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Wear a skirt, get arrested.

26 Dec

Wearing a revealing clothing is now a crime in Swaziland. Correction, it’s been a crime since 1889, but the country just started enforcing this law against “immorality” more stringently. The reason? To prevent rape.

Classic victim blaming. Unfortunately it’s a sentiment that’s pretty widespread. The idea is that when a woman gets raped, she is somehow complicit in her rape. She encouraged the rape by inflaming the passions of the man who then couldn’t control himself and so he raped her. Had she not inflamed his passion she would not have been raped. Ergo, it’s her fault.

This view of rape is pretty degrading to both sexes. One, it assumes that men are savage beasts without the higher functions like self control and responsibility; secondly, it places the fault of the rape on the victim rather than the person actually perpetrating the rape.

The “logic” here is so ass backwards it’s astounding. I can’t really think of a way to explain to people who think like this. No matter what, a victim is never asking to be victimized or deserves it. “But if you play with fire you have to accept the responsibility that you’ll get burned” is usually how their response goes. Fire is not a sentient, self aware being capable of making a choice not to victimize another person. The responsibility not to rape is solely the responsibility of the would be rapist.

Proponents of this law weakly offer up the excuse that it is easier to rape people wearing skirts then it is to rape people wearing more clothing. This is absurd. The amount of clothing is trivial. If someone wants to rape another person, the fact that the victim has on slightly more clothing isn’t going to make a difference.

I believe much of this line of thinking stems from viewing women as something slightly less than human, as a form of property. When a woman is a thing you posses  rape no longer becomes a brutal crime against another human being, but rather a crime of vandalism against your possessions.

Prometheus sucked

12 Jul

*Spoilers*

I know I’m a bit late on posting this review, but I need to get this off my chest. Prometheus made no sense. The more I think about the movie, the more things I realize made no sense.

I went into it thinking it would be a prequel to the iconic feminist film of the 80’s. Instead I got a disjointed, poorly thought-out anti-science movie.

Throughout the film there is this strong faith vs science undercurrent, with the filmmakers falling firmly on the side of faith.

So a group of archaeologists find a similar painting that has been found on several locations all over the planet depicting a constellation. Somehow, from this, they come to the conclusion that this points the way to a planet where aliens exist, and that these aliens created us. Quite a jump from a couple of stick figures in a cave. Not to mention the fact that we already have an explanation for how life developed on the planet. Furthermore, it takes more than one star to be in a constellation. Stars can be in a constellation together, but in reality exist millions of light years apart. How did they know which star? How did they know which planet around that star? But whatever, moving on.

A dying multi-trillionare builds a spaceship solely for the purpose of going to this planet. He then staffs the spaceship with various costume scientists. I say costume scientists because none of them actually do any science, nor know any science as made evidenced by the token “biologist.”

Before they land on the planet there is an exchange between the “biologist” and Elizabeth Shaw, the archaeologist. Elizabeth Shaw explains her stick figure idea and the “biologist” laughs and asks her why she thinks that. “It is what I choose to believe.” is her reply. This line comes up more than once. The way it is used, and the way so much else in the film rests upon the concept it conveys, it’s as if the screenwriters thought this was some brilliant rebuttle to skeptics.

News flash: Choosing to believe something has no impact on whether or not it is true. None what so ever. It does not strengthen your claim. It only shows that you have nothing other than your own delusion with which to support your views. I can stand in front of a train and “choose to believe” that it won’t hit me. I could believe as hard as I possibly could, but it would be nowhere near as hard as when the train does actually hit me. Reality doesn’t give a shit what you “choose to believe.” Here in the real world, facts matter.

But back to Never-never land. After Elizabeth gives her lack luster response the “biologist” responds with “Yeah, like you’re going to disprove 300 years of Darwinism…”

This one line shows just how little of an actual biologist this “biologist” is. Darwinism? Who the hell calls evolution “Darwinism?” You know who? People who don’t understand evolution and attack it. Creationists in the US use the term “Darwinism.” The fact that this character used that term instead of evolution instantly showed the screenwriter’s hand. Secondly, the ignorance of the screenwriter is further revealed by having the character rhetorically ask if she was going to disprove “Darwinism” by showing that life was created by aliens.

Newsflash #2: Evolution has nothing to do with how life began. That’s the field of abiogenesis. Evolution deals with how life (surprise!) evolved. The fact that “biologist” doesn’t understand this shows that he really isn’t actually a biologist. Lastly, even if somehow you could prove that life was started on the planet by aliens, that wouldn’t disprove evolution. See Newsflash #2.

If I remember correctly, someone asks Elizabeth something to the effect of “Well if the aliens made us, then what does that do to god?” To which she replied “Well who made them [the aliens]?” Again the screenwriter shows that he’s an idiot. This is just an infinite regress. I could just as validly say “well who made god?” To which most theists just arbitrarily decide to break the cycle by choosing to suspend the rules of “everything must have a cause” and declaring their god above the rules that govern everyone else.

Throughout the film people keep trying to take Elizabeth’s cross necklace of her neck, but she keeps putting it back. One character even says to her “Even after all this, you still believe?” Elizabeth just brushes off their criticism and continues to believe in the iron age god of the desert. I say that for a reason.

The symbol of the cross is not just  some amorphous symbol for a higher power. It is the symbol for a very specific deity with specific attributes. It is the symbol for the Christian god. Here is Elizabeth: on a planet in another solar system, after having discovered that aliens created life on earth, that those aliens then were going to destroy that life, and was recently attacked by said aliens. Despite all this she still feels that the story of a deity impregnating a virgin girl 2000+ years ago in the desert and then sacrificing himself to himself in order to forgive mankind for being the way he created them, she feels that all this is still reasonable and valid.

Sorry, forgot. Movie on, brain off.

A subplot of the story revolves around a robot man. This robot is having problems with the question “Do I have a soul?” For some unknown reason he decides that he wants to kill all humans and proceeds to subtly fuck everything up once they’ve landed on the planet. This is ridiculous because for the entire two years that everyone else was helpless in stasis, he was alone on the ship. He could have killed them at any moment, but instead waits till they land.

Furthermore, it’s hilarious that the multi-trillionare man doesn’t realize the robot is asking the same questions he is. It is clear to everyone in the audience that the robot is self aware and capable of feelings. He displaces amusement, concern, curiosity, and malicious intent. Yet at the end of the movie Elizabeth’s character reminds him that it is impossible for him to understand some things or have a soul because he did not come out of a vagina.

Speaking of vaginas, this movie has a very strange relationship with gender. I’m not sure if it’s an anti-feminist movie as well as being anti-science, but at the very least it’s just weird when it comes to gender issues.

The multi-trillionare guy gives a speech about how the killer robot is the closest thing he’ll ever have to a son.  Yet later we find out that the person in charge of the expedition, Meredith, is his daughter. Why snub your daughter like that? Some people believe she is a robot too, but this is not the case. She had to be woken up from stasis. If she was a robot, there would have been no need. She could have stayed up for 2 years with David watching Lawrence of Arabia.

Furthermore, she goes off and has sex with the captain of the ship. Why would her father’s company make a daughter robot with functioning sexual organs? Also, nobody questions her emotions when she shows them yet they all doubt David can feel anything.

So we’ve established that there are at least two human females on the ship. Oddly enough, the movie DOES pass the Bechdel test, but barely. These women speak to each other only for a brief moment. Either way, this brings us to one of the strangest parts of the film. Elizabeth gets impregnated with an alien baby via her infected lover. She runs to the super expensive auto-surgery machine on the ship to have it cut out of her. She tells the machine what proceedure she needs and it spits back the error:

“Sorry, this machine is calibrated for male patients only.”

What the hell? Why? Why even write that bit of dialogue into the film? She gets around it and the machine cuts the alien baby out, but still, wtf? We’ve already established that there are at least two women on board the ship. Why would a surgery machine in the future be biased against them? What if something happened, like it did in the case of the movie?

Throughout the movie nobody seems to be overly excited about making first contact with another life form, nor do they seem overly concerned when people start dying. There is one point where two crew members are trapped in the alien building and the captain sees that something is moving on the scanners. He doesn’t act the least bit concerned and instead just brushes it off. The two crew members die and nobody gives a shit.

Somehow the captain figures out that this planet is a weapons facility where the aliens that made us were creating the predator aliens for use to kill us all off. He must of had some of what the archaeologists had for breakfast because he figures this all out while sitting in his chair.

This fact is completely ignored at the end of the movie when Elizabeth wants to travel to the alien’s home planet. “I want to know why the decided not to kill us” she states to David the robot. Well clearly they didn’t decided not to kill you. What was the first thing the alien did when you woke him up? He tried to kill you then tried to fly his spaceship with the weapons towards earth to kill everyone else. That was the whole reason the Prometheus ship had to suicide ram the alien spaceship.

Yet the screenwriters ignore this and Elizabeth gets on another ship to sail off into the stars armed with nothing but a bag of cheetos she looted from the escape pod…

 

Is it irresponsible to try and change the world?

18 Jan

A few months back, perhaps a year or so, I can’t remember, I got into a heated discussion with someone over politics and religion. Nothing unusual right? Well it was for me because, at the time, this was a person for whom I had a great deal of respect an admiration for, and to hear this coming from her blew me away. I’ve often thought about what she said from time to time, and it’s always bugged me. We had plenty of fights, but this one really stuck with me.

She told me something to the effect of “It is irresponsible to try and change the world because you might mess it up even more.” Just ponder the implications of that for a moment. Don’t try and improve things because to might make them worse. Sure you might make them better for people, but you could make it worse. What struck me immediately, though I didn’t tell her to her face, was the irony of that coming from her, a woman attending college with me.

She could go to school, she could get an education, she could vote, she could dress as she pleased, do what she wanted, etc. She was able to do all of this and not be married and pregnant at 12 because generations of women before her had the audacity to be irresponsible and fight for change. The next thing that struck me was just how convenient it was for her to be white, upper middle class, and born in the US in the late 20th century when previous generations had already secured the rights she now took for granted. Of course it doesn’t affect you too much if the world stays the same! You’ve already got everything!

And yet I was the irresponsible one for wanting to make it better, for feeling like having the power to change things for the better gave me the responsibility to do so. I’m sorry, but this just boggles my mind. Am I missing something here? Is it really irresponsible to try and make the world a better place because, heaven forbid, you find a way to actually make it worse than it already is?

 

Bechdel Test for Video Games?

19 Dec

The other day I read an interesting review of the new Tron movie by Ashley F Miller. In her review Ashley mentioned the Bechdel test. What is the Bechdel test you ask? It’s simple:

This got me thinking, what about a Bechdel test for video games? I searched around but couldn’t find anything much besides this blog post by .tiff.

My question is this: how would the Behdel test apply to video games? Would it need to be modified? .tiff points out that one of the biggest ways video games differ from movies is in the player’s control of the character. Whereas in a movie we can only sit and wait for two women to talk to each other about something other than a man, in a video game it’s up to the player to make that interaction happen. This then brings up the issue of whether or not the game developers make it necessary to talk to a named woman about something other than a man in order to advance the story, or not.

Someone in the comments of .tiff’s blog post also brought up the point that many video games don’t have much talking at all, at least not by the main protagonist. How would this affect the Bechdel test when applied to video games?

What about video games that have female main characters? How would this affect the test if you had the ability to choose to play as a female or if you were required to play as a female? RPGs like Oblivion, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age let you choose to play as a woman, whereas other games like Portal, Bayonetta, and Mirror’s Edge require you to play a woman. Should these be counted differently? Should one be weighted more heavily than the other?

I think it’s important to keep in mind that the Bechdel test is only about gauging the involvement of women, not about the portrayal of women. I’m tempted to ask questions about how the video game has women dressed, how their bodies are built (are they normal people or super sexualized?) and whether or not they need rescuing in some capacity. (sidenote, if you play as a female in the Mass Effect series, there are a lot of times you have to rescue the helpless male, which I find extremely refreshing)

I think recent RPGs have really been doing a good job as far as including women goes. Games like the ones I mentioned above have a lot of female characters in them, with a bunch of quest important named females. (Not to mention the fact that you can play as a female, and in the newer RPGs can engage in relations with NPCs without regard to the gender binary) However, this still brings us back to the question of whether or not the bar should be at different levels for different genres of games. RPGs need a good amount of women in them to create a realistic world feel. (Because, surprise, women make up half the population in the real world) Should a game like that really be weighted the same as say an FPS that has a large female presence? Should the game developers of an FPS get more credit for including women in a genre largely devoid of them? (Whereas women are standard in RGPs)

Thoughts?

I don’t get religious women

1 Dec

I seriously can’t understand them. Well I take that back. I can sort of understand liberal religious women and the ones that are into “woo,” but I can’t for the life of me understand the more conservative/fundamentalist ones.

Conservative religion is the bastion of misogyny, patriarchy, and chauvinism. In the name of all that is good, how can you submit to that!?!? Conservative religion views you as chattel! I am not being metaphoric there, you are literally viewed as property to be bought and sold. You are simply a beast who’s sole purpose is to provide a man with free labor and heirs. If you die in the process, he just goes out and buys a new one from some other man.

They tell you that you’re sinful, abnormal, unclean, and unworthy. How can’t you take that? How can you accept that?

They strip you of your humanity, your chance at an education, and your dominion over your body. You are an object, a piece of meat, a slave.  Your duty is to raise more children, and if they be daughters, to tear away their person-hood as well.

You must dress modestly and cover your head to show you are “under control.” In some religions you must cover your entire body, least a man sees a glimpse of skin and rapes you, at which point it would be your fault and your execution by stoning swift.

You are not allowed a voice or even a mind of your own. You are to serve in silent submission.

Now I know there are varying degrees in which conservative religious women live like this, but these views are still at the heart of how they live their lives. I just can’t fathom how such a thing can be so popular with women. Women tend to be more religious than men, as a whole. Now I know some women just attend religious services for the community support and because they believe it’s necessary for their children to be healthy moral individuals, but it still doesn’t explain how they manage to ignore this. (Or why they accept such horrible treatment)

I’m just at a complete loss. I would think women would recognize these views as abhorrent, yet conservative religion is very popular with women. Is it brainwashing? Masochism? What?

Should feminism include men?

30 Nov

The other day I visited a thread on an atheist website about feminism and the role of men. It was a very interesting discussion, with most people agreeing that men can be feminists and help, but their was one particular poster who would have nothing to do with it. To her, feminism was solely about women and improving their situation, no men allowed.

At the same time another woman, who disagreed with this poster, presented a very interesting article from The Daily Kos titled: “15 aspects that must be recognized in third-wave feminism”.

The very first item on the list states:

“There must be a widespread understanding that feminism does apply to men. Therefore, men who stand up for feminist issues may, and should, be identified as feminist. It is counterproductive and hypocritical to discuss gender equality while simultaneously creating a double standard towards males who share feminist values.”

The author then goes on to say that feminists can come from any walk of life, men included, and that feminism is inclusive, not exclusive.

Back to the thread. The lady who started the thread then got into an argument with the “no men allowed” poster over the goals of feminism. To the OP, feminism, while it may have began as a movement directed at undoing the wrongs done to women, has now morphed into fighting for gender equality across the board, men included. According to the OP, the feminist should not only be concerned with fighting the strict gender roles society imposes on women, but the roles imposed on men as well.

As mentioned earlier, the “no men allowed” poster would have none of it. “If that’s what feminism has become, then I guess I’m not a feminist anymore.” Her goal seemed decidedly set on retribution as opposed to making things better for everybody.

For the longest time I was scared to say anything on feminism for fear of running into this person. For the longest time I questioned whether, as a man, I had any right to have an opinion on feminism, much less voice that opinion. I felt like when feminism was being discussed by women, I had to sit in the corner like a child and keep my mouth shut. After all, I was the enemy.

But you know what? I realized something the other day. Men do have an important role to play in feminism. If feminism is going to have any shot of changing society and gaining equality for women, it’s going to have to include men.

Now let me be crystal clear. I am not saying women are dependent on men to do anything. What I am talking about is the simple reality of how movements work.

In order for a minority to achieve something, it needs the help of the majority. It doesn’t matter who the minority and majority are. Blacks could not get the civil rights acts passed without the help of white legislators. Gays could not get anti-homosexuality laws repealed without the help of straight allies. Atheists will be unable to get the separation of church and state enforced without the help of their theist allies. This is a fact of how things get done.

Women may not be a minority population wise, but unfortunately in every other aspect of life they are. They are a minority in government, in businesses, and in churches. They will not get anywhere by alienating the majority in those spheres.

For centuries male has been considered “normal,” the default. It’s part of male privilege and the majority of men are so accustomed to this they don’t even notice. Women trying to tell them that it is not normal will only have so much of an effect because the men they are trying to talk to are living in a bubble where they see the woman as abnormal. “Of course she’s going to say that! She’s a woman!”

This is where men can have their greatest impact. As I talk about in this post, men are able to break through that bubble and reach other men simply because they are deemed “normal.” A guy can easily dismiss a woman’s attempts to correct male privilege simply because she is a woman, but if a man stands up and says “Look buddy, these assumptions are not normal, they are people too and deserve equal treatment”, then that will bypass the other man’s defenses and stick!

So to that “women only” poster I say no. No I will not sit down and shut up like a child. Gender roles and society affect me too, and I am part of the solution. If you’re interested solely in retribution for something other men have done, then I don’t know what to tell you, but I’m interested in working to make society better for all of us, regardless of sex or gender.

Woman has orgasm while voting- commercial

28 Nov

Recently the Young Socialist Party of Catalunya (in Spain) resealed this ad to encourage people to vote.

Now apparently people from both sides of the political spectrum have come out to criticize this ad as “highly offensive.”

A woman having an orgasm is highly offensive? Seriously? Meanwhile people think stuff like this is perfectly ok:

What I think is going on here is a perfect example of how people feel threatened by female sexuality. “A woman enjoying herself! Oh my heavens no! Women are supposed to be asexual angelic beings!” What’s the saying? “Nine out of ten women dislike sex, and the tenth is a prostitute.” People are just so unnerved at any public acknowledgement that women can enjoy sexual pleasure. In private, sure, but in public women must conform to the double standard and be sexless.

Shame on you Spain, and shame on everyone who is so prudish and repressive to feel offended by this ad.

Gender specific insults

22 Nov

So earlier today some lady on the road really pissed me off. Being human, I mentally shouted a slur at her as I swerved past.  Afterwards I realized that the slur I had mentally shouted had been a sexualized slur. I did it unconsciously, not actually giving any thought to this woman or her sexuality, but nonetheless I realized this after the fact.

Have you ever realized how sexualized insults are in American English? I wonder if it’s a cultural thing. I studied German back in university and I remember that a lot more of their insults revolved around cleanliness. Sure they had sexual insults, but you would never hear an American calling someone filthy swine.

It seems that in my culture when you want to insult a woman, you make some claim about her sexuality and promiscuity. When you want to insult a man, you make some comment about his manhood, usually equating him to being a woman. What gives? I know patriarchal Victorian attitudes about sex and gender roles are at the heart of it, but I’m dismayed that such attitudes have survived subconsciously in our language.

Driving in that car, I had no grounds from which to speculate as to the other driver’s sexuality or promiscuity. I’m a little ashamed that I automatically mentally spit out such an insult. At least it provided me with some food for thought. I’m going to have to work to undo the subconscious societal training and come up with more creative, gender neutral insults for idiots.

I probably won’t get married or have kids…

16 Nov

I say probably because they say never say never.

Currently at this point in my life, being almost 23, I do not want kids, and I don’t foresee myself wanting kids any time in the future. When I tell my mother and my grandmother about this they get very upset, especially my grandmother. It’s really amusing to hear my grandmother try and convince me that I must have children, just because her view of family and gender roles is a blast from the past. (She was married in the 50’s)

I do not want to have kids for several reasons, chiefly among them is the fact that I honestly do not feel the strong need to make a copy of myself. There are billions of people on this planet, I don’t need to add to the strain by further burdening it with little versions of myself. The rest of my reasons are purely selfish, and there is nothing wrong with that.

My happiness is my number one goal. Having children would take the next twenty years of my life away from me. I would no longer be living my life for me, I’d be stuck changing diapers, rushing to keep doctor’s appointments and speeding off to band practice. I don’t want that. I have one shot at life and I want to experience and travel as much of the world as I can before I die. Giving up the prime of my life to drive a minivan full of children is not conducive to my happiness. Trying to have a raise a child and travel a lot at the same time would not be healthy for the child, so rather than try to do both or give up my dreams, I’m just not going to have children.

Furthermore, raising a child costs an incredible amount of money. Food, doctor bills, clothing, toys, school supplies, a car, birthday and xmas presents, $100,000 for a college education! Ignoring college and all the other bells and whistles, raising a kid on the bare minimum from 0-18 can cost anywhere between $126,000 and $250,000! And that’s just for one kid! I’m sorry, but that’s a quarter million dollars I don’t have. I think of how much my parents spent raising me and it blows my mind. Thousands and thousands of dollars on dental work, three surgeries, two cars, trips to Europe, and an expensive private college education. Not to mention everything else. I really do appreciate it and realize how lucky I am, but I often wonder what type of life they could have had if they didn’t have me or my sister. (To be completely honest (as sick as this might sound) during the roughest part of my life, this past summer, one of things that kept me from committing suicide was the thought of how much of a waste it would be of my parent’s money to kill myself after they spent so much money raising me)

As for getting married, the chances of finding a smart, funny, intelligent, attractive atheist woman who also does not want to have kids seems incredibly small. As much as I’d love to have a life companion like this, I doubt I’ll ever find one that isn’t already taken.

But in the very unlikely chance that I do find someone, I’m not sure if I’ll marry them. You see, my attitude on marriage has changed over the past year or two. I used to really want to get married because I wanted the recognition from other people that what I have is special. I realize now that it doesn’t matter what other people think of my relationship; they’re not in that relationship. The only opinions that matter are mine and my significant other’s. I don’t need a piece of paper from the government and an expensive party with lots of people to tell me what I feel is significant. If people want to get married, fine, but it’s not necessary or a prerequisite for being a family. In fact, I’m not sure I will get married just on the principle of the thing. Why should I get married to the person I love when other people are denied the right to marry the person they love?

If I did get married, we would have to redesign the ceremony to eliminate all the patriarchal elements. For example, I wouldn’t want my soon to be father-in-law to hand off my soon to be wife over to me. She is her own person and not his property to give to me. He can walk with her down the isle if she wants, but he doesn’t have the right to “give” her to me. I’m also not going to carry my wife over the threshold of our new place together. Again, she’s not some new property I’m bringing home from the store. She can walk over it of her own volition. In fact, I think that would mean a lot more than me carrying her since it would symbolize her knowingly and freely making the commitment as an equal person.

PS, Interesting video:

Roleplaying as a woman

14 Nov

Whenever I get the chance to roleplay, I enjoy being a female character. I’m a straight male and I’ve very comfortable in my gender and sex; I just enjoy exploring different gender dynamics. Roleplaying as a woman also gives me a chance to escape the default male privilege and experience a world through the opposite gender. I’m aware of male privilege in this world, and I recognize when something like a commercial or product is constructed in a way that assumes a male consumer, but most of the time all I can do is recognize it; playing as a woman lets me get on the other end of it.

Roleplaying as the opposite gender, while fun, can be challenging. When I first started trying this, my ex, an experienced roleplayer, warned me that she’d often seen guys try to play as the opposite gender, only to descend into very heterosexual male fantasies about lesbians. The characters they are playing are female, but the players and their actions were most definitely male. I try my best to avoid this, even creating relationships with male characters, but I’m not perfect. From time to time I’ll see an attractive female NPC and think “dang, she’s good looking, wonder if….oh wait…” I’ve also noticed that male players who play female characters often have their characters fall into one of two stereotypes: cold bitch or temptress slut. I also avoid this as I feel it is a misogynistic generalization of women, damning them to two equally unfair and unrealistic archetypes.  Trying to get inside the head of a character of another gender is really hard to do, but I feel it is a lot more interesting than just playing your normal self with all your gender specific baggage.

Currently I’m playing Fallout New Vegas. My character is an independent drifter woman named Afya. (Afya is actually a character I’ve played for a while before, but in another roleplaying game. She’s always been chaotic good)

 

Normally I don’t care much for very gender deterministic clothing like this pink dress, I just liked the contrast between the inferred domesticity and the huge fucking missile launcher.

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