The Art of Being Socially Awkward: Let’s save some face.

My sister has been struggling with mono lately, which has hindered her ability to go to class, eat, drink, and generally functions like a normal human being.  As such, we’ve spent a lot of time talking on Skype about a variety of topics: anime, drawing, writing, and developing careers, to name a few.  One particular conversation addressed something that had been bothering her recently.  She is a frequent poster at a site where people just talk about their daily lives, ask questions, and share media with the community.  Well, it seems there is a person who regularly posted about how much she loved this guy, and how amazing and perfect he was.  Then suddenly, she stopped talking to him.  Said school took up too much time.  Said whatever, she was just ending it.  My sister’s problem with this arose because the poster claimed she didn’t want to confront the poor guy and tell him why she wasn’t responding to his calls or emails.  Basically, her view was, “Why won’t he stop pestering me? I’m not responding, so obviously it’s over… why doesn’t he get it?”

My sister’s been through quite a bit in terms of rough break-ups; naturally, she felt for the guy in this situation.  She asked me what I thought of it.  Granted, I don’t know either of the people in real life and I can only glean details from the posts on the site, but I said I would attempt to articulate my thoughts on it.  It’s actually a pretty common phenomenon in any culture.

I’d say what is going on fits perfectly into the act of “saving face.”  From the sociolinguistic standpoint, saving face pretty much means to “avoid being disgraced or humiliated.”  As a person, your face represents your persona, your honor, and dignity.  If you fail to maintain face, you then lose it, which results in humiliation and extreme emotional discomfort.  So, to apply this to our situation, we can ask, “Why would someone not want to tell their partner that their relationship was over?” Perhaps your partner would lash out and insult you when you tried to end things; perhaps you know of your guilt in this situation — you know you really should give a proper goodbye — and don’t want to be called on it.  Maybe in the past, you went through a really rough time when someone else dumped you and you think you’re saving them from feeling the same pain.  There could be a number of reasons as to why someone would just stop talking to their significant other, but they all come back to one idea: You want to preserve your integrity and self-worth, while still desiring to be unimpeded by their actions.

Saving face fits into a larger sociological concept, referred to as “Politeness theory.”  The face is further expanded into positive face and negative face.  Much like in psychology, the terms positive and negative don’t share a traditional definition with the more casual usage of the words.  Instead, here positive face refers to your desire to have your interactant approve of the face you’re displaying, and you strive to present a consistent self-image or personality.  Negative face then represents your desire to your personal territory and preferences, and your right to have freedom of choice in your actions without imposition.  In many conversations, someone will threaten your positive or negative face, and consequently there are politeness mechanisms that can be invoked to mitigate the damage to either face.

Now, our subject is avoiding confrontation altogether.  She’s not even engaging in a conversation, so she won’t have to defend herself, or so she won’t have to deal with any fallout from her actions.  Instead, she’s completely ignoring that this conversation should take place, and she’s failing to understand why someone who isn’t even included in her thoughts on the matter is not “getting” why she’s doing this.  One could argue that this is still saving face (most likely negative face) but she’s losing positive face.  She’s definitely not presenting herself in a positive light, and her interactant (or lack thereof) is receiving a very confusing unspoken message that is not consistent with the messages he’s received previously.  So while he’s trying to defend his own ego by eliciting the expected response, which is an official break-up, she’s justifying to herself why she is “allowed” to do things her way: She’s too busy for this crap, she doesn’t have to explain herself, and things will blow over.

“But why does this constitute as being socially awkward, Helly?” You are probably asking (if you’ve even made it this far).

Well, because for every situation that involves the maintaining, loss, or saving of face, there is a required social interaction.  This interaction varies from culture to culture, but there is a socially expected way that people “should” behave when face is challenged.  If someone challenges your face, you defend yourself.  You normally don’t fly off the handle and challenge their face, unless you’re 5 years old:

A: “You’re a stinky doo-doo head!”

B: “Well, YOU’RE a smelly poo-poo butt!”

No, that doesn’t really work for adults.  Instead, you usually try to defend yourself, maybe take a jab at the person if you feel you are being slighted, but you don’t straight up reach for wild accusations of poop and how strongly your interactant smells of it. Instead, the ideal interaction would be to both be mature adults who have a mutual parting and no drama, and perhaps a rebuttal:

A: “I don’t think we should date anymore.  I’m too busy with school and I simply don’t have the time to devote to a relationship. I’m very sorry.”

B: “But I thought what we had was great. Can’t we find some way to work it out? I feel like this is unfair to me.”

A: “No, I’m sorry. I’d rather concentrate on my career right now, and I really don’t think I’d be able to give you the attention you deserve.”

B: “I see. Well, I wish you luck. Goodbye.”

Or something like that. You know, it could be more drawn out and tears would probably be involved.

Here is what has happened to many adults, but is considered socially awkward and generally unacceptable:

A: “I don’t think we should date anymore.  I’m too busy with school and I simply don’t have the time to devote to a relationship. I’m very sorry.”

B: “Seriously, fuck you. You’re the worst thing that ever happened to me and I’m glad this is over.  This was a complete waste of my time and money.  Have a nice life.”

I hope you can easily see the difference. When one person is presenting positive face and trying to amicably end a relationship, they hope that their partner will still see them in a positive light, despite the fact that this situation must be very painful for them.  They hope that their consideration will save them from having to defend themselves and being viewed negatively.  The other party should ideally have a reaction commensurate with the level of politeness and respect they’ve just been shown.  They shouldn’t lash out and overreact and say things they don’t mean; that’s just perceived as terrible and no one really wants to be seen as terrible.

Now what if you eliminate this interaction all together?  And, more importantly, what if you don’t see anything wrong with eliminating this interaction?

That, my friends, is still saving face.  It is not in the socially acceptable spectrum of ways to save face, though, and as a result, most people will not view this as the proper way to react.  To most people, it comes off as immature, harsh, and unnecessary.  Outsiders reading about this want to know that her ex did something to deserve such treatment.  Something commensurate with the punitive way he’s been tossed aside.  But, inferring from her posts, he did absolutely nothing wrong, and was completely blindsided by her actions.  So it strikes a dissonant chord in many readers, particularly if they have experienced something similar.    It smacks of arrogance, immaturity, and lacking in mastery of social skills.  The desire to save face is so strong that we want to right what we perceive as wrong.  And I’m sure that’s why people like my sister wrinkle their noses at this story.


Btw, if you would like to read more about the face and politeness theories, check out authors Erving Goffman and Penelope Brown/Stephen C. Levinson/John Gumperz:

Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

Penelope Brown, Stephen C Levinson, John J Gumperz: Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage


On Animals as Property

I’m a vegetarian, and have been since 2006.  I was a vegan for two years, until it became too difficult to maintain (I travel for work frequently — not every place has adequate substitutions for dairy products).  It is a conscious decision for most people to choose to not eat meat (or dairy, or eggs), as it was with me.  This of course isn’t the case for everyone: You could have been raised in a vegetarian home, for example, or, some people grow up with religious guidelines determining what is and what is not appropriate to eat.

A frequent question I hear is, “Why are you a vegetarian?”  The answer isn’t that simple for a lot of vegetarians or vegans to answer.  Some people have mixed emotions about animal welfare; others don’t like the taste or texture of meat — and that doesn’t even touch on the complex rules surrounding religious reasons to exclude animal products from your diet.  Something about the way people ask why leads me to believe that most Americans assume that if you’re a vegetarian, you must be some sort of extremist, or at the very least, an oddball for choosing consciously to omit such an important ingredient in a typical American diet.  Of course this isn’t the case with everyone, but it seems to be a common assumption, so I thought I’d address a few of these points.

For me, it was a choice.  But it wasn’t a choice based on one principal reason.  I studied abroad in Japan, and became very used to a diet that didn’t use much meat.  Seafood was fresh and readily available, but I ate it very intermittently, and I discovered that I enjoyed tofu dishes a lot more anyway.  The ban on imported beef had only recently been lifted and I found myself uninterested in trying to use that in my dishes, not only for the high cost, but also because I hadn’t really eaten meat in awhile and I was avoiding becoming ill from ingesting animal fats (trust me, if you haven’t eaten ANY type of food for awhile, then start up again, your digestive tract rebels).   When I came back to the US, I just chose not to pick up eating meat again.  Of course, as an animal lover, part of me didn’t want to eat meat because I didn’t approve of how the meat industry worked, but that was really only a small part of why I kept on going with vegetarianism.  Simply put, I led a fine life without meat, and had no desire to include it in my diet again.

When telling people I was a vegetarian, a lot of people were curious.  I didn’t mind answering questions, because in America, being a vegetarian isn’t as common as being an omnivore.  I understood that.  But what I didn’t understand was why, after answering questions in what I thought to be a succinct and polite manner, some people began to get hostile towards me.  I never said I was affiliated with PETA (an organization I will never align myself with — if you can treat women like shit, but market yourself as animal rights activists, you have some serious issues), nor did I say people who ate meat offended me in any way.  I never tried to sell my lifestyle or imply that I was a better person because of my choices.  It’s just who I am.  But a lot of people saw me as a threat, and grilled me with questions about the contents of a vegetarian diet — Where did I get my protein? Aren’t vegetarians weak and sickly because animal protein is superior to plant protein? Do I realize helpless animals are killed by the plows and combines that give me my precious plants? What if plants felt pain, would I just gulp down air or something?  Those videos are so old, you know people don’t treat animals like that anymore, don’t you?  The list goes on and on.  Basically, there’s some sort of miscommunication with our media or our perception of vegetarians that makes omnivores feel guarded about their choices, as if what they’re doing is somehow construed as “inhumane” or “cruel”.  So they attack vegetarians even if we don’t have issues with people who eat meat.  Allow me to elaborate on this.  It is possible to support the meat industry, and still not eat meat yourself.

To start, my biggest problem was that although I was educated on a vegetarian diet (I know more about what I put in my body than a lot of non-vegetarians do — I took issue with people asking how I got protein, and if I knew how many calories I was eating when they probably didn’t know themselves!) I didn’t know how to explain animal rights.  I didn’t want to support an industry that deliberately harmed animals, or at least didn’t care if they did harm animals, and yet I know the line has to be drawn somewhere — somehow, something is always going to suffer, because that’s just part of being a living creature.  This didn’t fly with a lot of vegetarians, nor did it fly with a lot of omnivores.  I just didn’t care if some other people ate meat, because that was their choice, and I had made mine.  But there was something else to it…

Dr. Temple Grandin’s Animals Are Not Things explains very well what sort of meager thoughts I had on that issue, and was unable to fully form at that time.  She says it so much better than I could have — maybe because I haven’t studied much neuroscience 🙂 I agree with her wholeheartedly. Essentially, she argues that the more complex brain an organism has, the more it deserves certain protections to its welfare and well-being. For example, a fish may feel afraid, because fear is a primitive reaction that helped propagate a species. But the further you climb up the phylogenetic tree, the more complex an organism becomes, and it begins to experience pain.  You would need to take different measures to ensure a species doesn’t suffer, depending on how complex their brains and nervous systems are.  For example: An animal doesn’t have the concept of being property itself, though it possesses an ability to be cognizant of its own property; i.e., a dog is protective of its family, its bone, or its yard. So it would need to have certain legal protection to ensure that it is happy and thrives. A chimp on the other hand, possesses all these cognitive properties and more: It has a complex social life, networking with other chimps and taking on certain roles depending on where it fits into its group. It would need different legal protection to ensure its happiness and well-being. The fact that animals have these abilities separates them from other “things”, such as inanimate objects or plants. In that sense, they shouldn’t be treated harmfully to become someone’s dinner. But they are also able to nourish many people and other animals, and to lose them altogether in the food chain would be ridiculous, so to say that they should never be used as a food source isn’t an option either.  Of course, our society also tries to ensure that species aren’t eaten into extinction.  In other words: As long as an organism receives protection to guarantee its welfare according to its nervous system’s complexity and ability to process emotions such as fear or pain, animals used as people’s property doesn’t violate their right to a high standard of welfare.

Respecting people and animals alike is important, and so is taking care of yourself in a way you’re comfortable with.  If you choose to eat meat or animal products, try to choose companies that treat animals better.  If you feel compelled to omit such things from your diet, be respectful of those who choose not to.

On the Usage of “Rape” in Video Game Culture

I can’t specifically recall the first time I saw it, but it was probably during battlegrounds in World of Warcraft, back when I was grinding honor for my season 2 pvp set (I was never that great at arenas, being a spriest in early Burning Crusade, partnered with an arcane mage and ret paladin).  I think it was when my team (that is, the Horde! Yes!) were arguing in Alterac Valley over if we should even bother killing Balinda for extra honor points, and I was amused by these comments because it was so easy to kill her quickly and get our honor, then move on.  When I said something like, “It’s a quick and easy fight, it’s easy honor, why not?” Someone responded with, “Yeah, let’s rape her!”

Whoah, whoah, whoah.  Where did I miss the connection between defeating an enemy put there for the sole purpose of being defeated, and raping an enemy?  Oh, I see.  I guess rape means kill.  And apparently it’s completely normal and accepted.  And so it began: I started noticing people using this terminology everywhere.  At first, I thought that perhaps it was a rather twisted victory cry that was only vocalized (or typed?) after defeating female enemies, but I was wrong — it became just as common for people to say “We raped them” when we won a battle as a team (sometimes up to 40 players versus 40 other players, and not one person said something like, “hey, don’t say that”), or sometimes even “we raped him” when a raid of anywhere between 5 and 25 players downed a boss (again, no objections).  This struck me as so odd.  How could I even begin to come up with a reason as to why they’d misuse rape so grossly?  Well, I thought, it’s a group of people.  Perhaps this is something people just say when there’s a bunch of other people around to “shock” them.  Maybe if they’re with friends, or guildmates (a group of people who you regularly team up with to accomplish certain tasks, like dungeons, raids, or player-versus-player combat), whom they probably respect, then they wouldn’t say such things.

But I was wrong again.  People can duel other people in World of Warcraft; that is, do a one-on-one fight with no real consequences (such as dying or losing armor durability) other than having anyone in the area see who won the duel, and then the losing avatar grovels and begs in front of the winning avatar, in a sort of, “Oh, you are superior!” fashion.  Haha, funny.  “I raped you” became just as common as “owned” or “pwned”, which, if you play games, you know these terms have been around for a long time, and are very common in nerdy circles (there are issues, of course, with these words as well; however, that is not the focus of this entry).  It actually succeeded in making me entirely uncomfortable, and, in fact, less willing to participate in player-versus-player combat, because, as a woman, it really unnerved me seeing people use the term “rape” so flippantly; to these people, a very loaded term became nothing more than a joke.  I began to leave all chat channels because the woman-bashing (i.e., “get back in the kitchen”, “I’m gonna rape you”, or “girls suck at video games”) and growing rape culture got to a point of ludicrousness.  One might say, “Oh, just ignore them.  They’re teenage boys trying to piss people off.”  I know.  But the “boys will be boys” excuse just wasn’t flying with me.  Nor should it ever, with anyone.  It’s a get-out-of-jail free card.  That saying allows boys to get away with things that they probably should normally be opposed to, only because they are boys — and I’m pretty confident that they can learn to interact with other human beings in a fairly decent way, right?   Unless that saying dares to imply boys aren’t intelligent enough to learn otherwise?  Yeah, I doubt it.  /snark.

Finally, I wrote a piece for on a few things that bothered me when it came to the portrayal of women in video games, and my experiences as a woman who played video games.  Feministing has always intimidated me, because I’m not a woman’s studies major who is incredibly well-versed in everything I write; nor am I someone who can qualify every post as an academic essay, complete with a bibliography.  (Not that I take issue with this, but I felt my post would be too vague and unfocused for a site of that caliber.)  Someone commented regarding my complaint about rape-as-an-analogy-for-defeat, saying, “Well, it’s fantasy. You kill things, but you wouldn’t kill monsters or people in real life.  But that doesn’t mean people get all whiny about you killing people.  Lighten up, it’s just a term… no one would really rape anyone.”

You know what?  I can’t believe people still believe this bullshit.  1 out of 6 women will be sexually assaulted at some point in her life.  Is that funny? Well, I guess the rape-joke train didn’t stop in Hellytown, because it really isn’t funny to me. Oh, that’s bullshit, people say. Women make up those numbers, no one I know would rape anyone… they just want to take you to court and brand you a rapist for life. No. Most sane people wouldn’t do that sort of thing.  Did you know that most women know their assailants?  Yeah, not all rapists are hiding in bushes and smelling of piss.

This summer I was nearly raped by a stranger.  Yes, even though I just said most women know their assailants, I just so happened to fall into that category of woman-who-was-attacked-by-a-guy she-didn’t-know.  I was drinking with a friend of mine, and we were chilling at a hotel, when we ran into a couple of other guys staying there, too.  They were friendly and wanted to drink with us, so we stuck around for awhile.  We were all goofing around and having fun — or so I thought, it seemed.  Suddenly the two guys weren’t into drinking anymore and told us to get out, so we did.  I realized after walking out that I’d forgotten my purse, so I walked back to ask for it.  As I stood outside the door, I was thinking of how silly it was, and I hoped they weren’t irritated with me.  But the door opened, I was grabbed, jerked inside, and on the bed before I could even know what was going on.

“You look like that kind of girl that likes it rough,” one of the guys said.  I looked over at the other guy, who was standing there, grinning like a douchebag.  Mainly, being drunkenly entertained by this display before him, and doing nothing to stop it.  I don’t know what happened, but I got a ton of adrenaline, kicked the guy and pushed him off me, grabbed my purse, and ran outside just in time to see my friend looking in the hallway for me.

That happened in less than a minute.  That quickly, and that unexpectedly.  And this isn’t all that uncommon. I was one of the lucky ones.  The guys disappeared, and no one could find records of them staying at that hotel.  How creepy is that?

A fifteen-year-old girl was gang raped after her school dance this week by several guys.  And lots of others stood around and watched this happen.  For 2 hours.  She was beaten and robbed, and completely dehumanized.

I could go on.  I know women who were raped, I know women who are beaten and brainwashed into submission.  I know what people do to these women, what they say about them: “Oh, if she wasn’t drunk”, or, “Well she was dressed like a slut, so…”, or even “She deserved it, she turned him on, then she changed her mind.”  This is, pure and simple, victim blaming. The victim did nothing wrong; the rapist is the one committing a fucking crime.  Now, I know victim-blaming is rampant outside of feminist circles.  I’ve heard it all before, and yet, I still get incensed every time I hear it or even see it appear on my screen in World of Warcraft, probably spewed out by some completely naive child.  But it still makes me abhorrent of our society’s excuses.

So, tell me, is this still funny?  I mean, really, if this happened to your girlfriend, your sister, your mother, even a friend of yours… is this really funny? Does it deserve to be trivialized?  I feel re-assaulted every time I have to read people dehumanizing women and making jokes about rape, and I’m sure others do, too.  Especially those who didn’t get away before it was too late.

I play games to have fun.  There is enough sexual violence in the real world to go around (there should be none, of course), and there is enough pain and degradation directed at women outside of the internet sphere.  And, hey, let’s not ignore it: there’s more than enough in the internet sphere as well — just read the comments to pretty much any article pertaining to/written by a woman.

Does this have to bleed into my entertainment as well?

Marketing for Women and Girls: Just make it pink!

Justify it however you want.  The studies show, the numbers prove, it just sells.  Marketing people seem to think that women and girls respond en masse to pink displays.   While I know of quite a few little girls who enjoy princesses and sparkly, singing popstars, I also know of quite a few who enjoy doing puzzles, solving mysteries, wielding a fearsome weapon, and beating the crap out of their on-screen opponent. I am just so damn sick of seeing these sad attempts at including the wimminz in what was considered just a few short years ago to be a sort of “boys’ club.”  Take it from just one of the many, many female gamers out there: You’re embarrassing and annoying us.  Allow me to elaborate.

I’ve played games since I figured out what Frogger was, and that I could play it on my family’s Commodore 64.  My sister and I worked feverishly to raise that daunting $70 to put toward our very own Super Nintendo (we weren’t allowed to have a Nintendo system when they were cool; don’t you know you burn out your retinas and turn into a degenerate who can’t read when you play such filth as DuckHunt??), and we played the hell out of that system.  We scoured pawn shops for discontinued games, for new systems (or old, crappy ones, as it were) to add to our gaming console collection, or for quirky posters or other paraphernalia that was distributed with games back in the 80s. (Full dungeon map for Final Fantasy? Oh yes, I think so.)  You get it?  Do I need to go on?  Back when this was considered to be for guys only, my sister and I, without the help of anything pink, sparkly, or itsy-bitsy in size, were drawn to games.  Gender segmentation of video games wasn’t even an idea that had formed in my head.

So, when I was made aware that there was such a thing as a  “Gameboy”, I became perplexed.  Why is it a GameBOY?  What is it about this thing that implies it’s for boys?  For the first time, I actually thought about the fact that nearly all my friends had brothers who owned a gaming console, and most treated it like a prized possession that noooooo one else could touch, particularly their sisters.  So, after more than a few sleepovers, I finally got the guts to ask why no one ever wanted to play games, like I did.  My answer was a little less than satisfying.  I was told simply, “Girls don’t play games.”  I guess this sentiment started early and continued, because for years after that, I was viewed as sort-of “odd” for liking boys’ toys.  Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a poor me pity-party, but it’s necessary to reflect on my experiences to understand that this has been going on a long time.  Marketing used to exclude women and girls from the gaming community all together; as a result, people assumed women weren’t interested video games or technology, and consequently, they also began to assume we knew nothing about it.  But with the rise of the internet and the growing importance of understanding at least the basics of technology, marketers found themselves up to bat for a new challenge: Getting women and girls to “pay attention” to mens’ and boys’ toys, and getting them to use these gadgets independently.

Cue the shitstorm.  I don’t know what was going through marketers’ heads, but I assure you it was more than likely a team of 40-something white guys tossing out ideas: “How do we make them look at this? Oh I know, let’s make it pink!  And CUUUUTE! Women like pink and cute, right?”  I KNOW there are women out there who  like pink things; this is not something I’ve ever denied.  But to assume that women function as one unit and respond simply because something is pink is beyond insulting.  It’s just plain stupid.  Because along with something that’s decked-out in pink, you can be sure to find that the quality probably isn’t as good (more than likely because they threw it out there as an afterthought), and that the suggested uses for it are ridiculous.  Take, for example, Dell’s pathetic attempt at marketing laptops to the laydeez: Della. Within two sad weeks of its launch, Della was gone. Why? An asinine pastel website design, paired with helpful “tips” on how to use a Della (Use it to count calories! How about looking up some healthy recipes?), just plain turned women off to it.  And you know, I’d be willing to let it slide if it were a one-time slip-up that Dell learned an important lesson from, but unfortunately, it happened again.

Oh, look, the women have pink and magenta laptops.  And the one that isn’t pink?  She’s using her webcam to put on her lipstick.  So cute!  The lipstick and computer like, totally match!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I know they weren’t trying to imply that women ONLY use computers for arts and crafts and on-the-go/bus-lipstick-applying (if they learned anything from the Della debacle), but come on.  The guys were all actively taking pictures, organizing their record collections, looking businessy and important, and proudly posing with Google Maps by their (admittedly) awesome cars, you know, doing the things they usually advertise about in order to sell personal computers or laptops — organize your music collection, plan a roadtrip or vacation, edit your photos, take it with you for business trips.  The women were standing there, doing… I’m not sure what, maybe arts and crafts?  Or putting on lipstick.  Do you see computers advertised for that?  Get your own personal laptop so you can replace that tiny, antiquated mirror in your purse!  Get a laptop so you can print out stencils!  Doesn’t quite mesh, does it?  There is the exception of the first girl on her Vespa, but of course… it’s all pink, and I don’t see what that has to do with selling a computer.  With the way she glances up at her helmet, perhaps she used her pink laptop to buy a pink helmet on Ebay to match her pink ride.

But before you get all up-in-arms, saying I’m focusing on stupid things when I could be donating my time to more important things, what I’m writing about here isn’t simply just knocking the pretty pictures and color schemes that they use to appeal to women and girls.  It’s also about the language of marketing directed towards women and girls, namely, in simplistic terms.  And this has a more widespread effect than most people think.

I may be a tad biased as a linguist, but language really is the basis for our formative ideas about a product.  We listen to advertisements describe what a product can do, how it will improve our lives, and how easy it is to use.  Colors, imagery, and music are all integrated with the words to make a 30-second impression that we’re supposed to remember, so we can rush out and buy the merchandise.  The problem arises not only when women and girls don’t see representations of themselves in commercials, but when the language clearly isn’t directed towards them (yes, I know, it’s a gratuitous, ridiculous example, but the idea is still the same), or it’s just plain ridiculous. (Bonus: This site has a whole list of commercials that exemplify what I was discussing earlier about pink, and it’s a hilarious article to boot!) “Play now, my lord”?  Well, I guess that kinda leaves ladies out of it, doesn’t it?  “Imagine Babyz”?  You’ve gotta be kidding me, as if all women just want to play with babies all the time.  At least the DS commercials feature women of varying ages playing different kinds games, and you know what?  That’s pretty accurate.  Women self-identify as gamers these days, and apparently they make up 40% of the gaming market.  There’s a lot of money to be made by appealing to women and girls who play video games, and the point that these marketers seem to be missing is that there are different kinds of games that interest different people.  That is, men and women alike.  Using language that creates an atmosphere of exclusion, or that infantizes women’s gaming interests creates a social stigma that says, “Women don’t play games, and when they do, it’s not the same games that men like.”  These separate, but “equal” gaming strategies aren’t working, and they’re just plain annoying.  Take a hint from the many, many women out there who are fed up with this: We’re people, with a whole spectrum of interests when it comes to games.  Stop assuming we’re going to respond to only pink, or only things specially labeled for us as ladies.  Oh, and please: get on hiring some more women already.

A bit about me

I figured that if I was going to make a blog, and attempt to have any sort of reasonable discussions here (see, this is an assumption that eventually I’ll get readers, har har!) that you might need to know a bit about me, and what I expect from this blog.

First of all, I am indeed a woman.  I’m 25 now, which means I’ve had a bit of life experience, but I’m still terribly inexperienced in other areas.  My point of view is somewhat privileged, as I am a white, middle-class person.  I take a highly feminist stance on most issues, and although I do my best to write and analyze ‘fairly’,  I have to remember to check myself every once in awhile for my privilege and biases.

That being said, I have a little experience with a lot of different subjects that I would like to incorporate into my blog (let’s hear it for all the jack-of-all-trades people out there!).  I have been a creative individual my whole life; I used to draw, write, compose music, design games, do stop-motion films, and as soon as I discovered the internet, I took on designing webpages, writing anime and video game reviews, and doing a webcomic with my sister. (You probably never heard of it, but Shonen Chikara will return someday. Promise.)  I studied languages and foreign cultures, which I discovered intersected with my interest in games very well.  After completing an undergrad degree in 2007, I moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue a Master’s in Language and Communication at Georgetown University.  This was one of the best and worst years of my entire life.

Firstly, I discovered I enjoyed writing about games.  I played World of Warcraft in ANY of the downtime I had from classes, which resulted in me having three level 70 characters (Burning Crusade, yeah!) despite the 13 hours a day I was spending doing school-related things.  I tried to incorporate nerdy issues into my papers, because technology and language, as I’d discovered, were highly intersectional, and they were relatively new and therefore untapped resources for a budding young linguist to bury herself in.

Secondly, I discovered that not only language within the gaming community, but other online communities as well, was beginning to change.  Patterns of discourse veered from the traditional mimicry of spoken language, to shortened forms of words (mostly seen in texting or in chatrooms/messenger programs) and even to syntax variation within certain circles.  The tl;dr of it?  Language was changing and evolving before my very eyes, and it was something I wanted very much to study.

Finally, as a woman who is very interested in gaming, graphics, technology, language, and other nerdy fare, I’ve experienced more than my fair share of sexism.  I want a safe platform to discuss women and girls in video games, and women and girls who play video games.  This is not commensurate with excluding men from discussing these issues, but I would like to say first and foremost that I will not tolerate any trolling, woman-bashing, or basic thread derailing. I am the only judge of what is, or is not considered to be any of the aforementioned taboos, so honestly, I don’t give a shit if you don’t agree with my calls.  Also, I expect that if you have any criticism, you can keep it constructive and not destructive.  I welcome debate, as long as it doesn’t get too heated.

So, this blog will be an exploration.  I want it to be open to non-linguists and linguists alike, and to all genders.  I look forward to sharing with you!