Gaming in Color: An Interview with Director and Producer Philip Jones

“Prepare to have your assumptions and comforts challenged a bit, and remember that queer people are a part of your human experience,” Philip told me when I asked them what they wanted their non-queer viewers of Gaming in Color to take from the film. Of course the film, which focuses on the experiences of queer gamers in video games, from developers to simple fans, is meant to be about educating others. Philip wanted there to be an easy to consume resource for those who may not be able to influence every gamer they meet to understand the issues queer gamers face.

“Your gaming tendencies will probably feel a bit poked at and criticized, maybe even deconstructed in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. But that’s often how queer people feel just getting past the hurdle of even turning on a game, assumptions are made and questions are asked and you’re never allowed to just exist in a culture that is hostile or at best neutral but aloof to you.” As Philip states here, gaming is not always perfect when it comes to dealing with queer characters, let alone dealing with queer people within gaming experiences. However, not everything is negative when it comes to the intersections of identity and gaming.

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GamerGate: Ethics? What Ethics?

Content/Trigger warning for links: Miosgyny, violent threats, sexism, racism, antisemitism and slurs.

GamerGate has been covered as a hate movement by various places from Kotaku, to the New York Times, to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the BBC News. However, they often decry that these are a few people in their vast movement which is “actually about ethics in gaming journalism”. However…

You cannot claim to be about ethics in journalism when you break literally every journalistic code in the book. Ethics is defined by “moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior”. This is obviously a very broad and subjective term. However, GamerGate is specifically about journalistic ethics in gaming journalism. Interesting considering that gaming and reviews are something subjective, as with all arts.

So let’s look at ethical standards already in place for journalists. According to the Society of Professional Journalists there are four main points an ethical journalist should follow. These points are broken down into smaller points, almost all which are broken by GamerGate as well. However, this article will stick to the four main points.

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On Manning Up: What Makes A Man

What makes a man? Who is defined as a man? Often those who are assumed to be men are masculine. What does masculinity entail? Brave, bold, courageous, aggressive, dominating. Masculinity is powerful. It’s at the helm. Femininity is rooted in the opposite. Soft, dainty, delicate, passive, submissive. Femininity is seen as inferior. It is seen as weak, especially in comparison to masculinity. So who is told to Man Up? Those who are seen as inferior. Those who are weak. Those who are delicate.

Thus terms like Manning Up are rooted in removing the feminine. They are rooted in these sexist ideas that femininity and thus, being a woman (as the two are connected in our society) are seen as inferior. We cannot be men if we do not ‘man up’ or, in the real meaning, become more masculine. These terms are directed at men or those perceived as men (regardless of actual gender) who are often seen as feminine and thus, seen as lesser to those who are not. It is a way of eradicating gender variance, and thus, eradicating femininity among men because it is seen as weak. The ideas of Manning Up are rooted in gender policing, femmephobia, sexism, transmisogyny, and anything remotely anti-woman. Manning Up means removing anything remotely woman-like. I often see trans men, in particular, trying to reclaim this phrase and other similar phrases as a turn of phrase, a reclamation of their identities, but at what cost?

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The Assumed Male Default: Misogynist

None of my coworkers or customers know I spent the first 20 years of my life being assumed to be a woman. They have no need to. It’s never come up and unless it is relevant, it is strictly irrelevant information. So, when it comes to how they treat me, I am treated just like every other guy, which has led to some insight when it comes to men interacting with one another.

Customers and coworkers alike have stated blatantly misogynistic things to me and expected me to agree. They automatically assume that I am misogynistic. This has come from anyone from teenagers to the elderly, both in words and actions. For example, I recently had a customer come in and begin complaining about a female employee from another store. He expected me to agree. He attempted to get me to agree. I was silent. I shrugged and listened. Then he left. I was baffled.

I had a coworker show me photos of a woman who had apparently slept with five guys (who were Black, cause apparently that just adds to the shock) and quoted Chris Brown “these hoes ain’t loyal”, I flat out told him maybe if he stopped beating women and calling them hoes, they’d be more inclined to stay. He seemed taken aback. I didn’t agree with his racist and misogynistic comments? What?

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The Hate Culture of Gaming

“We play games to forget the hate in the world, not be reminded of it.”

This is a statement I made a long time ago and is something I stick with today about video games. I play video games to engage in fantastical worlds, far removed from my own. Video games are an escape, a retreat. Something I can do with my friends in order to get rid of some stress. I can escape the world, be whatever I choose to be. I become part of worlds where anything is possible, from dragons and werewolves, to just respawning when you happened to be killed. However there is one thing that, no matter how fantastical the world, if other players are involved, I cannot escape.

The gaming community is not only marred by this monster, it is defined by this monster. It is expected. When people log on to play a game, they brace themselves. What level of misogyny, racism, homophobia, and so forth will I experience today? How many times will I be called a f*g? How many rape jokes will I hear? Will I be told to kill myself today, repeatedly? Will I be able to speak to my team without being told to get back into the kitchen or show my breasts? We have reached a point where online gaming has become no longer a retreat for many. Our fantasies are shattered. Fantastical realms crumble.

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The Feminine Threat

When people critique femininity, they proclaim that femininity is weak, unnatural, and artificial. Many of the traits that people associate with femininity are seen as inferior, such as emotional, sensitive, grace, innocence, feminine styles of dress (such as colorful attire), especially when compared to their masculine counterparts. However, I find this kind of absurd when compared to how fragile masculinity actually is. It is threatened and questioned, potentially even destroyed, by being near femininity. Even associations with femininity cause chaos in the stability of masculinity.

Masculinity, especially the masculinity of cisgender straight men, is constantly under threat from femininity. Masculinity is something so fragile, that they fear to breathe the same air as someone who is feminine, especially someone they perceive as male (whether this is correct or not). For something seen as so weak and so inferior, masculinity is certainly on shaky ground. This ground becomes increasingly shakier the more masculine a person becomes. It becomes increasingly fragile the closer someone gets to hypermasculinity or idealized masculinity. It becomes threatened by something as small as painted nails.

In an attempt to stop biting my nails, I wore fake nails with sparkling purple nail polish on them. People stared at my hands. They refused to touch me. They acted as if touching me would somehow have them catch The Gay. People would take bags from me at work, avoiding at all cost touching me. The overwhelming majority were men. They were threatened by my blatant display of femininity, seen as more over the line than my long hair. It’s absurd that we see femininity as weak when masculinity is defeated and threatened so easily. How can femininity be seen as weak when masculinity is threatened by a dude with painted fingernails? A small dude, nonetheless, with painted fingernails who is 100lbs soaking wet. Yet we see masculinity as strength?

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Trans Exclusionary ‘Radical’ Feminists Aren’t That Radical

Radical feminists…:

Believe that society must be changed at its core in order to dissolve patriarchy, not just through acts of legislation…Radical feminists believe that the domination of women is the oldest and worst kind of oppression in the world. They believe this because it spans across the world oppressing women of different races, ethnicities, classes and cultures. Radical feminists want to free both men and women from the rigid gender roles that society has imposed upon them. It is this sex-gender system that has created oppression and radical feminist’s mission is to overthrow this system by any possible means. (Source)

Sounds pretty wonderful, I mean, it’s the basis of feminism and got its start in the 1960’s. Radical feminism is what started the push for women’s rights, especially the critical idea of patriarchy and how women are oppressed in society. While there are various subgroups and various definitions of radical feminism, they all believe in one thing; changing society and getting rid of the patriarchy thus, ending the oppression of women.

By most notions, any feminist could be considered radical if they wish to change society at its core and how it functions, especially in regards to how women are treated through gender stereotypes, gender roles, and how society views its definitions of gender. Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, in summary, believe that trans women are men, trans men are women (and especially traitors), that trans women rape the bodies of cis women for existing, and that being a woman is not an identity. Many of them harbor the idea of shared girlhood, which is the notion that there is a universal narrative that is experienced by all female assigned at birth people, something that trans women will never understand. These women and their supporters actively lobby against trans-inclusive health care, protections, and basic rights. However, trans people are not the only ones they harm in their crusades.

However, when it comes to TERFs and their beliefs as well as their approaches, there is something unradical about them. In essence, they support the patriarchy and how it oppresses women.

TW: Rape, TERFs, transphobia, transmisogyny, misogyny, sexism

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Experience Versus Being

Trigger Warning:: Transmisogyny, violence, trans*phobia, homophobia, assault

Privilege is something that is granted and gained. Privilege is something that is given, and taken away, by other people and society. People do not just roll over and decide to be privileged one day. If it was that easy, there are a lot of people in the world who would love to hit that privilege switch. Privilege is something that is handed to people society deems worthy, mostly white, cis, straight men who aren’t poor. Just as privilege can be given, it can be taken away, almost in the blink of an eye. A trans* person who is perceived as cis has passing privilege that can be easily removed the moment they are known to be trans*. A queer person who is perceived as straight can lose their ‘straight passing’ privilege the moment their identity and status as a queer person is known. Take it account how many people do not know of their privileges until the moment it is taken away.

One of the better examples is when a person of privilege is a victim of a hate crime for being perceived as a queer person. A trans man who is perceived as a woman by his attacker and is assaulted as such in a misogynistic attack; a straight man that is perceived to be gay and thus is the victim of gay bashing or a verbal assault. People can experience the violence of being perceived as queer without actually being queer due to the perception of another. Denying this experience strips the victim of their assault, whether verbal, physical, sexual or a combination of such. Take the first example. This man has become a victim of misogyny due to his attacker perceiving him as being a woman. While the attack may be tinged with cissexism, trans*phobia, and maybe even homophobia, the attacker still carried out the attack as one meant to be rooted in misogyny. It is almost as if the other causes are accidental. Denying this denies the impact that such violence has not only on queer people, but on the majority as well.

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#DearCisFeminism

Trigger Warning: Trans*phobia, transmisogyny

Following trends like #CognitiveCissonance and #FuckCisPeople, #DearCisFeminism has quickly been spreading like rapid fire across Twitter. This hashtag, like the others, is to call into question the double standards that feminism has towards its acceptance of hateful and oppressive ideology while pushing trans* people, especially trans women, out of the picture. Tweets covered broad topics anywhere from the dominance of butch/masculine people in feminist discourse (while rejecting femme/feminine people as upholding the patriarchy), the refusal to call out TERFs (like Brennan) on their misogynistic and bigoted statements, and how cis feminism often ignores women of color, sex workers, the poor, and others while focusing on their own middle class white cis needs.

FireShot Screen Capture #054 - 'Twitter _ stuxnetsource_ #dearcisfeminism Fuck you for ___' - twitter_com_stuxnetsource_status_400005854352515072

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Where Do We Belong?: Gender and Privilege

Privilege is always a sticky discussion. It is something almost everyone experiences in varying degrees in some aspect of their lives whether it is gender, sexuality, race, social status, etc. Privilege and the lack of privilege is something that is extremely important in the discussions about intersectionality and oppression in feminism. However, as someone who presents and IDs as male, I’m left in a weird gray area.

As a trans man, where do I stand in feminism? I’ve experienced misogyny and sexism in the past, especially since I worked in a video game store for most of my working adult life. For 20 years of my life, I presented as female even if my gender identity did not match this, this is how I was perceived by the world. Working in a male dominated area, I experienced sexism and misogyny. I have a history with these things, a very personal history. Transitioning does not erase my history, as my history is part of me. I do not deny being trans* and fully embrace it as part of my identity. I should not be excluded from feminist spaces (not women’s spaces, as a man, I do not belong there). I also must sidestep and let women speak before me. I must acknowledge, accept, and understand how my new privileges affect me in my life. I am seen as a man (most of the time). However, this does not erase my history with sexism and misogyny.

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The ‘Innocence’ of Jokes

People try to pass jokes off as innocent, no matter the intent. Comedians seem to get a free pass to joke about whatever content they want without thinking about how the joke may further enable a certain set of ideas or behaviors. Jokes, and thus comedians, are not free from criticism for perpetuating and using these types of jokes either. Jokes, like all language, play a part in making certain oppressive parts of life remain ok and even funny.

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