Friday, November 22, 2013

The Friday Four, Part 41


Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency has released the next installment of her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series! This one deconstructs the Ms. Male Character trope and the related Smurfette Principle.

Ms. Sarkeesian names and discusses something that has annoyed me in several of the (few) video games I've played.  She calls it "Personality Female Syndrome":
wherein female characters are reduced to a one dimensional personality type consisting of nothing more than a collection of shallow stereotypes about women.  She's vain, spoiled bratty, and quick to anger...When female characters are marked by obligatory stereotypical identifiers, it actively limits the range of available options by enforcing a narrow, restrictive, and monolithic model for the portrayal of femininity.  Meanwhile, since male characters are allowed to be unmarked, it permits a much wider array of possibilities for their designs.
While this series speaks specifically to video games, I've noticed this tendency in movies as well:
In a male-identified society like ours, men are associated and become synonymous with human beings in general.  In other words, male tends to be seen as the default for the entire species.  In video games, male identification manifests as a tendency for all characters to be male by default unless there's some special reason or specific justification for women to be present in the story...Both the Smurfette principle and the Ms. Male Character tropes breed scenarios that reinforce a false dichotomy wherein male is associated with the norm, and female is associated with the deviation from the norm.
The reason this series focuses on tropes is because they help us recognize larger recurring patterns. Both the Ms. Male Character and the Smurfette principle have been normalized in gaming and mass media more broadly, so much so that the two tropes usually pass under the radar and are often reproduced unconsciously, which is part of what makes the myths they perpetuate about women so powerful and insidious in our culture.  The truth of the matter is that there's really no need to define women as derivative copies of men or to automatically resort to lazy, stereotypical, or limiting gendered signifiers when designing video game characters.
I always feel so much smarter after watching her videos.


This list came out a month or so ago on Buzzfeed and I had to smile since just about every single one of the "22 Signs You Were a Theatre Major" apply to yours truly.  Except #17.  Though there are a few times I probably should have put a sign like that up, just to save other people the worry and confusion...


I found this graphic to be shocking and disturbing.  We generally think of human trafficking and sex slavery as something that happens in third world countries, but this graphic shows the location of 72,000 reports (phone calls, email, online tips) the National Human Trafficking Resource Center had from individuals concerning human trafficking in the United States from 2007 to 2012.

Read more about the numbers associated with the graphic here.  To get involved with the Polaris Project, click here.  And if you haven't read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, pick up a copy at your local library and brace yourself for the removal of the blinders.


We're getting toward the end of These Happy Golden Years, and here's another piece of music that's came up recently.  Laura started singing it to Almanzo while they were out riding in Almanzo's buggy one night.  My boys are more into the romance part of the story than I thought they would be.

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