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Sexism in gaming & the Irony Defense - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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April 21st, 2010


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02:43 am - Sexism in gaming & the Irony Defense
Here's an excellent blog post a gamer made in response to some exceedingly sexist GenCon publicity (GenCon being by far the largest RPG convention in the US). Here's the response by the GenCon's Director of Event Programming - it reads like a sexism bingo card - starting with
I picked the icon. I consider myself an independent, liberal minded woman. I picked it not because I thought it represented who or what I was or as a reflection on women, but because I thought it funny and I liked the irony.
The icon in question was a "ball and chain" used as the graphic for the small amount of non-gaming programming at GenCon specifically designed for non-gaming spouses - nothing earth-shattering, but fairly offensive, and the response to someone objecting was both:

1) "I can't be misogynist because I'm female" (would that this were true) and

2) The ever popular "it's not offensive, it's ironic".

I'm deeply sick of the "irony defense" being used to attempt to excuse sexism and racism. As a fairly universal rule, anything defended by such arguments is not funny, it is simply offensive, and dear gods why is that such a difficult concept for many people to understand. Looking beyond this incident, I've grown increasingly sick of irony as a form of humor, because it now seems largely used to either foster cynicism or to excuse bigotry. I know there's more to it than that, but those seem to be two of its most common modern uses.

In any case, while always daunting and often utterly horrifying, it is occasionally enlightening to read the comments to posts about various sorts of sexism or racism in both gaming and in SF&F publishing and fandom. These days, most responses come down to either people who see the problem and agree that it's a problem and people who see no problem other than someone claiming to see see sexism or racism, where the person commenting both sees none and where the person commenting objects to anyone seeing it. I think that there's likely a clear age bias dividing these two types of responses and I'm betting that a bias based on the individual's politics is even stronger & more obvious - although there's also sadly nothing stopping young progressives from being clueless bigots. In any case, the longer comment threads often look like US politics and society in a microcosm - impressive progress and reactionary backlash occurring simultaneously.
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:kitten_goddess
Date:April 21st, 2010 01:12 pm (UTC)
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The whole "irony" thing seems it's used almost entirely by people who think of themselves as "hipsters." Luckily, I have never had the pleasure of meeting a hipster.

I am proud to say that I am as earnest as a brick.
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From:shadowandstar
Date:April 21st, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)
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Pretty much any time a person responds to criticism by saying "It's all your problem because you're being too serious/up-tight/sensitive" it's a pretty clear indication that yes, that person is in the wrong.

I've always found the ball-and-chain reference offensive, whatever the context.
From:machineiv
Date:April 21st, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
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I've been following this whole thing. I think the outcry from most of the pro-women comments has been impressive. As in, I'm not used to so many positive messages. That's great.

Recently, I just about got flamed clean off the internet for a similar argument about the film/comic Kick Ass. I think that graphic portrayals of children being beaten up, coupled with frequent and near-universal selection of minorities for victims of 'super heroes' is plain disgusting. I'm apparently in a strict minority with my views.
[User Picture]
From:edwarddain
Date:April 21st, 2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! You just gave me the last reason I needed to not spend my money on this movie.

:-)
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From:heron61
Date:April 21st, 2010 07:23 pm (UTC)
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I've been following this whole thing. I think the outcry from most of the pro-women comments has been impressive. As in, I'm not used to so many positive messages. That's great.

Agreed, there are many thoughtful and humane people engaging on this and similar issues, but also no shortage of people who are neither - which seems to be how major social changes occur.

Recently, I just about got flamed clean off the internet for a similar argument about the film/comic Kick Ass. I think that graphic portrayals of children being beaten up, coupled with frequent and near-universal selection of minorities for victims of 'super heroes' is plain disgusting.

I hadn't known about the bit about minorities in that film. I already thought that the film looked pretty darn dodgy, and now in addition to not seeing it, I'll recommend that others don't. Ick.

From:machineiv
Date:April 21st, 2010 10:34 pm (UTC)
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You should see the comic. It's appalling.

In one of the early panels, you see the titular character fighting a gang of Hispanics. One of the bystanders is saying, "Look, he's beating up a bunch of Puerto Ricans. And it's awesome!" (That's not the exact wording, but it's very close.)

The only 'bad guy' that isn't a racial minority is a terrible Italian American stereotype mob boss.
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From:xtricks
Date:April 21st, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
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Hrm. I've generally found irony used by people who are often lower status/minorities to make clear the flaws of a dominiant culture's assumptions via humor.

the 'irony as a defense' is univerally used by people trying to claim 'it was just a joke' and is not, in fact, irony.
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From:bodlon
Date:April 21st, 2010 05:58 pm (UTC)
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Irony. Because that's what the ball and chain are made of.

And lo, I am pleased not to be going to GenCon...
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From:frater_treinta
Date:April 22nd, 2010 02:01 am (UTC)
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I actually have no problem with the icon. Calling the issue of someone who's hobby time is hampered by a non-participating spouse the "ball-and-chain" problem has been in usage for years, and is surprisingly gender neutral.

My problem comes in with the actual activities selected for such individuals: http://gencon.highprogrammer.com/gencon-indy-2010.cgi/type/SPA/All_events

Basically, the message being sent to non-gaming partners, now that they've bothered to acknowledge their existence, is "if you don't dance, craft, or worry about your weight I hope to hell you like walking tours." And that's more sexist than the icon could ever be.
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From:geek_dragon
Date:May 4th, 2010 09:42 am (UTC)
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the activities are very 1950s stereotypical housewife though the brew tour looks stereotypically unisex.

drop spindling is awesome i recommend it for everyone.

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