Help preserve feminist video gaming history

Back in the mid-90s, late game maker Theresa Duncan made some unconventional, ground-breaking CD games based on the everyday experiences of young girls. There's now a Kickstarter campaign to bring them back and ensure her seminal work isn't lost to history:

This project, by the NYC-based digital art nonprofit Rhizome, will fund the process of putting three games directed by Duncan—Chop Suey (1995, co-created with Monica Gesue), Smarty (1996), and Zero Zero (1997)—online, for the first time ever. With your help, they will be playable in any modern browser via emulation and available for free, for a minimum of one year.
Throughout my career as a video game critic, and in recent years a feminist one, I've noticed we tend to treat the advent of girls and women's stories as novel. To lots of us, they are -- for example I'd never read a syllabus on feminist games, or seen work like my friend Nina Freeman's vignette games (Nina just successfully defended her thesis and got a Masters of Science in Integrated Digital Media from NYU, congrats Nina), til my adulthood.

But the games business' particular fixation on newness and "innovation" mustn't divorce us from our obligation to history -- that's what makes Rhizome's work with Duncan's oeuvre more important now than ever.

Read Jenn Frank on Theresa Duncan's memory here, or her piece about Duncan's Chop Suey here. For more on girlhood and the early days of games, here I am in the Guardian on Rachel Weil's feminist art.

The clitoris is a direct line to the matrix

At Motherboard, Claire Evans presents a brilliant "Oral History of the First Cyberfeminists, sharing bits of her correspondence with pioneering Australian tech-goddesses Josephine Starrs, Julianne Pierce, Francesca da Rimini and Virginia Barratt, four net artists who worked together under the pseudonym "VNS Matrix". It's awesome.

Evans met them as part of her exploration of the Cyberfeminism cultural movement, which she said "peaked in the early 1990s and dissipated sometime between the bursting of the dot-com bubble and the coming of Y2K."

VNS Matrix worked in a wide variety of media: computer games, video installations, events, texts, and billboards. In their iconic “​Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century,” they called themselves the “virus of the new world disorder,” and “terminators of the moral codes.” With this irreverent, but keenly political language, they articulated a feminist aesthetic of slimy, unpretty, vigilantly nose-thumbing technological anarchy. They coded. They built websites. They hung out in chat rooms and text-based online communities like ​LambdaMOO. They told stories through interactive code and experiences like the CD-ROM game All New Gen, in which a female protagonist fought to defeat a military-industrial data environment called “Big Daddy Mainframe.” They believed the web could be a space for fluid creative experimentation, a place to transform and create in collaboration with a global community of like-minded artists.
Their work is part of a cool archive of art from a time when, they say, the internet was less masculine and capitalistic.

GeekGirlCon is an oasis of acceptance

Copywriter Nicole Dieker on how a convention creates a welcoming space with language

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Anita Sarkeesian cancels Utah campus appearance after threats of a "Montreal-style massacre"

Sarkeesian was willing to go on with the show at Utah State University -- as she's done after all the other death threats that she's received as a speaker -- but wanted attendees checked for firearms. Ogden, UT cops refused, citing Utah's open-carry firearms law. At least one of the threats cited Gamergate.

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Ally Bingo

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The Union of Concerned Feminists (@concernedfems) created this bingo game. Though it was made with the recent 2014 Women in Computing Grace Hopper Celebration event in mind, you can play it at any social gathering where men offer excuses for their lukewarm opposition to sexism.

A self-described "guerilla intervention group" dubbing itself the Union of Concerned Feminists distributed roughly 450 Ally Bingo cards to the audience just before the session took place. These cards condemned the panel as "milquetoast corporate 'feminism'", and urged attendees to "read more about actual feminism in technology", pointing them to this wiki, the Geek Feminism Blog, ModelViewMedia, and The Ada Initiative.

One panel in particular at the Women in Computing event was widely held to have been something of a train wreck. There were many bingo winners in attendance.

If you ever get bored of the current grid, you can randomize a new one using this handy list. This particular version of the Ally Bingo game has antecedents, too -- here, here, here -- each with its own twist.

The Ally Bingo card is released under a Creative Commons license mandating only attribution.

Social Justice Warriors and the New Culture War

Laurie Penny, author of Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution explains “Social Justice Warriors” and why they’re winning.

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The Dummies' Guide To Cosplay Photography in 2014

Andy Ihnatko’s golden rule about photographing cosplayers: You must never do anything that makes the cosplayer wish you hadn’t taken that photo. Read the rest

Why you have to make your own rules for love and sex

Author Sarah Mirk never tells readers what they should do in bed, writes Glenn Fleishman, only what they might do.

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Women in Video Games: women as background decoration

Anita Sarkeesian has posted Women as Background Decoration: Part 1, the latest installment in her Feminist Frequency Tropes vs Women in Video Games critical video series. Gamers are insanely (and I mean that literally) threatened by Sarkeesian's analysis, which is carefully and closely argued, and backed by solid scholarly research.

Every one of her interventions, starting with her original kickstarter, has been met with vicious, violent smear campaigns that contain some of the most stomach-churning overt misogyny you're likely to find this side of a mass-murderer's manifesto.

If you don't believe me, just hang out in the comments for this post, which will shortly be filling up with dudes mansplaining why Sarkeesian is a con artist, why games whose story rewards players for murdering prostitutes are only jokey-jokes, why feminism is a giant lih-buh-rul plot, and so forth. As the husband of a retired nationally ranked pro gamer and the father of a daughter (and as a human being), these guys scare and depress the shit out of me.

Women as Background Decoration: Part 1 (via Metafilter)

bell hooks feminist auto-responder for creepy guys

If a creepy dude is insistently demanding your phone number and you want to get rid of him with style, why not give him feminist phone intervention number (+l-669-221-6251). If you call or text that number, you'll get a canned response taken from the work of writer/activist bell hooks, such as "If any female feels she need anything beyond herself to legitimate and validate her existence, she is already giving away her power to be self-defining, her agency." The hotline also seeks your donations to cover its operational expenses. (via The Hairpin)

(Image: bell hooks, Cmon Girl, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Transgender tipping point: Laverne Cox on the cover of TIME

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This TIME cover story, the first to feature a transgender person, is a very big deal. Not just for trans folks, but for all of us.

As the headline suggests, it's a tipping point in the acceptance of gender diversity, and respect for all human beings.

Also Laverne Cox is awesome and talented and an amazing activist and looks totally fabulous.

Here's a TIME video interview.

If you haven't already watched 'Orange is the New Black,' get on it with Season 1.

Sarkeesian on sexism in video games, and becoming a hate-target for talking about it

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Mother Jones reporter Nina Liss-Schultz asked Anita Sarkeesian why she thinks she has been targeted by knuckle-dragging assholes on the internet--vicious threats, death, rape, and beatings by haters who happen to be men, and believe that women like Sarkeesian should shut up and stay out of their clubhouse.

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How to not get raped (video)

Trigger warning.

A satirical film in which a woman tries to follow all of the completely serious tips offered to women by the likes of Cosmopolitan, WikiHow and University of Colorado on how to avoid being raped. One of them is "fight like a psychotic cat." Another, "don't give a guy blue balls."

Directed by Cat Del Buono. Video Link.

(HT: Syd Garon)

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For: 20 years of op-ed/soap opera


I read Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For in various alternative weeklies and online for about 15 years. I always found it enjoyable, sometimes very funny, sometimes a bit raunchy, always very political. Really my kind of thing. But I've just read The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, a massive, nearly-400-page tome collecting nearly (see below) every single DTWOF strip from its 20+ year run that wound up in 2008, and I've come to realize just how flat-out brilliant the strip was, ranking with Bloom County and Doonesbury in blending incisive editorial with charm and humor.

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Texas passes draconian law limiting women's health care options


Earlier this week on Facebook, Senate Democratic caucus chairman Kirk Watson posted this photo.

The NYT's John Schwartz, who is himself from Texas, live-tweeted the dramatic proceedings yesterday in the Texas Senate surrounding one of the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country. The law was pushed forward by governor Rick “The louder they scream, the more we know that we are getting something done” Perry.

No surprise: it passed. Read John's coverage today, and weep.

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