Tag Archives: rape culture

Feminist license plates, by Liz Henry CC BY-SA 2.0

When you are faced with the disgusting and contemptible

Trigger warning for rape culture rhetoric, and use of rape language as a joke.

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our readers:

What would a geek feminist do about this sign, which was posted all over the walls at a conference I went to this spring?

[From Mary: trigger warning for linked image, a description follows at the bottom of the post.] http://imgur.com/krkwG

I wasn’t sure what to do, and I’d like to hear what other feminists would suggest. I have no idea who posted the sign, or why. The conference did not have a sexual harassment policy. I felt that the sign was inappropriate but I wasn’t confident that I could convince other people of that — since the sign technically wasn’t about raping humans, and since one of the core values of this community was freedom of speech. Yet I still felt that the sign could hurt people — not just people at the conference but also the conference center staff.

Continue reading

Linkspam isn’t saying no… (13th June, 2011)

  • Talk on June 15 at Melbourne University: Dr Cathy Foley, 100 years later: has anything changed for women in science?: This talk will look at what is the status of women in science in Australia, report on the Women in Science and Engineering summit held in Parliament House in April this year. I will then reflect on ways to enhance careers for women in science and the need not only for equity but also for improved productivity and innovation by capturing the full human potential in Australia.
  • Why are more women not speaking at technical conferences? Insights from the WiT discussion at CodeStock: Jennifer Marsman discusses the points raised in her panel, with some suggested solutions.
  • The Australian talks about online harassment of (female) journalists, which will sound familiar to many other women online: [Trigger warning: online harassment/bullying] War of the Words

    And therein lies the Catch-22 for women in the cyber-firing line. On the one hand, they believe it is essential to expose the level of abuse and misogyny that has flourished on the largely unregulated new media. On the other, they fear the only effect that would have is to discourage women from participating in public debates.

  • Forever 21 Pulls “I’m Too Pretty To Do Math” Magnet From Online Store: Our submitter writes: OK, it’s not just bad that this was made in the first place. But around the article? Let’s see, You might like: The Top 10 Lies Women Tell Men; 12 Stars Posing Naked With Super Random Props; and the poll of important information: Does Flirting Over Facebook & Twitter Count As Cheating?; Please Just Kill Me NOW.
  • Becky Stern has crafted TV-B-Gone (a universal remote for switching off TVs) into a jacket for subtlety: TV-B-Gone jacket (via BoingBoing).
  • [Trigger warning: very frank anti-rape campaign] Don’t be that guy: a surprisingly refreshing anti-rape campaign targeting men is now making its way to other Canadian cities.

    Typically, sexual assault awareness campaigns target potential victims by urging women to restrict their behavior. Research is telling us that targeting the behavior of victims is not only ineffective, but also contributes to how much they blame themselves after the assault. That’s why our campaign is targeting potential offenders – they are the ones responsible for the assault and responsible for stopping it. By addressing alcohol-facilitated sexual assault without victim-blaming, we intend to mark Edmonton on the map as a model for other cities.

  • Androcentrism: It’s Okay to Be a Boy, but Being a Girl…: androcentrism… a new kind of sexism, one that replaces the favoring of men over women with the favoring of masculinity over femininity.
  • Researcher reveals how “Computer Geeks” replaced “Computer Girls”, an account of a talk by Nathan Ensmenger. (Don’t forget Jennifer Light, when namechecking people to quote on this!)
  • Rebecca Koeser of Emory University, won a prize in the DevCSI challenge at Open Repositories 2011 for her use of Microsoft Pivot as a repository-visualization tool. Here’s a picture of Koeser accepting her prize.
  • Women Atop Their Fields Discuss the Scientific Life: Elena Aprile, Joy Hirsch, Mary-Claire King and Tal Rabin talk about their scientific work and life.
  • How Not To Be An Asshole: A Guide For Men: Chris Clarke re-posts this in ‘honour’ of Tammy Camp’s harassment experience

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

You only linkspam because you haven’t met a decent man yet (17th April, 2011)

  • Counting Colored Cash: there’s plenty of successful media with central characters of color, there’s plenty of whitewashed/all-white media that flops. So why the myth that all-white/whitewashing is just good business?
  • Trigger warning Resistance Is Useful: An Essay: We’re going to talk about geek culture, about misogyny, about rape culture and rape apologism… We’re going to talk about my experience of this in a small Australian city
  • Trigger warning Keycon: I posted a few months ago about starting the Back-Up Project at Keycon, and was looking for suggestions on panels. I was asked to talk to both women and men and get a general idea of what the situation was at Keycon, and how safe it was for women. The results were absolutely horrifying. I couldn’t find a single woman who hadn’t been followed, groped, or harassed… Looks like Keycon doesn’t care about preventing the assault of women OR children.
  • Marginalization Is Not a Monolith See, this is why sometimes criticism and fannishness should be kept apart… You defend your object of fannishness to the death… but when your fannishness edges into shutting other people down, it’s no longer okay.
  • Photography and Sexism in the Skeptical Movement: Unless Mr Dunning has reversed the image on the flip side of his single, with the young woman in a tux and himself completely naked and on his knees serving her, than I do not see how this photograph can do anything but send the message than his view is that women are of a lesser value and merely objects to be used in skepticism.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or freelish.us or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Linkspamming in a bubble (16th October, 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.

Heroism vs multiplayer game mechanics and Rape as a fantasy trope

[Trigger warning: as you probably realized from the title, this post discusses the (overuse) of rape in fantasy settings]

I’m going to start with saying that I thought the Penny Arcade comic was actually pretty well done. But explaining why it resonated with me takes some work. Thankfully, our excellent commenters have already got the ball rolling:

Kaonashi says,

I don’t understand why this PA strip is so wrong. To me, it’s not funny because the guy gets raped. It’s funny because the action is so obviously wrong in real life, but so absurdly motivated by limited game logic. I didn’t get an endorphin-strengthened appreciation of rape from that strip, quite the opposite.

And that’s where the comic hits me: the rape isn’t supposed to be funny, it’s supposed to be horrible (if perhaps abstracted to ridiculousness) and make you suddenly more aware of how supposedly heroic actions in games sort of fall apart when they run into game mechanics.

ptp says,

This is a parody of the way that MMO questing works because the people still need saving even though you’re only told to save a limited number of them, and with any understanding of the quest dynamic involved I think it’s fairly clear what they’re trying to poke fun at.

If you don’t play massively multiplayer online games, you may never have encountered this problem: in a single player game, you always can try to save all the hostages. But in a massively multiplayer game, you want all players to have a chance at the quest, so you have the hostages reappear (often before the hero has left the area), or you limit it so that each hero can only save 5. That way, there’s always plenty of people crying for help from the next hero. In many cases actually impossible to continue saving people in an area due to the developers’ attempt to balance game mechanics. And frankly, that’s pretty unpleasant. There’s usually no explanation given as to why as a hero you would deem this acceptable. If this were a movie, the hero would be making a hard choice of who to save and there’d be a reason only 2 people could fit on the boat/spaceship/whatever. But in the average MMOG, the entire world continues along as if it’s perfectly normal for you to leave people to unspeakable horrors.

I’ve been squicked out by this on numerous occasions while playing games. The comic doesn’t exactly make me laugh so much as think, but it’s pointing out a real absurdity using some dark and twisted sense of humour and it’s more effective for me due to the contrast of humour and horror here.

But the question remains, “why did it have to be rape?” Surely, there are plenty of other horrible things that could have been happening to these prisoners that would have gotten the point across just as well? And maybe if you tried hard enough, you’d think of something. But we don’t live in a vacuum, and sometimes you have to use the tropes the genre and culture hands you to make your point most effectively.

Carla Schroder says,

Guess I’m part of the minority here, because I think the PA strip makes it point brilliantly. It mocks this absurd morality of games, homophobia, demonstrates that rape culture is deeply ingrained and the root of many evils, and they do it in three panels. Aren’t dickwolves the absolutely perfect symbols of much of the BS we struggle with everyday? Isn’t the “hero” a perfect representation of the narcissism, lack of empathy, and apathy we beat our heads against?

Not only do we deal with rape culture in the real world, but also in our fantasy ones. Rape is a disturbingly over-used trope, especially in fantasy, as a placeholder for “something horrible happened.” Even in modern urban fantasy reading I’ve gotten hit with a storyline like, “a prophecy says so-and-so’s son will overthrow the king (or whatever), so everyone in fairyland tries to rape her to be father to that son.” How many heros have back stories where their mom was a raped tavern wench? How many would-be queens are subject to assault? Heroines? The hero’s tragic back story might be that his family was killed in a raid, but in the heroine version there’s a good chance she or maybe her sisters were raped in said raid. Can’t we come up with better reasons for adventuring? Maybe not — virginity is often highly prized in these worlds where sometimes it has magical properties. Can’t we come up with worlds that don’t turn rape into a plot device?

There was one month where I compared notes with my sister, and we realized that every fantasy book we’d read in the past few months had included rape. It’s disturbing, it’s pervasive, and fantasy novels don’t come with trigger warnings.

I imagine there’s a much lengthier discussion to be had about rape as a fantasy trope. But the point I want to make here is that part of what made the comic effective for me was the absurdity and the evocation of that trope in an overdone way really made it resonate as “yeah, this sounds like a quest I might encounter” rather than “that’s horrible; it’d never be written that way.”

And that’s why the comic worked for me. It was effective because it hurt and reflected a reality that I don’t like to see but get shoved in my face regularly as a genre fan and a game player. That doesn’t mean it will work for you, or even that it should. There’s plenty of people for whom this is simply triggering and horrible and cannot be effective because of that, and that needs to be recognized. But a comic that’s horrible for some may still be effective for others. There are often many legitimate feminist readings of a subject, and dark humour and satire are hard to handle because it feels a lot like the same old stuff getting thrown in your faces again.

But I think shielding us from the overuse of rape as “some horrid thing” would only lessen the effectiveness of the comic within the context of the genre and culture. Darker humour sometimes is most effective when it embraces the dark.

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.

One scoop of linkspam flavour, please (27th 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-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.

Pink sparkly linkspam (November 16th, 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.

Quick hit: Marvel writer defends rape in Spiderman comic

Via Hoyden who link to IO9’s post on the subject.

When is rape not rape? When it’s a supervillain pretending to be Peter Parker and having sex with Parker’s roommate, who thinks she’s having sex with Parker himself, according to one of Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man writers.

The writer, Fred Van Lente, responds:

My understanding of the definition of rape is that it requires force or the threat of force, so no. Using deception to trick someone into granting consent isn’t quite the same thing.

Which is not to say it isn’t a horrible, evil, reprehensible thing that Chameleon did. He is a bad man.

He insults parapelegics[sic] and dips people in acid too.

‘ware rape apologism in the IO9 comments :-/