Emma Approved is gorgeous

And you should totally check it out. 

Austen vlog adaptions are slowly becoming my favorite thing ever. On that note, if you haven’t seen Lizzie Bennet Diaries yet what the hell have you been doing with your life?

 

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To STEM or Not To STEM: Definitely Not the Question

Let me preface this by saying that I’m a STEM girl. My dream major is biochemistry, I’m pretty math minded, and I’ve loved science ever since I was a kid. That being said, I’d never apply to a tech college (i.e. MIT, Calech, or Georgia Tech). However much I love STEM, I would never be so foolish as to call it the way to go. No matter how much people rag on unemployed English majors and how dumb it is to even consider majoring in musical theater when science and math is so in demand right now, the humanities/liberal arts aren’t a destination for lazy college students and idle minds. It just so happens that they’re not into STEM, and that’s okay. To STEM or not to STEM isn’t the essence of life.

I can kind of understand why people put STEM on a pedestal. After all, biology is booming. Engineering has always been made-to-order for employment after graduation. And everyone needs a mathematician/computer science major! How are you not an applied math major? Why aren’t you at least a medicine student, dammit?

Okay. Calm down, tiger mom. First of all, since when is life all about job security? There’s no universal formula for a happy life. Just because one person needs stability doesn’t mean the next can’t want to be thrown for a loop. And how often do you hear about engineering students or almost-doctors who resent their futures because they didn’t want them? Forget about job security! You will never be good at STEM if you hate it. You’ll never commit to it if you don’t want to. And that’s OKAY! It’s your life. You shouldn’t stake your future on a job market that is probably going to change drastically anyway. Look, even the demand for doctors might start dwindling soon. 

Second, do you really envision a perfect world where everyone is in STEM, period, and nothing else? Where the fuck would we put all those science diplomas anyway? This is just an idiotic hypothetical and in no way the ideal we should strive for. The reason why there are so many fields of study is because people have diverse interests, and quite frankly I’d rather live in a world with diverse interests than one where a few reign supreme. Evolutionarily and emotionally speaking, it’s just the better route to take. Every field of study has its own valid applications. Being the “starving artist” does not equate failure. Non-STEM isn’t nonfunctional. 

The thing that bugs me the most about “to STEM or not to STEM” is how freaking cliquey it’s become. My friend went to tour the Rhode Island School of Design a few weeks back and came back with stories about her tour guide trashing STEM for a bevy of stupid reasons. It’s not hard to find people on the Internet deriding liberal arts in some way, shape, or form–often for the most petty reasons. Just look at these choice pickings from the College Confidential forums:

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I’m sorry, but it’s pretty hard to gauge the difficulty of something that you’ve never actually done. Sure, I can talk about how easy acrobatics looks in performance and how I could totally do that, but I’m then fundamentally misunderstanding the amount of effort it takes to make it look that easy. STEM is pretty difficult; that’s no secret. But the skills needed to really get your points across in a Socratic seminar or an interpretive essay are as hard to learn, if not harder, than math and science skills. It just so happens that STEM has a great deal of marketability.

And yet, most of the people who went down in history didn’t do it because they stayed in the comfort zone and went for the most “marketability”. Van Gogh was a starving artist his whole life, but he’s arguably one of the best fucking painters who ever lived. Jane Addams didn’t go for the traditional female roles of the time (settling down and getting married), she went to college and ended up making a world of difference for the disadvantaged of American society. So basically…fuck marketability. A (hu)man is not a piece of fruit.

Enough with trashing people who have different interests. Enough with acting like the world is better only because of what you study. The world is a big place, with lots of talented people in different fields. It’s time we acted like it.

Posted in College Stuff, Life Stuff, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Assholes Hurt, But They Don’t Matter

Or, why we should ignore people who tell women to get back in the kitchen un-ironically.

Some of you might already be familiar with an article by blogger Matt Forney titled, very tellingly, “The Case Against Female Self-Esteem”. This is how he opens his article:

I’m just gonna come out and say it: I love insecure women.

He goes on a rambling, senseless spiel after that about the same tired, overplayed misogynistic bullshit: “Insecurity is the natural state of woman”, he says. “If every girl was fired from her job tomorrow, elementary schools would have to shut down for a couple days, but otherwise life would go on as usual. If every man lost his job tomorrow, the country would collapse.” The ending of his article is equally insulting:

Girls don’t want the six-figure cubicle job, the shiny Brooklyn 2BR, the master’s degree, the sexual liberation, none of it. They want to be collectively led back to the kitchen, told to make a nice big tuna sandwich with extra mayo and lettuce, then swatted on the ass as we walk out the door.

Obviously, this is complete bullshit. Every fact published both by modern science and by simple empirical thinking proves this. As more and more researchers study the way gender roles have been shaped through the years, they have concluded that gender–and the roles and traits that we impose on men and women–are completely made up. For example, “pink is for girls” is a relatively new idea. In fact, it used to be the exact opposite–pink used to be considered a manly color. Although many anti-feminist bloggers may try to claim over and over that female submission is the natural state of all living things, the spotted hyena proves otherwise. (Lynn’s mental hygiene tip: Don’t use absolutes in arguments like this. Absolutes are almost never true and can be dismantled with just one counterexample.) Crying, some say, is a sign of femininity–but in ancient cultures, crying was celebrated as a sign of strength and passion in men. PMS actually doesn’t have much to do with mood alteration. Even domesticity–and, by merit of logic, the “women belong in the kitchen” line–are products more of families settling down due to wealth or stability than of biology. Before American life finally began to calm down after World War II, women were breadwinners as often as men were. In peasant and working class families, women and children were all crucial parts of the family income. In some parts of the world, they still are.

So we’ve established that every line of Forney’s argument is broken and based on hateful, baseless rhetoric. So why are we so angry?

The answer to that is quite simple, actually. If someone started telling you that you were fundamentally inferior, that your place was in the kitchen, and that your wants and needs were not at all what you thought but rather what their interpretation of them were, you’d be pretty pissed off. If someone started spewing shit like “Girls often do nothing to deserve their self esteem” and people enthusiastically agreed with him, I’d be angry and just a little bit scared. Many people were, and understandably so. But it’s a waste of energy–both the anger and the fear.

Check out the link I attached above. As you can see, Forney has put a great deal of time and energy into compiling angry comments, statistics on traffic to his page, and choice tweets to paint his opposition as unhinged, PMS-ing Feminazis. Let’s just be real here, guys. Forney could easily get the last laugh. Not us. He’s a blatant troll. He and people like him need to be disregarded, for several reasons.

1. They publish what they publish because it gives them pageviews. Exposure only strengthens their resolve to post.

I don’t doubt that everyone who got angry at Forney’s article knows this. People aren’t stupid. It’s hard to bite your tongue in these scenarios, exceedingly hard, but Forney and his ilk publish shit like this because they KNOW what will happen: People will get angry, share the link and say “LOOK AT THIS ASSHOLE”, and, of course, comment. All of it gives him more traffic. I do pity the souls of bloggers who live only for pageviews, Matt Forney included. But they think their attention gives them power. Look at Forney’s post. It’s titled “How I Became the Most Hated Man On the Internet”. However arbitrary the label is, it does come with a bit of power.

But here’s the thing. Hate is not the opposite of love; indifference is. If every hateful, inflammatory post of his received a maximum of zero traffic simply because we acknowledged that his views are completely irrelevant to everything, period, his shouting would turn into white noise. Because what he posts is nothing new; it’s just a tired rehash of the same half-truths and ad hominem. Why treat it like anything different?

2. No matter how well-reasoned and thorough your counter-argument is, the offender will almost certainly ignore it.

There’s a psychological aspect to this phenomenon, called the Dunning Kruger Effect. The crux of the Dunning Kruger Effect is (and I might be butchering this a little) is that incompetence in one sector also hinders the ability of someone to evaluate anyone’s competence in that sector, including their own. To apply this to debate would use the analogy:

Imagine you’re playing chess with a pigeon. It doesn’t know the rules, shits all over the board, knocks over the pieces, then acts like it’s won.

It doesn’t matter how good you are at chess. You could be Gary Fucking Kasparov and the pigeon will still think it’s won. Similarly, Forney and his ilk are undoubtedly poster children of the Dunning Kruger Effect. They don’t recognize how broken their arguments are because they just can’t recognize a good one, period. And so they continue to labor under the illusion that they are right.

For example, at one point Forney claims that

Girls don’t want the six-figure cubicle job, the shiny Brooklyn 2BR, the master’s degree, the sexual liberation, none of it.

And yet, the women’s liberation movement of the ’60s was started by girls. Many women still voice their disapproval of the glass ceiling, and girls graduate from college in greater proportions than guys each year. Even in fucking South Africa, the movement for sexual liberation grows ever stronger. Everything about his argument is wrong, and yet he holds it up as gospel. He even responds to this rebuttal of his claims like this:

I did get a “sane” (i.e. non-violent) response in the form of a four-part series from elderly transsexual Stephanie Zwan, who finger-fucked every line of my article in typical autistic feminist fashion.

Two words: Dunning Kruger.

Even if they are not suffering from Dunning Kruger, blatant, sexist assholes who hold such extreme views are probably not in a place where they are willing to compromise with anyone on them–particularly women. For whatever reason, in their mind, they are correct–and you are just a blip on the radar. An error in the calculations. A psycho. Either that or they’re just laboring for page views. Whatever the case may be, arguing with these kind of people is pointless because they are the immovable–they cannot move forward; they can only slide backward. Extremists cannot be reasoned with. And that’s just what they are–extremists. That’s one more reason why they don’t matter.

3. Extremists may have loud voices, but their voices carry little weight when compared to the whole of the population.

In his own words:

So to all my detractors, I say molon labe. I’m here to stay and there’s nothing you can do to shut me up.

And he’s right. No matter how many people revile his ideology, no matter how many people hate him, he will keep posting. In fact, the more people react to him, the more he will post. Sure, he’s got people who agree with him. So fucking what? There are exponentially more people that disagree.

And this is the crux: Matt Forney, and people like him, are not as threatening as you think. People who are sexist and love it, people who actively embrace their misogyny, are increasingly rare these days. Who here has heard of the Brosie the Riveter story? I bet you have. It’s an amazing, uplifting, funny story about a CEO who got called on his sexist bullshit–and made it right. Certainly, we should take away from this story that hypersexualization is wrong and overused and trite. But the real point of that story is that most people are not actively and happily sexist. It’s called “the patriarchy” because it’s a male-dominated worldview that permeates the way we live our lives–it’s something that we’ve been taught literally since birth to accept as gospel. Boys bring home the money, girls cook, boys roughhouse; girls look pretty. All of it is internalized and accepted, and it’s why even now, it’s so hard to distinguish what’s right from what’s not.

My point is, most guys don’t even know they’re being sexist. That’s why they sometimes respond negatively to someone calling them out–they didn’t even realize they were doing something wrong. It takes a lot of social awareness to break into the lens of seeing things through a more feminist view–anyone who’s ever lived it, knows this. As girls, as women, as feminists, as people, we shouldn’t worry about the fringe minority of hateful people who spew shit like “Women don’t want sexual liberation”. That’s exactly what they are: a fringe minority. It’s unlikely that they’ll ever be able to push their agenda in America. Exhibit A: Wendy Davis. Even in a male-dominated, conservative-ruled legislature in motherfucking Texas, Wendy can stand up for women’s rights and make the world take notice because we’re not that backwards anymore. We can do this shit.

If Rosie could do it, we can too.

Just look at this photoset from Who Needs Feminism’s Facebook page. LOOK AT HOW MANY GUYS SUBMITTED PHOTOS.

This image belongs to WNF Oxford, not me.

Ditto here. Not mine.

You can see them all here. We have a lot of guys on our side. Even if they don’t call themselves feminists, most of them reject the idea that women are fundamentally inferior. Most of them support gender equality–which already puts the foot in the door. What I’m not saying is, “Look at all these sheep we can indoctrinate!” What I’m saying is, a vast majority of people already realize that something is wrong, but they just don’t know what the problem is or how to fix it. Together, we can figure it out.

No matter what people might say, guys aren’t all misogynists. The modern guy, I think, is more willing now than ever to embrace new ideas and make the world better. The reasonable people of this world exist in far, far greater numbers than the hateful, unreasonable ones. It’s just that the latter talks way more.

So what should we focus our energy on? We should focus on bettering ourselves. We should focus on us–the rest of humanity. Reasonable girls, reasonable guys, reasonable people. They’re just waiting to be educated, to be uplifted, to be shown what it really means to be a feminist. We should focus on gems like Rookie Mag. We should focus on explaining to the world what sexism is, what forms it can take, how we can change our sexist behaviors today. Matt Forney and the others? They don’t matter and we should not care about them. They are white noise. They are blips on the radar. They are hateful reactionaries from a bygone era struggling to grasp the mic when already, the new generation has already taken it. They are afraid and they are not our concern.

The time is ours now. It’s our choice: Focus on the fringe minority and get caught up in flame wars, or ignore them like the scum they are and start walking forward.

In layman’s terms, fuck the haters. 

Posted in Gender Stuff | Leave a comment

Homophobia and Me

If you asked me today, I would tell you that I’m definitely in the pro-LGBTQ camp. I’m not an activist per se, but I would tell you that I think about gender and sexuality in a very open-minded way. I don’t know if anyone would call me an ally, but I know this: I don’t care if my friends are gay; I don’t care if my peers are questioning–hell, sometimes I do as well. I’ve been pretty vocal on Facebook about why gay marriage should be a thing and why it’s unreasonable to oppose it. And while I think those are good things, while I love the support that comes out of LGBTQ and its allies, and while I’m so happy that young kids are now learning to embrace non-straight leanings and be accepting of their peers, I’ve had to reflect on my own experience as a kid to realize exactly how far we’ve come in just ten short years.

When I was in elementary school, I had an amazing P.E. teacher named Theresa. She was the most laid-back person ever, but she was also really fun and enthusiastic and supportive. She was definitely my favorite part of elementary school–aside from teaching me how to play tetherball, she showed us a bunch of great ways to stay active and have fun (two things that I’d previously thought mutually exclusive because jogging with my dad was not fun at all). Most of all, she was fair, a blessing for a kid who was pretty socially awkward and accidentally rubbed kids the wrong way on the playground. Overall, she was a pretty awesome person. I was saddened and a little confused when the school suddenly decided a few years later that P.E. should be led by normal teachers, not by Theresa. I know now that the district was clamping down due to budget cuts, but I didn’t really understand it then. I just remember that one day, I went back to school and there was no P.E.

Inevitably, I ended up talking with one of my classmates about it. “Oh, that,” he’d told me. “They fired her because she’s gay.”

“Gay?” I echoed. Until that point, I’d never heard the word before. “What does that mean?”

“It means that instead of liking boys and marrying a boy, she married a girl.”

It seemed like such an innocent explanation, but I remember turning it over in my head and thinking, Girls marrying girls? That’s not normal. And then I thought, That’s not right. Very quickly, my kid brain made the connection that gay = bad. At the time, I accepted that explanation. Theresa was gay, and she’d been fired. To me, there was nothing out of place with that. It felt appropriate, and I accepted it.

When I was in fourth grade, I had a teacher who, aside from being a man (which was already weird in my eyes), really enjoyed getting the class to connect through music. He called it ETM (Education Through Music). On the first day of school, he had us all introduce ourselves with a short song, and singing became a motif throughout the rest of his classes. The first thing that irked me was having to sing in class. Singing wasn’t for the classroom, I thought. This is stupid and childish.

The second thing I thought was that a male teacher shouldn’t be singing, period. Why was he so fond of music? Why was he so good at singing? Was he gay? I remember my brother and I making fun of the teacher. “He probably touches little boys,” my brother had said. And I accepted it; I even embraced it. My male teacher who wanted his kids to grow through music was gay and a pedophile. I no longer felt safe in his classroom. I began to find reasons to hate him. He sings, so he’s gay; he’s gay, so he must touch little boys. It was a progression that made perfect sense to fourth-grade me. Even now, I find it appalling that I ever thought that way.

I think it’s why I’m still so shocked and relieved to hear stories about little kids who are perfectly accepting not just of gay and lesbian kids, but also of transgender and questioning ones. Undoubtedly, it’s great to hear about young kids who are already growing up to accept differences. But it’s also a little jarring that those kids had the kind of progressive, loving thoughts that never occurred to me when  I was younger. I think it’s why I still can’t bring myself to indict kids on the other end of the spectrum–the homophobic kids. It’s because I was one of them, once.

I’m not sure why I’m writing about this at all. I guess it’s only in retrospect that I can really pay attention to the change that gripped me and my peers as we grew up. We accepted LGBTQ in the same way that people fall asleep–slowly, then all at once. I can’t really put my finger on the moment where I changed from gay = bad to gay = who cares? but I’m really glad it happened. No matter how angry I get at homophobia in the modern age, I’m still trying to come to grips with the fact that ten years ago, that was me. I’m not sure how to feel about that.

A lot can change in ten years, I guess. As it damn well should.

Posted in Life Stuff | Leave a comment

Why Women in Gaming Deserve More

Anyone who’s been playing video games for a while is probably vaguely aware that it’s not exactly an industry that caters to women very much. And why should it be? Who wants to be Princess Peach when you can be Mario? Do you remember Remember Me? That was okay, I guess, but not as good as GTA V. Besides, the majority of gamers are men! It’s simple economics! We have Lara Croft and Bayonetta, right? What’s the problem?

It starts with a number. Did you know that 45% of gamers are women? That’s hardly a minority; that’s almost half of all gamers. They exist in a proportion to males similar to the gender distributions at most American universities. The University of Southern California (USC) is 48% male, 52% female. The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has a male-female distribution of 45% to 55%—in other words, the reverse of the demographic in gaming. Why am I bringing this up? Because having one gender in the slim majority does not lead either USC or UCLA to completely disregard the interests of the other. Guys at USC aren’t told “dicks or gtfo” when they go to a dining hall. Guys at UCLA don’t see that the student services cater largely to girls. Sororities and fraternities  are equally important to campus life. Guys at USC don’t go to office hours and see that most of the professors there are women–the opposite is actually true. Being in the minority doesn’t mean they don’t matter

The university and the gaming industry may be two different beasts, but fundamentally the concept of gender is the same. If all the guys at USC and UCLA up and left because they thought they weren’t being represented—hell, even if only half of them did—the university would suffer. If girls in gaming up and left because they thought they weren’t being represented—or even half of them—gaming would suffer. The point is, even though women represent a minority of gamers, their voice still matters–particularly since they’re barely a minority. I could understand the validity of this argument if the male-female distribution was, say, 85% to 15%, but it’s not. Women and men are practically represented in equal numbers in gaming, and they make up too much of the population to be ignored. And yet, they are. The gaming industry, for the most part, caters to white guys. Why, when women over 18 represent a larger percentage of gamers (31%) than boys under 17 (19%)? Demographically speaking, women are way more important to gaming’s success than you might have initially thought.

Okay, so women make up 45% of the gaming population. So what? If they wanted female-led games, they’d buy them more. And female-led games don’t sell, right?

That’s half-true. Female-led games don’t sell as well as male-led games, but not for the reason you think. The reality of the gaming industry is that female led games get less than half of the promotion budget that male-led games do.

“Games with a female only protagonist, got half the spending of female optional, and only 40 percent of the marketing budget of male-led games. Less than that, actually.” –Geoffrey Zatkin, Chief Operating Officer of EEDAR

That’s a ridiculous handicap on their ability to sell well. It’s like if you put two cheetahs on a track and got them to race a hundred-yard dash, but you shot one of them in the knees first. One is going to do better than the other, but the playing ground is inherently unfair. So to say that female-led games don’t sell well, period, is innately incorrect. The real answer to the question of whether or not female-led games sell well doesn’t exist because nobody has bothered to find out. So why is this happening? We’ve already established that women make up a pretty significant percentage of gamers. Why do game covers and game protagonists not reflect this? Is it because there aren’t enough ladies in game dev to make that happen? If that’s the case, then we need more ladies in game dev. There’s no way of knowing how a well-written, female-led, big budget game would sell. There are just so few female protagonists, period, that we can’t make any conclusions.

There’s absolutely no reason for this to continue. Why is the profit motive a perfectly valid reason to dismiss women’s representation in gaming, even though the same thing is justification enough to make EA Consumerist’s Worst Company of the year–twice?

For the record, though, my money is on the idea that if a game is well-written, plays well, and is fun, gamers won’t care if it’s led by a male or a female. I mean, look at Portal and Portal 2. Look at Tomb Raider. Not only have they been hugely successful games, but Chell and Lara Croft are basically gaming icons now. I don’t think that people are so sexist that they’d make a well-promoted game fail just because there’s a woman on the cover.

So now that we’ve established that women make up almost half of all gamers, and that there’s no good reason to believe that female-led games are unsustainable, then why do women continue to get this dismal treatment from the gaming industry? Girls still face plenty of harassment and even threats online–and are often snubbed when they try to report it. Many gamers still make a habit out of mocking and outing “fake girl gamers” and “fake girl geeks”. There are apparently legit rules on what a gamer girl can and can’t be to be “legitimate”. And the games themselves aren’t helping: female characters are so apparently unpopular to publishers that they will explicitly tell developers that it can’t happen and fight developers on putting a girl on the front cover of a game. Female characters are still largely relegated to the same roles–damsels, love interests, motivations for revenge, or any combination of the three. There are too few Lara Crofts and Elizabeth Comstocks and Eleanor Lambs to invalidate that fact.

And how about women involved in the game industry? How are they treated? The gaming industry is supposed to be groundbreaking and progressive, right? Wouldn’t this mean that they’re also more progressive and unique than the film industry, the TV industry, or the comedy scene? Sadly, they’re not all that different. Women in entertainment suffer across the board, and gaming is no exception. Women only account for 11% of designers and 3% of programmers. That’s not just tiny. That’s sad. Given this statistic, is it really that surprising that the gaming industry sucks shit at “catering to women”? You can’t do that if you’ve wiped the ovaries out of your masthead. Is there any good reason for founders, designers, and developers of amazing games to be sidelined and treated as arm candy just because they’re womenRead that article; read the tweets. Kim Swift is on there–Kim Fucking Swift, who designed levels for a little-known shooter called Half-Life 2. Brenda Romero, too, who was on the Board of Directors for the International Gaming Developers Association at one point–and mistaken for arm candy. This isn’t the fifties, people. Women deserve better, period. More women leading games would add depth to video games. Is it better than it was thirty years ago? Maybe. But that doesn’t matter.

“It’s true, the industry is not as actively bad as it used to be. But not actively bad is an embarrassingly low bar.” –Courtney Stanton, founder of Women In Games Boston

Whatever you may think at this point, I think we should all agree right now that representation matters. Fiction and humor may be products of our culture, but they also help to create that culture. If our fiction (in this case, our games) only reflect male protagonists and stories while casting female protagonists and stories to the wayside, what kind of a message does that send to female gamers? That they can’t create? That their stories don’t matter? That they can’t be the protagonists of their own stories? That their only contribution to any story is to become a damsel in distress? That if they are leaders of their own stories, they have to be sexy ass-kickers? Is it a surprise, then, that so many girls these days flat-out hate their bodies? That’s not the message we should be sending to a young and impressionable youth, and it’s not a sack of shit we should peddle to the public. Teaching self-hate is not healthy or constructive. Teaching girls to devalue themselves is not kind or reasonable. Teaching girls that weakness is their defining trait does not promote a better society.

You may say, “Gaming isn’t teaching girls anything! They can ignore it if they wish.” Wrong. Showing is a powerful form of teaching. Saturation is an even more powerful form of internalization. And when your workplace was essentially designed to exclude you and even victimize you, you can bet that is going to affect you. When every game you buy has a guy on the cover, that is going to affect you. When every girl you see in video games is hypersexualized and one-dimensional, that is going to affect you.

Women and girls are staring to take notice in a very vocal way now more than ever, thanks to the blogs and forums that have also made this post possible. How long before they realize that gaming doesn’t love them back? How long until they start to leave? This may be nice for guys who want to maintain the status quo, but it’s not good for gaming as an industry–nor is it good for its image. Most of us, myself included, want gaming to be seen as a complex art form that has matured over the years. We want to be respected as gamers; we want to be given the same respect for playing Heavy Rain that we would for watching Blue Jasmine–and yet we still go crazy over games like Grand Theft Auto V, even though its novelty is long gone and its cultural impact is arguably similar to MTV (groundbreaking and shocking at first, and now a rehash of the same provocative, offensive trash passed off as satire). We still lose our minds over women like Anita Sarkeesian, treating her like the bogeyman of gaming and literally trying to terrorize her into silence. Our knee-jerk reaction to any accusations of sexism is still to cry “misandry” and complain about how men suffer too, assuming that it somehow invalidates the argument. It’s no wonder gamers are seen as socially stunted, immature, and impulsive. We don’t give the world much reason to think otherwise, and a huge part of that is the way we treat women. When “tits or gtfo” is still seen as the norm, when shaming “fake gamer girls” is still seen as acceptable and even deserved, we send the message that gamers as a whole are largely the same–immature, cruel, and deathly afraid of the female gender. Really? Do we really want to be the close-minded virgin nerds who chased all the girls away because they couldn’t stand the idea of girls with their hands on their precious controllers? Doubtlessly, there will–and are–girls who are okay with all of this, and that’s fine. I won’t harsh on their tastes. But it doesn’t mean that it’s okay to ignore and condescend to women in gaming.

For gaming, I see this as less of an indictment than I do an opportunity. Misrepresentation and lack of representation for women is a problem not just in gaming, but in all forms of media–movies, comics, and TV shows (to a lesser extent). Hell, J.K. Rowling became a household name because publishers thought that nobody would buy books from someone named Joanne Rowling. But gaming is a brave medium that gets a great deal of fame and credit for breaking old conventions and creating new ones. It’s also a unique medium that allows players to be in the story rather than watch it from a seat in a theater.  If the gaming industry sits up and starts giving meaningful attention to women–putting them in producer and writer positions, giving them more control of what to create and giving them a safe space in which to work, then creating more female protagonists and showing scenarios where strong female characters, strong female presence, is nothing to be afraid of, the world would take notice. Gamers would take notice.

This change in attitude could revolutionize video games. It’s a hell of an opportunity. The only question is, will anyone take it?

Posted in Entertainment, Gender Stuff | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

My Side of Gun Control

I figured that I’d put in my two cents about gun control. I’m gonna take certain points of both sides’ arguments and respond to them with my prerogative. Feel free to discuss in the comments when I’m done.
PRO refers to the side of the argument that supports a more laissez-faire attitude on firearms; CON refers to the side that favors heavy gun control.

1. PRO: Firearms are necessary for protecting our individual freedoms of life, liberty, and property.
Me: Against what? This argument almost always is used with tyranny from the top down in mind. At face value this argument seems legit, but there are a lot of gaping holes in it. First of all, where does this tyranny come from? Historically and realistically, it would come from a) an internal hostile takeover of the government, like a military coup d’etat or something similar, b) an external hostile takeover of the government, like Red Dawn or something, or c) a dramatic and disastrous shift in domestic policy that the government on ALL levels of organization just *happens* to unanimously condone. Secondly, when this Amendment was written, the dangers were actually much more plausible: any of these three things COULD happen just because this was a new country and NOBODY had ever tried what we’d tried before and yeah, if you know US history you know all that. So I won’t bore you.

Furthermore, the channels by which we protect our lives, liberty, and property have been long-established in nonviolent channels of communication. There are stories about people getting cheated by the system, blah blah blah, but it’s not so egregiously corrupt, impotent, or malicious that we’re on the brink of rebellion or starvation because of it. (It honestly isn’t.) The fact remains that there ARE things we can do when we feel that our rights are being violated, and IN GENERAL, they are functionally effective. (Notice that that last sentence was chock-full of qualifiers. Pay attention.) To top it off, trying to protect our life, liberty, and property using firearms doesn’t help the situation and actually makes it worse. Do you remember the last time a guy pulled a gun on the bank trying to foreclose on his house and successfully got JP Morgan to cut him some slack? Yeah, I don’t either. For a better representation of what “tyranny” means in the context that it’s really given, though, you would have to shift your eyes elsewhere. Know of any places where people protect themselves with firearms on a daily basis? I can name a few: Somalia, Sudan/Darfur, and (until recently) Chechnya. Do you see a whole lot of rights-protecting going on there? On the contrary, one could actually argue that widespread firearm use to promote freedoms actually undermines them for everyone except for the gunmen packing the most heat.

And before you try to tell me again that firearms help protect democracy, I will point you to Kenya. In the days preceding its March 4 election, analytical blog post after editorial newspaper article after foreign policy analysis asked the same question: Will Kenyans be able to carry through these elections without violence? Answer: No. When the results came out and were perceived to be corrupted, violence flared up, probably perpetrated by more than a few Kenyans who wanted to protect their freedoms. That’s not democracy. Using violence and intimidation to get your way is not democracy, and will never be democracy.

2. CON: The only way to end gun violence is to ban guns altogether.
Me: For the most part, I don’t have to tell you guys why this is bullshit because you already know. Prohibition is a great example of how suddenly cutting of a desired good is going to lead to huge problems. Yes, it was a movement with an entirely different goal than a national gun ban, but firearms are so ubiquitous to America that banning them altogether would be like banning booze all over again. If someone wants something badly enough, they will go to whatever means they can to get it. And there are more than enough black market dealers out there all too willing to provide.

Besides, that’s not the only way to end gun violence. In fact, one could argue that ending gun violence is impossible; even in a peaceful nation like Norway a crazed gunman succeeded in killing at least 30 people two years ago. The key is common-sense regulation. This requires a lot of dialogue on all sides–specifically, on the type of guns that people (think) they need for legal purposes. The goal isn’t to figure out what gun regulations would satisfy everyone: the goal, as in any perfect compromise, is to give every side just enough that they’re not chomping at the bit but leaving them all still a little pissed off at not getting everything they want. However, that’s not my area of expertise so I won’t go there.

3. PRO: The 2nd Amendment allows for a “well-regulated Militia”, which means that constitutionally, every American is entitled to their firearms.
Me: That’s not what it says at all. A “well-regulated Militia” is just that: a militia. For those unfamiliar with or who abuse the term, a “militia” generally refers to an army or other fighting force that is composed of non-professional fighters [Wikipedia definition]. Basically what that means is that in every town, there’s a local regiment of volunteer fighters that get together every week or so for target practice, and then are called to arms whenever there’s trouble.

“But there’s no such thing in my town!”

Exactly.

There. Are. No. Militias. In America. The police do not count: they are professional law enforcement agencies on the city’s payroll. Militias actually generally ceased to exist in America after the antebellum years. The closest thing to it today is the National Guard, but even the National Guard is today utilized largely for disaster relief and light peacekeeping in severe situations, not general law enforcement. The reason why militias existed in the first place was because they fit the bill of what was needed in early-early America: they provided security and the general welfare for a society that for the most part was very isolated, largely agrarian, surrounded by untamed land, and at constant threat by forces, both internal and external, that the national army couldn’t possibly respond to in an adequate fashion. That’s not the America we live in today. Intricately connected on all levels of life, with a national army that’s probably the largest in the world, militias are obsolete.

The entities that actually do qualify as militias after the Civil War are represented in this extremely abridged list: The Animal Liberation Front, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Knights of the White Camellia. Worldwide, these examples include the Janjaweed in Darfur, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the Taliban in Pakistan, the Irish Republican Army, and al-Shabaab in Somalia.

That should be very telling to you. The point is, nobody who uses this argument is part of a “well-regulated Militia”, never has been and never will be, and there isn’t a single American in this country that needs one.

4. CON/PRO: (Both sides have used this argument.) The most effective way to curb gun violence without harming law-abiding citizens is to register/track the movements of the mentally impaired and perform special background checks on them before selling them firearms of any kind.
Me: It still boggles my mind how often people attribute violent crimes to mental illnesses. Can they be a factor? Of course. But bear in mind that there have been a LOT of horrible people in this world, and still are a LOT of horrible people in this world, who did unspeakable things and yet had perfect mental faculties. But most people with mental illnesses are delightful people who wouldn’t dream of the sort of violence Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris, Adam Lanza, Anders Breivik, and many others committed. I know personally at least three bipolar people. John Nash was a paranoid schizophrenic and a Nobel Prize laureate. Silver Linings Playbook is all about crazy people who carve out good things in the world by doing good things for the world. Mental illness does not = violence.

Instead of shifting the blame onto mental illnesses, or video games, or any other easily-dealt-with “problem”, we should point our fingers at the REAL culprits here: Glorification of killers through sensational media, for example. Neglect of the public school system. A thousand other social ills that would be extremely hard to solve, but would greatly benefit from having some light shone on them.

In short, the notion of mental illness as a cause of violence is not enough to implicate EVERYONE who was born with a less-than-normal noggin. And it should never be. (Check out this article for an analysis of Columbine if you’re interested; it presents a contrast between Harris and Klebold that I think is pretty important. )

Other odds and ends that I didn’t have the time/patience to fit into their own thing:
Universal background checks: I support them. Like any extremely important license/purchase/transaction people make here, gun license registry and gun purchases should be very closely regulated. The questionnaire for getting a gun license in California is a JOKE. “Circle yes or no: Have you ever stalked someone maliciously with a weapon?” This doesn’t compare at ALL to the tests people have to go through to get drivers’ licenses, or the level of identification you have to provide to open up a bank account in America, obtain a credit card, or take out a loan. Guns are a whole different story. Hell yeah, universal background checks should be required. That record had better be damn near spotless before you even lay your hands on a peashooter.

Limitations on clip size: I support those, too. Now, I’m not a gun connoisseur and I don’t plan on being one, but common sense dictates that a man with a 30-round magazine and an AR-15 can do way more damage in way more time than a man with three 10-round magazines and the same gun. And forget shooting sprees for a moment. For hunting, you probably don’t need any more than two or three shots to bring down game if you’re decent. For self-defense, you definitely don’t need 30 rounds to scare off an attacker.

This is a relatively abridged piece on gun control, but that’s just what I think. It’s by no means a perfect argument. But I consider it the best representation of the facts that I have at my disposal. How you choose to treat this argument is totally up to you.

Posted in Political Stuff, The US | Tagged , | 8 Comments

This is the first post on this blog.

Hello! If you’re reading this, hopefully you weren’t turned off by the lame puns in my address and title. If you’re not a fan of puns right now, don’t worry. You will soon.

A little bit about me: I’m Lynn, and at the time of this writing I’m a senior in high school. I like learning about stuff because I don’t know everything about stuff, but I’d like to know as much as I can. I also like talking about stuff and debating stuff, mostly so that I can learn more about stuff. I’m a firm believer in feminism, science, and the potential of people do do awesome things. I’m also a Nerdfighter. DFTBA, guys.

I created this blog because sometimes I have strongly worded, very long-winded thoughts about things that I just have to get out, but my friends would not appreciate it if I posted a 500+ word essay on Facebook every day. On this blog, I will have more freedom to do that. I hope you enjoy reading, because I will enjoy posting! Common motifs on this blog will be:

  • Stuff
  • Nerdy stuff
  • Geeky stuff
  • Gender issues
  • Politics
  • Science
  • College

Of course, the list will probably grow as I start getting into this thing, but for now that’s all I got. Feel free to comment on my posts, but keep it classy. Comments are a privilege, not a right. If you can’t keep it classy, then you can’t comment here. If I find myself wanting to drink paint every time a new comment pops up on the dash, I will take comments away. You have been warned. I appreciate criticism and discussion, but only if it’s respectful on all sides.

I’ll probably also talk about my own life. I’m applying to college this year, so maybe I’ll keep you all updated. Hopefully my posts will be a source of comfort and guidance for college-bound kids after me.

That’s it for now! Welcome to my blog, and I hope you enjoy your stay! 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment