Xbox Live to crack down on sexism

So Halo 4 is being released tomorrow (what, is there something more important going on that I don’t know about?). Thanks to the recent acknowledgement by 343 Industries and Microsoft that half their potential market was being weeded out by the “early adopters” who are defending their territory via terrible sexist remarks, rape threats and abuse, it appears that the folks responsible for the Xbox Live service have had it with that nonsense behaviour and are about to start dropping the banhammer on their users.

Apparently this is a zero tolerance policy too, so if you’re found to be making sexist comments, don’t expect to get away with just a slap on the wrist. Wolfkill and Ross say that developers have a responsibility to break through gender stereotypes and stamp out sexism in the games industry too. It’s sad that it has to come to Xbox Live bans just to get people to act civil toward one another, but that’s unfortunately what you get when everyone is hidden behind a veil of anonymity.

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Jim Garlow: Sexual orientation is a “modern construct”, therefore a choice

Following the logic chain Garlow lays down here, apparently because “sexual orientation” wasn’t described in the Bible, us mere humans have invented the concept rather than describing something that previously existed. In the exact same way, I guess everyone just chose to stay anchored to the ground instead of floating away, until Isaac Newton invented the modern construct of gravity.


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Cyber-bullying kills again

Amanda Todd, a thirteen-year-old girl in Maple Ridge, BC, was flattered and cajoled and coerced into flashing someone while playing around with friends on webcam. Someone took a screenshot — apparently they didn’t vet who was on that webcam chat very well. But they were young, and stupid, and there’s a damn good reason the age of consent is as high as it is in most places — because children don’t always have the maturity or intellect to provide informed consent.

A year later, Amanda received a message from someone on Facebook that she didn’t know, who demanded a private show or they’d send the picture to everyone she knew. They knew a good deal about her life — her parents’ names, her friends, her school. She ignored or rebuffed the blackmail demand. That Christmas, police came to her house at 4am to inform them that the picture existed and was spread around to a large number of people — very likely everyone at her school. Someone among the recipients must have had a conscience and reported the incident to the police.

Amanda became depressed and developed anxiety problems. All her friends started treating her horribly; she was left with nobody to lean on. She started self-harming. She moved to another city to escape the embarassment, and dabbled in drugs and alcohol. She became involved with a boy; the boy turns out to have had a girlfriend, who threw her to the ground and punched her repeatedly while other kids filmed it. They posted the video on Facebook, and declared that nobody liked Amanda and they hoped she saw their taunting and committed suicide.
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How to get more women in STEM? Stop telling them they don’t belong

Sometimes it takes someone saying something so gobsmackingly obvious that it makes people ashamed they didn’t realize it before, to clue people in that there might actually be a problem, and how to address it. This post, I truly hope, is one of those times.

Sometimes, men talk about the gender disparity in tech communities as if there’s some big mystery. I have to conclude that these guys haven’t talked to women who currently work in computer science academia and the tech industry, or who did and then left. As someone who was perceived as a girl or woman doing computer science for 12 years, my solution to the lack of women in tech is:

Stop telling women that they aren’t welcome and don’t belong.

Sounds pretty obvious, right? Well, you’d think. But read on to see what counts as telling them they don’t belong. A tip — it’s not just making the blatantly sexist comment, like Prof. Doaitse Swierstra’s saying that more women in Haskell’s programming school would make the program “more attractive”.

When I watched the video, what I heard after Prof. Swierstra’s comment about attractiveness was laughter. No one called him out; the discussion moved on. I might be wrong here, but the laughter didn’t sound like the nervous laughter of people who have recognized that they’ve just heard something terrible, but don’t know quite what to do about it, either (though I’m sure that was the reaction of some attendees). It sounded like the laughter of people who were amused by something funny.

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The scope of the problem, and the availability heuristic

One of the big complaints we’ve seen recently regarding the anti-harassment-policy campaign, the question of feminism intersecting with our communities, and the question of whether the assholes in our movement represent the movement, is whether the feminists and anti-bigots are blowing things out of proportion. How often have you seen someone say “the whole community doesn’t have a problem with [X-brand bigotry], only a very small subset“? Often enough, I bet, that I hardly feel the need to repeat these arguments or point to any specific ones, though I’m certain I could give you a dozen or so with a quick search of my own blog’s comments. Never mind big names like Thunderf00t and Paula Kirby making it the entire premise to their opposition to harassment policies and to “feminazis” and “FTBullies”!

So the question, then, is why does this argument gain so much traction? No matter how measured we are with describing the scope and scale of the problem, people will always say we’re making mountains out of mole hills. I posit this is because of the availability heuristic — a cognitive bias wherein, when you’re presented with specific examples of a problem, it is easier to remember those examples, and you assign improper levels of importance to them.
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Shame In Your Game

An absolutely pitch perfect rant-slash-analysis from Emily Gordon detailing sexism in the video gaming community. It must be read, especially by those of us who see this shit happening in our community but don’t have any insight into the nearly-identical fight going on in the gaming world.

I’m a female with a podcast about video games, so I am frequently asked tough questions: “How do I get my girlfriend to like video games?” “Are you a ‘real’ nerd?” “How do we fix sexism in the gaming world?”

My answers to those questions are, in order: “Start with two-player platformers,” “What?” and “I wish I knew.”

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It’s happening everywhere

No, not “to everyone”. Everywhere. io9 talks about three of our communities – skepticism/atheism, sci-fi fandom, and computer hacker culture.

But it’s also happening in comics, in video games, in the movie industry. In every area where a woman tries to improve their lot, or to break those rigid gender roles by entering areas that are otherwise traditionally populated by men, she faces exponentially more abuse and vitriol than men in those areas.

In every aspect of our society, there is a hidden war on women.
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Atheism Plus is just like a religion

Over and over and over again, we’ve heard that the Atheism Plus is driving divisiveness, is tribalistic, and is just like a religion. I’m not really sure how to answer that last one, except to point out that if we didn’t have a point when we say “hey, we have an adoption problem, people are being turned off of atheism by all the douchebags that have entrenched themselves in it”, we wouldn’t be fomenting so much hate from those same self-identified douchebags, would we?
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The campaign against Amy Davis Roth

I met Amy Davis Roth, also known as Surly Amy, two years ago at CONvergence 2010 – SkepchickCON 2. Jodi and I were on our honeymoon — yes, we spent our honeymoon at a geek convention. Couldn’t have picked a better venue. Amy had a table in the dealer’s room, selling her ceramic Surly necklaces, and I picked up a green atom necklace so I could wear science iconography where so many others wear their religious iconography. Her partner Surly Johnny was a bad influence on me and I drank too many Buzzed Aldrins. The experience was a bit of a whirlwind one, but I got a sense from everyone working the Skepchick party room that they were passionate, committed, and principled, even when they were doing their damnedest to make sure everyone had a good time.

My already favorable impression of Amy was redoubled when I found out that she’d nearly singlehandedly sent dozens of women to TAM over the years, organizing and running fundraisers and committing resources from her Surlys to that end. She had a great deal of help, but she was almost certainly the lynchpin. And she writes timely and important rallying cries when the movement needs them the most — and that’s what a leader does, even if they don’t necessarily want or accept that mantle.

I met her again at SkepchickCON 4 a month and a half ago, and her enthusiasm and pink Darth Vader costume put her over the top for me — I have a ton of respect for the lady. If we ever disagree, it’ll be on good terms. She’s earned quite a bit of goodwill with me.

So I guess it comes as a bit of a surprise to me that a mainstay of the skepto-atheistic blogosphere, who’s done so much to promote skepticism and atheism, and to foster inclusiveness of women in our communities, is under concerted attack.
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