Contempt is Undermining the Argument

I was recently watching an interesting series, Tropes vs Women in Videogames, by Anita Sarkeesian. In it she discusses various tropes relating to the role of women in video games. Briefly, a trope is a theme or behavior that is repeated across a variety of literary sources. Check out this explanation at TVTropes for more information.

A device is neither good nor bad simply for being a trope – however, certain tropes are considered rather negative. Bury Your Gays, for example – in this trope, authors will kill off gay characters to create additional drama, often with undertones of ‘they died because gay is deviant.’ Given our cultural narrative in recent years, this is definitely unfortunate writing.

So, Anita is writing about certain tropes that are used in video games when female characters are involved. The series is an attempt to examine these tropes from a feminist perspective, and while I don’t agree with everything she says, she raises some excellent points that are at least worth discussing and thinking about.

So consider how hard I facepalmed when I viewed a certain response to her series by someone whose work I otherwise find quite provocative.

Further thoughts below.

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Strong Female Character Moment – Skyrim

So a while ago I was playing Skyrim. Shocking, I know.

One of the most fun elements for me as a gamer in the Elder Scrolls universe is how it really lends itself to letting you figure out your own story. I wanted to share one of those story moments that involved a strong female character and how I ended up marrying her.

So, I’m playing as a Khajit thief named Rakasta (named him after an old 2nd ed DnD race from the Mystara setting). Rakasta was captured coming across the border into Skyrim on a quest to further his personal profit at the expense of other, more fortunate people.

We all more or less know how the story goes at that point, but if for some reason you don’t, please go play the game or watch the opening cinematics on youtube, because I won’t spoil it here. It’s just too much fun.

Anyway, Rakasta gets dragged along after the attack on Helgen, escaping captivity of one sort but basically being hauled into events more or less against his will. He figures he can’t just scarper, because these people DID save him and he’s a thief, not an asshole.

This continues along until he finds himself facing a woman who’s insisting he’s supposed to do some kind of epic quest, and he figures he’s done. He’s not gonna go hunting down dragons, he’s just a thief and wants to be left alone to enrich himself and buy a little skooma, that’s really all he wants out of life. So he leaves. He’s warned the city, helped kill a dragon and barely survived the incident, and even recovered an old horn and learned his first dragon shout in full, he’s DONE.

Rakasta books it east, to a place where thieves can thrive. He figures he’ll join the Riften thieves guild, get a little protection, do some work, and just keep quiet about life.

Rakasta is -shy-, understand. He knows Khajit aren’t particularly welcome outside of Elsewyr, so he wears a hood over his head when traveling to cover his profile. Anything to survive.

And yet he finds himself unable to let people be bullied. He finds the thieves’ guild threatening someone, and spares some of the gold he’s gotten to get the guild to back off the poor guy. This catches the attention of a certain lovely, massive-muscled lady named Mjoll the Lioness.  

Ahh, Mjoll. Honorable and brave woman, forthright. An easy mark, Rakasta figures. She likes him because he did a nice thing, so he figures he’ll get in her good graces so that if someone comes after him, he’ll be protected. Not a bad thought, all things considered.

But…he couldn’t disappoint her. He did a few things guaranteed to make her like him, and in a roundabout way found himself being appointed Thane of Riften by the Jarl. That wasn’t expected, not at all, very high profile. But it was too late to back out. And Mjoll was impressed. She called him a ‘good person’ and other things! He found himself loathe to take advantage of the one person who seemed to be treating him as a genuine friend.

Then he found a little amulet, the Amulet of Mara. He’d heard something about these things from that Riften priest, something about marriage. Well, whatever, it was a good little trinket with a nice magical effect, so he wore it. Gotta have any edge you can in a fight, right? Especially because he couldn’t bring himself to steal from people in Riften anymore since it’d so upset Mjoll to find out. 

And when he was adventuring, he found a sword. Mjoll had mentioned this sword, a glass blade called Grimsever. Well, damn. She’d been such a nice friend to him…he risked it and found it and brought it back, thinking that’d balance things out.

Weeeell…she was extremely grateful. And she noticed the amulet of Mara. And she smiled that big, honest, unrelenting smile of hers that broadcast “friend” like an irrefutable truth, and asked him if he was asking her to marry him.

Oh god. She could break him over her leg. She could run him through. She’d be offended, she’d be…hurt. And then he realized he wasn’t actually scared, those were just the instinctive rationalizations of a thief. He…he liked her. He liked her honesty and courage and the way she was his friend when other Khajit couldn’t even come inside the city gates. The way she stood up for downtrodden people like him. The way she gave him every benefit of the doubt, and didn’t hold her friendship with him to some kind of string.

So he said, “Er, ah…that is to say…Rakasta would be delighted.”

And when it came time for the wedding?

He went in with his head bared. Because he trusted Mjoll.


Everyone of any degree of mental health has boundaries. The bubbly girl who enjoys hugging everyone probably would draw the line somewhere. The talented judoka women at my dojo have no trouble mixing it up with the guys and cheerfully flung me around the room and congratulated me when I executed a technique, but would most definitely be angry if I tried to do a tai-otoshi on them outside of the training area.

We all have boundaries. Indeed, one of the variations on mental illness is characterized by an inability to perceive or care about these boundaries.  I have my own, and they have been violated at times. I want to talk about how violating my boundaries makes me feel, in an effort to connect with how others feel when theirs have been violated.

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Not So Simple

One thing I want to make clear is that I don’t think this is a simple issue, or that I’m some kind of anti-male…male. Not sure what it says about our society that I have to clarify that but there we go. The fault of this isn’t solely on any one party, but rather on the weird society we’ve built up around gender expectations.

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Things I’ve Learned This Week – June 2-8, 2013

1 – The term ‘microaggressions’

I picked this one up from the excellent blog This View of Life. Basically it’s a woman’s perspective on being a member of geek culture, and it’s insightful and interesting reading. The term refers to petty acts and commentary designed to make women feel discomforted in a social space. An example she gave was of being told repeatedly ‘oh, dear, you know your skirt is a bit short don’t you?’ and suchlike. Another example was of male geeks aggressively grilling her on Trek trivia in order to verify her geek credentials, rather than simply extending goodwill. What disturbed me was the notion that most of the comments on ‘you look trampy’ came from other women, who should ostensibly be allied with her in her efforts to show off her geeky costumes.

2. Women can be ‘crabby’

I’m not referring to temperament, but rather to the tendency of crabs in a bushel to hold eachother down instead of teaming up to climb out. At work, there is a young woman who got out of a relationship with a hideous young man who cheated on her and lied about it. Instead of expressing solidarity with her decision, the women at work were saying things like “well you should make him do something romantic for you when he tries to get back with you.” It was again, disturbing to hear.

3. My personal thoughts are hypocritical

I am trying to be more gender-inclusive and expansive in my thinking. Most of the employees at my place of work are women. I get along with most, and there is very little friction. There is one, however, who is abrasive and rude, and I don’t get along with her. That said, it sickens me that my immediate thoughts when she does this are typically structured as gendered slurs. “Bitch” is the least of these. I always reprimand myself and try to modify my thoughts, but it makes me nauseous that I have such ingrained habits of making gendered slurs.


Let’s Start by Being Honest

So, I’m a gamer, have been since I was six. NES, my dad telling bedtime stories that were basically diceless rpgs, DnD, White Wolf, next-gen gaming systems, I’ve done it all. I like gaming and it likes me.

I’ve always been a thinker, more than a doer. I pass my shifts doing dishes at work by thinking of story ideas, characters, philosophy, politics, all that wonderful brainy stuff that got me called geek and nerd. Lately, I’ve been thinking about feminism and rape culture, particularly due to a lovely blog called Go Make Me a Sandwich.

So this blog is going to be about my thoughts on this issue, yes from a male perspective. Feminism is not a one-sided issue. How men respond to it, take its lessons to heart, and what we do and don’t take from it are important.

With that in mind, let’s talk honestly about an incident in my past.

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