A Very StarCraft Rant

So I'm playing through StarCraft 2 again, and I seriously cannot believe just how bad the portrayal of women is. There are five total female characters that I can think of off the top of my head:

 1. Dr. Ariel Hanson starts as the damsel in distress, and depending on which plot choice you make, her part in the story either ends with death or with asking the main dude (Jim) out.

2. Mira Han "tricked" Jim's starship captain, Matt, into marrying her.

3. Protoss Executor Selendis. As far as I know, the Protoss are asexual - nothing about them is sexualized at all, and Selendis is the only decent female character. Naturally, she appears for only one mission and one cut scene. (Not to mention, of the five Protoss heros to be in that mission, she is the only female. Looks like the Protoss have problems with glass ceilings too!)

 4. Nova Terra seems generally decent, but her exit from helping Jim and company involves another dude turning to Jim and asking, "You ever think about hitting that?" COME ON NOW.

5. My personal (least) favorite, Sarah Kerrigan. She's Jim's actual love interest that got kidnapped by the Zerg and transformed into the evil Queen of Blades. But wait, Zerg are disgusting, slimy insectoid creatures! That means Kerrigan would be too, right?

HAHA NOPE! She gets to be a naked porn star with a bit of Zerg scales in the right places, and bony wing-things! This cinematic demonstrates even better Blizzard's intentions - she shows up at 1:45. I (do not) love how she is completely nude, yet somehow is still wearing high heels.

All of these women are white (there are two black dudes in the game, one of them UNBELIEVABLY stereotyped - I wasn't into social justice at all when I first played this game and I was still uncomfortable) and perfectly slender. Even Selendis is given a supermodel body. Oh, and not a single one of these women EVER speak to each other. About ANYTHING. The closest it gets is when Jim has to choose between Selendis' and Dr. Hanson's solution to the Zerg infestation. They are arguing about it! But they never actually address each other, but rather, talk directly to Jim!

Seriously, Blizzard? 14 years between the original and #2, and the best you have are these breathtakingly sexist tropes?

I can't bring myself to look forward to the next expansion. I just can't. Not after this.

On Exceptions

[TW for anti-choice narratives, incest/rape.]

Many people who oppose abortion believe that there should be exceptions for incest/rape and health danger to the mother.  Having grown up Mormon, I can say definitively that the LDS church teaches those exceptions, despite also teaching that abortion is "one of the most revolting and sinful practices in this day" (President Spencer W. Kimball, 1982).  I don't know specifically about other faiths, but the concept of exceptions to the rule is common.

But, what happens when the rule prevents exceptions?

I used to be pro-life (with exceptions), just as the Church taught.  During those years, through my exultation over the passage of each new anti-choice law, it never occurred to me that those same laws made it harder for those "exceptional" people to get the care they needed.  The problem was so abstract to me that I never saw the need to put any further thought into it.  In my mind, the exceptions were so far removed from the rule that they could always get an abortion, no problem.

The reality is, every bill that restricts abortion in any way also restricts abortion for the "exceptional" people.  Is that really a price worth paying?  Forcing a 13-year-old girl to carry her incestuous baby to term because the brother that raped her wouldn't allow her to seek help until the pregnancy became so obvious that it could no longer be ignored - and by then, had passed 20 weeks or whatever other arbitrary deadline?  Sentencing a woman to death because she's carrying a 27-week-old stillborn fetus that is poisoning her?  A woman who couldn't put words to the rape she suffered until halfway through the resulting pregnancy?  A woman who promptly reported her rape to authorities only to be met with ridicule and disbelief, and thus doesn't have an in-process court case to present as proof necessary to abort?  These situations are not as rare as one would like to hope.

With the mindset of "exceptions", these things are allowed to happen.

There are no such thing as exceptions, and abortion is infinitely more complex than "KILLING BAYBEEZ".

Height and Health

[TW for fat hatred; denial and violation of personal autonomy.]

If I went out and broke both of my femurs in order to insert fancy machinery that would gradually lengthen them, which would mean 1-3 days in a hospital, the services of an occupational therapist and weeks of rehabilitation, and assuming none of the complications inherent in such a procedure were to occur, in the end, I'd be an inch or two taller.

According to many leading authorities, physicians and the media, I would also be healthier.  Despite having two broken, and therefore weakened, femurs; despite the stress and pain of surgery (not to mention financial stress); despite the exercise lost from reduced mobility and the hospital stay; despite the fact that nothing whatsoever in the procedure actually addresses health - many professionals would consider me healthier.

Because BMI.

It really is totally ridiculous when you take a moment to think about it.

What happens if you bend your knees while being measured? If you just had a large meal?  If you have heavy things in your pockets?  If you just took a huge dump?  If you're wearing platform heels?

For me, not much, since I'm at about 40 BMI and am clearly a ticking time bomb or whatever.

But for someone right on the (completely arbitrary) line between "normal" and "overweight"?  I mean, their entire life and future health could be imperiled by those two pounds!  Why aren't physicians working to prevent this life-threatening scenario?  Telling patients to fast before a routine doctor's visit, sending them to pee before putting them on the scale, stripping them?  Heck, even a cavity search would be helpful - I mean, the TSA does it all the time, so it's okay, right?

Whatever is necessary for the health of our citizens. We will do whatever it takes.

Or... maybe we could, y'know, do the vaguely intelligent thing and ditch BMI as a measurement of health.

Just a thought.

"Vacant" Geek Girls

[TW for sexism and ageism.]

So, I'm a huge webcomics nerd.  I read dozens of them: Goblins, Girl Genius, OOTS, Girls with Slingshots, Questionable Content, Gunnerkrigg Court, Dumbing of Age, XKCD, The Meek, YAFGC, Lackadaisy, Sinfest, on and on.  In addition to keeping up with all these, I'm always on the hunt for new stuff, and have a ginormous bookmark folder full of "to read" comics.  Currently, I'm devouring Weregeek.

I'm also a huge geek in general - I love fantasy/sci-fi and gaming.  So, I'm positively adoring Weregeek because it appeals to all of my dorky interests.

This morning, reading along in the Weregeek archives, I came across this strip.  (If you can't see it, it's basically a four-panel comic strip in which one of the main characters has a fiery rant about a NYTimes article which posits that Game of Thrones couldn't possibly be of interest to women.)  I love reading outraged comments to horrible articles, so of course I scrolled to the comments below the strip.  And it was great!  I'm reading through these, nodding and internally cheering at the snark, and then.

Some douchebag made a comment that perfectly exemplifies why I'm hesitant to join a local LARP, or do cosplay, or D&D, or any of the things that Weregeek is about that I would love to participate in.

By commenter rb:
too bad that (vacant) geek girls appealing to the eye in my circles are as rare as epic (or similar) grade loot in a newbie area. or way off age D=

I read on, desperate to find among the people snarking that sexist article, someone also snarking that sexist comment.  But he went completely ignored.

I'm not here to condemn people for not calling him out.  I'm here to do it myself.

"rb", you are a misogynist (and ageist) asshole.  You remind me rather strongly of Mike from Something*PositiveBefore he started the superhero gig and actually became vaguely likeable.

Vacant is not synonymous with single.  What on earth possessed you to use that term?  It sounds like you think of single women as a parking spot that simply hasn't been taken yet.  Which is obviously so wrongheaded, I can't even.  You are the quintessential, entitled Nice Guy.  We are not here to be easy on your eyes.  We are not here to be your potential romance.

We are here to do over-the-top roleplay of fantasy characters and go on epic quests.


[TW for sexism, racism, jingoism and classism.]

Okay, I just need to rant for a bit.

I'm a fan of country music.  I love the sound, and many of the songs are absolutely fantastic, and deal with difficult topics that most mainstream music avoids (e.g., cancer, abuse, etc.).

On the other hand, country music is a proud bastion for so many things that are horrible: racism, sexism, jingoism, BOOTSTRAPS.  This has intensified to absurd levels since 9/11.

But the one I need to rant about today is probably the most egregious example of sexism that I can think of off the top of my head (how sad is that?): Keep Me in Mind by The Zac Brown Band.

The way I listen to music is that I pretty much completely ignore the words for the first five listens, and then suddenly the words are there.  Now, Keep Me in Mind is the catchiest song EVER, and Zac is an excellent vocalist, so I kept hearing this fun new song and kind of hearing the words but not really. And then, suddenly the horrible, horrible words registered.  I don't even have to go past the first stanza, because IT IS THE WORST.  One line at a time:

How come all the pretty girls like you are taken, baby?

Ugh.  Yet another message of many reminding single women (NOT GIRLS FFS) that they're single because they're ugly, and that men are superficial enough to only be interested in women that meet the conventional standard of beauty.  Isn't it the feminists that are supposed to hate men?   Dudebros, y u hate men so much?

I've been looking for someone like you to save me

Men are not infants that require being saved.  Again with the misandry.  Which, of course, doesn't actually result in the marginalization of men but rather the women (saviors), and so it is misogyny masquerading as misandry.  Boys will be boys, and all that.

Life's too easy to be so damn complicated

If your biggest life complication is yearning after a woman you can't have (and you're whining about it like a toddler denied candy), then you are on a level of Not Getting It that no one can touch.  You are standing on top of Privilege Peak, and the reality down in the foothills is completely obscured by the mists of your white, straight, rich dudeliness.

Take your time and I'll be waiting

YOU ARE A CREEP NOW.  Go find a woman that is actually available.  OH WAIT all of the pretty girls are taken!  Well, gosh, that just leaves you in a pickle now, doesn't it?

Go away, think about your life for a while, and come back when you've moved beyond frat boy levels of sociability.

A Barrage of Coincidences

[TW for fat hatred and child abuse resulting in death.]

So many coincidental happenings today!

There's the abhorrent childhood obesity exhibit at Disney's Epcot. Because kids are clearly stupid and don't already get the cultural narrative that Fat Is Bad, and require reminding while on a family vacation at Disney World. The dramatic rise in childhood/teen eating disorders is just coincidence.

There's the terrifying news that an FDA panel - swayed in part by none other than Dr. Arya Sharma(!), who has frequently advocated for HAES-like philosophy in the past, has unanimously voted to recommend the weight-loss drug Qnexa for approval. This, despite being rejected in 2010 due to evidence that the component phentermine causes "side effects like elevated heart rate that may lead to severe cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks and arrhythmias; birth defects; psychiatric problems; kidney stones; decreased bone mineral density and memory impairment." In what's clearly coincidence, cardiovascular problems is what killed some of the people who took Fen-Phen in the '90s! The 'phen' part of Fen-Phen totally doesn't stand for phentermine, or anything. Ahem.

Then there's the news that few people will really connect to the obesity hysteria: the heartbreaking death of a 9-year-old girl, because she had been forced to run for three hours after lying to her grandmother about having eaten candy bars. Not one thing in that article is said about obesity or weight. But really, now. Why would they use intense exercise as punishment for lying about eating candy? It must be coincidence.

Then there's the regular parade of celebrity scrutiny and diet tips and airbrushed models that have become utterly ubiquitous both online and in the meat world. This is obviously just a coincidence, since they're just always there.

Placed side by side to these articles, I found this: 'Am I Ugly' Videos Spark Disturbing YouTube Trend (video starts automatically, but has an accompanying article). Apparently, young women have been taking video of themselves asking if they are ugly, and posting them to YouTube. Predictably, some people are kind, others accuse them of begging for attention, and the trolls have come out in force.

Why would there be a connection between the first four points in this post and this YouTube trend, nevermind the chronic insecurities that the majority of the people in this country struggle with every day?

I dunno. It must just be coincidence.

I used to be pro-life.

[TW for anti-choice narrative and discussion of sexual violence.]

I used to be pro-life. I grew up that way, feeling horror at the mere concept of abortion and only grudgingly allowing that exceptions should be made for people who have been assaulted (I considered the health exception to be the mother selfishly putting her life over that of her child's).

Then, I began to actually process the assault that I endured so many years ago, and part of that processing was reading ALL THE THINGS on the topic of rape. I learned statistics, such as the fact that 60% of assaults go unreported; that when an assault is reported, chances are high that the victim won't be taken seriously/mocked/blamed for the assault; that if the victim is taken seriously by law enforcement, the court process is grueling and frequently is dismissed, or the victim can't testify for any number of reasons, or the jury won't take the victim testimony seriously/mocks/blames the victim for the assault. It is estimated that about 1 in 16 rapes result in the incarceration of the rapist.

One in sixteen. Abhorrent.

Then, there are time constraints. The ludicrous handling of assault cases within the justice system, in tandem with the (continually more prohibitive) legal restrictions on abortion (e.g., cutoff at 20 weeks), means there is rarely - if ever - a conviction to show in time to abort the pregnancy.

On top of that, many victims don't realize that what has just happened to them was rape. Sometimes, years pass before a victim realizes what, exactly, happened. Sometimes, the victim never realizes it at all.

We Cannot Forget

[TW for discussion of sexual violence.]

Every time I listen to Andrea Gibson's "Blue Blanket" (transcript here), I hear something new. Her words are so dense and so powerful that it's impossible to catch everything on even the first ten listens; and yet, some lines are unforgettable from the moment they're first heard. I don't often listen to the poem though, because it touches on such a deep, painful topic - rape.

Tonight, the lines that struck me were "... if even a few of us forgot / what too many women in this world cannot", and the lines that have stuck with me in the years since I first heard them are "she's heard stories of Vietnam vets who can still feel the tingling of their amputated limbs / she's wondering how many women are walking around this world feeling the tingling of their amputated wings".

Those first two lines are the reason rape culture exists. Too many people have forgotten what too many women cannot. A single drop of empathy, of humanity, into the cocktail of distractions that we daily consume, would begin to dismantle the constructs that work to prevent earth-bound women from flying again.

Survivors of sexual violence have their entire worldview, their day-to-day functioning, changed; twisted into a grim shadow of the beauty that once was. We learn to live with it, but, like the amputee that can still feel the ghost of lost limbs, we still feel the tingling of lost innocence.

And we look up at the people who can still fly, who mock because we have been thrust to the earth by the throat of our trust, and despair that they have forgotten.

I can never forget.

But I am determined, someday, to fly again.

lol ur copyright

One of the many gazillion things I do online is help moderate a user-generated art gallery, Storm-Artists.net. I love it there, great community, pretty art, good friends. We do get the occasional art thief, though, and we delete stolen art as soon as it's discovered.

I've gotta say though, I LOVE - really, truly, LOVE - this trend among art thieves to announce that the image they've submitted has been stolen. Phrases like, "Original images from Google. Photomanipulation © me" in all caps, right underneath the image. Because clearly, when something has been stolen, announcing to the world that you stole it makes it all okay! These people are hilarious!

Well, it certainly makes my job easier! Instead of having to dig around the internet to find the original version of the stolen art as proof if the thief pleads innocent and wants a second opinion from another moderator, I can just hit the delete button. Boom, stolen image nuked. Half the time the thief throws a hissy fit: "But I gave proper credit! I didn't steal!"

Yes indeed, you gave credit, but you also totally stole. "Giving credit" just made things way easy for me.

The funniest thing is that these people typically have ginormous galleries bursting with badly Photoshopped collages of their favorite Harry Potter characters, with descriptions along the lines of: "Whipped this up in like less than five minutes...because I obviously didn't do much to it ^^; But the manip is still © me."

The only thing that makes this go from HILARIOUS to SO AWFUL is on massive art websites like deviantART, where these thieves congregate like flies on a cowpie.* Find one of them, you'll find that a single stolen collage is in a dozen fan groups, each group with hundreds of members all submitting the same type of stolen artwork. There are tens of thousands of stolen images.

Which is a rant I'll get into some other time.

For now, I'm laughing, and deleting (on Storm), and reporting (on dA).

ETA: The best example I've ever seen of an art thief's stupidity is an image I just found, in which the stolen background image had a large copyright notice across the center, and the thief even pointed it out in the artist's description area! With no sense of irony whatsoever! LOL!

*Disclaimer: I'm not comparing dA to a cowpie. I'm comparing the festering piles of stolen artwork to a cowpie.

Before That Moment

[TW for ableism.]

My primary job is in apartment management, and last week I was sent to a three-hour training on the Fair Housing Act. One of the most important aspects of the Act is something that rings familiar to most: "It is illegal to discriminate against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin."

The real estate lawyer giving the presentation used a variety of examples to show what was and wasn't against the law; for example, a property that disallows all pets refused to allow a disabled tenant to have a companion animal as recommended by a doctor. That's discrimination based on handicap, and the tenant was awarded thousands of dollars in reparations.

Interestingly, much of the discussion focused on ableism, including mental illness. Schizophrenia was mentioned, as was bipolar disorder. Throughout, the presenter was sensitive and used generally acceptable language when discussing these things.

Then, completely out of the blue, he used the term "crazy" to refer to something entirely unrelated to mental illness.

Before that moment, I knew that "crazy" is an inappropriate word to use, at least in the way most of society uses it: "It's crazy to try the black diamond slope if you've never been skiing before!" "You want to study advanced physics? Are you crazy?"

Something about the disingenuity of his use of the term really struck home for me. He was talking about how very wrong it is to discriminate against the disabled, and then in the same breath used language that encourages marginalization of the same population.

"Disabled people deserve to be treated equally with the able-bodied. You would have to be crazy not to."

Before that moment, I didn't quite get it. And then, it clicked. Instead of token, not-quite-getting-it outrage, I felt genuine outrage, and hurt, and simultaneously amazement at my realization.

I guess my feminism leveled up.