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#GamerGate and the Politics of Resentment (Part 1)

22 Sep

In an earlier post on Masculinities 101, I detailed the emergence of a specific masculine identity emerging in and around videogame culture. This masculinist gamer contingent is reflexively hostile towards criticism, and in recent years has been making headlines detailing their attempts to harass and silence women in the wider videogame community. Somewhere in the middle of that list was Zoe Quinn, indie game developer, critic, and cyborg. Quinn, along with co-writer Patrick Lindsey and musician Isaac Shankler, is the developer of  Depression Quest, an interactive fiction game exploring the experience of depression. After a year of availability on the web, Quinn was beset by an online harassment campaign when she brought the game to the Steam service, an online digital distribution platform for PC games. Recently, newfound attacks on Quinn have snowballed into a “scandal” known as GamerGate.

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The International Conference on Masculinities: Engaging Men and Boys, for Gender Equality

29 Jun

CSMM

This call for papers has been updated and the updated version may be found here.

Masculinities 101 Week in Review

31 May

Most of this week’s suggested readings raise the question of what role masculinity (and race) played in the UCSB shooting, and the (social) media discussions that followed. Here are some essential reads:

At the Guardian, Hadley Freeman argues that “Rodger was enabled in his misogynistic feelings by a culture that exists to validate the feelings of angry, lonely and sometimes mentally unwell men”, while Jessica Valenti discusses the #YesAllWomen debate on twitter and the backlash against it. And over here, you can find a collection of powerful tweets under the #YesAllWomen hastag.

Our very own Cliff Leek (together with Michael Kimmel) expanded the discussion, arguing that the interplay of masculinity and whiteness are at the root of Rodger’s entitlement. Cliff Leek explained this role of whiteness and masculinity more explicitly in two radio interviews that you can listen to here and here.

At Jezebel, Erin Gloria Ryan gives an account of the disturbing discourse in one of the online message boards populated by the UCSB shooter before his death.

On a related note, here at Masculinities101, Amelie Rives wrote about media representations of rape victims.

Emily Hughes at Buzzfeed wrote an open letter/ FAQ to men talking about Feminism.

And here at Masculinities101, our own Tara Fannon continued her series about (dis)ability and gender, with her latest post on sight, visual culture and identity.

Media Representation of Rape Victims

28 May
Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Last month, the New York Times published an article about Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and the controversy surrounding his award (Bogdanich 2014). Winston was accused of raping a freshman woman at Florida State University, and despite the accusation and the implications that go along with it, Winston was still awarded the premier honor in college football that not only recognizes athleticism, but character as well. After an overview of the case and a description of the poor response time from university and police officials, the article depicts the scene where the victim and her rapist met. Winston is referred to as “Mr. Winston”, while the young girl is described as “Mr. Winston’s accuser,” a 19-year-old girl, who could not legally buy alcohol, but was at the bar anyways, implying the young woman did something wrong because she was underage. Winston is described as, “A redshirt freshman quarterback, 6 feet 4 inches and 235 pounds, Mr. Winston had been a prize recruit, well-known in football circles but not yet a widely recognizable name.” She, on the other-hand, isn’t offered the same kind of praise, despite accusing “Mr. Winston” of rape. The young victim is merely described as a caricature of a college-aged drinker who got into trouble, or worse got what she deserved, because she was at the bar.

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Masculinity Without Men: The Sontarans and Relational Gender in “Doctor Who”

30 Apr

[F]or male-dominated society, man is the founding principle and woman the excluded opposite of this; and as long as such a distinction is tightly held in place the whole system can function effectively. […] Woman is not just an other in the sense of something beyond his ken, but an other intimately related to him as the image of what he is not, and therefore as an essential reminder of what he is. Man therefore needs this other even as he spurns it, is constrained to give a positive identity to what he regards as a no-thing. Not only is his own being parasitically dependent upon the woman, and upon the act of excluding and subordinating her, but one reason why such exclusion is necessary is because she may not be quite so other after all. Perhaps she stands as a sign of something in man himself which he needs to repress, expel beyond his own being, relegate a securely alien region beyond his own definitive limits. Perhaps what is outside is also somehow inside, what is alien also intimate–so that man needs to police the absolute frontier between the two realms as vigilantly as he does just because it may always be transgressed, has always been transgressed already, and is much less absolute than it appears.

– Terry Eagleton on deconstruction, in Literary Theory: An Introduction

Traditionally, one of the functions of the science-fiction/fantasy genre (or genres, if you prefer) has been to make the familiar strange: to give readers a new perspective on our own world by reconfiguring it. To that end, this post concerns the Sontarans, an alien species from the long-running British sci-fi television series Doctor Who. If you’re not familiar with Doctor Who, allow me to be the first to say: hello, and welcome to the internet. Doctor Who chronicles the episodic journeys of a time-traveling alien named The Doctor. Being  a sci-fi show with a very loose sense of continuity, it depicts a wide variety of fantastical planets and cultures, usually to allegorical effect. Case in point, the Sontarans, an aggressive, militaristic species of vaguely potato-shaped humanoids.

The Doctor refers to the Sontarans as “the greatest soldiers in the galaxy,” and he ought to know, having seen most of it. Having engaged in a war with another alien race known as the Rutan for some fifty-thousand years, theirs is an unsurprisingly martial culture that valorizes duty above all else. To some degree, we’ve seen their like in our own history. The Sontarans glorify not only killing, but dying in violence; they find acts of pity or compassion to be shameful; they fear being out-bred by their enemies and place great emphasis on controlling the technologies of reproduction; they consistently find foreign cultures to be contemptible and incomprehensible. In short, they seem to embody a weaponized, hierarchical form of masculinity often associated with warlords, military dictatorships, and totalitarian states.

What problematizes the perceived masculinity of the Sontarans, or any gender distinctions we might care to make, is that their species lacks the sexual dimorphism we’ve come to expect from intelligent species. They simply do not have sex, either as category or activity. Lacking the time or inclination for any kind of civilian life, and constantly in need of new cannon fodder, the Sontarans reproduce via cloning, in specialized hatcheries aboard warships or on suitable planets. On that basis, to what extent does it still make sense to refer to their culture as masculine? Can masculinity exist independently of the binary Eagleton detailed above, with neither the feminine (as attribute) or women (as entity)?

Perhaps a better question would be whether the binary is flexible enough to accommodate gendering an asexual species. While Eagleton describes this application of masculinity as being believed to have objective existence and absolute value, in practice, the only truly necessary quality it possesses is that of not being feminine (or, perhaps more accurately, being not-feminine). A man becomes masculine, so to speak, by standing next to someone more feminine than himself.

Joanna Bourke, writing in Rape: sex, violence, history, describes a number of scenarios in which this relational masculinity is asserted through violence, most commonly sexual in nature. This violence is highly contextual, and always bound up with identity. Among the more prominent of those identities is that of the soldier. Historically, the association is warfare with rape is so strong that it’s become conventional wisdom: “Women are set outside of culture, becoming merely the ‘bounty’ of war.” Gang rape, in particular, is uniquely common on the battlefield, in rituals of bonding and desensitization. Even the dead are frequent targets of sexual degradation.

The targets vary considerably–female and male, adult and child, living and dead–but they share an assertion of dominance through violence and humiliation that is specifically sexual in nature. What Bourke implies but never actually argues is that the assertion that gender precedes sex, that being a woman is one element, but by no means a deterministic one, of femininity. In the act of rape, the gender binary defines the rapist as masculine and the victim as feminine not because the former is a man and the latter a woman, but because that’s simply what “masculine” and “feminine” ultimately mean.

What, praytell, does this have to do with the Sontarans?

Despite their lack of concern about their own gender (or lack thereof), the Sontarans do find time to engage in old-fashioned misogyny. “Words are the weapon of womenfolk,” says one in response to the mocking of a doomed, disposable redshirt. “I must find you unfit.” Elsewhere, they express disgust with sexual reproduction itself. To a Sontaran, any sexually reproducing species is embarrassingly feminine; even their soldiers literally come out of women. In the absence of such women, the Sontarans have displaced the antipathy they might have shown towards women with an antipathy toward every other civilization they encounter: for all things not-Sontaran. As a result, this violent conquest is itself constitutive of existence and value as a Sontaran. Other species exist to be crushed; the Sontarans exist to crush them.

The kind of systemic, imperialist violence embraced by the militarized masculinity we see in the Sontarans is inherently gendered, even when you take sex out of the equation. When we learn from the Sontarans is that our ideas about sex, violence, power, and gender are so deeply intertwined that we can’t even fully imagine them being separate. In fantasy, we have an opportunity reality does not offer: to see the various elements of the social imaginary out of context, to understand the part by obscuring the whole.

Peter Rauch is an ex-academic looking for his next thing. He writes about media, philosophy, and gender issues at Undisciplined, and writes shorter things as @Wordbeast.

Masculinities 101 Week in Review

18 Apr

What did you miss last week in the realm of masculinities and gender equity news?  We’ll tell ya!

This week Masculinities 101 hosted the second installment of Clay Darcy’s pub crawl narrative “drinking Down Masculinity.”  In this series Darcy shows us just how much a gender lens can add to the way we see even the most everyday experiences.

On Thursday, The Guardian hosted a live Q&A session on how the development sector can engage men and boys toward gender equality.  The panel included leaders of NGOs all over the world that are doing this important work.

The Shriver Report partnered with The Good Men Project to produce a list of what they believe to be the top 10 issues affecting men in 2014.  Check out their list and let us know if you agree.  Is there anything missing?  Is there anything there that you think isn’t really an issue?

Also, a few weeks ago we briefly discussed the backlash against New York Mets player Daniel Murphy taking paternity leave.  As you may recall, two New York sports talk-show hosts suggested that his wife should have scheduled a pre-emptive C-section rather than the player missing any games.  But, this week, that scandal has led to a deeper discussion of paternity leave.  You can find some of that discussion on Slate and on Ordinary Times.

Masculinities 101 Week in Review

11 Apr

Did you miss any masculinities or gender equity news this week? No worries…we’ve got you covered!

There were some wonderful posts this week at Masculinities 101. Clay Darcy began what will be a fascinating three part series on his experiences during a pub crawl. When you do gender studies, even the most mundane parts of your life are transformed—you cannot help but see gender dynamics everywhere!
Julia Meszaros let us reblog her piece from the Huffington Post, in which she dispels the stereotype of the “mail order bride” in an analysis of TLC’s show, 90 Day Fiance; Julia also wrote earlier this month on the power of whiteness in the sex tourism and international marriage industry.

But we weren’t the only ones posting great material. The Gender & Society blog gave us Heather Hlavka’s insightful but disturbing piece, Normalizing Sexual Violence. Hlavka argues that not only is sexual violence fairly commonplace for young girls, they have become used to boys’ and men’s sexual aggression, to the point where they were unlikely to report abuse and harassment. Her piece raises important questions about institutional policy, law, and sexual education.
At Sociological Images, Lisa Wade gives us a model for combatting gender policing, as Eddie Izzard defends his cross-dressing—“They’re not ‘women’s dresses.’ They’re my dresses.” (Side note: My parents are lesbians, and one of my moms self-identifies as butch. She has often been questioned—by family, friends, and even strangers—about wearing “men’s clothing.” Her response has always been, “These aren’t men’s clothes (or shoes, or haircuts, or whatever), they’re mine.”)
Mychal Denzel Smith argues at Feministing.com that there is never a defense for sexual harassment.
Finally, this post is a great response to the criticism baseball player, Daniel Murphy, faced when he missed a game to spend time with his newborn baby.

And for all you academics, there is a new issue of Men & Masculinities this month, with articles on men/masculinities and self-injury, mass murder, education, and philanthropy.

Masculinities 101 Week in Review

28 Mar

Missed important reads on gender equity and masculinities this week? We’ve got you covered…

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Convergence of Masculinities in “Gamer” Culture

19 Mar

Presenting at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in June 2013, Microsoft unveiled Killer Instinct to the press, a reboot of a popular franchise from the 1990s and a high-profile release for their upcoming console. To demonstrate the game, Microsoft brought out two employees–one male, one female–to play it onstage. In an incident that would quickly become infamous, the one-sided contest devolved into trash talking, culminating in a joke likening the woman’s defeat to rape. Microsoft quickly clarified that the on-stage banter was not scripted; the male employee, a producer on the game being demonstrated, had simply decided to joke about raping another employee during an official event, in front of hundreds in attendance and millions online.

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Masculinities 101 Week in Review: February 14, 2014

14 Feb

Your weekly essential reads (and videos, and more) on men and masculinities coming up:

A lot of talk about masculinity, sports, and homophobia this week. Here and elsewhere. Our own Cheryl Llewellyn wrote about Homophobia, the Olympics, and the US. 

College football player and NFL prospect Michael Sam came out as gay, making him the first active openly gay (future) NFL player. Here is what one Texas Sports Anchor had to say (yes, this is a Sports Anchor quoting Audre Lorde).

In other Olympic news, at least one commentator is uncomfortable with the achievements of female athletes because, well, according to his standards they are not feminine enough.

Elsewhere on the web, Michael Kaufman talks about Men and Feminism at the Being a Man Festival:

It’s V-Day.

It’s also Valentine’s Day, which means it’s the perfect time to (re)read this fantastic comic by mamamantis who takes on the concept of the ‘friendzone’: The Friend-Zoner vs. Nice Guy.

In other Valentine’s Day news, Sociological Images discusses the feminization of love and the masculinization of sex.

In the viral short film Oppressed Majority [trigger warning for sexual violence], we encounter a world in which gender roles are reversed… [major trigger warning for depictions of sexual violence! Also, very questionable representations of racial minority populations and the homeless…]. Over at The New Yorker, Andrea Denhoed points out that the “film risks giving us a caricature of sexism” and calls for a representation of sexism “that shows how [it] can creep into the behavior of men who aren’t jerks at all.”

Sociological Images calls out male privilege in Hollywood (and quotes data to back it up).

(Find interesting articles, videos, blogposts related to masculinities? Send them our way and we’ll try to include them in our next Week in Review)

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