Women in Video Games

Women in Video Games

I couldn’t write an entire blog about sexism without bringing up the video game industry. Well…that’s not entirely true. i could have easily done so. I rarely think about video games, but it just so happens that my partner said “Hey… you should write about the video game industry” the day after I also heard a Planet Money story about the sexism within this world.

But… I’m glad I didn’t miss this opportunity. Because it turns out that the video game industry is really sexist. There are three key problems that I’ve learned about:

1. There is a significant lack of female representation when it comes to video games. Apparently, less than 10% of characters in the top 150 video games (in the year of the study) were female. This information, paired next to the fact that studies show that around 50% of the “gaming audience” are female, does not make sense.

2. If you get tired of playing as a male character, it often costs more to buy a female character! How is that fair? Does it cost the developers more to draw a woman? To hire a female actress to record the sound? This also makes no sense.

3. Finally, of the very few female characters, there is an even smaller percentage of female characters who are actually interesting. (Not that I really find any of the video game characters interesting, apparently people who do play DO want interesting, well-developed characters.)

Add these three issues on to a much bigger problem that the video game industry has a long history of advertisements that are kind of misogynistic and obviously targeting men, and you’ve got yourself a sexist industry.

I may not care too much about video games. But I do care that the next generation of women grows up in a world where they feel represented, everywhere they look. And I want women to be represented as we are, unique. We need more female video game characters and they need to be diverse; we need women of all ages, races, classes, of all body-types, sexual orientations, and appearances. We need women to be truly represented. In video games and beyond.

~DoriMelinda

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What Not to Wear…5-Year-Old Edition

What Not to Wear…5-Year-Old Edition

Ahh….School dress codes. What a wonderful way to police what young women wear, while shaming them for having shoulders and legs and simultaneously telling them that it is their responsibility to keep young men’s minds on their studies, instead of sex (as if there is any way to keep adolescents minds off of sex.)

I suppose I understand the need for dress codes. I get that people should be dressed “appropriately” for school, and that if there’s not a rule against certain things, some (small percentage of) students will wear something legitimately distracting (like a balloon hat… or a flashing neon light-up tank top!). But…it seems to me like dress codes are just one more way for society to sexualize women and blame victims of sexual harassment and assault.

For the past few years, articles about schools’ ridiculously sexist dress code policies start popping up in the spring. In fact, last summer Jezebel put out an entire guide of “How to Tell if Your Dress Code is Sexist.” But this one is one of the craziest I’ve seen. A 5-year old (FIVE YEAR OLD!) was required to put a t-shirt and jeans on over her spaghetti-strap dress because it violated the school’s dress code.

I just don’t get it. If this dress too revealing?! (Revealing of what?!) Will the other children be distracted?! (Again distracted by what?!)

I suppose that the school could say that they have to have the same rules for all students or it would be unfair. Which does make sense, but then that brings us back to the initial problem with dress codes. What, exactly, is it about a spaghetti strap that ruins the educational environment? And who’s educational environment are we actually discussing? Clearly, it’s not the person who is wearing the spaghetti strap. No, she is quite comfortable. I have a feeling it’s the young men we’re worried about (and the other young women, but that NEVER comes up. Our society is still far too hetero-centric). We want to protect the young men from the dangers of a woman’s body. We understand that young men cannot control their own sexual desires. Never mind that women have sexual desires too. Never mind that someone can be attracted to another person for a reason other than his/her body.

I can’t help but feel angry that this is now starting with 5-year olds. 5-year olds, who barely know what sex is and are most definitely not yet having sexual desires, are now being penalized for being too sexual. I just can’t handle how ridiculous it has become.

I’m not anti-dress code. I’m really not. But we’ve got to stop thinking of women as sexual objects and finding ways to neutralize their power. It’s 2015 you guys. Let’s stop shaming women for their bodies.

~DoriMelinda

High School Heroines

High School Heroines

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/23/jordan-high-school-gender-equality-bake-sale_n_6925692.html

Although it’s happening more and more these days, it’s still newsworthy when people stand up to fight sexism in our society. Especially when they’re in high school. In Utah.

Last month, a group of Young Democrats at Jordan High School held a bake-sale to raise awareness about a very important issue: the wage gap between men and women’s earnings. To do this, they charged young women $0.77 per item, and young men payed $1.00. They did this to highlight that, according to the US Census Bureau, in 2012 on average women were still making just 77 cents to the dollar that men made. So… fair’s fair, right?

Not in internet land! Let the comments begin (I know, I did it again! I’m just trying to make myself angry at this point…):

There’s a few people saying that the wage gap disappears when controlling for certain factors… one woman who cheers on the young kids… another few people who say the Census Bureau is wrong (never any citations, by the way!)…and then… there it is. There’s the battle cry I was looking for. A man complaining that this is discrimination against men. “Celebrate gender equality by being unequal? I guess they don’t teach what the word ‘equality’ means anymore” and a bit later on in his post, “this is blatant sexism masking itself as social justice.”

“This is blatant sexism masking itself as social justice.”

Is it though? Is it really blatant sexism? I don’t think so, sir (the commentor identifies himself as a “guy” in his post, for the record). I would argue that it is not blatant sexism. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. These students are raising awareness that our society still values men *just a little bit more* than women. Sure, it’s only 23 cents more, but that’s more folks. Contrary to what the other commentors on the page said, lots of studies have been conducted controlling for factors like equal work, experience, education, etc. And the gap still exists. So these young people raising awareness that our system is not fair, that our system pays women less for the same work, that our system is sexist? That’s not sexism. That’s fighting against it.

Now, do I think that everything should be priced differently for men and women? Absolutely not, that doesn’t make sense (But it does make me consider why items that are “for women” are so freaking expensive. Anyone buy a box of tampons lately? What about a “female condom”? That stuff is EXPENSIVE….)  But a group of teenagers putting on a bake sale to raise awareness about gender inequality is not discrimination against men. It’s a group of high school heroines.

~DoriMelinda

Adding Insult to Injury

Adding Insult to Injury

http://www.wgxa.tv/news/topstories/Milledgeville-Pharmacist-Refuses-to-Fill-Prescription-for-Miscarriage-Patient-299421801.html

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a problem with our current health insurance system (who doesn’t?!) — specifically with how for the vast majority of people with insurance through their jobs, employers hold power over what should be an individual decision about their health care. As was horrifically evidenced in the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, this linkage allows strangers to have power over which health care options are available to us as consumers, and — completely unsurprisingly — the powers-that-be most often make decisions that disproportionately negatively impact women. And why do these laws allowing these people to make decisions about my health exist? Because, as my hero Dan Savage has frequently said in pointing out the hypocrisy of right-wing politicians, “Conservatives want small government. They want it so small that it can fit inside a woman’s vagina.” So much for personal liberty, eh?

But it isn’t just employers who have the power to make decisions for women. No, it’s pharmacists, too. In early April, a woman named Brittany Cartrett had a miscarriage just five or six weeks into her pregnancy. Her doctor kindly wrote her a prescription for a medication that would allow her to pass the miscarriage without an invasive procedure called a D&C. However, when Cartrett went to the local WalMart pharmacy to fill the prescription, she was told “no.” Apparently, the prescribed medication can also be used to induce abortions and — even though this was not Cartrett or her doctor’s intended use of the medication — the pharmacist stated that she “couldn’t think of a valid reason why [someone] would need this prescription.”

This is a prime example of the country’s cultural and institutional sexism. Six states currently have a law on the books that allows providers to refuse reproductive-related healthcare services to individuals based upon their own religious beliefs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that these individuals have the right to feel however they want to about religion and procreation. But that should not prohibit them from providing services. That goes beyond the scope of their role. That is not their job.

But, is this truly sexist? Isn’t this more of a religious freedom issue than one of sexism? Some could argue that point. But, I chose to include this story, because we don’t see men being denied anything that their doctor has said is necessary. In fact, there’s no debate as to whether health insurance should cover vasectomies or Viagra for men. But when women want to be in control of their bodies, when women choose to make decisions about how and when they reproduce, that’s when conflicts arise. That’s when pharmacists refuse to provide medication, not for anything related to how the drugs will be used, but based on how they could potentially be used. And that, in my opinion, is sexist.

~DoriMelinda

Shame on UPS

Shame on UPS

Before I begin, a disclaimer. The United States Court system is incredibly complicated. Over the past few years, I’ve begun to understand the system a bit better, but forgive me if I mistakenly present incorrect information about this lawsuit, the courts’ initial decision, and the Supreme Court’s ruling. I’ll do my best.

In October of 2008, Peggy Young sued her former employer UPS under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, for refusing to accommodate her doctor’s orders that she do no heavy lifting (i.e. boxes over 20 pounds) throughout her pregnancy. Rather than transfer her to a job as a truck driver or give her “light duty,” UPS decided to place her on an extended, unpaid leave of absence, during which she lost her health insurance.

Young and her attorneys appealed this decision (twice), and the case ultimately went to the Supreme Court, where — in a shocking turn of events — the majority decided that Young did have the right to sue under the Act. (This is where it gets tricky, the Supreme Court did not actually make a decision on Young’s case. Rather, they bumped it back down to the Fourth Circuit Court, who will decide whether UPS discriminated against her).

Legalese is extremely complicated, but it seems that UPS argued that because their decision to place her on leave was “pregnancy-blind” (meaning that they were considering her “disability” as if it were an injury she obtained off-the-job), she did not deserve any special treatment, and they were not discriminating against her.

A few problems with this: (1) I am still not entirely sure how I feel about people referring to pregnancy as a disability; although we discussed this issue ad nauseam in class, and I know it’s incredibly hard to come up with a definition for that word, it just rubs me the wrong way. And (2) Corporations are heartless.

I understand that it affects the bottom line of a company if an employer gets injured — or pregnant — off the job. But how is it acceptable for the company to put a person on unpaid leave, leading the individual to lose their health insurance when they need it most? (All of this makes me want to jump on my soapbox to talk about how health insurance should never be tied to employment. Every person should have health insurance, whether they are employed or not. It’s a public health issue and our employers should have nothing to do with our bodies… BUT that’s another issue, so I’ll leave it at that.) Employees who choose to have a baby — or God-forbid, get injured — should have the right to remain in their jobs for as long as they healthfully can! Accommodations should absolutely be made in these cases.

I can’t help but think that corporations would treat pregnancy entirely differently if it were men who carried the babies. I have a feeling that companies would be bending over backwards to ensure that men could stay in their jobs throughout their pregnancies, with as little disruption as possible. Allowing them all sorts of accommodations. And think, if men were the ones who were pregnant, companies would already have set policies about how to best keep men happy during this time of their lives. Because they would have written these rules in for themselves at the start. And of course, each and every health insurance policy would make sure to cover fertility-related expenses, all forms of contraceptives, and labor costs. Because men think of men. And our culture follows suit. Men are valued. Men are respected. And women… oh yeah…. I guess we have to deal with them too now.

I’m really glad the Supreme Court said that Peggy Young had the right to sue. Now I just hope that the Fourth Circuit recognizes that UPS’s policy was discriminatory. Apparently, UPS already realized it because *spoiler alert, * they changed their policy; probably due to the terrible press they were getting for being a sexist company. It’s too bad that it takes these long, drawn-out expensive lawsuits to change our culture around sexism. But hey, one corporation at a time. At least there’s change.

~DoriMelinda

#ImNoAngel

#ImNoAngel

In early April, Lane Bryant, a popular clothing retailer for women who are “plus-size,” launched a lingerie campaign called #ImNoAngel. By design, this line of bras and panties contrasts with Victoria’s Secret’s infamous Angel Collection which has, for years, featured very thin and fit women with (mostly) very large breasts. But #ImNoAngel was highlighting that most women don’t actually look like Victoria’s Secret models. It’s main point: without being an “angel,” women of all shapes and sizes are sexy.

This campaign was very well received among most; writers and social media aficionados applauded the campaign for being more representative of women in our society, for being body-positive, for enabling women to feel sexy in their own skin. I agree with all of that. But no ad campaign is perfect, and I would like to point out a few flaws with this progressive campaign. Admittedly, most of these issues were brought to my attention when reading media responses to Lane Bryant’s release, so I cannot take credit for being the first to recognize the downsides. But I will summarize them here, doing this with the hope that in the future, we keep pushing ourselves to be more inclusive and more aware of the impact these campaigns can have on women.

As Amanda Richards points out in her response article in xojane, #ImNoAngel is not truly representative of the women who shop at Lane Bryant or plus-size women in our society. She points out that all of the non-angels are around a size 12 or 14 with “proportionate” bodies, whereas the majority of Lane Bryant customers are actually a size 20 or above. Richards refers to herself as plus-size, and mentions that she has never seen a Lane Bryant advertisement that features a women whose body looks like hers. A big problem, right?! And so, Richards takes things into her own hands, encouraging women to post their own photos on instagram, using the hashtag #ImNoAngel and #ImNoModelEither. She’s hoping that this will allow women to see real pictures of real women, who are proud of their bodies — whether or not their proportions are “plus-size model perfect.”

Richards also takes issue with the premise of the campaign. She states that the #ImNoAngel hashtag is explicitly pitting larger-bodies women against smaller-bodied women. It’s not a competition. Just because one group of women is sexy does not mean the other is not. Sexiness is not a zero sum game.

I couldn’t agree more. Sexiness comes in all shapes and sizes and is ultimately a state of mind. But this point — making sure that all women know they are sexy — this brings me to the third downside of the campaign. I can’t help but be rubbed the wrong way by this advertisement: another commercial, telling me to be sexy.  In my opinion, and perhaps it is mine alone, this campaign is still unnecessarily objectifying and sexualizing women. Granted, in the video above the models do speak about what makes them feel sexy, rather than look sexy to observing eyes. But, what if I don’t feel sexy? What if I don’t want to feel sexy? Should I, must I always want to be sexy? According to the media, I should. I get it, they’re trying to sell lingerie, and lingerie is designed to “be sexy.” But if we’re talking about promoting body diversity, if we’re talking about women feeling good about themselves, maybe we should stop pushing sexy, and start pushing other characteristics. #ImNoAngel could mean that I’m a free-thinker. It could mean that I embrace a different kind of femininity. It could mean that I do what I want. There are all sorts of ways for women to feel good about their bodies. Sometimes, it doesn’t have to be about sex.

~DoriMelinda

Forced to Live a Lie

Forced to Live a Lie

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/23/abu-daooh-dressed-like-man_n_6925956.html

A 64-year-old Egyptian woman was recently rewarded by the President of the country, for being “an exemplary working woman,” proven by her ability to work and be the sole provider for her family over the past 43 years. There’s just one twist to this story: every day that she worked, she did so disguised as a man.

Sisa Abu Daooh, whose husband passed away in the early 70s when she was pregnant with her daughter, knew she must take care of her family, and she quickly realized that it would be much easier for her to earn living wages if she presented as a man. So she wore traditional men’s robes, and she worked in a town where no one would recognize her.

There are two components of this story that deeply frustrate me. The first is that she was forced into this situation to begin with. It’s terrible that she lived (and still lives) in a society that is so opposed to women being a part of the workforce, that she would have been unable to provide for herself and her child without pretending to be someone she’s not. This is a very straightforward and overt example of cultural sexism in Egypt. Although the situation may be slightly better today than it was 40 years ago, there are still many regulations and practices in place to make earning an income challenging for women. Obviously, that’s a huge problem.

My second frustration stems from the fact that she was rewarded for doing this…and nothing else happened. Not that she doesn’t deserve recognition for supporting her family — she absolutely does! Being a single parent, and earning enough to support oneself and one’s child is certainly challenging, and anyone who successfully accomplishes this task deserves accolades. But rather than simply rewarding someone for making the best out of a terrible situation, perhaps we should take a look at how the culture must be changed. In all of the articles I read regarding Daooh’s story, not one referenced any policy changes that were proposed or even discussed. Seemingly, the President said, “Wow. Great job navigating a whole host of barriers. If you can do it, everyone else can too.” This is not enough.

How many stories like this do we need to read? How many times will women fight the system, challenge the patriarchy, find the loopholes, before all of that work — all of that deception — is no longer needed? I get it; she is an amazing woman and she beat the odds. She deserves her reward; and with that said, maybe more than $6,500 would have been nice. But, don’t all women deserve the opportunity to provide for their families? Shouldn’t all women be able to access living wages, without hiding the fact that they are — gasp — female?

~DoriMelinda