Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Just a couple more thoughts connected to my last post.
I thought about the nature of the compliment this silly man paid to Kate Beaton.
His reaction to her rejection of that compliment was entirely unacceptable (he uses feminism like a swear word, tells her to take a xanax and go back to her coven, etc). But at the same time, I understand the emotions behind it.
I think that if I received a compliment like that, I'd certainly be quite cheered by it. "Hey, your talent is awesome enough that it increases your reproductive fitness in my eyes." I mean, shucks. I'd much rather be told that than just that someone found me hot. On the other hand, I'd like it even more if someone told me I inspired them.
But that's fine. We're all different, and that's something everyone needs to accept. It's up to the complimentee to decide what to be complimented by.

But wouldn't you feel hurt, and taken aback, if you told someone how much you loved their work, and they told you how "shitty," and "disrespectful" you were being?

Again, "A. Dude" decided to be a sexist douche about it, and I don't condone that. Key skill to being a Grown Up? Learning to deal with hurt feelings constructively.

But the reason I started writing this is that I did want to point out that not all women think this is a bad way to compliment a creator:
Exhibit A (video)

Friday, October 29, 2010

In Which We Try to Aid Our Species.

I always feel a bit weird commenting about sexism.

I mean, I am male, cisgendered, only sexually attracted to women so far, and 10 out of 10 people would identify me as ethnically "white".

What could I possibly say about institutional discrimination, when it never directly touches or affects me?

So a fellow named Gabby Schultz crafted a funny comic about a recent debacle.

It intrigued me, so I thought I'd say some things about sexism, for the same reasons that anyone says anything ever on any blog. I want to create something, something to engage people's minds and create debate to engage my own.

Now, Gabby didn't link to the original issue. He wanted to avoid inflaming the specific debate again, and distracting from his comics message about sexism.
But I reference back to the original situation, and my blog has never been read by anyone I don't know personally, so I'm linking to a place that's collected the original comment by Kate Beaton.
Heh. I don't find it quite so inimitably polite as Gabby portrays it.

I had an insight as I wrote this post. At first, I didn't see the problem with the very initial exchange. Generified: an artist puts up a piece of work, and someone compliments them on it by saying they find the artist's talent attractive in a romantic/sexual way.

They're taking the subject away from the artists talent, really, and making it about their suitability to be their mate.

Is this sexist? I mean, I see the same attitude from women often enough. (Not that women engaging in a sexist behavior makes it non-sexist....)

But as much as I'd like to, I can't pretend that a societal distinction between women and men, and their respective capabilities and life goals doesn't exist. A comment like this, made to a woman, in the context of our society, can't help but be perceived as degrading. As if, as Kate Beaton said, the woman were just partaking in this quaint hobby to engage sexual attention.

Even if it weren't sexist, the reply from "A. Dude" definitely was. I'm not even going to get into it right now (though I do wonder how much of his posturing was inspired by personal hurt feelings).
If someone tells you that something you have said to them has made them uncomfortable, you apologize, say sorry for the misunderstanding, and promise to attempt to be more considerate of their feelings in the future. This is the basics of politeness.

And all of this is distracting from the rest of Kate Beaton's point, which was that women creators and professionals do often have to deal with their capabilities and talents being sexualized and diminished, even by people who are oblivious to what they're doing.
The literal comment, "OMG I love you and want to have your babies," from anyone to anyone, is just popular hyperbole. But when women on professional forums get treated like they're there to troll for dates, you have a problem.

So this kind of stole the spotlight from my original opinion of the comic. Personal growth through blogging, who knew?

As to the comic itself, I must admit to some remaining ambivalence.
He has a very important point (which he helpfully elucidates in his final panel): "The system makes us slaves." That is, there are cycles of behavior in our society that reinforce themselves, and from which we can not break out without awareness.

But on the other hand, just reading the comic, it feels so devisive.
Sure, it's true, you can look at the Pew Research polls. Identifying as white, male, and heterosexual has a decent amount of correlation with having sexist attitudes.
But does harping on this really help, rather than divide?
In a piece of what is essentially entertainment, doesn't this focus lead people to want to make judgements of individuals based on their group membership?
Prejudice can really only retard useful action, and starting out with statements like, "People — straight, male people, in particular — sure can have some strange misconceptions about how the world spins," seems like it's going to raise more hackles than bridge gaps of ignorance.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Women, if you want protection...

rely on police, on government, on education and on basic human decency. No. TME. cover yourselves!

I can't even muster up the appropriate amount of rage here. This is from an Egyptian campaign trying to prevent rape by asking women to wear headscarves.

I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps there are actually statistics collected here. That women not wearing headscarves are raped more often. That just in case this might be a causative relationship, they're advocating this as a recommendation.

But I don't think that kind of thinking would've lead to this image. The hideous implications that men are like flies, and that as a potential victim, you should cover up or you're as good as inviting violence.

I think I'm going to be sick.

Black Mamba on via Pharyngula

Thursday, April 22, 2010

PZ Myers... I am disappoint.

I suppose this could be taken as an objective lesson in the fact that sometimes, you should only spout off about what you know.

[pause for hypocrisy to fade out]

PZ Meyers, noted humanist, skeptic, atheist, and researcher of evolutionary developmental biology, has tossed his hat into the ring hosting an old/new battle of opinions. On one side, gamers, lead by Penny Arcade (who say that games can be art). On the other, wizened warlocks, lead by Roger Ebert (who says they cannot).

To summarize, Ebert, and now Meyers, seem to feel that it is appropriate to compare video games to chess, mahjong, or basketball, in terms of a means of expression. Tycho does not.

I don't want to speak to the debate at large. It's a ridiculous terminological dispute, with meaning apparently generated only as a side effect of more ponderous, pointless statements.
Define art one way, video games are included. Define it another way, they are not.
I've spoken here before about what a destructive influence different connotations of words have on reasonable discourse.
If someone, say Roger Ebert, starts with the definition that 'Art' includes only, "things that I'm interested in, and cannot have a winner or loser," then obviously video games will not be included. But this trods quite firmly upon the emotional toes of anyone that defines it as an emotionally engaging and significant piece of media.
The effect is doubly strong when you consider that despite it's nebulous definition, 'art' is something spoken of with reverence by most of humanity. I'll admit it, when beauty is captured in ways that inspire creativity and invoke my emotions, I call it art, and mean something great and numinous by that. It seems to be a word that encapsulates the meaning within a subset of our experiences, and these sorts of arguments seem an attack, an attempt to invalidate your experiences.

I seem to have ended up talking about it anyways. Not everyone gets what they want I suppose. But I just couldn't keep quiet after seeing statements as perplexing as: "imagine recording that game, and wanting to go back and watch the replay again sometime. That's where games fail as art."
I wonder speaking up like this is some kind of instinct. If I were an evolutionary psychologist, perhaps I'd say that it must have been advantageous to confront people spouting nonsense, to make sure they haven't eaten poisonous mushrooms.
Does this make sense to anyone else? Because to me the situation he is describing is a bit like saying that literature cannot be art because no one would want to listen to an audio recording of a person reading a book.