Thursday, September 22, 2016

Still mad about Natasha and Rey

I hold grudges longer than a rational, well-adjusted human ought to. It's the only thing about Mr. Darcy that I super get. My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever. (Within reason. I'm not hopeless.)

Image result for polyhedral diceSo forgive me if I bring up an argument that happened nearly a year ago, but which I am still not over. Allow me to set the scene:

We are in my living room. We are all nerds. (Obviously, as we were about to run an rpg). There are five boys and me. Five confident, charismatic, educated (mostly), employed (mostly), socially competent men, versus just me, who can only claim two of those traits in any significant ways. (I've graduated BYU, and I have two jobs. Just in case anyone was curious.)

This was just after Star Wars VII came out. You may or may not remember the Rey merchandise... scandal is the wrong word for it. The word scandal would imply that Disney/Star Wars was ashamed of its behavior, and it very clearly wasn't.

Rey is unarguably the main character of Force Awakens. Finn is prominent, but serves the role of sidekick. Just as the old Star Wars movies are entirely about Luke (I could make the argument that even the prequels are, in some very important ways. Anakin was never the point.) so too was this new movie very obviously about Rey.

And yet

Whose toys did they sell in the stores? Po, Finn, Han, BB-8, and Kylo Ren. Chewbacca. The random sword stormtrooper. Some bad guy in a black mask. But where's Rey?

Google search: "Force Awakens Backpack" Where is she?

A random unimportant villain is here, but not the main character? Where is she?

Since this discussion happened, they've come out with a Rey figure, but there's like one, amongst multitudinous other items without her.

Anyway, I'm not going to beat the point to death any farther. The moral of the story is that I was mad about this, and some of the males in the room didn't understand why.

So I tried to explain. I'm not eloquent. I'm not charismatic. I'm not particularly well-organized in thought processes or speech patterns. I didn't come to game night prepared to debate, so I had no statistics, or images, or lists of other evidence. But I am stubborn, once I've decided to do a thing. And nothing brings out the stubborn in me like mansplaining.

Most of the guys in the room bowed out gracefully when they realized that the discussion had become very serious. I don't know whether they agreed but didn't want to fight, or thought I was an idiot not worth listening to (although I don't think so. Most of them are decent), or knew how stubborn I get and didn't want to bother telling me how wrong I was, or just plain old didn't care. And I'm not going to ask. It's irrelevant.

The point is that there were two left who engaged in this debate. One of them was a mansplainer, and the other one legitimately wanted to understand what the problem was. (Which I appreciate. Thank you. I think you probably know who you are.)

Every time I've ever brought up a women's rights/feminist/anything to do with females topic in a room full of men - EVERY SINGLE TIME IN THE MOST LITERAL SENSE POSSIBLE - I have had one of them try to argue that it's not about women at all. Every time. There's always a reason. There's always some kind of justification.

Then I brought up Black Widow getting kicked out of her own scene by a man, and that opened the can of worms.

I heard all the things, that night.
It's a marketing strategy.
They didn't know Rey would be a big deal. (She's the f-ing main character. What even?)
Girls don't play with action figures.
Girls don't care about that. (And what am I, wallpaper?)
The male customers will get alienated.
They didn't mean to. It was a factory mistake. (Between multiple large toy manufacturers?)
It's the way companies run.
They were following bad information.

But no matter what the "real" reason was, it had nothing at all to do with sexism. Nothing. Nope. Can't. Not related. Not at all. No.

This guy, who was barely out of high school, had the nerve to look me in the eye and tell me that I wasn't allowed to feel upset about this thing that happened because I didn't actually understand it properly. That it was about an entirely different matter, and here's how it REALLY is, because clearly I couldn't be expected to grasp it.

He also had the nerve to look me in the eye and "compliment" me on how non-yelly-screamy I was during the debate. He was actually surprised that a woman could be not a slave to her overreactive emotions.

I kid you not, that really happened. (And yes, I'm still grumpy about it.) (I almost suggested a google search to see how easy it is to find that stereotype in meme form, but don't. Please, don't. The number of things just on the first page which are an embarrassment
to the human race need not be given the benefit of a click.)

Anyway, I didn't do a great job re-buffing him. As I may have mentioned before, one of my fatal weaknesses is charisma and confidence. The more the other person is absolutely certain of what they are saying, the more I have the tendency to question my wording, my information, and my right to hold opinions. It sucks, and I'm working on it, but it's a thing.

And most men who mansplain are unalterably confident in what they say.

I made my case, but it was frail and uncertain. Just like those people who try to tell a joke to start off a speech, but are so nervous that no one laughs, and it just makes everyone feel more awkward than they did before. Yeah, that was me.

Not helpful. And maybe that's the reason I'm still grumpy about this. Because I feel like I didn't do what I could have to dispel ingrained sexism. That I had a chance to teach somebody something about a different demographic, and thoroughly failed. That some guy went away from this thing thinking that he'd just helped a dumb girl understand something she didn't know before. 

Today, though, I have a response. Today, I saw this video, and it captures everything I was trying to say so perfectly that I seriously watched it like five times. 

This guy clearly explains that the problem is real, and exactly why it hurts us. In a concise, eloquent way, he gives me words that I couldn't arrange myself. So, to that year-ago-mansplainer: this. This is the thing you need to understand. 


This is also important to me on a more personal level, because I did grow up feeling like girly was stupid and bad. That tomboy was good.

I grew up being not only disinclined to but literally disgusted by the possibility of playing a female character in a game. By calling my sister stupid for liking pink frilly things. I refused, on principle, to accept princesses, ponies, pink, purple, sparkles, or unicorns. I was actually afraid of wearing my hair down or learning to do makeup because I thought that appearing even a little bit girly would demote me somehow. (Plus it was profoundly uncomfortable, and I hated it anyway. So double whammy.)

But guess what I've learned since entering my thirties?
Fairies are cool. I seriously actually love all of the tinkerbell movies.

Princesses can be athletes AND like wearing tiaras. (Sofia the First. Thank you for being what tv shows should have been all along.)

Some brands of skinny jeans are seriously comfortable.

That most of the females in my sword class have way more natural talent with swords than any of the guys do.

Sports bras exist that actually allow busty people to non-awkwardly jump rope. (I seriously didn't know this until less than a year ago.) And that you can get them at Victoria's Secret. And that you don't have to be embarrassed to shop there. (Rich, yes. But not embarrassed.)

10-01-Frozen-quotesThere's finally a disney princess that shares a lot of personality traits with me. (I have actually gotten stuck on a rock wall kinda like that before.)

Just because men expect me to be skinny and wear makeup doesn't mean I have to.

I'm allowed to have opinions.

Okay, I'll end here for now. The reason I added this addendum is just to point out that if I'd had Sofia the First, and female superheros, and not been so stereotyped, I might have discovered these things before I was thirty. I could have lived my whole life enjoying fairies and princesses and being unafraid to feel things.

Just saying.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Confessions of a Female Gamer

I found this rant in my archives, which I apparently never actually posted. As it deals with some of the same things I just talked about in my other recent post, I figured I'd just add this to the mix.

One thing you should know before we get going is that I use the term "gamer" pretty loosely.

I specify this because the majority of the world hears "gamer" and thinks "video games". Which is not necessarily wrong. It's just that I happen to be manifestly terrible at most of the video games I've tried, with the exception of duck hunt, and a couple driving games. Weirdly, I'm not too bad at virtual vehicles.

I have always been a game player, though. Computer games, board/card/dice games, various athletic competitions... those three things almost exclusively defined my teenage years. Throw in books, movies, and church, and you've got my entire personality generally covered. The point being that, for the purposes of now, "gamer" refers to basically any type of game.

And so, with no further ado, I present to you my confessions:

- Did You Know that I once (in Halo 3) drove one of these across a gaping chasm on a piece of rebar that didn't even stretch across the whole gap?

(So explain to me why I'm so terrible at hitting things in Halo with anything smaller than a rocket launcher. Because I seriously have no idea.)

- Did You Know that I RPG?

I'm not the most experienced player ever, but I'm still kind of in love with them. I own a horde of polyhedral dice, three of which are giant and light up. I even made my own bag for them, and I'm kind of proud of how it turned out.

- Did You Know that I might be a little bit, kinda, sorta, maybe, hopelessly in love with Himura Kenshin?

(Hey, don't even be judging me because he's animated. Most of you were in love with Dmitri from Anastasia during our growing up years, and it was only because he was cute. He wasn't even awesome until the end.

Redeemed russian con man... redeemed best-swordsman-in-all-of-Japan who has devoted the rest of his life to protecting people and working to make up for the wrongs of his past... Pretty sure I have the high ground here. :P  )

- Did You Know that the very first time I held an actual non-BB gun, (9mm) the only training I had at all was "Hold it like this", and I still hit 12 out of 16 shots in an honestly not that shabby grouping on the middle of the target?

Well... technically 14 out of 16 if you count those two over on the far edge. But I'm not sure if I do.

(From this far away.)

So sure, it might not be the coolest thing that anyone's ever done, but it's something that I actually could do okay at with no previous experience whatsoever. And that's awesome.

- Did You Know that the second gun I ever held (that same day) was a .45, and with it I hit this target 2 out of 5? (Which, by the way, was more than several of the experienced shooters actually got that day.)

Do you even see it?

I didn't think so. Allow me to zoom in a little.

That's the guy. All one foot of him. If even that.

- Did You Know that swords make more sense to me than a whole lot of other stuff in this life? It's just a thing. I don't know why. They're one of the very few things in my life that I get really serious about. Do not mess with my swords.

(If you read my last post, you probably did know this. But it's as relevant as it ever was.)

- Did you know that I've made and sold over 600$ worth of Harry Potter wands?
- That I have successfully completed the rough drafts of five novels, polished two up to being publishable (so far), and am working on another six atop those, not counting short stories?
- That my high school record for shot put still hasn't been broken?
- That I once placed in the state track meet for throwing that distance?
- That I have never been unable to solve a sudoku puzzle?
- That I once carved an entire chess set out of wood, using only an exacto knife and pieces of sandpaper?
- That Puzz 3D's come easy to me?
- That I memorized the Christmas story out of Luke 2 before I was even old enough to go to school, and I still remember every word of it?

The point is that there is a lot of crazy cool stuff about me that I feel should be appreciated.

But Did You Also Know

- that I never played as a female character in a game until I was 28? And I only found out when the GM started calling my character 'she' and I was taken totally by surprise?

- that I have been called "sir" more often than some men have been?

- that I always got hot wheels instead of barbies at McDonald's when I was a kid? (yes, on purpose).

- that I hate skirts, and LOATHE dresses?

Okay, you probably all know that one. But did you know that the reason why has nothing to do with them being uncomfortable, like I usually claim? It is, in fact, entirely possible to find dressy clothes that don't cut off your air supply.

- that the real reason I hate dresses is because I don't look like this in them?

(I'm seriously sad that I couldn't find a full shot of that Marian one, because it rocks.)

- Did you know that I am, in fact, manifestly uncomfortable around all things girly?

When you offer to give me a makeover, or teach me how to put on makeup, I know you mean well. I get that. But it makes me feel very awkward, and not at all appreciative. Sorry.

- Did you know that I love sweet costumes and halloween, but I don't do that much cosplay because I feel uncomfortable with the girls' costumes and feel stupid wearing the guys' ones?

I have been known to say "It's not fair. Guys in movies and history have all the best costumes. Women's costumes are stupid."

I here amend that statement: "Guys in movies and history have all the best costumes, if you hate dresses." Which I do.

- Did you know that I've only once, in my conscious memory, dressed up as a specific, very non-gender-neutral version of a female character for my halloween costume? And that it was one of the biggest flops of a costume that I have yet achieved?

Yeah, I tried to be River Song. It just... so did not work. On like 12 levels.

(I did Elphaba once too, actually, but let's face it. Black jeans, a cape, and green face paint do not Idina Menzel make. It was as neutral as they come.)

- Did you further know that I am very super definitely not gay?

(Because I KNOW that's where some of you were going with this. *rolls eyes* But the complications involved in that discussion are best left for another day.)


Why then, did I type this enormous introduction? Why did I spend so much time talking about all of the feminine things that I am terrible at?

Because despite all of the awesome things that I can do, and the cool stuff I've made, and the (hopefully) good friend I've been, I still have a very low idea of my societal worth, because of those things above.

Yes, even in the world of gaming and nerddom, where, theoretically (and imagine me saying that with the most sarcastic of tones), acceptance and being-who-you-are-ness is the order of the day.

Because I sit there and wonder "Gee, why on earth do I so oppose playing the women in these games? That's absurd and sexist."

Until I see this:

-Because when I'm choosing between people to play in an rpg, I hear "But she has to be this one. It's the only girl. She can't play a guy."

(That happened this week.)

-Because when a group gets together to go shooting, and a girl wins the contest, they make the announcement like this, "The Tri-ward Champion represented the 147th ward well! (She even beat the guys). Way to go (name redacted)!". 

As though, were it not for the specificity there, we would naturally assume that the winner was only the winner amongst the women present. That it had to be specifically stated (with an absurd measure of incredulity) that a girl actually beat out male competitors in a shooting match.

(This happened TODAY. 14 years into the 21st century.)

-Because people say phrases like "That was ballsy", "Man up, already", "He had some serious testicular fortitude", "Grow a pair,", "Nut up, or shut up".

As though being the weakest, most unprotected and easily stunnable part of a man's body is still better than being womanly.

(These happen from my own family.)

-Because nine out of ten Cosmopolitan issues have sex tips, quizzes, or articles advertised on the front. As though that's really the only thing women should care to learn about anyway.

(Google "Cosmopolitan covers". I was startled too.)

-Because scantily clad ladies are on the covers of men's magazines AND women's magazines.


but when men are on the cover...


As though men are the products of their career's, choices, words, and looks, but women are the product of how they look in a bikini.

I think you get the idea.

Don't get me wrong. There is good media out there. But it's so darn hard to find.

So why did I write this post, you still ask?

Because I'm tired.

I'm tired of feeling useless, because of the way that people see my not-supermodel shape.

I'm disappointed that it's such a rarity to find motherhood actually praised instead of downplayed in media. That in all the tv shows I've ever seen, there has thus far only been one with the message that being feminine and acting in the role of a mother in no way decreases your strength, worth, or ability to protect. That it, in fact, is very important and influential".

I'm tired of being surprised when a character is classy, beautiful, kind, sweet, wicked clever, and awesome in a fight all at the same time, and doesn't have to wear a steel bikini "to prove it".

And I am SO DANG TIRED of finally finding these characters, and then having the idiot fandoms do this to them:


And those are BY FAR not the worst ones I accidentally came across. But I'm not putting that kind of rubbish on my blog.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I'm not gonna stay in your stupid box! - A rant, by Sra

So here's the thing. Last night I literally had three different boys almost-simultaneously tell me that my own personal life experience didn't count as evidence in the argument. Something that I personally had happen to me was irrelevant, but three seconds earlier some guy's story about a thing his baby sister did once, was.

(This was the same guy who told me the hover shoes in the movie were stupid, because they looked too much like ice skating, and therefore were girly. Yes, he said that Channing Tatum looked too girly in the movie where he was genetically part wolf, and shirtless at least 40% of the show. But even if he did, SO *editing phrase for language* WHAT? Girls are bad now?)

ANYWAY, I'm not even exaggerating, which I have a tendency to do. Here's how it went down:

*little boy playing with truck* 
The Dad: "Aw, that is so cute." 
Me: "Yeah." 
Dad: "It's just so interesting how little boys just so naturally go for cars, and little girls go for the barbies."

Which isn't exactly an evil thing to say. I think I might have said it once, years ago. And I've heard it a million times. It's just that usually I'm not surrounded by a crowd of guys who are talking nerd-tastically about computers and rockets, which I know very little about. I felt very pressured to prove myself as an able and intelligent human, (Something that happens kind of always as a girl around guys), so I spoke up when I may not have normally. I said:

Me:  "Sometimes."
The Dad: *in the most brushing-me-off manner this particular guy has ever used on me* "No, it really is. He just picked up that truck one day, and got really into it, and it's just hilarious how he went right for it."

Me: "He went right for it because the only toys he has are-"

Dad: *interrupts to tell a relevant and uninterrupted story about how his sister first discovered Barbies* 
Me: "Okay, that's kind of funny and cute, but here's my childhood story from personal experience, which proves that the stereotypes are, in fact, stereotypes, not rules." 

I told my story. At which point not one, and not two, but ALL THREE guys in the room simultaneously started to argue with me. Arguing with me about MY OWN LIFE STORY.

What? Like seriously, what even? I've experienced mansplaining before, and it's annoying, but I feel like I've never really gotten the worst of it, compared to many girls. This, though. This was beyond such absurdities.


And that's what I'm the most upset about. Yeah, I'm frustrated that people are perpetuating socially artificial gender stereotypes. Yeah, I hate that they use completely flawed logic to refute my statements. And yes, I'm frustrated that I'm practically invisible in most parts of my life anyway. People have literally asked me a question to my face, sat there waiting for an answer, and STILL ignored what I said to them in response. I hate it.

But more than any of that, I don't need this nonsense of having a guy explain away what small bits people do hear from me. I don't need three doofy-looking guys who are years younger than me acting like anything I say can be made to fit their scenario.

Every single time I've ever talked to a male about a female social issue, the male has gone on to argue that it's a completely different issue, and not about women at all. Literally ever single time, without exaggeration.

OBVIOUSLY I don't really know what I mean. OBVIOUSLY I mean this other thing. OBVIOUSLY they're right, because they're men, and they would know.

NO. No that isn't what I meant, and no explanation you're gonna try to give me is going to change the fact that this is a thing I experienced.

There were three dudes, and three women in that room. Do you know what percentage of the conversation came from any of the women? 20% if I'm being generous.

So that's my rant on being heard. But while I'm here, we might as well talk about the gender stereotypes too, since that's what sparked the issue in the first place.

First, your kid isn't playing with that truck because he's a boy. He's playing with that truck because that's the toy you bought him. What's he gonna do, toddle down to wal-mart to pick out something else?

Some boys do go for cars naturally. And so do some girls.

Some girls do go for barbies naturally. And so do some boys.

"Boy toys" and "Girl toys" are an entirely artificial idea. What really defines what they go for are the choices they are given.

If you're out of orange popsicles, you say to your kid "Alright, so do you want purple or yellow?" They will pick purple or yellow. Does this mean that they just naturally like purple better than orange?

By the above logic, yes. Yes it does.

Think about it.

\/  This is exactly the thing. I am Sofia, and I just want to fly my winged horse, dang it. \/

Even the story the guy told about his little sister proves this. She'd never seen a barbie before, so she went for the cars because she didn't know barbies were a choice. It is the EXACT SAME THING.

I was lucky. My family has always been very good about letting me find out what things I liked. To be completely honest, I had no idea that there even was a societal stigma about "girls are bad at math" or "girls don't like science" until I was a sophomore or junior in BYU.

My mom taught science, and I didn't have the realization that she didn't know everything in the world until the summer after 10th grade. I grew up knowing that women were every bit as smart as anyone else. I grew up just inherently knowing that fantasy and sci-fi were every bit a girl's thing as a boy's.

The things I was very into as a kid had nothing to do with barbies. I was into dinosaurs, rocks, microscopes, constellations, rockets, dragons, and I was hardcore into swords. I dressed up as Peter Pan and the blue power ranger for Halloween.

And my parents let me, because THAT'S WHAT YOU DO. You let your kid find out what they like. You let them explore it, and see where it takes them. Not once, during my entire life, did either of my parents tell me that swords were boy's toys, so I couldn't have them.

(I'm still SO into swords.)



Ooh. Nice. 
Ok, ok, I'll stop. I'm sorry. I just got really sidetracked on google. 


But even as good as I had it, one of my earliest very-clear memories deals with this exact subject.

It was my cousin's birthday party. We were at a park. I don't know whether he was turning three or four, but I would have been probably five or six.

My aunt had gotten some little barbie-esque plastic doll toys, and some plastic ninja stars. She was going down the line of kids, handing them out. I was psyching myself up to ask for a ninja star, because I really didn't want a dumb old doll figurine, and I was kind of scared. I don't do confrontations well, and I especially didn't when I was a teeny kid facing a grown up. But I wanted that ninja star so bad.

My aunt got to me. She barely even looked at me as she walked by, and didn't say a word. She just handed me a ninja star and moved on, like it was no big deal.



That was a big deal to me. A HUGE deal. So much so that I am 30 now, and it still gives me warm fuzzies.

It was important, because I spent my entire life since feeling like people keep shoving me into boxes. Teachers, friends, enemies, cartoons, church leaders, classmates, magazines... even the arbitrary standards of what counts as professional clothing.

I looked forward to girl's camp every year like most kids waited for Christmas, because it was the only week in the entire 52 that I went somewhere I felt I could be whoever I wanted to be.

Guess which one is me. 

I spent half of 7th grade and the entirety of 8th sitting completely by myself at lunch every single day. (In 9th and 10th I had exactly one friend, who played Magic The Gathering with me during lunch. But then he graduated. *sad face*)

I also had a duo of hardcore bullies during 7th and 8th.They were super annoying, but I'm pretty sure that the societal pressures of a middle schooler had already weighed on me as much as anything was going to. So, sorry-not-sorry, Justin and Steven. You mean nothing.

Everyone obsessed over make-up and boys and prom and dresses and hair and fashions and pop stars and shoes and I wasn't into any of those things. (Well, except Backstreet Boys. That, I understood.)

It's super hard to make and keep close friends, when no one cares about anything that you care about. And because of that, I kept trying to cram myself into the boxes that they sat in, so that I wouldn't be alone.

But I didn't fit. And even I, as the super slow mover that I am, eventually came to the conclusion that I didn't have to.

So don't any of you tell me that the way you handle gender issues with your toddlers won't make any difference.

Don't you tell me I'm less, because I don't fit your standards of what I should be.

Don't you dare tell me that boys playing with "girl toys" will create a freak.

Or that a girl can't like "guy things" and be feminine at the same time.
Or that her worth is somehow based on what YOU'VE decided you like.

And don't you ever dare tell me that my experience doesn't prove anything or mean anything. There are kids in every single school that feel the same way I do. People who are weird, and really don't fit in and need a place where they don't have to change their fundamental natures just to avoid ceaseless mockery.

Don't make them spend 30 years wondering why they're stupid and useless and wrong before they figure out that they aren't.

I have a sword now. Your boxes can't hold me anymore.

So sorry-not-sorry douchewads, that I am physically incapable of ever being a size zero. That, when stripped down to my bare dry bones, my pelvis is still larger than that.

Sorry-not-sorry loser guys, that I don't care about make-up, and actually strongly dislike pedicures.

Sorry-not-sorry that my version of a great tiara would have spikes and a hidden knife.

Sorry-not-sorry bigots, that I would rather play with swords than make future wedding plans, and that I'd rather be in a wood shop than a kitchen "where I belong".
I made this.
Sorry-not-sorry misogynists, that I like science, and that I've probably watched more nova documentaries that any five random strangers put together.

I like baseball and computer games, and rpgs and logic puzzles and dinosaurs and nerdy tv shows and fantasy novels

I officially decided to stop caring what any of you think. It doesn't mean your words stop hurting. They still do. What what it does mean is that I bounce back, and get on with living, whether you approve or not.

This is my new theme song. I'll peace out on this power-princess note.