Friday, April 28, 2006

Asiaphila and White Privilege

Jen has an amazing post over at her blog reappropriate that speaks of the common co-opting of Asian culture. An excerpt:

The Asiaphile doesn't understand the politics or consequences of his fetish. He knows all about the Meiji Restoration and has memorized the Art of War by heart, but actually defends Hiroshima and Nagasaki (200,000+ killed in a brutal act of terrorism, but to the Asiaphile, it was a necessary act to defend the people who really matter). He knows nothing about the Asian American movement even though he organizes endless anime, sushi and karaoke nights at his college campus. He doesn't even see his interest as a fetish, he sees it as his God-given right to take and take and reappropriate my culture because he feels denied somehow that his mixed-up part-Greek, part-English, all-European-American, totally of the Caucasian Persuasion ass doesn't have a native tongue that's quite as "different" or an American culture that involves bladed weaponry.

Please go read it now.

Her post touches on a lot of things I've been trying to think about, but my own white privilege really makes it tough.

I've since I was a little girl I've enjoyed watching anime. I like to think that I watch anime or read manga because it gives me strong female protagonists that are difficult to find in American culture--but is there an underlying draw because it's "exotic."

My stepmother is Chinese and I love her death and she takes the time to teach me and talk to me about China and her life, and buys or gives me Chinese clothing, and in order to gain more understanding I've taken Asian history and literature classes--am I just co-opting her into my life for my own benefits and interests? By revealing this am I trying to escape criticism by giving "credentials?"

I have to ask these questions of myself. To partake in an active interest of other cultures is to walk a fine line of ethnocentricity, co-option, and privilege.

Its entirely aggravating to hear people who in my classes talk with such authority and superiority in regards to Asian culture (specifically Japanese culture) that I wonder why they even watch anime or play video games if all they're intent on doing is trying to prove how great America is (and thus themselves for being American.)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

My genitalia has nothing to do with being a geek.

I was invited to go to a focus group tomorrow for the new X-Men game. I was all set: tonight I've been playing X-Men: Rise of the apocalypse, and I've also started to plan what games or anime I was going to buy with the hundred bucks I was going to make. Then I was called by the person who invited me with the information that I couldn't come because I'm a woman. Immediately, I was pissed. I asked why it mattered. His only explanation is that focus groups are split into age groups, therefore the groups are also split by gender. He then wondered how many women could there be that are interested in gaming and the X-Men? How many women do I personally know that game? I could only respond that while I only know a few women in real life that game, I know they're out there. I know that from blogs I read. (Besides, I live in fricken Chicago--there's a lot of women here.)

I asked if there's going to be focus group for women and he wasn't sure. I'm sending Shion's Glasses in my place--he promised to find out if there will be a separate group for women, and if there isn't, to give them hell in my honor. Hopefully, either way I'll convince him to post his experience up here.

It's annoying that I won't be getting the cash, and it's aggravating that my voice won't be heard. But the worst feeling is that this is all because of the attitude that women and men are completely different, which in turn fuels the gender gap in gaming in terms of perception and representation. I know that biologically there are differences between men and women, such as the fact that symptoms for a heart attack in women are different than that of men--but we're gamers. It's a hobby, an interest. If everything, especially video game marketing, keeps focusing on the differences between men and women, we're not going to get anywhere.

Update: I found out that there won't be any focus groups dedicated to female gamer's interests.

Update #2: per zeldasrevenge's suggestion here is Activision's mailing address:
Activision, Incorporated
3100 Ocean Park Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Their phone number: 310-255-2000
If you would like to shoot them a message electronically, click here.
Let's let them know that women gamers are part of their demographic.

Today is Blog Against Heteronormativity Day

Remember to check out blac(k)ademic for her post and for links to the other blogs that are participating.
Heteronormativity is everywhere and is everything. That is an understatement. I think what gets me the most, however, is how even the things I turn to for relaxation or a bit of catharsis end up putting me into the same mental place in which the real world takes me. It's another understatement when I say there is an extreme lack of queer people in the geeky culture I take refuge in.

Which is why the anime series Revolutionary Girl Utena has been so important to me.

I could write an essay about the show and the characters and how it refreshingly spins heteronormative fairytales on its head, but I think it's more fun to read this poem that pretty much demonstrates what it means to me.

Utena Dances the Wedding

If the egg’s shell does not break,
I haven’t been to the Riviera since high school prom. This time, however, there were lilies and white carnations in revolving[1] chandeliers.
The chick will die without being born.
Chocolate covered strawberries on pink[2] china plates. Does the merlot color my lips or is it my mother’s lipstick?
We are the chick; the egg is the world.
I step on Uncle Ed’s shiny shoes. After the song (Mercy, Mercy, Mercy) he bows, says “I must return to my wife now.[3]
If the world’s shell does not break,
His wife is Carrianne[4]. Health problems. (Never knew what?) Now ordained. Was Catholic, maybe not Catholic anymore.
we will die without being born.
Betty wears new Nikes under her wedding dress. I saw it so under the bathroom stall. I think of her at Payless buying cross trainers[5] just for dancing.
Break the world’s shell!
The last time I was at the Riviera, Aran and I danced all night. Specifically to Sting’s “Fields of Gold[6]”. I dance with Betty during “Twist and Shout.”
For the sake of revolutionizing the world!
The sweat of her neck was like another string of her pearls. The sweat on my neck: bad lighting. Betty shakes her hips towards mine and whispers[7], “One day it will be just like this for you.”

[1] In the opening of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Anthy and Utena revolve on the face of a blossomed rose.

[2]Pink, the color of Utena’s hair is said to represent her immaturity, her ability to trust others.

[3]Now you should have nothing to complain of.

[4] Blood type B people also love to be complimented; yet they are kind to all others and show genuine concern for friends.

[5] Notably, Utena’s uniform consists of a boy's black jacket, and red biker shorts. Anonymous girl says, “Utena-sama came in drag?! How cute!”

[6] In the movie adaptation, Utena and Anthy dance in the flooded rose garden, beneath a CG-rendered sky.

[7] "Though you pose as a prince, in the end you're just a girl."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Today is Blog to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence Day

Please click on over to Femivist for more details and for a list of links to those who are participating.

Today I want to raise awareness that rape is not only something that all women worry about in their day to day lives, but that it is also being constantly used as a weapon in wars. Lately, I've been doing research, learning, and writing about comfort women--women who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II by Japan. This is one of the poems that I have written in order to honor these women.

Letter from Prime Minister to Former Comfort Women, 2001

Dear Madam, Dear Sir, On the occasion that the Asian Women’s Fund, in cooperation with the Government and the people of Japan, offers atonement from the Japanese people to the former wartime comfort women. Let me tell you what I know. That those who cannot be taught cannot be instructed: the career of my body, to lie on the rush mat. A scrape, a burn picked at eight or nine times a day. Five minutes each. The issue of comfort women, with an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women. The bruise on my leg, a bouquet I gathered when I was fourteen. Pink and purple, the fresh petals of the mugungwha. Yet I did not have what one of the women did: so swollen and ruptured that the nurse couldn’t look. As Prime Minister of Japan, I know we must not evade weight of the past, nor should we evade our responsibilities for the future. They housed our numb waists in stalls. Built on the dirt floor with wooden planks heavy as the pain in my womb. The repeating line of men in boots outside my door splinters light. Twice as long after a battle. I believe that our country, painfully aware of its moral responsibilities, with feelings of apology and remorse, should face up squarely to its past history and accurately convey it to future generations. Blisters weep as we jolt across the yard for morning exercise; women are to be led and to follow others. The only true movement of the day along with eating, sipping water, releasing water. Furthermore, Japan also should take an active part in dealing with violence and other forms of injustice to the honor and dignity of women. Years later and I moved to Pusan—money for working as a dishwasher. What I have left to do, as now my womb is black and sticky. There exists three unfilial acts: the greatest is the failure to produce sons. In water, my hands soften as I scrub dried food from dishes. Watch hot water as it makes my skin bud, bloom red. Respectfully yours, Junichiro Koizumi, Prime Minister of Japan Sincerely, Juugun-ianfu

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Androcentrism to the Xtreme

Tekanji's post, "Girl' Gamers Not Welcome," has inspired me to write about my own experiences growing up as a geeky gaming girl. I want to focus specifically on gaming, but I want to say that I’ve found this to be true in regards to comic books and anime as well. When I was younger, I always would watch my brother play games: the King's Quest series, the remake of the first Hero's Quest, Sonic the Hedgehog and Flashback. It wasn't until we got a Sega CD that we started playing together. At this point we never competed against each other, we’d played co-op. One of my favorite memories is of us beating Streets of Rage together; it was the ultimate achievement after so many hours of watching him play.

When my brother bought Brutal for the Sega CD, we started to play against each other. I couldn't keep up. He would always beat me, which made me frustrated to no end. I kept on wondering if it was because I was younger? Because I was a girl? Fighting games, unfortunately, became my brother's favorite genre. As a last attempt, I personally saved up my allowance in order to buy Popful Mail and Lunar 2 so that we could go back to what it was like before. However, my brother was becoming increasingly busy with school and extracurriculars, so after we beat those games, that was it. I'd replay games by myself, but stopped reading EGM, and I stopped looking for new games for us to play together. From the end of middle school to the end of high school, I became a spectator of everything videogame-related. It bothered me, but I kept quiet knowing that because I was out of practice I wouldn't be able to compete with any of my guy friends. It didn’t help that they never thought that I’d be interested in playing. (Plus, so much of the time, they'd play sports games. Gross.)

Around this time I began to collect comic books and anime in order to satisfy my geeky nature, but by the time I reached high school, I dropped them for fine arts and poetry. No lowbrow culture for me, thank you. I think I did this because I had no one to relate to in fandom, while in art I had Frida Kahlo and in poetry I had Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton.

Everything changed when I met my current partner. A feminist ally and geek through and through, he was one of the few guy friends I had in high school who knew about my secret comic book obsession. As an avid gamer, he couldn't wait to get me back into gaming. Right away, I tried playing Mario Brothers on the GBA, which would only turn out nasty. Because I was so out of practice, I couldn't get anywhere. So we started out slowly, only playing co-ops and RPGs together: Champions of Norrath, the Dynasty Warriors games, and Xenosaga.

Videogames has now become an element in which has helped shape my identity to the point where I have the need to proclaim myself proudly as a woman gamer. I’m relieved that I realized that the reason I don’t like first person shooters or that I can’t play survival horror games without throwing the controller and shrieking has nothing to do with my gender or sex and everything to do with my personality.

Yet, a lot of my frustration still exists. And it's not just because of the tendency towards poor representation of women in games. I have a Mario messenger bag that I wear everywhere. Because of this bag there have been times, such as when I’m attending a convention, when I've been asked to pose for a picture so that the photographer could prove to his girlfriend that girls actually like games and attend conventions. Sometimes before or after class I have guys come up to tell me that they're surprised—I don't seem like the kind of person who would play games.

It’s lonely to be a woman gamer. I’m tired of just talking about videogames with guys, especially when so few of them care of what I have to say about them. I hate the fact that when I go to with my partner to his family gatherings where all the guys gather around an Xbox360, they only play Call of Duty 2 (a game I loathe). That when my partner tells his family that a good present for me would be a used copy of Baten Kaitos or a boot disk for our Japanese Dreamcast, they automatically assume that either he’s joking or that he’s trying to get extra presents for himself.

I try to have parties where I have my poetry group come over to play. The women in the group never participate, claiming that because they've never played, they don't even want try, even after I promise to teach them. This speaks volumes: I think videogame culture is more alienating to women than most realize. It’s the combination of bad press that videogames receive, poor representations of women, and the attitude of gamers.

I really believe that we need to take a proactive approach to the issue of women and games. We write, we discuss, hell, some are going to put together a review site that discusses women’s representation in games. All of this is important and needed. But it’s also tiring as all hell.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Blog to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence

Femivist is organizing a Blog to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence day, scheduled for April 18. I'll be participating among many other excellent blogs. Click on over if you want to be included or for more information.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Carnival of Feminists XII

Over at Written World is the Carnival of Feminists XII! So much to read and so little time. Ragnell's done a fantastic job--be sure to check it out.