Feminism/Sexism and Gaming/Geek/Popular culture Catch All

Why would you segregate your data by gender in the first place? Some girls like guns; some boys like to play house (I did). Just scoop those up together with the mainstream demand. I don't see the point in creating a barrier for everyone to buy the stuff they want to.

DanB wrote:
LarryC wrote:

I think Sarkeesian is spot on with the critique on the marketing. It's just super weird to me how something as neutral as a ball or a nerf gun would induce stores to cut out half the prospective customer base. Is there really a benefit to that? Must be tapping into some kind of cultural thing.

Well shelf/storage space in store is limited. They also want to maximise the number of units sold because mass retail maximises profit principally through turnover. Most stores will have vast amounts of customer purchase data to work with so with limited shelf space it will be optimised to maximise the amount of turnover; don't carry an extra thing just in case a girl wants one, cluster items by gender and theme etc, etc. In light of that, why carry 200 extra boxes of something that your consumer data says girls likely won't buy when you could use that shelf for something you know the demographic will buy instead.

This actually comes back to a point Seth was making a while back, asking if it's sexist for a company to market to their demographic if their demographic is already divided down gender lines like that. (I'm paraphrasing, of course).

That link earlier of the toy company that markets all of their toys to both genders because their data shows that both genders play with them kind of counters that argument though, in this situation.

LarryC wrote:

Why would you segregate your data by gender in the first place? Some girls like guns; some boys like to play house (I did). Just scoop those up together with the mainstream demand. I don't see the point in creating a barrier for everyone to buy the stuff they want to.

I can sort of see how retail gets divided as it does, because "group like with like" and having similar kinds of items "flow" into each other helps consumers locate what they're looking for. This is an area that most retailers actually pay a surprising amount of attention to and minor things do matter in surprising ways.

(That doesn't mean it's a good outcome, it just means that it's done that way for a reason other than to simply be sexist)

It's impossible for me to fathom why marketing does this, though. What possible harm could there be in including both genders when you market everything? Would girls in nerf gun marketing make nerf guns less attractive to boys? Cause that just seems insane and wrong.

mudbunny wrote:

There is also a fair amount of this that comes from the nature of your child. With my oldest daughter, we gave her neutral toys, and did our damndest to let her decide what she wanted to play with. And then we saw her putting her toy cars to bed. And the wooden spoon. And the toy snake. And then she would pick them up, rock them and "feed" them. Once done, she would burp them, change their diapers and take them for a walk in a stroller.

We stopped fighting it with her after that.

There was an experiment among kibbutzim in the 1950s to eliminate gender differences in the name of promoting gender equality. However, by the mid-'70s...

Studies of play preferences of kibbutz children revealed that the girls most often played 'mother' (bestowing care and affection on a doll or small animal), while the most common game played by boys was imitating animals (not the domestic animals with which they were familiar, but wild and ferocious animals like snakes and wolves).

I think to a large point we have femininity synthesized with feminism, such that most of the women here (I suspect) might say, "I believe firmly in gender equality, and f*ck yes I knit."

H.P. Lovesauce:

I don't see that sort of thing as valid from personal experience in my cultural sphere. Girls model after their mothers and female role models very strongly. When their mundane everyday material needs are met by hired domestics that are clearly treated as lower social order members, they model after their professional or land-owning mothers or similar older role models, not the domestic help.

The expected imitative play in those situations is playing "office" or "professional;" dressing up in "office clothes" and "going out to do business." Boys are still expected to model themselves after animals. This is reflective of more advanced biological maturation of neural pathways in female human children - they are more likely to model higher order play faster.

Is the best way really to shield your child from anything that might be gendered?

The way I see it, feminism isn't about making all people unisex, it's about respecting both genders equally. I think the real issues are:

1. Girls' play and traditional feminine values are often valued less than boys' play and traditional masculine values. This is most evident when you note that it's far more socially acceptable for girls to play with "boys' toys" than boys to play with "girls' toys".

2. Girls and boys are sometimes forced into modes of play that don't suit them. Note -- sometimes. Some girls really and truly deep in the hearts WANT everything to be pink and princessy, and denying them that in the name of gender equality isn't really any different than telling a non-traditionally-feminine girl she can't play with the Batman toy.

3. Educational and artistic toys seem to disproportionately be filed in the boys' section, which irritates me to no end.

gore wrote:

My kid is too young for any of this, so this is an honest question to which I do not know the answer: why would you take a child to a toy store?

I'm right there with you. I avoid exposing my child to harmful environmental factors like too much sun, dangerous chemicals or craven marketing. To that end, I generally don't take my kid to toy stores/aisles/etc. that are full of images I'm uncomfortable with.

I haven't been able to avoid all of them, but I definitely don't take my kid to Toys'R'Us or whatnot and I've always done whatever I could to avoid the toy aisles at big-box retailers. She knows I'm uncomfortable with that stuff and I've explained why.

As with all things like this, I've relaxed about these things as she's gotten older and become more capable of (1) evaluating messages for herself and (2) talking about the messages around us, so heavily-gendered toys, aisles, etc. become more "teachable." (She's big into American Girl dolls and books right now. I'm big into talking about how the women in the books behave and are expected to behave; how women were treated differently in different times; etc.)

There are locally-owned toy stores in the area that are considerably less gendered in their presentation, and I like to patronize them more anyway, so we go there. Incidentally, they have an annual Lego competition, and my daughter loves looking in the window at all the kids' creations. She hasn't done one herself, but Lego is probably her fourth favorite activity, behind reading, pretending, and building houses for the cat out of boxes.

What makes American Girl dolls (the historical ones) a gendered toy?

Because they depict girls? Surely not. Ken dolls depict men and they're a girls' toy. I'm sure plenty of boys have Leia action figures to go with the rest of their Star Wars toys, Hermiones to go with Harry and Ron, etc. There really shouldn't be anything unusual about a child playing with a toy depicting a member of the other gender.

Because they have real clothes and hair? There are plenty of boys' toys with clothes and hair. The original GI Joes were like this.

Because they are wearing dresses? They're not pink glittery princess dresses, mostly just ordinary clothes women would've worn in that time period.

Because the books are all about girls and how they lived in history? Really, boys SHOULD learn about this. Give 'em some perspective.

What, exactly, makes American Girl toys... girls' toys? If anything, they should be considered unisex.

Demyx wrote:

Is the best way really to shield your child from anything that might be gendered?

The way I see it, feminism isn't about making all people unisex, it's about respecting both genders equally. I think the real issues are:

1. Girls' play and traditional feminine values are often valued less than boys' play and traditional masculine values. This is most evident when you note that it's far more socially acceptable for girls to play with "boys' toys" than boys to play with "girls' toys".

2. Girls and boys are sometimes forced into modes of play that don't suit them. Note -- sometimes. Some girls really and truly deep in the hearts WANT everything to be pink and princessy, and denying them that in the name of gender equality isn't really any different than telling a non-traditionally-feminine girl she can't play with the Batman toy.

3. Educational and artistic toys seem to disproportionately be filed in the boys' section, which irritates me to no end.

3. is the point which, as a parent, I really fixate on. Specifically, the types of play that are "boys' play" are crucial in developing skills and interests that are more likely to lead to careers in STEM fields, where women are woefully underrepresented.

Of course, stereotypical "girls' play" is also crucial in building empathy and other soft skills which are much less apparent in "boys' play."

From the articles I've read about this, it seems that the key is in balance, and in providing opportunities for all sorts of play.

Interestingly, the "pink princess Legos" - while being obviously gendered and reinforcing gender stereotypes - are also kind of sneaky way to get girls who are already invested in "girls' toys" to play with construction toys they might otherwise completely avoid. Maybe that's good?

Jayhawker wrote:

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Stealing this for the downward spiral in the Guns thread.

Demyx wrote:

What makes American Girl dolls (the historical ones) a gendered toy?

Because they depict girls? Surely not. Ken dolls depict men and they're a girls' toy. I'm sure plenty of boys have Leia action figures to go with the rest of their Star Wars toys, Hermiones to go with Harry and Ron, etc. There really shouldn't be anything unusual about a child playing with a toy depicting a member of the other gender.

Because they have real clothes and hair? There are plenty of boys' toys with clothes and hair. The original GI Joes were like this.

Because they are wearing dresses? They're not pink glittery princess dresses, mostly just ordinary clothes women would've worn in that time period.

Because the books are all about girls and how they lived in history? Really, boys SHOULD learn about this. Give 'em some perspective.

What, exactly, makes American Girl toys... girls' toys? If anything, they should be considered unisex.

You make some interesting points. I should think about this some more. I hope you'll forgive me if I talk this out a bit.

What makes American Girl dolls gendered? Their marketing is clearly targeted to girls, and the vast majority of their consumers are girls. (And collectors.) Does that make them gendered? In a way, this is the flip side of the Lego discussion. My inclination is to say that Legos aren't gendered for that reason, so I'm not going to call AG gendered for that reason either.

I think I'm going to say a product is gendered if it embeds normative signals about one gender or another in either the product itself or its use. If that doesn't sound fair, I'm open to other definitions.

The historical stories contain lots of gender-specific behavior, but you're quite right that a lot of that is simply historical. (As an aside, I think a lot about how to teach kids history without oversimplifying. Historians have enough trouble doing that with each other.) So, let's take history out of the picture, and look at the Girl of the Year line, which is set in the present day. Some observations, based on the descriptions in the American Girl Wiki and some Google Image searches:

- All but one of the girls of the year have shoulder-length or longer hair. The girl with the shortest hair is the first. All of the hair is straight or slightly wavy.

- Of the 10 dolls, 9 of them are wearing a dress or a skirt in their initial outfit. (The exception is the third one, Marisol Luna.)

- All of them are skinny and cute in a very traditional way, IMO. No particularly chubby cheeks or stubby legs. (There is some ethnic variety, though they're still overwhelmingly white.)

- They do, however, look like plausible 10-year-olds. (Well, maybe shading older, but they're not Barbie.)

- The stories seem to revolve around either a central personality trait or another theme. As far as I can tell, these are the traits/themes for the girls: being a geek; surfing; dancing; travel/adventure; raising dogs/living on a ranch; figure skating; dealing with the "queen bee" clique in school; science; nature; gymnastics; art(? This is for the 2013 doll, which hasn't been released). I would say dancing; figure skating; gymnastics; and the "queen bee" clique lean toward being stereotypical female traits. The rest are things I could plausibly see being featured in a hypothetical "American Boy" series. (I could also see a theme of school socialization analogous to the "queen bee" theme, but their treatment is in an all-female social group.) I would say two of them (being a geek and science) are stereotypically male, and thus their inclusion here pushes the envelope somewhat.

- By and large, the girls are characterized as being "athletic," "strong-willed and determined," "creative," "lively and resourceful," etc.

On the whole, this is far from the most sexist depiction of girls in toys. I find a lot of these traits pretty gender-affirmative. I still think think they're gendered, though, particularly surrounding the reinforcement of beauty norms. They're not gender-neutral the way a Tonka truck or a play kitchen are neutral; they still embed some normative messages about how girls should be.

I have to say, though: they're a lot less gendered than I expected them to be when I started poking around. Their message on how people ought to act is quite positive. I feel more comfortable with my daughter being mildly obsessed with them, now.

Regarding dolls: I think toys could be considered effectively gender specific if they only ever depict a single gender (in cases where "people" play an important role in the function of a toy; so e.g. a small person driving an RC car wouldn't necessarily count).

Just being gendered doesn't make something bad though. It's entirely possible for a toy line to only depicts girls, and do so in a constructive manner (perhaps that's what American Girls does, I must confess I've not really looked into that particular product).

Of course the more general notion of "dolls" wouldn't be gendered because there are male dolls.

gore wrote:

Of course the more general notion of "dolls" wouldn't be gendered because there are male dolls.

But at the risk of getting into semantics, there's a reason GI Joe is an "action figure" and not a "doll".

That is to say, the notion of "dolls" itself is already heavily gendered.

Jonman wrote:
gore wrote:

Of course the more general notion of "dolls" wouldn't be gendered because there are male dolls.

But at the risk of getting into semantics, there's a reason GI Joe is an "action figure" and not a "doll".

That is to say, the notion of "dolls" itself is already heavily gendered.

From Demyx's original post:

Ken dolls depict men and they're a girls' toy.

This.

Plus, to make matters a little more interesting, there are more monetary effects than shelf-space and direct marketing. The US import/excise taxes are different if a toy is labeled a "doll" vs just calling it a toy. Doll tarriff rates are something like twice that of action figures. See Toy Biz v. United States for an egregious example of the kind of effects it can have.

So, Cyanide & Happiness is a pretty awful comic as far as feminism goes. But in any case, they just put this one up and I'm honestly not sure whether it's misogynous or the opposite of that.

4xis.black wrote:

So, Cyanide & Happiness is a pretty awful comic as far as feminism goes. But in any case, they just put this one up and I'm honestly not sure whether it's misogynous or the opposite of that.

Well, it's not funny, that's for sure.

I don't read C&H, so I can't say how it compares generally, but near as I can tell, the (implied) punchline is essentially "Bitches, amirite", which is pretty damn misogynist.

The C&H material is, when it ventures into the topic, often grossly misogynistic, but I don't know whether that's meant as is or as a darkly sarcastic commentary on the state of Western society as a whole. To be perfectly frank, it's really about run-of-the-mill in terms of general media content as far I can tell. Here's another sample, which appears to me to be a joke in terrible taste:

http://www.explosm.net/comics/1259/

So 4xis.black's linked comic seems a lot like a straight commentary on how awful "fake geek girls" really are for not doing what real geek girls would do - mate with real geek guys.

Perhaps I'm being naive, but I read it as a comment on how newer generations of geeks (the comic only portrays a female one) are a lot more attractive/socially-sophisticated than previous ones and, extrapolating a bit, that this gap is a source of tension within the subculture.

I could probably post this in almost every popular thread right now, but the National Review, in an effort to prove that Fox News isn't the only news outlet that can find a frightfully backward, misogynist female commentator, managed to find this person:

Charlotte Allen wrote:

There was not a single adult male on the school premises when the shooting occurred. In this school of 450 students, a sizeable number of whom were undoubtedly 11- and 12-year-old boys (it was a K–6 school), all the personnel — the teachers, the principal, the assistant principal, the school psychologist, the “reading specialist” — were female. There didn’t even seem to be a male janitor to heave his bucket at [the filthy shooter's] knees. Women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers. The principal, Dawn Hochsprung, seemed to have performed bravely. According to reports, she activated the school’s public-address system and also lunged at [filthy shooter's name removed], before he shot her to death. Some of the teachers managed to save all or some of their charges by rushing them into closets or bathrooms. But in general, a feminized setting is a setting in which helpless passivity is the norm. Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak — but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel. Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on [filthy shooter's name removed].

So the weak women tried their best, but only if they'd had some husky teenage boys around, this would've been all great.

in general, a feminized setting is a setting in which helpless passivity is the norm

Good thing we don't value men's roles over women's roles, right? Sheesh.

Wow, that entire piece is revolting.

My least favorite thing on earth is when pundits and commentators use a news event, especially a tragedy as a springboard into their warped agenda.

What could have helped these kids is something proposed but shot down in the 90's. There was talk of having campus police at many or most schools. I only ever saw that as a good thing in these tragic events, but also to prevent break ins into cars, possibly if an estranged parent sought to take the child out of school. It kind of died on the vine.

But that is for another time. As a male, I am fairly certain that I am not bulletproof.

Now we know how to win wars. An army of husky 12-year-olds running headlong at the enemy. We shall call it the "Refuses to Go Swimming Without His T-Shirt" brigade.

KingGorilla wrote:

I am fairly certain that I am not bulletproof.

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Not sure if this is more at home in Boogle's thread.

But "Nice Guys" of OKCupid

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Totally Honest Admission: I used a "Nice Guy". You're in your late-teens/early-20's, average looking, really horny, and intensely bitter that you're not getting the girl, or any girl. And I remember having some pretty reprehensible opinions on the sexes that I'm embarrassed by.

The catch to the "Nice Guy" thing really is a kind of self-loathing turned outwards. There can't possibly be that much wrong with you, and all these girls are going out with these assholes! You're not an asshole! You totally treat women well! And if that girl is dumb enough to get abused/assaulted by some frat-bro, well that's her own damn fault for dating assholes.

I think the phenomenon is, in part, down to changing sexual roles. Sex was, for a long time, a male privilege, in that, it was a thing men looked for and got from women. Women gave it out, but weren't to dole it out, if that makes sense.

And things began to change, and women began to seek self-determination in their sexual and romantic lives. That male privilege eroded, and dudes for whom, 60 years ago, doing the bare freaking minimum was enough, were suddenly finding that no, women could decide, for whatever reason, why they wanted a particular partner, just like men always had. Anytime those kind of advantages are eroded, people usually react with anger, vindictiveness and bitterness. And that's the "Nice Guy" thing in a nutshell. Just a f*cking ton of anger, bitterness and jealousy.

I'm not proud to say I got over it (still getting over it, if I'm honest), because being a decent, compassionate human being isn't something you should be proud to be. But a realization I had, and that I can't quite understand these guys not getting, is this analogy I came up with:

Let's say you have a car. It won't run. You know it's either the sparkplugs or the fuel injectors. So you decide, it must be the fuel injectors. And you try them. Over and over and over and over again. You try thousands of different brands of fuel injectors, you try installing them different ways, you try insulting them before you install them, you try everything, and the car won't start. At some point, don't you need to assume that perhaps, the problem is the sparkplugs?

Well, there's several billion women on this planet, and one of you. If you can't get a date, odds are, it's not an entire gender being stuck-up bitches, it's you being undesirable.

I do and don't have sympathy for "nice guys". I do because I was there once, and I don't because now, looking at it from the outside, I realize how incredibly f*cked-up that mindset is. I don't think it's any surprise that I've seen a lot of "nice guys" who were also MRAs.

Prederick wrote:

I do and don't have sympathy for "nice guys". I do because I was there once, and I don't because now, looking at it from the outside, I realize how incredibly f*cked-up that mindset is. I don't think it's any surprise that I've seen a lot of "nice guys" who were also MRAs.

This kind of introspection and self-reflection is something that often only comes with life experience.

Related to "nerd culture" or whatever specifically (as in the comic a few pages back), these people often self-select into groups that actively exclude women, which reinforces the mentality. The fewer experiences with women such a person has, the longer it will take him to even understand the problem.

I happened to just start reading Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear and that phrase "nice guy" came up. It's also...interesting(?) to see how the things I've heard about PUA sound like Pre-Incident Indicators for people to recognize as signs of a predator. Typecasting sounds exactly like Negging. edit: note, not saying every PUA is a predator, just I wonder if some PUA stuff was reverse engineered from The Gift of Fear.

Prederick wrote:

I'm not proud to say I got over it (still getting over it, if I'm honest), because being a decent, compassionate human being isn't something you should be proud to be.

I don't know if you shouldn't be proud of that. Because a decent, compassionate human being is something we should expect of healthy people. And this may be controversial, but I think "in your late-teens/early-20's, average looking, really horny, and...not getting the girl, or any girl" isn't a healthy situation to be in. I think it has negative psychological effects to be in that situation. If someone couldn't make any friends and they still managed to be a decent, compassionate human being we'd think that was pretty impressive.

I know saying that throws up red flags, because it sounds like it means women owe men that kind of human version of social grooming. We don't have to take that step, though. We can acknowledge there's an unhealthy situation without giving the people in that situation an entitlement to have others fix that situation.

Holy sh*t, Prederick. You've made a lot of sharp, insightful comments, but this may be your best post yet. To the point where I'm going to use parts of that post to describe why Nice Guy Syndrome sucks.

Seth wrote:

Holy sh*t, Prederick. You've made a lot of sharp, insightful comments, but this may be your best post yet. To the point where I'm going to use parts of that post to describe why Nice Guy Syndrome sucks.

+1

I recognize myself a little too much in your post. I actually once told a friend of mine, who's a much nicer guy than me, that girls don't like nice guys. That friend had had four girlfriends by that time.