Saturday, July 25, 2009

Grand List of FML Sexism (Part 1)


For those unaware, I have been making posts (three so far, counting this one) about entries at the 60-second schadenfreude site FMyLife (FML). FML is a collection of submitted entries about how “f***ed” the user’s life is or, these days, how much their life sucks. Many of the posts contain elements of sexism, either of the user or simply as an element of the situation. The following is a list of FML entries I consider representative of sexist ideas, from the very beginning at 10/13/2008 to 1/28/2009. Note that some items are numbered out of order.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Love Cortana (Halo)


Alright, the following was originally written for Halopedia, and describes things that were relevant to the Halopedia community at the time I wrote it. Because it deals mainly with the Halopedia community, I wasn’t going to post here. However, I see through Site Meter that I’m getting a lot of hits from people looking for material in which Cortana is sexually objectified due to my perhaps badly named blog post speculating on AI gender. I therefore am posting this article because it contains a response to such people that I consider relevant to Going Rampant.
Since the introduction of the new features, we have had a grand influx of new members. While most have been pleasant new additions to Halopedia, with greater numbers came a greater number of unruly members. Vandals are fairly easy to revert and ban, but the worse problem has come from users who behave in a hostile or disrespectful fashion while simultaneously believing that their behavior is sound for the community.
My main problem lies with self-described ‘Cortana lovers.’ Normally, I would think “Why would love be a bad thing?” However, most of these people have proven themselves to be more ‘Cortana lusters’ than ‘lovers’, and have posted a variety of blogs, quizzes, and images that illustrate extreme disrespect toward Cortana as anything other than a sex object.

More FML Fail (Sexism)

A while ago, I posted about some sexist entries on the websites Fail Blog and FML. Well, overall Fail Blog has been pretty decent since then, considering what kind of site it is. FML, however, continues to showcase the unfavorable sides of human culture.

First, we have #2394807, which was actually posted by a voyeur. He was staring at a woman next door who didn’t have any drapes on her windows. She realized she was being peeped at, and she bought drapes. The voyeur now says “FML” because he can’t peep anymore. The username he used was “itwasfunwhileitlasted”.

The voyeur, who was called a “perve” by the woman’s son, takes no responsibility and even goes as far as to suggest that he is wrongly accused of being a pervert. He then claims that it was actually the woman’s fault because she changed in front of the window. While it may not have been the smartest move on her part, it was he who actually did something wrong. This strikes me as being the same as the “bitch was asking for it” rapist mentality, albeit taken to a lesser degree.

Now, fortunately, most of the comments are from people who realize that this is perverted. As I write this, there are 42,581 “you totally deserved it” votes in comparison with the lesser but still substantial 7,094 quantity of “I agree, your life sucks” votes. Unfortunately, there’s no “your life was in no way F-ed, you creep” option or I would vote for that.

And then we have #3890479, a case of blatant sexual assault. I’ll include the post below:

Today, I was riding in the car with my boyfriend. While he was driving, I held out my hand as an offer for him to hold it. Instead, he grabs me by the wrist and shoves my hand down his pants. Lovely. FML

Unless she had previously given her consent for such an action, there is no excuse for this kind of behavior. Clearly this didn’t happen, as it would not make sense within the context of the post. It is sexual assault pure and simple.

The people in the comment thread are less supportive of the woman in this case. While there are people who advise the woman to dump her boyfriend for being a pervert, there are plenty who try to excuse the boyfriend’s actions. Scrolling down the thread, I see people saying that it’s not a big deal, and that she’s being too sensitive, even that it’s her fault because trying to hold hands with the driver is dangerous. There are 25,576 votes for “I agree, your life sucks” and 9,245 votes for “you totally deserved it”, which is less wide of a difference in opinion than the previous (pervert) FML. I wonder if it would take an account from the pervert to get people to understand the grossness of the subject.

Then there’s the more recent #3972711, from a woman who found out that for the past several months her boyfriend had been having sex with her orally while she was asleep. So, you know, pretty clearly rape. Unless if you read the comments.

In the comment thread, you’ve got people telling her that she’s just a prude, and that it’s funny how horny the boyfriend is. The people who post to say it is rape are argued against because:

· It’s not rape if she doesn’t struggle

· A lot of women have rape fantasies

· Posting it on FML proves she doesn’t mind

· Unless it’s penis-in-vagina sex, it can’t be rape

· They’re in a sexual relationship

*sigh* You know, I disagree with a lot of feminist ideologies, but I am increasingly coming to accept the rape culture theory. Okay, here we go:

Rape is a sexual act performed on another person without their consent. A person cannot give consent if they are unconscious. The victim does not have to actively fight or be able to say “no” because if they are unable to give consent then any sexual activity performed on them will automatically be rape.

It’s true that a lot of people, both men and women, fantasize about rape scenarios. Fantasies, however, are very different from reality. When people fantasize about rapists assaulting them, they get to direct all the action. Real rape, however, is a total loss of control and people who have rape fantasies would not like someone to rape them in real life.

Sometimes rape fantasies can be acted out with a trusted partner. The emphasis here is on consent, though. The scene can be discussed prior to carrying it out, and explicit consent must be given. If the person playing the part of the victim does not give consent, it’s rape.

Why people post entries to FML is not that hard to determine. Generally speaking, it’s because the poster feels what happened to them was bad and they want to add to the list of peoples’ bad experiences. While some people might post on the site for other reasons, I see nothing that would suggest that this would be the case here.

Rape can be conducted through any manner of sexual act upon an unwilling person. To say that sodomy would not apply just sounds like a homophobic expression of the notion that sexual activity that does not promote procreation isn’t real sex. Whatever religious beliefs may dictate, forced sodomy still counts as rape.

And just because they may be in a sexual relationship does not necessarily give the boyfriend the right to have sex with her person all the time. The issue is, as always, consent. If she does not consent to each individual instance of sexual intercourse, then that’s rape too.

Fortunately, there are a good number of people who get that and who argue the point in the comment thread. And there are a lot of people who don’t get it. Anyway, there are 22,315 “I agree, your life sucks” votes and the far lower 2,656 quantity of “you totally deserved it” votes.

Then there’s #3979309, another clear case of sexual assault. While a woman was asleep after a night of drinking, her boyfriend decided to masturbate on her unconscious body. This instance of sexual assault is met with comments about how horrible the boyfriend is, as well as comments blaming the woman for getting drunk and saying she deserved what happened. You know, ‘cause men just do that kind of thing, so women need to be prepared… and why aren’t we blaming the pervert men?

Oh, yeah, because the culture’s sexist. It has improved greatly in the past several decades, but anyone who claims we have progressed beyond sexism is just ignorant.

As of writing this, the entry’s vote count is 17,440 for “I agree, your life sucks” and 2,817 for “you totally deserved it”.

And this isn’t an example of sexism, but I feel obliged to point out #2799622. This guy decided to throw a rock at a sleeping homeless man for fun. In retaliation, the man drew a knife and chased him for six blocks, which is the reason the poster considers his life F-ed. This is just colossal disrespect of another human being, reducing the homeless man to practically the level of an animal. The poster indignantly describes the thrown rock as small, implying that the man (who had his sleep disrupted by aggressive force) was just being a spoilsport. Though not sexism, this is certainly assault sprung from prejudice and is relevant to this list.

In conclusion, FML continues to display the sexist attitudes of human culture in America and other countries. Sometime in the future, I’ll probably want to make a more comprehensive list of sexist entries. In the meantime, I found a series of “FML Fail” posts at the feminist blog What a crazy random happenstance that are worth checking out. She goes into greater depth than I do and examines entries other than the most blatantly sexist.

Once again, to the sexists (and classists) of FML: Major fail!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Halopedia Abuse Deconstruction

Sometime after the release of Halo 2, I became aware of this article posted on the Internet: “The Columbine Youth Revolution”. This is an extreme fringe Christian article describing alleged instances of promotion of war against Christians. About two thirds of the way through, the author starts describing Halo as Microsoft’s tool to promote war, and they use Halopedia as a source of evidence to support the various claims made against the game series. Having personally written a good portion of the material quoted, I feel obliged to deconstruct the section of the article related to Halo.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Halo Graphic Novel Review (Part 3)

This article was written for Halopedia:

Good morning, Halopedia! And here I am, back with the third article in my series reviewing the Halo Graphic Novel. If you have missed my previous articles, you can check them out here and here. Today, I will be reviewing my favorite story in the HGN: Breaking Quarantine by Tsutomu Nihei.

After our palates were cleansed with the light-hearted Armor Testing, we are treated to another dark and action-filled battle with the Flood. Halo: First Strike author Eric Nylund had previously described Johnson’s escape from the Flood as because of radiation poisoning that made him incompatible with the Flood infection and they had released him, but that wasn’t kosher with the Bungie team. They wanted to retell the story, and got Japanese graphic novelist Tsutomu Nihei to illustrate Johnson’s story of escape.

The location is very familiar to us Halo fans. It is set in the Flood containment facility we entered in the level 343 Guilty Spark in Halo: Combat Evolved. Master Chief viewed helmet camera footage of Johnson’s unit being attacked by the Flood. The recording’s termination left implied that his whole team had been massacred. Johnson did survive, obviously, and his route of escape is made consistent with the layout of the facility we know from the game.

Breaking Quarantine is essentially the human parallel to The Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor. Breaking Quarantine, however, manages to avoid the pitfall that Last Voyage fell into in where it had so much busy detail that panels were distracting and hard to follow. Breaking Quarantine has a lot of detail, but it finds the balance that Last Voyage did not and accomplishes some really beautiful art.

The story is devoid of dialog. Only pure actions take place. There are, however, sound effects written in Japanese katakana. They’re a little weird to get used to, but a quick Google search shows the sounds they represent and it’s really just meaningless sound effects anyway.

The artistic style is dark and edgy. Nihei creates intense imagery of the sort traditionally associated with masculinity. Johnson forcefully rips into Flood with a spray of bullets. He blocks a tentacle whip and is thrown across the room by the sheer strength of the Combat Form, but he gets up and keeps moving. There is tension as he runs out of ammo for his assault rifle! He switches to his pistol and manages to take out the Combat Form, despite the shotgun wielded by his enemy.

He runs across a light bridge, but the Flood deactivate it when he’s only two thirds of the way across and he makes a death defying leap to the other side. Only a room away from the lift, he tosses a grenade over his shoulder to take out the Flood chasing him. It clicks to the floor.

Blam! The Flood are incinerated in an explosive blast that Johnson himself barely escapes. He walks calmly to the lift and rides it to the top. He is the sole survivor of his unit. Looking grim, he exits the facility.

Breaking Quarantine made Johnson my favorite Halo character, above even the Master Chief. Johnson became a very cool action hero with this story. Master Chief might have his MJOLNIR armor, but the suit takes away from his human features and he becomes hard to care about as a character. You can see Johnson’s face here; see his weariness, his shock, his anger. He is a more defined character without the godly strength awarded by technology and is cooler as a result.

So, final thoughts on Breaking Quarantine: Johnson is awesome; art is cool; fight scenes intense and easy to follow; Johnson is awesome; and let’s not forget: Johnson is awesome. Stay tuned for the next review on Second Sunrise Over New Mombasa, where the colors are bonkers and a man looks like a rabbit. This should be interesting.

"The Brutes have our scent."

—Arbiter

"Then they must love the smell of badass."

—Johnson

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Halo Graphic Novel Review (Part 2)

This article was written for Halopedia:

Hello, Halopedians. I return with my second article reviewing the Halo Graphic Novel. You can check out my first article in the series, reviewing The Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor, here. For today, I will review the second story in the HGN: Armor Testing by Jay Faerber, Ed Lee, and Andrew Robinson.

With its simplistic graphics and story, Armor Testing is a nice break from Last Voyage. Whereas Last Voyage was dark and filled with (at times distracting) detail, Armor Testing is a clean and friendly story about a Spartan testing the new MJOLNIR Mark VI suit against some ODSTs in mock-combat. Compared to Last Voyage’s 48 pages, Armor Testing is pretty short at only 12 pages. The simplistic storyline makes for a nice integration with the shorter length of the other stories.

Armor Testing gives us a look at some cool UNSC technology not previously seen. Spartan-062 drops down to Earth from low orbit with a pack that deploys a parafoil, allowing her to glide over the landscape. Once on the ground, she and the ODSTs fight with mock-weapons that shoot paint. We also get our first glimpse of the Humbler Stun Device, previously only described in the novels, apparently colored purple to imitate a Covenant energy sword.

It’s also interesting to see Korean UNSC characters. While Bungie has generally tried to go for the melting pot look, the cast still came out rather white with only a few ethnically diverse characters appearing as the generic Marines. It’s nice to see Asian characters that are actual characters. Although it kind of kills the melting pot concept in that they are all Korean, and are Asian only because of the region. UNSC: United but separate?

But the most interesting thing about the story is the new Spartan character, Maria-062. Not only is she the first canon female Spartan to be depicted visually (after the basically non-canon Nicole-458), she is the first Spartan to be seen unmasked. They built up to the reveal, her head in shadow, seen from the side, out of frame… and then blam! Female Spartan!

Maria is unique in that she is the only Spartan thus far to have retired. I assume it had to have been sometime after Cortana and Solipsil’s conversation in 2550 in which Cortana denies a Spartan-II ever taking advantage of their legal recourse because of their brainwashing. Something must have happened to make her desire to start a family override her brainwashed sense of duty to the UNSC. In her conversation with the Korean senior officer, she comes across as the most free Spartan with a good perspective on the world that puts her at the same level as the soldiers.

From the “girl power” perspective, Maria is pretty decent. Unlike Cortana, whose physical form was played up for sex appeal, Maria looks generally natural. I say “generally” because she is a Spartan and in a heightened physical condition, but she is free from the sexual objectification often placed on female characters in these sorts of media aimed at the male audience. The downside is that she is less of an action hero than John-117 or Linda-058, and is eventually overcome by the ODSTs in the exercise. Her denial of re-enlisting for purposes of starting a family could be viewed as less than progressive, but I personally see it as a victory. She got out.

As for the graphics of Armor Testing, I’m not so impressed. The artists use a blend of standard artwork and computer rendering that just doesn’t look very pretty. The Ghost looks like it was ripped straight from Halo 2, and seems out of place in the two-dimensional environment. Aside from the computer renders, the artwork is decent. As a step up from Last Voyage, I can tell what the heck’s going on during the fight scenes.

So, final thoughts on Armor Testing: Easy to understand storyline; interesting new tech; clean graphics, free of the distraction that plagued Last Voyage; some annoying renders; cool female Spartan, whose face we actually see; friendly comradery between UNSC soldiers. Stay tuned for the next article in this series, which will review Breaking Quarantine.