Are we ready for Gender-Neutrality?

This column was in my local daily paper earlier this week:

Mona Charen

Essentially, columnist Mona Charen expressed discontent about Apple’s new word processor Pages because its spelling and grammar corrector suggested she make some of her terms more gender neutral.

Now, I can see her point on some counts–Pages tried to correct the “lady” in “first lady” to “individual,” for example, which doesn’t quite make sense. Furthermore, it preferred “speaker” or “advocate” to “spokesman” and Charen was concerned that her sentence would be confusing with either of those suggestions. In this case, if the person she was quoting was, indeed, a man, there really isn’t an issue anyhow.

But Charen doesn’t say that Pages was too picky or was offering the wrong suggestions. Her anger was directed, rather, at the political correctness of the spelling and grammar corrector. She concludes her column thus:

Apple’s language sentinel has been schooled in political correctness at the expense of English. In another column, I mentioned that the collapse of marriage was “aggravating” inequality in America. Consider “irritating” or “exasperating” instead, Proofreadress advised.

No, those are words I reserve for her.

Does political correctness actually significantly change the English language? If it does, is that a bad thing? This may be a better question for a linguist than for an activist for social change, but I think that political correctness mostly affects suffixes (-er/-ess, -man/-woman, etc.), so probably won’t change the form and function of the language to the point where it’s unrecognizable.                      
Perhaps a more pressing concern is that our society may not ready to unlearn political incorrectness. Are we so used to the current structure that we can’t see past it, that when change starts to affect all parts of society, people get irritated and exasperated?                                                                                                                                   .
I think that Charen was mostly overreacting (especially because Microsoft Word’s Spellcheck isn’t perfect either), and I don’t think that her column was much more than an outlet for frustration because she didn’t connect her anger to any broader problems besides pushing “political correctness at the expense of English.”                                                   .
Still, I think that it’s important that we recognize, as feminists and, more importantly, as activists, as people trying to change society and its discourses, that these are the arguments and sources of resistance that we will meet. People don’t really like change, especially when they feel personally confronted with it.                                                                     a
That said, do you think Apple was right to include these “politically correct” suggestions in Pages’ Proofreader? Do you think Charen has a right to be upset? And most importantly, do you think that this is just an isolated case of somebody being anal, or is it an indicator of widespread resistance to “political correctness” and why it exists?                                       aLet me know! For those of you traveling back to school after break today, be safe.                         aPeace,

G@m3r G1rlz: Sexism and Gaming

When one of our members, Sacamano, shared a video on sexism in nerd culture with A.R.K., I realized that this is one area that seems to go unscathed when it comes to the women’s movement.  And the more and more I thought about it, the more frustrated I got.

The video by Bob Chipman, which was posted on The Escapist, talks about how sexism in nerd culture is “NOT OKAY”.  Recently, on Cross Assault, which is the company Capcom’s online reality show, Aris Bakhtanians, the coach of Team Tekken, made persistent sexist remarks to Miranda Pakozdi, who was the only female member on his team.  The coach commented on her breast size, among other offensive remarks.

As Giant Bomb stated, “Pakozdi’s contract obliged her to stay in the competition so she had little choice but to endure it. Eventually, to escape this unpleasant situation, she stopped trying to win matches and got herself knocked out of the competition.”

Yet, when challenged about his behavior, he defended his blatant sexism arguing that sexism is part of the gaming culture, and if removed, the fighting game community would no longer exist.  So…does this mean that it was Miranda Pakozdi’s fault that he got to act douchey? 

Sadly, the incident that occurred on Cross Assault barely even scrapes the surface of the sexism that does occur on a regular basis in the gaming world.  For instance, the language used among gamers.  Is it really ok to harass women? Or to use sexist slurs as a form of violence? And since when did it become acceptable to use the word “rape” as a casual word, used as a synonym for defeat?  As stated in one article,

“When complaining about the way I was treated at a certain event, I was told I just need a ‘stiff dicking.’ In what other industry is this even remotely acceptable behavior? 

This is why I care. Because I know I’m not the only one who has to deal with this, and I know I’m certainly not getting the worst of it.


Besides the language, what about how women are portrayed in games? For instance when designing female characters, most designs are not based on playability, but rather, on fuckability, admits LaToya Peterson.  Game designer Jonathan Jacques-Bellêtete tries to “always trying to have very beautiful female characters.” I am not arguing against having attractive characters; I am arguing against characters that are purely defined by their appearance.  And for those of you whose retort has to do with empowerment via liberated sexuality, there is a fine line.  Are these women created to be sexually empowered, or are these women purely created because men want to see them looking a certain way?  In other words, are these women created to be more than another male fantasy? And yes, there are female gamers who try to be “g@m3r g1rlz”, thinking that if they are seen as an object of desire they will be treated better.  But, usually they are quickly labeled as attention whores, and are not respected.

At Freeplay, an independent games festival held last year in Australia, there was a panel titled ‘The Words We Use’ that quickly developed into a conversation including sexist statements about what women’s place in games criticism should be.  Tracy Lien, editor at Kotaku AU commented on her reaction of complete silence while sitting in the audience saying,

“At Freeplay I was afraid that had I said something I’d have been dismissed or ignored…I was afraid of hearing someone say (or tweet) that I should just suck it down and deal with it, that I’m making a big deal of something that means nothing to them, that no one cares, that my kicking up a fuss was just a sign of my weakness. As a woman, I felt that my gender somehow made me less qualified to speak about gender issues that directly affected me; that people, especially those who needed their views challenged, would be less willing to listen to a woman (yes, I see the irony).”

Does anyone else see the problem here? Women should not be forced to be distanced from gaming as a result of sexism.  This will only further perpetuate the same issues, and punishes the victims. Can we just move forward from here? I don’t see this as a problem that will go away on its own. And why is there such resistance to talking about sexism in gaming culture? I am not trying to say that everyone thinks like Bakhtanians about sexism in the gaming community.  I know that most gamers do have good intentions, or at least that is my hope.  But at the same time, even if sexism was an integral part of gaming culture, does this make it any more acceptable? Should sexism be an integral part of any culture? And “Because, this is the way things are, so why are we even talking about this?!” doesn’t seem like a sound, steady argument to me.  Would people rather the media provide even more criticism and scrutiny on the gaming community, or can we just grow up, address our own problems, and take the high road here?  Please don’t tell me you need to keep up the boy’s club because you aren’t finding social acceptance beyond the gaming world.  You are better than that.  And yes, I know it is highly unrealistic to entirely eliminate sexism from the gaming world. This hasn’t really occurred in any other cultures or communities either.  But at the very least, this should be the beginning of the end.  And it starts by talking about it!

Do you think that sexism in gaming culture should be left alone? How do you think this problem should be addressed?



Reason #264 why Rick Santorum shouldn’t be President

Earlier this week, Republican candidate Rick Santorum said that women shouldn’t serve in combat, because “that could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved.”

What? Women are naturally more emotional and would jeopardize a combat mission because of it?Well, Santorum made another comment Friday saying, according to the New York Times, that “he was actually referring to the emotions of men, not women, saying that men might be distracted from their mission by their ‘natural instinct’ to protect women.”

Oh. Well that’s much better. After all, men are naturally domineering and inherently feel the need to protect women, right?

Wrong. Way, way wrong.

First, serving in combat is a huge factor for advancement in the military, so women being unable to serve in combat limits their opportunities for advancement.

Moreover, though, Santorum disrespected all the women who have served and are serving in our armed forces today. Aside from essentially telling women in the military that their emotions harm their ability to serve, and then telling them that their male comrades have no respect for them, he pretty much ignored the sacrifice of the more than 140 women who gave their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It shouldn’t come as a shock, of course, that Rick Santorum never served in the military. He served on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, which, according to their website, is responsible for “comprehensive study and review of matters relating to the common defense policy of the United States.” But did he ever experience combat or serve on the military at all? Nope. He didn’t.

He’s also never been a woman. Maybe his comments aren’t so shocking after all.

Now, disregarding Santorum’s plans for the economy, we’d hesitate to support him, because electing people with ideas like these about women can be a social step backwards, which is the last thing we need in a society that’s already very turned around when it comes to women.

What do you think?


(link to full article, courtesy of Katherine Q. Seelye here: