Tag Archives: discrimination

To Linkspam And Beyond! (20 June 2014)

  • Tristan Walker: The tech world has implicit racial biases. Here’s how to overcome them. | Carmel Deamicis at PandoDaily (June 11): “”[…] This person is black, this person is white, I don’t discriminate, I’m meritocratic,” Walker says. “But no one ever talks about implicit bias. It’s rampant and real.””
  • We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome | Tasha Robinson at The Dissolve (June 16): “She’s something female characters so often aren’t in action/adventure films with male protagonists: She’s interesting. Too bad the story gives her absolutely nothing to do. […] here’s a quick questionnaire for filmmakers who’ve created a female character […] But now what? Screenwriters, producers, directors, consider this.”
  • Reimagining the Female Superhero |  Lindsey Morris at Girls Gone Geek (June 18): “Saturday I attended a panel at Special Edition: NYC, and from what I gathered it was one of the only panels that day that was even nearing maximum capacity. The totally stellar line-up of creators for the talk included Gail Simone, Amy Reeder, Marguerite Bennett, Emanuela Lupacchino and Jenny Frison – moderated by Ben Saunders. This panel and its participants were great in every respect, and it produced some great conversations. [This] is the entire discussion prior to Q&A.”
  • Gale Simone to writers: Keep the hell up | Shaula Evans at The Black Board (June 17): “When the idea of an Incredible Hulk reboot came up at a recent John August/ Craig Mazin Scriptntoes podcast, their guest screenwriter David S. Goyer (who is writing the first film that Wonder Woman will appear in) called She Hulk “a green porn star that only Hulk could f***”  […] Comic book writer Gail Simone, whose notable works include Wonder Woman, Red Sonja, and Batgirl, responded on Twitter. I’ve archived her remarks here because she has some GREAT and on-point advice to writers in all media about the need to “keep the hell up” with our audiences and the changing world around us.”
  • Keynote: Composing a Functional Community | Katie Miller at Erlang Solutions (June 16): [Video] “We know the wonderful benefits of functional programming, but when it comes to sharing the lambda love we often do a poor job. In this presentation, Katie will draw on her experiences as a journalist, workshop instructor, functional programming student and women’s group founder to take you back to that time before you knew what jargon such as monad meant, and offer ideas and inspiration for helping people of all kinds and categories along the path to FP enlightenment. Be warned, content may challenge the status quo and your mind: be prepared for code in an unfamiliar syntax.”
  • Female leaders are missing in academia | Tanya Fitzgerald at The Conversation (June 18): “The persistent numerical imbalance of women and men at senior levels in universities does not appear to be cause for concentrated and wider concern. […] we need to think beyond simply counting more women in by increasing their numbers. While numbers are important to create a critical mass, it is a change in attitude towards female leaders that is needed.”
  • Is Coding the New Literacy? | Tasneem Raja at Mother Jones (June 16): “What if learning to code weren’t actually the most important thing? It turns out that rather than increasing the number of kids who can crank out thousands of lines of JavaScript, we first need to boost the number who understand what code can do. As the cities that have hosted Code for America teams will tell you, the greatest contribution the young programmers bring isn’t the software they write. It’s the way they think. It’s a principle called “computational thinking”.”
  • Too Fat to Be a Scientist? | Rachel Fox at The Chronicle of Higher Education (June 17): [Warning for discussion of harassment] “I can’t stay in a field where it seems that I’m supposed to apologize for my appearance every day. Although there’s a growing movement to promote a more nuanced model of weight loss and metabolism, the mentality that everything comes down to a lack of self-control is still pervasive in the scientific community.”
  • Still ‘Searching for Safety Online’: collective strategies and discursive resistance to trolling and harassment in a feminist network | Frances Shaw (2013): [Warning for discussion of violent threats] “This paper examines the discursive responses that participants in a network of feminist blogs developed to handle trolling in their community.” This is an older link than we usually include, however it seems particularly relevant.
  • Silence is Complicity | Natalie Luhrs at The Radish. (Jun 16): [Warning for discussion of harassment and sexual abuse of children] “If you deliberately prey on vulnerable members of our community and continue to do so after you’ve been caught, I believe that you forfeit the right to be a part of our community.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

The effect of linkspam on man-in-the-moon marigolds (29 March 2014)

Events, fundraisers and such:


  • Dinner plans for all: How conference organizers can make newcomers feel welcome | Becky Yoose at The Ada Initiative (March 24): “Take a small group of conference attendees (mix of new and veteran attendees), add a restaurant of their choosing, throw in some planning, and you get a conference social activity that provides a safer, informal environment that anyone can participate in.”
  • Heroines of Cinema: Why Don’t More Women Make Movies? | Matthew Hammett Knott interviews Marian Evans at Indiewire (March 24): a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why we don’t see more women on-screen and behind the camera in our favorite films and what we can do about it
  • ‘Making games is easy. Belonging is hard’: #1ReasonToBe at GDC | Alex Wawro at Gamasutra (March 20): “[Leigh] Alexander says some members of the industry still feel less wanted, less welcome, and less safe than others because of who they are or how they identify themselves.”
  • Wonder Woman writer and artist Phil Jiminez talls to Joseph Phillip Illidge at Comic Book  Resources, Part 1 (March 21) and Part 2 (March 23): “I’ve mentioned in other works that I believe Diana is the ultimate ‘queer’ character — meaning ‘queer’ in its broadest sense — defiantly anti-assimilationist, anti-establishment, boundary breaking. Looking back at the early works of the 1940s, sifting through all the weird stories and strange characters, you can find a pretty progressive character with some pretty thought provoking ideas about sex, sex roles, power, men and women, feminine power, loving submission, sublimating anger, dominance in sexual roles, role playing and the like.”
  • Warning: domestic violence Spyware’s role in domestic violence | Rachel Olding at The Age (March 22): “In a Victorian study last year, 97 per cent of domestic violence workers reported that perpetrators were using mobile technologies to monitor and harass women in domestic situations.” [The study in question seems to be Delanie Woodlock (2013), Technology-facilitated Stalking: Findings and Recommendations from the SmartSafe Project, MSM can’t start linking/citing their sources soon enough for this spammer!]
  • Impostoritis: a lifelong, but treatable, condition | Maria Klawe at Slate (March 24)  “I’ve been the first woman to hold my position—head of computer science and dean of science at the University of British Columbia, dean of engineering at Princeton, and now president of Harvey Mudd College. As my career progressed, so did the intensity of my feelings of failure.”
  • The Aquanaut | Megan Garber at The Atlantic (March 13): “The first thing you should know about Sylvia Earle is that she has a LEGO figurine modeled after her. One that has little yellow flippers instead of little yellow feet. “
  • Condolences, You’re Hired! | Bryce Covert at Slate (March 25): “Evidence suggests that women are more likely to get promoted into leadership during particularly dicey times; then, when fortunes go south, the men who helped them get there scatter and the women are left holding the bag. This phenomenon is… known as the glass cliff
  • Mistakes we’ve made | Nicholas Bergson-Shilcock at Hacker School Blog (March 25): Bergson-Shilcock describes ways Hacker School inadvertently deterred or misjudged female candidates and what they’re doing to improve.
  • A few comments on Brendan Eich’s hiring as Mozilla CEO, and his political donations to anti-marriage equality campaigns and candidates:
    • Against Tolerance (March 24) and I know it’s not raining (March 28), both by Tim Chevalier at Dreamwidth: “Apologizing for past wrongs doesn’t undo the past, but it does help rebuild trust and provide assurance that further abuse (or at least not the same kind!) won’t occur in the future. We’ve seen none of that — only tone policing and attempts at creating diversions. The message I take away from reading Brendan’s blog posts is ‘I’ll still try to destroy your family, but I won’t be rude to you to your face. Keep writing code for me!'”
    • Civil rights and CEOs | Alex Bromfield at Medium (March 25): “Eich asks people to put aside this issue because it is unrelated to the work that Mozilla does, but it is related, especially when the chief of HR reports to him.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Kids these days spend so much time linkspamming they don’t know what real friendship is (14th January, 2010)

  • tigtog has some tips for bloggers at How I minimise the online abuse I receive: So here is an assortment of technical tips & tricks whereby bloggers can cut down the volume and the repetition coming from this cyberbullying cadre of keyboard jockeys, making the harassment little more than a tiny hiss of background noise instead of an overwhelming flood of spite.
  • “Amazingly, less than 1 per cent of Silicon Valley investment money goes to women-founded technology companies. Less than 3 per cent of the money goes to companies with women as CEO.” From Melissa Clark-Reynolds’ Diary of an Entrepreneur
  • Eleni Stroulia writes about Women, Computing and Other Minorities “It seems to me that the fundamental reason why there are few women in CS is because our society still (and always) has a gender-specific value system”
  • Shameful Gender Discrimination at UC Davis Veterinary School: I thought at first that someone might be messing with me. It was unbelievable to me that someone would treat a pregnant student this way, leaving her [grades] to the [vote] of her classmates.
  • Syne Mitchell’s History in Code: After this initial taste of programming success, I decided I wanted to learn computer programming “for reals.” I knew that computers thought in binary, but I wasn’t able to find a binary programming book. So I settled for something called Assembly language. Unfortunately, I had no 8080-assembly compiler handy, so it quickly became an exercise of writing PEEK and POKE code calls on paper to store and recall variable amounts and then checking my work manually. Even a truly geeky thirteen-year-old girl will find this dull after a while.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the geekfeminism tag on delicious or the #geekfeminism tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Re-post: Is requiring Open Source experience sexist?

In anticipation of a December/January slowdown, I’m reposting some of my writing from earlier in 2010, for the benefit of new (and nostalgic!) readers. This piece originally appeared on the 9th April 2010.

Code Anthem’s Don’t Judge a Developer by Open Source (via Meg in the Open Thread) argues that companies that rely on Open Source coding contributions as a hiring criterion are both demanding a lot of their hiree’s free time and are sexist:

Open source is a culture. There are plenty of smart and passionate developers out there who are not part of that culture. And certainly there are plenty of dumb and curmudgeonly developers out there participating in open source…. There are there smarter ways to spend your time. The stereotypical open source developer works for a bumbling corporate during the day, doing dull work (but necessary to make money) and then comes home to work on his passion, OpenOKHRWUJ Framework…

Requiring open source contributions is sexist… Open source is dominated by men even more so than the programming community as a whole… it’s irresponsible to require your new hire developers to come from a male-oriented pool. Alas… “Underrepresentation breeds underrepresentation”.

I have a comment in moderation there in which I say that I think the stereotype is incorrect: that Open Source developers in my experience are either university students or other young people with a lot of free time, or they’re paid Open Source developers. (I know hobbyist Open Source coders with unrelated dev or other full-time jobs too, yes, but not nearly so many and their contributions are for obvious reasons usually not as significant. If nothing else, this group has a really high incidence of typing injuries.)

But that’s a side-note: I think the core point of the post stands. Open Source is very male-dominated, is known for being unpleasantly sexist, and is also a subculture whose norms (even where neutral as regards sexism) don’t fit everyone. Requiring these norms feeds right into the problem talked about in Being Inclusive vs Not Being Exclusive:

People who come from underprivileged minorities are usually very experienced in the art of being excluded. Sometimes it’s overt – “we don’t like your kind” – but many times it’s subtle. They’re told that they’re “not quite right”, or they “don’t have the right look”, or “don’t have the right experience”, or just aren’t told anything. At the same time, they are surrounded by all sorts of imagery and communique about how they don’t quite belong, about how they have to change themselves to fit in, about how they are undesirable. They do not see a lot of examples they can relate to; even the ones that come close tend to stick out for being “Exotic”, being a token. They already have a lot of barriers against them and are already of the mind that they’ll more likely be rejected than accepted.

If you insist on a lot of experience in a particular male-dominated sub-culture as a prerequisite for a job, that reads as “we prefer [a subset of] men, basically, or at least people willing to work hard to minimise all the ways in which they aren’t [part of the subset of] men” even if you didn’t intend it to and even if you didn’t want it to.

Code Anthem isn’t, as far as I can tell, thinking about Open Source paid jobs in that post, but they of course have this problem magnified. It seems vastly reasonable on the face of it: hiring existing Open Source contributors, ideally people from your very own community, means you hire people who are well-versed in the particular mode of development you do, in particular, the use of text-based mediums for communicating among a distributed team. Since Open Source (or more to the point Free Software) projects are at least sometimes associated with particular non-commercial goals and philosophies agreement with those seems desirable. But since most long-term Open Source developers need to be paid for it, it strongly feeds into this cycle of long-term Open Source developers continuing to be male and of a particular kind of culture, and continuing to overtly or subtly signal that that’s who is welcome in Open Source development.

Possible other posts of interest:

  • Terri’s Want more women in open source? Try paying them.
  • Dorothea Salo’s Sexism and group formation:

    A woman can be an honorary guy, sure, with all the perquisites and privileges pertaining to that status—as long as she never lets anything disturb the guy façade.

    It’s good to be an honorary guy, don’t get me wrong. Guys are fun to be around. Guys know stuff. Guys help out other guys. Guys trust other guys. And in my experience, they don’t treat honorary guys any differently from how they treat regular guys. It’s really great to be an honorary guy.

    The only problem is that part of the way that guys distinguish themselves from not-guys is by contrasting themselves with women.

I want to be the girl with the most links (22nd November, 2010)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the geekfeminism tag on delicious or the #geekfeminism tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Quick hit: The enemy is not MEN. The enemy are a-holes.

Gina Minks responds to a post on our linkspam:

I read this post (via the Geek Feminism Blog) and I just have to respond. The post is titled “Why women in tech need to stop whining and start to nurture our own”. I think the gist of the post is that women need to encourage other women to be techies. I can agree with that. What I can’t agree with is the language she uses to address women who speak out when they have experienced discrimination (and yes Margaret, women still face discrimination in the workplace).

So she tells us a story about discrimination she experienced…

I figured this would be an easy call. I had all the facts, all the symptoms. I needed the tech support person to gather the info and dispatch the part. Of course, tech support people make you go through some troubleshooting on the phone with them – only fair they shouldn’t send out parts unless something is broken.

Here is where it got weird. The guy on the phone asked me: “Let me ask you something – do you like to bake?”. It took me aback, but I played along. I needed the part…I figured he was making small talk till a screen he needed came up. So I said “yeah…..”. And he goes, in a very belittling voice: “Ok well this is going to easy, just like baking a cake. Inside the server is all of the different ingredients, and we are going to mix them all up and have a nice cake!”.

And then draws a pretty clear conclusion:

the enemy is not “MEN”. The enemy are a-holes. This support guy was a total a-hole. The guys I worked with back then were not a-holes. When I told them what happened, yeah they laughed their butts off. The term “then you bake a cake” became part of our culture when someone couldn’t figure things out.

Read the rest here about her thoughts on calling people “whiners” and how that makes it harder to respond well when things go wrong.

The Myth of White Male Geek Rationality

This post was originally published at Restructure!

People who consider themselves fully rational individuals are ignorant about basic psychology and their own minds.

It is easy for white men in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields to perceive themselves as more rational than other groups, because our society associates rationality with whites, men, and STEM professionals. When white men in STEM fields believe in this stereotype, they might assume that bias is more common in non-white people, women, and people in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. After all, these other groups seem to want to discuss bias more often, and unexamined associative “reasoning” would link bias to those who bring up the topic of bias. Under logical scrutiny, however, it does not follow that the act of thinking about bias makes one more biased.

Green Red Blue
Purple Blue Purple

Blue Purple Red
Green Purple Green

the Stroop effect refers to the fact that naming the color of the first set of words is easier and quicker than the second.

A basic tenet of contemporary psychology is that mental activity can be unconscious. Unconscious simply refers to any mental activity that is “not conscious”, and it is not equivalent to the unscientific New Age concept of the Subconscious. A good example of unconscious mental activity interfering with conscious intentions is the Stroop effect (right). If you try to name the colours of the colour words aloud, the first set of colours will be easier to name than the second set of colours, because you unconsciously read the words. This means that you do not have full control over your thoughts and behaviour, and your willpower or logical reasoning cannot overcome the unconscious cultural bias of being able to read in English. Of course, there are other unconscious cultural biases aside from English literacy bias.

Continue reading

I don’t see your problem: Sexism, World of Warcraft and Geekery

Pewter is a geek of Virtual Worlds and Imagined Spaces. By reading far too many books and keeping some excellent company she has managed to become somewhat opinionated. She blogs at MentalShaman while she treads her pathway through Geek Feminism and Intersectionality, and discusses World of Warcraft. She also maintains TotemSpot , and participates in several female-centric Warcraft Communities.

This post originally appeared at MentalShaman.

N.B: This article has received some small edits since original publication, in order to add examples contributed via email or comment. I have also done a few edits to clarify certain points and correct typos etc. Many thanks to everyone who has commented. This article also appeared here.

When I log in to WoW, I don’t get discriminated against because I am a woman. My opinions are valued by my fellow officers and guild members (and a wider community of people on my realm.) This blog is my voice, and I have power over the comments. I am surrounded by intelligent, clever, eloquent people in the communities I have chosen to interact with. I have been educated by their words, by their examples. If I want I can exist in an online bubble and chose to believe that this way of thinking is mainstream.

And then I poke my head out of my friendly little bubble, and the magnitude of crap out there makes me wibble and want to hide away again. It’s not FUN calling out your friends on ableist/sexist/racist bullshit, especially when they held your hands through multiple dramas at University, and still persist in wanting to hang out with you after you’ve spent a morning-after dry-heaving into a toilet.

It’s not just about a statue (or bunny ears, or skimpy armor)

Not long ago there was some minor kerfuffle over the lack of a female character in the ‘Victory’ statue. This is the statue in the centre of Dalaran that commemtorates the ‘victory’ over Arthas. A lot of people (not just men) dismissed this as being over-sensitive and a bit pointless, and the story didn’t even really make it into the blogosphere. Even I didn’t bother with it.

What makes me upset about relatively small things like this is not the individual small problem, but the overall picture. Even the bitch jokes and dialogue, although they seem isolated, make up a much bigger picture that is produced by a development team that is predominatly white and male. Many women in the geek industries will adopt the mainstream geek culture in order to fit in – just as in mainstream society we accept that showing cellulite is inappropriate, and that women should wear bras because otherwise men might be distracted by nipples.

So let us have a look at context

Please bear in mind that this is not a complete list, and I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with everything on the list. Some of the examples given deserve a more completely analysis than I am able to give here, and it is very easy to disagree with or dismiss most of these problematic things on an individual basis. The specifics aren’t the point, and the intent of Blizzard is not the point, it is the trends produced by the male privilege that I am calling out here, not the game itself.

So, we have the various skimpy outfits. The quite frankly random cleavage that happens to a lot of generic dungeon sets (that gear set that covers EVERYTHING but the women’s eyes and their cleavage, for example?) A lot of women in the game do enjoy dressing up in outfits that reveal the curves of their female toon. Others just want their plate armor to cover their soft organs. We have the Queen of the Red Dragons dressed in the typical bikini outfight – surely a more regal outfit could be found for her? (A part of me feels that dragons wouldn’t clothe themselves at all in human form, but male dragons don’t show any inclination towards nekkidness.)

Moving on from skimpy outfits, we head to the language applied to anything that is sexy or shows flesh – slut-shaming, body hate. There is a difference between criticising the ubiquity of the in-game and fan art that has plate bikini and is catering to the male gaze, and directing hateful language towards the female body, or a woman who chooses to wear a short skirt. Unfortunately the two tend to go hand in hand.

Three female character models from World of Warcraft

While we’re on skimpy armour, lets take a look at Ysera, Alextrazsa and Sylvanas. Now, I have no problems with characters sharing models – it happens a lot in WoW. Even though (as pointed out by Dee of Azeroth Me many of the unique male characters are topless, there isn’t the same sexualisation of those characters going on. I love all three models from the shoulder up. One model (Sylvanas maybe) with the skimpy bikini top would have been fine. I can even reconcile Alextrazsa as supposedly the ’embodiment of fertility’, but did they really need to have the same faces and armour? Maybe Alextrasza and Ysera share a wardrobe, but very few other dragons show such an interest in standing around naked.

Also Sylvanas needs to have a little extra rot going on. What with the undead thing.

Next we have the two major female characters being excised from the Lich King defeat story. Sylvanas and Jaina are there all the way through WCIII, Vanilla, TBC and Lower Spire, and yet when it comes to the Lich King fight they are mysteriously absent. There is no absolution for their interactions with Arthas, in this expansion.

Then those two major female characters are the embodiment of classic ‘female leader’ tropes, with Sylvanas being patently ‘up to no good’ and Jaina succumbing to female ‘weakness’ at every turn. Actually, take a look at this fabulous breakdown of female characters in WoW, with percentages and character archetypes. I’m not drawing any conclusions from it yet, but it makes for an interesting read and break down. One thing I do draw from it is the ‘Maiden/Lover’, ‘Mother’, and ‘Hag/Shrew’ breakdowns, which I think require some deeper analysis than I am able to give here.

ADDITION: It was noted by a commenter that the female leaders seem to be associated with rebellions and subversiveness rather than ‘rightful’ leadership. Something worth exploring further.

And Tyrande? Yes she can sit quietly in Darnassus and glare meaningfully over at at Fandrel. She doesn’t need to do anything. (Note that I haven’t explored Tyrande’s role in Cataclysm yet, but for a lot of the books her storyline is defined and couched within the way it impacts upon the two men in her life.)

Then we have the ‘habit’ of Jaina-hate, calling her a whore or a slut because she dared to have relationships with more than one man. This is not of Blizzard’s making, but it is a perfect example of sexist attitudes prevalent within the player base (and certainly not limited to men.) She needs a storyline makeover that doesn’t involve her ‘relationships’ with men. This attitude towards Jaina is prevalent in many, many WoW Communities, even in female-friendly spaces.

Then Maiev Shadowsong who, by the end, only had purpose to exist because of a man, a story thread explicitly acknowledge in the Illidan fight. Not to mention that most female ‘bosses’ will play second fiddle to a leading male character. Of 2 female ‘end bosses’, Vashj still plays second fiddle to Illidan and Onyxia (besides being dead) is arguabley outranked by Nefarion. For each expansion, the ultimate end-game entities have been male – Kel’thuzud, Illidan/Archimonde, and Lich King. Cataclysm won’t change this, but I am looking forward to a future expansion featuring Azshara (although common sense tells me that this is likely to be an expansion involving Sargeras.)

No female soldier in the victory statue. Despite there being male and female guard npcs all over the game, they are absent from this representation of victory. Not just the statue, the fact of being shouted down for having the temerity to talk about it. While, again, this feels very minor and unimportant, when viewed in a wider context it is upsetting.

And come to that, enter groups of NPCs with no female model at all – ogres, kobolds, furbolgs, Gronn. Although there could be a comment made for the idea that these are races which simply lack the sexual dimorphism of the playable races, or lack a true gender binary/human style reproductive system. Dragons would be an example of this, although they have very gendered human forms, there is always Chromie/Chromuru. Wolfshead cites this as an example of sexism against men as the ‘villains’, which would hold more weight if we had more women as ‘heros’ in the first place. But no, all the females, good and bad, play second fiddle to male protagonists. Only minor, insignificant NPCs get to pass the Bechdel test in WoW (I am unsure if this applies to any of the books though.)

I mean seriously, the Bechdel test? It is fucking scary how few games and movies pass this.

1. It has to have at least two women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

Numerous ‘jokes’ in the beta that play off gendered insults and stereotypes, and one joke that is either about consensual bondage/goblin greed or about rape, depending on whether you hear ‘he’ or ‘she’. I’m not saying that some of the current jokes are any better, but there are ways do innuendo jokes without buying into the more degrading aspects of being compared a female dog, or a golddigger. Not only that, but it is male designers putting these jokes in the mouths of female player characters – not the same thing as the word being reclaimed and used by women at all.

A lot of the female jokes in general will play off gender and sexuality, while male jokes will be just that – jokes with no gender related component. The female human jokes even gently poke fun at gender stereotypes (rather than merely perpetuating them) with “So me and my friends swap clothes all the time, we’re all the same size!”

The new horde leader calling Sylvanas a ‘Bitch‘. While it can be ‘explained away’ by Blizzard wanting to represent Garrosh as the sort of person who says that, the fact is that they are legitimising the use of the language. On the scale of insults towards women it is relatively low (and also cue commentators telling me they’re female and they’re okay with it) but it is a largely unnecessary step, and it comes out of the mouth of a character that the audience is apparently supposed to sympathise with.

A questline in the Goblin starter zone where the player character has to murder their cheating ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, and rip out their still-beating hearts. Again, the sexism of this is debatable (the male/female npcs involved in this are called Candy and Chip En Dale) but it’s not sitting pretty with the entire picture.

The fact that, of all the Warrior spell and talent icons, Chas points out to us that the only recognisably female Icon is for a talent called Rude Interruption. Hmm what about the other classes? Only looking at the Cataclysm tree for these talents, and not at the spell icons.

So the ‘female icons’ for our talents, and most of them are healing/nurture related, with Hunters and Warriors at the exception to that, while 4 other classes have no female representation at all in their talent trees. As with all my other examples, this is a small thing and easily ignored in isolation (because really, icons?) When taken in context with larger trends it is disheartening. (And please don’t tell me I’m overreacting – I write a lot, it’s what I do.) I will say that Blizzard has put a lot of gender neutral icons, and I sincerely doubt this was intentional on the part of the artists, but the majority of humanoid icons are very masculine.

It’s Playboy Bunny Ears being distributed as part of Noblegarden, a holiday otherwise associated with Easter, and an achievement that requires you to put the ears on female characters of level 18 of each racea clear reference to the general ‘age of consent’ in many parts of the western world. The ears themselves are pretty innocuous. As a sex-positive person I do not hold that all pornography is degrading to women, but I find the Playboy brand extremely problematic and unwelcome in the WoW universe, especially coming with the ‘level 18’ reference. I’m not offended by the achievement so much as worried by it.

It’s the character models all adhering to the traditional hourglass figure, even though the actual body type range is fairly broad, and yet not even modelling the boob animations with any kind of support. Playing my favourite dwarf characters always make me wince when they run – even in plate the boobs wobble around unconstrained! There is a positive angle to this, in that Blizzard changed the models of the women in game in response to the complaints of female players. As someone who adored the old female troll model, this makes me sad, but it is positive that Blizzard responded to the female voices rather than dismissing them.

And it’s all the shit that many women have to experience in game, from the player base, from internalised sexism, from other women.

“Why does everyone automatically assume I know tailoring and cooking?” is female human joke phrase repeated by a lot of female players – except that it instead refers to playing a healer, or using feminine wiles to get things from guild mates, or needing protection and help from male friends.

So, -isms and Geekery, Pewter?

Oh yes, I was talking about it in a wider context. For reasons of space I haven’t gone into detail of why something is or isn’t sexist in the list above, I’ve merely attempted to highlight an awful lot of things which add up to some problematic view points. I don’t think Azeroth as a world is anti-feminist at all, but a lot of what the designers put in game clearly come from a particular, privileged position. Even raising your voice to speak out about such things brings in silencing accusations of “Reverse Sexism” and ‘being overly politically correct’ (and even blaming the sexism on the female player for presenting themselves as female within game. What about, yanno, blaming the man for being sexist towards her?)

Wanting to change these things, wanting to talk about them, doesn’t mean sanitising the World of Warcraft. Far from it – it means enrichment, and moving beyond the tired old privileged tropes of male-gaze orientated fantasy, and a discouragement of the sort of bigoted language that has free rein in many guilds. It is not sanitising to want two major female law characters to talk to each other about something other than a man, or to want a female boss to be the focus of an expansion, or to speak out against rape culture (I really recommend reading the comments of Wolfshead’s article as well, as there is some excellent discussion/points made by Ken and Ysharros. This blog post is not a critique/answer to Wolfshead, but he does represent very mainstream opinions.)

As a geek feminist I commonly have my views dismissed because I’m directly commenting on issues that currently concern main-stream feminist (like gender representation in government, gender mutilation, contraception and body rights.) This is not a blog about mainstream feminism, about why menstrual products are taxed as luxury products or how I feel about wearing make up at work. The value of the more global battlefields do not mean that the smaller geek/culture discussions are not worth having. Games, Art, TV, they all reflect values and attitudes that we have in the real world. Science Fiction and Fantasy have long been a place for writers to speculate on topics of gender, power and sex, and Games merely continue that tradition as they enter our lives very early on in the western world. Geek things matter to me, and I’m invested in them. I chose to watch and read all kinds of things, but consumption of media doesn’t grant immunity to critique (or we’d never have game reviews.)

The idea that as geek females we should simply put up and shut up, we should be quiet, and that we are to blame because we want to participate, is extremely damaging and sexist in it’s own right. All too often male bloggers and posters on forums will pull out a female gamer friend who agrees with their point of view and use that to support a privileged point of view. As a gamer I have fallen into the trap of painting myself as ‘not like those other girl gamers who flirt and cause drama’, and that sort of internalised sexism is as much a hindrance to equality and progressiveness as anything else.

On Heteronormativity, Race and Gender Binaries

And all of the above comes from a straight, white, educated woman. There are many further discussions to be hand on intersectional topics. If women, who aren’t a ‘small minority’ have trouble enough with being told that being ‘not quite equal’ is good enough, then topics of race and sexuality (which are talked about even less than feminism) are the elephant in the room. This isn’t about men, or hating them, it’s about what is not visible already. It’s bigger and more complicated than trying to boil gender bias down to ‘boys v girls’.

Linkspam feels left out (2nd June, 2010)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism” to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

Linkspam that differentiates me from a doormat (20th May, 2010)

  • Hollaback, the websites for fighting back against street harassment, are raising money for an iPhone app allowing posting of harassment events and harassers’ images. Find out more and donate at ihollaback.org. (Via Valerie Aurora.) They need donations by May 28 in order to get any money at all.
  • The Climate at UW-Madison: Begins Sunny and Warm, Ends Chilly: a summary of the results of interviews with nine female faculty members who left the University of Wisconsin-Madison and seven faculty members presently employed at the UW. The interviews were conducted on behalf of the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute (WISELI).
  • ThinkGeek’s Heroine t-shirt series includes an Ada Lovelace tee.
  • Erika Hall writes An Open Letter to Our Industry: So, hey, there has been a renewed kerfuffle on teh Internets about who is included in speaker lists and bylines and why… Excellent… No one should feel comfortable with the current state of things. That state being seeing the same faces —of typically white, typically dudes—again, and again, and again.
  • A Woman’s Toolkit for Seeking a Raise: interesting discusion in the New York Times of much of the same stuff as Women Don't Ask covers – nice to see it in the mainstream press.
  • David Gómez-Rosado of Want magazine writes with Public thanks… And public apology: And painful because it comes from people that are 100% right and we were 100% wrong. In fact, we were left speechless with little to say in our defense other than shut up, bow our heads in dismay, and sincerely apologize. The issue at hand (pointed by several respected and celebrated professionals in the user experience community) is the total lack of presence of women in this our first issue.
  • How the sex bias prevails: transgendered scientists Ben Barres and Joan Roughgarden recount their experiences with how their perceived gender influenced their scientific careers and the differences after they transitioned.
  • Broadband makes women happy: Though men are stereotyped as gadget hounds, information technology actually brings more happiness to women worldwide.

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism” to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.