Pic 14

Hear Me, Hear Me

I love playing video games. I have ever since I was a kid. A prominent memory I have is of my sister and I peering around my Dad who is triumphantly pulling out our very first Playstation. Who would've thought that this curious grey device would still have me hooked after all these years. While the games have gotten better since I was 11, a lot of the major themes haven’t really changed. Yes, I’m going to take it there – I’m talking about female protagonists (or lack thereof). 

As a girl, I would love to play most games as a female character and I would prefer if that character wasn't some half-naked, helpless chick. For all the guys reading this, here’s what it’s like in a nutshell: imagine all your male characters were rip-offs of Fabio, Justin Bieber, or Edward Cullen. If all male characters were like them, you’d spend a lot of your gaming time rolling your eyes and sighing: can't I play as a badass once in a while? What, ANOTHER spineless boy-toy? Come on! Why do all the characters exist for women?

I want a character who makes me feel emboldened on sight. If I’m a soldier, I want to look like the rest of my squad. If I’m escaping a zombie apocalypse, I want shoes I can run in and clothes that minimize the likelihood of getting bitten. None of these things require a trade-off of my sexuality or femininity. I want my character to be beautiful, but I also want her to wear what I would want to wear in her circumstances. And if I’m given a pre-designed character, I’m fine with makeup or flowing hair or a lower-cut top, so long as it feels in character. It’s a costume, after all. Creative liberties are to be expected.

But the gaming experience is ruined for me when a character’s outfit no longer aligns with her role in the game. If I feel that what she’s wearing impedes her ability to do her job well then all credibility goes out the window. If she’s in an outfit that says “sexy” while all her male counterparts are in outfits that say “powerful,” that’s a red flag — especially if she’s the only woman there (I’m looking at you Heavenly Sword). On paper, there’s nothing wrong with a female character who is defined by her sexuality, but it’s almost always the default – and THAT is the problem. It’s not just demeaning, it’s boring.

Mass Effect did a great job on being inclusive but then they incorporated a lot of sneaky camera angles/lingering on ass/boobs shots, like this:



Yep.

The first female protagonist I ever played was Lara Croft. A problematic character, and even as a 12 year old, I noticed how often the camera painfully lingered on all her bits. That never hindered me though because I was just overjoyed to finally see someone like me in the starring role of an adventure. Without the developers making a call on her gender, I never would've have had that experience. Given that Lara hit the scene sixteen years ago and developers are still fighting with the idea that female protagonists don’t sell, I think it’s vital that we continue to add more heroines to the mix. That thinking won’t change otherwise.

Your typical AAA action game is a power fantasy designed to allow the typical male gamer to feel strong, smart, clever, or noble. They can save the girl, get revenge, help the people, enforce justice, or blow things up. Whatever. It's usually aimed at guys and you're usually doing stuff that guys fantasize about doing. And that's perfectly fine. I love those games as much as any guy. I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with the fantasy itself, or that games should stop trying to please the male audience. I'm just saying there are a lot of women who also enjoy a good power fantasy, and they want to play too. There's room for everyone in this hobby, and we can do better than we're doing now.
Pic 7

Don't Hit On Me

Or any girl for that matter who has declined your offer to "rock her world". Whether you're dancing away at a club, or strolling around on the streets - your pushy touchy feely-ness is both creepy and disgusting but more importantly, it's harassment. 


Boys and Men of The World:
Your behavior is not cute or endearing and we most definitely do not think it's flattering. Stop asking girls to smile for you when they're walking home from the bar. Stop leering towards her with the rest of your "bro's" when she's out getting groceries. Stop trying to pick her up when all she wants is to do her evening run in peace. Stop calling out to her or telling her that you're the best fuck she'll ever have. Stop stop stop stop stop it. You're perverted and have issues that I strongly suggest you deal with. You can start by watching this:



Pic 11

Cis-Cis-Cis

Announcement of the day:

I am an example of someone who is cisgendered. That's because I completely identify with the gender I was assigned at birth. I have no fluctuations or reservations about my assigned gender. I feel the need to bring this up because a lot of people don't know this term, and more importantly, because people who are cisgendered have a lot of privilege that goes unchecked.



Click here fellow cisgendereds' - Examples of 30+ Cisgender Privilege

A discussion on this term needs to be had because cisgendered folk typically don't like to be labelled as something. They get mad when someone calls them cisgendered when they are in fact cisgendered (uh, hi, that’s what you are. The term has been around since at least 1994 so don’t get cranky.)

Solution: Accept that your anger is a negative reaction to being forced to realize your privilege, ie. a worldview of cisgendered folk being the societal norm and therefore “this is normal and all else is weird and substandard”, and stop being an asshole about it. Especially when people who are just as human as you want to be treated properly, not misgendered, not treated like they’re “weird” or “alien” or “other”.

Let's try to be more open-minded mmkay?
Pic 13

Could This Be Anymore Relevant?

“What if all women were bigger and stronger than you? And thought they were smarter? What if women were the ones who started wars? What if too many of your friends had been raped by women wielding giant dildos and no K-Y Jelly? What if the state trooper who pulled you over on the New Jersey Turnpike was a woman and carried a gun? What if the ability to menstruate was the prerequisite for most high-paying jobs? What if your attractiveness to women depended on the size of your penis? What if every time women saw you they’d hoot and make jerking motions with their hands? What if women were always making jokes about how ugly penises are and how bad sperm tastes? What if you had to explain what’s wrong with your car to big sweaty women with greasy hands who stared at your crotch in a garage where you are surrounded by posters of naked men with hard-ons? What if men’s magazines featured cover photos of 14-year-old boys with socks tucked into the front of their jeans and articles like: “How to tell if your wife is unfaithful” or “What your doctor won’t tell you about your prostate” or “The truth about impotence”? What if the doctor who examined your prostate was a woman and called you “Honey”? What if you had to inhale your boss’ stale cigar breath as she insisted that sleeping with her was part of the job? What if you couldn’t get away because the company dress code required you wear shoes designed to keep you from running? And what if after all that women still wanted you to love them?”

- For the Men Who Still Don’t Get It, Carol Diehl
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Pic 3

Gendered Toys in 2012

Have you ever seen a commercial aimed at kids? It’s several minutes of toy commercials that hammer gender stereotypes into impressionable kid’s heads. What I wouldn't give to see the marketing companies breaking the social norms a bit to to show a little girl playing with a race car set, or a little boy enjoying a dollhouse, but nope, they’re still so blue and pink.

Seriously people, it’s 2012. Quit it.


Pic 2

The Nice Guy Syndrome

Last weekend, I had a very bad experience with a guy who had a serious case of "The Nice Guy Syndrome". To put it simply, The Nice Guy pretends to be your friend so that he can eventually wheedle his way into your pants. Suffice it to say that I have cut all ties with said Nice Guy but I think it's important that I bring to light this very prominent issue. Most Nice Guys don't think they're wrong, and this was true in my case. He didn't even realize his mistake. Only when I called him up and gave him a tongue lashing did he consider how wrong his actions were and acknowledge that his behavior was extremely disturbing. Unfortunately, I highly suspect his apologies were given only for my benefit. I don't think he believes he did anything wrong.



Definition: Nice Guy Syndrome is an annoying mental condition in which a heterosexual man concocts overly simplified ideas why woman aren't flocking to him in droves. He will whine about how women never want to date him because he's "too nice" and that women only want to be with guys that treat them like shit. In reality, he isn't very nice. His "nice deeds" (like taking you out, helping you with your daily activities, being a "friend") are motivated as attempts to passively please women into a relationship/sex. In short, his niceness is self-interested, and it contributes to his sense of entitlement when it comes to dating and sex. 



What Nice Guys fail to realize is that girls don't want to date a jerk, and when they do, it is accidental and not become of some weird desire to be treated like crap (and don't bring up girls who go back to their abusive partners - abuse is complicated and not related to this). They just want to date guys that are genuinely nice. What women really want in men is a whole other topic which I won't post about since I'll digress and plus, this is already circling the interwebs.

So here it is. The raw, real truth. 

Are you listening?

The truth, Mr. Nice Guy is this...

......

.............

YOU'RE NOT ACTUALLY NICE.


You're a prick who could have been rejected for many reasons, but I'm going to say it's probably because you're a misogynistic asshole. Maybe if you quit being a jerk, more girls would go for you. And even if they don't, you still don't have a reason to call them bitches who don't know what's good for them. Instead of looking at why they are the problem, examine yourself and see what it is about you that's making them run in the opposite direction. Take a freaking hint!
Pic 13

PechaKucha Night: Legalizing Sex Work

Part of my degree program entails the accumulation of 40 self-directed learning activities (SDLA hours) split evenly between this current semester and the next. These SDLA hours can be anything that is relevant to Social Work. Yesterday, I went for the movie 'Still' directed by Michael McGowen. Today, I went for PechaKucha Night at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.



PechaKucha (meaning "chit chat" in Japanese) Night is a global, informal and fun gathering that brings creative people together for an evening of quick-fire “show and tell” presentations. 20 images are shown for 20 seconds each, allowing each presenter just that amount of time to share their thoughts and experiences on the topic of cultural landscapes. One speaker that stood out in particular for me was Renee Ross, who spoke about the invisible culture of sex workers.

What can be defined as "sex work"? And who are sex workers? Personally, I think the best definition I have found so far is this: sex work is exchanging one's own sexual labor or performance for compensation. Considering this definition, below are those people that are sex workers (except for the ones in grey text):

A Prostitute
An Escort
A Hooker
A Streetworker
A Madam
A Courtesan
A Dominatrix
A Master
An Erotic Masseuse
A Full Body Sensual Masseuse
A Stripper
An Exotic Dancer
An Adult Film/Porn Performer
Someone Who Shoots, Directs, or Produces Porn
A Fluffer
An Erotic Writer
A Phone Sex Operator
A Tantra Provider
An Agency owner
A Pimp
Someone supported by A Sugar Daddy/Mama

Someone who has had sex for food, drugs, or to get the money you needed to survive
A Clerk at a Sex shop
An Owner of a Sexually Oriented Business

A Peep Show Dancer
A Webcam Performer
A Fetish or Nude Model
A Fetish/Erotic Photographer
An Online Domme
An Adult Webmaster/mistress
A Burlesque Dancer
A Sex Advice Columnist
A Sex Toy Reviewer
A Sex Worker Advocate/Activist
A Publisher/Editor of A Sexually Oriented Publication

A Hustler/Ho
A Waitress at A Strip Club
A Phone Operator at an Escort Service

A Fantasy Sex Provider
A Curator at A Sex Museum
A Sex Educator

A Sex Surrogate
A Sex Therapist
Rent Boy/Girl

The reason I have included the crossed-out text professions is to highlight the fact that putting "escort" or "stripper" in the same category as the person who designed a dominatrix directory website dilutes and erases the special and complex challenges faced by sex workers.

Anyway, Renee spoke about how sex workers are either hated or seen as victims that need saving. Such attitudes are what contribute to our culture of excluding sex workers, excluding them from discussions on what would actually be helpful for them, erasing their experiences, their feelings, their right to be part of the solution. Seeing sex workers in one of two ways contributes to their marginalization and stigmatization. In reality, nothing is black and white so why should sex work be classified as either this or that?

Sex work is the oldest profession in the world (the second oldest being Social Work, lol). It's not going to magically disappear if we ban it (just like abortion). Doing so will only end up hurting sex workers, making it more dangerous for them to live in a world that actively despises them. After listening to Debbie's speech, it was confirmed: I'm now an advocate for the legalization of sex work. While some may think it is immoral and degrading, I argue that sex work is essentially just work, and that it is not necessarily harmful.

While I still don't think it's entirely empowering (maybe this viewpoint will change), I do believe that by accepting and regulating it in society, sex workers can be protected and granted the same rights as any other laborer. And why is that so important? Because it keeps them safe. Because it means no longer living in a world that doesn't question what happened to those murdered sex workers, because it means that they will no longer be shunned, or be invisible, and that they are in fact worthy of love, affection and care, which surprisingly is the biggest myth surrounding sex workers out there. If the legalization of sex work means a safer world for sex workers, then I am all for that.



Learn more about Renee Ross's organization here.