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Quick Hit: FWD/Forward

12 Oct

Apropos of my last post concerning the Feministing debacle, a bunch of awesome feminist writers have teamed up (including friend to Foxtrot Chally *waves*) and started a group blog discussing disablism, accessibility, marginalizing language and lots of other cool goodies.

It looks like a useful resource. It’s new, so reading the extent of the archives is easier than older blogs (in other words, go! Read!).

Why I’m Angry

7 Oct

You may have heard of Feministing’s recent refusal to acknowledge disability as a feminist issue.

You may have heard about the systematic othering of disabled people at Feministing.

You may have heard that Feministing commenters continue to engage in problematic behavior, in spite of being called out on TAB privilege.

You may have heard that Feministing moderators allow (and, by silence, encourage) the marginalization of trans people and denial of trans rights.

You may have heard that Feministing encourages multiple forms of kyriarchy, consistently and without apology.

You may have realized by now that I’m cosigning meloukhia’s letter.

Racism in Fable II

20 Jul

During my blog hiatus, I’ve been playing Fable II, a video game for the XBox 360. I’m not much of a gamer – I played Zelda: Link’s Awakening on my old Gameboy by using my sword to cut down grass and discover money instead of fighting the monsters like you were supposed to. But the person I’m dating made Fable II seem like fun, so I started messing around with it. This game has so many problems from a feminist, fat-accepting anti-racist  perspective (and many other parts of my soci0-political ideology) that I felt compelled to turn it into a series. And as the title of this post indicates, I’m beginning the series with a discussion of race and racism within the game.

You can’t play a non-white character. Let me repeat that: you cannot play a fucking non-white character. Hell, even the copy of Barbie: Nail Salon I had as a kid let you change the skin tone of the disembodied hand that was the feature of the game. And one of the quote-unquote features of Fable II is the customizable characters – you can play a woman, a man, a pure or corrupt character, a good or evil character. But you can’t play a non-white character. What the fuck?

Actually, that’s untrue. You can play a non-white character, but only if certain in-game requirements are met. I mentioned the good/evil and pure/corrupt choices, but I couched them rather vaguely. Let me explain further. Based on the choices you as your character makes – such as one of the initial decisions your character makes, whether to give either a town guard or an assumed criminal some arrest warrants – the physical appearance of the character changes, as does the opinion of the villagers the character encounters. By giving the assumed criminal your arrest warrants, you become evil (because the law is always good) and corrupt (because you are paid for your trouble (even though the guard would have paid you the same amount)). The more pronounced levels of corruption darken your character’s skin tone – so as long as you’re willing to play a corrupt character, right?!

I don’t really have words for how much of a fucked-up legacy that is. Essentially, Fable II is a morality play – by playing a corrupt character, the game punishes you. It’s harder to be liked by the citizens of Albion, and by making corrupt/evil choices, the character does not recieve profitable properties, such as the well-developed Westcliff, Bowerstone Old Town (if you give the guard the warrants, Old Town becomes one of the richest places in Albion, while giving them to the criminal turns Old Town into a slum – buying properties gives the player rent, and the more valuable the property, the higher the rent) and the farm in Brightwood. So the game is, more or less, telling the players that it’s a bad thing to play a darker-skinned character. Telling the players it’s wrong to play/be a person of color.

Also, by playing a good character (gives gifts to people, doesn’t slaughter the innocents, etc.), the character begins to appear more Aryan. My first character was positively blond , with a delightful (sarcasms galore) peaches & cream complexion, by the time I hit a game-ending glitch about 75% through the game. Practically all of the villagers were propositioning me for sex because the game reads “Good, Pure” as sexyhawt. Because the only desirable, attractive features are those that make you look Anglicized. Naturally

And then there’s the sole person of color in the game. A non-player character (NPC), Garth is the hero of Will(magic). He is literally playing the magical negro (sorry for the noise, that was just from banging my forehead into my desk. Where did I put that headache medicine?). Garth comes from the land of Samarkand, a place outside the game’s setting of Albion. Reaver, another of the heroes, mentions the “exotic substances” and “uninhibited people” of Samarkand with a sort of wistfulness. Because associating drugs and high sex drives with non-whites is never problematic. Aaargh.

Eloriane of Gender Goggles has a couple of posts up on Fable II, on sex and eating. I also intend to write on these topics.

Lessons From History

9 Jun

I’m taking a United States history course this summer. Class started yesterday, and today we were assigned a reading from the May 7, 2007 issue of Time Magazine, when Condoleeza Rice was in Bush’s Cabinet and Barack Obama was proving to be a significant candidate for the presidency.

Here’s an excerpt:

The great achievement of the civil rights revolution was the dismantling of what the inheritors of Jamestown had instituted. Today a black woman fills one of the most powerful political offices after the presidency, and a black man holds serious promise of becoming the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. Whatever the persisting problems of black Americans–many of which, like a fragile family life and the lack of inheritance, also originated in slavery–it is now incontestable that they belong to America as America belongs to them. In this, America stands far above all other multiethnic Western nations. Nonetheless, it cannot, and should never, be forgotten that the racial tragedy that began in Jamestown took more than 350 years to overcome.

The message I receive from this article makes me incredibly sad. The passage I quoted suggests that we are, in fact, living in post-racial America. The first sentence, indeed, states that the institutionalized racism that “began in Jamestown*” was fully dismantled by the civil rights movement revolution. And that is utter bullshit. Just because a handful of POCs inhabit places of influence in the United States government in no way indicates that race is no longer a factor of the world we inhabit. To state that it is requires willful ignorance and a heaping helping of privilege that affords those that buy into this utopian America** the ability to put the blinders on and forget atrocities done for the sake of “racial superiority” (in “scare quotes” because that was the best way I could come up with to convey the utter scorn I have for those that, by accident of birth, view their skin tone as superior to that of another human being).

Whatever the persisting problems of black Americans–many of which, like a fragile family life and the lack of inheritance, also originated in slavery–it is now incontestable that they belong to America as America belongs to them.

Is it just me, or does this sentence seem to say, “Gee! Sorry about all that nasty shit we pulled a while back! But hey – now you’re a real American! Because you’ve struggled, we’ll give lip service and pretending we care! Yet at the same time, it appears to brush those struggles under a rug – smother them beneath a muzzle of “Your story has already been told, so shut up about it already! We get it, you’ve been oppressed, and we can’t wait until you stop whinging about it.”

In this, America stands far above all other multiethnic Western nations.

Oi. That ethnocentrism hit me so hard, I’m seeing stars. How in the hell does this person have the gall to use that jingoistic drivel? How was this approved for publishing? What the fucking fuck happened to journalistic integrity, Time? Oh, right. I keep forgetting that the United States*** is the paragon of enlightenment and reason in the world. It’s in all the best news sources!

The racial issues in the United States haven’t been solved. It’s going to take a lot more than a few elected officials to fix that – it requires intellectually honest discussions about race and privilege, and recognizing that reparations cannot be made through time alone. There has to be an effort to change the root of the problem, rather than pretend we live in a post-racial fairy tale where cookies are handed out for every act of minimal decency.

*I feel confident stating that racism was institutionalized long before the establishment of said colony.

**Specifically, the part of America that is governed by the U.S. Would hate to be unclear about that.

***I accidentally typed “Untied States.” The Freudian potential!