Tag Archives: disability

A linkspammer as good as a man (21st June, 2010)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

The linkspam your mothers marched in the street for (10th June, 2010)

  • Get ready to PITCH: Women 2.0 Startup Competition: it’s open to entrants around the world, and entries close October 1.
  • Lisa Crispin writes What Gender Diversity Means to Me: Jon Bach asked me a good question… The group was nicely balanced with as many women as men. Jon asked me what advantages I felt this gave the conference. He found my reply helpful and encouraged me to share it here.
  • Penny Arcade Expo fans come out against booth babes: … 60 percent of respondents either lik[ed] or lov[ed] the ban on booth babes. Only 12 percent of respondents hated the ban, putting public opinion firmly in the anti-babe area. The major addition to the policy stipulates that the models need to be educated about the product, and partial nudity has been banned. Models can dress up like characters from games and wear revealing clothing, as long as it’s true to the original character.
  • cme writes In which everything takes rather longer than I thought: When I get to this point, people often say that the Open Source movement has a history of being hostile to all new people (true), so it’s not a big deal and certainly doesn’t mean they are anti-woman (false)… it *does* mean that their attitude has the effect of being anti-woman (really, it has the effect of being anti-everyone-who’s-not-a-white-straight-cis-ablebodied-man). Because any barrier will affect people more who have more barriers to hurdle. The less privilege you have, the more any particular barrier will set you back.
  • Alana Kumbier analyses Jessica Floeh’s line of insulin pump accessories: Insulin-Pump Accessories And Cyborg Embodiment
  • Kamvar, Schiavoni: Techies with a Cause: [Sep] Kamvar and his wife, Angie Schiavoni, recently launched CodeEd, a pilot program to introduce fifth-grade girls to computer science. Funded with $20,000 donated by the couple, it’s the only such program in the U.S. geared to underprivileged preteen girls.
  • In Mary Anne Mohanraj’s WisCon 34 Guest of Honor Speech she issues a call: I’m asking you to take up that flaming sword, because it is here; I am standing on your doorstep, and I am calling you. You can be brave enough, you can be a hero.
  • Jill Psmith is a radical feminist who doesn’t think science is bad: The argument has been made that intuition is superior to science because it is somehow free of the oppressive misogynist entanglements that encumber its dude-dominated counterpart. A spin-off of this argument says that, because academia has traditionally given (and continues to give) women the stink-eyed bum’s rush, science is antifeminist and, presumably, must be shunned in favor of this women-centric intuition dealio… Unfortunately, it is not possible for any concept, process, person, or cognitive function to exist outside of patriarchy. (See also PZ Myers, Stereotyping women right out of science)
  • Standard Operating Procedure: tech vendor VersionOne is using gender stereotypes in their promotions. But it’s a joke! Nothing to see here!

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

The linkspam-whore dichotomy (17th May, 2010)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

Ableism in RPG gameplay

This is a guest post by Jonathan Lavallee. Jonathan spends his days toiling about with batch processes and overnight jobs, but in his other life he’s a game designer and a poet who is constantly trying to unpack his suitcase only to find more stuff he didn’t realize was in there already. You can find his blog at Gamish Designer and game design work at Firestorm Ink.

This is a question that came from the Ask a Geek Feminist post, which is still taking your questions. If you’re curious about something you think a geek feminist could answer, ask away and we’ll see what we can come up with. If none of the regular bloggers will pick up the question, they’ll throw it to someone for a guest post or open it up to the general commentating public.

That’s why you got stuck with an ally answering this enchanting question from Timm! (it’s big so I’ve edited it down a bit):

Many table-top RPGs feature a merit/flaw or asset/complication system where you buy little extra things for your character (assets or merits) offset by buying some kind of flaw or complication. It occurred to me that, among all those available flaws, there’s always a list of physical disabilities to choose from, things like blindness, deafness, missing a limb, etc, and this stuck me as potentially problematic. On the other hand, in games that don’t feature this kind of option, you essentially never see any characters who are less than fully able-bodied (at least in my gaming experience, YMMV) unless they have some magical/technological device that completely negates the disability (think Geordi’s visor in Star Trek) so merits and flaws at least encourage players to think about characters with levels of ability different from their own.

So my question is: are these systems problematic/ableist by nature? Or does it matter more how they are implemented from game to game or gamer to gamer? Does the mechanical underpinning of the system figure into this consideration at all? If these systems are inherently problematic, any thoughts on how to implement them so they’re not (as) problematic? Thoughts on RPG characters with disabilities in general?

It’s big, so I might take this apart and talk about it in pieces because there are a lot of questions there but they all pertain to ableism in RPGs, specifically in regards to the character creating process.

are these systems problematic/ableist by nature?

I don’t think that the advantage/disadvantage model (or how ever it is flavoured in the game) is inherently problematic or ableist. The concept is that you want a character that is not perfect, and as such will have to overcome not only external obstacles but internal obstacles. If you read a story where the characters are perfect all the time and there is no potential for conflict because they are perfect it’s going to be a pretty boring story. Like Timm! mentioned, systems that don’t have this kind of mechanic tend to have those perfect characters that go about doing perfect things.

Where the problem happens is when designers try to fill in the blanks for what would be considered an advantage and a disadvantage. The first game I ever ran into that had this concept was the Hero system which had great disadvantages like dependant non player characters (DNPCs) and Enemies and Limitations on Powers. All this was great, and if they stayed there the potential for ableism was lowered greatly because these are just people who depend on you, people you’ve pissed off and times when you couldn’t use your special powers. The problem happens when you get into things like physical and mental ‘disadvantages.’ This is where the ableism is so thick you shouldn’t be able ignore it. Doubly so because as a reason to take these ‘flaws’ the game gives you a carrot in the guise of more points to spend on cool stuff for your character. There are many people who play games with the desire to push the rules as far as they can, and in doing so will take those ‘disadvantages’ because it will get them points to spend without thinking about what that actually means.

Or does it matter more how they are implemented from game to game or gamer to gamer

This is two questions in one. When it comes to being implemented from game to game the answer is no, it doesn’t matter. If you want to use the advantage/disadvantage model, which as noted above I don’t believe is ableist on its own, and then add blatantly ableist material then it’s ableist regardless of what kind of spin they want to put on it. The problem is that they’re all lumped together with all the other negative traits like being vengeful, being intolerant, or any sort of other negative traits. That one isn’t that hard.

What’s hard is when you talk about it from player to player. As a TAB-gamer, playing a character that has a disability has its issues. Much like anyone from a privileged position who plays an oppressed character — a cis-man playing a woman, someone who is TAB playing a disabled person, a white person playing a person of colour — it can be incredibly problematic when done without thought, understanding and respect. This isn’t to say that such a thing can’t ever be done, but that the potential for appropriation and caricature are great, almost too great in that kind of setting. The reason is that unlike a novel where you can take a break and do some research, your answers are improvised and are based off of you, in that moment and that’s often when your privilege is going to show up.

It’s one of my biggest frustrations with the gaming community in general, this cross playing of characters, and I rail against it a lot when it happens around me in non safe settings (conventions being the biggest venue) because more often than not you’re left slamming your head aginst the table as you watch someone reinforce their X-privilege (X being straight, white, male, able-bodied, cis-gendered or any combination there of). There are plenty of guys who try to play, “The Hot Chick” or TAB-players who think that having DID* is fun without any regard of the inherent problems of doing so.

I have stories. Oh goodness do I have stories about that, but that’s for another day.

If these systems are inherently problematic, any thoughts on how to implement them so they’re not (as) problematic?

To keep this answer shorter, because I think I’m going to be repeating myself, the system itself isn’t inherently problematic. I can take an undesirable characteristic, like being vengeful, and attach it to my character to gain a benefit that can be applied elsewhere. The problem is when the designer gives you options that are oppressive. There the fault lies with us as designers to make those options as wide and varied as possible, to create a large number of characters and possibilities, without dipping our toes into frameworks of oppression. I know that I want to be as inclusive as possible to have more people who are able to enjoy the games that I make.

Thoughts on RPG characters with disabilities in general?

I’ve touched on RPG characters with disabilities being played by TAB-people above, so I’ll just make a general comment. The lack of characters with diabilities in role playing game isn’t unique to RPGs. It’s the systematic problem that exists in all media, which is kyriarchal in nature. You don’t see people with disabilities often in television, books, film, theatre and even then when they do exist they’re often caricatures, comedic relief, or done really badly. I remember reading the frustration of a lot of wheel chair users at Glee because people would just push Artie’s wheelchair around. When I heard that, having spent time around people who use wheelchairs, my jaw dropped because that was at best horribly rude. However, that’s how the Kyriarchy thinks, always from their perspective and so they don’t see a problem with any representation that fits within their world view.

RPGs are just another avenue for telling stories. It’s collaborative storytelling that runs into the same problems that any storytelling method has. The storyteller, both as player or as GM or other if you play a lot of indie games, has to unpack and try their best to understand their privilege, otherwise their representation of a character that isn’t exactly them is going to be horribly problematic-ist.

For those in the comments: How do you feel about thoughts on RPG characters with disabilities in general? How do you feel about “cross-playing” as mentioned above?

*DID – Dissociative Identity Disorder, still called Multiple Personality Disorder by many RPG books!

Linkspam wears women’s underpants (16th December, 2009)

  • We’re a bit late with the link, but the latest Feminist Carnival went up at Undomestic Goddess on December 9. Submissions are open for the next carnival, out December 23.
  • Training bar staff to intervene to reduce the risk of rape — without any victim-blaming. As in, there’s less “watch your drink at all times, ladies” and more “we’ve noticed your inappropriate sexual behaviour towards other patrons; get out.”
  • Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants “James” outs herself as a woman, then explains how she wound up posing as a male writer, and how different her experiences were when writing under her own name. There have been several interesting followups:
    • Kate Harding drew parallels with the use of male pseudonyms by book authors in the past and, perhaps less well-known, in the present.
    • Amanda Hess observed that Chartrand had cultivated a very masculine writing persona, including using naked women to illustrate posts, describing one of her employees as “the team’s rogue woman” in “a good ol’ boys club”, and buying into stereotypes when writing about women.
  • We linked to Part 1 of Arachne Jericho’s series of posts on fictional portrayals of PTSD, but there aren’t forward links from that to the later posts. Check out the rest of the series: Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. A wrap-up post is planned.

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

The linkspam is blowing in the wind (30th November, 2009)

  • Anna’s What a crock post about Gamestop’s instructional training videos for how to treat female customers is worth a look
  • Wired published an article critical of the anti-vaccination movement. Skepchick (trigger warning for quoted misogynist imagery) sums up the extreme end of the response, which included a lot of misogyny.
  • Aimee Mullins looks at technology, perception and prosthetics in Normal Was Never Cool: Inception of Perception
  • Mary Elizabeth William’s Salon review of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog has Cory Doctorow convinced: “This sounds like a damned good movie. Maybe I’ll take the kid to see it.”
  • See an account of WoMoz‘s (Women & Mozilla) first IRC meeting.
  • Let’s talk about sex… in video games asks why sexual content is so controversial in video games when violent content is so common, and when sexual content in other media is so widespread. (Note that there’s no especial discussion of feminist issues like objectification.)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

Hottest linkspam evar. Or something. (27th October, 2009)

  • “Manolith” has a list of 12 hottest geek girls. I think you can gather from the name of the site how this list is meant to go, but I was surprised to find that the profiles of the women they chose were actually fairly interesting, and they included some serious geek credentials as part of their selection criteria. (No Women near tech for them?) But yeah, although that’s an interesting nugget, the list is a lot of drooling and scantily clad celebrity geeks — click at your own risk, and I’m guessing you should just skip the comments.
  • Shweta Narayan explains things to John Ottinger III after his post “For Those Who Cry Sexism or Racism in SF Anthologies, Shut Up”. Ottinger apologizes, Narayan tells him keep on speaking up.
  • In one of her other blog lives, our own Liz Henry hosted Disability Blog Carnival #59: Disability and Work. Without reposting the whole carnival, here are some of the posts of geek feminist interest:
    • Disability and Work: What I do, talking about work and play in the light of ideas in Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, together with disability and unemployment, together with women’s work (including fandom) not counting as real work.
    • Disability Employment Awareness Month, about working at an open source company (warning per Liz: “contain[s] some hatred expressed towards disabled scooter users who are fat”)
  • Pamela Fox was asked to prove her technical chops after giving a non-technical talk in a non-technical (apparently) outfit. She asks Should I Defend My Cred?
  • Kaliya Hamlin submitted a panel proposal to SXSW entitled “What Guys are Doing to Get More Girls in Tech!â€,  SXSW Panel Selected — now to find Panelists
  • Despite Elizabeth Blackburn’s Nobel win, women face battles, particularly presence in senior roles.
  • Apple’s iPhone App Store is hard on satire, but fine with “Asian Boobs” (note, several sexualized example photographs from the application in question will be displayed at the link)
  • A slashdot comment compared the Windows 7 launch to the return of a difficult ex-girlfriend, Decklin Foster parodies with the genders reversed. (Warning: there is ableist language in the original comment and it is not questioned by the parody.)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

No business like linkspam business (21st October, 2009)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

Link roundup to watch out for (13th October, 2009)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.