metablog

Gamer Culture, Rape Culture, CNN and Japanese Culture: Followup

Kyung Lah at CNN has written a followup article to the story I wrote about on Wednesday.

However, the video segment — from CNN’s Prime News program on their HLN (formerly Headline News) channel — has very little to do with Lah’s article itself, and is sensationalist and overblown, particularly on the part of the anchor, Mike Galanos.  His guest, Dr. Cheryl Olson, seemed to be trying to put the brakes on his (not to put too fine a point on it) scaremongering.  In short, I don’t recommend watching the video (though since I’ve already transcribed it, I’ll still include the text below the fold; WordPress doesn’t appear to let me embed the video).

Lah’s article, on the other hand, is much more thoughtful.  I think it does a pretty good job of presenting the complexity of the cultural issues involved, given its limited space and an audience that can’t be presumed to be very familiar with video games, feminist theory, Japanese culture in general or otaku culture in particular.

It’s not without some faults — for example, this paragraph

It is terribly easy to condemn Japan as a sexist and repressed culture with a government that chooses to look the other way. Part of that would be true, but the reason hentai continues to thrive in a country as progressive as Japan is a complex cultural issue.

seems either self-contradictory, or reliant on some oddly contorted sense of the word “progressive,” and the quotations from the sociology professor, Kyle Cleveland, seem troublingly close to suggesting that this is “just how it is” in Japan, and outsiders ought not judge such things.  That can, admittedly, be a fine line to walk: Cleveland is entirely correct when he says

What provokes people about Japan is the cultural distance which inclines people to see Japan as exceptionally lurid or perverse simply because it expresses sexuality in ways outside of Western norms. Japan is in some ways not that different than other cultures, including the United States, which has its own gender problems that are quite apparent.

but the implication that the very real structural misogyny in US culture invalidates American critiques of misogynist elements of other cultures is quite wrong.  Yes, we have to look to the beam in our own eye.  But provided we are willing to do so, and work to extract it, it is not hypocrisy to also mention the mote — or, as in this case, beam of comparable size — in our sibling’s.
(more…)

Thoughts on Gamer Culture, Rape Culture, and CNN

Melissa McEwan has generously given me space for another guest post at Shakesville.  Here’s the intro:

[Trigger warning for discussion of video games which simulate rape and violence.]

I’ve got video games on my mind lately — as some of you have probably seen me talking about in comments, I was at the Penny Arcade Expo in Boston this past weekend — and I just wrote a mostly-positive post with some criticism and a dubiously clever pun for the title over at my blog, about gamer culture in general and one panel at the Expo in particular.

This post is much less positive, and I’m also much less certain, ultimately, what should be done to try to fix the problems I’m talking about.

Many of y’all probably remember previous discussion, both here (Rape For Sale, Looking for Rape Products? Try Amazon., From the Mailbag for 2009-08-17) and at many other blogs over the past several years, of a Japanese computer game called RapeLay, the genre of hentai (lit. “pervert”/”perverted”) games, and the subgenre of rape-focused hentai games to which it belongs.

CNN’s Connect the World program has now run a story on the game, and its continuing availability through illicit channels despite its having been pulled from production and removed from retail…

The Century

Two years, four months, and five days from my first post: this here’s my hundredth.

(Update: also, a year and a few days from my previous arbitrary milestone.)

In that time, I’ve had a bit over 18,000 pageviews:

A snapshot of the WordPress stats for today.

That’s…an average of about 0.116 post per day, if I did my math right.

Huh.  Guess I’d better try to pick up the pace.

And through the magic of post-publish editing:

Portion of WordPress Dashboard showing a count of 100 posts and 100 comments

The trackback from this post to my first is the 100th "comment."

Thanks to all who’ve read, linked, and/or commented!  Onward to the next hundred!  Maybe in less than a year this time!

"Gender Junkies": The Post That Wasn’t (Yet?)

For a long time I’ve had a partly-finished post sitting in my draft queue.  It’s entitled (as you might have guessed by this point) “Gender Junkies,” and it’s an attempt to argue that, roughly,

  1. Gender is a social construct
  2. It’s a necessarily hierarchical and therefore unjust social construct
  3. True human liberation requires the end of our belief in this social construct
  4. But it’s so embedded in our thinking that we genuinely cannot conceive of what a society without it would look like
  5. So the best we can do is try to make gender matter less, bit-by-bit.

(But using nerdy analogies like Dune and The Matrix.)

But as I say, I started the post a long time ago, and have been having a hard time finishing it, and in the meantime I’ve been reading various blogs and interacting with various people, and various things have happened; part of the reason, then, that I’ve had difficulty finishing the post is that I’m no longer sure I’m arguing well.  I’ve learned much that I didn’t previously know, for example, about the problematic history of links to transphobia the idea of gender-as-social-construct has.  And I want to avoid, if possible, saying something hurtful because I haven’t thought things through enough or because I’m working from faulty ideas.

So, since I’ve been getting a lot more visitors in the past week or so, thanks to generous links from several other blogs, I thought maybe now would be a good time to try opening a discussion thread.

How do you define “gender”?  Do you see it as a social construct, or a function of biology (including brain biology, mind), or some mix of factors?  Do you think it’s inherently hierarchical, or is a system of gender classification which is also egalitarian conceivable to you?

(Note: I realize that this is a very fraught topic, and what seems like a relatively abstract philosophical opinion to one person may seem to another like an outright attack on their right to exist.  If you join the discussion, please be sensitive to the complexities of the subject, treat others kindly, and assume good faith in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary.)