December 9, 2008

Subtle sexism: analyzing The Witcher

Posted in entertainment, entitlement, gaming, gender, heteronormative, objectification, phallocentrism, representation, sexism, sexual politics at 8:00 pm by LB

This post is about the PC game The Witcher, which someone I know has just started playing. But this post is less about the game and more about cultural representations and assumptions about gender and sexuality. He and I had a conversation around it today, which got me thinking a lot about female sexuality, male entitlement, and homophobia in our culture. So please bear through my discussion of the game to get the “big picture” analysis.

In browsing around the internets and reading people’s discussions around gender and sexuality in the game, I very often read these reasons for why the game isn’t “that bad” vis-a-vis women and (women’s) sexuality: the sex scenes are well done (they are in fact pretty tasteful) and the women aren’t represented as all dumb bimbos (as if commodifying women’s sexuality is only sexist if the women are represented as idiots.) My friend mentioned that in reading reviews, many women said the sex in the game wasn’t “that bad.” But in the game, it’s not really the sex that’s the problem.

At first, I thought that gender and sexuality in the game wasn’t so bad, but the more I was told the more troubled I became. Originally, I thought the sex in the game was just optional, with no reward attached, and the sex scenes aren’t gratuitous or very objectifying. Point one for the game?

Well, that’s not exactly it. Read the rest of this entry »


August 29, 2008

“A woman is a sex object when she wants to be”

Posted in empowerment, entitlement, objectification, sexual politics at 12:57 am by LB

So, again, I haven’t been writing like I’d like to.  Classes start next week and I am very busy prepping for those.  I hope to start posting more than once a week within the next month.  I was browsing through the new edited book Men Speak Out, and I came across this provocative snippet from one of the articles that is quite pertinent to the themes of this blog, so I thought I’d share.  From “Trying To Be Sexy and Anti-Sexist….At Exactly the Same Time” by Andrew Boyd:

And that seems to be the basic rule: A woman is a sex object when she wants to be.  Not when I want her to be one, not when the culture wants her to be one, but when she wants to be one.  When she chooses to be a sex object, she is deliberately adopting a limited part of who she is.  She’s playing a role and she’s looking for someone to play with.

That seems pretty in-line with much of what I write here.  It’s so simply, and so obvious, yet so opposed to our cultural ideology of women’s sexuality.  This is the response to those who don’t get it when they say, “well, what’s so wrong with appreciating sexy women?” when they watch they watch beach volleyball at the Olympics to check out the ladies’ butts, or by consistently recognizing first the desirability of businesswomen and female politicians.  This is what’s so troubling about Playboy drawing attention to the female bloggers they deem to be “sexy” as worth reading, or offering them cash to pose nude (since I guess they’re not truly useful to modern men until/unless they’re nekkid, since the next logical thing after discovering an interesting and intelligent woman who’s decent looking is to request–and expect–to see her naked).  This is what’s so wrong with photographing a woman’s body in public, sexualizing it, and distributing it all over the internets.

It’s not that there’s something inherently “wrong” with seeing women’s physical sexiness as desirable and beautiful.  But denying her agency by imposing it on her when she wishes to be a whole human being, or even more, when she’s “deliberately adopting”, as Boyd phrases it, another part of her person that is not her sexuality (say, in politics, acting, art, sport, etc.), is where the “wrong” lies.  Part of what’s so fucked up is that sexuality has become synonymous with female personhood and value that we–as people and as a culture–seem utterly incapable of separating them.  Indeed, often we as women cannot separate them either, or many times even when we can, we know that it is to our social advantage not to.  The recent Olympics is simply an obvious case-in-point.

August 20, 2008

Theorizing privacy and copyright: addressing “fair use”

Posted in activism, empowerment, entitlement, ideology, objectification, representation, sexual politics, Sexuality Blogs and Resources, victim-blaming at 12:00 pm by LB

For those of you who have missed it, I blog fast and furiously on women’s privacy in public places and online, and am very concerned with the lack of control women have over the use of their images. Of course, women don’t have any less control than men do, but in my previous posting, I have stated why I think this is more of a problem for women–including that in a culture that has historically deemed women’s bodies as for public consumption, there is much less respect for a woman’s privacy period, much less if she dresses/acts in a “certain way” or appears in a “certain place”.

The crux of my concern is: How can we really experience sexual liberation (that I maintain has not been accomplished yet) if we, as women, cannot control the terms by which we are turned into public sexual objects?

The most recent example of this is, of course, is with Olympic gymnast Alicia Sacramone. Several others have posted very nicely on this, and I was a bit bust this weekend, so please read their excellent posts. Let’s hope there’s no repeating last summer’s experience of a track athlete.

One issue I have had is, aside from changing cultural attitudes–the ultimate problem-solver–how do we go about making any practical change? Until I started reading online more this past fall, I honestly had no clue that guys would peruse Myspace and Flickr pages, looking for women to ogle, objectify, call names, produce fantasies of, etc. on their own sites, denying these women the right to just live their life. As a reasonable human being, it never dawned on me that someone would feel so entitled to photographs of a birthday night-out with friends that I needed to protect myself. And it’s not like I exactly live under a rock–I have done Myspace and Facebook, use Youtube sometimes (usually to find something specific, not to check out the most recent and ridiculous videos). But I haven’t altered my life all that much around the internet, so it is more of a resource for me, and not where I live my life. And since I don’t do Google searches for “sexist asshats displaying male entitlement to women’s sexuality,” I hadn’t stumbled on this phenomenon until I began reading more and more online in the past 9 months or so. And now that I see this happen regularly, each time breaking my heart, this is something I can’t not comment on, and something I’m determined to work on in activism.

So getting to the point of this post: I was on the Creative Commons website, and I noticed that you can copyright your images and prevent downloads on a site like Flickr, a perhaps little-know fact which is blog-worthy all in itself. So I did a little more digging.

From The Creative Commons website:

Creative Commons licenses give you the ability to dictate how others may exercise your copyright rights—such as the right of others to copy your work, make derivative works or adaptations of your work, to distribute your work and/or make money from your work. They do not give you the ability to restrict anything that is otherwise permitted by exceptions or limitations to copyright—including, importantly, fair use or fair dealing—nor do they give you the ability to control anything that is not protected by copyright law, such as facts and ideas.

Creative Commons licenses attach to the work and authorize everyone who comes in contact with the work to use it consistent with the license.

If such photos were subject to “fair use” by these asshats, their being under copyright makes me think their source would need to be cited. Would it really be so hard to have web software require to link to a source in order to upload photos? (which would only mean your own photos would have to be hosted on a photo sharing site first). I use WordPress for my blog, and whenever someone links to me, it shows up in part of the admin functions. Would it really be that hard to require photo-sharing services such as Flikr, Picasa, etc. to offer that feature as well? With requiring links and providing notification of linking back (“trackbacks”), this would at least give people the power to know where their images are showing up and help stop their unauthorized usage, even if it can’t be prevented.

But what is “fair use” even? From the U.S. Copyright Office: Read the rest of this entry »

July 18, 2008

Women’s bodies are not public domain: how many times does this need to be said?

Posted in assholes, body politics, entitlement, objectification, privacy, sexual politics, victim-blaming at 12:00 pm by LB

A really great post at Hoyden About Town on a recent incident of a man photographing an “upskirt” shot in public, and posting it online. The comments she lists in the post are really great…the first set makes you smile and the second makes you pissed.

But reading these particular comments from the skeevy guy’s post got me thinking:

  • “He photographed in public a nice pair of legs and he added the photo onto he’s [sic] PERSONAL blog”

I read a lot people justifying various breeches of privacy with the excuse of “well, she’s in public.” What is it about public space that means anything goes? “Public” space only means anyone can be there–no one can be refused to be in public space. How does “anyone can be there” translate to “anyone can be there and should understand that at any minute they could be photographed or videotaped doing whatever they are doing and wearing whatever they are wearing and can be distributed in any context for free and by entering public space people are consenting to this.”

You know honestly, I don’t care whether some dude videotapes a woman bending over to pick up something she dropped or a person eating their lunch on a bench, both are wrong. Both are invasions. Why do people feel the right to photograph people they don’t know and post them online? Photos of any content, displayed in any context. Why does anybody think this is ok? And why does being in public mean you cede the right to own your body? I’m starting to get really irritated with the arrogance and entitlement of these justifiers.

And it’s not as if people can help being in public. You can’t feasibly survive without leaving your house.

  • “Nicu didn’t try to photograph anything that the girl wanted to keep hidden.”

For the nth time, since when is allowing to be visible for fleeting glances the same as allowing to be visible for photographic capture and display online? This would be like saying that all women who go to the beach are consenting to or want to or wouldn’t mind photos of them in said suit posted online. All together ladies: “HELL, NO!” How asinine is this reasoning?

I mean geez, how hard is it to just leave people alone? Live and let be? Seriously?!


So I had scheduled the above post for Friday. On Thursday, I checked back on the Hoyden thread’s discussion, and sure enough a douchebag had entered the discussion, reeking with male privilege. I really couldn’t let his fallacious comments go unaddressed, so I commented on the thread, and wanted to post what I wrote here as well, since this is a topic I am very passionate about and I write about often.

So again, from Hoyden About Town (and I encourage you to check out the thread and the blog, it’s good reading):

Anders FederNo Gravatar

Apart from the lameness, there is absolutely nothing wrong in posting a picture of an unidentifiable person’s legs.

Suggesting that I am a ‘fellow sociopath-wannabe’ for standing up for reasonable freedoms of expression, on the other hand, is highly questionable.

Oh, and by the way: I demand that you all ask for my permission before responding to this post directly or indirectly. Anything else will offend me.

My response: Read the rest of this entry »