Guest post: Gametes don’t prescribe your gender either

A promoted guest post by timberwraith on this comment, reprinted with permission. It was too good to leave in the muck of some of its surrounding nonsense.

I see a variation of the usual cis-centric perspective of, “We just need to get down to brass tacks and accept the reality of male and female!” being trotted out in the comments. This time, it’s all about which gametes a person’s body produces.

If only it were that simple.

Look, if societies treated one’s ability to produce particular gametes in ways as neutral as nose shape, eye color, thyroid function, or hemoglobin levels, then the designation of male or female wouldn’t be much of an issue. No one would care if some felt compelled to employ medical procedures in order to assume secondary sexual characteristics and genital configurations commonly associated with certain modes of gametes production. It would be akin to changing one’s hair color or eye color—a medically intensive process, but still socially trivial.

That is not the world we live in.

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“Woman” is a gender, not a marker of fecundity.

Leah Torres is an OB/GYN who tweets at @LeahNTorres. She was praised today on Twitter for being gender-neutral in her advocacy for trusting pregnant people with their rights to an abortion — a stance I share, back and categorically endorse.

Earlier, she wrote:

Our ex-colleague and recent embracer of all things TERFy Ophelia Benson sought this tweet out and attacked Torres for it, repeatedly chastising her for saying “pregnant person” instead of “woman”.
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Ethical Gamer: Rogue Legacy

(Content note: ableism, slimepitter and GamerGate bullshit.)

Gotta discuss some housekeeping first. Skip to the fold for the review if you’d prefer.

While I didn’t exactly go looking for it, incoming traffic on my post eventually clued me in to this thread on KotakuInAction (CW: transantagonism within the first few comments — this is Reddit, and a GamerGate forum on Reddit no less, so it’s bound to be awful, right?) announcing my first Ethical Gamer post reviewing Mercenary Kings. The thread contains people simultaneously decrying Freethought Blogs and me as being unethical, expressing outrage that a Social Justice Warrior could possibly play video games and want to review them from a social justice perspective, and, strangely enough, comments lauding my outright expressing my biases up front. A few of them even calmly point out that most of my problems actually came from Mercenary Kings controlling poorly and becoming stale way too quickly. Judging by the name, the thrust of the original post and subsequent comments, the person posting it to that subreddit is clearly a slimepitter well versed in Freethought Blogs’ history and their mythologies about us, so it’s replete with the sort of Googlebombing of character assassination you have likely come to expect from their ilk.

It’s one of those Big Lie situations where they repeat any slander they can about a person as often as possible and to as many audiences as possible, to poison the well against us potentially being right about their rubbish ideologies. The goal, naturally, is to get the fence-sitters and people on the sidelines, to destroy the credibility of anyone who might present a valid criticism of their philosophy. And of course, to achieve its goals, it’s full of the least charitable interpretations of a bunch of things I’ve freely and under no duress discussed about my own past, about what shaped me into the person I am today and what gave me my ethical compass, misinterpreting and reinterpreting these events in order to paint a funhouse mirror distortion of me that hopefully someone might get outraged about because, you know, I’m Fair Game for being a Feminist Suppressive Person on the internet. Because, you know, Freeze Peach for thee but not for me? It’s a bit funny that a Slimepitter tried to sic Gamergate on me as His Personal Army, thinking he’d get sympathy because I dared use the phrase “ethical gamer” as my name, and most of them wouldn’t take the bait. It’s a bit difficult to tank for their more vulnerable targets when not even the slimers hoping to sic them on me can convince them my Threat is higher than, say, Anita Sarkeesian. Oh well.

The reason I named my series what I did is actually quite simple, and it has to do with ethics as a concept — especially, as a concept that right-wing reactionaries do not have a grasp on. Ethics is about having a sense of right and wrong that goes beyond simply what is within the laws or customs of society, about more than preserving the status quo for people like you. Good ethics requires empathy to work at all. Having good ethics means attempting to maximize good for as many people as possible — it’s about more than just revealing your personal biases or keeping liberal political statements out of video games, as the Gamergate narrative goes. It’s certainly not about getting revenge on a woman who dumped someone you’re sympathetic with, especially not by lying to everyone repeatedly to maximize her pain. It’s about looking out for the people who are traditionally disadvantaged, trying to make sure everybody gets a fair deal out of a transaction — especially when those traditionally disadvantaged folks are being stomped on for no good reason by a medium that’s actually just supposed to be about fun and pleasure. That’s why I started this feature, and why it has the focus it does.

The thread is, naturally, also replete with misinformation about this effort, like that I’m getting any money for reviewing anything. I’m not. I am lucky some months to break two digits in ad revenue for the whole blog, since my flow of content is down to a trickle for the past year-ish — my last cut of ad revenue was ten dollars and some change. These two (now three) posts are an infinitessimal fraction of that total traffic and ad revenue, so you can take that unevidenced rationale for my focus and cram it. I am also not getting review copies of any video games, unlike most of Gamergate’s favorite Youtube vloggers, nor am I affiliated with any of the games I review, like TotalBiscuit, another Gamergate favorite. (Meaning, of course, these actions are perfectly acceptable when they’re done by antifeminists and Gamergate sympathizers. Shocking that they might be tribal, right!?) And in the event that I AM affiliated with a game, I will either abstain from reviewing it, or make that affiliation plain as day. I don’t pretend I hold much sway, but if I’m too close to a topic, I can recuse myself.

I buy these games on my own, with my own hard-earned cash, usually through Humble Bundle purchases. I review them from my own personal perspective, which, since I’ve been blogging for almost ten years, you folks should know pretty well by now if you’ve got the same sort of longevity in readership as I have in authorship. I do it entirely for fun, to tell you about games that I enjoyed or games that I did not, and to discuss aspects of them that I might have found problematic. Further, I do it entirely recognizing — unlike some people — that it is perfectly possible to enjoy a game even if you dislike some bit of pernicious sexism or racism or what-have-you within it. It is also possible to criticize that aspect of a game without wanting to destroy an entire industry (see the preamble to every single Feminist Frequency video, which of course these folks ignore as well). And most importantly to me at least, I’ve stuck to only reviewing games thus far that are playable on Linux, because I’m a huge open source nerd and I’d like to make sure those games that are playable on Linux get a fair shot at being reviewed and treated as being worth your attention.

Having stumbled upon that post reminded me to complete this review of Rogue Legacy and post it.

I’m going to pull a Psycho Mantis on you and read your memory card. So, I see you like Castlevania. You also like platformers generally. RPGs, yes, yes. Roguelike games too? Excellent. Here’s a game that you might find right up your alley: Rogue Legacy. Plug your controller into port 2 and join me below the fold.
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Illustrating male gaze in Metal Gear Solid V

It’s extraordinarily apparent in Metal Gear Solid that the camera treats different characters differently. Quiet is an exceptionally objectified character — not just because she’s scantily clad, but because she’s very much treated as a fetish object in a number of scenes. Some enterprising individuals took the PC version of the game and swapped Revolver Ocelot’s and Quiet’s character models, so that the game treats Ocelot’s model the way it ordinarily treats Quiet’s. It’s very telling.

And that’s not even to discuss Quiet’s origins, that she’s basically a plant who absorbs light and nutrients and water and air through her skin, and that putting clothing on her effectively suffocates her — never mind that her taking a shower should be akin to drowning, as a result. The supernatural elements (explained by a parasite) are there to justify having a bikini babe in the game who’s set up to have sensual showers in front of people on more than one occasion.

This is, of course, a secret cutscene, available only if you spend three days in a dumpster and have a full bond level with Quiet.

Zelda 2 Livestream, Day 2 #DIYSciZone #GGC2015 #GeekGirlCon

Part 2! Last time I got as far as beating Ocean Palace, obtaining the flute, and am on my way to Hidden Temple. I’ve done all the grinding I can in the game, which means it’s all pure skill from here on out. I’ve got about a third of the game left to do — the two biggest, hardest palaces in the game are all that’s left between me and victory.

The rules are: no cheats, no glitches, just pure old-school skill and a walkthrough so you don’t have to watch me flounder about. To save me from disasters I’ll occasionally use save states, but I won’t abuse them and won’t load any if I can help it.

Starts at 10 sharp!

Watch live video from Lousycanuck on

The Handmaiden’s Handbook

Jemima at Sometimes It’s Just A Cigar wrote a very thought provoking post about sex-worker-exclusionary feminism. In my estimation, it’s exactly right, and needs a signal boost.

The problem with “porn made them do it” is that as an argument it is no different from the drink, the short skirt or the high heels made me do it. It is a transference of blame from where it belongs, on the rapist, to an external object. This transference is called rape apologism and should surely apply to the excuse of porn as much as the excuse of drink or clothing? The idea that young men ignore consent and sexual boundaries because of something they have seen in porn seems to have become embedded in our culture, with no one challenging it.

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Labour Day

On this Labour Day (or Labor if you prefer), remember how your day off came into being.

In Canada, in 1872, a parade was held by the Toronto Typographical Union in support of reducing the work week to 58 hours. George Brown, their boss, had police charge these unionists with “conspiracy”, resulting in 24 arrests. Another parade was held on September 3rd in protest of the arrests, and eventually the laws criminalizing union activity were repealed. Canada set their Labour Day to the first Monday of September in 1880, and it’s a national holiday.

In the States, after the Haymarket Massacre in 1886 where a number of workers were killed by police on May 3rd, and unionists rallied the next day to push for an eight hour work week and to protest the deaths of the workers the day before, acts which were widely speculated to have been done by the police at the behest of the corporate interests. The protest ended in riot when some unknown assailant threw dynamite into the crowd, killing seven officers and four civilians — an act that resulted in arrests of 24 anarchists, but is frequently speculated to have been committed by an anti-union provocateur. No bomber was ever brought to justice.

While most other countries had May 1 as their labour day to coincide with (or *be*) International Workers’ Day, Grover Cleveland feared May 1 would be used to commemorate the events of the Haymarket Massacre, so he set it to the same day as Canada’s instead. Unions continued to push for a 40-hr work week, and eventually won it — of course, unless you’re salaried, then you’re expected to work or be on call basically all the time without extra compensation.

Remember that people literally died for your labour rights, and that even despite the massive income disparity and corporate-tilted playing field, you might have it even worse if it weren’t for unions and labour rights advocates.

Zelda 2 Livestream #DIYSciZone #GGC2015 #GeekGirlCon

Here comes my Act of Whimsey! Sadly, thanks to technical difficulties (with my alarm clock!) I have to push the start time forward to 11am. Stream begins as soon as I get everything set up!

The rules are: no cheats, no glitches, just pure old-school skill and a walkthrough so you don’t have to watch me flounder about. To save me from disasters I’ll occasionally use save states, but I won’t abuse them and won’t load any if I can help it. I will try to beat it beginning to end with as few bathroom / food breaks as possible, in just one day. If the first stream goes about ten hours, I’ll save, end the stream, and finish the remainder next weekend.

Watch live video from Lousycanuck on

Livestream of Zelda 2: Adventure of Link tomorrow! #DIYSciZone #GGC2015 #GeekGirlCon

I’m looking forward to Geek Girl Con‘s DIY Science Zone, where I’ll be volunteering to do demonstrations of buoyancy and water displacement all weekend on October 3rd and 4th. But between me and that weekend stands my Acts of Whimsey, torturous little tasks I’ve signed up for in exchange for us reaching certain fund-raising goals. Since we passed the $3500 mark, my next task is to livestream play through the entirety of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link.

You might remember last year’s livestream of Battletoads, which, sadly, Twitch has expired off its feed. I still have the complete video though, in two parts, where I beat the game in about 16-ish hours over two weekends — with the only cheat being infinite lives. I’ll compile them and post them someplace, perhaps.

Zelda 2 is torturous, but not in the same way as Battletoads. First, the game is significantly different from every other Zelda game you’ve played. It’s a side-scroller, it has experience points and leveling, and Link moves like a dumptruck that can jump (without a Roc feather, even!). It also has a number of the most unfair and patently absurd challenges for a game of its ilk, including the first iconic battle between Link and his evil shadow doppelganger. Ganon never appears, and his name in the Game Over screen is spelled “Gannon”. Its clues are mired by the fact that they had to pack text into tiny 40-ish character boxes, which they couldn’t change from the original Japanese layout in translation for space reasons — meaning the translation is the equivalent of condensing several complete sentences into 1/3 of a tweet. All the nuance of “GET CANDLE AT PARAPA PALACE. GO WEST.” is destroyed — you’re supposed to FIRST get the candle at Parapa (which is northeast of start), THEN go west to the next town.

I will not use any cheats in this playthrough at all — no Game Genie codes, anyway. Anything that the game allows me to do (e.g. using the Fairy spell to fly through a keyhole) is not a cheat. I will, however, since it’s been over twenty years since I owned this cart personally, refer to a walkthrough fairly liberally so you don’t have to watch me retraversing areas over and over desperately searching for the next place to go.

I’ll also try to actually have the microphone volume up loud enough this time that you can hear me talk this time, but there’s a few physical aspects of the setup that I can’t really work around at the moment — my laptop has to be closer to the TV than to me, and I don’t have an external mic that’s at all viable. But I’ll see what I can do.

The stream starts tomorrow morning at 10am CST, and you can feel free to tune in on the blog post that I’ll post tomorrow at about 9:30.

If you’d like to donate to Geek Girl Con’s DIY Science Zone, to help the volunteer scientists with the materials they need to teach kids about science, you can do so right here! Surely showing the kids at Geek Girl Con how to extract DNA from strawberries, how cool oobleck is, or how to make a real comet out of dirt and snow, is worth a couple of your spare bucks, right?

Ethical Gamer: La-Mulana

Writing a review for La-Mulana might be every bit as hard as actually playing it.

Games made by fans of the particular genre of video games known as “Castleroids” tend to be exacting, grueling affairs if done poorly; exacting, grueling and COMPELLING affairs if done exceedingly well. La-Mulana, in both its original (freeware) form and its 2012 remake manages to achieve just about the perfect balance of difficulty and depth, even where it leaves me needing frequent breaks. The Japanese indie outfit Nigoro originally created the game to be a PC retro game that apes an MSX game — the MSX being the Japanese Microsoft home PC during the Famicom era. In fact, Konami and Hudson Soft developed heavily for the system before moving on to the true consoles, including such titles as Metal Gear (an MSX exclusive, at the time).

I’m currently playing the 2012 remake of La-Mulana, having only briefly attempted a playthrough of the original game. Its graphics bring to mind a 32-bit game like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, only much cuter and more cartoony. Your character, the one-block-high Professor Lemeza Kosugi, is a Japanese-American ninja-slash-archaeologist. The “ninja” part is evident in his choice of sub-weapons like caltrops and shuriken, and the “archaeologist” part is evident chiefly in his Indiana Jones attire and bullwhip main weapon.

And, I suppose, the setting — you’ve travelled to La-Mulana, the “cradle of civilization” and evidently a single ruin that contains references to numerous world cultures including Aztec, Egyptian, Greek, Babylonian and Japanese in a sort of Stargate sort of way. With your bullwhip, laptop and a million shuriken (which you have to buy at a gold apiece), you’ll have to unravel the mysteries of the ruins in order to beat your father and professional rival to the punch.

Content note: I complain about another game by this dev that involves “creepshots” type sexual assault. Highlight where the note is to read it.
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