Online threats are real threats

It’s so easy to say “just turn off the computer!” when people (especially women) are harassed and threatened and verbally assaulted online. How many times do you think they receive death threats, sexual assault threats, threats to expose their/their families address/number/private info (aka doxxing), etc., etc. It’s a constant, never-ending stress lingering in the back of the mind, whether the computer is on or off. Especially if there are “real-world” effects such as a damaged reputation, anxiety, and even annoyances like food order trolling (i.e. ordering like 70 pizzas to someone’s doorstep).

And it’s not a possibility to just “turn it off” – our world is becoming more and more integrated with the “online world” where anything and everything can be found and done online. Not to mention there are people whose livelihoods are based on their online content, such as journalists, writers, reviewers, and YouTube creators, to name a few. And many employers look up any prospective hires online – imagine how much damage a defamatory blog post or a spoofed account could do to one’s job prospects. In one of the links I listed below, the author’s cyberstalker would write damaging emails to the author’s friends, family, and employer, pretending to be her. And is “turning it off” really supposed to be a permanent solution? The posts and emails and comments will still be there – are the victims supposed to swear off computers forever?

A lot of people – and law enforcement! – still don’t take this “online violence” seriously. Even if it’s not immediate physical harm, the damage done is still just as real to the victims – mental harm/illnesses (anxiety attacks, depression, to name a few), constant struggle and fear, damaged relationships and damaged reputation. And if law enforcement refuses to take action, the abuser is free to continue harassing their victims – sometimes for years on end. Online services such as Google and social media platforms aren’t much help either. It’s difficult to request a takedown from Google and social media sites- meaning anyone who searches the victim’s name will still find aggressive, click-baity articles and blog posts attacking the victim. Some sites have improved their Terms of Service to prohibit inflammatory or hateful content, but it still takes a long time to process flagged posts and reported users. So there is little recourse for victims of cyber violence, other than “just deal with it.”

One of the comments I read (on the second link) scoffed at the idea of “cyber violence” being a real thing, and pointed to conditions in other countries that threaten severe physical harm/assault on a daily basis, and most people don’t even have internet access. I strongly disagree with this sentiment. “Stop complaining! Other people have it worse!” is not a valid criticism of someone else’s suffering. Yes, there are (unfortunately) many countries that condone violence against women, among other atrocities. That doesn’t mean that acts such as harassment and cyberstalking aren’t crimes and shouldn’t be punished. If someone steals an expensive sports car, it’s still a crime, even if someone points out that most people in developing countries don’t even have cars.

If someone “in real life” stalks you, continuously follows you and yells at you in a derogatory manner, spreads malicious rumors about you, and threatens to sexually assault or kill you and your family, this is clearly a crime and you can take the matter to the police. Why is it different when the evidence is only online and the person is hiding behind an avatar and username?

One last note: Gamergate, oh Gamergate. Maybe Gamergate started out as a “campaign for ethics in journalism,” but quickly devolved into hordes of people harassing, doxxing, and dogpiling onto female game critics/reviewers, and other women in the video game world. It shows how much rage the Internet can muster against one/a few people… and how useless law enforcement is in punishing online (essentially anonymous) abusers.

A few links:

https://backchannel.com/i-ve-had-a-cyberstalker-since-i-was-12-384ea9853b79#.1bg8xko6c — A (long-ish) account from the author about struggling with a cyberstalker for several years. Thoroughly describes some of the effects of cyber violence (especially for women), and how difficult it is to find a solution.

https://medium.com/local-voices-global-change/online-violence-against-women-a-global-issue-b9be0b326312#.yz4ky0vkp — A short overview of online violence against women around the world.

https://medium.com/@dlawrence6/the-story-of-the-story-about-a-troll-ea7186edbaf1#.w3mokwj7r — The author write about hard it is for writers/journalists/online publishers to deal with “trolls.”

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/oct/15/anita-sarkeesian-feminist-games-critic-cancels-talk  — Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist game critic, cancelled a talk at a university due to an email threatening a mass shooting if she did not cancel.

http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/cyber-bullying-statistics.html — Cyberbullying statistics

(I meant to write this post last week but I couldn’t really get into it until now :x)

 

Online threats are real threats

Plus size male models

http://mic.com/articles/138208/in-one-quote-this-plus-size-male-model-sums-up-everything-wrong-with-body-shaming#.Vn7JKgwQC

It’s interesting that men are more critical about their bodies than women are. It seems like there’s always a feeling of competition, no matter what gender you are – who has the best biceps/pecs/abs? Who has the trimmest belly? Who is the strongest/fastest/fittest?

The pressure to look perfect constantly surrounds us – whether it’s through advertising (models are picked to look thin/lean/fit/etc), or other people. It’s great to see a gradual (albeit slow) increase in hiring models that don’t look dangerously thin, and even”plus-sized” models.

I bet Abercrombie will continue putting those muscular guys on their bags though… and also continue to not offer larger sizes for women… sigh.

Plus size male models

What do women want?

Link to tumblr post

“Men genuinely believe that they know what women want, and are earnest in their attempts to explain ‘what women want’ to women. They are deeply confused, because of course they know what women want! Right?”

This is why it’s important to include women in the process when writing ads/movies/etc. How are you supposed to know what women want if you don’t actually ask a woman? How are you supposed to write a female character realistically if you don’t get a woman’s perspective (or even better, have a female writer!)

On a broader note, this is why it’s important to have diversity on the screen AND behind the scenes (looking at you, Matt Damon). Maybe your team can’t represent every single aspect of a character, whether it’s race, gender, sexuality, class, or something else – but it’s really hard to write a diverse world (aka the real world) if you don’t include more than just white, heterosexual men on your team.

What do women want?

Sexy Male Armor (Mmm don’t mind if I do)

Link to the original tumblr post

To borrow a term from that tumblr blog’s title, “bikini armor” on girls is often defended in video games because “that’s the way the game designers wanted it” or “it’s a fantasy game! It doesn’t have to be realistic.” One of my favorite examples is Quiet from Metal Gear Solid V. She’s an assassin, shoots big guns, has an Easter egg where she gives the player a “personal shower,” you know, all that good stuff.

sexymgs

From the Metal Gear wiki:

“Quiet wore a minimal amount of clothing at all times because she could only breathe through her skin following parasite-treatment due to the serious injuries she had sustained while trying to kill Big Boss during the hospital raid; wearing too much clothing would lead to suffocation.”

How, you ask?

” …she survived [her burns], although with severe enough injuries to allow herself to be infected with a mutant strain of the “the one that covers” parasites used to create the Parasite Unit which allowed her to breathe through her skin and take in nutrients via photosynthesis.”

Ah yes, skin photosynthesis! We can’t give her more clothes, she’ll die!

This whole “backstory” about this “special parasite treatment” is completely unnecessary and irrelevant to the plot. It’s only purpose is to explain why she’s wearing so little clothing – I know the Metal Gear games have a lot of weird, future-y technologies like cloning, accelerated growth, giant destructive robots, etc., but “parasites that give you photosynthesis” is just ridiculous.

Even the concept art shows her in a very revealing costume, which makes me think that they intended for her to be a “fighting fucktoy” right from the start. Honestly, I’d rather see a female assassin with burn scars all over, because 1) Quiet would actually have burn scars if it weren’t for those magical parasites and 2) there’s already too many thin, white, tall, pretty female characters.

And if she’s gonna run around shooting things with you and your teammates, maybe give her some body armor? A vest? You know, things that can actually protect you from bullets and stabbing, and other hazardous work conditions (it’s not easy being an assassin!)

And yet, people are complaining about Mevius: Final Fantasy designs for that gaudy, revealing, impractical guy armor. C’mon people, girls can play video games too, and maybe we’d like to see some well-defined muscles on our protags instead of just big boobs and big butts all the time.

Sexy Male Armor (Mmm don’t mind if I do)

Seventeen

A short post, but I can’t stop thinking about this.

The “The more you add, the more you subtract” reading describes the magazine Seventeen as “a magazine aimed at girls about twelve to fifteen.”

Why is the magazine called Seventeen if it’s not aimed for girls who are actually seventeen? (Side note: *I’m* seventeen, and it’s really weird to think that this magazine is being read by girls who are 2-5 years younger than me. That’s 8th grade/early high school age. I was a completely different kid back then…)

I’m not saying that 12-15 year olds can’t be as mature as a 17 year old, or that 17 year olds can’t be as immature as a 12-15 year old. But the magazine is specifically marketed towards younger girls, so that they can seem… older? So they can be prepared for the trials and tribulations of fashion, makeup, relationships, etc. that all apparently come with the transition from “teenage girl” to “young adult woman?”

The reading also goes on to describe the different kinds of advertising that goes into magazines such as these, which promote unhealthy ideals for girls such as “makeup will make you perfect” and even the idea of having to be “perfect.”

Seventeen

Freedom of Speech

(Originally posted as a comment on this blog, I thought it was long enough to warrant its own post here.)

It’s hard to regulate media content (on a federal level) without straying into censorship. Perhaps the reason why lawmakers or the FCC are so reluctant to make policy changes is because they don’t have the power to bar certain types of content from airing, as that would be an infringement of freedom of speech. If the government had the power to remove TV programs deemed “unappropriate” for moral reasons, you can see what could potentially result from that.

Therefore, it is up to the TV networks to decide what content to show. The government could probably give “guidelines” or “suggestions” but banning specific things from being shown (“no excessive violence,” “no anti-religious themes,” or “no homosexual relationships”) could potentially be problematic as well as an overreach of government power.

But the 1st Amendment also gives us the right to complain about content that is racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. One of my favorite quotes is “freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.” While the government cannot (and should not) restrict what people choose to say, we as viewers/consumers of content are free to criticize content (and creators) we disapprove of, as well as support content/creators that promote messages we agree with.

Freedom of Speech

Miss Representation

I watched the movie last semester during my freshman seminar on women leadership. Watching it again so soon let me have more time to reflect on the examples given, because I was more familiar with them.

I had similar reactions both times. I was angry at the people and companies who promote sexist ideas, especially if they’re trying to make money using those ideas. The movie clearly showed how advertising has capitalized on women’s bodies to sell products to both men (beer commercials) and women (fashion/makeup commercials). I also felt disheartened when they showed how young children (both boys and girls) received these messages and how it influenced their behaviors.  This is why it’s important to monitor what is said on TV, on the internet, and also in real life. Words and messages have the power to leave lasting impressions on people, and especially children and young adults who often rely on outside sources in the world around them to shape their views and ideals.

Miss Representation