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A Gamer’s Complaints: Mechanics and Trends I Wish Would Change in Today’s Video Games

I play a lot of video games. I’m not very good at them though and am a very big fan of getting to 100% completion on a game (including all the grindy stuff). On most games, I hit a snag and stop playing, but I tend to play the same one for months. I play for months because I really only play on about three days out of any given week. I have other stuff to do. None of this means I don’t have an opinion on game mechanics and trends. Of course, I do, and I’m going to express them here. I’m not going to talk about poor quality craftsmanship in gaming but am going to discuss some social mores and features that bother me. I know what you’re thinking, oh, she’s going to go all Gamer Gate on us. I’m not, but I am going to get that sticky topic out of the way first.

Gamer Gate: Bioshock Infinite

I find Gamer Gate distasteful. For the most part, the “problems” they see are imaginary or are not a sexist issue. For example, the idea that images of women in games are almost always unreasonably represented. This is true in a lot of games, but guess what? The images of men in games are also almost always unreasonably represented. Women are overly sexualized, what with their armor that is more about showing off their bodies then protecting them in combat, and men are overly masculinized, what with the giant, overly muscled meatheads that wear bandannas, smoke cigars, swear like they have a quota to fill, and spit every where they go. So I ask, how is this sexist? Maybe it is, but it isn’t misogynistic. Games that do this, and it’s not all of them, are misrepresenting both sexes. They objectify and show unreasonable images of both sexes. So I don’t see this as a female crusade, so much as stupid fantasy. It is a stupid trend, but it also is an understandable one from a business standpoint since gaming is a form of wish fulfillment since gamers are literally putting themselves in the point of view of an avatar with a better body than them, better sexual prospects, and a much more fun life. I don’t see why it is wrong for some of the games on the market to meet this wish fulfillment. Saying that these games pervert male understanding of relationships is a leap to me since most peoples’ understanding of relationships come from their parents and how those parents react and teach on media. The same principal applies to violence in games. Media really only reinforces what a person has learned in their childhood from their family; otherwise, people wouldn’t develop a dislike for certain types of media. If violence and possible sexism in video games really did result in life copying art as much as people say, things would be a lot worse since millions of people (male and female) play video games. It’s not a billion dollar industry on a few weirdos.

A lot of people are hopping on the Gamer Gate trend, including humor website, Cracked. Lately, Cracked has replaced their Saturday Photoplasties with rehashes from their articles with images created by AutieMeme. And while I’m not going to get into why that is a problem within itself in this post, I will bring up one they did related to this subject: 19 Surprisingly Sexist Messages in Modern Pop Culture. Not all of them are on gaming, and not all of them are off the mark. Lara Croft’s reboot is pretty spot on, and Yahtzee already mentions this problem when he reviews the 2012 Tomb Raider and the newer Metroid main character. But immediately following the good examination of Lara Croft, we get a major reach in the description of Ellie in The Last of Us.

Now, I know that I would collapse in tears upon seeing the first non-zombie person after the start of an apocalypse, no matter what my age. In fact, it is believable that any one of any sex or age would do this, but especially a child. Children cry a lot when things aren’t apocalyptic. I’m actually freaked out by children who don’t cry when something terrible happens to them. Isn’t that one of the first forms of expression we have as humans? It’s one we go to when happy, sad, angry, or relieved. Of course, she’s crying! There is nothing unreasonable or sexist about this.

Then there was the crapstorm of number one on the list: Elisabeth from Bioshock Infinite. The idea that Elisabeth was ever sitting and waiting to be rescued is a laughable misrepresentation of the game. Elisabeth learned to pick locks in her many attempts to escape. She could tear portals in time, yes, but her prison was weakening her powers, making them useless in escape attempts. This is one of my favorite games. The story is amazing, the characters are well developed and believable, the mechanics are fun, and the mind-bending plotline is just great. Trust me on this, if Elisabeth had not been a strong and capable character I wouldn’t like the game half as much as I do. She is a very powerful figure in the story, stronger than Dewitt, not just in terms of raw power but also as a person, showing much more strength of character, much more integrity. She is both McGuffin and a powerful lead affecting the arc of the story and even resolving it. The interpretation from the picture is distasteful in its misleading bent and omission of other information. It is highly frustrating to read as someone who has actually played the game and connected to the characters. Both of the interpretations on Ellie and Elisabeth show someone searching for something to complain about. They lack in depth examination and an understanding of reality. Women can be both strong and vulnerable in video games, as can men. Men are much less likely to show vulnerability in video games than women are to show strength. But reality demands a balance between the two in both sexes which is why I can’t support Gamer Gate. It calls for women in games to be sexless and invulnerable, while neither of those things is real.

Most of the time, I don’t hear backup to the claim that video games are sexist. Instead, I hear that claim repeated ad nauseam. When I do hear some backup, it’s typically a major reach, such as the two examples from Cracked. I find this very insulting. I enjoy video games and the majority those play don’t feel like they are attacking me as a woman. Women actually play more roles in video games than one would first think. In fact, they tend to take up all the same roles as men. Games that go for realism don’t often have female cops or soldiers, because the rate on the first is low, and the rate on the second is even lower (remember the US doesn’t have women in combat roles). So for the most part, I don’t see what they are talking about.

Real Sexism: Marvel Heroes

I play a lot of MMOs. I enjoy most of them. I’m also a very big Marvel fan. As such, when Marvel Heroes went to open beta, I was all over that. I had a lot of fun too. Now, there are a lot of problems with Marvel Heroes. Some have been addressed. For example, at first a player couldn’t playtest a hero before buying them, which was crappy because no matter how much you like a hero doesn’t mean they won’t suck to play. Now all heroes are playable to level 10, which is great. Try before you buy. However, every time I get back on Marvel Heroes, I have to reallocate my points because they keep messing with the play of the heroes. That is so annoying. I want to play not spend ten minutes assigning points any time I log on. But all this is besides the main point of this section. Still had to get those out there. The real problem is the gender swap enhanced costumes. Okay, if you’ve never played this game (which you totally can as it is free to play), you pick one starting hero and level them and can unlock other heroes with Gs (which you have to pay for) or Eternity Splinters (which you can find while playing). So one way is paid and another is free. You get the standard costume when you unlock a hero, whichever one that may be. Costumes cannot be unlocked with Eternity Splinters. So if I want to play female Hawkeye, Ghost Rider, Black Panther, God of Thunder, Deadpool, Loki, Punisher, Spider-man or male Warbird, I have to pay. The base playable characters includes 38 male characters and 12 female characters. There are not a lot of female superheroes in Marvel Comics. Why would you make 8 of them only unlockable with real money? This is crazy unbalanced. They are adding ShadowCat, which will bring the total to 13, but I bet anything they will add American Dream as a costume.

What is this problem exactly? The problem is games that have gender options that are partially locked. Older Diablo versions and Path of Exile had static genders for characters, and a lot of non-MMOs or top-downs have gender locks because you are a specific character in a very specific story, such as a lot of FPS games. That’s fine for FPS games. But why would you ever make a gender option and then not actually give it to your players? Do you know how frustrating it is to have that dangled in our face? Marvel Heroes needs to stop this gender swap enhanced costume BS and let the players choose their sex when they get the hero; and let us choose it for heroes that we received when we didn’t have a choice. I’ll pay for an enhanced costume that gives a different dialogue or voiced by an actor from the movie, but I’m not going to pay for what should be a different freaking hero.

Flirting Mechanics: SWTOR

Flirting mechanics can be interesting, especially when the designers of the game put in negative responses. But I hate the fact that there isn’t a flirt response option for every character I speak to. They decide that I wouldn’t flirt with certain people. That’s stupid. I could, in theory, attempt to flirt with everyone I meet in the real world–doesn’t mean I should, but I totally could. In fact, I could attempt to flirt with a rock. Not that it would get me anywhere. So why do games with flirt mechanics tell me who I’m willing to flirt with? You don’t know me! Maybe I want to flirt with the big lizard companion. You know, just to see how he’d react. Flirting isn’t always used as a sexual ploy. Sometimes it is used as a method of teasing. I think that would be pretty interesting in a game. Also, why stop at flirting? There should be an option to insult everyone. Hell, there should be an option to punch everyone! I’m not saying that you should actually do these things in real life or even in a game, but as games keep trying to add more “reality”, they just keep showing us how not-real they are. An artificially limited flirt option just shows a player that they are playing a game and takes them out of the immersion. So go whole hog with social interactions in games! I know that’s hard to do, but work to it. (Also, Sims woefully underestimates the player’s desire to make their Sim punch other Sims, especially when they come into our homes uninvited.)

Morality Scales: SWTOR Again

Morality scales are a lot like flirting mechanics, as in incomplete. But also just weird as hell. Not every decision made has an effect on the scale, which everything should. But also, they often don’t make sense when you combine them. On Alderaan there are two such missions with morality choices that are just messed up when both are considered. These are pretty early on for a Republic player. You meet a reporter whose partner has run off and joined the rebels (they really are scum this time) and she wants you to get back their footage. You also run into an older couple whose son is believed dead, but mom has her doubts and wants to check if the rebels have him. You run into the other reporter and the son in the rebel stronghold pretty much one right after the other. The son says the rebels kidnapped him, forced him to take drugs, then used him as a soldier. They apparently have been doing this to other teenagers as well. Your moral choice is to let him leave the planet, telling his parents some lie, or to tell him to go home to mommy and daddy. The first is light side points and the second is dark side points. Now, I will discuss why that’s a problem in the next paragraph, but first on to the reporter. Upon meeting him, he says that if you give the footage to the other reporter, she will cut it to make the rebels look bad and that their plight is actually very dire and they need supporters. So he gives you the choice to let him keep the footage (light side points) or take it from him (dark side points). Now, first of all, I don’t believe that he’s going to give an unbiased cut of the footage to people either. But I can’t see him as anything but freaking insane for taking the rebels’ side after hearing the kid’s story. The lineup of light side and dark side in these two missions don’t make any sense when compared to each other. I don’t feel any sympathy for the scum that is an African warlord who kidnaps children and forces them to fight for him either, and I’m certainly not going to feel any sympathy for the reporter who tells me he’s not a bad guy. That’s insane.

The other problem besides morality not matching up among separate choices is the lack of a grey area. It’s neither bad nor good to help or force the son to go home. It’s kind of just a personal choice based on your upbringing. It’s also not good to help either reporter because neither of them is unbiased. So why have such black and white choices? Yahtzee’s biggest cripe against morality scales is that you have to be all good or all bad to see anything good come out of it. I agree that that makes the choices a little superfluous, because you could just choose an alignment at the beginning of the game instead. They are just making you choose it again and again throughout the game. Because of this, games with morality scales should include middle options that also give a player some benefit. Otherwise, it’s just too childish.

Forced Multiplayer: LOTRO

I hate playing with other people. I am a loner. I like to play by myself with no one else in the room. I like MMOs though. I don’t join groups, I don’t join guilds, I rarely trade with others, and I don’t chat. Why play an MMO then? Well, I like the character creation and build that comes with MMOs. There aren’t a lot of single player games with those features, namely Oblivion, Skyrim, and a few non-Elder Scrolls games. So I play a lot of MMOs, I beta-tested LOTRO, Marvel Heroes, and The Elder Scrolls online. I played City of Heroes/Villains, Champions Online, WOW, and a few others I can’t remember. I play LOTRO, Marvel Heroes, SWTOR, and DC Universe Online. All these games try to make you play with other people. I get the fact that they want to utilize that millions of people are playing, but they shouldn’t make it impossible to play solo (Han Solo). SWTOR only gives F2P players one crafting ability, when you need two to make something useful. That’s more about them trying to make F2P into Pay to Win players, but F2P players could conceivably trade with others for the stuff they need. LOTRO gives everyone all three of their crafting abilities, but they are set up that you need stuff from a fourth crafting skill to complete some items. I’m crazy, so I created four other characters on each of my servers to make them all craft the stuff I need (now I have to do some shuffling because of the server shutdowns) and just mail it to my other characters. I hate to have to do this, but I really don’t want to be forced to play with other characters. It’s worse when it is about quests. Ugh. I just level up on side quests until I can do a group quest on my own. I know, I’m antisocial, but don’t act like I’m the only MMO player out there that would rather play alone. I assure you I’m not.

MMO Stalkers

Yes, I’m antisocial, but let’s face it, pretty much every MMO player doesn’t like to be stalked. It happens to people more when they play female characters I bet, but that doesn’t always seem to matter to the stalkers. A player that stalks others sees a player they don’t know running around, completing missions and starts to follow them. Maybe they don’t say anything or send invites. Maybe they just want to steal your kills. This happens to me a lot on Marvel Heroes. They don’t want to play with me, they just want help not getting mobbed or want to take the quest kill from me after I’ve killed all the baddies between us and the big baddie (happens way too often in SWTOR and LOTRO). That isn’t much of a problem in DC Universe Online (or as it is called in my home “DahCooniverse”) because that game is set up that if you land one blow in the fight (not the first one, like other games) you also get credit for the kill and get loot too. That sounds like forced multiplayer but it’s more sharing than forced. It makes gameplay a little less frustrating when you get a stalker. My problem with the silent stalker is that I feel crowded out of an area. It’s more obvious in a top-down game like Marvel Heroes where you can see that other player following your every turn. I quit playing when that happens.

The other kind of stalker doesn’t last as long but can be more annoying. This is the person who sends you multiple invites in a row. When the area is crowded, I can understand how they may have accidentally sent me a second request. But sometimes no one else is around and they send three to five. Or once in SWTOR a person sent me 15 requests. One can only guess that person had to be five, because only five year olds ask the same question that many times in a row. So I hightailed it out of that area and the range of their social ineptitude. No means no, even in MMOs, people.

The Dominance of the Sandbox and FPS

I’m not sure if it’s obvious to most readers at this point, but I don’t play a lot of FPS or sandbox games. First of all, I’m not a console player. I’m a PC gamer. FPS games seem to work better with a controller. I’m not very good at these games. I tend to die very quickly. Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite weren’t too hard for me (especially when I realized that I could just use the wrench to beat down the squirrely doctor in Bioshock), but Oblivion (which has some broken leveling) and Skyrim lost some of their fun being in first person (yes, I know you can do third person, but the feel of those games and the mechanics are made for FPS styles). Then I tried Speck Ops: The Line. It’s brutal and the story is great, but I still suck at it.

I’m also not all that into sandbox gaming. “You can do anything you want!” But what should I do? “Anything you want!” Okay. My point is that sandbox gaming tends to lack focus and it’s hard to tell what you’re supposed to interact with. Complete sandbox is also a turnoff for me. Mostly I don’t like sandbox gaming because those games seem to have the same kind of story and that story will usually just pause while you are futzing around, completely losing all urgency. While Fable 3 was somewhat sandboxy, once you knew about the dark monster coming for you, the story was on a clock (this is one of the only games I beat, note that it was 3rd person) and that lent more realism to it. Some games keep the story going even though they are also sandboxes, but they don’t warn you that the story will keep going (i.e. Oblivion). This is a low down dirty trick. “You can do anything you want! (but the problems you’re supposed to fix will still happen)” What was that? “Anything you want!” Yahtzee talked a lot about these kinds of problems in some of his videos, so why don’t you go watch those too?

I don’t think FPS and sandbox gaming is just a problem because I don’t like or am not good at them. The problem is that there are so freaking many of them. Thank you so much GTA! I’m not saying don’t make them, but how about you make other kinds of games too, triple A game companies? This is why I tend to be excited by indie games. They have more variety.

The Fall of the (Turn-based) RPG: The Lord of the Rings: Third Age

My favorite kind of game is the turn-based RPG. I do not like JRPG, so don’t suggest any to me, though I loved Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete. That game was fun. A million freaking disks and tiny little characters and an interesting story. I beat that game too. The second one was harder. I like turn-based gaming because I’m a fan of strategy and building a character. I’ll play RTS games, but they’re not my favorite. My favorite game of all time is The Lord of the Rings: Third Age. Turn-based, six characters, the entirety of the story all from the movies, its own side story, and pretty good graphics for the PS2 engine. Now, I’m a little OCD. Each character had two power sets you could level up by doing a move each time in battle. I had each character completely leveled up by the end because I would park my butt in Helm’s Deep and go into battle for hours, prolonging the fights to get in as many moves for each character as possible. My spouse thought I was crazy since I wasn’t advancing the story at all. Then he realized I was also smart because in some of the later battles all of your characters have to fight two different battles at the same time and if you didn’t level up your second stringers, they were just going to die. The only thing I didn’t level up completely was the crafting ring. It took too long. I got 100% complete on that game, twice. That’s right twice. Each saved game had about 99 hours of playtime on it, which means I spent a total of 198 hours playing that game. The only reason I’m not playing it now is that I don’t have a PS2 anymore. But I miss that game. It’s the last really great turn-based game I can remember, especially one with modern (for its time) graphics. Now, it seems only the Japanese companies and indie developers are making turn-based games because all the other companies are so busy making their FPSes and sandbox games. Ugh. So when you hear about a turn-based game, please drop me a line. I’m always interested.

The Point of It All

Maybe it’s a good thing that I have so many issues with video games: it stops them from becoming an obsession that takes up all my time. These aren’t all my problems with video games (ex. crappy controls, poor story, freaking autosave!, lack of instructions, WASD explanations–really? you’re going to explain that but not how your battle simulator works?), but they are the ones that bother me most. I know that companies don’t have to satisfy just me, but I also know I’m not the only one who is put off by the issues on this list. The biggest issue seems to be the lack of variety coming out of big video game companies. It seems sometimes that more money and time are spent on graphics rendering than on gaming concept and story. Sometimes testing even goes out the window, looking at you, Arkham Knight for your PC version. Maybe this time it won’t suck quite so much, or at least not crash computers.

Got any trends or mechanics that bug you? Tell me about them in the comments. We’ll talk shop.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in Consumer Rights, Social Issues

 

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The Taking of Women’s Agency and Men’s Victimization: How They Can Relate

What Brought It Up?

I’ve been reading a lot on CHE lately, from editors and opinion pieces and letters to the editor on adjuncts’ rights and Chancellor Wise’s and the UI BOT recent pulling of the rug out from under a faculty approved applicant, but mostly, on Title IX and I’ve also perused Bing and Yahoo! News a bit about Emma Watson’s recent speech to U.N. on her new campaign HeForShe. All of it has my brain churning. These situations seem to feed into each other a bit, maybe a lot. Unfortunately, I can’t link to all (or even most) of the articles because CHE doesn’t really let free readers browse old articles and some of my references are to articles I can’t even find anymore (in a bunch of moves–5–in the last year and half I’ve lost a lot of books, movies, CDs, and articles I would have loved to have kept).

The Statistics on Female College Students and Sexual Assault

In many of the articles and letters to the editor, the number of 20-25% of all women in college would be sexually assaulted was repeatedly brought up, but many commentators on the articles brought up that the reported number does not match the percentage. One could easily chalk this up to assaults going unreported. I’ve always questioned that logic though. How does one count what has no indicators? Other commentators brought up another good point on these numbers: what counts as sexual assault? CHE commentators tend to include sources or cogent counter arguments (though as a website it can be prone to trolling and fallacy, but this tends to be countered again by other commentators calling them out on it), and some started examining studies on college sexual assault and what counted as sexual assault in those studies: actions like forced or attempted forced kissing (such as may happen at the end of a first date) and consensual sex wherein the female party was intoxicated but did not call the sex non-consensual. This seems like a much more logical reason behind the 20-25% statistic as it would indicate why the number of reported instances was lower than the rate would suggest. I’m not saying the statistic is wrong; I’m just calling into question the calculation of it.

College Committees and Their Inadequacy

I don’t trust any college employee to go into a sexual assault hearing and not be prejudice, either way. Why? Because they are human and employees of an institution that has a culture they want to promote. Either they want to find the accused not responsible because he or she benefits the college in someway (typically this boils down to a male athlete). Or they want to find the accused responsible because they want to have a reputation of being hard on sexual assault. If the committee members have these thought/feelings/leanings before an instance is brought before them, they are going in with bias, which means they will downplay the evidence they don’t want to hear or perform mental gymnastics to get the conclusion they want. There are no checks and balances to this. Another form of their inadequacy is their extreme lack of skill in the matter. They are not detectives, they are not lawyers (all of them anyway as many colleges to not have justice or pre-law departments), and they are not judges in the usual sense. This means the majority of committee members do not have the experience or expertise to make judgments in criminal matters, meaning they can either try to be objective as best as possible or fall back on their personal feelings. Neither bodes well for the validity of their findings. Third, they do not have access to some of the tools available to police investigations, such as rape kits and physical examinations of the accused. This is important in proving that any intercourse, in the accusations of rape, actually took place. Without this evidence, the idea that sexual contact even happened is called into question. I’m not saying that in all, or even most or half of, cases the rape didn’t happen. I’m saying that in the small number of instances (and I do believe it is small) wherein the rape did not happen there is no evidence supporting one claim or another. The physical examination of the proposed victim and attacker are most important in the instance wherein the victim describes the rape as one of the violent type or wherein the accused says the rape and even intercourse never happened. In these cases, not having this evidence is a giant gap in the support of the judgment of the committee, in either accuser or accused’s favor or detriment.

Drunk Sex = Sexual Assault

This is such a sticky equation, but one that seems much too black and white to have any real world application. Any married person would most likely find this idea laughable as a common occurrence among married couples is drunk sex, say after a party at a friend’s house or similar alcohol infused situations. I don’t just find it to be joke; I find it to be an insult. The idea is that women in college when intoxicated are incapable of giving consent, but that men in college, intoxicated or not, should be able to see that a woman is intoxicated and stop intercourse even if she has given her verbal consent. This is insulting in many ways. 1): People (all people, men and women) are always responsible for their actions when intoxicated when they brought on the intoxication themselves, meaning that all people are responsible for whether they get behind the wheel of a car, physically assault someone, or commit other acts illegal or legal that they would not do when sober. Regardless of the genitalia they happened to be born with. 2): It takes away a woman’s agency, by suggesting that a man in the same state of intoxication is more capable of reasoning than a woman. How is that not sexist against women? As in, women lack a capability that men have. 3): It places an archaic and nearly impossible to meet responsibility on men for not only their own actions when intoxicated but also women’s. They’re supposed to “take care of us women”. When are we going to move past this idea that men have to make decisions and take responsibility for the women in their lives and let women have responsibility over their own lives? Apparently, not in college. It is also unfair to assume that his judgment is not as impaired as hers at the same level of intoxication and requires basically omniscience, when he may also be intoxicated, on his part. 4): It waters down the reality of sexual assault and lowers people’s empathy for the victims of violent and non-violent sexual assault. Please understand that these insults apply to when a woman in conscious and intoxicated. If a person is unconscious when intoxicated, obviously consent was not given and sexual assault occurred.

It is also a weird contradiction that many colleges think this way about alcohol consumption in relation to sexual assault when they are not even allowed to talk about preventative measures involving alcohol consumption when they have their sexual assault orientations: don’t tell women to alter their behavior by consuming less alcohol, but find men responsible for sexual assault if the woman has consumed alcohol. Uh, . . . I’m not even sure how to respond to this, because I understand why they don’t want to tell women to consume less alcohol, but I really don’t understand why they think drunk sex = sexual assault in relation to their reasoning (not allowed by most Title IX related polices) to not telling women to alter their behavior. It would seem to mean that drunk sex ≠ sexual assault.

Pragmatism vs Victim-Blaming

I am not a fan of victim-blaming, more than that I hate it. I don’t think what a woman wears, says, or does excuses sexual assault, even if she is inhumanely cruel beforehand (think the first episode of AHS: Coven). But I do believe in pragmatism. I have a right to walk down a dark alley, but I also know that I may get attacked if I do, which is why I carry pepper spray. That’s pragmatism. If a person leaves their front door unlocked and open when they go on vacation and someone burgles their home, it doesn’t make what the criminal did any less wrong and doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be punished, but the preventative action of closing and locking one’s door is just smart. It means one didn’t have to go through the violation of being burgled. Victim-blaming is different than pragmatism. Victim-blaming is when someone says that the victim deserved what they got because they were wrong for some erroneous reason. They may have been wrong. It’s wrong to leave your front door unlocked and open, but it does not change the fact that the criminal was wrong. It does not mean the victim deserved to get burgled. The idea that we have to change possible criminal behavior is nice to say, but it is not something we can actually control. We can say that crime is wrong as much as we want. We can promote a crime-free society as much as we want. It will not completely eliminate crime. The means to crime are desire and opportunity. We cannot take away the desire, but we can lower the opportunity. Otherwise, banks wouldn’t have vaults, guards, cameras, and alarms. There will always be people who want to hurt others, who want to steal, and we cannot eliminate their existence, but we can be prepared for it.

College Men and Sex

I was appalled to see some commentators on CHE on the recent “Presumed Guilty” article saying that college men should just abstain from sex to prevent incorrect judgments against them because it is the kind of argument put against women (“Maybe you shouldn’t do your laundry at midnight alone . . .” “Maybe you shouldn’t walk at night . . .” “Maybe you shouldn’t dress like a slut . . .” “. . . if you don’t want to be attacked”) basically saying they should change their legal behavior past the point of pragmatism to the point of living in fear. Some men have abstained from having sex in college, but that won’t protect them from judgments, which is another reason the argument disgusts me. One of the men examined in the article, who went by John Doe in his law suit against his university, claimed that he and the woman who had accused him had never had sexual contact. That he, in fact, just walked her to her dorm after a party. If true, and it just might be as I’m not about to assume his guilt based on his genitalia nor assume his innocence simply because he professes it, this throws the changing their behavior argument not just out the window but out of this dimension. One argument that often baffles me is that all guilty people profess their innocence, which isn’t true as some people plead guilty. But what is true is that all innocent people profess their innocence, because if you were innocent why would sit back and let people call you guilty?

One respondent to this article in a letter to the editor called for an apology for its publication. No, don’t apologize for this. We need to recognize that the system of judgment in academic sexual assault is broken in more ways than one; otherwise, it will never be fixed. We do not improve systems or ourselves by ignoring flaws. We improve by recognizing all the flaws, even when they seem contradictory. They aren’t actually, because each case has its specific nature and culture with its specific people involved. Cases can be mishandled in different, opposing ways within the same university depending on the people involved alone, because universities all together and within themselves are not homogeneous entities.

Other Equations

I’ve already explained how I believe the Drunk Sex = Sexual Assault equation hurts both men and women, but the institutions seem to be using it as an excuse to pre-judge in sexual assault cases. I am not suggesting that all sexual assault cases are bullhockey, but that the university committees may be coming into it un-objectively, in either gender’s favor or detriment. I believe the ideas that Women = Victims and Men = Assailants is very prevalent in our society, often even in the parts of society that consider themselves progressive or politically correct, but I feel like this is sexism with both equations. It’s still very archaic. It still casts women as damsels in distress. It makes us less human. Women are just as capable of being assailants as men. Again, the idea that men have a capability that we don’t is in people’s minds, and just because it may work in a woman’s favor doesn’t make it any less sexist. Because on the other side, we have men who are the victims of abuse at the hands of women. Such as but not limited to: assault, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic abuse. These black and white equations take away the voice of victims. Victimization is victimization, and wrong is wrong. Just because one empathizes with one group more than the other doesn’t mean they aren’t all in pain. Don’t judge one person’s pain against another. Don’t say “It could be worse”. Don’t minimize a person’s victimization by saying that in the past, or even now, the other side had it worse. That doesn’t mean the victim deserved what happened to them just because of the gender they happened to be born with. Isn’t that victim-blaming? And even not about that victim’s actions but about a group’s actions they by chance belong to?

Recently, I saw the above PSA on Tumblr (of all places) wherein two actors of the opposite sex were hired to pretend to get into an argument in public then one start to physically assault the other. In the first instance, the man started to assault the woman. People got involved. They yelled at him and threatened to call the police. In the second instance, the woman started to assault the man. People laughed. It was funny to them. The PSA ended with a statistic of how many abusive relationships have men as the victim. That number is pretty even with ratio of men to women in most developed countries (2:3). I’m not willing to ignore that many victims, nor downplay the pain they are in. The argument sometimes goes that a woman cannot hurt a man as much as a man can hurt a woman. My god. Again: women lack a capability that men have. Yes, we can. We’ve all heard of those times that women have mutilated men. Run them over with cars. Shot them. Poisoned them. Women are just as capable as men at hurting and victimizing someone else. And men are just as capable as feeling helpless when in an abusive relationship. As the PSA’s last poignant statement says: Violence is violence.

Systematic Sexism

In most instances sexism on a large scale is against women, but I’m not about to say that it is all instances. A year or two ago, I read a great article on men’s reproductive rights (which I do believe in as strongly as women’s reproductive rights even though they can sometimes be at odds–it’s complex like most important issues) wherein specific allegorical examples were used. “Stop right there!” someone may say discounting that personal stories have meaning. No, one cannot usually make worldwide or overarching generalizations based on allegorical evidence, but such evidence does have validity as it means “This happened” and we must recognize that. A couple of the stories were downright horrifying in how they showed rapists using the courts to further victimize their victims. Most of it was based on child support. A man who was passed out at a party found out later he was raped (it is rare but not impossible for a man to still have an erection while unconscious from intoxication) and his rapist got pregnant and then sued him for child support. The court found he owed her money. Another case was about a twelve year old boy was told by the court that he needed to pay his (statutory) rapist child support. A third man who had oral sex with a woman, who saved his sperm then later inseminated herself with it, was required to pay her child support. Often an argument against men about child support is that they shouldn’t have sex if they don’t want to take responsibility for any possible child that comes out of it. Again, this seems one sided as it used to be the same freaking argument laid against (sometimes still) women who wanted abortions. But this argument becomes so outrageous when applied to these three cases. None of these men (or really, boy) were taking on (or capable by law of taking on) the possible responsibility of pregnancy. But the courts found them responsible for the children anyway even though the first two cases involved criminal action on the part of the woman (remember criminals are not meant to profit from their crimes). Why? The courts have a monetary incentive for finding men in these situations responsible: if the mother cannot afford to take care of the child on her own, then she must either turn to the father for child support or the state for aid. Before applying for aid for a child, a mother must report whether or not she is getting child support (in most cases) and if she isn’t, the court will (most likely) go after the father for money first, because if he is helping to support the child then the state may be let out of its monetary obligation. That means the court has a stake in the judgment. But this doesn’t mean that sometimes a court won’t screw a female parent over in child support cases, letting the potential paying parent off the hook often times in benefit of the man. It is just to show that in some instances the pendulum is on the other side, because courts are not an amorphous blob that is homogeneous in nature, just as colleges are not like that. Different cultures, different personal opinions are involved.

But I do feel like we are missing a vital element in law when it comes to abortion rights and the right to give a child up for adoption. If a state allows abortion, I believe that men should be allowed a “legal abortion” so to speak in the same time period (if he has been told by the woman that she is pregnant) that a woman is allowed an abortion wherein from his point of view, both financially and legally, he has not had a child. If he was never told, he should be allowed the same length of time after his notification to make the same decision. The same type of allowances should be given him for an “legal adoption”. Because if a woman is allowed to decide after intercourse what to do about a pregnancy and child, then a man should be given the same option. It may not be his body, but it is not just about a woman’s body but her whole life after the conception, so it isn’t “my body, my choice,” but “my life, my choice.” I doubt this would ever happen in my lifetime. As I stated above, the courts have an incentive to find men financially responsible for any child they may have fathered, so I doubt there would be much political support for such a thing. Some may argue that this is a way for “irresponsible/lazy” men to get out of paying child support, but it is also a way to protect Childfree men and raped men who under current laws are not as protected as Childfree women and female victims of rape (which sounds almost ludicrous but we don’t even think of women raping men as being an issue–it affects a small amount of men, but no means no for men too and just because they aren’t as high a number doesn’t mean their victimization is any less horrible). Many may say that Childfree men are just being jerks, but any one of any gender who doesn’t want to be a parent ever in their lifetime should be allowed the freedom to choose to not be a parent. Many women’s rights advocates would say that Childfree women have the right to access to those things that would help them maintain this life choice, abortion and sterilization, but I believe Childfree men have just as much right to live their lives as they wish.

Feminism, the Dirty Word

A lot of people don’t like this word. I’m one of them. It has nothing to do with the idea that feminists are man-hating or “don’t really believe in equality” despite the definition. I know the definition, and I know what the movement means in general and in many specific instances (there is a myriad of different types of feminism, not all of them pretty and some of them really good in the fight against gender inequality), but the word itself is what I have a problem with. Words, especially for movements, social issues, and political ideals, are like doors to ideas. The word, not the definition, not the movement, is exclusionary by nature. It’s a door that looks like it has a “No Men Allowed” sign posted to it. Men see it, hear it–some women see it, hear it–and think men are not a part of or automatically against the movement. The word promotes the idea that feminism is only for women’s rights and that it is a “gender war”. I’m not saying that’s the goal of the definition or the movement, but it is what the basis of the word itself which is feminine can present to people. While it doesn’t mean to, I think it can feel exclusionary, or make some people think they have the right to exclude. I believe there could be more inclusive words that would allow men (and women) to understand that gender equality is everyone’s right. We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last one hundred years, and in that ground, we haven’t just shown that women are as valid as individuals as men, but we’ve also brought men and women closer together and fostered understanding between them. I think the time has come to stop separating us as people because both sides have a much clearer view of the other and the needs they face. “Picking sides” needs to put aside to continue the journey of ending gender inequality, because separating us into these groups to promote equality just seems like another subtle way to cause inequality.

Humanism, the Lazy Word

It has been suggested that calling oneself a humanist instead of a feminist ignores/diminishes the fact that women have it worse off than men. First off, I’m not sure sexism is so simple as that, which should be made obvious by the length of this post. I am worried, upset, and quite frankly pissed off by any sexism, racism, bigotry, or prejudice. It doesn’t matter who the victim is. It doesn’t matter who the perpetrator is. What matters is the act. What matters is the pain inflicted. I don’t care about the gender, the race, the demographic of either party, because what I care about is if one party did something hurtful to another party based on these things. If I base my caring on the labels of the two parties, I am still thinking in these same bigoted ways. The idea that I don’t care about a woman’s pain caused by sexism because I care about a man’s pain caused by sexism is fallacious. I can care about both of them. I do care about both of them. I believe that only caring about one group, based solely on their genetics or some other label that can be subject to bigotry, is still bigotry and diminishes the pain of other victims. I know not everyone agrees with me because they see a majority of pain inflicted one way, but I care about that pain too. I look at each instance, instead of trying to generalize all of them at once, to prevent a victim from being forgotten. That’s why I’m even talking about this. This word, humanist (sometimes also equalist), is accused of being a way to downplay the importance of sexism against women usually when men use it. I’m not sure one could appropriately accuse me of this as I am a woman and veryvery, VERY angry when I see/hear about sexism against women. I’m just that same amount of angry at any injustice. I understand some people want to focus their energy on one issue to do the most good, but I really can’t do that. I have the same visceral reaction to every instance of prejudice or unfairness. Until we stop casting groups and labels as victim or villain, we will not move past bigotry. We will still be thinking in archaic ways. We will still be separating ourselves and saying one group matters more than another.

The Personal Side and My Stake in the Conversation

I’ve never considered myself a feminist. I don’t push my femininity as part of my identity either. I don’t consciously suppress it either. I like being what I am. I just don’t feel like running around shouting that I’m a woman (or the less metaphorical version of this). I have felt some sexism before, but I’ve felt more racism (mostly in early childhood), which some may find shocking or unbelievable considering what race I am. The sexism were little things, words not actions, that I brushed off, because I told myself that if someone is willing to be sexist to me than their opinion of who I am and their idea of my validity as a person does not matter. The sexism invalidates their opinion of me. So that sexism never brought me down. Somehow, not sure how it happened, I’ve always thought of myself as a person, then a writer. Those seem to be the labels I most identify with, which is weird I know. I love the unisex quality of my first name (which is not Alexis or Alexandrea, but just Alex which I wrote an essay on in high school). One would think that I am a “woman” first if anything at all, but I’ve never considered myself different based on my gender. I mean, a lot of people fall under that category, that to me means “not different”. I do consider myself to be weird though. I try to understand every side and imagine every scenario in every situation. I’ll try to understand someone who hates me, understand what motivates them, what happened in their childhood to make them the way they are. It’s a major reason why I write. I want to understand people who don’t even exist. I spend the majority of my time trying to think like everyone else, real, fictional, different, or similar. Mainly because people baffle me. What they do and say is so different than what I would expect, always. I think that’s great, but also a bridge I need to continuously cross to prevent my words or actions from causing harm.

What has seemed to define me more greatly than my gender has been my disability. It has eclipsed in my own defining of myself many other labels one may put on me because it is a part of every moment of my life. Not in a bad way. I do not consider myself a person of less value based on my disability. If it has affected me, which I believe it definitely has, it has all been to enrich my life. I am not ashamed of it. It has made me a better writer and thinker. Some may ask how this is possible as a disability means an inability to do something. Well, that’s complex. Because I had a certain learning avenue shut off to me, one most people in the US go down of phonics, I had to learn to think in different ways, ways most people are capable of but are not taught to use. This means one of the capabilities of thought I have in common with most people is stronger than average as it is used more often than the average person. This is another part of me that I like, so I guess I would say I am a person, then a writer, then learning disabled, because even as I write this I’m still having to think sideways to spell my words correctly and not confuse them for other words (not homonyms but more along the lines of “emphasizes” and “empathizes”; they look and sound almost exactly the same to me even though I know they are not).

But why do I care about injustices that have nothing to do with me? It isn’t because I think “What if that happened to the men in my life that I love?”, but because we should all care when horrible things happen to others. My stake is that I have a problem with injustice, with bigotry, with prejudice. My stake is that I don’t need personal benefits to care.

The Pain Bucket

There’s this weird idea about empathizing with other people that one can only care about those whose pain is considered “valid”. I’m not sure why. It’s like some higher power has a bucket filled with water representing pain and he/she ladles out the pain in varying amounts to different groups. The group with the most water has the most validity. The group with the least amount of water doesn’t matter at all. This is ludicrous. Every single person has an infinite amount of possible pain inside them, and it is all valid. One’s group/label and the prejudice against that group/label may be the cause of the pain, but that group/label is not what makes the pain valid. The existence of that pain makes it valid. The fact that it happened at all makes it valid.

Those that Have No Place in the Conversation

Sexist people. What I mean by this is those *expletives* who threaten rape and murder upon Emma Watson and those other feminists who are trying to fight sexism, all in an attempt to shut them up. I don’t think all these people are men. I think there are some women who also have sexism against women, which is sad. But I don’t believe men shouldn’t be invited to the conversation–that was, after all, Watson’s point in her speech: men should be part of it. Not sexists. They should be told to shut it. But people who don’t agree with feminists on all the issues should not be called sexist just because they don’t agree, nor should they be told to shut up, because within feminism there is disagreement (a Separatist Feminist may be at odds with a Liberal Feminist who may be at odds with the newly emerging Maverick Feminists). Not all types of feminism agree with each other, and not all feminists within even each type agree with each other. There is a conversation. Shutting up cogent counter arguments or points will not be helpful in getting rid of sexism, but these sexists who threaten Watson or belittle her message just enforce the idea that we, as feminists, as humanists, and as moral and ethical people, need to do something in first place.

Because It’s the Right Thing to Do

I loved that Watson recognized that men still face gender stereotypes and inequality, but I disagree with her argument that we as women should support their equality for the benefits it will give us as a gender. That is not why we should stand up for men’s equality. We should do it because all victimization is wrong, because all sexism is wrong, and standing up against injustice is the right thing to do. I also feel as though her argument ignored the victimization men can and do face at the hands of women. Those men in abusive relationships, wherein they are not the abusive party, are not being aggressive and their female aggressor is not being submissive; in fact, the opposite is true in these cases. I do not believe that all gender stereotypes against men result in gender inequality for women. Men are taught not to cry, not to be nurturing, not to be vulnerable, as Watson said, but I do not see how that perpetrates gender inequality for women. Women do have voices telling them it is okay to get angry, to be aggressive, to go for the hard career. Not every woman in the world can hear it, but every day the number of women who do goes up because those voices (bless them for it) won’t shut up. I do not hear the same voices telling men that non-stereotypical action for men is okay. I hear the opposite of the positive reinforcement that women get. Not all women get positive reinforcement for these things, but a lot (in the US and many other highly developed countries anyway) do. It’s in the news, it’s in our T.V. shows, it’s in our movies, it’s in our novels. The “girl power” prevalent in our recent Disney movies (Brave being the biggest one) is one such instance. Then there’s all of Joss Whedon’s work which promotes the strength women have naturally and the support of their right to be sexually active even in casual ways. The Harry Potter novels present one of the most complex, strong, intelligent female role models ever (I hated the change in the movie when Hermione cries after Malfoy calls her a Mudblood. I felt it undermined her character’s strength, though I loved that they had her punch Malfoy in the movie instead of slap him).The enforcement of traditional male roles are still present in abundance in those same sources. This is something we should all fighting against, because as human beings we have a responsibility to fight against injustice, not because it benefits our own lives, but because we should care that people are in pain.

Feel free to voice any disagreements , but do so without threatening or hurtful language or I will remove your comment. This includes trying to shame me or calling me a traitor to my sex: that is not productive language nor a counter argument.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2014 in Empathy, Gender Relations, Social Issues

 

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Badly Written Women: The Bitches of Hollywood

LOOK OUT! SPOILERS BELOW!

Turned Milk

I watch a lot of television, none of it on cable or broadcast, so mostly I watch a whole season of a TV show over a week or two. Like any person, I connect to those characters who remind me the most of myself, and that typically means women. But often, no matter how much benefit of the doubt I give a character, I eventually have to turn my back on a female character because they are selfish, unreasonable, and a downright awful human being. I like strong women, more to the point I like strong people, but there is a Pacific Ocean sized difference between someone who is strong and someone who is a bitch. I’ve seen this confusion happen in movies and books, but no where is it more prevalent than the American TV show. For example:

6: Nina on Alphas (update from September)

This two season run show was amazing. Just mind-blowingly good, but Sy-Fy isn’t interested in quality story-telling right now, or should I say Comcast? Either way, this show was great with only one major problem. Nina, the rapist. Yes, I’m being serious. Nina’s ability to take away a person’s free will is a terrifying power and often she struggles with the implications of it which is understandable, but she at best walks a line of unethical pushing of others and at her worst rapes others. Sometimes the rape is figurative, a simple violation of a person’s free will, other times the rape is very literal as she did to Cameron Hicks once and when she went off the deep end and pushed her ex from childhood for days if not weeks. Even when Nina is meant to be one of the good guys she is committing crimes left and right, that some may consider harmless fun but a deeper look reveals just how immoral they are. For example, we learn that Nina does not pay for her fancy car or penthouse: someone lost a lot of money because of this, someone could have lost their job, because when they try to explain to the owner of the dealership why they let her walk out with that car they have none. In the first episode, she is pulled over for reckless driving (which by the way puts lives in danger) and prevents the cop from giving her a ticket by pushing him. Then she asks him he is married. We see later that she often takes advantage of unmarried men by pushing them into spending money and time on her, and the implication is that she has sex with them as well. This coupled with that question posed to the cop suggests to me that Nina only cares about messing with married men, but not with attached or gay men. Some of these men had other things to do with the time she takes them over, such as work. I’m very afraid that someone will make the argument that the majority of these men enjoyed it because men like sex with beautiful women, but if a man had Nina’s powers (as correlation see the Christmas episode of Misfits wherein a man proclaiming to be Jesus buys Alisha’s power and uses it to rape women), we would never make the same argument. Taking away a person’s free will is quite possibly the worst thing anyone can do to another person. These men had no ability to say no, just as women who are given date rape drugs have the ability taken away. The implications put forth by the creation of Nina as a supposedly sympathetic and aggressive person are horrifying. I can’t like her because she just brings up the idea that it is okay for a person to take what they want from a group just because they may “enjoy” it, which is the same suggestion put forth by the idea that promiscuous women and prostitutes can be raped with little judgement upon the rapist.

Woman on the show who is actually strong: Rachel of course. She is not physically capable, but that’s not where her strength lies. She comes from a very traditional family and manages to defy her family’s traditional values put upon women again and again. We see her strength grow as the show goes along, and she always tries to do the right thing.

5: Allison Blake of Eureka

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This show was only on air for five seasons, but it was one of my favorites. It had charm and style—it was downright hilarious. The theme song was Andy Griffith meets The X-Files. The main character, Sheriff Jack Carter, was likable and funny. My favorite episode is Up in the Air, so good. But there is just one fly in the ointment, and that was Carter’s love interest—personally I like Kaley better. Allison seemed like an okay person most of the time, but when she was given power, she lost all sense of priority. She would be rude to Carter for no other reason than he was being himself and she wouldn’t listen to him as she’d done before. At times this was very serious, such as in Liftoff wherein listening to Carter meant the difference between life and death for two other beloved characters. She also seems to hold her intelligence over Carter, often laughing at his misunderstanding of science. She often didn’t trust Carter with important information and when he would learn that she had been lying to him, you could see that he was hurt by it, in the same way a person can see that kicking a puppy is wrong. Once in a moment of insecurity, she nearly ruined Carter’s relationship with his best friend Jo Lupo. And when he had created a beautiful and romantic gesture of a dinner in an automated sub in the aquatic lab, she was just pissed and annoyed at the interruption. Some may argue that by the end of episode in each of these examples, she got over it all and was thankful and nice to Carter, but I say no. She was unreasonable in all cases, and her turn around at the end of the episodes was rushed by writers to resolve the issues within the confines of forty minutes. And that’s what it comes down to: the writers. The character of Allison was abused and jerked around for drama because the writers couldn’t come up with a better way of presenting conflicts besides pitting Allison against the main character. Lazy.

Or possibly Carter was into unreasonable women, if his ex-wife was any indication.

Abby: Are you saying she only runs away from me?

Abby (earlier scene): It’s called insecurity and it stems from the person speaking not from the person listening.

Woman on the Show that is Actually Strong: Jo Lupo not because she can shoot a gun or can keep up with the boys, but because she often knows that she can but isn’t afraid of her gender either nor of people holding her gender against her. Some fans may say, hey wait a minute, what about that time she didn’t tell Carter about the new security system at GD? Well, imagine if a male deputy did the same thing to Carter. We would still think it’s funny, because it is the kind of harmless prank friends pull on each other. Jo somewhat transcends gender on this show, which makes me really happy.

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3 & 4: Lorelai and Rory Gilmore of The Gilmore Girls

I watched and owned all seven seasons of this show, and actually rewatched them several times. At times the two main characters did or said hilarious things, but my favorite character was Luke, not just because he was a hottie. But I found major flaws with this show, one being the major plot points because at times I feel like enough is enough. Rory makes her big mistake first in sleeping with a married man. “Oh, but he convinced her that he didn’t love Lindsey to get into her pants.” No, not a real excuse. Rory is presented as highly intelligent, then she buys the very old song and dance, that I guarantee has been presented in at least a fourth of the thousands of books she’s read, about how he doesn’t love his wife and they’re not working out so she should let him in her pants. An intelligent woman does not buy into that stuff and if she does, she does so knowing what she is doing is wrong and hurtful. She is still ultimately responsible for her actions—everyone is, but Rory—and by extension the audience—expects understanding for buying the song, but you can’t cheat an honest man as the saying goes and to add to the phrase, you can cheat a stupid one. So either she is dishonest or dumb, and I’m not sure which pisses me off more. Dishonest because she is not a good person or dumb because the writers lied and/or manipulated her character.

10/26/14 Update: Recently, I’ve been rewatching the show since it is on Netflix, and I’ve noticed more character problems. For one, Dean is not a nice guy before he cheats on his wife. While dating Rory, he is obsessive, jealous, and angry. Rory feels the need to hide things from Dean often, before Jess even comes on the show. When they break up (the first time), it is because Rory didn’t say she loved him back. This is unreasonable. The two girls keep going on about what a great guy Dean is, but I see no action to suggest he is. In fact, I see more to suggest he is a psycho, whom Rory should have gotten a restraining order against. 1) He calls her multiple times a day. 2) He gets angry with her every time she needs to do something other than spend time with him. 3) He takes out his anger at Tristan and Jess on Rory. 4) Regardless of what Rory says to him on how she feels about either of these boys, Dean does not trust her (despite Rory’s growing feelings for Jess during season two and three, Dean’s distrust of Rory is something that drives her away). 5) He acts in a threatening manner towards Jess once Jess and Rory are now dating. 6) He attacks Jess without provocation in another person’s home, destroying and damaging property and hurting other individuals, despite not knowing why Rory is crying, which could be anything from Jess hurting Rory (which is what we are led to believe is Dean’s motivation) to a stubbed toe. 7) He marries at a much too young age while obsessed with another girl. 8) He cheats on his wife while taking another woman’s virginity–note: while what Rory did was wrong or a manipulation by the writers, I point out the fact that Dean takes Rory’s virginity lightly by taking it while still married to another woman. All this evidence shows that this program lacked true character development. They can have other characters say that Dean is a great boyfriend, that Rory is smart, or that Lorelai has a handle on their life all they want, doesn’t make it true. The actions of the characters and the motivations behind what they say are much more important evidence than the idea of characters as presented by other characters.

Then Lorelai makes her big mistake. Because Luke is somewhat unsure of himself as suddenly a father, he wants to hold off on getting married, but one day Lorelai loses all control over herself and issues him an ultimatum that he must respond to immediately: Elope Now or It’s Over. I am a firm believer that ultimatums do not have any place in a relationship (beyond “If you ever hit me again, I’m leaving” or “Don’t cheat on/lie to me again), especially if one expects the relationship to be healthy and equal. Luke can’t respond immediately, so Lorelai doesn’t go home and cry over the loss of a good thing (which would have been her fault anyway), but instead goes to Christopher and sleeps with him. This seems like the actions of a reasonable individual—no, wait, not that. And to top it all off, all Luke needed was one night to agree with her plan. She originally seemed like a role model: strong, independent, fun, well-adjusted if a little weird, but Lorelai, by these hurtful actions, is an unhealthy person emotionally and I no longer have any respect for her.

So where does the audience go from there? The show, if you’d notice, did kind of peter out after that as it was hard to get behind such horrible people and root for them. The writers took a gamble that these two developments would be exciting and interesting to the audience, but instead they ruined the integrity of the main characters. In fact, even Sookie was often crazy, especially when she tried literally to force Jackson to get a vasectomy (reverse the sexes and see how wrong that is: “You’re getting your tubes tied, woman! I don’t want you having any more kids.”—See? Psycho.), and I felt somewhat vindicated when he didn’t go through with it and it bit her in the ass.

Woman on the Show that Is Actually Strong: Almost Emily Gilmore, she’s the closet the show comes to a woman who is aware of who she is and still makes mistakes but has strength of character. The audience also expects Emily to do horrible things now and again.

2: Kaylee of Firefly

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This short run TV show is beloved, by me as well. I love the movie too, and the characters are so well done. Joss Whedon is great with characters, typically with women especially, but this is one character that I just can’t stand. In a few number of episodes, Kaylee manages to make herself completely unlikable. She is meant to be strong, not in the way that Zoe as in ability to handle violent situations or showing physical strength. Kaylee is meant to be strong in a much more subtle way. She struck out from her home planet (leaving your family and all you know is brave) to be a mechanic (breaking a gender stereotype is hard and requires confidence and strength of character) to travel with strangers (bravery again) and enjoy all aspects of her life (including her sexuality without being called a slut or a whore). But—BUT Kaylee is mean, rude, and hurtful in the things she says, especially to Simon whom she supposedly likes. She is also overly sensitive to his bumbling (does he seem capable of talking to women at all? “Is there anyone you can talk to?”) and doesn’t cut him any slack for it, showing her extreme insecurity. She makes this face every time he makes a mistake (only in words by the way never actions and never maliciously) that is so judgmental and without any empathy that drives me up a wall. I’ve met women like Kaylee, who consider themselves strong but are so insecure in their strength that they can’t let any near insult go. I’m not saying that her cowardice doesn’t bother me either, but her inability to display empathy and her ability to misinterpret other’s intent and meaning in what they say in the worst possible way bothers me more. I can’t stand that kind of oversensitivity, because it shows a lack of belief in oneself and in the good intentions of others. Beyond that she betrayed River for the same actions that saved her life. Who does that? Apparently, I’m supposed to like her because she talks sweetly and is presented as cute, but I don’t actually find her character to be sweet. She smiles a lot (and the actress does have a cute smile), but she is very judgmental and unforgiving. Her character suffers the same fate as Allison Blake’s: she is used for drama.

Woman on the Show who Is Actually Strong: Pick Any Other Woman, even River with her mental problems, but especially Zoe because of her strength of character, even excluding her alacrity at violence.

1: Any Sitcom Woman

I’ve watched quite a lot of sitcoms, but for the most part the main character is male. Sitcoms more often than any other show genre use other characters as a source of drama, and since the main character is male, then the reasonable assumption is that women would often be the cause of drama. This is fine as long as the reason for contention isn’t that she’s a horrible bitch. The biggest example of this is in Wings. Helen, the main love interest of Joe, had moved to New York and basically cut off all contact with Joe. Ten months later and no contact from her during that time, Joe is dating another woman and Helen calls him in the middle of the night. When he goes to New York, he finds her miserable and waitressing in a stripclub. He convinces her to come home, and it is not until she does that she realizes he’s moved on and is now dating another woman. She freaks out, saying that he misled her into thinking they would be together, even though she has no claim on him (it is unreasonable to assume that someone would wait celibate for ten months with absolutely zero contact—that’s enough time to make a human being, for god’s sake). Then to express her anger, beyond just screaming at him like a banshee, she runs her car through his office. Tell me that is not crazy. Tell me that is not unconscionable.

Then after he fixes it, she does it again. She should be in jail. I actually don’t understand why he ever married her. And so many women are like this on sitcoms, unfair and unreasonable. Such as, Jill Taylor on Home Improvement who would drag Tim to the opera but wouldn’t allow Tim to go to monster truck rallies on his own (reverse the sexes and see how controlling that is: “We’re going to this car show, and you’re going to enjoy it . . . No, you can’t go to the ballet. I won’t let you.”) And once he found out she had a secret bank account, and she felt there was nothing dishonest or wrong about hiding money—which are often the actions of someone who is going to leave their spouse. And she even went so far as to say that her money was her money, and his money was their money. Talk about selfish and greedy. But the episode isn’t about her lack of trust in Tim, but the fact that Tim made the majority of their money and his lack of care for her sense of insecurity in her independence. He didn’t make her be a housewife. She made that decision on her own. She was lucky that he made enough money for her to do that. If she’s feeling insecure about that later on then that’s her misfortune and she shouldn’t take it out on her husband nor should she hide things from him—that’s the sign of an unhealthy relationship and a dishonest person.

Sometimes the show isn’t using women for drama though. Sometimes it’s just misandry because the women are always right, the men are always wrong, even when I, a woman, disagree. Scrubs is the biggest culprit of this. Eliot is mean to JD for simply being himself sometimes, and in the beginning especially, she is a backstabber. Some may argue that at times JD could be a jerk to her, like when he got her to breakup with Sean and then didn’t want her, but no matter what he did, it was not okay for her to shove him, and do it so hard that he flew over a table at a rehearsal dinner for friends. That’s abusive and inappropriate. Carla is often unfair to Turk. Once Turk was just trying to show solidarity for his new female boss, and she took offence. Carla and Eliot go on and on about how his actions were wrong because “Medicine is such a boy’s club.” And Turk was forced to apologize for being a feminist. I believe that Turk did the right thing by standing up for her against his friends. He could have taken part in their disrespectful behavior or just been passive about it. Instead, he told them that what they were doing was wrong and that they should stop. I’m glad he did it, but every woman on the show gets mad at him. He can’t win. In one episode, we see that he actually cannot win, wherein the show takes two what if paths. In one Turk stands up for Carla, and she gets mad at him for “fighting her battles” so to speak. In the other Turk doesn’t stand up for her, and she gets mad at him for not being more supportive. It’s not funny; it’s insulting and frustrating. And Jordan, god, that woman is crazy (but I’m willing to let that slide because they present her as a bitch). Eliot and Carla are supposed to be likeable, but I hate them because I don’t like people who will be that cruel and unreasonable without ever realizing that what they are doing is wrong.

Woman on a Sitcom who Is Actually Strong: Penny, Amy, and Bernadette of The Big Bang Theory are all likable and interesting. When they are pitted against their men, it is not often because they are being unreasonable (such as when Bernadette had a bone of contention with Wolowitz spending thousands of dollars on a 3D printer without consulting her—relationship tip: talk about any expenditure before going ahead, and that goes for both partners) and if they ever are unreasonable, they realize it later (such as when in a moment of extreme frustration Penny berated Leonard, and the other guys, for being too nerdy and childish, making Leonard so insecure that he tried to sell off all of his collections, but once it was pointed out to her, by Sheldon, that she was being unfair, she apologized.).

Shows That Just Have Strong Women:

The X-Files has Dana Scully, who is flawed (she is so skeptic that sometimes it’s ridiculous), but she is never cruel or mean to Mulder or anyone, possibly because she is an equal character on the show. Arrow has Laurel, who sometimes is cruel but later takes responsibility for her actions, admits what she did was wrong, and apologizes. Dollhouse has both Echo, who starts as a tabula rasa but quickly develops into a strong and capable person who is not infallible, and Adelle, who runs the house. My favorite part of the show is when they catch the handler that’s a rapist, and we’re led to believe that Adelle is sending him to murder a woman, but then it turns out that woman is a doll and she kills him at Adelle’s command. Vindication! Some may say, ooh, that’s a bit dark, but it wasn’t like Adelle could turn him in to the police. Warehouse 13 didn’t have a single weak or bitchy woman on it. And that’s all I can think of right now. Maybe others can come up with more examples. The sad thing is I can think of more poorly written women than I can well written women in TV shows.

The Problem

The issue isn’t that women are bad, it’s that these women are badly written for the sake of drama. And that’s lazy writing. If other shows can write women well without compromising drama then every show could with effort. Also, if the issue is not that they are poorly written, but that the writer thinks she’s right even though what she is doing is wrong, then the show condones selfish, cruel, and unreasonable actions from women. That’s not okay. Mean actions should never be condoned, no matter what demographic is committing them. If ever a viewer can switch the genders and the situation becomes a Lifetime movie, then it is wrong, regardless of gender. I want strong women in my shows. Strong—not bitchy and selfish. I want good people, even if flawed, in my shows. I want strong writing over lazy writing to take precedence. We all deserve a better class of character in our shows, and we don’t have to pay for it in a loss of conflict or interest.

 

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Prejudice Knows No Bounds

Note: I am not making the argument that members of the traditionally victimized groups aren’t ever victimized or that it’s not wrong. Both of these things are still true. So don’t argue like that is my point–that would be a straw man. Everyone’s pain matters because they are feeling it.

The Common Idea:

Most people believe that bigotry is something of which only certain people are capable. There seems to be this thought that one has to be in a position of power to do it, and power is defined in a strange way too: one has to be of a powerful [gender, race, social class, etc.]. This seems like a weird way of defining being mean to someone based on a group from which they have roots.

Why?

Well, because power comes in different forms. The Indian man behind the counter of a convenience store doesn’t come from a traditionally-held powerful U.S. race or class but he can refuse service to anyone—which is a type of power—and maybe he does refuse to serve the Hispanic man. All I can think of when people talk about power and bigotry is Sanders’ essay “The Men We Carry in Our Minds” wherein he showed that being a man is just as powerless, if not more so, when poor than a woman who grew up wealthy. Just because someone is of the powerful group doesn’t mean they possess any of that power themselves.

You’ve Heard This Before

Anyone who has seen Ron White’s latest special or any of Bill Burr’s has heard the argument before that men are not always in the power spot. They make a joke of it, but it has always been my opinion that the best comedy comes from pointing out the issues and problems no one wants to talk about. They are also serious. They want people to think about how everyone is angry over the abused woman but we all laugh at the man who is literally emasculated/mutilated by a woman. I don’t like to laugh at someone else’s pain—I mean, sometimes I do, when Tosh.0 is on—but cutting off a man’s penis and laughing is just beyond the pale. How powerful is that man when he’s bleeding to death?

Serious Stuff

The problem goes beyond one woman cutting off one man’s member. The problem is on T.V., on the internet, and in the papers and magazines. When someone does something this horrible to a person of a “powerful” group, the media laughs, tells society it is okay to do so, and now the pain isn’t taken seriously. If something that big isn’t taken seriously then the smaller things are also not taken seriously. Physical abuse isn’t just men attacking women; it’s someone hurting someone they supposedly love—man, woman, child, animal. The assailant isn’t always packing genitals on the outside of their body. Women assault men all the time: slapping a man, throwing a drink in his face; but nothing is done because society says women can do these things. The prejudice comes from the fact that a lot of people hold the notion that men can never be victims and women can never be attackers. Where does that leave the men who are victims? Out in the cold, just like women used to be.

Not as Serious, But Still Very Important

The prejudice that says men can’t be victims of physical abuse perpetrated by women isn’t all I’m referring to. The little issues are what feed the big ones, such as physical abuse. What are the little—or more aptly smaller—issues? The idea that men are supposed to pay for a woman’s meal or give up their seats for them or, more seriously, are “always wrong”. This last means that in any argument by the end the man needs to find some way to prostrate himself for her forgiveness, even if she may have been in the wrong. Watch any sitcom—Scrubs is especially bad—and one will most likely see women doing horribly selfish and mean things to men and being rewarded by the end of the episode. Reverse any of the situations and the female audience would be saying that she needs to leave him and file a restraining order because he’s a controlling ass.

Besides Gender Clashes

The gender example of this argument is the easiest—and least sticky—point to make; however, this “reverse” prejudice also happens in other social issues. I prefer not to call it “reverse prejudice” because to me prejudice is prejudice, regardless of who is the victim, and other people who feel this are white people and Christians. Calling someone white in a negative way (cracker, white-ass, white trash, WASP) is still bad. It’s still hurtful. But it’s not just name-calling that falls under prejudice. I once read an article where several white firemen were suing their employer for prejudice because all the firemen took a test for promotions and only those who passed and were black got promotions. Reverse the situation and it’s wrong, but somehow it’s not when the victim is white? No, I don’t buy that. Sell it to someone else.

The Christian example is the most flabbergasting to me. They are decried as a whole—this isn’t pre-Protestant Reformation where the church is a single locus headed by one man; this is now where there are so many different flavors of Christian that one can’t count them on all their fingers and toes and three friends’ fingers and toes—as not being accepting of other people’s ways of life and for telling others how to live their lives. Being cast down as a whole is bad enough, but then the same people who accuse them of these things do them themselves by being disrespectful of Christian religion. Now, I know there are those Christians who are downright terrifying in their ability to reject, judge, and hate, but I’ve also know a lot of Christians who are very loving, accepting, and respectful of other people not of their religion. One can disagree with religious doctrines all one wants, but it is never an excuse to be mean to a person of a certain religion.

The Crux

I’ve been skirting and hinting at my main point this whole time. You can dislike a culture and religion, and the actions of some people all you want. But don’t take out that dislike on a person just because they are of that culture, religion, or group that has perpetrated immoral action. Not every white person is racist, not every religious person is against homosexuals, and not every man hits and disrespects women. It is prejudice to mistreat someone because they belong to a group you don’t like, no matter the group because in the cases I’m talking about the group is usually not something they picked. To quote Virginia Woolf, “it [is] absurd to blame any class or any sex, as a whole”—especially when that blame turns into prejudice that affects individuals. Why? Because we believe in “innocent until proven guilty”. We shouldn’t damn an entire group as guilty, but the much smaller amounts of people who are a confirmed offender of prejudice—and that includes traditional victim groups. Because we are all capable of hurting each other just as we are all capable of loving each other

 

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