If you still doubt that sexism is alive and well in gamer culture (and after the threats lobbed at women developers and video game critics through #GamerGate, who could seriously doubt?) then this Sony PlayStation ad for the PS Vita will serve as a shock to the system.
In a video uploaded to their YouTube channel on Friday, Playstation really put the nail in the coffin when it comes to sexism in the gaming universe.
In the ad, a female doctor addresses the camera in a suggestive purr, not so subtly comparing playing video games to masturbating. “You no longer have to feel ashamed,” she says. “Everybody’s doing it, because it’s fantastic.”
“This is for the players,” the ad copy notes… But it’s very, very clear who these “players” are in this ad: Young, straight men.
The saddest part about the entire ad, is that it almost did something good . . . in the most back-handed way ever. At the end of the ad, the doctor oozes to the camera, “you can even join me,” before picking up her own console. So in a weird way, Sony is recognizing that women play games too but news flash: sexualizing more than half of your market is no way to win or to work.
Sony pulled the ad already, but the myriad of ways in which this sleazy number misses the mark are embarrassing. Gaming culture is currently embroiled in a controversy about how to have an inclusive community. This ad is all about gaming as something that teenage dudes do, aimed at a male audience, and sexualizing female players. So yep, we still have a ways to go in order to eliminate sexism from gaming. If someone tells you otherwise, just point them to this campaign.
Anna Kendrick has been high on my “OMG you’re so awesome please be my friend right now” list for quite some time, and her latest comments about feminism might just bump her up a few spots. Not that I number my dream BFFs or anything. (You didn’t find the notebook, did you?)
In a new interview with The Daily Beast, Anna discusses her role as Cinderella in the upcoming adaptation of Sondheim musical Into the Woods and touches on the feminist aspects of the character. Speaking of feminism, the interviewer brings up Time‘s recent proposed ban on the word, alongside slang like “basic” and “om nom nom nom.” Totally comparable, right? Wrong.
Here are Anna’s thoughts on the issue:
“For real? Ugh. That’s a fucking bummer. It’s hard because words confuse me sometimes. There isn’t a word for a member of an ethnic minority who is pro equal rights for all races, but there is a word for gender equality—and that’s feminism. It’s a very female-centric word. I understand that the implication is that “I’m a woman who supports women” and not “I’m a person who supports gender equality.” I feel like the word can be appropriated by the wrong people for that reason and misinterpreted by those people, but you just have to fight back and own that word. It’s practically become a curse word. Somebody says, “Oh, you’re being such a feminist,” and you’re supposed to be like, “No I’m not.” Why are we afraid of that word? It exists and we can’t get rid of it, so let’s fight for it and embrace it. That is truly a bummer.”
To borrow another one of Time‘s banned words… yaaasssss! I love this response, because Anna addresses the reason that some people don’t understand or approve of the word, but that doesn’t mean we should stop using it. On the contrary, we should probably start using it even more. I think she spells out the problem really well, and I’m so glad she took a strong stance and didn’t just tip-toe around the issue.
If we decide to stop using the word “feminist” because we’re afraid of what people who misinterpret the word will think of us, then we’re letting ignorance win. To use a couple of less hot-button examples, just because a lot of people think that “supposedly” is pronounced “supposably” or that it’s “could care less” and not “couldn’t care less” doesn’t mean we should all embrace the incorrect versions. Let’s celebrate the fact that we have a word to describe the belief that men and women are equal, and use it. And if someone has a problem with that, tell them why they’re wrong.
This week, Time magazine included “feminist” on its fourth annual list of suggested words to ban in the new year. Readers can vote on trendy slang words like “bae” and “obvi” but so far, it’s “feminist” that’s leading the pack. I have a suspicion that Time is trolling us, stooping to provocation in an effort to get page views.
By lumping [‘feminist’] with flash-in-the-pan terms…Time is playing into the misguided idea that feminism is a fleeting fad, rather than a long-standing social movement. –
Whatever the case may be, it’s deeply troubling that a news organization like Time would suggest banning a word that means something as basic and seemingly uncontroversial as “all humans deserve the same rights regardless of their gender.” Apparently, we need yet another reminder of why anti-feminist rhetoric like this needs to end.
Not a week goes by it seems without another story underscoring the pervasiveness of misogyny in American culture. From the kinds of street harassment seen in recent videos online, to the threats women face for speaking up about gaming culture, we risk our personal safety when we have a public presence.
But sexism doesn’t end when we cross the thresholds into our homes — our private lives are also not entirely our own. Women’s most intimate decisions are being policed as we fight to retain the right to control our reproductive destinies, rather than continue to be seen as merely vessels for fetuses. And while there are signs that the problem of rape on college campuses is being taken more seriously, some universities and college administrators haven’t yet risen to the occasion. And transgender women continue to face violent attacks and murder at a disproportionate rate.
So, whether it’s online, on the street, on college campuses or in our own homes, women know that we can experience harassment, hatred and violence in any place and at any time.
Time asks that while banning the word feminist we should “stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.” First, sign me up for that Susan B. Anthony parade. And second, why can’t we address “the issues” as feminists? The label helps us acknowledge that these issues are related, part and parcel of a social structure that devalues women’s labor, that denies women control over their bodies and that reduces women to sexual objects.
Since the 1800s, the word “feminist” has been used to unite women and men in pushing for a more just and equal society. By lumping the word with flash-in-the-pan terms like “literally” and “influencer,” Time is playing into the misguided idea that feminism is a fleeting fad, rather than a long-standing social movement.
Maybe the folks at Time are irked to see celebrities weighing in on the idea of feminism as if it’s some kind of fashion trend. But so what? Considering the state of things for women all over the world, shouldn’t we be fighting tooth and nail to spread the ideas of feminism far and wide until its core principles become more prevalent than misogyny?
Feminism is not slang or some kind of passing fancy. So vote to ban “feminist” all you like, but it’s not going anywhere.
A video was recently released by the T-Shirt company FCKH8 entitled “F-Bombs for Feminism—Potty-Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Words For Good Cause.” In the video, five girls ages 6-13 are dressed up to the nines in tiaras, fancy dresses, elbow gloves, basically anything and everything princess. Then the rant begins:
“What the f—? I’m not some pretty f—in’ helpless princess in distress. I’m pretty f—in’ powerful and ready for success. So what is more offensive? A little girl saying ‘f—,’ or the f—ing unequal and sexist way society treats girls and women?”
Meanwhile, Time’s Karin Agness calls the campaign “the latest example of feminism gone wrong in America.”
The video is supposed to shock. It was tailor-made to go viral. And it is shocking. I’ll give it that much. But, as many critics have cited, this is not a video about feminism. This is a video, that at its core, is about selling shirts. Feminism is having an important moment right now, and people are paying attention, and marketers know this. And that’s kind of a problem. Especially when children get involved.
I’m sorry, but who in the right mind thinks it’s okay to shove a bunch of f-bombs into an elementary schooler’s mouth and have them parrot this profanity back to a camera? Who thinks it is in any way, shape, or form cool to have a six-year-old child be a spokesperson for rape and sexual violence?
Blogger and media professor Rebecca Hains puts it perfectly: “The video’s ethos is so steeped in a ‘Generation Like’ mindset that having the video widely ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ is clearly what matters most—resulting in the company’s decision to push girls as young as age six into the roles of cultural provocateurs.”
What the company may be forgetting is that feminism isn’t just about women, but little girls too. They have the right to not go on camera and drop f-bombs to sell shirts. They have the right to not speak on behalf of issues they may not fully understand yet, in order to boost someone else’s bottom line.
In a statement to Mediate about the video being pulled from YouTube, a company spokesperson defended their intentions with the campaign:
“This censorship gets to the exact point that the girls in the video are making. . . that society finds it more offensive for a girl to say f— than they do the fact that 1 out 5 women are sexually assaulted and raped and that women get paid 23% less than men for the exact same work.”
That may be true, but the problem with video’s for-profit efforts, combined with their inclusion of children, feels so deeply wrong. Children rely on adults to protect them and we can’t eschew our responsibility to children in service of an online video, even if it’s under the auspices of feminism, and we ESPECIALLY can’t slough off our obligation in the name of selling a few shirts.
Whenever I bring up the topic of street harassment with men, they tell me they just don’t see it. Literally: When they’re walking down the street with a woman, other men don’t make a noise. Last week there was a bit of a kerfuffle over a video of a woman walking the streets of New York and being catcalled by guys. Most of the catcalls were comparatively tame, though not all were, and the result was a predictable storm of attention on the Internet via Twitter and other social media, exactly as the video’s producers – , an anti-street harassment organization called Hallaback – intended.
To film the video, Rob Bliss outfitted a backpack with a hidden camera and walked across New York City streets for ten hours in front of actress Shoshana B. Roberts, who was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt and holding a microphone in each hand. Bliss’ camera caught men approaching, leering, and trailing Roberts’ movements; the mics recorded their comments, which ranged from ostensibly friendly greetings (“Have a nice evening!”) to unsolicited commentaries on Roberts’ body (“Sexy!”) to absurd commands (“Smile!”) to pure expressions of entitlement (“Somebody’s acknowledging you for being beautiful! You should say thank you more!”). The ceaseless chatter (plus some light stalking!) adds up to a constant reminder that, just for walking from point A to point B, some men believe that women’s bodies and minds should be made accessible to them on command. “How are you this morning?” doesn’t sound so sinister. But when a male stranger shouts it, it’s just another unearned claim for a woman’s attention—one that could escalate should the woman so much as bat an eyelash. Roberts didn’t; she still got harassed at every turn. Bliss recorded more than 100 instances of verbal harassment in all, and that doesn’t include winks and whistles.
However, since the video has gone viral it has endured a lot of criticism. More specifically, the argument that the video represents a young white woman who is harassed by mostly black and Latino men as she walks around New York City for 10 hours….But. activism is never perfectly executed. We can just conclude that they caught a small slice of catcallers, and lots of other men do it, too. But if the point of this video is to teach men about the day-to-day reality of women, then this video doesn’t hit its target. The men who are sitting in their offices or in cafes watching this video will instead be able to comfortably assure themselves that they don’t have time to sit on hydrants in the middle of the day and can’t properly pronounce “mami.” They might do things to women that are worse than catcalling, but this is not their sin.Bliss says he wanted to create this “because I think a lot of men don’t understand the collective weight that this harassment causes. They see it as just an innocent ‘compliment’ but are missing the forest for the trees.”
Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) had nearly 20 boyfriends over the course of Sex and the City’s six-season run, but she wound up with John James Preston, aka Mr. Big (Chris Noth), by the end of the HBO series. And Noth made some comments about Carrie’s dating history in a recent interview with news.com.au that are causing a bit of a stir in the Internet world…
“One of the things I tell people is that he never tried to pretend he was anything other than what he was. It was [Carrie] who tried to pretend he was something he wasn’t. He was always honest about himself — he never cheated on her. The relationship just didn’t work, and he went on to get married while she went on to … how many boyfriends did she have? She was such a whore! [laughs] There’s a misconception that Carrie was a victim of him, and that’s not the case — she was a strong, smart woman.”
It’s as if Noth watched a different version of Sex and the City than everyone else did? In the HBO series, Big dated and slept with an ornamental of other women. When he became unsatisfied with his wife, he cheated with Carrie. According to Noth, the with matters—he never cheated on her. Which allows Big to remain “good” guy who was what he was, and makes Carrie a “whore.” Right?
Of course it doesn’t. Chris Noth is offering a textbook case of “slut-shaming,” holding women who have casual sex to a different standard than men who do. This type of thing is everywhere: in the tech world, regarding sexting teens. It’s in colleges, where women slut-shame one another. And of course, it’s in the national debate over birth control, when a radio host can call a young woman a slut for taking a stand. The cycle is inescapable.
But Noth didn’t just shame Carrie Bradshaw. He also used her strength and intelligence to make shaming her okay. “She was a strong, smart woman,” he said. Which sounds like: That crafty woman! She knew what she was doing. She knew how to get around those men. So calling her a “whore,” a term with a long and often ugly history, is somehow okay?
To be fair, it’s fairly clear Noth was trying to be comedic. But in this case, his joke helped keep an old, destructive tradition alive. It goes far beyond just Big and Carrie…