♫ Ad hominem! ♫ ♫ False equivalence! ♫
September 19, 2014 7:21 PM   Subscribe

♫ Are Video Games Sexist? ♫ Auto-Tune Rebuttal. Jonathan Mann responds to a recent video by Christina Hoff Sommers on sexism in video games. [Via]
posted by homunculus (67 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
 
I never wanted it to end
posted by churl at 7:35 PM on September 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


TOTALLY SWEET GUITAR BREAK
posted by shakespeherian at 7:38 PM on September 19, 2014 [7 favorites]


I heart this so much.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:41 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, if you're gonna feed the trolls, might as well do it in song.
posted by gwint at 7:43 PM on September 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


At first I was like 'why did he leave comments on' and then I remembered Lewis's Law.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:55 PM on September 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


That person is a doctor like Dr. Pepper is a doctor, right? Please?
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:56 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Lemurrhea, you don't know Christina Hoff Sommers? She's the author of The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men and basically her whole thing is that I Am A Real Feminist And You Can Tell Because Unlike Most Feminists I Don't Murder Men In Their Sleep, Remember That Next Time Someone Says They Are A Feminist.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:01 PM on September 19, 2014 [68 favorites]


I need to learn how to sing "False equivalence" in just that way
posted by ziggly at 8:03 PM on September 19, 2014 [12 favorites]


Lemurrhea, you don't know Christina Hoff Sommers? She's the author of The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men and basically her whole thing is that I Am A Real Feminist And You Can Tell Because Unlike Most Feminists I Don't Murder Men In Their Sleep, Remember That Next Time Someone Says They Are A Feminist.

I'm going to take that as a resounding YES.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:06 PM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


I forgot to re-enable my script for hiding comments on YouTube before viewing.

Goddamnit.
posted by Quilford at 8:24 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really really really like this. I've only been skittering across the surface of this whole thing because delving deeply into it would only lead to disabling rage and madness. But this.. this is totally excellent.

Thanks for posting!
posted by hippybear at 8:33 PM on September 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


Just so you have an easy means of dismissing them out of hand, all of Christina Hoff Sommers's arguments are built off the principle that men and women are biologically hard-wired to have different natures, and that nurture/culture plays no part at all.
posted by Quilford at 8:38 PM on September 19, 2014 [7 favorites]


has anyone told her how gender isn't a binary

is there a video of her face when someone told her that
posted by poffin boffin at 8:41 PM on September 19, 2014 [19 favorites]


I mean I'm not about to say that she isn't a feminist but when someone seems to spend all their time just distancing themselves from feminism and saying that feminists are wrong about everything and that feminists aren't considering the feelings of men... I think she is at least bad at it.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:44 PM on September 19, 2014 [72 favorites]


Shakespeherian, you just made me LOL. Thank you.
posted by greermahoney at 8:50 PM on September 19, 2014


I think she is at least bad at it

maybe she has a different definition of it
posted by poffin boffin at 8:52 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Apparently Richard Dawkins is a fan.
posted by homunculus at 8:59 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


I didn't expect that I would watch that all the way through. I did, and it was fucking awesome.
posted by figurant at 9:02 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Until just now I hadn't realized.... I need a Logical Fallacy Dance Choir.
(LFDC, who's in?)
posted by chapps at 9:24 PM on September 19, 2014 [16 favorites]


He missed ecological fallacy: lots of people in this generation play video games, this generation is more tolerant, implied: therefore video games cannot be promoting intolerance. To make that argument you need to show that the people in this generation who actually play video games are more tolerant than those who don't, rather than taking whole generations as the unit of analysis.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:39 PM on September 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


SONG OF THE DAY #2088??????????????????
posted by Theta States at 9:42 PM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, don't "hispter culture critics" point out the problematic aspects of "women-centred shows" all the time?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:43 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes, there are 2087 previous songs. They are all on YouTube. Happy listening.
posted by hippybear at 9:44 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh yes, if anyone's interested, here's the CSS I use in Stylish for youtube.com.

/* Hides the comments. */
#watch-discussion {display: none;}

/* Hides the like/dislike bars. */
.video-extras-sparkbars {display: none;}

/* Hides the counts next to the thumbs up/down buttons without
   impairing their functionality. Because the only opinion you
   should care about on YouTube is your own! :D */
#watch-like-dislike-buttons .yt-uix-button-content {display: none;}

posted by Quilford at 9:47 PM on September 19, 2014 [10 favorites]


I forgot to re-enable my script for hiding comments on YouTube before viewing.

But then you would miss out on the totally-unfair-but-nevertheless-irresistably-amusing spectacle of everyone pointing and laughing at the butt-hurt gamergaters' anime avatars like they were fedoras.
posted by straight at 10:23 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


To be fair some of them are eggs
posted by en forme de poire at 10:31 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Y'know, when I want feminist critics, I want them from the same think tank that relentlessly criticized global warming, whilst pocketing over $3.6 million from Exxon/Mobil alone.

That's a whole lot of expensive thinking in order to basically be 100% wrong.
posted by markkraft at 10:58 PM on September 19, 2014 [10 favorites]


maybe she has a different definition of it

Yes, because as we know feminism can have any definition anyone wants including definitions that support the status quo.
posted by Summer at 2:17 AM on September 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


@Summer

Well... yes? There are as many definitions of what a feminist is as there are feminists. When you say someone isn't a feminist and so can be dismissed from feminist discussion it can become a case of "no true scotsman".

Although, this very issue is why I think the term feminist is actually meaningless. It tells me no more about your views than saying you love coffee does.
posted by Braeburn at 2:56 AM on September 20, 2014


The term feminism is only meaningless if you accept any meaning. Feminists actually have more in common that current in-fighting would suggest and if you don't realise that then you haven't been paying attention.
posted by Summer at 3:01 AM on September 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


I look forward to the auto-tuned future of discussion on MeFi.
posted by fairmettle at 3:24 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


The term feminism is only meaningless if you accept any meaning. Feminists actually have more in common that current in-fighting would suggest and if you don't realise that then you haven't been paying attention.


What?
posted by Sebmojo at 3:55 AM on September 20, 2014


I second the huh.

I'm not the arbitrator as to what is and isn't required to be a feminist, so I kind of will accept anyone's definition of feminism. To a reasonable extent anyway, if you tell me you're a feminist because you like animals and cake obviously that makes no sense. So yes, Hoff Sommers , bell hooks and Trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) are all feminists. I'm not sure if they've get more in common than they do different, or if we should weight their similarities or differences more
posted by Braeburn at 4:10 AM on September 20, 2014


Feminism isn't a general term like "philosopher". It's a specific term for a specific movement with a history of different leaders and thinkers, all of whom share several a priori common tenets. There is some debate on what to do about the tenets but still. It's more like being an existentialist. You can call yourself that and think whatever you want, but other existentialists are perfectly within their rights to point out why you ain't, based on the set of consistent beliefs that they hold.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:12 AM on September 20, 2014 [27 favorites]


FFS. Video games are as sexist as any mass media. So, if you know that movies, comics, TV, music reflect the everyday sexism we are all soaking in then OF COURSE GAMES ARE SEXIST.

This is how things work.

Pissed off gamers who blanch at those terrible feminists who are wrecking your games with their uncomfortable ideas and scary "tone": read a fucking book.

Jesus fuck. You don't discuss issues like systemic violence by invoking pseudo-rationalist nonsense.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:47 AM on September 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I almost didn't watch this, having had rather a lot of this whole thing. I am glad I did now. I definitely want a Logical Fallacy Dance Choir! And also a False Equivalence one. I guess I will just have to watch the video again. And maybe some of the other 2087 videos.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:01 AM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Reminding myself what "ad hominem" meant led me to this, which is brilliant. I especially like their first reason for getting a poster: "To hang up near your computer for when you are arguing with people on the internets."
posted by Athanassiel at 5:19 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Looking forward to him making a video cutting Maddox off at the knees on this same subject. Or any subject, really...
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 6:13 AM on September 20, 2014


. So yes, Hoff Sommers , bell hooks and Trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) are all feminists.

Of those you mention only bell hooks is feminist. TERFs are bigots and gender separatists while Hoff Sommers is a token "feminist" who is only there to agree with whatever rightwing lobby she's been paid to agree with this week.

The latter two both believe in essential differences between men and women (and believe that there are only men and women) which is why TERFs are bigoted towards trans people and Sommers can literally pull the boys will be boys argument in her video. It's as far away from true feminism as you can get.

Now these people may call themselves feminists, but there's no reason for real feminists to agree with this.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:26 AM on September 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


So were the suffragettes feminists? Or only the ones who didn't believe in essential differences between men and women, that there are only men and women, etc...
posted by topynate at 6:52 AM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I keep seeing these rebuttal videos (there was one for some nonsense from thunderf00t a while back) and I continue to be disturbed that there was a need to rebut the idiocy in the first place. "Video games aren't sexist because video games don't cause violence"? "Video games aren't sexist because I talked to a gamer and he was very nice"? "Video games aren't sexist because they only have hot naked ladies because men like to look at hot naked ladies"? Sommers' points are blatant non sequiturs to anyone who speaks English, for pity's sake.

I'm willing to believe that an intelligent person can theoretically not see a problem with sexism in video games and that they could construct arguments supporting that point (I'd probably angle toward dismissing "frivolous entertainment" if I was forced to write an essay on the topic in some kind of twisted 1984-esque homework assignment), but so far I'm not seeing any experimental support for that hypothesis.
posted by Scattercat at 6:55 AM on September 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


So were the suffragettes feminists? Or only the ones who didn't believe in essential differences between men and women, that there are only men and women, etc...
First wave feminists could


Historically, many members of the Tory party publicly supported slavery. Those people can reasonably be called Tories, but they would not fall within the definition of a modern Tory, were they to publicly argue for these positions in the modern world.

That historical context matters, even to our most basic logical processes, is one of the fundamental points made by feminism and related critical movements.
posted by howfar at 7:13 AM on September 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


Ignore the "first wave feminists could" above. Missed the edit window.
posted by howfar at 7:19 AM on September 20, 2014


In the whole gamer gate/Sarkeesian thing, what every thinking human needs to ask themselves is:

do I want to be on the side issuing death and rape threats?

even if they were right (which they aren't), I would never publically support them.

As for the sexist tropes in other media: Teenage me was ripe for the comics industry to pluck as a customer - geeky, loved comics as a kid, even went to comics shops regularly to buy collectible cards. But everytime I looked at the comic books, the only women I saw looked like broomsticks with melons attached dressed in black & red cellophane.

Didn't read comics until I was 18, and people showed the wonderful world of alternative comics with rich characters of varied age and gender.
posted by jb at 7:28 AM on September 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


Of those you mention only bell hooks is feminist. TERFs are bigots and gender separatists while Hoff Sommers is a token "feminist" who is only there to agree with whatever rightwing lobby she's been paid to agree with this week.

Oh, geeze, I dunno. I am really uncomfortable saying that "X public woman is or isn't a feminist" (especially since I am a man. Feminism is a pretty big tent, and, like all tents, some parts are unpleasant, some are inspiring, some share my concerns, and some are at war with me. A certainly "feminist" doesn't mean "automatically correct, even on gender or women's issues." Sommers feminism certainly seems to be a shallow shell over a conservative core, and the TERFs are an example of what happens when a benign philosophy like feminism meets rigid gender essentialism and bigotry, but both cases are more cautionary tales for feminism than automatically "not feminism." "Feminism Gone Wrong" or "Bigots Who Happen to Also Be Feminists" might be a better term.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:10 AM on September 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's difficult to say that to be a feminist, you have to reject gender essentialism, Genji.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:13 AM on September 20, 2014


I don't think it's difficult to say that to be a feminist, you have to reject gender essentialism, Genji.

That seems to be at odds with the current public face of feminism which seems to be all about saying, "You say you're not a feminist? But you probably are if you just think ... [some very minimalist definition of feminism like equal pay for equal work that doesn't entail a wholesale rejection of essentialism.]"
posted by straight at 9:20 AM on September 20, 2014


I think there are still some people who would say you could be a feminist who believes in gender essentialism, NoxAeternum. Sommers' essentialism bothers me because she uses that essentialism to mark certain male behaviors (rape threats, demanding women be their eye candy) as something you just can't change, because boys will be boys. I don't subscribe to essentialism, but there are less toxic approaches to it than that. Possibly you always end up where Sommers is if you do subscribe to it, but that's a different discussion.
posted by emjaybee at 9:24 AM on September 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm willing to believe that an intelligent person can theoretically not see a problem with sexism in video games and that they could construct arguments supporting that point (I'd probably angle toward dismissing "frivolous entertainment" if I was forced to write an essay on the topic in some kind of twisted 1984-esque homework assignment), but so far I'm not seeing any experimental support for that hypothesis.

That depends on whether you consider Richard Dawkins "an intelligent person," for example.
posted by sukeban at 9:40 AM on September 20, 2014


I don't think it's difficult to say that to be a feminist, you have to reject gender essentialism, Genji.

I dunno. I think, if you pay attention to how gender actually manifests in people's lived experience, you can't be a gender essentialist. I'd even say that you can't be a decent person and be a strict gender essentialist. But feminism, in its broadest sense, is about equality for men and women, and I don't think that absolutely rules out gender essentialism. I don't want to associate with TERFs, but not because they aren't feminists.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:42 PM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, I thought Sommer's "boys will be boys" approach to video games was not a particularly feminist argument, because it didn't seem to give girls/women the same access to the gaming space and denied the huge amount of vitriol that is directed at women by (segments of) the gaming community, providing those misogynist attacks with cover. So, while I am uncofortable saying that she's not a feminist, her arguments aren't.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:04 PM on September 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Quilford: Oh yes, if anyone's interested, here's the CSS I use in Stylish for youtube.com.
Even better, you can hide any part of any website with the wonderful pair of Firefox extensions: "AdBlock Plus" + "Element Hiding Helper for Adblock Plus"

Then Shift-Cmd-K and go to town. The stuff never comes back. ("Open blockable items" to get something back.)

I've removed the popular stories and most-emailed sections from pretty much every website I ever touch. (including the previous/next on the bottom of mefi stories.) My rabbit hole is not as deep as yours, and I love life more.

PS. I learned about this when someone answered an ask.mefi that I'd written.
posted by spbmp at 2:09 PM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


...whether you consider Richard Dawkins intelligent...

Never read the man's books. All I know is he's famous for not believing in God, which I suppose we have in common, and for being kind of an asshole, which, well, we probably also have in common.

From what I've seen of his arguments in this arena, I stand by my point. His justifications of his position are just name-calling or illogical nonsense. He appears to me to be an idiot who apparently got a reputation for being smart somehow.
posted by Scattercat at 3:50 PM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


"AdBlock Plus" + "Element Hiding Helper for Adblock Plus"

The latter stopped working for me about 2 years ago and it's been really vexatious.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:51 PM on September 20, 2014


So, while I am uncofortable saying that she's not a feminist, her arguments aren't.

Well. Let's turn this sound, and make it a question of positive characteristics. What qualities does Sommers possess that makes her a feminist?

Seriously, if the only qualification to be a feminist is to say one is a feminist, doesn't that render the term essentially meaningless?
posted by happyroach at 4:36 PM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


He appears to me to be an idiot who apparently got a reputation for being smart somehow.

He's an odd one, Dawkins. He's a genuinely significant evolutionary biologist, and his early popular science books are engaging and effective. But he seems to be astonishingly stupid and ill informed about certain things. His knowledge of philosophy, religion and theology is almost inexplicably stunted, given the amount of time he had spent writing and talking about those subjects. I think it comes down to a personality flaw, if I'm honest. His personal arrogance seems to result in a considerable exaggeration of the Dunning-Kruger effect. He overestimates his competence, and seemingly doesn't understand that the reason people doubt his positions in those fields is not that they are stupid or dishonest, but because they're aware of issues that he has little or no knowledge of.
posted by howfar at 4:54 PM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


poffin boffin: The latter stopped working for me about 2 years ago and it's been really vexatious.

That's downright frightening to imagine for me at this point.
I'll try to help you fix it if you contact me.
posted by spbmp at 9:14 PM on September 20, 2014


Dawkins suffers from the common delusion that because he did the hard yards in genetics (and has insightful opinions in that) his more ill-founded and frankly reactionary views in other areas should have equal weight. It's a common trait of older professors and engineers.
posted by jaduncan at 11:25 PM on September 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


Well, I've got jack all for qualifications in genetics, so I'll take others' word that Dawkins is skilled in that arena.

Still saying some really dumb things in public, though.
posted by Scattercat at 12:47 AM on September 21, 2014


What qualities does Sommers possess that makes her a feminist?

Pretty much that she is usually described as such and seems to claim the label. I have to say that, after looking at some of her arguments, I think her positions are pretty often a Conservative defense of the status quo, which I think of as anti-feminist, because we live in a sexist culture, and defending that culture implicitly means that you value other things more than women, but, as I said above, I am very leery of asserting that someone who claims to be a feminist is not.

Feminism, in its simplest form, is the belief that mean and women are fundamentally equal, and deserve to be treated alike. I don't have any reason to believe that Sommers doesn't believe this, although I think there is a strain of conservative feminism (especially in the US) where women who have succeeded (often due to other sorts of privilege, especially class), hold themselves up as examples of "how it's done" and ignore the systemic problems that old other women back (mostly because those problems are threatening to other privileges). Are these women not feminists? As I said up above, you can be a feminist and still be a bad person.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:36 AM on September 21, 2014


I'll try to help you fix it if you contact me.

I'm like 90% sure it's because I refuse to update firefox any higher than 11.0, but thanks anyway!
posted by poffin boffin at 10:20 AM on September 21, 2014


This will be stuck in my head all day.

No! We will not stand down, HOOO!
posted by nicebookrack at 10:54 AM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


the TERFs are an example of what happens when a benign philosophy like feminism meets rigid gender essentialism and bigotry, but both cases are more cautionary tales for feminism than automatically "not feminism."

This is actually the opposite of what the group referred to as TERFs believe. They are not gender essentialists they are biological sex essentialists in the sense they believe the biological categories of male and female exist and are immutable.

They believe that gender, on the other hand, is a social construct that has no basis in physical reality.

Liberal feminists on the other hand tend to accept that you can 'feel' like a man or a woman (or anything you please really) and should be accepted as such independent of how the world is interpreting your biology.

Radical and liberal feminists however have a huge number of core values in common, including the recognition that structural oppression based on sex exists and results in the treatment of women as second class citizens and all that implies (the treatment of women as chattel, fear of and control of female sexuality and reproduction, denial of education and opportunity, sexual and non sexual violence etc).

If you don't recognize that structural oppression exists and in fact work towards denying that it does, then you are not a feminist.
posted by Summer at 12:31 PM on September 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


"When you say someone isn't a feminist and so can be dismissed from feminist discussion it can become a case of "no true scotsman".

Indeed... Christina Hoff Sommers has the right to claim to be every bit as much of a feminist as even Bill O"Reilly or Rush Limbaugh might choose to do. They must all be taken seriously, and given national attention.

"this very issue is why I think the term feminist is actually meaningless. It tells me no more about your views than saying you love coffee does."

Actually, if you are a coffee lover, it goes without saying that you love, appreciate, and respect a good cup of coffee. However, if you lay claim to being a feminist, it does not go without saying that you love, appreciate, and respect feminists... or for that matter, that you love, appreciate, and respect women.

Some might argue that a feminism that embraces lack of empathy and consideration for the basic, equal rights of women isn't feminism. I'm sure Mrs. Sommers might disagree, however.
posted by markkraft at 12:13 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you don't recognize that structural oppression exists and in fact work towards denying that it does, then you are not a feminist.

Which, in a nutshell, is why TERFs aren't feminists - they're happy to deny that structural oppression of transgender individuals occurs, in large part by denying that transgender identity itself exists.

They were accepted within the larger feminist tent for a long time because they were some of the more vocal voices for women's rights and issues. But as transgender activism became more prominent, the movement as a whole has moved away from them because of their perspective on sex (something that has caught the TERF movement rather off-guard.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:02 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Feminism, in its simplest form, is the belief that mean and women are fundamentally equal, and deserve to be treated alike. I don't have any reason to believe that Sommers doesn't believe this, . . .

Well I don't know anything about her except what's in the videos linked in the FPP, but from where I sit "boys will be boys" is not an argument for equal treatment or access -- in fact it is so fundamentally contrary to what is ordinarily called "feminism" that it may be enough, standing alone, to remove you from the definition. I think if you are going to admit that a certain activity or depiction creates an environment that is hostile toward women, but claim (without irony) that it is excusable because men are the primary consumers and they like it, that means you are definitionally not a feminist. That's what Sommers does here, and I think it means that she's not, objectively speaking, a feminist, whatever she might want to call herself.

I understand that this is a little bit "Second Wave," but I'm a product of my education and there have to be limits or the conversation goes nowhere.
posted by The Bellman at 8:03 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sommers clearly rejects the argument that gaming culture creates an environment hostile towards women, and that creating a hostile environment would be an acceptable thing were it the case: "These critics have made some useful points about "sexist tropes and narratives". But they ignore the fact that the world of gaming has become more inclusive."

Her argument is that it's acceptable that there exist games with "male heroes and sexy women" alongside games with more 'real' women characters, and that such games neither induce misogyny in gamers (any more than violent games induce violence) nor exclude women by their mere existence and acceptance. And I think there's a debate to be had, there. But 'are these the words of a feminist?' is not that debate.

Btw, Sommers didn't say that the rape threats were a product of their authors' innate maleness, but of their being 'sociopaths'. Not a gendered term, thank the gods.
posted by topynate at 2:49 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


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