Friday, September 20, 2013

Sexism, Rape Culture, Media and the Real World

I just read an article about "6 Sexist Video Game Problems Even Bigger Than Breasts;" a few of those problems are applicable elsewhere, like comic books, or real life. (If you haven't already, I recommend reading it.)

The issues that the Cracked staff raise in the article are a lot of the same issues that critics have raised about sexist issues in comics. Women are sometimes reduced to the nurturing background character, not the dynamic one who saves the day. They are used as tools to further someone else's (a male character) story, particularly when they are killed. Rape is a tool used to show how bad a villain is (at least according to Mark Millar). Sometimes a team has a single female member, just to have a female on the team.

If I could, I would make every man read points #3 and #1 of that article, over and over again, until they fully understood it: Sexualized Violence (with an excellent explanation of rape culture) and The Real World. Those, to me, were the key points.

screen shots from the F-P website
When we present media that has so much sexism, whether it's in movies or comic books or video games, that message gets internalized. Girls see it, and feel disenfranchised. Boys see it, and learn girls are commodities. Those kids grow up with those attitudes, and see even more media that gets reinforced over and over. T-shirts that say "Boys are Better Than Books", mottos like "bros before hos", et cetera, ad nauseum. And who can forget the cricitism that Mattel received when they released a talking Barbie that said "math class is tough"? Even the "simple" gendering of toys (girls are princesses that get saved, boys are heroes that save princesses), that starts with replaying the same pink/blue message over and ever, teaches young children "the way things are."

Here's an example of how we teach our kids early: A pink/purple diamond ring for a "precious baby girl", and a blue hammer for a "busy baby boy." This is what Fisher-Price wants your 3 month old child to learn! Now, those babies don't care that one is a ring and one is a hammer; they care that it makes noise and they can chew on it. But thus begins the pink/blue split between toys. It starts that young... and the marketing never relents. (I can't watch tv without being bombarded with messages that I am imperfect and must fix it. Nearly every ad is about the way I look, and that it isn't good enough. FFS, Dove, now even my pits need to look pretty?!)

In another article that addresses solutions to real-world situations, "How to Design a City for Women," the criticism was baffling. Vienna, Austria took a look at how women used public spaces and made changes, like more lighting and wider sidewalks.
"Gender can be an emotional issue," Bauer [a city administrator] adds. "When you tell people that up until now they haven’t taken the women’s perspective into account they feel attacked. We still have people asking, ‘Is this really necessary?'"
I have to admit, the pushback on this really did surprise me. Some of the changes the city made were to the benefit of everyone. The thing I find most puzzling about this culture of sexism and male privilege is that nearly all men have a mother, wife, sister or daughter in their lives. Why would they not want to make the streets safer for their mother, walking home from the market? Why would they not want to make parks more girl-friendly for their daughters? This is the thing I really, honestly do not understand. Are women so overlooked, so disregarded, that making things better for them is seen as a threat?

The jerks who will make comments in-game like "Tits or GTFO*" and make "your mom" jokes, would they say those things to their mother? Some might, it's true. But all this is learned behavior. They have no incentive not to act the way they do, and there are no consequences. So when this vile behavior they learned in video games (and other media) spills out into the real world, now we have such a deeply-ingrained sexist attitude that produces situations like Stuebenville, Ohio.

Excuses of "it's just a game" or "they're comic book characters, not real people" lead to comments like "she shouldn't have been drunk at the party." It's all a slice of the same rotten pie. Without teaching boys to respect girls, and girls to respect themselves, we're only going to keep playing this same song over and over again. (And by song, you can take that literally with that misogynist masterpiece, "Blurred Lines," by Robin Thicke.)

* Get the fuck off -- basically show us your boobs or leave; one of many things said to female gamers, and why many female gamers choose not to disclose their gender.

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