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How gender bias in games and geeky movies got there


Anjin Anhut's concise explanation of why gender representation sucks in games and geeky movies (see this and especially this) sounds solid -- if depressingly entrenched -- to me. Anhut's thesis is that entrenched sexism created a situation in which marketing was tilted towards men, and then market research showed that men were the majority consumers of geek culture (surprise, surprise), which led to an even greater male bias in marketing, and more research showing that men were the major customers for games and geeky movies -- lather, rinse, repeat. It's a disheartening tale of how gender bias emerges naturally out of a series of "rational" commercial decisions that reinforce their own flawed logic at each turn.

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Representation of women in games and movies: the awful numbers


Catriona tumbled these enraging statistics about gender and representation in games and films for 2013:

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Lies of the Daily Mail

Yesterday's New Statesman published a long, nuanced profile of Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief of the despicable Daily Mail. Dacre's a remarkable and contradictory character, profiled with some sympathy but no white-washing by Peter Wilby, but the most striking moment of the piece comes in the first third, when Wilby lays out all the admitted falsehoods and libels published by the Daily Mail -- a list that is incomplete because it only consists of those where retractions, legal action, or other visible signals of falsehood were raised. There's a much longer list of smears and lies about people who couldn't afford to defend themselves from the paper (or couldn't bear to). Still, it's a hell of a list:

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Genderswitched Bilbo makes The Hobbit a better read

Michelle Nijhuis's five year old daughter insisted that Bilbo Baggins was a girl. After arguing about it for a while, Michelle decided to read her The Hobbit, switching Bilbo's gender-pronoun throughout. And it worked brilliantly. Bilbo is a great heroine: "tough, resourceful, humble, funny, and uses her wits to make off with a spectacular piece of jewelry. Perhaps most importantly, she never makes an issue of her gender -- and neither does anyone else."

Pat Murphy wrote a novel based on this premise: There and Back Again, which is a retelling of The Hobbit as a science fiction story in which all the characters are female (in contrast to Tolkien, whose world is all but empty of women of any sort). It is, sadly, long out of print, but available used and well worth your attention.

In the meantime, this kind of on-the-fly changes to stories are part of what make reading aloud to your kid so much fun. Poesy often requests (demands) editorial changes to the books I read her, some of which have been surprisingly effective at improving the text.

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Fashion Beast: long-lost, Watchmen-era Alan Moore/Malcolm McLaren comic


Fashion Beast was a ten-issue comic created by Alan Moore and Malcolm McLaren -- the impresario behind the Sex Pistols, who "invented Punk as a Situationist prank." The project began as a screenplay written at the time that Moore was writing Watchmen, and was never produced. Thirty years later, Moore Antony Johnston re-adapted the work for comics, and last September all ten issues were collected in an amazing graphic novel, which I have just inhaled.

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Designing "technology for women": a flowchart


Ars Technica's Casey Johnson has designed a handy checklist for people hoping to develop a "woman's" tech product without being sexist jerks. The first step is ensuring that there is, indeed, some need that is unique to women (an important step -- women don't need their own pens, Bic). And obviously, you can't just make a pink version or a version that has fewer features and declare it to be chick-ready. Johnson then counsels against avoiding merely making things more "design-y" and declaring it to be woman-friendly (guys like things that look good too).

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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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Kickstarting an anthology of diverse steampunk stories

Publisher Steven Saus sends us a Kickstarter for "a diverse steampunk anthology from your favorite award-winning authors, including Jay Lake, Nisi Shawl, Ken Liu, and Lucy A. Snyder."

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Paul Dini explains why execs don't want girls watching their superhero shows


Comics creator Paul Dini did a guest appearance on Kevin Smith's podcast "Fatman on Batman" podcast, and talked, in part, about the gender considerations of execs in new animation/superhero kids' show design, Vi transcribed the relevant piece, in which Dini recounts conversations he's had with execs who insist that they don't want any girl fans of their shows, because girls don't buy toys. And to keep girls from watching the shows, they make sure that girls are always presented as sidekicks, "one step behind the boys." It's absolutely infuriating.

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What Nelson Mandela's life tells us about the legitimacy of "democratic nations"

This morning, as I listened to the BBC World Service on Mandela, I found myself pondering what it meant that he was South Africa's "first democratically elected leader."

This is undoubtedly true. The apartheid regime held elections regularly, but only white people were given the vote. The systematic, arbitrary denial of the franchise to a large fraction of the population makes those elections "undemocratic" and their leaders illegitimate. I think that this is indisputable.

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Men move more than women do inside an MRI machine

There's a new paper out suggesting that ladies' brains are different from mens' (in ways that support Western stereotypes of gender behavior, natch). It's pretty flawed and has been heavily critiqued, but one critique surprised me — turns out, there's evidence that men tend to move more than women do when you put them in an MRI machine, something that could throw off any attempt to compare MRI data between men and women. Maggie 17

Samuel R Delany named a science fiction Grand Master


The incredible, incomparable Samuel R Delany has been named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America. It's hard to imagine a writer more deserving. You should really read his whole canon, but if I had to pick just one, it'd be Stars in My Pockets Like Grains of Sand, an extraordinary book even among his extraordinary body of work.

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Empathy is a core engineering value

Bryan Cantrill from Joyent explains why the company expects engineers not to use gendered pronouns in documentation: "empathy is a core engineering value—and that an engineer that has so little empathy as to not understand why the use of gendered pronouns is a concern almost certainly makes poor technical decisions as well." Cory 74

Beastie Boys open letter: "threat" was just a question


The Beastie Boys have apparently published an open letter to GoldieBlox (the letter is mentioned in this NYT post, but not linked to, and does not appear on the Beastie Boys' official website) arguing that GoldieBlox misunderstood their earlier communications questioning parodying their song "Girls" in a viral video ad.

In last week's filing with the Northern District Court of California, GoldieBlox's lawyers stated that they had been "threatened" by the Beastie Boys' lawyers, who had claimed that the video was "a copyright infringement, not fair use" (for detailed fair use analysis, see this EFF post) and a "big problem."

According to the NYT story, the open letter in response to the suit claims that the earlier communication from the Beastie Boys' lawyers was intended as an information query ("When we tried to simply ask how and why our song 'Girls' had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US") and not a threat.

It's not clear if the initial communication from the Beasties' lawyers to GoldieBlox was written or verbal, and if it was written, it has yet to be published.


Update: Here's the text of the Beasties' open letter to GoldieBlox:

Like many of the millions of people who have seen your toy commercial "GoldieBlox, Rube Goldberg & the Beastie Boys," we were very impressed by the creativity and the message behind your ad.

We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering.

As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads. When we tried to simply ask how and why our song "Girls" had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US

Beastie Boys send copyright threat to toy company that remixed "Girls"

The Beastie Boys have sent a legal threat to toymaker GoldieBlox over the company's extremely clever ad, which parodies the Beasties' early track "Girls". The ad rewrites the lyrics (which are pretty terrible in the original) to insist that girls should take control over their world, reject passivity and subservience, and make things (the video accompanies this with the creation of a Rube Goldberg device that ultimately switches off a TV showing girly toy ads).

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