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A Message from Anita on the End of Tropes

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Well, here we are folks.

I knew this day was coming but it always seemed so far away. After five long years, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games is over. This is one of the most emotionally complicated projects I’ve ever created. It has been simultaneously awful and wonderful, and the journey is one which I will most certainly never forget. One that would never have happened without the incredible and generous support of our nearly 7000 Kickstarter backers, and countless others who encouraged us along the way.

On May 17th, 2012, I launched a very modest Kickstarter, hoping to raise $6,000 to make what was then going to be Feminist Frequency’s next series, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. At that time, my vision for the project, like the amount of money I was hoping to raise, was fairly modest: a series of five videos, each perhaps ten minutes long, about harmful, sexist patterns of female representation in video games.

This may be the end of Tropes, but it is absolutely, by no means the end of Feminist Frequency.

Much of what came in the days and weeks that followed was great. It was exciting and gratifying to immediately see that many people had a real interest in feminist criticism of video games, as we blew past the initial funding goal within 24 hours. In time, we expanded the scope of the project, bringing the number of projected videos up to 12 and planning for longer, more rigorous analyses than I’d originally envisioned.

While this was happening, I was also watching in horror as cybermobs, deeply threatened by the mere idea of feminist analysis of video games, mobilized en masse to disrupt my life. In an effort to instill fear in me and in any woman who might dare to speak out against sexism in gaming, these mobs flooded all my social media channels with vile harassment, made slanderous, racist and pornographic edits to my Wikipedia page, posted private information about me online, made death threats against me and members of my family, and threatened events I was speaking at, among other tactics. And while the volume of that harassment has ebbed and flowed at times, it has never ceased, and the legacy of Tropes can never be entirely separated from the deep veins of hostility, entitlement, and misogyny that the reaction to the series revealed in some segments of the gaming community.

Nonetheless, we persevered with the research, writing, and production of the series, launching with episode one of a three-part series about perhaps the most prevalent of all video game tropes about women: the Damsel in Distress. Now, I want to emphasize something here, just to give you an idea of how much the vision for the project evolved in the wake of the Kickstarter’s tremendous and unforeseen success. What had originally started as plans for five videos, each approximately 10 minutes in length, eventually premiered with three videos all devoted to just one single trope! In total, those three videos came in at over an hour and ten minutes in length! Doing meticulous, comprehensive research spanning the entire history of video games as preparation for those episodes was tremendously difficult and time-consuming, but looking back, I believe the results speak for themselves.

Amid the tremendous fear and trauma resulting from the harassment I was experiencing, there were moments of satisfaction and solace as I saw that our videos were reaching people, players and creators of games alike, and encouraging them to think about representations of women in games in ways that they hadn’t before. The messages of support and appreciation we received during that time were especially meaningful, and helped me to persevere and continue believing in the importance and value of the work we were doing.

However, during that time even some of our most ardent supporters were understandably somewhat frustrated by the long research, writing and production times between episodes. By August of 2015, we had produced three Damsel in Distress videos, one Ms. Male Character video, two videos about Women as Background Decoration (totaling just over an hour in running time) and a main episode and special DLC mini-episode about Women as Reward, along with four bonus videos. In length and analytical depth, these videos far exceeded what I had originally planned, and after covering just those four tropes, we had already produced three hours and forty minutes of feminist criticism goodness.

As proud as I am of that work, at a certain point it became clear that if we were going to finish this project within a reasonable amount of time, we had to make some adjustments. And so, Season Two of Tropes was born. Eight videos, one each on eight different topics: shorter, snappier, hopefully more enjoyable and watchable but no less substantial. The change in format allowed us to speed up production time significantly without sacrificing the series’ signature feminist analysis.

And now here we are, at the eighth and final of those videos: The Lady Sidekick.

This episode examines how female sidekicks and companions in games are often designed to function as glorified gatekeepers, helpless burdens, and ego boosters, a pattern that works to reinforce oppressive notions about women as the ones in need of protection and men as the ones in control, who take action and do the protecting. We then feature some games with relationships that subvert traditional power fantasy mechanics, putting players on something closer to equal footing with their AI companions as they offer examples of what real communication, compromise, and mutual support in games might look like.

It’s a bittersweet moment, bidding farewell to this series.

This may be the end of Tropes, but it is absolutely, by no means the end of Feminist Frequency. We have so much stuff in the works, and I sincerely hope that you will continue to be a part of our journey as we move forward. We’ll be premiering our new show very soon, one that brings our signature feminist media analysis to bear on issues happening right now as we examine the connection between representations in pop culture and the racism, sexism, and transphobia of our current political climate.

Before I wrap this up, let’s take stock of what we wound up creating. Here is the entire list of videos in this series:

SEASON 1
1. Damsel in Distress: Part 1
2. Damsel in Distress: Part 2
3. Damsel in Distress: Part 3
4. Ms. Male Character
5. Women as Reward
6. Women as Reward: Special DLC Mini-Episode
7. Women as Background Decoration: Part 1
8. Women as Background Decoration: Part 2

SEASON 2
1. Strategic Butt Coverings
2. Body Language and the Male Gaze
3. Lingerie Is Not Armor
4. Are Women Too Hard to Animate?
5. All the Slender Ladies: Body Diversity in Video Games
6. Sinister Seductress
7. Not Your Exotic Fantasy
8. The Lady Sidekick

BONUS EPISODES
Positive Female Characters – The Scythian
Positive Female Characters – Jade from Beyond Good and Evil
Animated Short: The Legend of the Last Princess
Animated Short: Imperfect Dark Trailer
5 Ways Men Can Help End Sexism

In all, that’s 4 hours and 50 minutes of feminist video game analysis.

It’s a bittersweet moment, bidding farewell to this series. It’s definitely time for it to be over, time for Feminist Frequency as an organization and for me personally to move on. But I keep thinking about all the ways that the world of video games has changed since that day, almost five years ago, when I first took my modest little Kickstarter live. It hasn’t all been for the better, but some of it definitely has. There are conversations happening now, among players and among creators, that weren’t happening before, about who games are for (everyone!), about what impact they can have, what they can tell us about humanity, empathy, race, gender, sexuality, the world we live in, and the world we want to create for ourselves.

By supporting this project, whether financially as part of the initial Kickstarter, or simply by watching it, sharing it and discussing it with your friends, you’ve been a part of this change. I can’t thank you enough.

‘Til next time

 

 








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pfctdayelise
1 day ago
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Melbourne, Australia
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1 public comment
acdha
1 day ago
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Gaming seems … undestroyed. Could the right-wing propagandists have been … gasp … lying?
Washington, DC

OMGYes

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Wow, I was really blown away by OMGYes. The concept sounded novel but I wasn’t prepared for how completely engrossed listening to the interviews, watching the examples, and getting to practice the different techniques on the interactive vuvlas would be. This is genuinely an invaluable resource for folks looking to learn about touchin’ twats.

On an unrelated note: Matt and I are getting SO close to launching this year’s Kickstarter! I fucking love physical books and getting OJST made into one is the most rewarding part of this job for me. As with every year, you’ll be able to pick up the newest book before anybody else, buy a signature or sketch, and get a chance of being drawn into a future comic as a Masturbateer. We’re hoping to get the Kickstarter up and live NEXT WEEK – we’ll make sure to give you all lots of heads up on Twitter!

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pfctdayelise
2 days ago
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This is legit amazing (nsfw)
Melbourne, Australia
lukeburrage
2 days ago
OMGNSFW
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Shell = Maybe

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A common help Python question: how do I get Python to run this complicated command line program? Often, the answer involves details of how shells work. I tried my hand at explaining it what a shell does, why you want to avoid them, how to avoid them from Python, and why you might want to use one: Shell = Maybe.

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pfctdayelise
4 days ago
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Melbourne, Australia
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I accidentally insulted my boss’s daughter

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A reader writes:

I am a female employee in my late 20s working for a large Fortune 500 U.S. company. My boss is in his early 40s and is a father of two. His oldest is a 15 year old girl. My boss often tells me, totally unsolicited, that his daughter is “very attractive,” a “perfect tall blonde,” and “so beautiful.” He says boys are fawning over her and she wants to start dating.

One day a couple weeks ago, my boss was talking as usual about how his daughter is very attractive and wants to start dating. Then he paused, looked at me, and said “I bet you had that problem!” Without thinking, I instinctively responded, “Actually, I didn’t, because my parents didn’t raise a whore.” I was raised in a devoutly Christian home in which provocative clothing and behavior was forbidden, and dating wasn’t even a consideration.

My boss looked shocked and a little taken aback. But I didn’t realize until hours later how this came across: I basically said my boss and his wife raised a whore of a daughter.

My boss has been acting weird/standoffish towards me since I made this comment, and understandably so. But he is also a devout Christian (we’ve discussed this many times), not to mention my boss. How can I fix the relationship?

Whoa.

This is problematic on multiple levels, including that you shouldn’t be calling teenage girls “whores” for expressing a perfectly age-appropriate, culture-appropriate interest in dating. Actually, you shouldn’t be calling them “whores” even if it weren’t age-appropriate or culture-appropriate. That’s a horrible thing to say about another person — sexist, punitive, and demeaning, and another person’s sexuality is none of your business — and I hope you’ll take this as a flag to rethink whatever thought pattern led you there. The problem isn’t just that you said it to your boss; it’s that you said it about another person at all.

And then there’s your boss, who sounds pretty creepy in the way he talks about his daughter and with his crudely appraising “I bet you had that problem!” comment to you. Ick.

Anyway, yeah, you did indeed insult his daughter, and you need to talk to him and correct the record. Something like this would probably help: “I’m so sorry for my comment the other day about Jane’s interest in dating. I realized afterward that I may have sounded like I was insulting her and/or your parenting— and that very much wasn’t my intent. From everything you’ve told me, she sounds like a wonderful girl. It was terrible wording, and I’m so sorry for that.”

I accidentally insulted my boss’s daughter was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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pfctdayelise
8 days ago
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Next level whoa
Melbourne, Australia
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Closing Communities: FFFFOUND! vs MLKSHK

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Next month, two seminal image-sharing communities, FFFFOUND! and MLKSHK, will close their doors within a week of each other.

Launched in June 2007 as a side-project by a Japanese design agency, FFFFOUND borrowed the visual bookmarklets of Wists, a social shopping service launched a year earlier, to rapidly form a community around the curation of art and other imagery. Invite-only for its entire ten-year run, each user only received a single invite, forming a small but dedicated community.

Despite the constrained user base, FFFFOUND users added over 500,000 images by the end of its second year. Though the site’s features or design barely changed after 2008, it inspired dozens of similar services, including Pinterest, which launched in 2009.

Yesterday, Tha founder Yugo Nakamura announced FFFFOUND would close on May 8.

Husband and wife team Amber Costley and Andre Torrez launched MLKSHK (pronounced “milkshake”) in 2011, a community for sharing images and videos, inspired by the secretive private file-sharing community that Andre started in 2001.

While FFFFOUND skewed towards the visually provocative, MLKSHK tended towards the funny and playful, with users sharing images in groups called “shakes.” (This list of the top posts from 2014 is a good time capsule.)

MLKSHK nearly closed in September 2014, a result of rising bandwidth and maintenance costs, but a combination of paid subscriptions, volunteer effort, and outside funding (i.e. Andre got a job at Slack) kept it around for three more years. In February, Amber and Andre announced that MLKSHK would finally shutter, switching to read-only mode in April and closing entirely on May 1.

 

These two communities shared a lot in common. Both were very creative, focused on curating imagery, but how they’re shutting down are very, very different — how it was communicated, the tools for saving your contributions, and the future of the community.

FFFFOUND provides no export or backup tools. A handful of user-created scraping scripts exist for those tech-savvy enough to use them, but in general, most users will be unable to preserve their contributions.

More upsetting is the fact that FFFFOUND only allows Google, Bing, and Yahoo to crawl their archives in their robots.txt file, which outlines which crawlers can access their site and how frequently.

As a result, the Internet Archive is forbidden from archiving FFFFOUND. It seems likely that, barring a large-scale preservation effort, this will be all that’s left of FFFFOUND after May 8.

 

That’s a common end to online communities: we’re shutting down next month, your work will be deleted, thanks for participating. MLKSHK took a different path.

MLKSHK gave its users about ten weeks’ notice, compared to FFFFOUND’s four weeks, but offered backup tools since 2014, allowing its users to request a ZIP file of all their images. They also offered an API, allowing developers to build libraries and other tools.

MLKSHK’s permissive robots.txt allowed all crawlers, which in turn led to comprehensive historical snapshots, almost daily, in the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine from launch until today.

The MLKSHK creators also reached out to Archive Team, the group of volunteer archivists who preserve sites like Geocities, and asked them to archive the site. Collectively, they grabbed nearly 2TB of images and other assets, which will eventually make its way into the Internet Archive’s collections.

Preservation is important, but Andre and Amber went much further: they donated it to the community that helped make it great.

MLTSHP (pronounced “malt shop”) is a volunteer-run effort to transition the community to a new home under a new name. Amber and Andre gave the code, assets, and anonymized database to a small workgroup of volunteers, who open-sourced the code with permission and raised over $3,000 in a fund drive to cover startup costs to get it off the ground.

Once launched, MLTSHP will allow former MLKSHK users to opt-in to transitioning their account. Everyone else’s accounts will stay hidden from public view.

They’re moving quickly with a functional private beta already running, and it seems likely that MLTSHP will relaunch soon, keeping the spirit of the community alive. Want to help? You can learn more on their Github project.

 

Online communities close all the time, and for all kinds of reasons — usually a lack of time, funding, or interest.

But how they decide to dissolve the collective contributions of a community impacts how they’ll be remembered.

To be clear, a transition effort like MLKSHK’s isn’t free. Especially for bandwidth-heavy communities, the costs of preservation can be significant, and handing off code, assets, and data responsibly takes effort.

Not everyone can pull it off, but it’s an act that should be commended. As a community founder, closing a community with care honors all the people who made it meaningful.

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pfctdayelise
15 days ago
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Melbourne, Australia
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ask the readers: how to refuse to share your salary history

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A reader writes:

I wondered if readers could share stories about successfully refusing to share their salary history. It’s advice I hear all the time, and that makes sense, but having just been hired by a sizable corporation, it’s hard for me to imagine getting companies to go against their own policies. Aside from simply not providing it with the initial application, what about when you’re asked directly, or given a form? I had to give salary history about three different ways for my new job–I tried to demur but there was really no way around it.

Hopefully one day it’ll be illegal to ask everywhere in the U.S., but I imagine that’s a long time coming!

It might not be as far off as you think — the tide is really starting to turn on this issue. In fact, New York City is expected to make it illegal to ask for salary history very soon (and Massachusetts banned it last year, and California is considering legislation to do the same).

But yes, let’s gather stories about people doing this successfully.

I’ll start: I’ve taken the advice that I give here and have declined to share my salary. Both times when I did it, it wasn’t a huge deal; I was asked what I was making, and I just sidestepped the question and answered by saying, “I’m looking for something around $X.” But that worked out easily — the harder situation is when you say that and the employer still insists on knowing your current (or last) salary anyway. My advice for handing that is here (basically, you can say it’s confidential, but in deciding how firm to be, you need to factor in how willing you are to lose the opportunity if they’re rigid about it).

Readers, it’s your turn. If you’ve refused to share your salary with a prospective employer, tell us what you said, what they said, and how it all went down. The more specific you can be, the better.

ask the readers: how to refuse to share your salary history was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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pfctdayelise
21 days ago
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Melbourne, Australia
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