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Aug 29, 2014 plushsnail commented on Anita Sarkeesian Threatened with Rape and Murder for Daring to Keep Critiquing Video Games.
@122 (and @82) - Maybe I should know better than to engage in lengthy comments-thread discussions, but I'll take you up on addressing some of the stuff you posted (in #82).

#1 - "Anita admits on video that she doesn't like nor play video games."

-- The 'New Statesman' article that another user linked to addresses this, too, but: at issue here is a very brief, out-of-context clip where Sarkeesian says that she's not really a video game fan. The clip is from 2010, so it's entirely possible that she's changed her thinking on games since then, but really, I think all this shows is that Sarkeesian feels mixed about modern video games: in the clip (brief though it is) she also says that she'd like to play more games, but she's put-off by all the violence. Since this is one of the points of the entire 'Tropes vs. Women in Video Games' series - that the male-centered and super-violent nature of so many current games alienates a lot of potential players - I don't see why that'd be such a controversial comment (well actually I do see why - because people who dislike Sarkeesian are dripping with confirmation bias when it comes to anything she's ever done or said, and will use whatever bits of information they can to try and discredit her, but anyway...).

#2 - "Anita gets caught stealing someone's artwork for her videos."

-- The link doesn't seem to work… But it seems the same basic issue is addressed below…

#3 - "Anita gets caught stealing other people's Let's Play footage from Youtube."

-- Obviously Sarkeesian uses a lot of stuff that she didn't create herself - artwork, footage, sound - in making her videos; that's standard practice for this kind of work. The linked article actually puts it well:

"There's of course a disclaimer at the end of her video to declare all the footage as fair use, but it's still bad form to hide the fact that a lot of her footage is ripped straight from YouTube…"

And, a little further down in the article is an email from the site that hosts most of the Longplay videos that Sarkeesian used footage from: they say that they allow people to utilize their videos as long as those people provide proper credit, and they claim that Sarkeesian didn't credit them.

So, there you go. "Bad form," arguably, and she may have not provided proper attribution for some of her footage. I don't think that qualifies her as a thief/charlatan/hack/fraud even a little. But, like I said, confirmation bias…

#4 - "Anita BLATANTLY cherry picks and misrepresents parts of video games in order to fit her narrative. Proves that she never actually played the games she uses as examples."

Oh, man, OK. So, this link is to a video by a YouTube user named thunderf00t, who posts a lot of anti-Sarkeesian stuff. The video is meandering and smug and annoying, but let's cut to the chase: basically thunderf00t is claiming that Sarkeesian "cherry-picks" scenes from games in order to prove her point, and he argues this by pointing out two specific scenes among the dozens that she's featured…what was that about cherry-picking, again? His first example involves the game Watch Dogs, where he implies that the game isn't sexist because part of your objective is to shut down a sex-trafficking ring. thunderf00t ignores (or just doesn't get…?) that the game shows exactly the sort of degrading and reductive imagery that Sarkeesian is talking about; at around 2:00 in the video, he says "How can you possibly portray that as objectifying women?" over footage of a scene in the game where naked women are being presented for-sale on a stage (does he not know what 'objectification' means?). Most of the rest of the video is about the game Hitman: Absolution: the scene Sarkeesian highlights is one where your character can kill some helpless strippers and then drag their scantily-clad bodies around to further your in-game objectives. thunderf00t's point is that this is only one small part of the game (which, OK, but that doesn't have anything to do with Sarkeesian's argument), and that most players would choose not to kill the strippers. He says absolutely nothing about the simple fact that the option to kill and drag the strippers was deliberately and carefully built into the game by the developers. Actually, you know what? That 'New Statesman' article deals with this, too:

"The video is specifically referring to Sarkeesian's discussion of women as background decoration - that is, they don't have any influence on the narrative, and their existence is entirely predicated on their usefulness or otherwise to the player. Hitman: Absolution does penalise the player (slightly) for killing the exotic dancers, just as it does other civilians, but the crucial point is not whether the player chooses to kill them or not. It's that the game presents it as an option at all."

So, yeah. Basically, these links all provide bits and pieces of evidence, but that evidence doesn't actually prove much of anything.

Aug 28, 2014 plushsnail commented on Anita Sarkeesian Threatened with Rape and Murder for Daring to Keep Critiquing Video Games.
@9 - The thing is, the point you're making here is pretty much the same point that Sarkeesian makes in her first 'Damsel in Distress' video. She posits that early game designers employed the old standby woman-in-peril trope for much the same reasons as early filmmakers, and sometimes even under the direct influence of those early films: as a quick way to raise dramatic stakes in a medium with broad technological and narrative potential that was only just starting to be explored. Her point is that by unquestioningly embracing this narrative device (even as games have become capable of telling much more complex and nuanced stories), game designers perpetuate stereotypes which reinforce harmful, patriarchal ideas of femininity. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think she's ever accused any specific game designers of having any sort of deliberately patriarchal agenda.
Aug 4, 2014 plushsnail commented on Why Do Bookstores Still Have African American Fiction Sections?.
I worked at a used/remaindered bookstore at a time when the store initiated a black fiction section. Us employees - most of whom were, yes, educated white liberals - were really resistant to the idea, for the same basic reasons that the linked article and this blog post sketch out: we didn't want to create a hierarchy, where lesser-known white authors get to rub spines with Hemingway and Kafka, but black authors have to stick to their own little corner.

The thing is, we only created the section because black customers kept specifically suggesting it, wondering why we didn't have one already. What I realized is that a lot of novels are geared towards a relatively privileged audience, and precious little fiction is written to reflect the contemporary realities of black life in America. So, the point of the black fiction section was to have a place where almost every book was written with this particular perspective in mind; if that's what a customer wants to read about, it makes it easier to find such stuff without having to wade through shelfs of books about Victorian ladies or mid-century Connecticut suburbanites or anglophile literature professors, or whatever.

To be clear, we used the section as a place for a particular genre - for lack of a better term, what you might call 'urban fiction' - not just as a place to stick any old novel by authors who happen to be black (Toni Morrison still went in the general fiction section, Samuel Delany still went in the sci-fi section, etc. etc.). I think there is a genuine problem here, but it's not the existence of black fiction sections - it's the cultural divisions between white and black Americans that make those sections viable in the first place.
May 15, 2014 plushsnail commented on Why Did a Mostly Black Queer Collective Remove Their Work from the Whitney Biennial?.
@2 - If you want to see some good didactic art, check out the work of Martha Rosler, Harun Farocki, Alfredo Jaar, Krzystof Wodiczko, Sharon Hayes, Jill Magid, Walid Raad, Amar Kanwar, Jenny Holzer and Adrian Piper. I would say, though, that while all this stuff is pretty didactic, very little of it could work well as propaganda - it's too poetic for that.

@7 - That 'Woolford' dick-joke piece is essentially a painting in the style of Richard Prince; I don't know if it's a copy of an actual Prince work or just a very close imitation, but it's definitely all in reference to Prince. My sense of it is: Prince is a white, male, American artist whose work emerges very much from that particular position (in a way that I find really compelling, personally), and then the 'Woolford' piece is a white, male artist hiring a young, black woman to make work in the style of an established, white, male artist. It's the sort of thing that should be interesting in theory, but in practice is just kind of a waste of time.
May 2, 2014 plushsnail commented on Now That They've Successfully Repealed and Replaced Obamacare, Triumphant House Republicans Are Finally Going to Figure Out Benghazi.
Oh man, let me just take this opportunity to vent: I go to a gym where they have lots of TVs, hanging from the ceiling and tuned to different stations - as you run on a treadmill you can kind of survey the daily TV landscape, which is neat. So, yesterday I'm on the treadmill and I see that one of the TVs is showing footage of what looks like some sort of fiery disaster; my immediate thought is something along the lines of 'Oh no, did something terrible just happen somewhere? Is this network just the first to cover it? Is that why it's only being shown on this one channel.' I quickly figure out that this is the dedicated Fox News TV, and while the other news shows are busy with the Donald Sterling racism controversy, the recent botched execution in Oklahoma, speculation on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, and how-tos for making tasty low-fat meals, good old Fox is showing footage of the Benghazi embassy from September 11, 2012. As I write this it's May 2, 2014. Yeah.
Apr 15, 2014 plushsnail commented on Survey Reveals Men's Rights Activists Are Almost Entirely White, 17 to 20 Years Old.
(and I see that @9 has even mentioned some real (Internet) world examples of exactly what I mean...)
Apr 15, 2014 plushsnail commented on Survey Reveals Men's Rights Activists Are Almost Entirely White, 17 to 20 Years Old.
Yeah, these survey results make a lot of sense... I was just thinking about how a lot of MRA types are probably - why mince words? - guys who have a hard time getting dates. (I'm not saying there's anything inherently wrong with being a guy who has a hard time getting dates - Lord knows I've been there - but it is bad when it congeals into anger.) I haven't read a ton of MRA stuff, but from what I have read, it seems to be a lot of bitterness about how much supposed power women have over men; it feels like a sort of politicized extension of the frustration that so many young men feel when they realize that they have relatively little power to realize their own romantic or sexual fulfillment on their own terms. As someone who was once a lonely, horny, male teenager himself, I can attest to how crappy it feels; honestly I can easily see how that crappy feeling, combined with the inveterate anti-feminism of American conservative discourse and with the soapboxiness of the Internet, could lead to, well, MRA.

On that note, I think it's worth mentioning that it's easy to get a skewed perspective of sexuality among American youth, and if you're an American youth yourself, it's easy to think that you're doing it all wrong. Like, when I was 17 I thought that everyone was having sex except for me (and maybe some losers like me); it would be a while until I learned that really, lots of people don't start having sex until their 20s, and I've met a number of people who weren't sexually active until their late 20s or their 30s, even (and yeah, some people start even later). Not that everything about MRA can be explained by misplaced feelings of romantic inadequacy but, well, maybe part of it can be explained that way, you know?
Apr 4, 2014 plushsnail commented on A Virgin Girl Is Like a Piece of Chocolate....
Yeah, I remember some sort of 'Christian advice for youth' book I was looking at many years ago that made this sort of comparison between a virgin girl and a new car. Like, if you're a totally untouched girl, you're like a pristine new model; if you go out with a guy and smooch a little bit, it's sort of like if a guy sat in the car and messed with the settings and left some candy wrappers behind; if you have a heavier make-out session, it's like the guy breaking some of the plastic bits and leaving some spilled soda and muddy footprints on the interior; if you have sex, then that's like the guy taking the car for a test drive and crashing it, doing serious damage all over. And so, who in their right mind would pay the full sticker-price for a car that's in such bad shape?

At the time, I remember being impressed with the idea that any sort of vaguely sexual activity (even light kissing) was essentially damaging, and also with the way that this advice was structured so entirely to try and prevent girls from having sex that it became potentially hurtful/condemnatory to girls who've already had sex. Actually, that hurtful/condemnatory aspect was probably part of the point...

And of course, these things are all false analogies anyway. Girls are not cars. Or peppermint patties.
Mar 19, 2014 plushsnail commented on People Are Upset About Bill Maher's Comments About Noah (and Copernicus).
Man, I haven't watched Bill Maher in a long time so maybe I'm just not used to his tone, but his comments upset me, too. There's his permeating smugness, his giggling team of sycophants, a laugh line - about how Jews like money - that would've felt dated 80 years ago (but which generated big laughs and applause anyway), and his reductive dismissal of seemingly all religious traditions (just hinted at here, but I know that's something of a Maher hallmark).

I'm a liberal atheist myself, and I agree with a lot of the basic points that Maher's making, but it bothers me the way so many atheists are so willing to throw away thousands of years of religious thought, and so quick to claim a sort of superiority over generations of mystics, prophets and, yes, intellectuals. One of the worst and most frustrating aspects of American Christian conservatives is that they treat the Bible as little more than a book of rules, or as a mark of tribal superiority - ignoring the complexity of it all. Maher doesn't agree with that stuff, but he does seem to agree that the Bible is manifestly simple; it's not.
Mar 5, 2014 plushsnail commented on Conservative Writer Upset That 12 Years a Slave Didn't Show Any Happy Slaves.
I remember another, very similar article from around when the movie came out (I can't find it right now, but I think it may have been mentioned on Slog somewhere): a columnist in (I think) a conservative publication, complaining about the lopsidedness of the film's depiction of slavery, even though he hadn't even seen the damn movie yet. The basic tone of the piece was that it was irresponsible for McQueen to depict the institution of slavery as 100% bad, 0% good.

One of the things that's so frustrating about such articles is that the film actually DOES show evidence of, well, a less-bad side to slavery. There are several instances of slaves discussing how happy they were when they were the property of more-benevolent masters, and one scene where a stolen slave seems happy to return to his legal owner.

Honestly, I was surprised by how much the film brought up that idea: slaves being relatively content in their situation. The nuance that these columnists are asking for is already right there in the movie (maybe the guy who wrote this review hasn't actually seen it, either?).