Tag Archives: gender

Mirror’s Edge: Pixilated Beauty, Race, and Stereotypes

by Latoya Peterson

I’ve been checking for the game Mirror’s Edge for a while, since the first stills dropped a few months ago. There are a lot of things that excite me about the game: tapping into the parkour experience, rolling through a first person landscape without it being a shooter, a provocative plot.

However, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was geeked about a woman of color protagonist – and one who has a character design which reflects the environment she works within.

However, I haven’t yet played Mirror’s Edge because of what I am calling the If You Give a Gamer a Cookie New Console conundrum.* So, I’ve been keeping my gaming excitement on a low simmer. Well, I was, until I clicked over to Feministe.

And as always, Hollyhas got the gaming goods.

Mirror’s Edge is at its heart a game about parkour, the athletic art of moving between two points as rapidly as possible, using nothing but your body and features of the environment. The game’s protagonist is Faith, an Asian-American courier with a knack for hurling herself into harm’s way. Like a lot of parkour enthusiasts, she spends a lot of time on rooftops, and Mirror’s Edge is largely about jumping, vaulting, climbing, pushing off of walls, rolling as Faith falls from great heights, and other almost-impossible seeming feats of gravity defiance.

I swear, I have to bite my finger from screaming at this gameplay. But Holly’s post also sheds some interesting light on a racial nuance in the conversation surrounding Mirror’s Edge:

Even when you do see her in ads, mirrors, and cutscenes, Faith has a wiry, androgynous form suited to someone who runs and climbs for a living. Her clothing is utilitarian, not decorative, and her style of movement is closer to the efficiency of parkour than the aesthetics of free running. Tom Farrer, the producer of the game, was recently quoted about her character design:

    We’ve spent time in developing Faith. And the important thing for us was that she was human, that she was more real.

    We really wanted to get away from the typical portrayal of women in games, that they’re all just kind of tits and ass in a steel bikini. We wanted her to look athletic and fit and strong [enough] that she could do the things that she’s doing.

    We wanted her to be attractive, but we didn’t want her to be a supermodel. We wanted her to be approachable and far more real. It was just kind of depressing that someone thinks it would be better if Faith was a 12-year-old with a boob job. That was kind of what that image looked to me. [...] To be honest, I found it kind of sad.

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Can the LGBT community spare some outrage for Duanna Johnson?

by Guest Contributor Jack, originally published at Angry Brown Butch

On February 12, 2008, Duanna Johnson was brutally beaten by a Memphis police officer after she refused to respond when the officer called her “he-she” and “faggot.” That night, Johnson became yet another of the countless trans women of color to be targeted and brutalized by police in this country. Two officers were fired after the attack; neither was prosecuted.

Just to be trans, just to be a woman, just to be a person of color in this country is enough to drastically increase one’s exposure to hatred and violence; when oppressions overlap, violence tends to multiply.

This past Sunday, Duanna Johnson was found murdered on the streets of Memphis. I didn’t hear about this until today, when I read a post on my friend Dean’s blog. When I read the awful news, I felt heartsick in a way that has become all too familiar and all too frequent.

After reading Dean’s post today, I was surprised to find out that Johnson was murdered nearly three days ago already and that I hadn’t heard about this until today. I know that I haven’t been very good at keeping up with the news or the blogosphere these past few days. But I can’t help but notice that despite this relative disconnection, I’ve read and heard no shortage of commentary, protest, and outrage about Proposition 8.

A Google News search for “Duanna Johnson” yields 50 results, many syndicated and therefore redundant. Much of the coverage is tainted by the transphobia and victim-blaming that tends to inflect media coverage of violence against trans women of color (like this Associated Press article). A search for “Proposition 8″? 18,085 results – 354.6 times more than for Duanna Johnson.

The skew in the blogosphere is less severe but still pronounced. A Google BlogSearch for Duanna Johnson: 2,300 results. For Prop 8? 240,839, or 100 times more. Continue reading

Is there a Bechdel test for race?

by Latoya Peterson

Today, I talked a bit about Vicky Cristina Barcelona and introduced the concept of the Bedchel Test. Here’s the original comic the test came from:

So, after rejoicing over how brilliant the test is in its simplicity, I started wondering – could we adapt the Bechdel test for race? And if so, what would the end result be?

I am interested in your thoughts on this.

(Image Credit: “The Rule,” originally published in Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel)

Summer Movies: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

by Latoya Peterson

Have you ever watched a movie, and then wished you could have seen it from another character’s perspective?

That was the feeling I got while watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the most recent Woody Allen film that is actually quite enjoyable – as long as you don’t mind having two dimensional female characters and you are fine with the whole foreign locale/exotic-natives as a backdrop for the growth of the white protagonist kind of thing.

So yeah, you have to swallow a lot to enjoy the film.

Then again, I watch films like Transformers. Obviously, I don’t have problems suspending disbelief.

I sat in the theater and allowed the story to wash over me. In broad strokes, the third party omniscient narrator explains the thoughts and travels of two friends – Vicky and Christina.

(Warning: After this point, there are spoilers.) Continue reading

Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom Movie Plays to Modest Success

by Latoya Peterson

Well, look at what slipped under the radar.

In the midst of the election run up, the results, and the waves of discussion about proposition 8, Logo launched a movie based on their popular (yet mysteriously canceled) series Noah’s Arc.

The New York Press’ Armond White has a thought provoking review on the significance of the movie, titled “MEET THE BLACK CARRIE BRADSHAW – LOGO’s Noah’s Arc makes the jump to the big screen—showing a completely different African-American experience”:

Noah’s Arc’s quartet of young black men counteracts the prevailing image of gayness as a young, rich, white male phenomenon. The title refers to Noah (Darryl Stephens), an L.A.-based aspiring screenwriter whose love and social life resist Hollywood storybook cliché. Noah may dress in couture like Carrie Bradshaw (he enters Jumping wearing a Russian toque, cape and calf-high boots) but his style is provocative; he flouts ideas about masculinity, blackness and class. If you accept Noah (his gentle, gazelle-like demeanor stresses effeminacy), his friends still test your tolerance: Chance (Doug Spearman) is a snooty, over-enunciating university professor; Alex (Rodney Chester) is a plus-sized drama queen who likes to cook when not dispensing counsel at a gay men’s health center; and Rickey (Christian Vincent) is incorrigibly promiscuous. Continue reading

Open Season on Natives

by Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

This past Friday, I received a few e-mails with this shocker:

“Today a shock jock named T-Man on 93.3 F.M. in Seattle made some very racist remarks stating “All native women are hoes because [we] have casinos & [we're] all drunk”.

Apparently it got even worse from there. Interestingly enough, on the 9am portion of the website of T-MAN ON DEMAND, those comments are nowhere to be found.

I’m saying “shocker” with a written tone of sarcasm, because this is like the 10th e-mail I received this week with someone in my community outcrying against blatantly overt, extreme racism that has happened that barely anyone is reacting to, yet again.

Why, only yesterday, the Globe and Mail here in Canada ran an opinion piece by notorious bigot Margaret Wente, describing how high-profile Olympics official Dick Pound, who called the Canada of 400 years ago “a country of savages”, said something “dumb, but true.” [Ed Note - More on that later in the week. - LDP]

And as far as radio shows are concerned, I’ll pick two stand-out racist performances this year for you to additionally remember. One in Alaska where they said “you aren’t an Alaskan until you’ve made love to the Yukon and peed in a Native woman” and another in North Carolina where they called us “lazy” among other slanderous highlights, and said specifically that the Lumbee tribe are “inbred,” referenced Pocahontas as “Poca-ho-tas,” and Sacajawea as “Sacacooter.”

I could write on and on about my anger, frustration, sadness and disapointment with the human race in general, or about how little of the population in North America we actually make up and how huge the present-day racism we have to battle with is, and when I get more energy to I probably will, a lot more eloquently. But in the mean time, please do us a favour and if you are angry too, let the THE KUBE radio station (93.3 FM) in Seattle hear it.

And pray that one day, the First Peoples of this land might catch a break with being publicly repressed. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

(Indigenous Wonder Woman Image Credit: Comic Art Indigène via ForbiddenPlanet.co.uk)

Shame on You: Shame Cartoons

by Guest Contributor Ethar El-Katatney, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch.

They’re popping up everywhere in harmless-looking packaging: shame cartoons.

A quick search online will turn up a multitude of articles, op-eds and full-on rants appealing to women’s sense of shame (One particularly delightful article was titled “I appeal to your sense of shame my Muslim sister.”)

And then we have cartoons.

The first kind are pretty straightforward: they want you to get veiled. But rather than engage you in discussions about interpretation of hadith or Qur’an, they try and shame you into wearing it.

As expected, most come across as being judgmental, preachy and rude. And ones that focus so much on women’s dress kind of miss out on an important point: what you put on your head is not necessarily more important than what goes on inside it.

The “hijabi shame cartoons” start from the fairly innocent “the veil is an obligation just like prayer” written next to a woman covering her hair and praying, to the more extreme: I’ve actually seen one of a woman wearing niqab (face veil) which shows her eyes standing in front of a fire (!) because according to that author, showing your eyes is haram (divinely forbidden).

Let’s take a cartoon that’s ‘in the middle’:

First off, it assumes that there is only one correct interpretation of hijab (veil),* and that those who wear it ‘improperly’ (let alone not wear it at all) are in the wrong, wrong, wrong.

Second, it equates dress with behavior, which in some ways is even worse than stereotypes of veiled women (oppressed, asexual, powerless, helpless, low IQ etc). Hijab is seen as the be-all and end-all. I’m a proud hijabi myself, but that doesn’t mean I was automatically transformed into a perfect Muslim the moment I wore it. Just because a woman wears a veil doesn’t meant that she doesn’t struggle with temptations just like any other person, or that she’s better than an unveiled girl.

(I particularly like the touch of designing the cartoon so the face of the veiled woman is ‘glowing’ because she’s so ‘good’).

The second type of shame cartoons are a hundred times worse. Because not only are they trying to shame women into dressing (and acting) in a certain way, but they’re trying to make them think that if they don’t veil and dress ‘properly’ they’re at fault if they get sexually harassed. Continue reading

Race/Politics Overflow

by Latoya Peterson

Some short items that I found in my inbox/bloglines reader over the last few days:

It was reported that Sandra Bernhard called Sarah Palin a “turn coat bitch” and said she “would be gang raped by blacks in Manhattan.” Gawker writes:

“[The gang rape comment] is part of a much larger, nuanced and, yes, provocative—that’s what I do—piece from my show about racism, freedom, women’s rights and the extreme views of Gov. Sarah Palin, a woman who doesn’t believe that other women should have the right to choose,” Bernhard said.

We didn’t immediately post on this, as I was able to find some quotes from the piece, but no one who could directly quote the “big black men” comment – most of the direct quotes from Bernhard revolved around the Old Testament and Palin’s “new Goyish crappy shiksa funky bullshit!”

Well, according to MSNBC, she now claims “she never used the term “rape” or “gang rape,” although she couldn’t recall the exact words she had spoken, explaining it was an improvisational act.”

No explanation of why she chose to include a black stereotype in her “nuanced” view of “racism, freedom, and women’s rights.” (Via Feministing.)
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