UN Women’s latest campaign is potent

UN Women, a branch of the United Nations, launched a powerful campaign that is both visually potent and thematically discomforting: Using the results of popular Google search terms – which we all utilise everyday on the Internet – the campaign highlights what entries are often being used.

The idea of cyberspace and sexism, of course, is something I’ve focused on before and it is of concern. It is good, then, that we can also use the same platforms to highlight the kind of treatment women still receive and that people still believe about women.

Its visceral nature and that we, as ordinary people use that search bar, makes this campaign powerful.

(If the data isn’t true, please let me know since that would be most unhelpful and only ammo to those who deny sexism and misogyny is a serious problem.)

[HT: Chris Miles from PolicyMic]

 

 

 

Oprah Winfrey and misusing entertainment (and large) platforms

In my latest for Big Think, I use the whole “Oprah denies atheism” affair as a jump off point to examine her larger and damaging approach to thinking.

I don’t view all celebrity as bad. What I worry about is the uncritical or unthinking engagement so many have toward things they adore: From people to video games, nothing is sacred. That doesn’t mean we can’t be sensitive in how we criticise, of course, but neither does it mean our silence for fear of offence.

Celebrities can do good, of course. But we shouldn’t be afraid of calling them out just because their platform is larger than ours or just because they’ve, perhaps, done good in the world. As I indicate, doing good in one area doesn’t absolve you of wrong done elsewhere.

(PS: Please try refer to her as Oprah Winfrey or Winfrey. I have a small annoyance at referring to strangers by first name, who actually have a surname. [Hence, Madonna is fine and is after all her stage name])

Less dude focus, more creativity

I argued that if you care about progress (in general, but specifically in traditionally male-dominated areas), then we need to treat toxic anti-women sentiment as a serious hindrance to progress.

Now many might say that it’s just basic human decency to not be sexist; of course, supporting diversity is not merely about combating the worst vitriolic comments women and other groups receive; it’s not merely encouraging women to go into environments where they might be targets of sexist or misogynistic slurs.

Here, I tried to make it a selfish claim for those who otherwise don’t care or intentionally make marginalised groups feel unwelcome: If you want more great films, more great novels, more great comics, more great games, etc., then you need more great creators. And creators demographic aren’t only one skin colour or sex or whatever. Therefore, we should want more than just white dudes creating beautiful things.

I’m not disparaging talented male creators, but again: the argument is broader than that. Nor is my selfish-focused argument meant to undermine that decency should trump selfishness (assuming this is just selfishness). But should doesn’t translate easily into “is”.

Being a critic and being a fan

In my latest for Big Think, I argue that – in many cases – fandom runs counter to proper criticism.

This can be about films, comics, games, whatever. Passion for the thing can blind us to its flaws, making any form of negative criticism (or, indeed, adaptation) tantamount to an attack in passionate fans’ eyes.

Reasonable, justified criticism is essential to the creative process, which leads to the creation of better, beautiful things (it doesn’t need to be the case that today’s artists are better than the Leonardos of the craft, but it does mean today’s artists try to be and this can be aided by pointing out flaws in the Masters’ works).

Passion is great but can become poison. Sanctifying anything, it seems, is usually a bad move.

In which I don’t join the hype of GTA V – despite loving it

Yes, it’s possible to enjoy and be critical of a thing you love. For my next trick, I will walk and breathe at the same time.

(I’m still struggling with how to respond to the major cultural phenomenon that Grand Theft Auto – as a franchise – has become: given its misogyny, it’s transphobic elements, and its violence. I am still thinking on these specific aspects – especially the horrible treatment of trans people – but I might have more to say on that later [perhaps].)

Being right is not enough

In conversation with Twitter friends, I asked about whether we should attempt to find a term that better portrays video games as not being strictly for children. I used the example of “graphic novels” to illustrate this point, since graphic novel “sounds” more mature, more adult, despite many of us still calling them comics, regardless.

Predictably, many said that ignorant people shouldn’t be catered to. We know that video games are a medium, not genre; similarly comic books aren’t all about superheroes. If people assume all video games are mindless shooting, sexist romps that turn children into psychopaths, why should we change our terminology to suit them? They’re wrong after all.

However, this isn’t in dispute – the point is do we mount a kind of political campaign to try change perspectives? [Read more…]

Essay on villains (and video games)

I wrote a long piece on villains – as they appear in video games, but it doesn’t necessarily apply solely to video games. I’ve had this villain stick that I’ve been beating my favourite creative medium with, for some time.

I’m considering turning this into an ebook for Press Select (a digital publisher aimed at critical video game writing) – but I’ll need to judge interest and other factors.

Nerds, (fake) geeks, sluts and other “words”

“Geek”, “nerd”, “fake geek”.

I just can’t understand these terms. I see them a lot, usually used harshly and usually at women.

I’ve not been able to find out what people (read: usually very angry dudes) mean when they use these terms. I’m not seeking a definition as they see it, only; I’m also looking for a reasonable and justified basis for which to use “slut” and “fake geek (girl)”. To me, these terms are either describing imaginary creatures or they’re useless.

That same apparent logic that targets “fake” geeks could be used by those who like athletics, sport, photography: What makes comics and video games all of a sudden domains where we’re required an entry exam?

But then I don’t even understand the use of the terms “geek” and “nerd”, let alone the awful descriptions “geeky” and “nerdy”. What do they mean?

When superheroes are the biggest things at the box office, when GTA V is making $800 Million after 24 hours, can we finally recognise that these cloisters of religious protection have long been abandoned (hint: you’ll not find a lot of religious believers on this network for example)? These monkish attitudes and religious observations about your favourite fictional figures was something we should’ve given up, I thought?

I hope we do so, since claiming “geek” this and “nerd” that seems prone to tribalism rather than inclusion. I’d rather just love something and be glad that someone either does to or wants to. If they hate it, that’s also fine. Why would I want a world filled with people who all think or agree with me on everything – especially matters of creativity? Creativity thrives on freedom and freedom comes alive from civil clashes waged in the war of disagreement.

Can we please send these terms – all of them – to the gallows?

UPDATE: Apologies for unnecessarily hostile, swearing and uncharitable comments below. I’m not sure why ire is necessary.

Having children and selfishness

I wrote a piece replying to another South African writer regarding the tired assertion linking selfishness and child-free.

I’ve been trying to tease out a proper justification for why someone would claim you’re selfish for not wanting children, but it’s never really held firmly. At the very least, I can “understand” what my opponents in various discussions mean when they oppose me on, say, euthanasia or sex work; there’s something firm that they’re trying to beat me with.

But this is one of those discussions that feels like I’m grappling eels.

I thought I wasn’t harsh in my response here. After all, that would’ve been selfish (and also unhelpful to discussion).