16 December 2010

RE-BLOG The (Big-Breasted) Curse of Women in Video Games By Danielle B

Video games. Sweet, succulent video games. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day . . .?
Um, sorry about that.
Though my gaming experience hardly compares to my brother’s (who I swear was playing Zelda: A Link to the Past in the womb), I still consider myself a full-fledged gamer, and a darn good one at that.
But what does it mean to be a gamer and a girl? “Teenage boy” and “video game fanatic” are often synonymous, but the same can’t be said for someone like myself. In fact, in her article What Women Want, Aleah Tierney suggests that to be a girl and a gamer is to be “a stranger in a strange land . . . a male-created virtual space.”
Unfortunately, I don’t think Tierney is that far off. According to We need more women in games, an article by blogger Jacob Aron, women represent nearly 38% of all gamers, but only 11% of game developers. But when you think about it, is it really shocking that more women aren’t lining up to work at places like Nintendo, Capcom, and Konami (just to name a few)? Childhood I-want-to-be-a-ballerina fantasies aside (hey, don’t look at me!), women are taught to be practical. *Puts on sarcastic tone* Why risk doing something so math- and science-oriented like developing video games when we should be flexing our natural abilities as helpers and nurturers?
Video game developing just doesn’t appeal to most women (sadly enough), and that’s probably why a majority of the game universe has been molded around puke-inducing male fantasies of macho, gun-totting heroes and exotic, large-breasted women.
Though they make up only 49% of the US population, research shows that 85% of all video game characters are male – and that figure rises to 90% for characters that players can actually control. Excluding race as a factor (which is another issue entirely), male characters in video games are as diverse as ever. They can be bulky-as-heck, gaunt, or average-looking. They can be triumphant heroes, shady villains, or your Average Joe off the street. They can be hunky, intelligent, sleazy, or badass – it doesn’t really matter. There’s no end to the possibilities of what male characters can be.
Expectations for female video game characters, however, are much more constricted. They’re often forced to play the “helpless princess” role, giving a male lead the chance to flex his muscles and “save the day.” Female characters are also constantly portrayed as meek, shy, submissive, innocent, na├»ve – the list goes on and on. I’ve even noticed that 4 times out of 5, fantasy-game-women are given roles as healers or sorceresses rather than sword-wielding warriors. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with having supernatural abilities (heck, I wouldn’t mind having a few myself), but it makes me think back to the whole “women are supposed to be helpers” theory.
Helpers. Sidekicks. Servants?
Now, for those of you who don’t play video games, I hope you don’t think they’re all sexist piles of crap! On the contrary, there are plenty of awesome, strong women who hold their own against male counterparts (Samus Aran from Metroid and Jill Valentine from Resident Evil both come to mind). But I do have one gripe . . .
Women in video games are always, always, always inhumanly “beautiful.”
Whereas male characters can place anywhere on the scale of attractiveness from “purposefully repulsive” to “god-like,” video game women always have to fall under the latter category. With physiques that make Barbie look average, these characters have impossibly long and slender legs; skinny waists (but wide hips); and breasts that mimic medium-sized watermelons. Just type in “women in video games” to Google Images and you’ll see what I mean!
What the heck? Do you think the people who created these – um – overly-endowed characters just sat down one day and said “so, how big do you think we can get these puppies”?
Because it seems pretty frivolous to me.
I’d say the body proportions of 90% of female video game characters are a huge insult to women in real-life. What is it, video-game-developer-who-lives-with-his-parents, we’re not good enough for you?
Aleah Tierney wrote about her own frustrations when playing Tomb Raider for the first time. The game’s lead (Lara Croft) is often seen as a beacon of female empowerment, but Tierney didn’t exactly see things that way:
“I couldn’t wait to load and play Tomb Raider when it first came out, but when I saw Lara, I just couldn’t take the game seriously. The giant twin pyramids mounted onto her chest look like something she could use to impale her enemies. In many ways her kick-butt presence is a triumph, but the designers’ decision to sexualize her to the point of deformity angered me. I couldn’t get past her proportions, so I put the game away. I’m waiting to see if Lara (or her designers) will evolve in future versions of the game.”
I don’t think Lara’s changing anytime soon, pal. In fact, video games are becoming more and more sexualized as time goes on – and as kids (people in general, actually) are becoming de-sensitized to staggering levels of violence and sexualization in all areas of the media, I don’t see conditions improving for video game gals anytime soon.
It’s kind of funny, actually. I can play the bloodiest, goriest games ever – the kind with chainsaws, zombies, and flesh-eating dogs – and they don’t bother me a bit. Why? Because killing zombies is hardly something I’m going to pick up as an actual hobby (and I don’t foresee a People for Zombie Rights group anywhere in the near future, so I’m not offending anybody by takin’ them out). But the gender stereotypes and hypersexualization in games? That affects us. And it sucks. It really, really sucks. Because no matter how kickass a female character is – like I said before – as soon as you type her name into Google Images you’re going to be bombarded with twenty pages of fan art of the woman flashing her (mutant) breasts. It’s degrading.
So I’ll be sticking to my survival horror games, thank you very much, because zombies don’t care if you’re male or female – or whether or not you have gargantuan jugs – they’ll try to eat your brains either way 

15 December 2010

Science Fiction and Feminism By Maxine

  Science fiction as a genre is known for not being entirely female-friendly. If you enter any video store, or search the genre on netflix many movie covers show pictures of skantly clad women clingy to brawny men for security. This has always been a problem for a young women such as myself to be a feminist, and a self-proclaimed sci-fi geek. When I find myself disapointed by the lack of female representation in a Sci-Fi film or television series, there are two shows that I can revert back to in order to fufil my feminist and nerd void.

Battlestar Galactica

In the original series Starbuck, the hooligan star piolt, was played by a male. The directors of the latest series decided that they wanted to change that. They indroduced us to a new Starbuck, Kara Thrace. Not only does Starbuck fly circles around male piolts, but she also holds her own in any boxing ring. When Starbuck is not shooting cylons out of the sky, she spends her time drinking and beating the crap out of her male peers. Starbuck does not represent the only positively bad ass female role in BSG. The president of the colonies Laura Roslin  is also a women. Laura takes on one of most important roles left in the post-appcolyptic world the characters of BSG are living in. Laura calmly and wisely makes many decisions for the betterment of what's left of humanity. Not only does she out-smart male leaders, but she does this all while dealing with a spiritual quest, and breast cancer. So that's a president, and a top notch piolt in one Sci-Fi series, but there is so much more. Sharon Valarie/Boomer/Number 8 is a cylon model who embodies 3 different female characters in one role. Number 6/ Caprica 6 is a very powerful figure in the cylon world, not only does she haunt Gius Batlers everyday life, but she also can kick ass and take names. Dee, works on deck right next to commander Adama punching numbers and saving the human race. As the series goes on there are many minor powerful female roles, whether they are evil robotic cylons, or humans all the female charcters have just as much power if not more than male characters. Many would say that the female characters are hypersexualized, Number 6 being the main victim of the scurtiny. However, as you watch the series you realize that it isn't an over abdunt sexuality with out pleasure from the females like in many other female roles. The women of Battlestar Galactica are sexy, and sexual, they do not let the men of the world dominate their sex lifes and feel free to explore their sexuality freely. Number 6 may be a hyperlysexual character but in this role it is not a negative. She finds the balance between being sexy being powerful. She remains very feminie in fashion and apperance whilst remaining in a powerful posistion. The show is 6 seasons, and besides begin female friendly, it is also filled with  action, humor, fear and so much more. I reccomend this show to any science fiction fan out there, or even a fan of top notch television with a positive message.


Although the show was banned after just one EPIC season, what it covers in terms of feminism in its short life span are worth disscussion. Firefly follows the life of people living on a space shuttle called Serenity. 4 out of the 9 main characters are all powerful women.  Zoe was a fighter in the rebellion against the allance, and now works as Captain Reynolds right hand women. She is also married to Walsh, the ships piolt. They do not have the relationship often portrayed in the media, Zoe is not in any way submissive. The two often joke about their sexual exploits and are completely open about it with the rest of the crew. Not once in the show is Zoe seen as a submissive woemn role, there relationship remains balanced and neither charcter take total control of their relationship. Kaylee is a sweet young women who happens to be in charge of the ships engine. Kaylee is often depicted with a dirty face wearing the average enginers clothing. Kaylee, like other characters, jokes about her lack of a sex life on the ship and often remarks about how close she has become with her "toys." Her personality remains both adorable, and incredably genius. Kaylee works the engine room better than any other engineer shown in the series. River, is the only female character that is portrayed as mentally unstable. But with good reason, the government has been experimenting on her brain, only because she was considered to be a genius. River may be completely insane, but she also is the smartest character on the show. She often will randomly know things that the other character wont understand, and will catch on to just about anything with no practice at all. Inara is the final female character and possilby the most controversial. Inara is a companion, she is the futures prostitute. In this world becoming a companion takes training and much schooling and Anara is the best at her job. There are many differences between the modern prostitutes and Inara's compainionship. The main one being that Inarachooses her clients, they send her a request and she can either deny or accept it. She says that she tries to find out who the person is and lets that guide her to her decision. She is also her own boss, in this world the word pimp is meaningless. Inara's work is not degrading but regarded as a respectable profession. She does not feel guit for her work but it is obvious that she enjoys her job and is good at what she does. Firefly is really easy to get through, considering its one season life span. The female characters drive the plot along, it is also filled with much action and invigirating conflict.

14 December 2010

Gender Inequality and Education- Written by Alyssa Pritts

Although gender inequality is still present in the U.S, women in developing countries are still denied basic rights. Such rights are  ownership of property, access to education, reproductive rights, and political influence. How can a country move forward if half it's citizens are left behind?
UNICEF's third millennium development goal is "to promote gender equality and empower women". UNICEF has come to the conclusion that the first step of gender equity is education. Each year of education a girl receives makes her future earning power increase by 10-20%. She is also less likely to marry and have children early, and is better able to control her life. UNICEF wants to eliminate disparity of education at all ages in the next four years. This is a challenging goal considering the status of women's education and with statistics where they are now. In order for that goal to be achieved, it is up to us to educate ourselves and others.
Here is the link for a full comprehensive description of UNICEF's goal for gender equality.
This link is to an essay written by a student named Lazarus Lynch. He discusses gender inequality in Swaziland and what can be done to help improve the situation.
In February, Femtastic will be hosting a Girl-up Campaign, to educate our school and community about the challenges women and girls face in developing countries. If you would like more information or are interested in donating or volunteering at this event, please send us an email at femtastic19@gmail.com

12 December 2010

A Visit From Our Local Crisis Pregnancy Center -written by Selena Torrado

Why the abstinence speakers from Ithaca Pregnancy Center did not belong in our school
Let me start this off by saying that I really, truly believe that abstinence is one of many safe, realistic, and healthy options for teenagers concerning their sexuality. Which is why I am really glad that it is a part of Trumansburg’s sex education curriculum, along with information about contraceptive use and std education. Recently, the high school had guest speakers come in to health classes to talk specifically about abstinence.
The speakers came from the Ithaca Pregnancy Center, a center which provides “alternatives to abortion”. This seems like a needed public service, until you look closer into the background of the organization. The Ithaca Pregnancy Center is a part of a larger network of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and can be found in listings of Crisis Pregnancy Centers across the United States. CPCs often exist to dissuade women from having abortions by offering information about the “emotional repercussions” of abortion, graphic, exaggerated  descriptions of abortion techniques, and ultrasounds. In New York State,there have been probes into these centers in response to complaints of blatant misinformation. 
Whatever an individuals personal beliefs about abortion, a factual unbiased approach should be embraced in the classroom. We deserve to learn the facts about intercourse, STDs, abstinence, and abortion from unbiased educators without an agenda. Bringing in speakers who are affiliated with a staunchly anti-choice organization, and presenting them as sex educators (which implies that everything they say is factual), polarizes and adds an element of discomfort to a classroom in which students should be presented with facts that enable them to make their own informed decisions.
The speakers included a married couple in their twenties, a woman in her early thirties, and two teenage girls. They made their message clear from the beginning: Abstinence until marriage is the best option for teenagers regarding their sexuality. They presented marriage as the ultimate and only complete safe haven from the dangers of intimacy. There are two problems with this message. 
The first is that assuming that one option (in this case, abstinence) works for all teenagers is wrong. Teenagers are a diverse population of people with a plethora of opinions and backgrounds. Taking a “one size fits all” approach to sex is counter productive and alienating. The second problem is the “until marriage” part of the message. This completely excludes any gay or lesbian student, for whom marriage is not an option. It also idealizes marriage, making it seem as though it magically makes all the risks of sex- STDs, pregnancy, rape, emotional distress- disappear. It is possible to contract an STD, get pregnant before you are ready, and be raped by your spouse, but this was not addressed, which is dangerous.
They also gave the message that abstinence is not only an option, but the ONLY safe option by completely discrediting the use of condoms and not mentioning birth control. One of the speakers said “Condoms are an option, and claim to be effective...but they only are when used correctly so there goes that.” She then said that condoms can allow STDs to be transmitted, and can break. Which is factual, however she did not discuss ways to maximize the effectiveness of condoms (such as the use of spermicide and pulling out before ejaculation), or how to wear them properly. This gave the impression that condoms are ineffective, and therefor the idea of “safe sex” being possible outside of abstinence is false. 
Abstinence, like condoms, is also effective only when used correctly. If you slip up once and engage in a sexual act, or use selective abstinence (ex abstaining from genital but not oral sex) then the 100% effectivity rate lowers. If students are under the impression that condoms are ineffective, practice abstinence, then slip up, they are more likely to not use protection. Teaching abstinence in a way that discredits contraceptives is irresponsible and counterproductive to the comprehensive sex education policy that our school follows.
The most important thing for a education program to do is not to idealize sex (marital or premarital), marriage, “love,” a non marital romantic relationship, or fetishize virginity or the loss of virginity. Sex ed should be honest and inclusive, and should provide an unbiased understanding of the multiple theories about sexuality (feminist, religious, etc.). Sex ed should, above all, enable students to communicate and advocate for what they do and don’t want their sexuality to consist of. Comprehensive sex education does this to an extent. These speakers, however did not. They should not have been included in our health curriculum, and should be prevented from being included in the future.

Club Event!

Help Femtastic! and GirlUp Improve the Conditions of Teen Girls in Developing Nations
During the Month of February, Femtastic! will be hosting a fair to raise money for the GirlUp campaign. This is an exciting  United Nations Campaign that “Addresses the needs of some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent  girls by channeling the energy and compassion of American girls as a positive force for change.” The money that we raise will go to funds for programs of the UN which work to provide girls in Ethiopia, Guatemala, and other countries with the ability to go to school, see a doctor, have access to clean water, and stay safe from sexual violence. 
The fair will feature informative posters on the issues of each country the GirlUp campaign is involved with, and keynote speakers who are experts on issues such as sexual violence and healthcare in developing countries. We also want to highlight the talents and achievements of local teens by showcasing their artwork, having a poetry reading, or live music. If you want to contribute art, poetry, or music to this event, or have some other talent that you think could be showcased, contact us at femtastic19@gmail.com. To learn more about the GirlUp campaign visit www.girlup.org

Student Actors and Writers Wanted!

Student Actors and Writers Wanted For “I Am An Emotional Creature” Performance
I Am An Emotional Creature is a collection of monologues by Eve Ensler, author of the critically acclaimed play The Vagina Monologues. Each monologue is in the voice of a different teenage girl. Some characters are an American girl struggling with peer pressure at her high school, an anorexic blogging as she eats less and less, a Masai girl from Kenya unwilling to endure female mutilation, and a pregnant girl wondering whether or not to keep her baby.
We at Femtastic! believe that the diversity of the teenage experience is something that is often overlooked. These monologues provide a great opportunity to showcase that diversity and the passion, empathy, and intelligence of teenage girls. We are looking for students interested in performing the monologues or writing their own monologues to be performed. The monologue should be about a page in length, and discuss an experience that has greatly affected you as a teenage girl. If you are interested in or have questions about acting, writing or both, contact us at femtastic19@gmail.com

02 December 2010

Unacceptable. written by Selena Torrado

A few weeks ago, I found myself stranded at the mall after school with a couple friends. Trying to figure out how to control our growing boredom, we decided to go into Spencer's Gifts, a chain that I thought sold relatively innocuous gag gifts and vibrators. Innocuous these products were not. Never before had I stepped foot in a place where I felt uncomfortable and offended on the basis of my gender. The products shown below are only a sample of the numerous offensive and sexist things that the store sells. I left the store insulted, disgusted, and itching to do something proactive. Blogging seems to be the most immediate thing to do.
 "I Have The Dick, So I Make The Rules" This was the most blatant among ten or so t shirts which all had pretty much the same sexist message. I am guessing that this is supposed to be seen in a humorous and ironic light. However, we live in a world where this "Men Make The Rules" mentality is a reality. In many countries, most obviously those operating under Sharia law, male power is institutionalized and set in stone in legal documents. In our own country, we have a history of male domination and women having to fight for legal rights. Making a mockery of this is disgusting and socially irresponsible. I was honestly shocked to see this t shirt sold in a store. I imagine that if the t shirt said "I am White, So I Make The Rules" there would be a consumer uproar. I think that this sexist and equally hateful article of clothing merits the same anger.
"Hit Her In The Shitter" Which, I am assuming is a "witty and clever" (that was sarcasm) play on words, meaning both bathroom and anal sex. There is a COMPLETE lack of consent here. The verb "Hit Her" does not sound like a mutually agreed upon act, but rather a violent one. Advocating sex using a violent verb without the presence of or even implied presence of consent smacks of rape. Also, this objectifies women in the use of "her" as something only to "hit", and the placement of the women by the toilet, another object included in this act. So unbearably offensive and sickening.
"JHo Famous Fanny Love Doll: She's Your Puerto Rican Princess!" This pissed me off  above all else. It is racial stereotyping and sexism at its worst. The package also reads "J Ho is your Puerto Rican Princess. She's got the most celebrated ass in town and now it's all yours. You can enjoy every inch of this beautiful Bronx bombshell. Her thick, round butt is begging to be squeezed, spanked, and pounded deep. She likes it rough, rugged, and raw, so give her everything you've got and don't disappoint!  This doll has 3 tender love holes. This booty from the block will keep you movin' all night long."
This is obviously a mockery of Jennifer Lopez, who is one of the few publicly recognized Puerto Ricans in the US. I was offended by this as both a woman and a Puerto Rican. Most obviously, this is blatant objectification. Determining the worth of a woman by her parts- here, her butt- has the effect of turning her into an object. This "doll" represents a woman whose only purpose is to be penetrated by a penis. It represents sexual intercourse that is completely male-serving and unconcerned with the sexual needs and experience of the woman.
Now, add the racism. She is "Puerto Rican" and here Puerto Rican only means having a large, round butt, hoop earrings, tan skin, and 3 tender love holes. Given the fact that there is very minimal visibility of Puerto Rican women in this country, and the only mainstream visibility is Jennifer Lopez, who is mainly seen as a sex object, this has the result of all Puerto Rican women being sex objects in the minds of the average US citizen. This completely discounts the accomplishments, talents, progress, and struggles of the 3,855,608 Puerto Ricans in the US. As a young Puerto Rican woman who is actively involved in my community, devoted to my education, and accomplished in various academic pursuits, I feel completely misrepresented and insulted by mainstream culture.

What is most alarming to me is that these products are sold in the main mall in my town, in a store open to everyone and frequented by thousands of people every year, and never has anyone spoken up about this. Here is a national chain that makes a huge profit off of marketing sexism and racism as humor. We need to remember that as consumers, we have the right to complain and take action against products that offend us. I am going to call the store and complain, as well as start an email writing campaign. I will post my email on this blog so that anyone who wants to can send a duplicate to Spencer's.

Contact Info for Spencer's in Ithaca:
Phone: 607-257-5955
Email Link: http://www.spencersonline.com/CustomerService.aspx