Article written by :: (RSS)

Lauredhel is an Australian woman and mother with a disability. She blogs about disability and accessibility, social and reproductive justice, gender, freedom from violence, the uses and misuses of language, medical science, otters, gardening, and cooking.

This author has written 1617 posts for Hoyden About Town. Read more about Lauredhel »

128 responses to “Zombie Cow’s “Privates”: sex ed or misogyny?”

  1. napalmnacey

    OFFS. I am pulling the biggest frown-face imaginable right now.

  2. The Amazing Kim

    Man, I don’t even have a job in the industry yet, and already I’m ashamed of it. Sorry everyone. I’ll try and be more feministy in class next week to compensate.

  3. Dan

    Hi! Thought I might be able to clear a few things up.

    The game was made for Channel 4 in the UK, and designed for the specific purpose of being a Sex Education title, aimed at teenage boys. It was written in tandem with, and according to, National Curriculum guidelines. Not sure if I’m misreading that, but your article seems to be implying we’ve added the sex ed angle as an afterthought?

    The opener to the Press Release is a deliberate parody of Tabloid Sensationalism about the ‘state’ of teenagers in the UK. I’m sorry that doesn’t seem to have come across.

    The game itself is in no way misogynistic, offensive to women, or offensive to men. We do not have a ‘hatred of women’. Not all of the game’s environments take place in or around women, it’s a fairly even split.

    You also seem to have misunderstood the meaning of the term ‘glory holes’. ;)

    Most importantly: the game’s development was not motivated by ‘palpable, vicious misogyny’, it was motivated by a desire to teach teenage boys a thing or two about why it’s sensible to wear a condom.

    If you’d like to contact me for clarification on an any of these matters, please do. :)

  4. Donna

    This game could have been so good, but… FAIL. FAIL. FAIL.

  5. napalmnacey

    Dan, you can say that you don’t hate women all you like, but the language used in your press release is hateful. There is no question. A woman that has lots of sex is not “grotty”. She is not “diseased”. And this land of easy women is not some great warzone to warn your young, virgin boys from. Why only focus on young men? Why not create a game both sexes can enjoy and therefore make a more potent impact?

  6. Mindy

    If you think the term ‘glory holes’ is being complimentary to women then you need to think again. Reducing women to ‘glory holes’ isn’t hating women? Oh please, grow up. This is about conquering and demeaning women, not respecting them. Your press release makes me feel sick.

    I’m so glad that all young men in Britain today are heterosexual too. It would be a shame to think that you’d missed out a significant minority in the population, or don’t you think they deserve education?

  7. disappointed

    Firstly, I say the below with a dear and much loved girlfriend who has a 5 year old son that was born when she was 16.

    This response is a bit sad. Considering a very measured and valid response to your blog post, yet you push this militaristic feminist agenda regardless and don’t even budge on your point.

    I bet you all kicked off about the Brass Eye paedophile special too.

    I think it’s tragic that any sense of irony or satire is lost on otherwise intelligent sounding people who then just start spitting venom from an extremely uninformed perspective.

    Also:

    “I’m so glad that all young men in Britain today are heterosexual too.”

    Didn’t Dan already say that it would not only feature women? Isn’t it entirely possible the ‘rectum’ levels are taking the place in a male rectum?

    “A woman that has lots of sex is not “grotty”. She is not “diseased”.

    Note that the sentence you’re taking issue with is ‘grotty infections’ not ‘grotty teenagers’.

    She isn’t herself, but if she’s been having lots of sex with people with STIs, she is certainly diseased, and those diseases are grotty.

    Are you insinuating that HIV isn’t ‘grotty’? Perhaps we should champion the spread of STIs?

    Overall there is a singular point that you’re completely failing to grasp here. A massive massive failure in education to teens is simply that if something is seen as educational it is a massive turn off. I would hazard a guess as to say the whole point of this game, the style, the satire, the everything… is to break through the education barrier and be something that teenage boys want to play.

    Something a little bit cheeky, a little bit rude. Something their parents don’t think they should be playing. This taboo appeals massively to that age group, which is why they listen to music with swear words in them, watch gory movies when their parents are out. This is just a fact.

    So surely the idea of wrapping something profoundly educational about a subject that is renounded for being impenetrable, awkward and hard to teach subject, that will teach valuable lessons that *need* to be taught, to who they need to be taught to, while still remaining a desirable and slightly naughty thing they feel they are doing even though they *shouldn’t*, is arguably the best possible way to reach them?

    I would go as far as to say all the mid-twenties / mid-thirties gamers could stand to learn a thing or two about STIs too.

    I understood that this was clearly not meant to be taken seriously as an opinion of Britain or women in general, and although I fully appreciate how taken at face value it could be seen as offensive, the fact is it shouldn’t be taken at face value any more than any satirical or ironic statement should be.

    At the end of the day, the way I see it, they have two options:

    1) Market and develop the game as an ‘educational title’, make concessions and water the content down to make sure that no one could possibly take offence, and in the process make it completely undesirable to the target audience, and therefore not teach the lessons it desires to teach, and consigning it to the same uncool bin as 99.9999% of educational titles that parents will buy / download for their kids and the kids will avoid playing it at all costs, feel awkward or embarrassed being subjected to by their parents, and will singularly avoid learning anything in the game.

    2) Market and develop the game with a cheeky, satirical and a bit naughty way. It gains massive press, shocks a few of the more easily offended sensibilities, and is promptly downloaded by 10 million teenagers, who play the game which (as the developers assert, has no real misogyny at all) teaches them about the perils of sexually transmitted infections, extremely important information for them to be armed with, yet them still feeling they have to flick their monitors off lest their parents catch them playing this naughty game.

    If you’re seriously trying to suggest that scenario 1) is the more preferable for the sake of a few overly sensitive feminists (my gf was completely fine with that press release, in fact it was her that alerted me to the existence of this game, and she was apparently one of these grotty teenage mothers that you’re so nobley defending) I’m rather proud in this case that she clearly has a better grasp of irony and perspective than you.

  8. Rebecka

    Pregnant teens who are “fat” & “waddling” IS hateful, and IS directed solely at women. “Grotty” and “diseased” seems to refer to both genders, except where people are misunderstanding “glory-holes” perhaps… which I’d rather not go into detail about, but seems to require clarification… um!

    “Glory-holes” refers to a practice in certain sex-club type establishments of putting one’s penis in a hole in a wall, whereupon someone – unknown gender etc – on the other side of the wall does… well, it’s a surprise. I think. I don’t know the details having neither a penis nor an inclination to visit such clubs! :) So they’re not referring to women at all there.

    See wikipedia(!) -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glory_hole_(sexual_slang)

  9. Lil

    Yes, it’s demeaning to women… Pregnant is NOT fatness. AND how about size acceptance? Or concern for health where obesity & self-esteem is concerned as well…

    But glory-holes? Something else entirely! Nsfw probably, so I won’t link. Look it up under sexual slang on wikipedia! You may be sorry you did, but it does not mean what you think it means. :)

  10. Rebekka

    I just looked it up. On both wikipedia and Urban Dictionary, in case there were some other meanings not encapsulated by the wiki definition. It seems “glory holes” indeed does not refer to women’s orifices. At all.

  11. Paige

    Dan, how can you say that this game is not offensive to women WHEN WOMEN ARE OFFENDED?

  12. lauredhel

    Time out, folks. I know exactly what “glory-holes” are in bathhouse parlance. This press release, however, associates the term very clearly with “diseased”, “grotty” women’s body parts. (And the game doesn’t appear to include little condom marines invading pus-oozing penises or ulcerated men’s mouths, as far as is clear from what has been released so far.)

    Dan, you might want to look up ‘parody’ (and ‘satire’). I do not think they mean what you think they mean. Start here. Specifically, parody involves extreme exaggeration for comic effect. When your supposed ‘parody’ is indistinguishable from the same shit we read from the same men over and over and over again, it’s not going to be effective parody.

    Then read about “hipster -isms”. Start here.

  13. lauredhel

    “And what is the use of a Sunday morning,” thought Lauredhel, “without being called an overly sensitive extremely uninformed militaristic otherwise intelligent sounding feminist on whom all sense of satire and irony is tragically lost?’”

  14. Rebekka

    Apologies, lauredhel, I didn’t know what it meant, but didn’t mean to imply anyone else necessarily didn’t. And I certainly agree that the use in the press release is problematic.

  15. napalmnacey

    That really was an epic amount of admonishment, wasn’t it, lauredhel? It’s times like this you throw your hands up and reach for a nice beverage.

  16. Mindy

    But, but one woman said she wasn’t offended so what are the rest of us up to? Really?

    Maybe, just maybe Disappointed if you tried to listen rather than getting in a lather you might learn something. We are women, and we are offended. I’m glad your girlfriend is not, maybe that has something to do with her being your girlfriend. A point worth noting – if you have to explain that something isn’t what people think it is – maybe you might have stuffed up and should think it through more carefully so that people get the point from the very beginning. Slagging off women as slutty and diseased is as old as the hills, it is not trendy or edgy or any other crap you might want to call it.

  17. napalmnacey

    It’s the statement that people with AIDS are grotty and diseased that stumps me. Just – wow. WOW.

  18. lauredhel

    “It’s times like this you throw your hands up and reach for a nice beverage.”

    Waaaay ahead o’ you, napalmnacey. Just back from drinks, as it happens.

  19. napalmnacey

    I’m so very tempted to MiST the crap out of that guy’s response for my own amusement.

  20. disappointed

    “It’s the statement that people with AIDS are grotty and diseased that stumps me.”

    I exit this blog now. Too much word twisting and taking things WAY out of context going on around here to have any serious debate on the issue. Sad. :(

  21. napalmnacey

    AHA! Oh, that’s beautiful, disappointed. Beautiful flounce!

  22. Disemvoweled troll: Manly Man

    ll y btchs nd t sht p nd gt bck n th ktchn.

  23. Interesting posts, weekend of 5/23 « Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction

    [...] Zombie Cow’s “Privates”: sex ed or misogyny? – Oh hey look a video game about sex education, that sounds totally fun, I like video games so that’s right up my alley rig–oooo wait a minute… wait… What’s all this then? Oooo, that’s not exactly what I had in mind… Both the game and the marketing need improvement. [...]

  24. B

    I hope this isn’t off-topic, but I wanted to take a quick issue with “disappointed”s assertion that teenagers necessarily hate and pay no attention to anything educational, and that things necessarily need to be “cheeky,” “rude,” or “something their parents (don’t approve of)” in order to be “cool.”

    That’s really reducing teenagers to nothing but little rebellion machines who only have one motivation- annoy their parents. While it may feel that way, I assure you, it isn’t true.

    I assure you that almost no one wastes their time listening to music they don’t like just to annoy someone else. Most likely, they listen to the music because THEY LIKE IT- whether they like the sound, or it speaks to their experience, or they are simply exposed to it enough that they grow to like it.

    The same is true of gory movies- THEY ENJOY THEM. Personally, I don’t quite get the appeal myself, so I can’t conjecture why teens might like them, but plenty of adults like them, so it’s clear that “to tick off your folks” isn’t the only possible reason for watching them.

    Finally, there is certainly evidence that teens want information on topics relevant to them like safe sex and birth control. The problem with the most common ways in which it is presented to them- namely, through parents, religious groups, or school-based sex education- is that those methods present incomplete information and come with a truckload of judgement and/or an agenda.

    I mean, if you’re curious about sex, why WOULD you want to learn about it from someone who believes that to do so before marriage is amoral and is invested in you acting accordingly?
    And if you think you will be having sex soon, of what use is an abstinence-only program?

    That is the problem with most sex “education.” Not that it is seen as being “educational,” but that it is seen (rightly so) as being biased.

  25. B

    @napalmnacey

    Since I read this thread, I have been debating whether to ask about this or not, but…I thought that “disappointed” was pretty clear that she or he didn’t think that people were grotty, just diseases.

    I don’t support really anything in hir comment but how did you go from “She isn’t herself, but…those diseases are grotty” to “people with AIDS are grotty.”

  26. napalmnacey

    B, it wasn’t a huge leap to make. Take the following sentence:

    Are you insinuating that HIV isn’t ‘grotty’?

    They’re calling AIDS/HIV grotty. As in dirty, unclean, unhygienic and gross. It goes to follow that a person carrying this disease would also be all those things.

    I’m not going further into this as it’ll derail the thread.

  27. lauredhel

    B: “That’s really reducing teenagers to nothing but little rebellion machines who only have one motivation- annoy their parents.”

    B: That’s a really important point, I think, and not remotely off-topic. WP had a great thread on sex ed here.

    My experience is that children and teenagers will enthusiastically soak up high quality, non-judgemental, inclusive information about sex when it’s available to them, without any need for cheesy, condescending gimmicks.

  28. Genevieve

    My experience is that children and teenagers will enthusiastically soak up high quality, non-judgemental, inclusive information about sex when it’s available to them, without any need for cheesy, condescending gimmicks.

    Yep, that’s what I remember from when I was a teenager a few years ago. So long as it didn’t condescend or try too hard to be ‘hip,’ so long as it wasn’t all “don’t have sex before marriage or the baby Jesus will cry”…it was pretty easy to listen.

  29. The Sunday Papers | Rock, Paper, Shotgun

    [...] Andrewartha points me at Hoyden About Town seeing misogyny in the PR of Zombiecow’s Channel-4 funded Educational game Privates. A delicate one this – as always with any feminist point, it’s better to shut the hell [...]

  30. Tom O'Bedlam

    I’m not sure that ‘glory-hole’ means what you think it means. That its included in there at all demonstrates that the anus is male.

    As ever the usually useful work of feminism is hobbled by a fundemental lack of sense of humour.

  31. Daniel Rivas

    Hello. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that most, if not all, of the commenters on this thread are not from Britain. If I’m wrong, feel free to tell me and I shall no doubt feel a bit silly.

    Anyway, I think a little context is needed here.

    Here in Britain, there is something of a media narrative being spun by our right-wing “newspapers” and political parties. This narrative goes by the wonderfully alliterative name “Broken Britain”.

    Broken Britain focuses for the most part on teenagers, usually from working class families, and how things like knife-crime, teenage pregnancy and STIs are SPIRALLING OUT OF CONTROL, etc etc. Some examples:

    http://bit.ly/b0EAl7 — Teenage sister of boy who fathered Chantelle Stedman’s child had baby when she was just 13 (Daily Mail)

    http://bit.ly/9NVfUH — British Conservative party claims ” In the most deprived areas 54% are likely to fall pregnant before the age of 18, compared to just 19% in the least deprived areas.””

    We are bombarded with dross like this, and thus overtly ridiculous statements like:

    ““Britain. Land of Hope and Glory-holes. Where pregnant, waddling teenagers take up the full width of the pavement with their oversized triplet pushchairs, unaware that their rampant, perpetual humping has filled them to the brim with all manner of grotty infections.””

    are not unusual, often spouted by comedians, and are quite obviously parody. Especially as the game is funded by Channel 4, a traditionally left-leaning television company. You are clearly (and rightly) shocked and appalled by the Broken Britain message, but frankly Dan is on your side.

  32. Buckweed

    I think it’s quite a leap to claim that this is misogyny. It very obviously a cheeky parody placing the battle of STI’s in an action computer game.

    I really don’t think the intention is to make teenage boys see women only as sex objects. I really think the aim is to make them think about the health implications of sexual relationships.

    It seems to me that people just enjoy being offended at anything they can.

  33. Dolphan

    I think there’s a certain amount of cultural gridlock going on here; British satire/parody (in contrast to the US – different styles of humour is one of the most noticeable cultural distinctions between the two) is traditionally not exaggerated beyond the barest minimum. Over here, that press release is a very obvious parody, and one aimed at one or two very specific newspapers, at that.

  34. Drug Crazed Dropkick

    Sorry, I’m with the developers here. Maybe just because I get the satire, and maybe because I hate the Daily Mail and can see the caricature that they created for parody purposes.

    Anything can offend anyone. Call me a freak and I’ll laugh in your face and not bother to disbute it. Call me an arrogant child and that will make me want to hurt you. So, well done, you got offended. I’m almost positive that Dan wasn’t writing the game to insult women or offend them intentionally. The problem is that you’re all feminists. “Waitasec, they make out that it’s all a womans fault and such. We should get the fire arrows”. Get stuffed.
    .-= Drug Crazed Dropkick´s last blog ..A revue of Reviews =-.

  35. mister k

    Hmm, to be fair

    -you have yet to play the game, and condemning a game purely from press releases and screen shots is often a bad idea
    -Have you read the daily mail, the publication that is being mocked in that release?

    I am not detracting from your right to be offended by this material, there is certainly much to be offended by here, but it is possible that you are observing things from out of context, and thus missing out.

  36. Paul Moloney

    “Women’s “glory-holes” are disgusting and filth-ridden”

    Er, the word “glory hole” has nothing to do with women. A simple search on Google would have sufficed:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glory_hole_(sexual_slang)

    So, either you can’t be bothered to do basic research, or you twisted the definition of the word to fit your argument.

    P.

  37. Lewis

    I kinda feel like the main issue that’s being missed here is that it’s a game commissioned by Channel 4 for educational purposes. So the suggestion – both explicitly in the article and implicitly in the comments thread – that it’s a game set out to offend but which is being marketed as sex-ed is demonstrably untrue. I have no doubt that the game has been designed to a strict remit on education by Channel 4. I know people who work for Channel 4′s educational games department and can assure you that they are hugely in-tune with the best methods by which to communicate ideas with young people – and, since one of the specific remits they’re working to at the moment is to educate teenage boys, I struggle to see the distaste levelled at what appears to be an exceptionally clever marketing strategy.

    May I also pick you up on another thing: it is untrue that the game is being developed for Xbox. It is being developed for the PC. There has been speculation as to whether an Xbox version would be possible due to the game’s sexual content. But Microsoft have confirmed that no Xbox version has been submitted for review, and an interview (linked below) with Dan from Zombie Cow has confirmed simply that an Xbox version has been considered, but that the developer is unsurprised to hear that it probably wouldn’t pass the review process.

    http://savygamer.co.uk/2010/05/24/privates-not-allowed-on-the-xbox/

  38. lauredhel

    Hi, readers from Rock, Paper, Shotgun. I note that Kieron Gillen primed you on the way here to believe that around these parts we’re completely unaware of the Daily Mail. A peek at the blog before deciding this might’ve been a good idea. In reality, the Daily Fail could practically have its own category at Hoyden. What Kieron does get right, though, is the recommendation that newbies to feminist blogs should lurk moar. Also a good idea is to read the whole thread before commenting. Here’s our comments policy.

    To regular Hoydenizens: I’m considering approving a few of the comments despite their lack of comments-policy compliance. Here are your Bingo cards.

  39. napalmnacey

    I was about to say, lauredhel! I got bingo by the second comment! :D

  40. Dolphan

    Hi Lauredhel,

    My apologies, I should have looked through the blog more. However, I still think you’re working from a different concept of parody than the one I’m used to in order to read that press release and see it as something intended to be taken as anything other than that. I know how easily people jump to the ‘it’s just a joke’ defence for any sort of bigotry, but the fact that the entire press release is clearly written with tongue planted firmly in cheek makes it difficult to justify the claim that that’s happening here. The quote you’ve picked out is certainly somewhat concerning out of context, but I do (respectfully) think that your accusation of ‘palpable, vicious misogyny’ is unwarranted.

  41. Daniel Rivas

    Golly. Feeling a bit silly, as predicted.

    In that case, I’m a little confused as to the problem here. If anything, I’d criticise the press release as making too obvious and stale a joke. What is the issue? I’m not trying to be snide, it’s an earnest question.

    On an unrelated, entirely snide note:

    “Daily Fail” “Lurk moar” <– Tiresome.

    Sorry.

  42. Dolphan

    Oh, and I love anti-feminist bingo. But as I said, the ‘it’s a joke’ card can obscure when there are genuine issues about misinterpretation, and I think that’s the case here.

  43. choconutjoe

    @Lauredhel

    You say that your familiar with the Daily Mail, and yet you seem to be flat out denying that the press release is a parody.

    It’s very obvious from the way it’s written that the people who wrote the press release don’t actually think that, and are mocking anyone who does.

    In effect you’ve started an argument with people who agree with you, because you’ve failed to notice the irony.

  44. Nacey

    I think the difference of opinion here is that regulars to this blog don’t think that parody that engages in negative and destructive narratives does any good, and in fact just ends up furthering those narratives. Hence why we’re angry. We know it’s supposed to be parody. The damage is done whether it’s parody or not. To laugh at the idea of someone calling someone else a derogatory thing is a callous and cynical phenomena that I know I don’t want any part of.

    Hence why I’m pissed off.

  45. Lewis

    Nacey: Perhaps in some cases. That’s not the problem for me, though. If the satire offends… well, then yeah, I can get behind that. “It’s just a joke” isn’t an acceptable defence. If you believe the joke is worth telling despite the offence it may cause, then “just a joke” doesn’t cut it: you should be prepared to fight for why you think it’s still important enough to tell despite the potential damage.

    (Case in point: “Did you hear about the blonde that…?” It’s clearly just a joke. But it’s still an obnoxious joke, and I’d struggle to find any justification for telling it.)

    But I maintain that the article misses the absolutely paramount context of it being a game commissioned by a broadcaster with an education remit, which is currently attempting to engage with a male teenage audience. I’d love to see a discussion on whether this is the right way to go about engaging that audience… but the article isn’t that. Because the article makes no mention of that, instead accusing the developer of “making a stab” at promoting the game as a sex-ed message when actually it is nothing of the sort — and even now this has been demonstrated as untrue, there has been no clarification or redaction of that accusation.

    I’d like to clarify something from my earlier comment, actually, so as not to sound woefully hypocritical: the press release, which I just checked, does in fact state that the game will be released on both PC and Xbox 360. My mistake.

    I think this could make a really, really interesting discussion. And I really hope that both sides of the argument will remain receptive of the opposition’s views.

  46. AChilds

    Hi Lauredhed. You may have raised some interesting issues with how this game is being marketed with it’s PR, with it’s satire being lost in translation due to Poe’s law. Except you have glaring inaccuracies and out of context quotes all throughout this article. Perhaps you should do a follow up post now you have more information, as leaving this article up with such mistakes and no clarifications is most irresponsible while talking about such large issues.

    Thank you for directing me to your comments policy page as I found this most interesting;
    # Check your privilege.
    * Could you be missing something?
    * Is yours the only valid viewpoint here?
    * Could your interlocutor have more experience with the matter at hand?
    * Are you only here to dispense wisdom from your high horse?

    Seems your article would’ve been improved greatly by following this advice and taking the time to write a more informed and insightful piece.

  47. Dolphan

    Nacey – I can understand that more than I can understand thinking that the original press release was fuelled by misogyny. I don’t think this kind of satire is callous and cynical though – how humour functions is tricky to get to the root of, but a lot of the impetus in this sort of thing comes from the fact that it belittles the target of the satire (the target audience of the humour is rarely sympathetic to that target). It doesn’t work on the basis that bigotry is funny (the targets of satire are rarely funny in themselves). It works by making it funny, and in doing so, diminishes it.

    Now, I recognise that the effect of that is subjective, certainly. But there’s a difference between ‘that’s not funny/doesn’t work’ and ‘that’s intended to be misogynistic’.

  48. Daniel Rivas

    “To laugh at the idea of someone calling someone else a derogatory thing is a callous and cynical phenomena that I know I don’t want any part of.”

    Hmm. I think that when the original abuse is so demonstrably ridiculous, and also so obviously politically motivated, it deserves to be mocked. It isn’t a joke aimed so much at teenagers, than at the type of people who think things are really like this. I can, however, see your point.

    My issue with the joke in Privates’ press release is that it’s boring. As a real-life teenager, I’m fed up with the Daily Mail, but I’m also fed up with the oh-look-I’m-cool-I-really-hate-the-daily-mail-here’s-a-joke-you’ve-heard-a-thousand-times-before crowd. I just wish people could be a little less obvious with their satire.

    So, in short, I don’t have much of an issue with Zombie Cow’s press release in terms of how it portrays women or teenagers, but it would be nice if they’d come up with a new joke.

  49. Ariane

    @Dolphan I see your point, the problem is, if enough people don’t see what the target is, the whole construction misses its mark. If you rehash enough old tropes in your attempt to mock those tropes, you can end up reinforcing them instead.

    In this community here, are a lot of people who have seen too many people take what it supposed to be being parodied here as gospel to be able to take it at anyone’s word that this won’t be regarded as a guide, rather than a piss take.

    If you genuinely can’t imagine anyone taking it seriously, good on you. Sadly, I know enough people who might to make this slightly unsettling.

  50. napalmnacey

    @Lewis: I would question the use of a game for educational purposes that only serves half the population.

    @Dolphan: I write comics. I’ve watched comedy movies since I was a wee little babby, and I’m a writer. I know how comedy works, in fact, I would say I’m pretty intimate with the art. Don’t assume that I don’t just because I’m a feminist.

    This type of joke “works” because it’s rooted in a standing cultural narrative that maligns and entire section of the populace. Sure, the intent is to make fun of the Right-wing panic-mongering media, but by making a joke of the way these young women (the pregnant, “diseased” ones) are spoken about, they are “boosting the signal” of that narrative and also numbing people to it. This is damaging.

    Instead of being confused or unhappy that we’re not laughing, stop and think, “Why aren’t these women laughing? What would cause people to not find this funny?” Put yourself in someone else’s place. Say, a young woman who got pregnant, not because she wanted to, but because her boyfriend wouldn’t wear a condom, and she wasn’t taught properly in school about sex ed, so she didn’t know better. And then wonder how she feels when she finds out she has contracted HPV from her boyfriend (who’s run off on her, cause he’s not expected to take care of the kid, he’s a man!), which now has given her a huge risk of getting cervical cancer, and she’ll be getting checked every year for the rest of her life.

    I know – that’s a lot to take in. But that’s the story behind some of these fat, “diseased” girls behind strollers, pushing their kids to kindy before they go to a low-paying job (instead of getting to go to college, which they probably couldn’t afford anyway).

    I wouldn’t normally make the effort to explain this, but I’m going on faith that some of the more thoughtful visiting commenters might have a think about what I’ve said.

  51. Dolphan

    Ariane – I can understand that (and that’s where I think cultural differences may be coming into play). I don’t actually think the humour in this case does particularly well, and is probably somewhat ill-judged (press releases tend to be a poor venue for humour of any kind), but I do take issue with the vitriol levelled at the developers, which I don’t think is fair or reasonable – which isn’t to say it isn’t understandable for people who spend a lot of time engaged with the stuff that really does deserve it.

  52. Lewis

    napalmnacey — Fair play, but in that case, who’s your gripe with? If Channel 4 approached me and said “here’s a bunch of money – please use it to make a game for teenage boys,” then I’d probably make a game for teenage boys.

  53. Daniel Rivas

    “I know – that’s a lot to take in.”

    The presumption that it is only the blog regulars who understand and are privy to the effects teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and casual misogyny have on people is a little, well, offensive.

    However, your argument is one worth making and one I would broadly support, even if I would disagree on quite how damaging crap jokes making a mockery of an offensive viewpoint are. The article to which this comment thread is attached, however, makes none of your points. It instead takes at face value a poorly-judged press release, bypassing an important conversation.

    Sorry if this comment seems a bit grumpy, anyway.

  54. napalmnacey

    Putting aside the problematic press release, this game, its very basic concept, rides on the idea of a sexual partner’s body being territory to conquest, either by disease or by the male sexual partner. It takes away the sexual partner’s agency and dehumanises them. Then it turns into something for the player to either protect or conquer.

    Whenever something disembodies or dehumanises a woman (or a gay man), it is furthering a very dangerous and horrible narrative. This narrative feeds into the cultural idea that women are something men are entitled to. Including gay men in the narrative (as this game does) is a whole bundle of problematic and damaging crap on its own.

    Really, is it so hard to make a game that can teach kids about this problem, kids of either sex, without the cultural baggage? If they’d made it more like Spore’s initial levels, they might have gotten somewhere.

    I mean, in this very thread, a young man (who is the subset of the population this game is aimed at) is saying that he doesn’t think much of the game either way it’s taken. Doesn’t that say something? Don’t young men like him deserve a game that gives them what they need to know about this?

    I trust young kids to be smarter than this. They don’t need this framing, nor to have their information packaged in a trendy box full of “edgy” jokes that have been told since time immemorial.

    That’s all the women here want – something better. For everybody.

  55. Dolphan

    Napalmnacey – Some clarifications, first: I don’t think you don’t understand humour because you’re a feminist. I’m a feminist, and I’d like to think I have a decent sense of humour. I don’t think I have some objective line on how humour works; I don’t think you do either.

    If you think this kind of humour contributes to the right-wing narrative, rather than fighting it, then I can understand you being upset by it. But that’s far from clearly the case (I’d contend that satire, well-done – which it isn’t necessarily in this instance – makes people more consciously aware of the failings of the target rather than numbing them to it).

    As for your unwarranted (and insulting, but understandable in the circumstances I suppose) assumption that I’m unconcerned with the situation of those vulnerable young girls, nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing remotely funny about what they go through, but that doesn’t mean that satirising those who subject them to bigotry and misogyny can’t be both funny and well-motivated. Taking the piss out of something doesn’t mean you think it doesn’t matter, or intend to play down how unpleasant it is.

  56. Ariane

    @Dolphan: I’m just an interloper here, and I certainly don’t speak for the community as a whole, but personally I’m prepared to believe that the perceived misogyny was not the intention of the developers. However, sometimes vitriol can be useful in getting people to consider another position, and often, good intentions aren’t enough.

    I also think there is a cultural difference coming into play, but I don’t think it’s Australia/UK. I read the thing as a piss take to begin with, too. The cultural difference is between those who engage and think about this stuff and those who don’t. The people who normally nod earnestly in response to the Daily Mail headlines are probably not going to see the parody here. (I guess that means I don’t share napalmnacey’s faith in all teens to find the good, although I know plenty can and do.) That’s my concern with it.

    Along with the squicky disembodiment thing – I agree with napalmnacey that sexual partners really shouldn’t be portrayed this way. If you’re thinking of your partner in these terms, you probably shouldn’t be bonking them. I think the basic sex ed stuff should revolve around the idea that if you can’t discuss sex with someone, you probably shouldn’t be doing it with them. (Generic “you” here of course.)

  57. Daniel Rivas

    I think you’re probably misremembering your cohort if you think that your average high-school boy would rather play a dour game about bugs when they can play a very silly game about shooting things. I don’t claim to be representative.

    In any case, “Does this game look a bit rubbish” and “Does this game look sexist” are separate questions.

    “Whenever something disembodies or dehumanises a woman (or a gay man), it is furthering a very dangerous and horrible narrative.”

    I don’t disagree, but I also don’t see much of a difference between this and sex-ed classes in which you are shown photos of diseased genitalia and told “always use a condom”. It doesn’t take into account the emotional aspect of sex, but neither does it pretend to.

    I was a bit puzzled by the absence of any mention of a penis level in the game, but I’m not worried by a rectum level. I’m glad the game takes into account the existence of sex between men. I’m fed up of well meaning heterosexism from people who would rather not mention homosexuality for fear of the laughs such talk will get from pupils.

  58. Lewis

    “It doesn’t take into account the emotional aspect of sex”

    I kinda feel it’s important that someone chimes in at this point and suggests there’s nothing at all wrong with cold, emotionless, meaningless sex as long as both (all?) the parties are happy and comfortable with this.

  59. Dolphan

    There’s a testicles level I believe, don’t know whether there’s a penis.

    Ariane – Vitriol can have that effect, but it can also (more often IMO) simply make people stop listening to you. As for where you think the cultural difference lies – I’m someone who thinks about and engages with this stuff, but sometimes I end up drawing lines in different places to other people who do so. There’s no uniformity of response to this sort of thing among people concerned with feminist issues (whereas there pretty much is in regard to stuff like the Daily Mail itself).

    People who ‘don’t get the joke’ (i.e. Mail readers) are always an issue for any kind of satire. Are the people making the joke responsible for their reaction? (That’s not intended to be rhetorical, and I expect the answer is yes in some cases, but I think figuring out what those cases are is likely to be quite complex).

  60. Ariane

    @Dolphan: I agree re: vitriol up to a point – it doesn’t work to engage me, but I’ve been recently amazed at how many people do respond. I guess the world needs all approaches.

    And yes, I agree that I oversimplified, but I guess the point is that it’s not that we’re Australian and don’t get it, it’s that we can see that lots of people won’t get it.

    I agree that it’s a vexed question regarding who’s responsible for failure to get satire, although I think it’s pretty clear in this case – it’s meant as an educational thing. I think the way the message is going to be interpreted should be a critical concern to the creators.

  61. Crispy

    This thread could be just another example of vocal feminists extracting whatever the hell they want from entertainment media, or just another example of vocal internet soapboxers failing to engage with reality, even if it’s right there in front of them, or perhaps just another example North Americans failing to grasp British satire. Possibly all three.

    A representative for the game has responded to the criticisms, saying:
    “The opener to the Press Release is a deliberate parody of Tabloid Sensationalism about the ’state’ of teenagers in the UK. I’m sorry that doesn’t seem to have come across. ”

    Because you seem to have some difficulty understanding the concept of either parody or what a British tabloid is typically, here are a couple of links:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parody
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

    The Daily Mail is a British tabloid. It’s current ‘Top Story’ is:

    ‘I was out of it on one lager,’ says mother of baby who suffered 40% burns in the sun on Brighton beach

    Or maybe you’d prefer it’s next leader:

    Shortest Cabinet career in history: Treasury axeman David Laws quits over expenses paid to his gay lover

    Perhaps that clears things up a little.

  62. Lauredhel

    I did this waaay back in comment 12, but it looks like a whole lot of people haven’t bothered reading the thread. Read this link before huffing and puffing that I didn’t “get” the “irony”. Here, I’ll excerpt:

    Hipster -ism works like this: Someone uses an -ism among a group of friends, and the friends laugh, because the idea is that they know it’s an -ism, they know it’s not acceptable, and it’s funny because of this. It’s ironic, geddit? [...]

    Hipster -ism also props up cultural values, rather than breaking them down, by normalizing exclusionary language and ideas. When you make jokes about people of colour in a society which marginalizes people of colour, you are not being edgy, transgressive, or particularly funny. You are instead propping up the status quo.

    I find men making cracks about grotty waddling diseased sluts about as funny as abled people yucking it up over subhuman freakish cripples who oughtta be sterilised. Standpoint is important. Privilege is important. This shit is rarely subversive and never reclamatory when you’re part of the oppressing group.

    I might try to sort through to find any bits of substance amongst the abusive comment in a few days, when I’ll be (hopefully) post-crash. That is, if we can avoid a Fat-Princessing before then. Not sure what the odds of that are, right now.

    (Quick question, though: why are multiple commenters rabbiting on about US humour and North Americans?)

  63. Daniel Rivas

    “I did this waaay back in comment 12, but it looks like a whole lot of people haven’t bothered reading the thread.”

    True, but I think it’s worth pointing that out in comment zero, which I assume is in your power to edit. The original article really does make it sound as though you haven’t noticed the (intended, up to you if you think it was well done or at all defensible) parody, which explains all the people trying to point that out, myself included (way back in comment 29).

    There’s also a fair amount of stuff from the video-games-are-above-reproach crowd, who frankly do more harm than good, but hey, different discussion.

    With respect to “hipster -isms”, I do think there is a difference between actual irony and wanky statements. I don’t think the intention was to normalise awful opinions or to make a horrible point while still pretending to be cool. That said, I also don’t personally know Dan Marshall, or anyone else working on Privates.

    “(Quick question, though: why are multiple commenters rabbiting on about US humour and North Americans?)”

    I’d say this is a combination of your not appearing to “get” the joke, and the general assumption that anyone not from Britain on the internet must be American.

  64. Drug Crazed Dropkick

    “Hi, readers from Rock, Paper, Shotgun. I note that Kieron Gillen primed you on the way here to believe that around these parts we’re completely unaware of the Daily Mail. A peek at the blog before deciding this might’ve been a good idea. In reality, the Daily Fail could practically have its own category at Hoyden. What Kieron does get right, though, is the recommendation that newbies to feminist blogs should lurk moar. Also a good idea is to read the whole thread before commenting”

    Sorry, but our comments based on this one post are exactly what you appear to have done with Zombie Cow’s game.

    What annoys me that you really think that this was aimed to harm women and their rights. There’s a woman who’s standing to be leader of the Labour party in Britain. I wouldn’t vote for her. Why? Because she thinks that because she’s a woman, she should win.

    That’s the problem with this article. You assume that the game is attacking women (Which it isn’t), and that all the RPS people are attacking you as well (Which we aren’t). My previous comment said that anything can offend anyone. Which is true: It can. But the way this was written made it seem like an attack on Zombie Cow, when they weren’t trying to attack you.
    .-= Drug Crazed Dropkick´s last blog ..A revue of Reviews =-.

  65. Tom O'Bedlam

    Ah, its turned into a proper debate here. In which case I’d like to rescind a certain amount of my abrasiveness earlier and join in.

    First,
    @napalmnacey “I would question the use of a game for educational purposes that only serves half the population.” This I have to take exception with, in matters which are intended to teach about an aspect of sexuality it would only seem appropriate that it aim at half the population. Each gender’s experience of sexuality is completely different. If someone thought that they were able to make a game that could empower females to demand that their partners wear a condom, then that would necessarily require that it only serves half the population, yet, I would hope, none of us here would question its educational merits?

    @Lauredhel re: hipster -ism. I have to disagree with you on this issue, as I believe that jokes intended to ironically mock abhorrent attitudes do far more to belittle that attitude than reinforce it. I’m can’t agree that such language normalises it at all, because part of the effect of laughing at it is to force it into a corner, humour serves a far better job of changing perceptions than you seem to give credit. I would heartily recommend the stand up of Marcus Brigstock, whose show Planet Courdroy is available on youtube.

  66. CHiburger

    I find this article taken WAY out of context. “Glory holes” is the name of a form of male homosexual intercourse, not a vagina. Feminism and chauvinism taken aside, teenage pregnancy is not something to be appreciated. Even with the quote given and the nature of the game, this article sounds like yet another feminist trying to wheedle out misogyny from something totally unrelated.

  67. Superbest

    I think somebody is confused about what a glory hole is. Hint: It’s not a vagina.

  68. Dolphan

    Lauredhel – But (good-faith question, I’m not trying to be antagonistic) don’t you recognise a difference between Hipster -ism and parody? I hate Hispter -ism, but I don’t see it at all in that press release. If it was doing that, I think the criticism in your last comment would apply, and I’d agree with it, but I’d like to know what makes you think that’s what they were doing?

    Ariane – fair points. If there’s stuff following this tone in the actual game, I’d be very concerned, but the target audience of the press release (the games press) isn’t the same as the target audience of the game, and press releases are often a poor guide to the actual contents of a game.

  69. Item!

    @ Lauredhel

    “I might try to sort through to find any bits of substance amongst the abusive comment in a few days, when I’ll be (hopefully) post-crash.”

    Really?

    Seems to me that the vast majority of us RPS visitors and the resident denizens of hoyden’ have been playing nicely together and making constructive efforts in discussing the issues your article raised…yet you seem to have only chosen to recognise and address the minority of negative responses?

    *shrug*

  70. DrGonzo

    @Lauredhel

    That PROVES you didn’t get the irony at all.

    Let me guess, your American?

  71. napalmnacey

    OMG, wait – did Crispy really just try to send us to Wikipedia? ROFLMAO! Quick, Crispy! Whip out the dictionary definition, then start introducing us humourless harridans to the basics of comedy! We’ve never, ever had anyone do THAT before! Like, EVER!

  72. tigtog

    I’ve just added this paragraph to the top of the post. because I’ve seen the comments in moderation and you haven’t:

    Editor Note 2010/05/31: Welcome, new readers! Firstly, thanks to those who are engaging substantively and with attention to netiquette – it is much appreciated. Sadly, it seems a few of you aren’t reading the comments from other people in the thread over the last week, and are therefore repeating exactly the same corrections and clarifications as those established days ago now! Please find new and original corrections and clarifications for us? Also here is a free clue: there’s a link to something “DOWN UNDER” right there in the nav bar. ~tigtog

    I’m just about to release them.

  73. napalmnacey

    @Item – Huh? Why are you getting all up in Lauredhel’s business?

    @DrGonzo – Her American what? (The word you were scrabbling for is “you’re” as in “you are”, and you would be wrong. A little bit of light skimming of the site would clue you in to the fact that we’re mostly Australian, hence the culture clash thing doesn’t ride – we get your joke, we just don’t think it’s funny.)

  74. Daniel Rivas

    “That PROVES you didn’t get the irony at all.
    Let me guess, your American?”

    Oh, Jesus wept.

    “Lauredhel is an Australian woman with a disability. She blogs about feminism, reproductive justice, freedom from violence, the use and misuse of language, medical science, being disabled, her garden, and whatever else pops into her head.”

    If you’re going to make stupid comments, you could at least read the whole article.

  75. tigtog

    Here’s a point you lot (ETA: i.e. the ones “educating” us about this being a parody, not the people making better arguments) are missing about parody/satire and hipster-irony – what seems obviously satirical to you “sophisticates” may well end up just reinforcing existing prejudices to people with more ferociously jerking knees.

    Case study: anti-racist writer and anti-racist actor create an appallingly brilliant comic grotesque in Alf Garnett, designed to show that every single Daily Mailerism he utters is not just bigoted and boorish but also flamingly WRONG simply on the facts, yet Garnett’s punchlines are embraced by the yobs and start to get thrown at “nig-nogs” and “pakis” to add a bit of spice to their daily dose of abuse from the Anglos. When the same concept is copied in the US with All In The Family and in Australia with Kingswood Country, exactly parallel consequences result.

    If your parody/satire/irony actually ADDS to the harm experienced by a group that is already experiencing prejudice, what good is it doing?

  76. Daniel Rivas

    “There’s a woman who’s standing to be leader of the Labour party in Britain. I wouldn’t vote for her.”

    An odd assertion, and I think you’re selling Diane Abbott short (I assume you’re talking about Abbott). Standing because you’re concerned that the leadership competition is made up entirely of white males in their fourties is entirely valid, and quite different to thinking “that because she’s a woman, she should win.” Should she gain enough nominations, she’ll be judged on her ability as a politician, not her gender. Besides, there are far better reasons not to vote for her, mostly involving her children, private schools, and a healthy dose of hypocrisy.

    Anyway, there are a lot of really very important discussions to be had about videogames and their relationship with gender, sex, and sexuality, and I’d personally like to have them without people shitting all over a comment thread because:

    1) They’ve decided games are for idiots and any discussion on the matter is stupid, just because.
    2) They’ve decided that any criticism of any game ever is clearly wrong, because games are amazing and totally art and everything.
    3) They’ve just decided to be arses, because it’s on the internet.

    To this blog’s great credit, I haven’t seen any of number one. Number two is evidently present, but it isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. Good on everyone for that.

    There’s a lot of number three around, though, on both sides. If this comment seems a bit worthy, sorry, but I’m getting a bit fed up with the shouting match.

    Tigtog: Fair point.

  77. Dolphan

    Tigtog – Ariane and I were discussing that? I certainly think there’s an issue there for satire, but saying that it does more in the way of reinforcing bigoted attitudes and causing harm than in mocking them and reducing harm is a bit arbitrary (I could easily just do the same for the opposite view), unless you have some empirical evidence to back it up.

  78. Dolphan

    Daniel – Well said, but I don’t think many people follow your number three so much out of deliberate unpleasantness as the fact that in these sorts of discussions it’s very easy to get frustrated at the other person ‘just not getting it’ (on both sides).

  79. tigtog

    Dolphan – my claim is not that all satire etc reinforces rather than challenges prejudices, just that badly done satire etc does this. I see what came out in that press release as very broad satire that wasn’t exactly sure what its purpose, other than mocking the Mail, was. Without a better target than that, it’s at best rather pointless and at worst actively harmful.

    re the suggestion of Marcus Brigstocke’s work upthread – Brigstocke tends not to fall into the trap of being too damn clever for his own good – he doesn’t just assume that his audience is on exactly the same page as he is with the tropes he’s mocking. There’s a real skill in that level of nuance, and it’s one that most comedians/writers have not actually mastered as well as they might think.

  80. tigtog

    Should clarify “badly done satire” there in light of mentioning Alf Garnett earlier: thatTill Death Us Do Part was technically brilliant satire, beautifully written and marvellously well performed. The problem was that it was too clever for its own good given the audience to which it was playing, who weren’t all on the same page regarding the underlying premises held by the writers/performers about Alf Garnett’s worldview.

    The ZC press release was not even technically brilliant.

  81. Drug Crazed Dropkick

    I was stupid to put this as a subscription.

    @Daniel Rivas: Oh look, an out of context quote. What a surprise. I forgot her name, but Diane Abbott sounds about right. She is attempting to use the “Look at me, I’m a woman. Everyone else is a man. I’m different. Vote for me”.

    “2) They’ve decided that any criticism of any game ever is clearly wrong, because games are amazing and totally art and everything.”

    I think you misunderstand our position. I don’t think games are “amazing and totally art”. I hate games that say they are art, because they aren’t. What we aren’t happy about is the fact that this article attacks the game company and developers without asking them for an interview (He even came here and said he’d be happy to answer questions).
    .-= Drug Crazed Dropkick´s last blog ..A revue of Reviews =-.

  82. Paul Moloney

    “Without a better target than that, it’s at best rather pointless and at worst actively harmful [satire].”

    There’s a wide gap between pointess, perhaps harmful, satire and palpable, vicious misogyny.

    P.

  83. tigtog

    The problem is that the palpable, vicious misogyny is there in the source material being parodied, and the parody doesn’t negate that misogyny, and arguably amplifies it.

  84. Tom O'Bedlam

    @tigtog You raise an interesting point about Alf Garnett, there’s a similar life imitating art imitating life to be seen in Nathan Barley, if you’ve seen it? Written by Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker to lampoon the nonsense-bots behind Vice magazine and their readership, it become an ironic icon for these self same people. I suppose this shows that you’re right that you can’t rely on your audience to pick up on the real target of your humour, but I would also suggest that this shows that the artist cannot be responsible for what people take from it. While Messers Brooker and Morris could hardly have been said to have promoted the idiot culture, they accidentally became the main character of the show, Dan Ashcroft.
    To link this back to the original point, I think it is unfair to accuse Zombie Cow of ‘vicious misogyny’ for precisely this reason, they don’t believe that what they have released in their PR* is offensive because they’re trying to mock that ludicrous attitude. In the extremely unlikely event that a teenage boy read the release and took from it that all women are infected sluts, which I stress is hugely improbable, then I would say that teenager would be the one at fault for lacking the ability to critically review what he’s presented with.

    Whether it was funny joke or not is another question. Though would you have found it less offensive if they had taken the parody further, perhaps in the form of a Mail front page with the company name in heavy Germanic script? To me that seems like a far safer option.

    I’m glad Brigstock goes down well here :)

    *let’s not forget that none of us have played have played the game in question yet, so we’re all unable to comment properly. Though I hope this blog will actually play through it and provide a review, just to see if opinions will change.

  85. Paul Moloney

    So by attempting to – in your argument, pointlessly – parody misogyny, Dan and co “are dead set on regaling us with their hatred of women”?

    There’s no middle ground that, perhaps, their parody of misogyny was wrong but doesn’t actually mean they are women-haters?

    P.

  86. Ariane

    Further to Tigtog at 80, there does seem to be a bit of question over who the intended audience is. @Dolphan said that the intended audience for the press release is the games press, which may be a fair point. The problem is that this sort of thing tends to stay with the game, particularly something so inflammatory and with such tempting sound bites for marketers.

    So it fails to mock the damaging stereotypes both because it’s badly done as Tigtog (and Lauredhel and lots of others) said, and also because its audience is not necessarily who they think it is.

    And all of this is just about the press release, whose audience might be able to be argued. The game itself, whose audience is not in question, is still portraying sexual partners as disembodied sexual receptacles harbouring disease, which rather reinforces those same tropes.

    @DCD A person doesn’t have to subscribe to sexism (or any other ism) to produce sexist stuff. I do it, lots of people do it. The only way to stop the built in sexism is to point it out. Responding to someone saying “that’s sexist” by saying “I’m not/he’s not sexist” is missing the point.

  87. tigtog

    @Paul Moloney.

    Obviously parodying misogyny is not pointless per se. That is a SotBO, and arguing that my opinion of this particular example of parodying misogyny is pointless means that all parodying of misogyny is pointless comes across as arguing in bad faith.

    I’m also not the OP, who lives on the other side of the continent and is probably not awake yet.

  88. Paul Moloney

    tigtog, I’m aware you’re not the OP. My question remains.

    P.

  89. tigtog

    Sure, I can accept that the game-makers are not active women-haters, and that they’re pretty appalled by the criticism of their meant-to-be-playful, tongue in cheek, press release.

    I’m also sure that there are some good ideas in the game itself, which the press release has effectively trampled on, IMO.

  90. Daniel Rivas

    Right, my mind has been changed. I don’t think the press release in itself is damaging; as Dolphan points out its audience (games writers who pay attention to PR from a tiny developer, whose previous game was a point-and-click adventure) is, just about, guaranteed to get the joke, have a titter, and get on with their day.

    I will be very concerned though, if when the game is released, this sort of messaging comes attached. I am reminded of when the film Borat released, and a large number of people I know failed to get the joke, and instead began overnight to incessantly spout awful jew jokes.

    About-face from me, then. Ah well.

    Sidenote: I realise tigtog’s use of “yob” was also meant to be ironic, but in my experience the worst are always the over-privileged. The poorer kids don’t give a shit because, really, why would you?

    Further sidenote: Sorry if I offended you, DCD. I just picked out your comment on Abbott as something unrelated that I happened to disagree with, not to use it to prove your opinion was wrong. As for the games-as-art thing, I just tend to use “Are games art?” as a synonym for “Silly Question”.

  91. fuckpoliteness

    Daniel Rivas @ 90: On your first sidenote, I’m not sure how ‘ironic’ tigtog’s use of the word ‘yob’ was meant to be, she can take that up with you herself, but for real, as a product of extremely working class areas, growing up as one of those ‘poor kids’, I can say I really very much doubt your assertion that the worst are always the over-privileged. My experience of those areas was of extremely hostile bigotry with violent undertones on good days, and violent enforcements frequently: I’m talking racialised and sexualised violence on a regular basis, and an absolute JOY in taking up cultural taglines/themes that reinforce the hostile bigotry at play. We may not have had as much reading time, extra curricular refinement time or education, but we certainly did movies/tv/games and bandied the taglines around.

  92. geek anachronism

    I don’t think the press release in itself is damaging; as Dolphan points out its audience (games writers who pay attention to PR from a tiny developer, whose previous game was a point-and-click adventure) is, just about, guaranteed to get the joke, have a titter, and get on with their day.

    …you obviously have a totally different experience regarding games writers. They’re not the first group of writers I think of as either subtle or incredibly aware of social injustice. Some are, but my experiences haven’t been overwhelmingly positive* so I’m not inclined to give much weight to the ‘but the intended audience will totally get it because they’re smart’ argument.

    Gamers have a tendency to think of themselves as much smarter and much more progressive than any other group – sometimes they are. A lot of the time they’re as sexist and as homophobic as any other group, they just react really badly to it being pointed out because it really is woven into the day to day experience of gaming for the most part. Writers and reviewers and designers aren’t isolated from it. This godawful attempt at parody (in the press release) and the godawful sounding game (is there actually cohesive structure going on or is it all “ha there’s a pubic hair and a rectum and I guess a condom and we’ll fight some STDs” – I’d say I’ll play the game to check but fuck that noise, I’ve got better games to spend my time on) are steeped in that culture. And that culture is not woman-friendly or particularly open to social change.

    *freelanced in the area for a while

  93. drygear

    So, what about A Modest Proposal? Is that racist/classist because some of the readers didn’t know it was satire?

  94. tigtog

    OT: have just noticed that latest software upgrade has a discrepancy in the comments numbering – there have been 8990 comments published, but the counter is at #91#92, which includes two deleted comments (deleted at the commentor’s request). It definitely didn’t used to do that. Grrrr.

  95. Item!

    @ Nalpalmnancy “Huh? Why are you getting all up in Lauredhel’s business?”

    Was a genuine question/comment and not an attempt to “get in anyone’s business”.

    Yes, there have been some unhelpful comments flying around (from both sides I might add :-p ) but plenty of decent debate and I was merely expressing surprise that the OP seemed to choose not to engage with any of the worthwhile stuff and pretty much summarily dismiss the entire two-page debate, that was all.

    :-)

  96. napalmnacey

    @Item! – Sorry, I couldn’t read the tone in your comment so I was trying to figure out what you were trying to say.

    From what Lauredhel said, I think she wanted to engage but she was out of energy. Not everyone has limitless energy to deal with every debate that occurs in their blog. It got contentious at about bedtime for us Sandgropers (West Aussies).

    Also, if you run a blog and get the same sort of comment over and over again, you just shut down at some point and don’t want to have to explain things to people that you’ve explained a hundred times before. Again, that costs more valuable spoons.

  97. Item!

    @ napalmnacey Fair enough – I can see how it would get frustrating and indeed, I am now slightly irked myself at the fact that two pages in, people are still smugly pointing out what a “glory-hole” is…

    I guess I just see this thread as an interesting opportunity – you have a mass of RPS readers on holiday to hoyden, for the most part keen to have a friendly and constructive debate on the subject, so…

    Forgive me, I am about to make a fairly sweeping generalisation here forgive me, but I contend that the vast majority of the RPS readership are young-ish, white, middle-class males and for the most part we wouldn’t know oppression or marginalisation if it kicked us in the balls.

    On the other hand, we are generally not wilfully sexist and certainly not misogynists (or homophobes, or stupid…) either.

    Occasionally naive? Yes. Lacking in empathy? Possibly. Purile? Oh yes, frequently. (sorry)

    So I suppose what we have is a great chance for us YWMCMs to engage with and understand a different viewpoint via something we *do* understand (video games, natch) and perhaps even turn that around and offer the Hoyden denizens the chance to understand that where *we* are coming from isn’t perhaps always the place you may think it is.

    :-)

  98. Item!

    ^^^^^^

    …and now I am worried that my last post may be misconstrued as being condescending. That certainly isn’t the intention.

    :-/

  99. napalmnacey

    @Item! – I didn’t read it as being condescending at all. I think you’re far more optimistic than I am about these things, but I give it a shot anyway. Believe it or not, me even engaging in conversation was my version of trying to reach new minds. :)

  100. Item!

    …an optimism likely born of being a YWMCM!

    As long as the conversations stay friendly, respectful and constructive, then that is surely a pretty good start I guess.

  101. Ariane

    @Item! If you want to see what some of the people here are talking about in terms of the saturation of sexism in the world at large, have a go at this fun experiment. It doesn’t involve games, but it attempts to show you what biases are buried in your brain, even if you don’t consciously subscribe to the ideology. Turns out I have home=female and work=male pretty ingrained in my psyche, despite having worked all my life and definitely not subscribing to that principle. On the other hand, I have no ingrained homophobia, if anything I am actively anti-hetero.

    I know this is way OT, but it takes a shot at showing that people who are not sexist still make sexist decisions. Getting your head around just how much is ingrained might help you understand where the Hoydenizens are coming from, and why they are so skeptical that this stuff is as harmless as others think it is.

  102. Item!

    @ Ariane – I will go try the experiment now!

    “I know this is way OT, but it takes a shot at showing that people who are not sexist still make sexist decisions”

    …and this of course is a distinction worth making again.

    A comment or a stance or an act which may be construed as sexist or misogynistic (or homophobic, or racist, or, or…) does not by default render the originator (or the intention) irrevocably so.

  103. Item!

    @ Ariane,

    Well I took the IAT you suggested, my results (genuinely) were:

    “Your data suggest a strong association of Female with Science and Male with Liberal Arts compared to Male with Science and Female with Liberal Arts.”

    Amusingly enough I believe it is actually my affinity and love of computer games which produced that result rather than it being a clear reflection of my inner psyche.

    I would admit that at a base level I am probably as guilty as the next guy in initially associating the sciences as “male” and liberal arts as “female” – purely as a result of up-bringing and the society around me rather than an innate and deliberate sexism.

    The mechanism of the test itself lends itself to being “played well” by those who play a lot of video games…I think.
    I was likely trying to play for the “right”answer – in this case, one favourable to the discussion we are currently engaged in. Unless of course there are subtleties to it that I am unaware of?

    Perhaps (and this is clutching at straws) it really does give some kind of reflection into the inner me and what results represents a sub-concious backlash against living in a revoltingly patriarchal and misogynistic country for the last 4 years (U.A.E).

    Interesting anyway – I may do some more of those.

  104. Ariane

    @Item! I don’t doubt your gaming did improve you scores in the “right” direction, but did you look at the general statistics? You might well be able to play the system, but people who weren’t trying so hard show some pretty scary inbuilt bias, and I very much doubt that the kind of people who do that test are people who claim to be sexist or racist. Also, the home/work dichotomy is a bit more inbuilt than arts/science, I suspect – or maybe that’s just that I’m science trained?

    If you’re looking for other people demonstrating their bias, here’s another fairly short read.

    And speaking of that, do gamers who play as a different gender online find they are treated differently? I’m sure studies have been done, but has anyone here given it a go? Like a serious go?

    Sorry, your honour, goes to credibility of irony attempt. (Making excuses for OT)

  105. Rakysh

    Buggered if I can remember where, but I’ve seen stuff suggesting many many women play under male pseudonyms to avoid being continually hit on and so forth, (I vaguely recall hearing at least a third of online gamers are female, which is now way represented by what you tend to see) and sometimes men play as women for fun as well, but I believe this is less common. It does vary a huge amount though- not only from game to game but to servers within that game- taking Team Fortress 2 as an example, in some communities gender just isn’t really noticed or a factor, where as in others being female on a voice mic is an excellent way to receive all kinds of unlooked for attention. I wince when I hear “in video games” because it’s like saying “in sports”- there is a huge range, not only between different games, but also between different communities within those games. Think of the difference between groups kids messing around playing football.

    It doesn’t help that many developers seem to treat gamers as misogynistic, objectifying, breast obsessed teenagers. Strong female characters and protagonists that aren’t completely sexualised are the exception, not the rule. This does not, I feel represent the community at large (as much as “gamers” can be described as a community- we’re very tribalistic. For example, Rock Paper Shotgun is mostly for reasonably serious, intelligent, older PC gamers.)

    On a personal note, I had no bias between career and gender, presumably because my mother is a doctor who makes much more money than my father, who is the cook and primary carer.

  106. Daniel Rivas

    “Daniel Rivas @ 90: On your first sidenote, I’m not sure how ‘ironic’ tigtog’s use of the word ‘yob’ was meant to be, she can take that up with you herself, but for real, as a product of extremely working class areas, growing up as one of those ‘poor kids’, I can say I really very much doubt your assertion that the worst are always the over-privileged. My experience of those areas was of extremely hostile bigotry with violent undertones on good days, and violent enforcements frequently: I’m talking racialised and sexualised violence on a regular basis, and an absolute JOY in taking up cultural taglines/themes that reinforce the hostile bigotry at play. We may not have had as much reading time, extra curricular refinement time or education, but we certainly did movies/tv/games and bandied the taglines around.”

    Hi. My primary school is a bit of a weird one, in that 50% of those attending are from families in the 20% most deprived bracket nationally, and about a quarter are really quite well off. This is because its catchment basically takes up two small towns, one of which is leafy, middle class and one of which is an ex-milltown (where I live, as it happens).

    In my experience, it’s the kids from the richer town who were the most awful when it came to talk of “pakis and gyppos”. Which isn’t to say everyone poor wasn’t racist (in the recent elections, 766 people voted BNP, and 153 the English Democrats. Just over 40,000 voted overall). Racial violence is basically nil, for the practical reason that the area is incredibly homogenous. I can’t say how things would be if the population were transported somewhere more diverse.

    Anyway, I don’t pretend to speak for everywhere, and I’m sorry to hear about your experience.

  107. geek anachronism

    Buggered if I can remember where, but I’ve seen stuff suggesting many many women play under male pseudonyms to avoid being continually hit on and so forth

    Being hit on is usually the least disruptive. The vitriol, the real life threats and the abuse are the worst emotionally but it sure fucks up a game when someone decides to ‘show you how’ things work. I’ve been playing FPSs since the original Quake but some teenaged boy is going to show me the ropes and cover me? Nice way to screw up the game. Same with the guys who will just target you incessantly (to the point of losing CTF matches) because you’re female. A lot of gamers like to say “well, that’s not me/my friends/my clan/my guild” but it is the normal gaming experience until you find that clan/guild/server. Until then you mute and you use a gender neutral/male nickname.

    And never go to LANs.

    My best friend is in games design and it’s not all that much better at that level. Women who have won scholarships for their design and programming chops have walked out of class 5 weeks in because the shit they copped from other students was the same as the shit they copped from the ‘professionals’ at a meet and greet. Nothing says “we’re professional and value your opinion” like “huh, most chicks hate games, I bet you play Sims all the time” or “you just do design work don’t you” with the added joy of watching them dismiss you and your ideas until a bloke says the same thing. You may think your ‘ironic’ and ‘satirical’ joke is hilarious/appropriate but it’s probably the tenth time today that woman has heard something like that and it gets increasingly stupid and painful. To the point that it is honest to god easier to give up the hobby than decompress after every game. Hobbies should be fun but sexism ruins games for a lot of women.

  108. Rakysh

    I didn’t know it was that much of a problem; I guess I’ve just been lucky. All that is ridiculous though. People shouldn’t have to put up with that.

  109. tigtog

    People shouldn’t have to put up with that.

    Nope.

  110. Fraser

    The comments have long ago established that the issue here is satire: what constitutes acceptable satire? Was Zombie Cow’s press release unintentionally supporting sexist attitudes by parodying them?

    However, a week after it was made abundantly clear (starting with the third comment on this post) that the press release was intended as a parody and was never expected to be taken literally, Lauredhel has still not retracted her statement that the developers are motivated by “palpable, vicious misogyny” or that “the developers are dead set on regaling us with their hatred of women.” This is a deeply wounding charge against people that, it has been clearly established, are trying to say the very opposite. There may be undertones of sexism in the construction of the game (none of us knows yet), and the press release is clearly poorly written and arguably supports sexist views unintentionally, but that is a far cry from “palpable, vicious misogyny”. By leaving such a statement unretracted (the weak disclaimer at the top of the post notwithstanding; “tell us something you haven’t already said” is not a retraction), despite the clarification a week ago in the third comment, this blog is upholding a standard of integrity similar to that of the Daily Mail. Baseless slander is not acceptable, whether or not it is in service of a good cause.

    It also seems hypocritical that Lauredhel repeatedly dismisses the style of irony used (or at least attempted) in the press release as “hipster -ism” (12, 62), but deploys virtually the same style of irony within her own post:

    Time for the blokes to charge in and sort those bitches out. Tarantara!

    Lauredhel’s irony is in a much clearer context and is therefore less ambiguous, but the format of the joke is the same.

    In both cases it is irony, not hipster -ism. The quantifiable difference between hipster -ism and irony and is that hipster -ism is used to be shocking, whereas irony is used to highlight an absurdity. Hipster -ism has nothing to say except “look at me!”; irony says “what I’m saying is ridiculous and wrong”. Out of context, the intention of the quote from the press release is ambiguous enough to be fair game for criticism, but it’s been a week since Dan from Zombie Cow confirmed that it was intended as satire – in other words, irony rather than hipster -ism, and the opposite of hate speech.

    Take some responsibility for the things you write, please. A text box (not even from the author!) saying “stop repeating the same corrections” is not good enough. You want to be better than the Daily Mail? Acknowledge that the accusations in this article are wrong.

  111. Cooper

    I’ve read this and the comments with some interest.

    I have the unthankful task of teaching priveleged British undergraduates about feminism, so I have a fair amount of sympathy for some of the views expressed here.

    Personally I tend to have a lot of time for parody-as-exaggeration, and I’d dispute that it necessarily exacerbates problems. Good parody should serve to underline, make apparent, and make subject of humour the contradictions inherent to the underlying (un)reasoning of its subject.
    The press release isn’t really good parody in that sense. It’s hardly mistakable for a line from the DM (which has its own arcane restrictions on language which would make that paragraph unacceptable), but fall flat anyway. But it’s in a press release, which, as has been pointed out, is hardly the best place for good parody.

    I think a crucial point might have been missed though (and apologies if this has been pointed out), which got brought up briefly in the article itself.

    The ‘disembodied genitals’ of the game are part and parcel of what sex ed is. Anyone remember those god awful biological diagrams? Sex ed. is in a fairly poor state of affairs overall, with hurried, frustrated attempts to inform (and scare) young people with information about STDs, which generally tends towards overly medicalising complex social and biological issues. Cartoons are not too far removed from scientific diagramming and both serve to abstract, over simplyfy and bury a whole host of issues.

    Yes, the game seems to infantalise important subjects. Yes, it does do teenage boys a disservice by assuming they would respond better to this material. Yes it repeats many of the problems with sex ed. which medicalises issues. And, yes, the cartoon aesthetic hardly helps deal with real problems.

    But these issues with the game are likely symptoms passed down by the remit of making a sex ed. game and sticking to the UK national curriculm.

    It doesn’t seem to me that these issues with the game are because of mysogyinistic attitudes from the developers. Rather, it is, like most of these things, a reflectio of problems which are much more ingrained than petty predjudices of any single or group of individuals.

  112. tigtog

    Apologies for belated moderation attention – Lauredhel is currently recovering from an exhausting weekend and is short of computer time. So I’m stepping in, and what follows is my opinion only, not speaking for her.

    Lauredhel has still not retracted her statement that the developers are motivated by “palpable, vicious misogyny” or that “the developers are dead set on regaling us with their hatred of women.” This is a deeply wounding charge against people that, it has been clearly established, are trying to say the very opposite.

    Is it that much of an improvement if the palpable misogyny that they are regaling us with is somebody else’s via parody rather than actually their own? They are amplifying the original hate-speech, and the amplification clearly obscures their intent “to say the very opposite”.

    Your later objection to Lauredhel’s angrily sarcastic irony as hypocritical seems to assume that irony itself is at the core of her problems with the Press Release rather than the ‘let-me-shock-you-for-laffs’ nature of the attempted irony in the press release. Lauredhel is not trying to make anybody laugh in your example.

    Now, has anybody bothered to go and take a look at this link from the OP?

    Melissa McEwan has a Shakesville series titled Today in Disembodied Things, and this videogame sure is a good example of disembodied genitals.

    Because some of you still don’t actually appear to have grasped all the facets that Lauredhel is arguing against. The whole concept of a game that takes place in disembodied organs is dehumanising. (eta) Our culture dehumanises women by presenting them simply as targets for sexual satiation enough already, don’t you think?

  113. Paul Moloney

    “Is it that much of an improvement if the palpable misogyny that they are regaling us with is somebody else’s via parody rather than actually their own? ”

    I would have thought it that while it doesn’t excuse them, it mitigates it somewhat. Or at least moves the devs from the extreme of being palpable, vicious, misogynstic women-haters towards the cluelessly sexist end of the spectrum. (When one uses language such as that about a game’s press release, you wonder what words of condemnation are left for those who, say, scar women with acid or punches.)

    P.

  114. napalmnacey

    Fraser, as Tigtog said, the hipsterism irony of the press release is only *part* of the problem. The game, at its very core, *is* viciously misogynistic and hateful. I’ve explained that in the thread, and Lauredhel explains it in the original post.

    Lauredhel is not being “slanderous” (the word I think you’re looking for is libel, btw) by pointing out the misogyny that the very game itself is dripping in. If you can’t grasp that basic concept, we can’t help you. But there’s plenty of Feminism 101 articles on the web that can.

  115. Lewis

    napalmnacey: I don’t think it’s reasonable to assert that the game either is or isn’t misogynistic and hateful without having played it or even seen any footage of it, surely?

  116. tigtog

    Lewis, I’m totally prepared to believe that the designers were unaware of the tradition of misogyny underlying the very concept of using disembodied body parts as a location in terms of sexual socialisation. We don’t need to play the game to assert that the very location in which the game takes place is buying into misogynist tropes.

    That these misogynist tropes are so deeply embedded within our culture that they are essentially invisible, that people can and do buy into them unconsciously, without a flicker of WTF about just how fundamentally fucked up the whole disembodiment of sexual partners as just a series of fuckholes is, is the real problem here.

  117. napalmnacey

    That these misogynist tropes are so deeply embedded within our culture that they are essentially invisible, that people can and do buy into them unconsciously, without a flicker of WTF about just how fundamentally fucked up the whole disembodiment of sexual partners as just a series of fuckholes is, is the real problem here.

    …Tigtog, have I told you lately that I love you?

    @Mr. Moloney: There’s this funny thing you find out when you start really understanding both Feminism and the nature of misogyny, Mr. Moloney. It’s not a zero-sum phenomena. There’s enough misogyny in this world for clueless game designers to be just as hateful as acid-throwing patriarchs in far-off lands.

    And the worst, absolute worst thing you can find in this article is that lauredhel accused them of being misogynists and woman-haters. That’s what’s inherent in the material. Even if the game creators are clueless, they are echoing something that is truly hateful and shameful.

    At no time did any of us deny the game creators their humanity. Can you grasp that, Mr. Moloney? This game DENIES HUMANITY. It turns a living, breathing human being with choices and thoughts and feelings into TERRITORY to be CONQUERED.

    If you can’t see the hatefulness or dehumanisation in that, I’m sorry, I can’t friggin’ help you.

  118. napalmnacey

    Cooper – no. In this game, the main character, the protagonist, the gamer, is assumed to be male. And then their sexual partner is treated as territory. That’s not what happens in a medical text book. Your argument doesn’t work and it completely ignores the cultural narrative that this game feeds into, and the fact that the male half of the equation has agency and control over the situation, where-as the sexual partner (be they female or male) has none. None what-so-ever.

  119. Cooper

    Napalmnacey: I probably phrased it wrong, that quote you picked from TigTog kinda gets at what I was getting at.

    I’d argue that the medical textbooks territorialise bodies too; their mappings are not neutral. Sure, in a vastly different mode than the ‘series of fuckholes’ sexual partners get viewed as noted above.

    In anycase, my point was that the disembodiment of genitals, and the ‘conquering’ of genitals (especially the ‘unpure’, ‘infected’ ones) is a huge issue, and one which cuts so deep it’s all over the bloody place. It’s not just about sexual partners. Genitalia, especially women’s genetalia is constantly dismembodied and mapped as a territory to be fought over on a range of issues – abstinence, abortion, sexuality, aesthetic etc. etc.

    My point being is that medical textbooks are part and parcel of this (in arguably a more beingn form).

    And my point stands – the article could have probably made the link better to the massive elephant in the room when it comes to how genitalia is thought of and taught as.

    But, then again, I’d assume that elephant is recognised by most people who frequent this blog.

  120. Panther

    I was linked here with absolutely no idea what the blog was about, other then it was about this upcoming Privates game, which I knew almost nothing about besides the Developers had made an interesting adventure game in the past.

    This blog post read like tabloid. A satirical comment quoted as “palpable, vicious misogyny that motivated the game.” Ugh. Then paraphrased with your editorial inserted. Ugh.

    Is there an opposite of bookmarking you can do for websites?

  121. rofl

    With 5 minutes of research into this game it’s pretty obvious you have no journalistic standards, and obviously want to peddle your agenda. Good luck with that!

  122. tigtog

    But, then again, I’d assume that elephant is recognised by most people who frequent this blog.

    Cooper, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head for where the heads of regulars are at regarding that elephant, and I like how you pointed out the other aspects of the disembodiment of women’s bodies particularly – it’s textbook objectification that extends way beyond just the act of sex.

  123. ?????? gameqy.com » Blog Archive » COLUMN: “The Magic Resolution”: A Private Matter

    [...] still not quite sure what I make of this article, posted on Hoyden About Town. It’s a blog, according to its header image, about “life, [...]

  124. napalmnacey

    OOH! OOH! An AGENDA! I LOVE being accused of having those! Let’s see, my agenda for today: clean cat’s litter tray, scrub down laundry, tidy kitchen before computer guy comes to fix hard-drive. What I *wish* my agenda was? Make mad, crazy love to David Tennant using various toys and toppings.

    Neither of those things include dominating and subjugating all men. Funny, that!

  125. Ariane

    Oh, come on now Lauredhel, Tigtog & the rest of you. Lift your game! Get out there and make sure nobody gets linked here who isn’t interested in your brand of commentary and critique. There’s nothing worse than being confronted with critique and discussion when you were expecting…. screen shots of a game? Perhaps we should get Conroy onto it.

    /end gratuitous sarcasm and local political references.

    BTW, Cooper, I agree with you, and did mention, in passing, upthread about how I thought this reflected on sex education in general, although nowhere near as well thought through as your comment.

  126. tigtog

    Just FYI, y’all – Panther and rofl posted using the same IP, but who’s sockpuppeting for whom?

  127. Mindy

    And who is forcing them to read Hoyden? The opposite of bookmarking is not bookmarking I would think.

  128. napalmnacey

    @tigtog – I’m getting Escher sort of visions of sockpuppets inside sockpuppets inside sockpuppets now. Aaaah, I’m in another dimension!

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.