Friday, September 30, 2011

Having Life Skills Doesn't Make You a Castrated Man

This week I was exposed to an all new level of Facebook wankery that left me speechless. My friend V, who is the mother of three amazing boys, posted a link to an article about raising equality-minded boys. The article is really great and echos exactly how I was raised. 
I know too many fathers who would never be caught dead changing a diaper or giving their baby a bath because that’s considered “womens’ work.” Well, I think that’s “parents’ work” and anyone incapable or unwilling to change a diaper ought not to have had a baby. Imagine how harshly a woman would be judged if she hired someone to change every one of her baby’s diapers – would she be considered a “good” mother? Certainly not. Yet somehow, we tolerate this out of some men. But really, if we raise boys to believe that baby dolls are toys only girls should play with, what can you really expect?
My parents never segregated their work by gender. My dad changed diapers, bathed kids, cooked food, mended clothing, etc. Mom worked nights and Dad worked days, and whatever Mom did for us during the day, Dad would do for us at night. On the weekends, they both did yard work, home improvements, etc. The only thing Dad does that Mom doesn't is car repair, and that's just because he has the skill to and she doesn't. I never once thought it was because he is a man. 

I have two brothers and a sister, all of whom are younger than I. We all learned how to cook. And not just throw some frozen food into the oven or microwave, but actually cook. We learned how to grocery shop, how to make good food choices, how to clip coupons to save money, and how to prepare a good meal from scratch. In fact, my brother Jon and I made red velvet cupcakes from scratch yesterday, and then for dinner we made a chicken alfredo pizza, also from scratch. Additionally, we know how to not get screwed when buying a car (or getting one fixed), know how to do basic home repair, and know how to take care of the yard, etc. Point is, my brothers weren't shunned from the kitchen and my sister and I weren't shunned from the garage. 

And you know why? Because it was important to my parents that they raise children to adulthood having the life skills necessary to navigate the world. 

But apparently having those values is offensive to some people, and some of the comments V got on her Facebook blew my mind. Here are a few:
Sorry, but this should really read, "Raising a Castrated Male."
(Name redacted) has never been accused of placating a woman.
But she is right on. Women's "progress" has made it the norm to be all the female roles typical of "Leave it to Beaver", with all the chores included, and now need to make a huge salary on top of it. I fail to see how it's progress.
‎"Today, I see a society where women are often forced to do it all because our men haven’t picked up the slack." I love that even modern feminists still define themselves in terms of victimization.
Wow. I didn't realize my brothers were castrated men. I thought they were fully functional adults who knew how to take care of themselves. Thanks for enlightening me, Facebook troll! 
It's even more distressing to point out that not all of these comments were made by men. In fact, the castrated comment came from a woman. And that stuns me to the point that my snark is broken and I can't come up with a pithy comment. But do I really need to in this case? 

Looney Labs Brings Back Pyramids and Introduces Star Fluxx

Today is quite a day for Looney Labs! Today they announced that pyramids are now back, and the newest edition of Fluxx, Star Fluxx, is available to purchase
The new headliner game introduces a great new component: a pair of special dice which adds a much needed randomizing element to the system. One die features the 5 colors in a rainbow stash plus a wild symbol, and the other die features pyramid icons in various combos. Together you can roll them to randomly determine a specific pyramid, or limited-option selection of pyramids, and these tools open the door to a whole new world of game design options.
Join the intrepid crew of a Starship - the Captain, the Engineer, the Doctor, the Scientist, the Robot, and the Expendable Crewman - as they journey from a Small Moon to a Distant Planet, exploring Alien Cities and finding Alien Life Forms, seeking out new Energy Crystals, encountering such mysteries as the Monolith, the Wormhole, the Time Portal, and the Time Traveler. With the help of your trusty Intergalactic Travel Guide and a Computer, you might win with the Ultimate Answer!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

City of Heroes Issue 21 Review Part 1 - The Sad State of Sister Psyche

This isn't really how I wanted to start my series of reviews of the latest expansion to City of Heroes, and it's unfortunate that I even have this much material to work with. But I do, so here it goes. 

It's no secret that someone at Paragon Studios thinks Sister Psyche is a moron. It all started back in 2006 with the addition of the Lord Recluse Strike Force. During the fourth mission, players are subjected to the second worst cut scene in the entire game (the first is Statesman Explains It All at the end of the VEAT arc). It's a painfully embarrassing dialogue between Manticore (real name Justine Sinclair) and Sister Psyche (real name Shalice Tillman), with bits by Back Alley Brawler and Numina thrown in so we don't forget they exist. During the scene, Manticore is blindly shooting arrows into the ether while Sister Psyche stands around wringing her hands and trying not to piss her pants. This is the actual dialogue: 
Manticore: Keep fighting! We need to survive!
Sister Psyche: Manticore, we can't hold out much longer!
Manticore: I know, Sister Psyche. We're out of H-Boosters, and they're the only reason we've held out this far.
Sister Psyche: Justin, how did it come to this? Statesman dead, Synapse and Citadel missing, Positron powering Lord Recluse's ultimate weapon...
Manticore: It doesn't matter now, Shalice. All that matters is we survive and keep fighting...
Back Alley Brawler: Stay frosty, folks. We got some trouble.
Numina: It looks like more of Recluse's villains!
Manticore: Great. Just what we need.
Sister Psyche: Will they ever stop?
Manticore: Keep it together, Shalice! The Freedom Phalanx is not about to let the world fall to these scum!
Yeah I know. It still makes me squirm too. And what makes it even harder to swallow is that the rest of the content that came out in that time period was well written. It's like the good writers had the day off when this went to story board and they were like "That's good enough." Either that or someone really hates Sister Psyche. Or a third thing. 

So back in August, I wrote a piece on my disgust over the splash page for the new tutorial, Galaxy's Last Stand. As I stated back then, it's hard to find the original art without the layout markings on it. Sister Psyche's face in that shot now looks like this:
In the original, her eyes were much rounder which gave them a child-like quality. She didn't look prepared or ready for battle; she looked like she was going to shit her pants. This version isn't a whole lot better, but at least the enfantilization factor is gone. She still looks inept, is still making a stupid sex doll face, but at least her hair looks nice. 

My annoyance over this was put on the back burner by what is otherwise a great issue. As I have said before, this free expansion has as much if not more content in it as a paid expansion. And that's really awesome. But, and there's always a but, my rage came back in full force when I saw the splash screen for part one of the seven part VIP arc "Who Will Die?" Yes, they're going to kill off one of the Surviving 8. Yes, I think that's a stupid idea and reeks of a desperate attention grab. Which is sad, because the new content is strong enough to bring new life to the game without having to resort to this tactic. But I digress. This is the splash screen:
Pardon my task bar. Cropping is hard. 
Take a look at everyone. Everyone, but two, are geared up, ready to fight, ready to face down death itself which lurks behind them like a necrotic peeping Tom. And the two that aren't? Manticore and Sister Psyche. Before we get to her, let's talk about him. What the hell is going on with his body? No person would turn and contort themselves that way. In fact, I'm not convinced it's even possible. Is Rob Liefield now drawing for Paragon Studios? 

But moving beyond that, there is Sister Psyche once again sporting the stupid sex doll face, scared out of her high heels because the bad guys are mean and she needs her husband to protect her. It's rage-inducing. 

In game lore, Sister Psyche was thought of as the most powerful psychic in the world. The story has now shifted a bit, and one who is just as powerful (or maybe even more so) has been discovered. That's not really the point, though. Point is, Sister Psyche is fierce. When taking her on in a mission, she is always the first one a team targets. She will kick your ass 32 ways before you can even blink if you aren't on guard. She does a damage type that isn't widely resisted, and can stack holds like a mofo. 

Her husband, on the other hand, has a bow and arrow. And stupid hair. 

So why is it then that someone at Paragon Studios decided that in art she's going to be depicted as this feeble little girl who needs her big strong no-super-powers-having man to protect her? 

"But they're a couple!" you may wail (and if so, this probably isn't the blog for you). And I may give you that, to a point. They're also professional super heroes who need to be able to put that aside in times of crisis. Also, recent game lore is moving toward Positron and Numina hooking up (even though she's a ghost, and that's in no way creepy), but they're still each ready to go face whatever danger lurks off screen. 

I will also point out that no other female super hero in game is depicted like this. Just Sister Psyche. And I have no idea why. Out of all of them, she's arguably the most deadly. 

If this is going to be the way they continue with her, I hope she's the one killed off in the end. Cause seriously, we get enough sexism out in the real world. We don't need it in our entertainment. 

Weekly Roundup

So now that I have beaten the plague and gotten back on a regular writing schedule, I bring you a super sized edition of the Weekly Roundup. I'm glad that this seems to be a popular feature, as it is my favorite one to do. Enjoy! 

News of the Geek


Good Internet Reads
Neat Finds

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

City of Heroes: Freedom is Now Live!

Big news in the world of City of Heroes - today is the launch of City of Heroes: Freedom, meaning City of Heroes can now be played for free, forever
To celebrate, the staff of Paragon Studios had cake:
ThornGroup_logo_Small.jpgIf you've ever considered trying City of Heroes, now is a great time. You can play to the level cap for free and team up with paid subscribers while doing so. Free players are locked out of some content, as is the case with MMOs on a hybrid model, but that content is available on the Paragon Market for reasonable prices. You have the freedom to pick and choose which content you want to pay to play. 

What is most exciting for me, as a long time player (seven years and counting!), is that Paragon Studios has tackled the question of a sequel in a very elegant way. Without people really noticing, they built (and are still building) the sequel to City of Heroes right on top of the old game, and made a smooth and painless transition in the process without long time players having to start over. It's really quite wonderful. 

The old story arcs have progressed, the new story arcs are moving the game forward, and the new tech of the game is familiar enough that returning players are going to feel like they're coming home. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gamers Crack AIDS Enzyme Puzzle

A group of online gamers has broken an AIDS enzyme puzzle that has eluded scientists for years. This is a significant breakthrough that has a lot of long term implications:
To the astonishment of the scientists, the gamers produced an accurate model of the enzyme in just three weeks.
Cracking the enzyme "provides new insights for the design of antiretroviral drugs," says the study, referring to the lifeline medication against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Like many people my age, HIV/AIDS has touched my life. I lost a cousin to AIDS and currently have people that are close to me that are HIV positive. Add this to being a gamer and I'm very excited to read this article! It is not only a significant breakthrough in the treatment of HIV, but for the first time that I can recall the creative problem solving skills of gamers was put to great use to help many people who are currently living with HIV or who, like me, are close to those who are. 

Having grown up in the golden age of video games, and seeing how often they are demonized and blamed for all kinds of societal ills, it is refreshing to see this kind of reporting about the good things gaming can do. I'll be following this story closely and will share any updates I find. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Update: Superman Collection Thief Caught!

The 37-year-old Armbruster was actually arrested for an unrelated incident yesterday afternoon when Granite City Police responded to the robbery of a 76-year-old man, who allegedly received minor injuries from the suspect who robbed him of jewelry and cash. After his arrest, Armbruster was linked to the theft of Meyer's Superman items. This lead to the recovery and return of all of Meyer's items according to an official police statement.
Our thief is a man who preys on the mentally disabled and elderly. What an awesome human being. 

But there is good news. A poster left this comment on the original story:
Mr. Meyer stated he's giving away the extra donations to a charity or children's hospital, and offered the following statement:
People were generous to me; this is how I can be generous in return
I love stories with a happy ending! 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

An Announcement

Regular readers have noticed that I didn't post a Weekly Roundup yesterday, and that I have been silent for a couple of days. This is because I have the flu, and it's pretty terrible. 

I'm taking a few days off from writing to focus on getting well. When I come back I will have a special edition of the Weekly Roundup as well as reviews from City of Heroes: Freedom. 

And I'll leave you with this very cool thing I found: San Francisco made out of 100,000 toothpicks.
Rolling through the bay

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Update: Official Statement About Same Sex Relationships in Star Wars: The Old Republic

There is now an official announcement about same sex relationships in Star Wars: The Old Republic:
Due to the design constraints of a fully voiced MMO of this scale and size, many choices had to be made as to the launch and post-launch feature set. Same gender romances with companion characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic will be a post-launch feature. Because The Old Republic is an MMO, the game will live on through content expansions which allow us to include content and features that could not be included at launch, including the addition of more companion characters who will have additional romance options.
At this point, I guess this is the best solution we could have hoped for, though the phrasing of the announcement says to me "You people weren't important enough to spend resources on from the start." I hope I'm wrong about that, but I can't help but wonder why a game that's been in production for years didn't have this from the start. Surely it didn't take them three years to remember that gay people exist and might want to play their game. 

Still, it's coming some time in the ambiguous "after launch" time frame. I'm sure some will be happy, but I'm sure for others it's a little too late. 

And it doesn't change my mind about not playing it. 

City of Heroes VIP Access to Issue 21 and Freedom Launches Today

City of Heroes is having an estimated ten hour downtime today to prepare the servers for the launch of the VIP launch of City of Heroes: Freedom and Issue 21: Convergence. I21 is a HUGE patch, nearly the size of a paid expansion. There is a new zone, First Ward, which is spooky and magical and extends the content of Praetoria which was added to the game last Summer. There is a new raid encounter, Seed of Hamidon, that has new raid strategy and interactions. There is a new Incarnate Trial, the Underground Trial, new costumes, new powers, a new starting zone, new tutorial with brand new tech, and new low level trial. As of this posting, the patch is available for download through the NCSoft launcher. It's 2511.1MB, so you might want to start downloading now. 

In addition, there is the brand new Paragon Market and the all new rewards system which are part of City of Heroes: Freedom but are being unveiled to VIP players (subscribers) later today. Free and Premium accounts do not yet have access to the game. 

While I am very excited about the launch of I21 and CoH:F, there are a couple of interesting things that Paragon Studios and NCSoft are doing with City of Heroes. First, there is the updated EULA, which includes this new section:
You consent to the foregoing monitoring and acknowledge that NCsoft may conduct such monitoring, including but not limited to monitoring in-Game communications and Message Boards provided by NCsoft as well as third-party Message Boards and the like. You also acknowledge that NCsoft may take any action, or no action whatsoever, based on such monitoring, including but not limited to action under Section 5, and that NCSoft has no obligation to explain any decision to take any action, or no action whatsoever, based on such monitoring.
(d) NCSoft has the right, but no obligation, to monitor operation of any service, content or software at any time and in any matter, including but not limited to monitoring communications and communications interfaces, storage devices, random access memory or cpu processes related to hardware you use with the game. Such monitoring may also include, but is not limited to, monitoring for the purposes of detecting software under section 8(c) or 8(e). You consent to the foregoing monitoring and acknowledge that NCSoft may, at any time, and in any manner, communicate any information between hardware you use with the game and any mechanism NCSoft may choose for such communications. You also acknowledge that as a result of such monitoring NCSoft may in its sole and absolute discretion take any action, or no action whatsoever, including but not limited to:
Changing any portion of the service, content or software;Seeking recourse against you by way of any proceeding NCSoft deems appropriate under the circumstances; and/orDetermining that you are not in compliance with all provisions of this agreement and terminating your account under section 3(b) or section 3(c). NCSoft has the right, but no obligation, to provide you with notice before such termination.

Most people know that EULAs are broad, expansive, not legally enforceable, and created to protect the intellectual property of a company. It is well within NCSoft's rights to protect its product, and to not want things like beta information out in the public. If someone breaks the NDA, this provision will give NCSoft the leverage it needs to take action. However, the tin foil hat brigade has come out in force with such claims that "big brother is watching" and that all of our online activity will be monitored. I really wish I was making that up. 

They next thing they are doing is introducing the Metric Activated Reward Throttle, or MARTy for short. MARTy is a program implemented to expose and eliminate exploits in the game. This is, of course, not sitting well with everyone (particularly power levelers and farmers), but I think it's a long over-due system. I wish MARTy had been in place before the Mission Architect had been taken from the storytellers (like me) and turned into a power level mill full of easily exploitable missions. As I have said many times, I play City of Heroes for the stories. I had high hopes that the Mission Architect would be a place for storytellers to share their writing and creativity. Instead, it is a far cry from that now, and it makes me sad. Had MARTy been implemented years ago, that might have been avoided.  

But like I said, I am happy with I21 and I'm very excited to play it. I think this is a great step forward for City of Heroes, and I also think it's a rather slick way to create a sequel to an aging MMO without coming right out and calling it City of Heroes II. By all accounts, CoH:F is a sequel. It moves forward a lot of the old stories, creates new ones, and introduces new tech, new interactions, and new ways to be a player. As a long time player who doesn't see herself leaving any time soon, that is very exciting. I'm glad to see so much effort is still being put into a game I love to play. 

I will be sad, however, over the loss of Galaxy City. Though it will be accessible through Ouroborous, it's not quite the same. So I took some time last night to explore the zone and take some final screen shots:
The statue of Galaxy Girl watches over her namesake neighborhood

The often robbed MAGI vault

What will happen to Ghost Widow's bones in the destruction of Galaxy City?

Reporting for duty one last time

Bioware is Taking its Bigotry a Step Further

Bioware is taking their stance on same gender romance arcs (or SGRAs) in their upcoming MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic, which is to say that gayness doesn't exist in the Star Wars universe, a step further and is now deleting posts on the SW:TOR forums that mention SGRAs and punishing their authors:
It's a good thing I had zero interest in this MMO to start with, as I'd never give my money to a company that treats its GLBT players this way. Shame on you, Bioware. This is disgusting.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Speak Out with Your Geek Out Day 1 - I Collect Toys

Today is day one of Speak Out with your Geek Out, and I am going to talk today about another one of my geek hobbies - collecting toys. 

To be honest, I like toys more now than I did as a child. Sure I had toys and I played with them as a child. I was particularly fond of Barbies, My Little Ponies, and Strawberry Shortcake. I also liked playing with cars and Transformers. But I didn't have the appreciation for toys then that I do now. Toys for me now are a connection to the things I love about my geekery - the comic heroes I like, movies I enjoy, etc. 

I collect DC Comics figures, particularly those of their female heroes. Among my favorites are Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, Zatanna, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy. I also have a small collection of Hero Clix that includes Green Lantern, Batman, Ironman, and War Machine. Those were given to me free on Free Comic Book Day. The other Hero Clix I have are from the collector's edition copies of City of Heroes and City of Villains. 

I collect Star Trek figures, most notable Spock, and I collect Star Trek ships. When I was a teenager my dad helped me put up glow in the dark stars on my ceiling. We got out an encyclopedia and arranged the stars in constellations, including Scorpius which is my astrological constellation. Then I took my collection of Star Trek mini ships and hung them from the ceiling among the stars. I still have all my ships and am just waiting to live in a place without a drop ceiling so I can hang them up again. 

I have LEGO mini figs, Skelanimals of all kinds, and Nightmare Before Christmas figures. I also collect Hello Kitty anything, anything with faeries, dragonflies, skulls, and owls.  

I even have a plush Companion Cube on my desk, a gift from John. Makes me feel less guilty over what I did to the first one. 

So there you have it. I'm a 35-year-old collector of geek toys, and I'm proud of it. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I've Been Noshing

So I have a confession. 

I photograph my food. A lot. 

I mostly do this when I travel, as dining out part of the travel experience. I don't want to just tell my friends and family about the wonderful things I ate while traveling, I want to show them as well. 

So that is why I joined Nosh, the social network for foodies that I wrote about a few weeks ago. At the time of that post, I hadn't yet used Nosh, but over the weekend I did and I loved it. I ate at That Crepe Place where I ate a BLT crepe that was simply wonderful. Very fresh, nicely portioned, and well priced, not to mention delicious. And photogenic:
BLT Crepe in all it's ooey gooey melty goodness
You see Nosh not only lets me share pictures of my food, but encourages it. I'm used to dining out with people who laugh when my camera comes out, or are embarrassed, but not Nosh. No, Nosh knows that I'm an addict and that it's totally ok. And for that I love Nosh. 

In March of this year, my partner John and I traveled to New Jersey for the US Coast Guard graduation of my youngest brother Bryan. While there, I photographed every dish I ate, and even a few of his. In fact, there are nearly as many pictures of our food as there are of us. Stop looking at me like that. 

I also forgot to take my camera to the Ren Fair yesterday, and had to rely on my Droid. Because of that, I only took pictures of Cast in Bronze, and my lunch.
Potato soup in a bread bowl and a frosty mug of ye olde Pepsi
If you join Nosh, look me up! I'd love to see the dishes you all take pictures of. 

Cast in Bronze at the Ohio Renaissance Festival

At least once a year, my family and I attend the Ohio Renaissance Festival and yesterday was our day to attend. It was a gorgeous day with perfect weather, and we were fortunate enough to see Cast in Bronze

Cast in Bronze is the only musical act in the world that features a carillon, an ancient bell instrument that is usually hidden in the bell towers of churches and cathedrals around Europe. 

The music we were treated to was beautiful and haunting. The bells are simultaneously bright and alive and dark and brooding. The Spirit of the Bells, the masked performer, played the carillon while accompanied by recorded tracks of other instruments and vocals. The best all around word I  can think to describe the sound of the music is haunting. It's emotional, moving, and evokes something in the mind that's intangible and hard to describe. In essence, it's awesome. I mean like really awesome, in the traditional sense of the word.  
I was delighted to get to hear the performance, as I had read several months ago that Cast in Bronze was going to be at our fair. It was something I'll remember forever. 

I took some videos to share with everyone. I was going to stop at two but then he started in with "Carmina Burana" and I had to film a bit of it. These videos were taken with my Droid, so pardon the quality. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mentally Disabled Man Robbed of Large Superman Collection

Just when I start thinking maybe the world isn't such a bad place, I read articles that prove otherwise, like the one about a Superman fanatic from Illinois being robbed of a large and cherished Superman collection. From the article at Comics Alliance:
Meyer, whose father died when he was 20 and who lost his mother just three years later, estimates that he owned "pretty much every issue of Superman from number 99 to the present." Also missing are nearly 100 Superman action figures, a collectible Superman radio, Superman television set and Superman Monopoly game. Mann also wrote that Meyer owns a a hand-sewn Superman costume, which he hangs with a brown trench coat, just like Clark Kent.
Meyer said of the astonishingly cruel incident, "A lot of that was sentimental, and he stole that from me. He invaded my privacy, and he took away my peace of mind."
I think the phrase "astonishingly cruel incident" sums it up as nicely as possible, though my description of it would include many R-rated. How lowly, depraved and sick does one need to be to take advantage of someone and steal what is most precious to them? 

There is a positive note to this, however. As geeks are want to do when one of our own is in need, Comics Alliance readers came together to help Mr. Meyer recover what was stolen and help rebuild his collection. In addition to helping him rebuild, comics fans in Illinois and those living near St. Louis are encouraged to keep a keen eye out at comics shops for signs of the stolen collection. Local comics shops are also on board, and the Comics Alliance post has some addresses and contact information. A close friend of Mr. Meyer is also helping keep track of what is missing, what is being replaced, and what has been recovered. Says Mr. Meyer of the efforts to help him:
I have never felt so much love in my life; I no longer feel like the Frankenstein monster. I feel that people understand me now, for the first time in my life.
He also included this quote from a 1960s Superman comic:
Do good unto others and every man can be a Superman.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Let's Talk About Sex, Objectification, Appreciation, and Slave Leia

Sex, objectification and how they relate to female geeks is one of the less talked about, but most hotly discussed, topics in geek culture. And nothing brings this topic to the surface like the convention season and the ubiquitous presence of Slave Leias

I found an article on a geek feminism blog about Slave Leias that made me want to pull my hair out. In the article author Courtney Stoker attempts to take on sexism in geek culture by shaming geek women and their choice of cos play, whether it be the boring and overdone Slave Leia costume, or something else equally sexy.

Let's start with the title. Putting the phrase "geek girls" in quotes was an awesome touch, as if women who look like that aren't really geeks. This is a big problem in the geek community - not being taken seriously because you're conventionally attractive. Nice to see a fellow feminist blogger swimming in the same pool of sexism.

Then there is this quote:

"I’ve been researching and thinking about cosplay for a while now, and one of the most distressing trends I’ve been grappling with is how women will choose characters, costumes, or costume constructions based on how “sexy” the costume will appear on them. This is not just a cosplay problem, but a geek problem. And until we start having an intelligent conversation about it (preferably a conversation that starts with the assumption that it is a problem), it’s not one that geek communities will ever be rid of."
So why is it a problem? Because it's "sexy?" And again, why the quotation marks? Oh that's right, because in order to be good feminists we can't ever think anything is sexy, especially if a man also thinks it's sexy! It is far more distressing to me as a feminist geek to have the motivations of other women questioned. How does Ms. Stoker know that these women chose these costumes just to be sexy? And if they did, who the hell cares? Maybe some of them are rape and abuse survivors who are trying to reclaim their bodies. Maybe some of them have overcome an eating disorder and feel comfortable in their own skin for the first time in ages. Or maybe they want to dress as their favorite characters and feel they can pull it off. Point is, making the assumption that women can't make decisions on our own because we're so crippled by the patriarchy that it's a wonder we can even breathe let alone think is simply ridiculous. Yes, sexism exists. Yes, it is a problem. You know what isn't the problem? Sex and women who like sex and feeling sexy. 

Ms. Stoker actually comes close to the real problem at one point:
Too often, women in geek cultures are only welcomed if they are decoration, sexy versions of the things geek men love, not equal participants or fellow fans. Forever Geek […], for example, has, in just the past two months, posted with glee about female models naked except for high heels and stormtrooper helmets gracing skateboards, a car wash in which women dressed in sexy Princess Leia costumes washed cars, and Star Wars corsets. Geek communities love women, as long as their members don’t have to think of those women as people.
Making women accessories is the problem, and that's a problem in all kinds of media.

Sexiness on its own isn't the cause of this, but when a woman's presence is strictly to be looked at and sexualized then there is an issue. Women can be sexy, conventionally sexy or otherwise, and still be equal participants in geek culture. 

In honor of a surprisingly successful tumblr launch, a cartoon.
[EDIT] The artist behind this is Grace Vibbert (aka Milesent), thanks for the source, Kate!

If visiting this blog makes you sad, I suggest you follow it up with a visit to Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor. It’s full of bad-ass looking ladies being awesome. 

Unless a woman is being forced to dress that way, she's not objectifying herself, she's participating in the culture in the manner of her choosing. And I don't see anyone at the doors of a convention saying "You're not sexy enough. Tits or GTFO." In fact, we have seen the opposite happen. Telling women what is objectifying, what is degrading, and that she can not make the choices she wants in her life because she's just a brainwashed tool of the patriarchy is not feminism. Well, at least it isn't my feminism, nor the feminism of many modern women. These antiquated notions of trading the patriarchy for the matriarchy of a few feminists who think they know better than you what is degrading to you need to go.

And what the hell is wrong with a Star Wars corset?  

Ms. Stoker makes some very broad and sweeping generalizations about women in geek culture, and dives into some territory that makes me more than uncomfortable.
But the actions of women are not the cause of their objectification. Women have a lot of good reasons to perform beauty work and to dress sexy, especially in the sexist cultures represented at your average con. Women aren’t the problem, whether they crossplay and eschew femininity altogether or they pull out the sexy Leia costume. The problem is that women who dress sexy, who frame themselves as sex objects, are rewarded by geek culture for doing so. They get attention, approval, and recognition from the culture when they dress as sexy Leia (or any sexy geek thing). They have pictures taken of them at cons, and they get posted and reposted on the internet. They are recognized as geeks (and generally as somewhat authentic geeks, even if they aren’t talked about that way) and welcomed into the community (maybe not as full members, but at least as desirable). There’s nothing wrong with wanting attention and approval in one’s community. What cosplayer and geek wouldn’t want those things? What female geek doesn’t want to be welcomed into the community with enthusiasm and excitement (instead of derided as a harpy feminist or annoying squeeing fangirl)? The problem, then, isn’t what women do, but a culture in which the only way that women can be recognized as a desirable part of the culture is when they participate by making themselves consumable sexy objects for geek men.
So you don't think the fact that 200 women chose to dress as Slave Leia is what gives it media attention? If you see a lot of something, you're going to take notice. The Slave Leia costume was ubiquitous enough to be a thing. If female cos players decided that instead they were going to swarm conventions dressed as Samus Aran it would get media attention, too. Fads and trends get noticed, and that's how they perpetuate! And this, dear readers, is the real problem with the Slave Leia costume - it has been done to death. It's not original. It's not creative. My friend Kim is a fellow City of Heroes player and an avid cos player. She also happens to be conventionally pretty. She made this costume based on the uniform of her City of Heroes super group:

This kind of cos play also gets attention. In fact, a quick Google image search of DragonCon costumes shows there is a wide variety of costumes on display, including this wonderful Princess Zelda costume:

To say that only the Slave Leia and other such sexy costumes get attention is preposterous, and it makes me wonder how much research she actually did for this piece. Did she actually go to conventions, actually talk to other participants? Or does she just follow the reporting of major news outlets on such conventions? It has been my experience, as well as the experience of other female geeks and cos players, that artistry and craftsmanship are what really draws people's attention to your costume. Not to say that a woman bearing cleavage won't get looked at, but people are going to remember Kim and Princess Zelda here long after the memory of those boobs is gone. 

And also, what the hell is her fascination with attention and "being rewarded?" She is again assuming that women only cos play for the benefit of men. She never once considers that they do it for themselves or that they (gasp!) find it sexy themselves, or that they (double gasp!) really like the character they're portraying. What a way to belittle women! Again, this is not the feminism I subscribe to. In fact, I hardly see how this is feminist at all.  

She also dives back into the notion that being sexy doesn't make you a real geek, and reinforces the stereotype that women do this, dress sexy around geek men, in order to tease, titillate, manipulate, and use. In short, she is slut shaming, and we as women, geeks, and feminists can do better than that. We also deserve better than that. 

Sex is not the enemy. It's ok for feminists to enjoy sex, and it's even ok for us to enjoy sex with men! I know, I know. You may clutch your pearls now. I know I did. There are bigger fish to fry on the feminist landscape, and I'm sick and tired of my sex life, my grooming habits, my manner of dress, and my relationship with a man being used as weapons to call my feminism into question. How are we elevating women by tearing down these very personal choices? 

Also, Princess Leia killed Jabba the Hut while wearing that costume. She was hardly an ornamental character. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Weekly Roundup

News of the Geek
Good Internet Reads
Neat Finds