because storybook heroines, excepting the spunky ones, are prissy wimps who like ballet and horses. Yep: I was a carefree kid, an unladylike tree-climber.

See? That seems all right! I was an ordinary tomboy!

But it was way more insidious than that. I often ignored other women’s opinions, basing my judgment entirely on how they were dressed. I scoffed at girly things. I considered myself an exception to the lady-rule, all thanks to my easygoing manner, my coarse sense of humor, my swaggering sense of self.

Feminists have their own term for my anti-feminist leanings: “internalized sexism.”

I was a teenage sexist. I was a misogynist.

———

There’s a riddle I read as a child, and I didn’t understand its meaning until long after college:

A father and son are in a car and, as they are crossing some railroad tracks, its engine stalls. An oncoming train smashes into the car. The father is killed instantly; the son lives, barely, and is rushed to a hospital. The doctor enters the room, sees the child splayed on the table. “I cannot operate on this child,” the doctor says; “this child is my son.” How? How can this be?

I recently reminded some friends of this riddle.

“I used to know this one,” a friend said, and then she sat, struggling to remember the riddle’s answer.

“Oh, no,” I said to her. “You see? You see how deeply rooted it is?”

———

I’d received the phone call at the art gallery (I was working in the gallery when I wasn’t writing reviews for Electronic Gaming Monthly). It was 2006; a job had opened in California.

It was a community management position at a gaming website – a role that, at the time, was always delegated to a female. I was flattered, and since I was easygoing and boyish, I figured I’d be good at it. When I accepted, my new employer made the happy announcement.

I remember the first Internet reaction, posted by a semi-anonymous user: “Hotness fail.”

Feminists? Ugh. Please. What insufferable people.

The next reaction – a penis crudely MS-painted into my mouth – was harder for me to parse.

Then, in response to something I’d written in a discussion thread: “She’s like Einstein with a vagina!” Followed by: “You see where you’re wrong, don’t you?”

Wha – ooohhhhh.

Everyone wants to be liked, and I was sad that I wasn’t. But it was worse than that – I hadn’t even done anything yet.

Should I move to California?” I asked my boyfriend. I unpacked a box. Then I repacked it.

———

“Is this stuff normal?” I asked my friends quietly. I took an informal survey: “Do people act like this all the time?”

“It’s the Internet,” my friends said helplessly.

“They’re probably just kids,” my boyfriend added.

I checked their ages. They were not kids. Not all of them were even male.

I didn’t want to leave Chicago.

———

But I did move, figuring I’d prove the Internet wrong with my own competence, or at least by being a rad girl. I reasoned, too, that I couldn’t live with myself not knowing what lay in store at my dream job.

I felt like the Internet had started following me around in real life.

The complaints eventually became predictable. Ugly, fat, lesbian, secretly a man, a bad spokesperson for the entire female sex, and the occasional – and distressing! – “I’d pee in her butt.” (And, just as a fun, friendly reminder that some people are breezily racist, “Jewish,” lobbed here as an insult.)

Oh, sure, I was initially confused. I am heterosexual, I am not Jewish, and certainly nobody has ever peed into my butt. I didn’t think I was that ugly, that fat, and worst of all I was so naive I didn’t always realize I was being sexually insulted.

My support system encouraged me to ignore all this, but I never quite toughened up.

Instead the opposite happened: sustained daily over two consecutive years, and compounded with my parents’ failing health, I broke. I completely cracked.

By Spring 2008 I was in therapy. My therapist told me, alarmed, I needed more therapy.

Humiliating. It was so humiliating, how weak I had become.

———

When people meet me for the first time, they must assume I’ve always had a big chest.

All my life I had been able to pass as credible, as a sexless peer, as a scrappy pixie. My childhood doctor is still flummoxed as to how I instantaneously grew boobs at the ripe old age of 24. This abrupt new development drastically changed how people responded to me: after all, I very suddenly was possessed of the chest of a bimbo.

If nobody else were around, men did this new thing on the street: they’d turn and say foul things. I felt sick. Or, I felt worse than sick – I felt like the Internet had started following me around in real life.

———

Feminists and others have coined another great term, “gender dysphoria.” That’s when you feel one way inside, but your body dictates that people react to you as if you were somebody else.

Those dissonant experiences can be impossible to reconcile, and sometimes people deliberately change their bodies to match their feelings. Other people try to change their feelings to match what their bodies are projecting. Maybe for some people the answer is in the middle, something more liminal.

Of “sex,” “gender,” and “sexual preference,” gender is the one that is fake. Gender varies from culture to culture, from era to era; it’s the one you get to put on and take off, like fingernail polish or a skirt. It’s the construct advertisers use to market one type of doll to girls and another type of doll to boys.

———

It seems to always happen this way, doesn’t it?

Girls – the ones we think of as “cool” – don’t trust other women, women who play by gender “rules” that the rest of us cannot quite understand. The most important things those women can seemingly do are spend money on clothes and appeal to the opposite sex.

Meanwhile, we ourselves don’t feel particularly female. We only feel like people.

It’s a tough fall. People intuitively detect that attitude, go out of their way to remind you that you’re not fooling anybody. You are a woman, and you will only ever be a woman.

When enough strangers say enough sexually charged things to you, it demands you completely reconsider yourself. Who do you think you are? Who are you supposed to be? You are a stranger in your own body.

I am 30ish years old, and my life is divided into two dramatically uneven halves: before 2006, and then the six years after.

“I know you wish I’d known you ‘before,’” my good friend Dave once told me, “but I like you now.” How terribly kind of Dave, that liar.

———

Lately someone accused me of “girl-on-the-Internet syndrome.” He could have leveled a lot of valid criticisms at me, given what I’d written; this particular blow, however, struck me as hollow.

“I have been on the Internet since 1993,” I replied. “I got over being on the Internet long before I ever got over being a girl.”

———

Do you remember when one games journalist — one of the best, and happenstantially a female — pleaded that we recognize her as a person? Like, as just an ordinary, normal human being? It was heartbreaking.

I remember reading that column and thinking about how, even if you actively work to not “prove your gender” to others, there is an enormous faction that will conversely work to remind you that you are a woman, and “just” a woman, every chance they get.

I have been on the Internet since 1993. I got over being on the Internet long before I ever got over being a girl.

They might even say it benevolently: “Why, she’s my favorite female games writer!”

———

I don’t think embracing feminism has to be difficult, but it sure was for me.

First, I had to make peace with being a woman.

Next, I had to make peace with being terrible at being a woman.

Then I had to be okay with my experiences not being unique, since the same stuff – variations on a theme, if you will – is shared by a whole lot of people, many but not all of whom are women.

Finally, I adjusted my expectations – not lower, but higher. Feminists are optimists!

I am half-serious when I call myself a “bad feminist.” I’m still working on my longstanding bad attitude, for instance, and on all the ways I’ve hurt myself with my bad attitude.

I’ve also hurt others. In the course of my young adulthood, I’ve stood by some pretty injurious bullshit. Maybe my ethics are fueled as much by guilt as anything else.

———

A lot of my favorite people are rigorous anti-feminists, but in the nicest possible way.

These folks really do treat women as peers – academically, professionally, personally, romantically – and many of these right-headed people shy from any sort of “battle.”

These anti-sexists always turn a polite, blind eye. Why keep picking fights? Diatribes are no fun. Stop whining and buck up, you! If your vagina (or whatever you have there, since not every woman or feminist is privileged to have one) is the worst you can complain about, it’s gonna be one easy ride, sister! Or mister. Whoever. Whomever.

And many of those well-meaning, anti-sexist people are the very same good people who are the most surprised by the backlash Anita Sarkeesian has encountered, I suspect.

I’ve watched this unfold with an awful, wry type of schadenfreude. I’m an ex-community manager, here! If anything, I’m mystified by others’ surprise. Was this type of thing really so invisible before?

No, of course it wasn’t. We were just too happy to ignore it, because it’s never been “this bad” or “this flagrant.”

It didn’t surprise the average girl-on-the-Internet, I guarantee, because the average girl on the Internet is required to either defend her very existence, or else disappear.

The Internet hates everyone.

Maybe the “average guy” doesn’t witness all this, though, because he is so nice. What kind of monster says such things? Not I, he reasons.

———

I get it. I do. The Internet hates everyone. And you can’t fix everyone. It’s easy to be a pessimist, or else it’s easy to feel like enough has changed (or too much has changed so please hush already).

Moreover, the Internet condemns any dissenting opinion. Consider the higher-profile videogame critic: should he score a game a point too low, here come the superfans, wishing him cancer and AIDS. We turn a blind eye toward those superfans. “The lowest of the low,” we nod, “the vocal minority! Don’t feed the trolls.”

What we mean is, That’s not me. I know I am a good person. Those people aren’t my problem.

———

You don’t have to be an outspoken feminist on the Internet to be harassed or bullied, although I’ve heard it helps.

Sometimes you can just be a lady on the Internet, though. Sometimes you can make the audacious mistake of being anything less than invisible. Being a member of half the sum total population is inexplicably enough to make you an easy target on Xbox Live. Good God, imagine what the Internet would be like if you were actually different from other people somehow!

You don’t even have to be on the Internet! You can just walk down a city street alone, even during normal business hours!

No, it doesn’t happen only to girls – everyone gets harassed or attacked sometime. But it does happen especially to girls.

Even speaking as an ex-anti-feminist, I just cannot understand how that idea is controversial.

———

Anita SarkeesianAnita Sarkeesian offered to apply the same lens to videogames as she already affords other media, like film, television, music. There is mainstream cultural validity here. “Gamers” maybe ought to have been excited by her very interest.

Chillingly, the people who have abused and threatened Anita Sarkeesian are not anomalous, are not sociopaths. They are ordinary — albeit anonymous — masses of people, admitting online what they’d like to say aloud. They are not all little boys. Many are adults. Some are women.

Feminism is all about the masses. We are, every last one of us, complicit in fostering an environment where this kind of vitriol is “normal,” where that kind of hatred toward any one person, or any grouping of people, is permitted to perpetuate and fester.

“It’s the Internet,” we shrug. “These things happen,” we tell one another helplessly.

What does it take to get us to notice that wrongheadedness? Evidently, we react only to ire and hatred – hatred that is utterly out of proportion with Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter itself, hatred that finally oversteps into criminal behavior.

And that aloofness-until-some-breaking-point isn’t subcultural; it’s super cultural! Everybody! Everybody is responsible! It’s like voting!

Feminism is on your side! Feminism is for everybody!

———

I read a lot of Internet, and I am beginning to think there might be some fundamental misconception about feminism floating around.

Feminism isn’t only about correcting social inequality and wage disparity. If that’s all feminism is, I was a feminist way back when I believed you could cut your hair short and behave just as boyishly as you liked, getting ahead on your balls alone. Don’t cry, emo girl! You live in a boys’ world, so be a man!

Instead, feminism – and other types of social justice, I figure – acknowledges that there is an invisible pattern of experience that comes along with being, very visibly, something else.

You don’t have to think of ladies as “victims” – I’d prefer you didn’t – and you don’t even have to think of some experiences as “baggage.”

But feminism does ask you, as an ethical human being, to objectively reexamine certain standards of behavior, which themselves are often based on an internalized, invisible set of shared beliefs and values.

Feminism isn’t about holding another sex in higher esteem than the male sex. Rather, it’s about anti-sexism.

It’s about making sure your child doesn’t grow up believing she is somehow subhuman.

And if someone ever makes your child feel like he or she deserves abuse, you better hope that kid is confident and surefooted enough to fight back.

———

I wrote this piece over a week ago. A lot has happened since then. For one, Anita Sarkeesian became the subject of a face-punching sim. That actually made me grin in recognition: in the olden days you could slap a Spice Girl, watching her face blister and bruise and swell until, finally, the abuse her pretty face could take somehow maxed out. In my day I slapped a lot of Spice Girls. (Update: On second thought, having now seen a screenshot from the Sarkeesian game for the first time, Slap a Spice Girl seems downright twee in “comparison.”)

I’m sorry this column is so long. I tried to shorten it, I really did. I’ve excised three long passages already: it’s difficult to articulate what it feels like to be a woman, one who doesn’t feel like a woman, but who obviously is a woman, who doesn’t want to ever pick between being a “cool lady” and a “high-strung” one.

———

I remember when, in 20th Century American Poetry class, a girl turned and fixed me in place with an inscrutably steely look.

What a nag, I must have thought in that interminable moment. What a bitch.

I was insulted only because she’d thought I was her friend. How stupid, I probably said to myself.

I misunderstood her glare, and then again, I didn’t misunderstand at all. She had only acknowledged me with startled disappointment, really, and that alone was enough to insult me.

———

Jenn Frank likes to draw centaurs. Follow her on Twitter @Jennatar.

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  • http://www.twitter.com/alyxjanehall Alexandra

    Thanks for this, Jenn. It's funny to me, at 33, how stone-cold clueless I was in my 20s. I was fundamentally busted. Only in these past 6 or 7 years have I started Figuring Stuff Out. Basic stuff, like you talked about above.

    IMO these are two of the most important life rules:
    - Force yourself to remember that everyone, everyone is a fellow human being. (This gets easier with practice.)
    - Practice empathy. (This does too.)

  • Tom

    Thank you for removing the screenshot of Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian.

  • http://twitter.com/docky @docky

    Lengthy but excellent article! You helped me clear up some areas about my stance on feminism which have been eluding me, and definitely help to establish a broader perspective. The breadth of your story helps establish your own perspective and escapes the single minded nature of a few feminist topics. And absolutely, we all do well to remember everyone else is a human, but also to remember that we're fluid mistake makers. Thanks for the article!

  • http://twitter.com/kokoba42 @kokoba42

    Not too long an article at all. Keep at it!!

  • http://twitter.com/ellaguro @ellaguro

    great article, jen. i'm glad you had the courage to write it!

    • http://twitter.com/ellaguro @ellaguro

      ugh, spelling fail. i meant jenn, i swear!

      • Jenn Frank

        Ha! No, my family always spells it "Jen," so that's more than fine!

  • http://www.kimberra.wordpress.com Kim Berra

    This is great! Thank you so much.

  • http://twitter.com/anguaji @anguaji

    Excellent article! Can identify with a lot of sentiments here (though I've never been antifeminist) and it's great to see someone exploring how convoluted gender identity/internet identity/internal identity is – and how it affects our day to day!

  • yutt

    Thanks the article Jenn, I'm trying to understand the zeitgeist around feminism and gaming, and coming up short.

    People are abused and harassed for all sorts of character traits. Being thin, fat, gingers, black, Jewish, Christian, atheist, vaguely-Middle Eastern, accountants, fans of the wrong sports team in the wrong region – you get the point. Why is it necessary to brand this movement as "feminism" rather than just promote empathy and fair treatment of all people?

    I'm not some inarticulate redneck woman-beater, or punk kid who vaguely hates feminism for unknown angst-driven reasons, like you claim to have been. I'm in my 30s, extremely politically and socially liberal, and all of the women in my life, including my wife and younger sister, are more capable and motivated people than I am.

    In short: I don't hate women. I promote ending abusive language and violence against all people, but realize it is certainly an issue that affects women disproportionately in some areas.

    But let's be honest here. Most feminists are young, privileged, white, educated, employed, upper-middle class first-world citizens, and the "issues" they are fighting are the portrayal of women in male-targeted media.

    This is the equivalent to me forming a group to protest Fabio being on the cover of Harlequin romance novels because it is an unrealistic and negative portrayal of the male figure. My mother and grandmother read Harlequin – do they secretly hate me and wish me ill? Nah, I don't think so. But no one in this echo chamber wants to address the reality that media targeting females has unrealistic portrayals of men as well. This is all about demonizing males, male media, and male sexuality.

    If you think this is an important issue, or helping women, you are delusional. You are only losing the support of people like me, who support equality but not the attacks on male sexuality and media. Volunteer at a woman's shelter. Teach young boys to treat all people (hey animals too!) with respect. Stop whining because you find the cup-sizes of characters in Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball unrealistic. That isn't a social problem, that is a personal problem.

    There are millions of women with real problems. Like being beat, or raising their children without a partner, or being denied equal rights. The fact that video games exist with sexualized depictions of women isn't a problem. If anything it is idolization and worship of the female form.

    Sorry for the rant, but this topic doesn't seem to be going away, and it is tiresome. I don't hate women, and am sick of disagreeing with extremist feminists being characterized as "misogyny".

    • http://twitter.com/LineHollis @LineHollis

      This is bullshit! This comment hit like seven squares and I STILL didn't get bingo!

      • yutt

        Is this some jargon for why you can ignore my comment without responding to it? Is this how you work to help women who are beaten? By ostracizing and mocking people with similar goals but slightly differing views?

    • http://twitter.com/JesperMarksell @JesperMarksell

      How is exposing the built-in structures that enable a patriarchal society in which women are insubordinate NOT helping women? How is there NO link between the portrayal of women in society and the roles given to them?

      • yutt

        Telling a young woman that she can't succeed because society won't let her is a self-fulfilling prophecy and destructive process. It is the poison that much of what calls itself "feminism" feed on. We're overcoming a generational shift in the first world that affects huge swathes of society, including the role of women. Women succeeding and being empowered is not some distant future. It is happening right now. It is our mothers, sisters, and daughters.

        Kasumi having big tits isn't going to prevent my daughter from being president. Teaching her a woman can't be president because society objectifies women in a way different to how it objectifies men *will* prevent her from achieving her goals. The change is an internal one, much like this story told, not an external one.

        Ambition, attitude, compassion, and intelligent are going to overcome any obstacles, and that is what "feminism," and all people, should be focusing on. The rest of this is divisive distraction that causes far more harm than good.

        • yutt

          I wish I could edit my egregious typos. How embarrassing. >_<

          • Mireille

            There are so many other things embarrassing about your posts, I think the typos are the least of your worries.

    • Amber
    • Jenn Frank

      Hmm. Your comment gets really amped up toward its end, has counterpoints to points I did not make in the column — because the column is not about "unrealistic depictions" of "women in games," at all, and is instead about the normalization of beating people up — and then calls me "delusional." It's very surprising! Because the column IS supportive of "people like [you], who support equality but not the attacks on [stuff]," and if you think I am "whining" about any "cup size" but my own, you might want to take another hard look at the article.

      I took really great pains to "demonize" one person, one type of person, and one type of attitude only: me. Me and mine. If you see yourself in there, that's great! But it doesn't mean I'm launching an attack on "you," or continuing a preexisting attack on "you."

      • yutt

        Sorry, I get in trouble using "you" instead of "one". I didn't mean those to be directed at you as an individual. I'm not a writer, and its a bad habit. I'm working on it!

        And further apologies as my rant definitely is out of place here. It is a response to my perspective on the topic women-and-gaming broadly, that I've found no outlet that allows differing opinions. The problem I've encountered is there is no where to discuss these issues if you don't agree with the status quo feminist positions. I certainly am not on the side of those saying hateful things to people like Sarkeesian – but I do believe what she is poisonous and damaging to young men and women.

        I'd like to discuss these issues, and I appreciate (more than you can know) that your reaction was to engage in discussion with me rather than delete my posts and ban me. As that has been my experience so far.

        Anyway, thanks for responding, even if you strongly disagree.

        • yutt

          For those curious, or who disbelieve, this is the "you versus one" problem I'm talking about: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/one-versus-y

        • Jenn Frank

          No problem. But I'm not sure what else I can discuss with you! All of my opinions are already embedded in the column above! If you take issue with any of those opinions, of course, I'd be happy to discuss them with you.

          • yutt

            Sure, I'll try to more directly address some issues your brought up. First, in your opening story, the actions of your acquaintance was far more destructive to the equal treatment of women than yours. You made, at worst, an ignorant comment. Instead of engaging you with why that comment was incorrect or incomplete, she attempted to shame and/or ostracize you.

            I feel the same thing is happening with the movement against male media right now. As soon as I enjoy a game that features an attractive woman, or a male in a heroic role, I'm suddenly no different than an alcoholic who beats his wife, or a person who emails death threats.

            How did we get here? Why can't males have media that speaks to males? You don't have to understand it or find it valuable, but it has the right to exist. I am all for games that depict women in non-traditional and heroic roles, and they exist! Willfully ignoring them just to highlight some ill-conceived talking point doesn't make them go away. We can nitpick any media and find imperfections from our ideals, but there are certainly video games that present admirable role models.

            Frankly I think the idea that a young man can't be inspired by Samus Aran because she is a woman and he is not to be terrifyingly divisive. And that, to me, is what I see Sarkeesian's goal to be. To nitpick and categorize "proper" male and female rolemodels. A young woman can't idealize Master Chief because he is a "male" and therefore his traits and experiences as a human somehow don't translate to her?

            It makes no sense.

          • Brian

            What exactly do you mean by "male media" though?

            Because gaming in of itself certainly isn't a "male media". It should be something that can be enjoyed by everyone– and for a large part it is already. We should be supportive of that.

            It's okay for a game to be designed more for men (a male target demographic), and I don't think you'll find any feminists complaining about that. Having media for males that speaks to males is fine. Nobody is complaining about that, or trying to attack men.
            The only thing we're attacking is sexism.
            Are you defending sexist imagery's right to exist?

            Sure, men can be sexualized too, but that doesn't make it okay either.
            And on that note, I feel like this comic more than anything else helps fellow men understand why the "but men are objectified too!" argument is a bit weak and falls on deaf ears: http://www.themarysue.com/shortpacked-false-equiv

          • http://twitter.com/yutt @yutt

            "What exactly do you mean by "male media" though?"

            To be honest – I have no idea what that means. Specific media that some disproportionately men find valuable, but certain self-identifying feminists don't? Clearly some people find Lollipop Chainsaw says something to them, whether that is mere raw physical sexual attraction, action, I don't know. I'm not personally familiar or interested in it. I assume that something like it or Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball are goto examples of negative portrayals of women in gaming. If there are better ones please mention them, because I am trying to understand this movement but presently it seems hypocritical and myopic.

            "The only thing we're attacking is sexism."

            And what is "sexism"? A man rescuing a woman? A woman with large breasts? My wife has large breasts, is she not an acceptable representation of the proper female body type? Should we demonize visual depictions of woman who have certain figures just because other women don't?

            I don't get it. Spell it out for me. Is a woman getting punched in a fighting game sexism? Is a man? Is a man being rescued by a woman sexism? Is Master Chief requiring a woman to be informed a subtle critique of all men's inability to exist independently without female oversight and assistance?

            Like I've said elsewhere in this thread, we can overanalyze to the point we can find what "biased" we want in any piece of media. I don't understand what standards are, who is dictating to the rest of us what is "proper", or what their end goal is once they convince everyone in the world they are right.

            "Are you defending sexist imagery's right to exist? "

            I wasn't, but I certain do. No communication of any form should be limited by someone elses' choice to feel offended by it. If you want to criticize the Pope, Hitler, or Oprah in an evocative, even offensive, way it should be acceptable.

            Also that comic is overused and ignores its obvious counterpoint. We don't look for oversexualized men in male-targeting media, but female. I assure you the cover of any Harlequin novel is no version of my "male fantasy". Not that I am saying it shouldn't exist! Why shouldn't women be able enjoy a sexy version of Batman? How does that undermine me? It is nothing but an idol, a symbol, of their sexual fantasies.

            Of course it isn't a fully fleshed out human being with our myriad of thoughts, emotions, complications, and talents. It isn't meant to be! It is what they need right then, a hunky guy in a latex outfit. Women (or men!) are capable of understanding I, a real human, am more than an extremely attractive man in a batsuit.

          • 32G

            A woman with large breasts? My wife has large breasts, is she not an acceptable representation of the proper female body type?

            As a woman with large breasts, I think I can tackle this one for you. The problem is not the existence of the breasts*, it's that they're constantly "displayed" alongside pouty lips, vacant eyes, hyper-arched backs, and a general lack of clothing, leading large breasts themselves to be stand-ins for "this woman is a slutty slutty slut, and probably stupid, too." This has a direct result on how strangers treat me on the street, at parties, and perhaps even in interview/boardrooms. And since we're a society that loves ourselves some black and white contrasts, we inevitably read the converse as true: small breasts mean "this woman is basically either a little girl or a man, and could never possibly be sexy." I probably don't have to explain why that's harmful.

            *Well, I also struggle a bit with how large breasts are also inevitably drawn pert, perky, sometimes spherical — no bra on earth can do that for me, and it's been hard for me to internalize reality.

          • Brian

            Re: What is sexism:

            It has to do with the relationships of power dynamics between men and women.
            So, no, large breasts in of themselves are not sexist.
            But, for example, the breasts could be portrayed in a sexist way — e.g. with various negative implications regarding that person's role/place as a woman. So with a busty video game character, the large breasts were deliberately put there by the creators of that character. The breasts themselves ain't the problem– it's the reasoning behind them that can be. Or the associations people make with the breasts are rooted in sexism. But the breasts themselves are just breasts.
            (Or see the other response from 32G)

            So, similarly, a girl being punched in a fighting game can be sexist or could be not sexist all, completely depending on the context. It just depends on to what extent her gender and sexuality actually factor into the moment in question.
            If she's just treated like any other character in the game– that's fine.
            She's a fighting game character– we're going to expect she'll take a few punches and anyone playing the game is going to be cool with that.
            Now compare that to the complaints being hurled at the trailer for the new Hitman game.
            That has women being punched… but they're not being treated equally. It's pretty much one macho dude being the crap out of the women, and the violence is highly fetishized — it's glorifying violence against women in a way that fighting games generally do not (any more than they glorify the violence in fights between two male characters anyway).
            While we would also expect violence against people in a Hitman game too, the particular WAY the violence is shown there is problematic (sexist).

            Re: Censorship:
            1.)
            Sure, you have the right to say what you want.
            But if you're going to say something offensive, everyone ever is totally in their right to call you on it and quite correctly call you a dick. That's kind of the social contract.
            You can't claim you want to make offensive statements and then get uppity when you've offended people and they fight back– you have to own up to your statements.
            So while someone may have the RIGHT to be a jerk, it doesn't mean they should be one, or does it mean anyone should jump in to defend them when they choose to be one.
            Be careful when defending such a person to not be deemed guilty by association.
            2.)
            This issue is also a little more complex and ugly, since again– sexism is about power dynamics. As guys we're speaking from the position of privilege where we're not the ones with the target on our backs, but… yeah, sexism not only wears women down being barraged with it all the time, but that's actually it's very purpose. It's meant to put women in their place.
            To silence them.
            This causes some real psychological harm.

            Free speech does have it's limitations– and those are protections designed to keep people from using their free speech to harm or endanger others. So if sexism is indeed causing harm, then yeah… I'd say there's some rationale behind limiting people's right to be sexist.
            Which is, of course, why workplaces have sexual harassment policies, etc.

          • Self-defense fan

            "That has women being punched… but they're not being treated equally. It's pretty much one macho dude being the crap out of the women, "

            I'm sorry, the same women who went after the macho dude en masse with a grenade launcher? Those women?

          • Sam

            "Why can't males have media that speaks to males?"

            See, here's the point you're missing. Up until about twenty years ago, ALL media fit the exact defintion of 'male media' you described — written for and about males. So your problem seems to be that nowadays ALL media isn't exclusively male. Apparently the idea of ANY book/tv show/videogame written from a woman's point of view featuring a female character offends you. That seems pretty myopic to me. Look around. Most of the media out there is STILL written from the male gaze.

            Furthermore, while Master Chief may be a great role model for anyone, his experience won't speak to a girl in the same way. The experience of growing up female gives you a different perspective, and it's really important for girls to have role models that share that perspective. The main problem with your argument is that you're defaulting male. In this argument women are still "others" — you're expecting women to just ignore their difference, which is impossible. We grew up being treated differently, for better or worse. So unless you're arguing for a completely androgynous, gender-neutral society, there must be media and role models that reflects the female experience, preferably in equal proportion to the media that reflects the male (since, you know, that's how the population statistics pan out)

      • Penta

        Hmm, I've taken a look at this "Sarkeesian-person" since she's basically the only example you mention by name. And I think I see where "Yutt" is coming from… he seems to be responding more to her (by proxy, so to speak) than to you.
        I think that it's kinda natural because there's not much to dislike about you whereas Anita seems to be a "professional victim". She's begging money from her followers so she can "do research" into all the ways women are oppressed. But it's not really reserch if you know the conclusion beforehand, is it? If you're going looking for small injustices you're going to find them! Her reasoning was awful and I must admit that watching her videos made me rather annoyed.

        Anyway, I really liked your article! And the video "games" where you only beat up a person (them being a spice girl or Anita Sarkeesian ) are just awful .

    • IamLegion

      You seem to be equating Anita Sarkeesian being beaten up to Fabio being portrayed on the cover of Harlequin romances. My guess is that you're doing it because you somehow can't see the link between the way society views women & the "real problems women have, like being beat, or raising their children without a partner." Just a teeny clue: writers like this one, and others, CAN see the correlation, & that's why they – or, rather, we – will continue to complain until everyone gets it. Maybe not you, but enough of everyone else that it's no longer the problem it is, now.

      • yutt

        "My guess is that you're doing it because you somehow can't see the link between the way society views women & the "real problems women have, like being beat, or raising their children without a partner."

        No, I don't "seem to be equating" those, because that makes absolutely no sense. I am correlating the sexualization of pop culture figures of both men and women. There are "beat up" games for almost any controversial media figure, including George W Bush, Barack Obama, Michael Jackson, and Justin Bieber. But it is sexist if it targets women, right? If a beat up game targets Bill Clinton it is just crude criticism of a popular media figure and not a concern. If it is Hillary Clinton it is misogyny and representative of why men beat their wives!

        I've no doubt feminist writers do "see correlations", just as Jack Thompson was certain Columbine was caused by DOOM. The entire purpose of my communication is to point out their lenses are so distorted by the obsession of categorizing media according to their preconceptions, they have ruined their ability to judge at all.

        • http://twitter.com/uhlume @uhlume

          Call me when someone makes a beat-up game for a "controversial male figure" simply because that male figure had the temerity to express an opinion (or threaten to express an opinion!) while being male.

          Your comparisons hold no water.

    • Brian

      Um, what?
      While perhaps an aspect of the overall feminist movement, there was practically nothing in this article about the portrayal of women in media at least in the way you described with idealized figures and the cup-sizes of fictional characters. So it's kind of weird to bring up here since you're making a counter argument to an argument that wasn't brought up in the first place.

      The only discussion on the portrayal of women was of real women being portrayed in a very negative and criminally inappropriate way in real life. That's a rather different and more worrying thing than scantily clad DOA characters.

      I think you also are mistaking an attack on sexist jerks as an attack on men?
      Nowhere in this article was Jenn hating on men. The only people she was demonizing was trolls.
      She even outed some of the trolls as being women.
      As long as you're not one of the trolls, you have no need to be offended and should be on her side.

      Re-read the article again. I feel like you may have missed some key points.

    • Ameranth

      "But let's be honest here. Most feminists are young, privileged, white, educated, employed, upper-middle class first-world citizens"

      This is just plainly untrue. The feminist movement began in the 60's and 70's, and those feminists are still around. I really don't know why you'd think otherwise. Feminist come in all types, all ages, all genders.

      As for the rest of your comment….I think you need to do a little more reading on the subject before trying to argue against it.

    • Rachel

      I'm going to be frank with you– one reason why you might get a backlash against your comments is because you come off as increasingly antagonistic as your comment goes on. Especially accusing people of being delusional, whining, not addressing "real problems," etc. for not agreeing with you before they've not agreed with you.

      All of that aside, my experience of feminism is not at all like you're describing it, so some of what you yourself have obviously experienced is puzzling. Perhaps it's just a misunderstanding, perhaps you've simply met some feminists who have narrower or really wonky ideas about what that means. Feminism absolutely addresses global issues, but that doesn't exclude the American experience. It stands for equality, not preferential treatment, for all women of all races, religions, classes, ages, sexualities, etc. but that doesn't exclude the white female experience. As a feminist I'm definitely concerned about the way both genders are portrayed in media, because it shapes the accepted behavior of society– that includes men, but again… you see what I mean.

      Feminism today (in my experience, I don't speak for everybody) is about inclusion, not exclusion. The value of every type of person regardless of the details that make them up. Their right not to be harassed and/or abused for those details. And– yes, talking about things that have seemingly contributed to behavior that belittles, demeans, harasses or threatens people of different groups. Talking about it doesn't– or shouldn't– mean putting down another group (men, for example) just because they're men. That flies in the face of feminism. Some people might do that and use feminism as a shield, and that's unfortunate, but they don't speak for every feminist.

      • http://twitter.com/yutt @yutt

        "I'm going to be frank with you– one reason why you might get a backlash against your comments is because you come off as increasingly antagonistic as your comment goes on."

        I appreciate this criticism and it is something I am aware of and continually work on. It is my natural tone and it seems I'm too old to easily break the bad habits. ;P

        I appreciate and understand the rest of your comment, but definitely find it at odds with my experiences and perspective. For one, why is it necessary for "feminism" to exist by such a name anymore? It is inherently myopic and divisive in name alone. It notes a separation and superiority of 51% of humanity over the other 49%. People can and do make whatever historic citations they want for its existence, but we're growing up as a society. We're fast approaching the point where women are in positions of power, and abuse that power in ways that undermine men and women.

        Why can't we address these problems together as fellow humans instead of trying to label and sub-categorize ourselves?

        • Prinny White

          Hmmm… Well, just because a word has "fem" in the root doesn't mean it's noting women's superiority. After all, "men's rights" doesn't mean that men are superior, and "animal rights" doesn't mean that animals are superior. I think of feminism as meaning "women's rights".

          Also… we may be fast approaching it, but we are nowhere near a point where women are in positions of power. If women make up 51% of the population than I think it would be reasonable that they make up a similar proportion of politicians and CEOs, but they don't. They're not even close. Progress may be made, but equality has not been achieved. So we keep fighting, in the same way that, I don't know, you don't stop watering your garden because your plants have gotten halfway to harvest, or painting your room because you're "almost there".

          I think your last question is the most valid, and the most interesting. I often ask myself why I identify as a feminist, and not an egalitarian. But the truth is: I'm both. I can believe in equality for all people (egalitarian) and believe in equality for women (feminism) simultaneously. Because the one doesn't exclude the other.

          So maybe ask yourself this: Do you believe in that women and men should be equal? If you do, you're a feminist. And if you think everybody should be equal, than you're an egalitarian. These are both nice things.

    • http://twitter.com/CherryNukaCola @CherryNukaCola

      If you are genuinely interested in trying to understand, look at this way: We love games. As a medium, it is lagging behind others in sophistication. Especially in, but not limited to, gender issues. We'd like to see improvement.

      This does not make us delusional or whining.

      If this does not interest you or you think there are more important things going on in the world, I would suggest your time is better spent on something other than leaving rants on someone's personal reflection.

      • Luci

        "If you are genuinely interested in trying to understand, look at this way: We love games. As a medium, it is lagging behind others in sophistication. Especially in, but not limited to, gender issues. We'd like to see improvement."

        Oh, perfect, yes. This, so this.

        Honestly, my main reaction after the 2nd 'tropes vs women in videogames' video was simply – so why HAVE they recycled this trope over and over again?! That's just lazy storytelling – they can't be bothered to think up anything new or interesting! I want MOAR NARRATIVE COMPLEXITY IN MY VIDEO GAMES >:(

    • feisty

      I can’t… I can’t even properly discuss this comment without breaking it down into component parts. The sum of it is just too staggering.

      1: People are abused for all kinds of stuff that they can’t control/believe fervently in, like race, ethnicity, sex, religion, team affiliation, etc.
      A: This is true. The POINT of this particular post is feminism, which deals with the perception of women and how they are treated by society.

      2: You are a liberal and you respect the women in your life. You don’t hate women, which is a great start.
      A: Okay, that’s cool.

      3: Most feminists are educated, fairly well-off white people. They are fighting against the portrayal of women in male-targeted media.
      A: I would hazard a guess that yeah, I suppose a lot of self-declared “feminists” are white people. But what about your average single minority female raising a family? I’m sure she believes in the basic principles of feminism (equal treatment for women as men).

      4: This article (perhaps not all of the beliefs of feminism) focuses on the demonization of males and “male culture”. Everybody looks unrealistically perfect in the media.
      A: Perfection is a fact of life in the US of A. We find our faces shoved in that shit all the time. Did you perhaps think that males and “male culture” goddamn deserves a reckoning period? It’s not about demonization. It’s about pointing out the fact that most roles in film and television are for males. It’s about noticing that the main message is “Ladies, don’t wear a short skirt or you’ll be raped,” instead of “Men, don’t rape at all,”. It’s about figuring out there is a sense of male privilege in the world. If you’re offended by that term, too bad. It’s true. Rich white male is basically the easiest setting for life that there could possibly be.
      To address “unrealistic portrayals of men”, really? I see that men have role models like your typical celebrity (Clooney, Gordon-Levitt, that famous soccer guy I can’t quite think of now, various superbuff athletes/celebs), but the spectrum is so VARIED for men. How many times have you seen a sitcom with the configuration of “fat guy with smokin’ hot lady”? When was there a trend of “fat lady with smokin’ hot guy”? I’m sure many men feel self-conscious about their bodies, but the rate of body image issues is much higher for women than men.

      5: If you think feminism is important, then you are obviously thinking incorrectly. Try helping out battered women (that is actually a real term used to refer to women who were/are in abusive relationships. Isn’t it utterly fucked up that a term had to be invented for that purpose?) or maybe teaching little boys to treat little girls nicely.
      A: FUCK THAT. You really believe that it’s enough to help out those who have already been hurt? To teach those who may hurt or indirectly hurt in the future? That is patent bullshit. The heart of any social movement is SPEAKING OUT about one’s beliefs. It is about causing society to change its mind about abortion, pay inequality, the sex industry, and the right of a woman to walk down the street without being catcalled.
      You don’t support attacks on male sexuality and male media? Yeah, I wouldn’t support it either if most of the things feminists say about either weren’t true. And I wouldn’t support it if it were based on pure hatred. Fact is, feminists are just calling the media out on its bullshit.

      6: Lots of women have real problems. Objectifying women in video games isn’t a problem. In fact, it is complementary.
      A: You fail to make the connection that the objectification of women in media bleeds into real life. And yeah, you didn’t say “objectification”, but the term “sexualization” definitely segways into that. Try substituting other words into your sentence. “The fact that video games exist with sexualized depictions of children/women/animals/couches/asians isn’t a problem.” Should we be complementing each category on how sexy/idolized it is?
      I can’t even believe you called “denial of rights” a “real problem”, because by your determination, most women either already have those rights or don’t need them anyway.

      7: You’re sick of being called a misogynist.
      A: I can see that you don’t view yourself as one. I get it. It’s a big deal if a women can’t vote, but definitely not a big deal if she lives in a world whose ideas are largely dictated by, catered to, and perpetuated by men.

    • Luci

      A lot of people have a problem with the name feminism, and I do understand why. The 'fem' and the 'ism' are both off-putting. I remember in my late teens replying to (a woman) who claimed she hated feminists "me too. I don't hate men, or want women to be better than men, I'm an 'equalist', I treat everyone equally." I qualified.

      Except…clearly all I knew about feminism was the name, and the popular stereotypes that it's a movement dominated by scary, angry lesbians or shrill man-hating old women. If I new any more than that, I would have realised that 'equalist' and 'feminist' is basically saying the same thing.

      And yeah, feminism is working along exactly the same lines that you can use to identify and challenge ANY form of oppression – it shows when a dominant group 'others' and denies rights to another group. (you are not like me, I will portray you badly so I can justify treating you badly and feel better about myself by comparison).

      It IS promoting empathy and fair treatment of all people! Why it has the 'fem' and the 'ism' I can't say as the 'branding' occurred decades before I was born, but probably the name is left over from gaining rights for women (at all).

      "But let's be honest here. Most feminists are young, privileged, white, educated, employed, upper-middle class first-world citizens,"

      That has been a major criticism of feminism. Though I'd say that's not so true of modern feminism or speaking for all feminism, as there are branches of feminism that specifically come from experiences of being 'othered' racially, as well as sexually.

      "and the 'issues' they are fighting are the portrayal of women in male-targeted media."

      Uhm. Well, in media criticism, from a feminist perspective – of course they are! That doesn't mean those are the 'issues' of feminism, just what a feminist critique of media would focus on. Which seems trivial (so that tv show doesn't portray women in a way you'd like? watch another one) but is actually pretty broad (tropes used over and over again on various tv shows – even ones you like!) and important because they both show, reflect and encourage prevalent social attitudes.

      It is, of course, very simplistic to suggest if that portrayal of women is simply *changed*, then attitudes of the viewers would change, because it's not a one-way system that 'programmes' people. But media portrayals and their popular consumption can give you a barometer of how the society in which you live addresses fundamental things.

      Which is why it's interesting and important and worthy of study.

      It is NOT the same as political rights or lack thereof, of abuse and violence against women, of rape etc etc and to say feminism addresses one thing and not the other is pretty disingenuous when you're referring entirely to media criticism. There might be overlap between media criticism and real-world application (you can certainly argue that violence against women in many forms of media shows societies endemic passive attitude towards it; or even encouragement of it, and connect that with violence against women. NOT monkey see monkey do, simply society has a permissive attitude towards it) but they're fairly obviously different areas.

    • Luci

      "But no one in this echo chamber wants to address the reality that media targeting females has unrealistic portrayals of men as well. This is all about demonizing males, male media, and male sexuality."

      Absolutely it does. And absolutely those unrealistic portrayals of men can be harmful and destructive. What is it going to do to your sense of self when you're continually told that to be male is to lack emotions, to be physically capable, entirely self-reliant and anything else is 'weak' when you happen to be sensitive and caring? What if those, otherwise positive traits, are derided in you by your family, friends and the society in which you live?

      OF COURSE THAT'S BAD.

      I don't see anyone saying it isn't – and yes, deconstructing stereotypical gender norms and roles in this way can be as beneficial to men as women; so feminism is good for both! Which is not to say the end of the spectrum of masculinity is bad in a man or the end of the spectrum of femininity is bad in a woman; as long as you're free to embody any of those traits be you man or woman, and what's simply part of your personality isn't stigmatised because it's gendered. (equalism!)

      Though the main difference in the gender roles, and why their stereotypical adherence tends to be worse for women in general (though 'lack of fit' affects the identity of both genders) is that masculine tends to be characterised as active, feminine as passive – and of course one set of traits applied to men and one to women. Do you see how that can present a problem when we're talking about power?

      Also attacking patriarchy is NOT the same as attacking men or male sexuality. People conflate the two. Wiki's definition:

      "Patriarchy is a social system in which society is organized around male authority figures. In this system fathers have authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and is dependent on female subordination"

      Criticising this system is not the same as criticising men.

      "not the attacks on male sexuality and media."

      *blinks*
      as said above, not an attack on males or male sexuality (however you'd define that).
      But male media? What is that, exactly?
      Comics? I read those.
      Films? I watch those.
      Games? I play those.
      Ok, so none of those are exclusively male media. They can't be, because I can access them and enjoy them and I'm not male.
      Porn? Granted, possibly more so, but there's porn I like to so…no. That's mine too.

      Sure, you can argue I might not be the main demographic. And something that's appealing to a 14 year old boy may well put me off – not necessarily because I'm female, but more because I'm 30 and certain things seem boring and immature now (many MMOGs I used to like feel very very tired, for example. Here is a carrot! *grind grind grind* a better carrot! *grind grind grind*) What I really want out of my games (*my* games, the ones *I* play) is depth, innovation, dynamism and complexity. They are appealing aspects to me. And seem like good things for both genders and the world in general!

      "That isn't a social problem, that is a personal problem."

      The personal is the political?

  • http://twitter.com/hawkorhandsaw @hawkorhandsaw

    Jenn, as a guy this makes me think back to all the ways I misunderstood women and feminism when I was in my 20s and the slow trek it took me to even get to a reasonable place regarding women. Trying to wrap my head around how the world treated women completely differently than how i was being treated was really hard to deal with.

    and yutt, derailing the conversation here isn't a nice thing to do. no one was talking about cup sizes in left for dead, and no one was whining. but beyond that, no one said anything about this only being about women. this article is about feminism and women because, well, because thats what this is about. expecting this article to be about the mistreatment of everyone is just not reasonable. this is a personal story that you've decided isn't good enough to be written up.

    and if you think "the "issues" they are fighting are the portrayal of women in male-targeted media" isn't important, than I would suggest you read up on how gender portrayal in children's television impacts the expectations of children and about how media portrayal impacts adolescents. it's actually a pretty important issue that's worth talking about. it might not be the single most important issue facing the world today, but if people were only allowed to be upset about the worst thing in the world then we would be silencing millions of voices.

    • yutt

      So this is a really important issue, but you aren't willing to engage in discussion with someone who questions your motives and direction because it isn't quite the right forum according to your arbitrary standards?

      Makes sense.

      • http://twitter.com/hawkorhandsaw @hawkorhandsaw

        I never said that I wasn't willing to have a discussion at all. i just suggested you read the research on the impact of media portrayals before you claim that it doesn't matter or that it isn't important.

        • yutt

          In that case, shouldn't we be more concerned that Call of Duty makes me want to kill Muslims than that Mario makes me want to rescue women in distress?

          Why would children be exposed to sexualized content regardless of its nature? I wouldn't have my young child look at Playboy, or play Call of Duty, or play a video game with sexualized content – but that has no baring on the sort of content that should be available to adults.

          • http://twitter.com/hawkorhandsaw @hawkorhandsaw

            Yes, we should be concerned about CoD as well, it's not an either/or situation, people can, and often are, concerned about both.

            and sexualized content can be a problem, but i meant more along the lines of gendered content. it isn't as bad as it was when i was growing up, but when the shows for kids portray men as heroes and rescuers and the "doers" of things but portray women as needed to be helped by men, or needing to be rescued, or never being in a position of power, that's a problem.

            when the media shows kids that women don't do things, and aren't the ones who solve problems then the children start to believe that sort of gender construct. when toys for girls are about being pretty or being a homemaker and boys toys are about being a fireman or being GI Joe (or whatever it would be these days), you set expectations for what boys and girls can/should do with their lives.

          • yutt

            What is wrong with men being heroes? Every time a man is a hero and a woman is a victim doesn't necessitate characterizing it as a gender bias. Here in the real world, sometimes men are heroes. Sometimes women are victim. Sometimes male heroes help women victims – in the real world.

            Often the opposite happens, but its only when we focus on obsessively trying to categorize the "gender message" (often claiming views not intended or held by the author) that we invent this "problem".

            Men in US sitcoms are almost universally portrayed as ignorant buffoons barely capable of surviving without the help of their patient, intelligent and understanding wives. The solution to fixing these problems isn't to demonize media that doesn't speak to us, but to create media that does.

            Stop trying to change other people. Stop trying to point to someone elses' artistic vision and labeling it as bad. Make something you feel is worthy of your worldview. If it speaks to other people the solution comes without effort.

          • IamLegion

            Stop trying to change other people. Stop trying to make us accept things that we can show are bad. Strop trying to rationalize the status quo *&* blame people for not being able to change it single-handedly. Or, to continue to quote you, "Stop whining about the portrayal of men in sitcoms & go make your own that you like." See how stupid that sounds?

          • http://twitter.com/yutt @yutt

            'Stop whining about the portrayal of men in sitcoms & go make your own that you like."'

            I expressed the sentiment, so no, I certainly don't think it sounds stupid. Only people who feel passionately about an issue are capable of creating something that speaks to it honestly and completely. Tomonobu Itagaki is going to keep pursuing his own artistic vision, not yours. He couldn't depict yours if he wanted to, because he isn't you and doesn't understand you.

            "If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change."

          • minuialear

            Yutt, the problem isn't that there are male heroes at all (that would be absurd, and surely you realized that and aren't really this clueless about why women/feminists are talking about this); it's that there is a disproportionate number of male and female heroes in media, and that if we look at just female characters, there is a dispproportionate number of female characters with no real agency in the show/game/etc than female characters that do. Surely you wouldn't dispute the fact that when people are exposed to a certain archetype more than others, they start to view that as the norm (e.g., if one lives in an area where the majority of black males are in gangs or dropped out of high school, one is a lot more likely to assume that all black males share the shortcomings of these people than one would be if one lived in a community where most black males were PhD candidates; etc). So when you show children a lot more subservient/passive/incompetant female characters than female characters with actual influence over the plot or in leadership roles, this makes them more likely to assume women in general are like this. When you then create more media that has men controlling/influencing/etc these passive female characters, than media having the strong women controlling/influencing/etc incompetant male characters (without falling into the witchy wife stereotype; more on that below), it makes children more likely to assume the former is the norm (i.e., that guys are heroes, leaders, etc, and women are there to help out or serve some secondary purpose if necessary). There are plenty of studies on this psychology, and I would encourage you to try some research on the subject.

            As for the men in sitcoms, yes, those men aren't always the strong competant leaders, and tend to be fairly incompetant themselves, and the wives tend to be the voice of reason, but there's generally a subtle caveat to that. How many of those wives, for example, aren't of the witchy "I will get ridiculously emotional for no reason in order to manipulate you into doing as I say"/"You will listen to me or I'll be withholding"/etc variety? Or, though the guys may be incompetant, how often do they really get into situations that they actually can't get themselves out of, or which require actual help from their wives in order to fix? In other words, these sitcoms describe female leadership in the framework of "Women are powerful if they manipulate men through emotion, but otherwise aren't helpful except for raising the kids/cleaning/etc," and male incompetance in the framework of "Men are stupid, but even stupid men can figure out how to work through their own problems." Which (to pre-empt a possible argument) certainly happens in real-life for both sexes (i.e., there are women who use emotion to manipulate/control, and men who are idiots but can solve their own problems), but we can hopefully agree that not all (or even most) men are idiots who can't go a day without doing something stupid, nor are all/most women manipulative witches. And there is a definite lack of other examples of female characters to actually balance this out (there are good female characters, definitely, but they are grossly outnumbered by the terrible ones). So we get back into the conditioning issue; when the majority of sitcoms with a "strong" woman are of this variety (doesn't have to be all sitcoms; just has to be the majority of sitcoms), it conditions people watching to believe in the idea that the majority of men and women are like this.

            And to pre-empt any argument of "Well that affects men as much as women, so why focus on women?": it's because despite the harm it causes men, men are still the demographic in the power. In other words, Homer Simpson isn't enough to make a dent in men's rights, because there are enough positive real-life male role models to see that they aren't all like Homer, because men don't have as many barriers in the real world, and therefore have a large presence. Women, having more barriers to success in the real world than men, don't have as many real-life role models that can simply dispel the crappy depictions of women in media, and therefore media only serves to reinforce negative perceptions of a not-as-visible demographic, causing a vicious circle. It's important to focus on women in this issue more than men, because women are affected more by it than men, because there aren't as many women in prominent positions for women to be able to brush aside stereotypical depictions of them (at least in part because women have it harder in many ways than men).

            And I'll pre-empt another possible argument by saying that yes, there are issues men face that women don't, and yes, they are important problems, and yes, we should examine them. But most if not all of those problems have nothing to do with how a culture that oppresses women on a consistent basis reenforces this oppression through its media, and therefore throwing everything including the kitchen sink into this debate is ineffective and is a distraction.

    • yutt

      I never claimed this article wasn't worth being written up. It was an interesting personal story, which is valuable, which is *always* valuable. It is extremely dishonest to put words in my mouth attacking the quality of the article. But an anecdote is an anecdote, no matter the emotional impact it has on us as individuals.

      I very much *do* expect feminism to mature to the level that it drops its obsession with only promoting equality for a specific subset of humanity and acknowledges that people of all groups abuse, are abused, need support, and need enlightenment. Feminism of the sort that calls itself "feminism" does nothing but solidify the idea that women are separate group and should be treated differently than other humans.

      • http://thrillmoms.com Matt Killmon

        If you're not seeing inclusive feminism, then you're not paying attention. All the feminist writers I read make a concerted effort to be extremely inclusive of all people from all walks of life—it's the hallmark that distinguishes third-wave feminism from previous incarnations. The idea of a feminist that thinks "women are separate group and should be treated differently from other humans" is really a sort of straw feminist. Certainly feminists think women should be treated differently than women are treated now, but it's not a feminist tenet—more an anti-feminist trope. It's a stereotype used to dismiss people who identify with a specific label. Are all feminists perfect, or totally privilege-aware? Of course not, they're human, we all make mistakes. But by and large, third-wave feminism seeks to be (inasmuch as any diverse social movement can be) exceedingly inclusive.

        You also stray dangerously close to the idea that all people's suffering is equal, which it is not. Yes, privilege compromises both the privileged and the marginalized, but to argue as though the suffering experienced by men (as a group) and women (as a group) as a result of institutionalized sexism is equal is fatuous.

        • http://twitter.com/yutt @yutt

          No, I come dangerously close to the idea that people of all subsets suffer, and cause suffering. Whether they are men or women is inconsequential. We can break down each suffering human into little boxes and try to rationalize the reason why an overweight homosexual Asian boy who watches Glee is harassed by his peers, versus why a redheaded abnormally tall young woman is harassed by her's. We can use statistics to say that whichever group we identify more with deserves more attention and sympathy from society.

          Or we can accept that the underlying problem is a general lack of empathy for people who aren't like us. A lack of empathy from YOU to people who aren't like you, or aren't like people you know and love. There is a desire to break ourselves in to tribes and declare our superiority of thought and action over all other tribes. This doesn't help anyone at all.

          And where does that get us? All we're doing is creating further walls between us as people. I'll never be a woman, but I'll always be a human. Trying to say a person can't understand human suffering because they aren't a member of the same biological/sociological groups you are is a sure-fire way to make them see you as something different than them.

          Why not emphasize how similar our needs our as humans instead of how I'm a member of group X and therefore can't relate to people members of group Y?

          • DPIWins

            I get the sense that, as this discussion continues, we run the risk of approaching some pretty large philosophical idead about self/other identity. Yutt, you seem to be heading towards an argument that highlights an overall sense of oneness within humanity that you might not be able yet to articulate (as it is quite difficult to do so). Most of the rest of our comments seem instead interested in an approach that favors analysis of subsets of humanity in their particular needs and challenges.

            I want to make sure that both parties understand these two approaches to NOT be mutually exclusive. If anything, the turns this discussion has taken highlight the codependence of the approaches. The needs of the whole can not be addressed without comprehending and accounting for the needs of the individual and vice versa.

            Yutt, you made the case earlier for an alternative moniker by which inclusive feminists could collect that might distance them from the negativity born from within and without that movement since its inception. The desire, even among feminists, to create this distinction is palpable (see reference above to "third-wave feminism"). At a certain point, though, Academi used to be Xe, and Xe used to be Blackwater. What I mean is this: for now, whatever you call a given movement, if even the mention of its name can foster a discussion like the one above, then we're the wiser for it.

            Finally, if we'd like to continue to tackle the challenges here discussed, I'm sure the good folks at Unwinnable will be sure to keep addressing the subjects that keep us engaged.

  • Angelo_Grant

    Jenn: A Teenage Sexist? or a maturing individual.

    Book-ended by your classroom experiences, I have to wonder; what if your casual friend, instead of, quite literally turning her back on you, took an interest in your perspective and took your honest outburst as an opportunity for discussion rather than rejection? Clearly, you had some common ground to build upon. If this had happened, would you have been as dismissive of her as she was of you?

    Judging by your experiences, this incident included, it's no wonder you had the perspective you did. In that light, your response to this hypothetical would probably show a more honest judgement of your character at the time. Would college Jenn have been dismissive to her colleagues inquires and feminist perspective, or would she have been open to viewpoints other than her own?

    Let me share something. I read this article early this morning, and decided to share it with my wife. Neither her or myself are supporters of the modern feminist movement as aligning with it would, by proxy, group us with others who have opposing viewpoints on a major issue. We do, however, agree that women are horribly mis-represented in the media, highly, morbidly over-sexualized, and generally slighted overall. In this we have common ground, and are able to communicate our differences in a mature manner with a few of them. The vast majority of those we've encountered, however, are as dismissive as the college acquaintance you described above, and at times, even hostile in return.

    By contrast, my wife didn't read your article at all, she just let me share an overall impression with her. Unfortunately, with two kids, time is at a premium in our household. She did happen to see your Rambo-taur, at which point her face lit up and she simply said. "I don't have to read this article to know this girl." Trust me, it's true. Were the two of you to sit down and have a conversation, no doubt there would be a lot of common ground between you.

    My point is this: It may not have been you who was showing immaturity in that encounter. I'm not about to generalize against an entire movement, but I will say that there are plenty of women calling themselves feminists that make no attempt to be compassionate or understanding of others, and it is to their detriment. Being hostile does not rally others to your cause, nor is being a "brat" conducive to opening the kind of dialogue necessary to change hearts. Strength and aggression are not the same, and generate radically different outcomes. It's just the old adage, you catch more flies with honey.

    I guess what I'm really trying to say is don't be too hard on yourself, even in hindsight. You grew as a result of your experiences, and in the end, that's what matters.

    • http://twitter.com/yutt @yutt

      Thanks for this comment. While our opinions aren't identical, you've managed to express some of my feelings with more kindness, brevity, and clarity than I've managed.

      • Sean M Parker

        I would say that I strongly disagree with both of your comments, because I feel that they simply, in fact they completely lack perspective and over generalize. And as a 21 year old dude, I certainly cant say I have any sort of deeper understanding of this you might, but I will say this. Back in the 1900's the same dismissive feelings that you, and I imagine a great many people have towards femnisim people had towards Civil Rights organizations like the NAACP due to the perception of hostility towards whites. If you grew up during that time as a black person, or anyone who wasnt white, you wouldnt have that perspective, because you would understand the frustration that a great many people had to endure, and what many people still have to deal with in our society today. Simply put, you are not a woman, I am not a woman, safe to say neither of us have ever had deal with the problems many women face growing up as one. And by no means am I saying that this is a "womens issue", or that men have no say here obviously, really, whether or not anything I typed was remotely coherent (which Im afraid it might be), my point remains that I feel most people who are quick to write of anything considered "feminist", or view that term in a negative light simply lack perspective that simply wouldnt have if they had more of a first hand perspective on these things. Thats just my personal observation, make of it what you will.

  • Ameranth

    Great article. I can identify with a lot of this and think it shows a great strength of self to not only have these realizations and work towards change and acceptance, but also to write about it for the public eye. Kudos to you.

    (The 90's wardrobe mention made me laugh. I think all of my friends at one time owned a pair of combat boots paired up with vaguely androgynous outfits – usually covered with a raggedy flannel shirt. Ah, the 90's.)

  • treevor7

    Thank you for writing this, I'm sure it was not the easiest thing to do, but know that I'm glad to have been able to read it.

  • http://bytenoise.co.uk/ Zoë Blade

    Great article!

    Just be careful not to conflate gender *roles* with gender *identity*. Gender roles are the made up kind; gender identity is not. Gender dysphoria has everything to do with your gender identity not matching your body, and not much to do with the gender roles you fulfil not matching those expected of someone with your body. For instance, a tomboy doesn't conform to female gender *roles*, but is quite happy with their body as it is (society's expectations aside, the body itself isn't a problem). By contrast, a transsexual man doesn't have a female gender *identity*, hence he'll likely start taking testosterone. He'd likely do this even if there was no one around to see the difference. Hence you get some transsexual men who are effeminate as well as some transsexual men who are butch, and you get some transsexual women who are tomboys as well as some transsexual women who are femme. (And, of course, none of these are dichotomies either, but I don't want to get bogged down in details here!)

    Otherwise, yes, this article seems spot on!

    • Jenn Frank

      Thanks for this, very, very much! It's extremely helpful for me, intellectually and personally. :)

  • http://www.itbrog.com Isaiah

    Maybe, hundreds of years down the line and these amazing posts are saved…somewhere. This will go into the book of Daria. I really hope there is a book of Daria and that you are in it Jenn. In my mind, in my world, that's the highest compliment I could give.

  • Carrie

    This is an excellent article. I have been through the whole "I'm over feminism, let's talk about mens rights now" phase of my life and after more careful examination there are still a lot of internalized sexism that I still have to deal with. For example, I'm a software developer. Every time I start a new job I know I'm going to have to prove myself as a software developer. I can't just say "I'm an awesome developer" like many a male colleague. I act the whole "I'm humble" gambit and secretly help other developers when they are stuck until I've amassed enough appreciation for me to feel competent. It's insurance in case I get stuck at some point and I need to ask for help and I don't have to feel oppressed with the stereotype of a woman asking for help with a problem. I did all my CS class projects alone in college because of that stereotype. Because men didn't want to work with women, and I didn't want to work with someone who thought I was incompetent.

    That is just one of the many ways I cope with sexism. We all come up with a lot of different ways to do it. Here are some less pretty ways that I cope: I'm angry at female software developers for being anything less than awesome (how dare you allow men to form stereotypes!) I'm angry with women who aren't software developers (I thought we all agreed that we have gender equality, this is stuff that you can do and pays well, why aren't you doing it?) Clearly its victim blaming, and it's an easy trap to fall into. Ultimately I'm angry that I feel alone and that's because of subtle and pervasive cultural concepts that are hard to even notice, let alone change. It feels much better to blame a scapegoat, even if it's completely counterproductive.

    It's hard to be honest about that. Thank you for the bravery and vulnerability to talk about the ways you've internalized sexism. It has lent me insight into other ways I've internalized sexism. For example, I want to be an artist but something about being a software developer makes me feel like I'm validated (I'm making man-wages with men who treat me as an equal) and if I choose to be an artist then I throw away my fight for equality and turn my back on how I define myself. How do I feel a sense of validity without it?

    I don't think it's possible to be terrible at being a woman. That would imply there is a right way to be a woman. However I think your article makes you an awesome example of a human being.

  • obligatoryspiderqueen

    The length of the article made it a little hard to read. Not because it was too long, but because about halfway in I was distracted by wanting to get to the end and give you internet hugs.

    My story wasn't very similar to yours, but a lot of things rang true. I remember how hurt I was the first time someone on the internet told me they could tell from my art that I was female. "That's funny" I shot back to the man who said it to me, "I thought from your art that you were a girl, too." He was even more insulted than I had been.

    I self identified as a feminist, but the people I counted as role models were all male. Or I thought they were, if I actually look back, women pop up here and there, but I couldn't see that then. I dressed like a girl, but I did boy things. I fought against boys in martial arts. I considered men to be my future professional competition.

    And when I ended up studying game art surrounded by men, I viewed the few other women in my major with suspicion. They drew too much anime. Their designs were too cute, too frilly. I was terrified that potential employers would see me as too much of a girl to make things that appealed to boys, and in my eyes they were part of the problem. I made sure people knew I liked violent, gory videogames. I used my bisexuality as a shield to defend myself against potential accusations that I couldn't model sexist eyecandy just as well as the next guy.

    And after I did get a job in videogames almost all of my coworkers were male, and I got along with them fairly well and thought that I could hang pretty decent. And then the first office christmas party I went to, wearing a dress, one of my bosses said "Wow, you look like a girl for once." and I felt like someone had slapped me. It became this recurring theme somehow, people joking about me looking and dressing so masculine. People joked about me coming into work someday in a pink, frilly dress and a blonde wig. But the thing is, I did wear skirts. Most days I wore skinny jeans and tight fitting tank tops. I didn't dress like a boy at all. But that didn't matter, somehow I'd camouflaged myself so effectively as one of the guys that it didn't matter what I actually looked like. It made me feel sick, like my real identity had just become completely erased. And for what? I still couldn't raise issues about depictions of women without people looking at me with at least twice as much suspicion as if one of my male coworkers voiced the same opinion. I didn't win anything. I just lost something.

    So, now I'm a vocal feminist again. I get invited to less parties but it feels good, man.

  • Paul Laroquod

    The basic question here is, do both men and women have a say in what is definition of sexism? I think it is obviously fair and just that both sexes should have a say in the definition of this word — however, some feminists disagree. If you agree however that both sexes get a say, then you have to accept that what men say and think is important, even if you disagree with a lot of it. Then you can see the so-called 'battle of the sexes' as an ongoing dialogue of which this post is as much a member as the posts it is reacting to, and the posts that react to it. Nobody is wrong for having their say, even if it is upsetting to some, and that goes for the boorish as much as for the oversensitive. It's as annoying to me when a person can't seem to accept that other people have the freedom to participate, as it is when a person can't accept that other people have the freedom to insult those people. I would never insult someone for participating but I just can't get worked up over those who do even though I wish they would shut up. I wish a lot of people would shut up, but living in a world in which other people don't shut up at my command, is a very important skill in life that we should all learn. What we don't need is some big movement to shut certain people up even harder than the rest. If you can't tell whether I am referring to misogynists or feminists here, that's intentional.

  • http://www.ohmness.com Akii

    Great read.

    An NPR story that fits nicely with your article: http://www.npr.org/2012/07/12/156664337/stereotyp

  • Darren Does Fresno

    I have a question about the following line in your story:

    "Humiliating. It was so humiliating, how weak I had become."

    Now there are two ways of reading this, a. that being your sentiment at that time, or b. as your current feeling when reflecting on the situation. If the latter, I would argue that it wasn't weakness, so much as a cause and effect relationship. Throw china on the floor and it breaks; hurl abuse and calamity at a person and a person breaks.

    Or perhaps I'm stupid and you're not using weak as a pejorative against yourself, but rather as a description of your condition. My perception might be coloured by the fact that that's how i use such words. I'm not just feeling or acting as such, I am those things.

    When I was young, I was told I was subhuman, unloved, and unwanted. By a parent. I lived it out for the next two decades. And believing it, I found confirmation of it everywhere. It's only been in the past two years that i've had someone come along and challenge me on that with words and action. If not for that, i'm fairly certain l would be deceased.

    But that it occurs as an institutionalized devaluation of a human being is heartbreaking. I still in some small corner believe I brought it upon myself, but race, gender, nationality, etc. — those aren't choices any of us get to make for our births.

    I cried, devastated and confused, when i figured out racism existed and that people could hate me without even knowing me ("But there are so many valid reasons to hate me!"). I imagine the epiphany must be similar for those groups facing other types of bigotry.

    And i'm sorry i didn't say anything at 1up.

  • Tomm

    Hey Jenn, this was a great article. I only hovered around the fringes of 1up but I was dimly aware that many gamers had a completely unreasonable dislike of you, and vile ways of showing it. It's terrible you had to endure any of that, but I'm glad to see you on the other side rather than believing the internet's crap. Hopefully sooner than later girls won't have to feel that way at all–but especially not in a hobby they may use to escape the nonsense of the outside world.

    • Jenn Frank

      I *think* I know who this is, but rather than posting my random guesses in public, I will just say thanks! I'm glad you read the column in the astute way that you did, which is really as this very positive thing. (I hope it didn't read as bleak! It isn't meant to be!) But I do feel, exactly, like I might've finally popped out the other side of a wringer, not that much worse-for-wear and honestly a lot happier. Thanks for your supportive words, Tomm! (Tomm H.? Eh? No?)

  • diygeekess

    Thank you for the article, and for your honesty. Only by acknowledging and fighting injustice can we end the hate. This applies to any group, although women in gaming have been the subject of a lot of vitriol lately. How horrible humans can be, particularly under the guise of anonymity, is surpassed only by our strength in solidarity. Game on, sister.

  • VampLena

    Excellent Article, Thanks for this Jenn. It really spoke to me, being that I think I am alot like you in many respects. Only I am a lesbian, I'll let it sink in how awkward it can be for a lesbian to be a sexist misogynistic non feminist. I think you probably have it easier being you are hetero and don't have to deal with women. But Im not complaining, oddly, I've found many women complacent with sexist partners, mostly bisexual women.

    Lesbians generally are too uppity to put up with the cold hard facts of life! So consider me a card carrying fan, I'll be sure to read your articles in the future, great writing. Seriously though, I don't hate feminists, I just find many too militant in their attitudes.

    Lena

  • Georgina

    This is Why Simone de Beauvoir.said that a man is born a man a woman has to construct herself,
    Thaks your writting is smart and funny

  • bigjobs

    Thank you for sharing a window into your world. I can't claim to understand half of it. However it does sadden me to hear what you've gone through. You have also started me questioning more about how i turn a blind eye to the dark underbelly of the internet. I ignore the problem instead of trying to do something about it. I'm not sure where i will start, but i guess replying here is even a big step for me as i normally try not to even post comments on any sites because i feel comment sections always turn into troll matches.

  • Aaron Baca

    Excellent and inciteful.
    At the age of 38, I feel like I'm finally starting to "get" Feminism. It took a member of an internet community relating a story of being dominated in a very ghoulish and creepy way by a man that had no idea he was doing it, had no idea that it wasn't appropriate to hit on a woman alone in an elevator in the middle of the night. Should be obvious right? I understood that it WAS, but until I heard her tell it in a frank and calm, almost clinical way I had never understood WHY.
    So here I am, at roughly the midpoint of my life re-assessing my mental processes and coming to the conclusion that I might just be a feminist myself. It's been fascinating.
    Again, excellent article.

  • lola

    This is great. Thanks so much for posting it. I felt very similarly; grew up in the 90's, short hair, army pants, a job in a male dominated field and despite all of my rants about sexism and equality, I didn't realize until I was 30 that I was suppressing my own femininity because I thought it was somehow wrong.

    Don't beat yourself up about being a teenage sexist. You, and I… and most of us are reacting to what we're shown; that despite all the talk of equality… we're still taught to believe that the man's way is the normal way (aka the right way). I applaud you for recognizing that the call to feminism isn't a call to women being "right", but a call to all of us to look inside to what we really value and then examine our behaviours.

  • Nick

    The part of this article about the comments response to her made me want to cry.

    I admit, I'm a man that does not understand gender issues, but from either side of the fence. It seems incredibly complicated to me, but the best I feel I can do is treat people as people first and as their gender third. But sometimes I worry that I might misappropriate "treating a person as a person" with "treating a person as a fellow dude" just because 'dude' is the standard I am most familiar with since I am one.

    Ever since I was a kid I have taken great offense to such phrases as "All men are pigs" and even admit to having had a grudge against women for such sexist remarks, but I have to remind myself that it's a phrase well-earned by far too many other members of my gender, even if it is not earned by myself. But I also try not to associate myself with the male gender either (I even cross-dressed when I was kid, much to the annoyance of my father), but then am I making the same mistake that you did? Is it wrong for me to pursue a vision of reality where there are no genders, either male or female, and that we are all people? Or am I getting the two situations mixed up?

    • Aaron Baca

      "sometimes I worry that I might misappropriate "treating a person as a person" with "treating a person as a fellow dude" just because 'dude' is the standard I am most familiar with since I am one."

      Wow, that's a powerful realization. You ought to be proud. I think the next step is the easier one; now that you're aware of it, you can watch out for it.

      "Ever since I was a kid I have taken great offense to such phrases as "All men are pigs""

      Perfectly reasonable. That's an offensive thing to say.

      Wow, this discussion has been alarmingly rational and polite. What is my Internet coming to?

  • MacCis

    This is an important article, even though I think it takes a few intellectual shortcuts on it’s way.
    First of all, gender as opposed to sex and sexual orientation is not “false”. This would imply, that you can simply put a sticker on a gender stereotype saying “It’s false” and there you go, it’s all gone! As Zoe Balde mentioned, you shoudn’t confuse gender identity and gender roles. Even gender roles, which seem to be more open to change, have a long social “half-life” and are pretty rigid in the time span of one life. Consider language, which changes all the time, introducing new words, leaving old norms and inventing new ones. It would be very naïve to just say language is “false”. Or that you can objectively go around language norms and come up with a purified version of language. The same goes for stereotypes associated with gender.
    Also, gender norms do have a connection to sex and sexual orientation though, again, it’s a convoluted and dynamic connection. As much as we would like to see everyone as a person before we see them as a gender role, race, sex etc., it’s just not going to happen. There is a simple reason for that: our brains don’t have the capacity to start their work form scratch in every instance we meet someone. So we use stereotypes as mental shortcuts.
    In that sense thinking that we are all responsible for the high acceptance rate for gender stereotyping people on the internet is just as wrong as holding everybody responsible for swear words in forum posts. And no, it’s not like voting. Voting takes place in an institutional context that turns the results into institutional and legal reality. Norms form as a result of constant social interactions. If we are responsible for them at all, it’s a very weak sense of responsibility.
    I don’t mean to suggest that everything is OK as it is. Nor do I want to sound like a fatalist. It’s just that feminism rarely has the patience to wait two or three generations for people who will start thinking from the point that it’s not cool to diminish someone because of his/her gender identity, gender role etc. I can see this “instant change” approach here and that’s leading to confusion.
    What can and should be done is constant work on the stereotypes we use, constant reminding that our norms are dynamic. And trying to challenge the ones we use, because we usually don’t see their own limitations. The great question is how to get a social world without sexism and not fall into the trap of convincing people that they can go around interacting other people in a objective void. It’s like rebuilding a wall with brick-by-brick replacements. It’s not flashy. It’s not very effective. And it’s probably the only way to do it.

  • Krail Krast

    I sincerely hope that my message wasn't triple-posted (script errors in IE9 ). If it is, I'm terribly sorry and I hope the duplicates can be deleted.

    This is a really balanced (as much as its possible when dealing with personal experience anyway) and level-headed article. Its really sad that on such hot issues there just aren't enough calm people ready and willing to communicate for the good of us all.

    Regarding feminism in the context of sexual discrimination I believe whe all need a change of perspective, regardless of which "side" are we. Actually, this IS the problem. I used the word "side". This implies that we, people, are divided into two clearly-cut groups. Nothing further from the truth.
    Sexism is a form of discrimination like racism and any other kind of discrimination. In this regard, humankind will never cease to divide people based on just about anything only to have a reason to insult others and get a false sense of superiority.

    Thus, it is my belief that, in order to erradicate sexism, whe must stop thinking in terms of gender. The notion of being a "man" is as ridiculous and idiotic as the notion of being a "woman". Equally so for "gentleman"/"lady" and other derivatives.

    We are human. Science classifies us as Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Medicine and Biology classify us as females and males because of how we reproduce. The law states that we are all citizens. These are rational classifications that serve a real, objective purpose that benefits us all. Any other classification that can't justify its existence in a clear-cut, objective manner shouldn't be even considered by a level-headed, rational being.

    Feminism is inherently flawed because it aknowledges the very existance of this group of people labeled as "women" by fighting for equal treatment. Its a subtle issue really (and please pardon me if I fail to express myself in a clear manner) : by fighting for one side you actually reinforce the status quo because you aknowledge this division into genders as being a valid one.
    Feminism doesn't raise the question wether or not genders are a valid way of dividing people : they only fight for the rights of a minority within this artificial construct thus ensuring that the gap between people labeled as "men" and "women" will always remain.

    Furthermore, this problem isn't exclusive to feminism; all similar movements are affected (wether its racism, ethnic discrimination, religious discrimination, you name it).

    Personally I consider myself as a member of the human species and a citizen of this world. I have no gender, I belong to no ethnic group, I have no religion. I am a product of my parents genes, shaped by years of interaction with this world and its inhabitants. If I am to be judged by anything it is going to be by my actions and thoughts alone. I care not for arbitrary classifications imposed by pseudo-values safe guarded by ignorants and fanatics.

  • krnlkin

    thank you for sharing your perspective

  • Mags

    Amen. I identified with this a lot. One of the hardest things for me has been examining my own privilege and internalized sexism (and working to overcome them, because I sure haven't gotten there yet. It's going to take a long time to untangle this knot).

    I hope this gets other people thinking in that way, too, and maybe opens them up to their own privilege or harmful views they take for granted.

  • Gabrielle

    Spot on, spot on, spot on. Glad to see that people support you, which surprised me. (just going to show how much I underestimate the human race sometimes.) I thought me and 1, maybe 2 friends were the only ones who saw the world this way. We are both 15, and sex equality is one of the most important things in my friend's world. We all have our cause, right. I hate when people say how trivial it is. As someone here already pointed out,(cudos to that fellow) only dealing with the worst things in the world would be silencing many voices.
    Yes, my friend gets a saddening amount of crap, from both genders, for her 'controversial' opinions. Things as simple as, say, not all women are soft and caring. Every time she tries to start a conversation about the smaller forms of sexism in our world, she often gets slammed down or the typical response is more, they shut her out. They don't want to hear it. They refuse to talk about it which is their right, but it to be more than that: they simply prefer to keep their eyes shut about even about stuff like, 'hey, why should men open the doors for women? They aren't frail by definition. They have arms of their own.' they say it's tradition, 'the way things have been forever' (I hate that especially.) and comfort themselves by writing her off as a crazy, aggressive feminist.
    So, now she has the reputation of a whacko. Which I know for a fact she is not. That definitely gave me insight on how feminists got this scary, general reputation. I am not denying some of them are quacks. But some people who fend off racism can be quacks too. Simply they get less criticism, I'll never know why. Actually I know why. I just fundamentally disagree with it.
    Anyway I'm not worried about my friend, she's braver and stronger than any person I have met so far. She actually scares me a little… She is the example I keep in my back pocket in case I meet a jerk (I mean that word in a 100% gender-free way. I specify to avoid confusion.) who thinks women are weak.
    I would also like to point out that me and my friends don't just lament about how and women have it. We mostly discuss how all forms of discrimination (although gender does spark the most passion in her), and I mean ANY kind, just comes back to bite us all, present and future, in the ass. We both think it is a hilariously useless human trait, discrimination.

    Enough about my life, and back to you, Jenn. Moved me to What I call tears on the inside, you know, the swelling in the heart and this time, a feeling both of desolation and of, you know, 'not all hope is lost for the human race'. You made me feel that, Jenn, because your story is so honest and, although you live in a completely different context as I, exactly what I feel towards the conflicts of gender role/identity, and the fact that I am a woman, what society thinks /vs what I think that should mean. Cudos to you, cudos to your fans, and I hope to raise my children in a world where this is the norm for women (not being like you, much as I admire you, simply because… That would be weird. But you know, being people instead of commercialized bimbos, and -less appalling but still depressing- some soft, feathery creature. And those aren't the worst or the only stereotypes, but I'm afraid I don't have the emotional energy to point them all out.) I think men and women alike have the potential to be wonderful, equal people. Sorry if that's a little rainbows-and-unicorns, as a way to put it. :p
    As to whether testosterone and estrogen and shit influence women and men into being different, by golly I honestly don't think it fucking matters. I'm no scientist, and yes I do believe there are major biological differences between men and women, physically, and I know there are theoretical rumors about how women and men's brains are different (which I think is bull because studies on the brain are so scarce and new, and I can't find any of this so called research) even, say, it IS true, I just don't see it. In the people I talk to, in the way they act, they're all so fucking different irrelevant of gender. Gender is a refuge for some, an excuse they use for that shitty character trait or the other, and frankly I feel a little sad for them… Sometimes you have to say fuck it to testosterone and PMS hormones and the so-called 'bond' mothers and babies form during the pregnancy and just look around and do the math for yourself. I think they call it…. Individual thinking. (ooh, scary. Actually… For some, I guess it is, huh?)

  • Gabrielle

    Sorry this is so very long for a comment, but boy Jenn, did you get my brain juices flowing.
    I will finish off by saying, prejudice is a nasty, lurking thing. I know so many people who think of themselves as open-minded, such as my own mother and sister, but when I talked to them they radically rejected, take my word for it, the concept that girls are not wired to like unicorns and barbies and men not wired to love violence and action heroes, but that society cultivates this tendency. I mean, they would not even consider it. It opened my eyes about my own family… And like that riddle proves (fuckit, I fell for it myself!!) about how deeply rooted it all is.sometimes I have my moments of doubt. And then I remember who I am, how I think and what I like. And then in my whole body I am sure, I do not belong to a weaker sex.
    (ad that my friends, is because it doesn't exist.)

  • Gabrielle

    (and ps, sorry about any spelling, grammar or world repetion. Typing furiously fast has that effect on me, even though I am not particularly uneducated. :p )

  • Steph

    I couldn't figure out the answer to the riddle you posted (I have never heard it before), so I just googled the answer. And I'm blown away.

    I, a proud feminist, have internalized sexism. This world sucks.

  • Colin
  • Thatoneguy

    Is just the beginning girls didn't usually game as much as guys before so the more girls going to be all over the more the things will be normal.

    That's the only thing i understood from your post that guys threat girls bad because of their sexuality in gaming communities but that ain't true things changed people evolved.

  • Mike

    It’s rare nowadays that I read something on the internet that is this long from beginning to end (sad, I know). I read every work and it was insightful as hell. Bravo.

    “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” -Kurt Vonnegut

  • http://liquorice-bomb.blogspot.com/ Stewart

    I'm ashamed to say that even though I've always considered myself to have progressive views, it wasn't until I was in my forties that I finally learned to shut up and listen to what feminists were saying, and I started to comprehend the female experience. This is one of the best articles I've read on the subject, I will be sharing it. Thank you Jenn.

  • jcorliss23

    I had a thought when you wrote that, of sex, sexual preference, and gender, gender was the fake one. I know that this was more rhetorical than anything, but I still wanted to point out that you could say, rather, that gender is the only one that is real. I’m going to ignore the point that there is cultural variation to the very fundamental concept of sex, and admit to oversimplifying when I say that: sex divides the world into male and female based on chromosomal variation that is, in reality, a good deal murkier than these crisp, convenient binaries suggest, both in terms of the reality of modern human chromosomal variation and in the longer term evolution of sexual reproduction. And if “sex” is a greyer classification than it is made to appear (or than it needs to be) in everyday, commonsensical discourse; “sexual preference” is an overwhelming beast of contradiction that certainly demands an examination of the social, historical, and evolutionary contexts out of which even the term itself has emerged.

    Gender varies from culture to culture, and changes rapidly over time to couch politics and power in the legitimating hegemony of the “natural” or even “biological”. But the social being cannot escape the force and reality of gender. Regardless of our critical awareness and resistance, it is a defining feature and frame of every aspect of our everyday sociocultural lives—perhaps even moreso for those who have adopted a more critical eye. We cannot escape the gendered world. And despite the fact that individuals have little to no power over a society’s gender system, it is fundamentally a system of meaning that we, ourselves, make, and by doing so, make real. It is true that, to a degree, we are free to adopt and reject particular gender roles and ideas. But this is still, in many ways, fiddling around in a game whose rules we have no control over. We cannot escape the ways in which gender frameworks structure so many details and trajectories of our everyday lives.

    Anthropologists remind us that race is a “social construct”. That the fraudulent “biology” underlying the various modern formulations of race has been obsolete for a century, though occasionally rearing its head again dressed up in some new buzzworthy pseudo-science. But it is a severe miscalculation to argue that a social construct is not real. Just like race, gender is very real.

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