Archives for posts with tag: gender divide

Olivia plays Team Fortress 2. Scratch that, she submerges herself into it. It’s verging on being a lifestyle choice and I’m not sure if I still rate higher than it. Every once in a while, I look at the time she has logged playing the game – I’m pretty sure it’s in excess of 400 hours by now. She loves it, and rightly so. While most first-person shooters are dour, angsty and grim variations on Halo, Team Fortress 2 is silly, exaggerated and genuinely funny. Instead of near identical hulking masses of testosterone, each character is designed physically and stylistically around their function (as you can see here). It helped to get her through a rough rehabilitation after her surgery last year. The main draw for her now, though, is the element of teamwork involved: she tends to avoid the free-for-all carnage of arenas, wherein the goal is to shoot everyone else, in favour of team games like capture-the-flag and domination. She enjoys the interaction with other people, even from a distance or through anonymity.

There is a line she has not yet crossed. She never speaks to any of these people. I wondered long and hard about this before eventually asking her why she didn’t plug in a mic. Having spent so many hours playing the game, her grasp of strategy and team deployment is well refined by this point, and my thought would be that she would be a valuable leader to have. It might also cut down on her cursing when people don’t defend her while she is busy constructing sentry guns and teleporters (her preference being to play as an engineer). Her answer saddened me.

“It’ll spoil the game.”

Girls are still not overly prominent in the world of video games. It’s not that they aren’t out there or lack interest in the medium, but the environment is not open or welcoming to them. Olivia had observed what happened when girls actually did speak up in Team Fortress as being one of two things…

1. They are mocked, insulted, demeaned for their gender and demands are made of them that none of these guy would ever try in reality (imagine a much less tactful example of “Show us your lady bits!”) or…

(…and this is possibly worse…)

2. They are venerated to the point that the team dynamic is thrown out. Those lady bits, they are placed on an unassailable pedestal, and the team isn’t playing together, they are playing for her. Which of course leads to further resentment and…

… Who needs it?

It’s hard to think of a male equivalent, usually because the male variant personified is someone like myself, and I and mine don’t give a crap about who knows where tastes and predilections lie. What women will pay heed to my pursuits will more often than not be happy to discuss a shared interest rather than mock me for enjoying Mean Girls, disliking football or whatever else. I’m a show-off and demagogue, I enjoy the attention. Olivia however is not and does not, and is far more indicative of how a normal mind works, simply because she is not an egomaniac with little care for other people. She’s a well-intentioned person who wants to enjoy the game and not disrupt everyone else’s enjoyment of same. She simply wants to play on equal terms. Much like the female perjorative that resembles a misprinted ‘clint’, the problem is that there is no real equivalence in the social dynamic: men can enjoy things aimed at women, but if women engage in an area dominated by men they receive an extreme reaction. Whether negative or excessively positive, the end result is one of detriment to fun. The scariest part is that, frustrating though it may be, the Team Fortress community tends to be one of the most opening and pleasant around. The behaviour with a game more actively aggressive (and ironically homoerotic) like HALO is far less palatable…

The sexism isn’t a blanket cause for her silence in-game, just the initial motivation: the fact that she didn’t use a mic early on just began a pattern she has no need to break from now. She has joined groups, enjoys their online company and has no need to adapt her modus operandi. More often than not, she tends to avoid servers with mics as anyone who feels the need to talk often don’t shut up (and you are left at risk of mic-spamming, which is worse again). Generally, the best games do tend to have teams slip into roles and strategies without being ordered around to do so, and there is an audible bump in Olivia’s enjoyment when that happens. There are more than enough decent people playing the game, so why risk the frustration of harassment or special treatment? Better to shoot them in the head – at least you can do that in games.

While Olivia now gets what she wants from the game – and I am delighted that she was able to not be put off it – there still remains the problem that she is an outlier rather than a trend. Whether they are a silent majority or minority amongst their gender, they are alienated from a pursuit they should be able to enjoy, without having to tolerate douchery or fulfill the role of Nerdbait (there are those willing to perform either function, some times gleefully in the case of the latter, but they are really not helping matters for everyone else by doing so, the tweaked guys in particular).

This is all well and long before you get to the specific marketing and semiological crises of games for men and women, as typified by the role assignments of Cooking Mama and Science Papa. There, a shift occurs from disappointment to unbridled rage and we see why I do not bring Olivia near a video game store if I can avoid it… [To be continued]

What no one really tells you before anything weddingish occurs is that you will be walking a twine-like tightrope over a pit of social jags and spikes that will admonish and glower you to death if you are not very especially and dedicatedly careful with every inch moved forward. They won’t tell you this during or afterwards, mind you, you’ll just discover it for yourself and wonder how girly it would be to weep into an open bottle of vodka. Russian vodka. Russian vodka that has wrestled with the deadliest of vicious bears in the coldest heart of winter and bested said bears in those pankratic arts. GRRRR.

This is very likely just me, however. I have a tendency to read too much into everything and then generate a moral crisis which will drive me into a berserker frenzy. So how much previous to this then is just a standard Brianist nonsense?

Olivia for the most part has a better sense of how to plough on than me. While I meander on trying to contextualise the pinball bouncing that is my approach to everything (in part due to not really having a clue how much anyone wants to know about any of this), she has been busy assembling information, preferences and ideas at her shiny new blog, Lif Laugh. Terrifyingly, the few days work there is a fraction of what she has put together.

There are some things that ladyfolk really are just inherently better at than their Y-chromosome genetic randomisers.

As I vaguely intimated in the previous post, as much as we try to define and create our own event as distinct from the ‘mainstream’ edition, we find ourselves being repeatedly drawn back to at least the structural elements of the very same. Social evolution has optimised the beast that is a wedding, to the point that we have relented in a lot of ways by even calling our plans a wedding, if only as a shorthand. Having tried and failed to apply a number of different names to it (each time getting shot down because they were confusing people or taking too long to explain), it was that or lose a lot of patience very quickly. Our only working alternative was in calling it a commitment ceremony, since it’s a more accurate expression, but I was loathe to do that not due to having issue of association with gay culture but rather because I didn’t like the idea of appropriating anything from a population that is already pretty heavily shafted by law, policy and religion. It’s also very likely that I’m being too sensitive, but screw it. Better over than under. There is a certain resonance, even if the motivation is completely different, and just a little bit selfish as regards myself.

This isn’t the vertiginous issue I was referring to at the start, by the by, just where we have ended up by the glorious vagaries of stream of consciousness.

The weird thing is that I started writing about this long before even the blog existed, but in a weird narrative diary where I was almost looking from the outside in at the event. Aside from the weird (il)logic that brought me to that point (quickly abandoned as when you make yourself an external observer of your own life yo will by default create some strange issues for yourself), I have found myself looking back on the first few months in a similar sort of way, and the relationship as a whole betwixt that. The last few months have been crazed with business, only recently calming and about to go nuts again in very short order, but I’m finally getting a grasp on all of it and a part of me wants to resume what I started.

Which, dang it, would add a third personal written project to my schedule, along with artwork owed and undrawn, an educational avenue to follow, a third party script to format dot dot dot et cetera. I clearly take some grand issue with myself and am determined to bring it to an end by drowning under a literal sea of paperwork. Oh well, I’ll live. I’m functionally immortal anyway, having not aged since college.

What, dear reader, would you care to see me discuss, as I dwell further on this Thing that Weds? Answers on a postcard or in the comments section are e’er welcome!

Those crazy French, eh? They do like to pass through the veil of normality and redecorate the house, don’t they?

Facetiousness aside, there is an interesting debate to consider here (with some of the views in opposition to the ban summarised here). While the automatic reaction is to look at how the ban on the burka and niqab affects the religious and human rights of the people targeted by the Bill, it’s not quite so clear-cut as it might seem. France is a country very much concerned, at least superficially, with maintaining a secular tone, particularly in regards to government. My setting a limitation on something often certainly described as religious in motive as the face veil, I could see how to someone not quite so atheistically-minded that it could be an attack on choice and religious freedom.

As I prepare to write the next few paragraphs, I suddenly find myself wishing that I had an Islamic best friend to point to as a defence, but life as a curmudgeonly hermit will always put paid to that.

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Whirly whirl whirl. Trying to focus on writing this morning is going even more poorly than normal, so I’m split between trying to incubate what I should be doing while looking at (or for) inspiration in everything else on the ticket at the moment. Which, truth be told, is a great many things.

I should state for the record that I had written at this point a Gilbert & Sullivan pastiche which common sense and a return to sanity have spared you from. It was weird, even for me.

One truth I will offer in its place is that no matter how up on the matter any fellow may be, when it comes to a wedding, commitment ceremonies, civil partnerships or whatever it is being planned, their significant other will proceed to amaze, shock and leave them in general awe of their determination in same. Mean as well as you want or can, you will never keep up.

What’s scarier is that when mentioned to any woman I vaguely know, the response was a uniformed glance, lowered head and raised eyebrow, all psychically communicating one thought: “Well, of course!” (which, in gentlemanly terms translates roughly as “Duh”).

I get that I am generally pretty slow on the uptake to grasping the politics of the fairer sex, but I did not think I was this far down the curve. A part of me wonders how much is social programming (on either side) versus the co-opting of the masculine mind towards the goal of absorbing the pointless minutiae of their preferred trivial pursuit (typically football, the history of Spider-man and the X-Men in my case).

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m into the whole event, kit and kaboodle. I have no small amount of emotional investment in it. The key is context, I suppose. By contrast to my understanding and body of knowledge before the plunge was taken, I now have a very acute grasp of why the standard wedding as a social construct is in place. Its capacity for social signifiers is immense on a scale you don’t quite grasp until you look at it in close detail or try to tweak it some. In trying to follow a path even slightly alternate, you run into difficulty not because people don’t understand but because the ‘standard’ model is just so efficient.

It is a very cold was of looking at it on some levels, but nonetheless I find it fascinating. This may just be because I’ve never put much thought into it, but then I have never had occasion to. Hells, I may just be very slow, enjoying as I do the confines of my own head (more than I should, but I digress).

That said, a part of me is also feeling that twinge of guilt, because I am not doing nearly so much in terms of working on this as my partner in crime is. While the ladies aforementioned and their male counterparts have all assured me that this is Perfectly Natural, and my workload somewhat presupposes that I won’t have the same amount of time to work on it, the pangs still ping in the quiet moments. Then again, this may also be my subconscious chafing at the evocation of the gender stereotypes and my inherent laziness at work.

On the other hand, I have been able to justify looking at a lot of artyfarty(tm) and or attractive-lady infested websites as Genuine Research for a change, rather than just being a Standard Male Pervert.

To be continued…