Ubisoft, women and diversity in media

My latest for The Daily Beast is on Ubisoft’s (lack of) prioritising women in their upcoming games and the response, in general, from those wanting diversity in media. Specifically in the case of Assassin’s Creed: Unity I found this really disappointing, since this is a talented bunch of people – who not only themselves wanted women, but are great at encouraging diversity.

I’ve been sick and busy with work, so apologies for empty blog for awhile. I should be returning to at least my infrequent levels of blogging – I definitely have an upcoming fisk.

Keeping “the gays” out of gaming

I wrote a piece for The Daily Beast on Nintendo’s response to wanting same-sex relations in one of their games. For many – including gaming fans – this may seem like so much nonsense. Yet, what it speaks to is a greater problem of exclusion and targeting, of how you do harm by doing “nothing” or ignoring, within a popular medium – in this case, games.

You can examine all sorts of mediums, but the one I’ve dealt with here – because it is my passion – is games. I do challenge you, though, to read the comments without wanting to build a spaceship and find other planets. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I‘ve been Tweeting a bit about so many stupid responses.

It’s pretty bizarre how there still exist such mindsets with such deep-seated hatred for gay people and same-sex attraction. Why? It’s simply something I cannot fathom – and I say that as someone who advocates understanding your opponent in debates. I’m not gay myself, so I’ve never had to face such horrible treatment (Homophobic slurs tossed at me don’t count as experiencing homophobia, merely because I write about sex equality – I think I made some commenters* angrier when I indicated I’m not, in fact, gay).

I just don’t know whether there even exists a debate about whether gay people are persons – so it means I don’t have opponents, so much as people holding completely strange and bigoted worldviews. Of course, this doesn’t mean swearing or treating these opponents badly – it just means that any bridge for comprehension collapsed some time ago. I’d like it to return to have them change their mind, but I don’t know. It is very difficult.

Why hate gay people so much? I mean, geez! Equating them with Nazis? Friggin‘ hell.

*Not ALL commenters.

Stop sending rape threats to women, please

Bigotry flourishes in a landscape of apathy. It doesn’t need support to continue, only the illusion of support which comes from silence and a lack of repercussions for the harassment. This is what struck me when otherwise moral, smart people see another story about a woman being harassed online and being the target of rape threats.

I noted this in response to a recent case of Janelle Asselin (that Ophelia highlghtedover at The Daily Beast.

People are terrible, aren’t they? Sorry “not all people“… etc. (That delightful link comes from and is written by my friend, Ewa)

UPDATE #2 Men cry foul cos evil feminism makes hitting on women more difficult

Would probably helped if I linked to the piece: Here.

That’s a piece I wrote, as a response to a Guardian post which – to say the least – I didn’t like. The piece claims campaigns like Everyday Sexism make hitting on women harder, because it makes all them “females” think confident flirtation is same as harassment.

Er, yeah. No.

I also commented directly on the piece itself, in the comment section, which got one… strange response.

Some readers can’t locate my comment Guardian site. I’ll reprint it here:

Since I’ve been following Everyday Sexism for a while, I find the author’s characterisation of the project different to mine. I’d be interested to see where exactly the claims come from that indicate all men do this – considering the campaign has been encouraging and welcoming men’s voices, too, who speak out and discourage this behaviour.

I’d also be interested where exactly the claim is made that mild flirtation is equated with street harassment. It seems to me if you can’t distinguish between the two then maybe that’s a serious problem and you should rethink what you mean by flirting – not what the woman you’re flirting with is “doing wrong”.

Of course, your intention could very well be one that truly is harmless and is non-threatening – but misinterpreted. And this I understand, to a small degree.

But considering, as you know, the environment in which women live and what some face everyday, that’s just… well… TOO BAD. Yes, it sucks that it’s harder to intitiate conversation and flirtation without being perceived as “yet another creep”. Yes, it sucks that women have been so constantly bombarded with such idiocy they change their behaviour, time of day for jogging or walking or doing basically anything (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/02/apps-and-online-programs-offer-new-ways-to-report-street-harassment.html), – because victim-blaming also is this pernicious, see?

It’s easy for us men to claim “but we’re nice guys and never do that” – but again, I assume most people can distinguish between the two behaviours.

There will exist genuine mistakes and misinterpretation – as there is in everything we do. Except here it’s compounded by the environment that so many women live in, everyday. The name of the project says it all.

In a world screaming for their attention, namecalling them when women refuse to give it, we shouldn’t be wagging our fingers when our kinder voices go unnoticed. We should be empathetic, target the environment and other men doing this – and also respect women enough to, you know, be able to tell the difference between harassment and harmless flirtation. I don’t see Everyday Sexism as ushering in the downfall of sexual freedom – I see it as protecting it, particularly women’s, so that we can all live in a better world.

(Weirdly, Dawkins linked to this comment – even though his quotation indicates his support of the very article I was criticising in that comment.)

PS: Ophelia also has some important insight, as always.

You too can be a creep with this handy device

A new campaign on crowd-funding site, IndieGogo, seems to be doing well. From March 19 until today (March 31), it has managed to raise $8,171 (US), which is eight times the original goal. What is this important project people are furiously throwing money at? It’s none other than a creepy little camera device to take pictures of non-consenting adults (i.e. without their knowledge), who are more than likely in vulnerable positions!

Please welcome the Spy Cam Peek-I!

You know how you’ve always wanted to take pictures of people, but were afraid they’d get angry because you didn’t ask their permission? What weirdos, amirite? Sheesh! All you want to do is take advantage of their current state, record it and do gods-know-what with your image of this stranger. Why are they being so paranoid? Do they think they’re Edward Snowden or something?

Yes: apparently “discreet” is cool, not creepy or potentially harmful.

Let’s examine what this item is doing exactly.

no one will ever know you were the ONE who took THAT picture or film THAT video!!! So do you feel like James Bond yet?

Sweet. It’s not like people – particularly women – suffer massively from having pictures circulating the web, without their consent, potentially damaging their reputations, their loved ones and their lives because of aggressive ex’s, stalkers, etc. Luckily, every person who takes a picture of a non-consenting person is a good-hearted, perfectly good individual – who knows exactly what will happen when he uploads those pics!

Good thing it can’t be used to look at people entering passwords, pins, etc., too. Haha! No, it’s good fun! Calm down.

Do I feel like James Bond? You mean like a creepy person who is aggressive toward women? YEAH, I DO! THANKS!

Make awesome shots of your friends, completely unaware that they were on camera!!!

I already hate it when they do that. Why would I be ok with them doing it with your invisible device? Why would they be ok with it? If you’re saying I shouldn’t care about my friends’ feelings regarding photographs, then the problem is your device – not my respect for others’ autonomy.

Don’t scare your astonishing award winning picture away! Peek-I is there for you!

I assume you mean the target of your picture, not the picture itself. And that you might scare someone away is probably a reason to reconsider whether it’s a good thing to take that picture. Oh, those pesky morals!

Surely, every one of you was in a situation where it would be nice to take a picture, but…
Not comfortable to do it!
Therefore, you pretend to do something on your device, and at the same time trying to capture the desired scene with device’s camera.

And of course just because we want to do something, we should have all the tools available to do so. I really want every first edition of Dostoevsky: will someone start an Indiegogo campaign to give me the tools to break in to various museums and literary archives to obtain them? But… but why? I really want them! And apparently it’s sufficient justification for people to make tools to see any desires met. Like taking picture of non-consenting others, for example!

Again: that people feel uncomfortable both taking pictures and, importantly, not wanting their picture taken is a sign maybe… maaaaaybe something is not right with the situation. Maybe the problem is your creepy desire, not the negation of it.

Only a few of us have the courage to openly take pictures of other people or objects, at times it’s merely impossible.

Er, people seem very willing to ask others. There might be hesitation because of personalities and so on, but presumably you could just ask. If you can’t ask, then that doesn’t give you free licence to just take the picture.

You can also get great shots of weirdoes walking down the street right next to you, without them realizing what you are doing.

Yeah. Those damned “weirdoes” and their weirdness. Let’s photograph and laugh at how stupid they look. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with laughing at strangers, mocking them, sticking their face all over the Internet: it’s not like they have feelings, loved ones, or careers. Nope: they’re just there for us to laugh at. If they didn’t want to be photographed, they should stop being weirdos!

And here comes the obvious one.

Want a picture of your secret crush? You can make that happen and your crush won’t even think you are stalking him or her, because you will be looking in a different direction

Did you know creepy behaviour is negated by looking in another direction! Wow! That’s amazing! Tell me more, Gandalf.

Just because you don’t get caught doing a crime, doesn’t mean you didn’t still do a crime. Similarly, just because someone doesn’t catch you being stalkerish and creepy doesn’t mean you aren’t. Indeed, a problem we have is that people refuse to believe they’re capable of creepy, stalkerish, harassing behaviour. This seems particularly the case with men.

Also that’s a helluva way to become “closer” to your crush (Indeed: I’m not sure such a person should be with a partner, if they treat people without regard to consent.)

Throughout the campaign page, they demonstrate exactly what you should and can use it for. I don’t know about the legality of pictures, so have a look at my two screencaps on my Twitter page: here and here. The first shows the device being used to photograph down a woman’s top; the second shows the device being used to capture a picture under the table, aimed at a woman’s legs, while she’s wearing a skirt.

OK. Let that sink in: on the page proudly promoting this device are two images showing exactly what you can do with it. I imagine that the majority of women would not be OK with having such pictures taken of them, without their consent. Or maybe I’m just a “weirdo” that should be photographed too?

But here comes the best part. After all this – all of this – comes this sentence:

If you want to take sneaky pictures of people without them knowing, this is the way to do it. Just don’t be creepy about it.

Excuse me?

Just don’t be creepy about it.

What?

Just don’t be creepy about it.

How…?

Just don’t be creepy about it.

But…

Just don’t be creepy about it.

You…

Just don’t be creepy about it.

No…

Just don’t be creepy about it.

WHAT?

This… Ok. Wait. You’re basically saying the following:

HEY GUYS: HERE’S A DOLL WITH ONE TORN EYE, COVERED IN BLOOD, AND EVERY FIVE MINUTES, IT WHISPERS “I AM BECOME DEATH, DESTROYER OF WORLDS” – YOU SHOULD TOTALLY GET IT. BUT DON’T CREEP PEOPLE OUT WITH IT!

You’ve designed a device that is the epitome of creepiness but telling people not to be creepy or invasive? How? What?

Throughout this, I’m not asking for this device to be banned – I don’t know what the ramifications will be. There is certainly an argument to be made if people/most likely women will be violated in their personal space. I can’t see what good reason there is to own such a device beyond mere “fun”. And yet such a minor benefit doesn’t measure up against potential harms that could occur, considering that anyone can own these.

I don’t know what the solution is. What I do know is that I want this device to have never existed; for such actions to not gain such support; for creepshots of women not to be part of advertising a device, without raising any concerns (for IndieGogo, commenters, etc.). I don’t pretend to speak for anyone, least of all women. And I’m not against adults wanting sexy pictures to be taken, to have it distributed – but that can be done with full consent and acknowledgment of such people as persons and them willingly doing so. But we should not be so casual or dismissive of people’s autonomy – especially when it comes to creating environment and scenarios where an invasion of privacy is treated as a joke and unimportant.

I apologise for frequent posts on sexism, but I they just seem to be in my radar. And I won’t have only supporters of creepy devices having their voices heard when it comes to such actions, behaviours, attitudes and items.

“I do not condone rape” but…

This comment appeared on a local site about rape culture and what it is.

Comment
I’d rather not link to the comment directly nor name the individual, since I’m unlikely to change his mind. But it does set up a good basis to respond to yet more nonsense about women and sexuality and how men should consider both.

Let’s look at what this bro thinks about silly sluts and rape, then.

>> “I will start off by saying that I DO NOT condone rape. Boys and men should adhere to a girls [sic] or woman’s right to say NO.”

Good start. But don’t be surprised that people (like me) now read this as “I’m not racist but…”

>> “That being said, I too don’t feel much sympathy for a girl or woman dressing and acting like a “slag” and then being raped.”

Read that again. “I… don’t feel much sympathy for a girl or woman [acting like a slut] and being raped”.

So, sympathy for a rape victim is eroded due to learning that a woman was “acting” in a way you, personally, deem sexually provocative.

Of course!

There’s no way that people confuse friendliness for sexual advances; men have never mistaken amicability and Platonic interest for flirtation. And there’s no way women dress in a way that is revealing, enhancing of their features, etc. because it makes them feel great in their bodies (but almost always for a short period of time, because they live in a society that constantly pressures women into hating their bodies because they’re not photoshopped).

No: You are the Royal King Mister Master who can perfectly identify what “asking for sex” behaviour looks like.

Slutty, as Madison Moore highlights, is “when someone else’s sexual behavior makes you uncomfortable.” But probably also means you find them attractive (since people find tentacle hentai porn and consensual adult incest uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean they’ll call such things slutty).

So how that mitigates rape is mystery and only highlights women are people – but only up to an arbitrary point you have defined, premised on their sexuality. Which can’t be their own, of course, but must be defined by the loudest bigots.

And, here is a shocker: There is nothing wrong with women wanting sex and doing what they can or want to get sex. And, further, even if a woman is naked in bed with you, it may come as a surprise to learn that forcing yourself on her, ignoring her rejections, is still wrong. It’s weird, but women surprisingly are not objects making sounds to play hard to get. They aren’t setting up a challenge that manly men must overcome.

>> “The guy raping a girl/woman like that should suffer as much as their victim did, but the victim should also take responsibility for her actions that lead to this wrongdoing.”

What does “take responsibility” mean? And used so casually alongside someone who is, you know, raping seems to equate the two.

And since we’re asking women to “take responsibility”, I hope we’ll be consistent and demand the rapist’s parents also “take responsibility”; and I hope his teachers and lecturers “take responsibility”; his friends too, for not stopping him or teaching him, should “take responsibility”. I hope society “takes responsibility”. And books – whatever books he happened to read – that we find the authors and demand they “take responsibility”. Who else? Obama? Yeah, him too.

We’ll eventually find everyone and be able to account 100% for all the responsibility because obviously the person most responsible is irrelevant until we account for 100% of everyone involved toward the rapist raping – or the “rape occurring” like some malevolent Sauron-like disembodied force.

We do this for all other crimes, too: we demand the victim who is shot in his home take responsibility. We blame the victims for their murder and their physical assault, we worry that the perpetrators lives will be ruined (not their victim who is probably deceiving us right?); we distrust murder victims, we think they’re probably lying (dead but also in terms of deception)

Look, murder victims, just take responsibility for what happened, ok? At the funeral, let’s raise this and point this out to their families – because we do it for rape victims, so it means we do it elsewhere too. We’re totally not hypocrites!

>> “If you’re going to act in a certain way, you will attract the wrong people who WILL take advantage of the situation, no matter if it’s right or wrong.

Yes. But also note wrong people are still wrong. You’re not casting some magic spells that summons evil people.

>> “Girls should be taught from a young age that their actions and manners have consequences and if they don’t want these horrible things to happen to them, they should act responsibly and do what they can to prevent it from happening.

That’s right: The best way to avoid rape is not to be a slut. If you’re raped, it means you were being slutty/are a slut. That’s some perfect logic. QED. It’s totally not about how stats indicate rape victims are targets of someone they know, sometimes someone they themselves are attracted to, often someone they’re already in a relationship with.

Nope: rapists are like vampires and your slut behaviour is the open window (magic spells remember?). So just shut it. So obvious. And it’s so obvious and no woman has ever considered this because their brains are probably too small. That rape happens so often is obviously perfectly proportional to all the sluttish behaviour – or what I’ve called slutty – that occurs.

>> “No prevention method is 100% full [sic] proof and you may [be] the unlucky 1 to fall victim to rape or any other violent crime. The best you can do is everything in your power to prevent it from happening to you.

“Fall victim to rape”, like how you fall victim to disease, you know? Same thing.

Also, it’s not about luck so much as it is the way much of society – people like yourself and media portrayal – undermine rape s an actual serious crime, due to viewing women as not being allowed sexual identity. And it’s not an “unlucky” few.

>> “Girls, you know these things happen & there are men who don’t take NO seriously. Don’t give them the slightest idea that they can have their way with you unless you choose it. You are 99% in charge of your own fate, your life, your experiences and your body. Be responsible for your own fate, your life, your experiences and your body.

Yeah, “girls”. Don’t give “the slightest” indication you’re interested because, as we know, we all perfectly interpret flirtation, interest and so forth. And also once you show even a little bit of an interest, it means sex must happen. That’s the law, right? I think it is.

It’s so great to know that we’re 99% in charge of our fates: it’s not up to politics, economics, technology, other people’s whims, our bodies failing, strength, support. No: it’s just us. If you have a chronic disease, just think that crap away! You’re in charge cos it’s your body. QED.

So be responsible. If anything bad happens to you, you clearly wanted it cos you’re 99% in charge of what happens to you.

If you can find a more solipsistic perspective of life, I’d be surprised.

>> “Most men I know would never rape anyone, but there are many rotten apples, both male and female, out there. Protect yourself as much as you can.

Most? Most?!

Who are these minority of men? And are you doing what you can to prevent them raping? If you aren’t doing what you can to prevent them raping, then you’re not “taking responsibility” for these men. In all seriousness, I don’t know how you can say this without being concerned and fearful of such people and you know, potential victims (who are just sluts, so who cares?).

This is basically what you said: “There are a few men I know who would rape, but there are also some pretty crappy women, too.”

This attitude and dismissal and equivocation is part of what creates a prevalence of victim-blaming, slut-shaming, dismissal and derision of women as persons who are victims – not instigators – of one of the most horrible acts imaginable.

There is nothing wrong with wanting sex, desiring sex, flirting and having multiple partners. And further there’s nothing wrong later not desiring sex. People who feel “led on” have no right to “take” sex (i.e. rape) just because they (thought they) were promised it. Women aren’t Amazon.com – they’re people who are allowed to change their minds. If you feel hurt, too bad. You’re not that special and people can and are allowed to change their minds and do what they wish with their bodies, without it being about you.

Yes: Care should be taken that no one is hurt – through using protection, treating others as adults and persons, and so on. But until someone offers a definition of slut that isn’t merely the sounds people with conservative views of women’s sexuality (genitals are for pregnancy or for sluttiness and that is all!), I’ll continue to hear such claims as screams from the Dark Ages. Particularly when they promote dismissal of rape victims and think being slutty is (a) automatically a bad thing and (b) is a reason to think maybe this rape wasn’t so bad.

The ethics of animals in captivity

At Big Think, I examine what surrounds the morality of keeping animals in captivity: of course, that’s already a somewhat loaded phrase, but for the sake of brevity I just equated that with anything involving animals being in an enclosed “smaller” area (than the normal habitat), by humans.

I’m not convinced all captivity is always wrong – but that doesn’t mean all are or most. Primarily, I want to untangle automatic assumptions that become definitions: that is, by definition x is wrong, when that is not clearly defined; or where there are instances of “black swans” in terms of these topics.