Author Archives: melissagf

Announcing the Sometechbrand Universe S Butch!

It’s almost impossible to get guys to enjoy tech, which is why we’re absolutely thrilled to announce the Sometechbrand Universe S Butch – the ULTIMATE phone for guys!

The cornflower blue Universe S for Guys today landed in Taiwan. Well, it is not just a phone, it is a full deal. Sometechbrand and Jerks, a US based jerky company have started selling the Universe S Butch pack, which includes a complete Jerks jerky sampling kit including spicy and extra chewy varieties from the manufacturer, a voucher for a round of gun ammunition as well as a 4GB microSD card that includes Jerks made software in order to help and advise men on which Jerks jerky flavour they need for particular occasions, and a Cornflower Blue Universe S phone from Sometechbrand!

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Dear Penny Arcade: WTF?

[Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault in games and comedy and sexual slavery]

Wednesday’s Penny Arcade told this joke where a hero insisted on leaving a rape victim in his own personal hell. Why? Because there was no reward! Har har! Ho ho! See what they did there? They made someone continue to suffer because the hero wasn’t going to get paid for it! Cue the Benny Hill music already!

Not. Funny.

When the aims of the games we play award merit for actions such as murdering and raping, etc, it rewards us with positive reinforcement for the concepts of these actions.

When we’re consistantly in environments where the illusion of equating a certain deed with a certain kind of repercussion isn’t challenged, or indeed mocked; things get fuzzy.

When we’re consistantly in environments where doing the right thing such as helping survivors is the butt of a joke; things get scary.

Over a century ago Ivan Pavlov coined, documented and received a Nobel prize for the concept of Classical Conditioning. For those who are unfamiliar with Pavlov’s theory but unable to fully access the previous link (full of flash and javascript), the following exerpt from Wikipedia may be of assistance:

The typical paradigm for classical conditioning involves repeatedly pairing an unconditioned stimulus (which unfailingly evokes a reflexive response) with another previously neutral stimulus (which does not normally evoke the response). Following conditioning, the response occurs both to the unconditioned stimulus and to the other, unrelated stimulus (now referred to as the “conditioned stimulus”). The response to the conditioned stimulus is termed a conditioned response. The classic example is Pavlov and his dogs. Meat powder naturally will make a dog salivate when it is put into a dog’s mouth; salivating is a reflexive response to the meat powder. Meat powder is the unconditioned stimulus (US) and the salivation is the unconditioned response (UR). Then Pavlov rang a bell before presenting the meat powder. The first time Pavlov rang the bell, the neutral stimulus, the dogs did not salivate, but once he put the meat powder in their mouths they began to salivate. After numerous pairings of the bell, and then food the dogs learned that the bell was a signal that the food was about to come and began to salivate just when the bell was rang. Once this occurs the bell becomes the conditioned stimulus (CS) and the salivation to the bell is the conditioned response (CR).

When we play, we are under the spell of this form of associative learning. We press a button and it does stuff! We will either like or not like what it does. If we liked it, we’ll probably do it again. Because it was fun! Or alternatively we’ll not like it and shun it in the future. We get rewarded with praise or something that makes us feel good when we do something we’re supposed to; we’re rewarded with adreneline for solving challenges.

Laughter releases endorphins. When we share in a joke we’re rewarded with endorphins via the laughter mechanism, a concept used in negotiation in many parts of life; from Clown Doctors to get patient cooperation in treatment, mediation to clear tension and marketing departments world over to lower consumer defensiveness.

There doesn’t have to be intent behind this triggering of a reflexive dropping of boundaries. Mere sexist jokes have been documented to “favour the mental mechanisms which urge to violence and battering against women”, in other words, make people more accepting of such behaviour. The release of endorphins gets linked to the sexist ideal, and suddenly it seems a good idea.

I personally resent having someone attempting to trigger the release of endorphins in to my brain while I’m being exposed to the concept of abandoning a victim to continue being raped.

Also, it’s not like it wasn’t already hard enough to get it across to some people that expecting cookies for basic decency is wrong.

It’s ok though, they apologised.

Oh, wait.

[TW reminder] Imaginary person raped imaginarily? By a myth0logical creature?!

Zombie fuck, guys.

Open Thread: All things sparkley

My dear hivelings! What sparkles are sparkling up your sparkly lives this fortnight?

If your fortnight is lacking sparkles, here, you can share some of mine!

"Sparkles!", flickr/elkbuntu, cc-by

This is, of course, an open thread, and you are hence invited to discuss whatever your heart desires, sparkly or not.

Facebook’s new privacy discussion thread

We had a series of posts a few weeks ago about Facebook’s failings in the realm of user privacy.

Our posts (and your trackbacks and retweets) were but a few in a sea of outspoken discontent. It doesn’t matter how small our contribution was because you and I, dear reader, played a role in the protests. We protested, we stated our boundaries and guess what; they listened!

The result of this is that Facebook are currently rolling out new privacy settings. That means that you should review them to see that they are doing what you want them to be doing.

My account has not been updated yet so I really can’t discuss it much, however some of your accounts will have been reached by the rollout so far. Given that we discussed the badness so much, it’s only fair that we now give you a place to discuss the new changes and collaborate and discover the new settings.

The EFF has stayed true to form and they have already pulled together an article, complete with a video tour. Further links and discussion of the settings in  infinitesimal detail are most welcome.

Commenting note: I will not be allowing comments that try to persuade people to delete their Facebook accounts. People who still have them, have them because they want or in many cases need them. It is their decision, and it is theirs alone. Please respect that.

Ada makes the machines sing

Remember the Ubuntu Women World Play Day Competition that I posted about a while ago?

The entries have now closed and voting has opened.

If you need some inspiration to vote:

If you’re wondering what the soundtrack is, it is a free download released by The Crystalline Effect to honor Ada Lovelace for this year’s Ada Lovelace Day. I discovered it this week when searching for a track to compliment the competition montage, and have fallen somewhat in love with it.

Followup: Locking down your Facebook

As Mary stated in response to my last post, flouncing on Facebook isn’t necessarily an ideal option for some of us as much as we may wish to.

If you choose to stay with Facebook (and it is entirely your choice), there are various things you can do to mitigate the effect of the privacy erosion. One of these things is locking down your profile. We all have different tolerances and needs, so do what you need to do to make yourself comfortable.

I’m throwing out this excellent guide for those who are confuzzled on the whole locking down process. It shows you in a series of screenshots a good number of the steps you can take.

Note, however, that due to the very nature of these posts, the abovementioned guide may cease to be accurate at some arbitrary point in time determined only by Zuckerberg’s whim. It is also worth checking regularly that your choices have not been overridden.

If you have comprehensive howto links that might add to this, explain it in a different way that others may understand better, or cater to a different social networking service altogether, please add them in the comments.

Note: Please take care not to be too ‘splainy here; howtos of your own should be posted to your own blog and linked instead. Any blamey comments (if it starts out akin to “well, I just don’t…” or “what do you expect…”, you’re being blamey) will be bitbucketed. With prejudice.

Facebook is a feminist issue

Or, more to the point, Facebook’s privacy instability is a feminist issue.

[Trigger Warning: Discussion of loss of privacy and its impact on survivors of violence.]

Social media is a gamble. Unless you’re using a service such as statusnet which allows you to run and federate your own server, social media involves the placement of information about yourself, your activity and possibly your location, on someone else’s server. And for organisations like the Library of Congress to archive forever.

Facebook is probably the most cryptic and misunderstood as far as privacy goes. The chances of any given Facebook user of any demographic actually knowing what they are now signed up for? Anyone’s guess, but I’m pretty sure it’s not good odds. Even the geekiest of us get confused.

No longer do you make a choice about your own information; you now sign away information about your friends to your other friends. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has chronicled the (really quite scary) changes over the past 5 years.

Facebook Privacy Policy circa 2005:

No personal information that you submit to Thefacebook will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings.

[…]

Current Facebook Privacy Policy, as of April 2010:

When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. … The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.†… Because it takes two to connect, your privacy settings only control who can see the connection on your profile page. If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not making) the connection.

Matt Mckeon has drawn up another great visualization of the changes to Facebook’s privacy practices over the years as well.

The worst part is that the privileged complacency for privacy stems from on high. Zuckerberg is definitely not an ally. Why would he be? Eroding your privacy correlates with him getting richer.

Facebook is one of the most accessed websites on earth, and the demographics put women as the majority consumers. How can the privacy issues affect oppressed groups in our society that live in intimate association with their oppressors?

In a society where publishing any detail of her sexual activity online can have a woman declared to be “asking for it”, or where geo-ip can let an attacker find you, social media — especially facebook — becomes a feminist issue.

Some of us remember a few months ago when Google released its Buzz social networking thingamajig without really thinking the whole privacy aspect through properly. The outburst then led to a backflip from Google. I somehow doubt that the Big Blue Book is going to be quite as repentant as the Rainbow Borg.

Feminists do things wrong

We are essentially a social commentary blog. We tend to grab relevant somethings that pass through our individual radar and put them up for discussion. As part of this, I noticed and wrote a quick hit critique of the character profiles listed for an indy game called “Puzzlebots” last Wednesday.

I’ve since had several personally addressed emails from people involved with Puzzlebots, including the game designer, assuring me that the game is not as bad as the product pages sounded to me. I still have not played the game nor spoken to anyone who has, but I hence publicly apologise to the team for analyzing the game without first playing it.

This apology does not, as much as I wish it could, negate the issues I had with the marketing of the game as they were on Wednesday. In my opinion, the marketing text is utterly irrelevant to how the game actually plays since it is supposed to convince me that I want to play it. The marketing is why I wrote the post.

Before I go further, I acknowledge that some of the text that this post now is discussing has changed, but it remains that the grievances I held with the text as it was last Wednesday are real issues that do genuinely deter me personally from choosing to play games.

As I described in an email later last week to Erin, the designer of the game, the primary issue I have with the marketing of the game is how the women characters are described. Women characters are 2 of the 6 humans in the game, which I really like; it is terrific that it is more than a token woman. My joy at this is however destroyed at reading that both women is either the recipient of or holds desire for “The Straight Man’s Gaze“, and that these are features of her character which take up half of her description.

This echos the expectation that an unfortunate number (and vocal minority) of men within the geek communities I frequent (or frequently hear tales of) hold. That expectation is that women partake in the geeky community either because they are looking for husbands” (desire the gaze) or to “make the community sexy” (are decoration to be gazed upon).

And that’s what hurts. We have this game that at a glance looks really awesome. Multiple woman roboteers! Sweet! That means it could really easily pass the bechdel test; it has two actual women who have actually made robots! And… they are given poor descriptions focussing on a man’s desires within a game which had (at the time of posting the quick hit, not any more) a story that posited the question: “Will Zander win the affections of the pretty new scientist?”, and the buzz was killed.

Here is the thing; all the bloggers here at Geek Feminism do actually understand that getting called out on shit really does suck. It is even suckier when you think you are already doing the right thing. The puzzlebots team have done the right thing by avoiding tokenism, and kudos to them for that. But in the same breath they have used typical stereotypedstrong female character” archetypes and scenarios that (unintentionally?) markets the game to heterosexual men.

See, that’s how easy it is to do or say sexist (or other *ist) things; Even a self-identified feminist game designer such as Erin is plenty capable of using tried and triumphed typical archetypes. It certainly does not make her a failure as a gamer or a feminist. However, at some point there really does need to be (at minimum) a recognition that just because the scenarios are common throughout various mediums, it doesn’t change how much repeating them impacts on the perceptions of women’s roles in geeklands and especially in STEM based fields.

The members of the Geek Feminism blog community call each other out all the time for anything ranging from classism to actual real genuine sexism itself. We call each other out because we fuck up too, and when we fuck up we accept it. We accept our fuck ups and learn from them because we realize that Feminism, it turns out, is really quite hard.

Feminism is so deity forsaken hard, and if it was not so hard, then it would be so over already. But no matter how easy it is for even us to fall for the trappings of the internalized sexism each and every single one of us has, letting something you notice pass by is still tacit support for that stance, and not calling that shit out because it is probably a genuine mistake sucks even more in the long run. For everyone.

Commenting note: We have a comment policy here which means we will delete comments which are anti-feminist, abusive, or otherwise inappropriate at our sole discretion. Now you know.

Quick hit: Norwescon

I’m not really in to SciFi or Fantasy fandom like some of my c0-bloggers; the ones that are though are really quite busy at the moment. This will hence be brief because I don’t know anything about it, really. It was pointed out somewhere in the past few weeks, and despite me poking it at my fandom friendly friends here on GF, I don’t think it made mention in even a linkspam.

So.

Norwescon 34, due for about a year’s time (21-24 April 2011), has a Guests of Honor lineup that is simply estrogenolicious! All the non-publisher Guests of Honor are at minimum 50% woman!

This, Hivelings, is a nice change from even the recently past Norwescon 33 which was rather testosteronolicious, in that all non-publisher Guests of Honor were an absolute 0% woman.

DISCUSS!

Quick hit: Puzzlebots

From the casual stereotyping department comes Puzzlebots. First off, I want to make it clear that this particular game is not unique in this regard at all. It’s just a convenient example that I came across today.

Taking a look at the characters page, there are 2 women in the humans (emphasis mine):

“Thanks to her many years in the Japanese school system, Yuriko is smart, industrious, and almost pathologically shy. She harbors a secret crush on Zander, which may remain a secret forever the way things are going.”

“Astrid is a bit like a flower on a cactus.  Pretty from a distance, but almost guaranteed to hurt you if you get too close.  She captures Zander’s attention right away, but can be downright mean to the other employees.”

To summarize; a lady roboteer in this game is either secretly (because she’s shy) crushing for a dude, or she is eye-candy who will probably rip your bits off. And the two girls in the team of six get to make up a disproportionate two thirds of a love triangle.

Because, you know, I can’t imagine that reinforcing any stereotypes or anything.

As for the robot characters? One Hiveling I discussed this with stated: ”None of the boy robots are cute and sassy.”

I can see other problematic things in the character descriptions too, the above is just the start.

What are your thoughts and observations about the (people and processor-based) characters?